I did some substitute teaching today for a colleague, while she skived orf to Engelonde to poke around in archives. I get brownies in heaven for doing this, with extra walnut bits.
What kind of substitute teaching?, you enquire, on the edge of your couches.
Ah, well, seeing you ask: it was a fiction writing class. We taught each other how to write dialogue, with punctuation and everyfing, and then we workshopped a couple of bold ventures into the realms of narrative prose, which act of workshopping is the veriest test of diplomacy, critical analysis, and interpersonal skills the modern 'versity offers.
E.g., in one of these bold ventures there was a cat. Actually, an argument about a cat.
"Why an argument about a cat?" I asked. "Why not an argument about the alleged greatness of The Great Gatsby? Or whether people should be allowed to put orange flavouring into chocolate? What's the significance of cat?"*
"Why a ...? What? You're asking ... why ... a cat?" The intrepid scholar squinted at me, the squint of a person who suspects another person might have reached biological maturity without the usual doings in the cerebral cortex. "Because cats symbolise loneliness. You know. She's all alone, with a cat."
"But you're not all alone with a cat. You're with a cat. How can you be alone and with a cat at the same time? Since when do cats symbolise loneliness. I mean, go ahead, convince me. I just haven't heard that about cats before."
So it turns out that the entire class thinks that cats symbolise loneliness. And so I tell the entire class that I have two cats thankyouverymuch, and they're kittens, and they're lovely, and I've never been as unlonely in all my days and I have a rich, full, round, bold, many-flavoured, multicolour, polyphonic ... life. Also, tonight I am going to a boardgames party at a friend's place in Fitzroy, and we will play Settlers of Catan and eat biscuits, and so I'm not certain that the cat is doing the symbolic work the writer of this story wants it to, but if everyone else is convinced, okay, sure, keep the cat, great, and I love the dialogue. Really punchy.
"Oh dear," says scholar #2. "You're not doing your PhD are you?"
"I'm not doing my ...? I finished my PhD years ago. Relevance?"
It's just that he knows three women in their early thirties who are doing PhDs and have cats, and they never leave the house, and they just study, and it's really sad.
"Those women are my best friends."
Yes. Anyway. That'll teach them to not to let their normal tutor sod off to the other side of the world.
In other feline news, Leonard is so freaked out by the ferocious kittens in the flat-next-door she has started hissing at her own reflection in the lobby window. This is not good. Poor Leonard.
* See this dialogue here? Quotation marks and everything.