Friday, 11 May 2012


So, my office is all packed into three crates, my furniture has labels on it, and my iMac is wrapped in bubble wrap. In a day or so we begin the move which will have the majority of the department in the same building since we were formed 15 years ago. The end of one era, and the beginning of a new one.

It was quite nostalgic emptying cupboards, and I found a set of diaries from when I first started work in "the administration" back in 1983. I was a committee secretary then. Working as part of the Academic Secretary's Office, a group of 4 of us looked after all University Committees, from Council and Senate to Estates Committees, Staffing ( we didn't even have a Personnel/HR department then), Safety, Student related etc. You name it, if it was a committee we put the agenda together, assembled the papers and probably wrote most of them, wrote the minutes, and reports, followed up the actions, briefed the chairmen and most importantly, booked the rooms and ordered the refreshments (always coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon).

As I was reading the diary I remembered so many things about those days and it dawned on me that I'm almost the only person left from that era. So, in no particular order, some things that might amuse you:

The first fax machine in the rotunda, real amazement that you could draw a picture on a piece of paper and send it somewhere

Seeing a post-it note for the first time and hearing my colleague say they'll never catch on, what could possibly replace a piece of paper and a paper clip

When cut and paste really did refer to a pair of scissors and sticky tape, and that's how we made changes to documents that had been typed, we had no word processors

Discovering when I moved to a new job that the previous post holder didn't believe in paper clips (!!!!) so used dressmaking pins to fasten files of paper together. But she was left handed, so the pins faced upwards so every time I put my hand in the filing cabinet it came out covered in blood.

When the only computer we had in the office, a green screen terminal, was kept behind a locked door, in case someone used it

When we had an order of prospectuses delivered and nowhere to store them, and the admissions officer was on holiday. So we built full size furniture in his office out of prospectuses, a sofa, coffee table, easy chair. We even had a toy cat asleep on the sofa.

The ritual of sorting the post in the morning when 3 or 4 of us would sort everything that came in to "the Registrar" by opening it and deciding who could deal,with it. We did find out some interesting stuff!

The enormous Christmas tree we had in the centre of the rotunda which fell over, so we had to put 3 hooks high up in the walls to fasten it up with wire. Over 25 years later, and several redecorations, and those hooks are still there. I suspect no-one wants to remove them as they don't know what they're for.

And finally, the ritual of sending Senate papers out, when 4 or 5 of us would gather in the basement round the giant collating machine, which only one person knew how to work and persuade it to take the hundred or so pages of paper which had come off the photocopier and collate them into several bundles. We then had a ritual. Two people took the bundles and collated them into a full set of papers. One person worked the drill, and made a hole in the top left, one put a treasury tag through, one stuffed the envelopes, one stuck the labels on. Then they went in sacks to the porters lodge. Once we realised we'd missed a page out, so about 5pm we had to retrieve and empty the sacks, open the envelopes, take the treasury tags out, etc, etc.

Thank goodness we don't have to do any of that now. I wonder what our current young staff will look back at in 30 years with amusement?

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