Sunday, August 19, 2007

Conference season

Hello all

Despite being penniless, I'm still proud to be a scientist. To that end, I am about to fulfill a long-term invitation to a conference in the mayonnaise-loving country of Belgium. The olde-worlde town of Ghent is playing host to about a thousand vets from around the globe with an interest in parasitology. My marketing manager - the erudite scientist known as Dr Mark Booth, will be accompanying me, as he is speaking to the assembled vets on his favourite topic on Monday. I will be in the audience, of course, silently praying that he doesn't make a mess of things. Usually he is OK, but he does have a habit of sprouting off into some tangential subject and running over time. Many a chair has had to remind Dr Booth that there are 'only two minutes left' on the clock.

Fortunately, my expenses are being met by Dr Booth, who had set money aside to attend but then found out he was an invited speaker. He very kindly offered to pay my registration, travel and accommodation. It's the first time I have been to a conference in over a year, so I intend to really enjoy the affair. There is something comforting about sitting in a darkened seminar for an entire day, with nothing to do except listen to a string of ten-minute talks puntuated by questions and refreshment breaks. One can leave the troubles of the world behind and allow oneself to wallow in pure academia.

Dolores was initially sceptical about the trip, and accused me of abandoning the ship. I managed to placate her with a promise that I would exploit the occasion for networking purposes, and reminded her that conferences are an ideal place to set up collaborations (which often lead to grant applications). Mollified, she smiled and told me to have a 'good time', before heading off to her new job at the manor house.

Yes, that's right. My wife has found employment as a domestic help in the services of our neighbour, a foreign business man specialising in some form of 'import-export' as his secretary told us last week. He uses the manor as his weekend retreat, and likes to have it thoroughly cleaned before his arrival every Friday evening and after his departure on Sunday evening. As the manor house has 8 bedrooms , 6 bathrooms, 3 receptions, an orangery and a gallery full of - what was termed 'foreign erotica', it is clear that there is a lot of cleaning to be done. For that reason, Dolores has been contracted to work for two days a week - Monday and Friday. At her interview, my wife had asked how the position had become vacant. The secretary was reluctant to say at first, but eventually relented and told us that the prevous cleaner had been caught using an item from the gallery during her lunch break 'for personal pleasure'.

Knowing my wife's somewhat puritanical attitude towards erotica in general , I have full confidence in her ability to focus on the dusting.



Gorilla Bananas said...

Surely the best part of these academic conferences are the tours and other diversions provided by the hosts.

Suppose Dolores is offered a souvenir by her employer? It may impolite to refuse it.

Anonymous said...

Imports-Exports in what I wonder? Something invisable or maybe more tangible like oh no slavery.
How many previous cleaners have gone missing I wonder.


Dr Joseph McCrumble said...

GB - no time for extra-curricular activities I'm afraid. I've had to sneak out of a session just to write this note!

Plum - We don't know yet what he is importing or exporting. There may be a clue in the gallery. The previous cleaner supposedly went back to Poland. Don't know about the rest...