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Brave new world


The brave new post-Covid world is beginning to take shape. A couple of days ago I had an e-mail from a friend in Hobart, Tasmania advising me that he had a new e-mail address. He had been teaching at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, so I'd been using his University of Tasmania address. Now he would be teaching at the University of New England, so would I please use the new address? UNE is based in the country town of Tamworth, New South Wales, a mere 1346 kilometres and one ocean crossing to the north of Hobart.

Now I give ground to no man in my admiration for Tamworth, a pleasant provincial town with a population of a bit over 42,000. But Hobart it ain't. I love Hobart, with its excellent restaurants, manageable size (just under 250,000 people), nice galleries and museums, a gorgeous little theatre and a pleasant river setting. So would my friend have to move to Tamworth?

Not a bit of it, he reassured me: "I don't need to leave Tassie (Tasmania). They are quite happy for me to teach on line so I don't have to move." My grand-daughter Dot has been taking some of her Cambridge University course at home in London, via Zoom, so the idea wasn't new. Nevertheless UNE's calm acceptance and regularising of my friend's remote teaching for the foreseeable future suggests radical change. What was once an emergency stop-gap measure is already becoming part of the new normal.

Clearly there are all sorts of possibilities. If you live in San Francisco, why not take an economics degree at the London School of Economics? Or if you live in London, why not take a medical degree at Stanford University? For that matter, why not send your kid to Eton from the safety and comfort of your home in Sydney, Australia?

So what follows? I've already gone through the case for working at home rather than going to an office each day. Now watch out for much less business travel as people confer on line rather than in person. International time differences will be a problem, because one man/woman's mid-day will be another's two in the morning. But who wouldn't prefer to get up at two in the morning and go back to bed afterwards, rather than suffer four days jet lag flying from Paris to Singapore for a three-hour 'meeting', with only a good Chinese meal afterwards as a reward? Especially when there's more jet-lag to look forward to after the return journey.

If you read my 'upcoming events' blog, which is not far away and part of ABOUT ME you'll see that I've already given one talk via Zoom (in Florida, USA) and there's another in Bendigo, Australia. My daughter Anouchka, mother of Dot, has been promoting her latest book in the UK via a series of Zoom 'events'. In the past I've done 'author tours' to promote my books, and they've involved zig-zagging all over Australia, or all over the United States. Maybe future 'tours' will take in the entire globe, starting with New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies, all conducted from the comfort of my home in France. Sounds good to me.

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