Schmoxford Schmair of Schmoetry

Bloody hell, what a mess.

Do you remember that episode of The Simpsons, it’s a flashback to Marge and Homer’s prom. Marge goes with Arty Ziff who tries it on too much for Marge. At the end of their date he says:

“Marge, I would appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone about my busy hands. Not so much for me, but I am so well respected, that it would damage the town to hear it. Good night!”

I think of that every time I see Derek Walcott.

I think it’s a shame that Ruth Padel has quit. This would have blown over before too long. If what she says is true; that she only passed on the info to two journalists and has nothing to do with the anonymous photocopied pages of the The Lecherous Professor (mm, subtle title I wonder what it’s about) then I think she should have made an apology about not flagging up her e-mail sooner and we could have all moved on.

But it doesn’t ‘look’ good and that is what politics is all about. If she had genuinely been worried about student welfare she should have made a point in public about Walcott’s ‘busy hands,’ or alleged ‘busy hands.’ Surely no one would have had a problem with that, if the blokes a lechy old perv then let people know. The whole covert ops thing makes it all look so dodgy. And trusting a journalist? Come on Ruth, what were you thinking? Also, if the info is in the public domain then it doesn’t say a lot for the quality of our journos that Ruth Padel needed to point it out to them. She said she thought these particular journalists were covering the story ‘responsibly.’ Surely the first responsible ting would have been to do your own research. Jeez.

Not a lot’s been said about this alleged sexual harassment claim. If a book’s been written about it, it’s probably true, right? If not then wouldn’t Derek have slapped a writ on its ass? Or at least there’s probably some truth in it? If it was all lies then surely they couldn’t have got away with a book about it. I like some more on the book please noble journalists.

The whole thing’s a mess, that’s for sure. I agree with Jeanette Winterson, Oxford is a sexist little dump. There were those with knives out for the first female Professor of Poetry, all they needed was an excuse and she gave them the perfect one. Perhaps Jackie Kay is right, perhaps it wouldn’t have happened to man. It’s sad that as a woman she had to be all the more careful.

There’s no doubting Ruth Padel didn’t play her hand well though. She must have taken spin lessons from Charlie Whelan, as the only person recently to play his political hand so poorly in recent years is dear ol’ Gord (or perhaps Michael Martin). She should have been more like the last one (well, not too much like him.) Do you think Blair would have resigned over this piffle? Of course not, he’d have made it a virtue.

“Look I’m a pretty straight guy, and let me make this absolutely clear if I’d not told those journalists about this incident Walcott could have fired a lecherous grope at an Oxford student in under 45 minutes. I had a moral duty. Now, who wants to talk about Darwin?”

I don’t suppose anyone wants to hear about Darwin today at Hay. Poor old Ruth, I don’t envy her that gig.

On the plus side the new Manics album is good. Though as a classics professor I doubt she listens to songs called She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach.

2 Comments

  • Lucy May 26, 2009 at 10:31 am

    I enjoyed reading this – good stuff.

    Reply
  • Nathan Hamilton May 26, 2009 at 11:34 am

    An added and under-considered angle is that it is enough to ‘accuse’ a man in these situations… it is problematic, given the taint that it can cause. He wasn’t convicted.

    And I don’t believe that as a woman she has to be more careful. Not any more. It just doesn’t fit with what I see every day. If anything, it demonstrates a situation where, as a man, you have to be…

    But, generally, it is another case where the older generation is, to my mind, looking more and more irrelevant, and carrying on like outmoded berks.

    Screw them both and appoint a decent poet. Oxford has twice dodged a bullet here in that respect, I think.

    Shit. I guess leaving this comment means that I admit to reading your blog, Luke?

    Reply

Leave a Reply