The sun is out: Strike Diary Day 8

Today’s entry comes from Lila Matsumoto, Equalities Officer

Instead of taking my usual roadside route to the university, I decide this morning to cycle along the canal path. It’s before 7am and the path is not yet busy with walkers and cyclists. Instead I see coots, moorhens, mallards, swans, and pigeons partaking their morning ablutions. The light is beautiful on the water. I think of a poem by Denise Riley : ‘A cloud rose on the horizon of the morning/ with a plume like the breath of a whale at sea’.

A strike is not a holiday, but it is a pause from work. And in this pause I find my mind, freed from the relentless deluge of administrative emails and forms, becoming more expansive in its receptivity to the world. Standing on the picket line has given me new familiarity with the weather system outside of my office, and to animal life too: the herons that pass overhead South picket on their way to the boating lake, the dogwalker leading her gaggle of yapping miniature dogs at 8am. I am tuning in to the things that are happening every day, outside of the narrow margins and preoccupations of my workplace.

As other members have spoken about in their blog entries, a great perk of the picket line is meeting and speaking to people you would not have otherwise met, cloistered as we are in our departmental halls and buildings. Today I met members from Pharmacy, Maths, Psychology, and Art History (I am in English). We talked about, among other things, feelings of fragmentation and social isolation within schools and departments, as a result of exponentially increasing workloads and doing away of communal social spaces and events. Against this trend, the picket line, teach-outs and events organised during the strike are experimental spaces of learning and socialising meaningfully with our colleagues.

The sun is out today, and I am happy to be in it, rather than just as a glimpse from my office window. Standing in the sun with my colleagues gives me pause to understand the extent to which we have acclimatised, at the expense of our well-being, to the unsustainable demands and conditions of our workplace. It has created a sense of myopia about our labour – perhaps even a solipsistic sense of its utter importance – disconnecting it from other forms of engaging with the world.