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A Degree of Humour: Mischievous and Memorable Moments in Academe

A Degree of Humour: Mischievous and Memorable Moments in Academe

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A Degree of Humour: Mischievous and Memorable Moments in Academe

155 Seiten
2 Stunden
Mar 16, 2016


Humorous and crazy antics in University life seem to abound. These delightful and true accounts of pranks and funny situations will have you laughing out loud on every page. If you ever have to give a speech at University, or maybe at the wedding of an academic, this book offers ample source material. It also offers irresistible reading designed to lift the load of modern stressful life.
There is a saying that one should never go to bed angry or unhappy. One chapter a day just before sleep will fix that problem. You might even wake up laughing!

Mar 16, 2016

Über den Autor

Keith Beavon matriculated from Grey College in Bloemfontein and entered university in the mid-1950s. During his undergraduate years he decided to pursue an academic career and did so from 1963 through to 2012 during which time he completed an MSc and a PhD in Urban Geography and held lecturing posts at a number of universities. In addition he was a Professor and Head of Department for some 21 years. He also served as a Dean of a Faculty on two occasions. Possessed of a keen sense of humour, and a penchant for practical jokes, during his more than 50 years in academe, he participated in and observed numerous episodes that were funny, mischievous, and memorable. A selection of them are recounted in this book. Keith retired for the last time and withdrew from formal attachment to academe in 2012. In retirement he holds the title of Professor Emeritus from two South African universities. He is the sole author of four academic books and author and co-author of a large number of published papers and some poems.


A Degree of Humour - Keith Beavon


Chapter Seven: The Mini

Chapter Eight: The Fail Safe Computer Centre

Chapter Nine: A Room with a Glow

Chapter Ten: Coincidence?

Chapter Eleven: Moondust

Chapter Twelve: The Thesis might be Late

Chapter Thirteen: Up the Stairs and Out

Chapter Fourteen: Gender Neutral

Chapter Fifteen: Corporal Punishment

Chapter Sixteen: The Ringer

Chapter Seventeen: Application Aborted

Chapter Eighteen: CBD Lecture

Chapter Nineteen: The Special Graduation

Chapter Twenty: The Surgeon

Chapter Twenty One: In a Moment of Silence

Chapter Twenty Two: Stools

Chapter Twenty Three: The Injection

Chapter Twenty Four: A Propitious Pause

Chapter Twenty Five: Jong Blare

Chapter Twenty Six: A Misspent Youth

Chapter Twenty Seven: The Honey Trap

Chapter Twenty Eight: Stolen Work

Chapter Twenty Nine: The Domestic Science Syllabus

Chapter Thirty: Mischievous

Chapter Thirty One: Perhaps Not

Chapter Thirty Two: Unsuspected

Chapter Thirty Three: Map Room

Chapter Thirty Four: Old White Man

Chapter Thirty Five: Sharing

Chapter Thirty Six: Choice

Chapter Thirty Seven: Coup and Reaction

Chapter Thirty Eight: Extension

Chapter Thirty Nine: Cops and Marx

Chapter Forty: The Pumpkin

Chapter Forty One: A Parting Gift

Chapter Forty Two: Is He Here?

Chapter Forty Three: Beer Glorious Beer

Chapter Forty Four: A Random Comment

Chapter Forty Five: Child Welfare

Chapter Forty Six: The Prize

Chapter Forty Seven: Accommodating

Chapter Forty Eight: The Raison D’être

Chapter Forty Nine: The Finger

Chapter Fifty: The Inaugural Lecture

About the Author


In the mid-1950s, when I was young and had even less sense than I have now, I applied for and was accepted to enter what for me was an unknown realm then termed Varsity. My introduction to university life would take place on the lush green campus of the University of Cape Town (or UCT) where I would not be a Fresher but a Newman. That title came by virtue of being assigned to the ivy-clad ‘residence’ known officially as Smuts Hall but at the time mostly referred to by its student body as Men’s Res.

I was the first individual of my family, and even of my extended family, to ever attend a university. Furthermore not only was I for all intents and purposes ignorant of what a university was but I had never in my life been to Cape Town. So it was with mixed feelings, and mainly one of trepidation, that I set off from the dusty and sun-baked Karroo dorp of Hopetown to board the late-night express train to Cape Town from Orange River station.

The next morning at about 10 o’clock the train descended the awesome Hex River Pass and left the dry Karroo landscape and entered the lush green and well-watered Western Province and some hours later would see me enter the world of academe.

And thus began what turned out to be an almost continuous 57 years of full-time attendance, employment, or formal association as an academic, on a variety of university campuses.

Whatever my thoughts and imaginings were during the blistering heat of the long dry summer in Hopetown, as I waited to leave for the mystical world of Varsity, they never even remotely approximated the reality. It has been well over a half century of almost exclusively fun-filled years coupled with the great freedom to engage in the research and teaching of those things in my discipline that from time to time most captured my interest and imagination.

The intention here is to share some of the lighter, and frequently mischievous, moments that have punctuated my life in academe; moments that still bring a smile to my face as I relive them, either by myself as I move steadily into my dotage, or as I recall them over a glass of good cheer with the former students and colleagues who featured in them.

Hopefully if they read this book they too will remember some of the events I have included in this collection, and even recognize themselves notwithstanding that, to protect their privacy, the names of actual characters and institutions have been altered. Suffice it to say that most of the vignettes presented in this collection took place on campuses and in academic departments of South African universities.

I have attempted to arrange the individual items that constitute the substance of this book into a sequence that will make for easy and enjoyable reading. Therefore although some of the people are in a sense the main ‘players’ in a number of ‘scenes’ the events have not been arranged in a strict chronological order. Furthermore, despite having been both a ‘perpetrator’ and a ‘victim’ in several of the stories recounted here, I have for the most part chosen to eschew using the first person format and preferred in most instances to adopt the third person style in the text.

Keith Beavon

Johannesburg, Summer 2016

Chapter One

The Emu

Many years ago new students in the men’s residences at various South African universities were given the impression that for their first year they were tolerated rather than accepted as full members of the residence. Furthermore at one of the leading South African universities new students were known as Newmen and were subject to a year of induction. The central element of which was the ‘line up’ after formal dinner, for which all members of the Residence, or Res, were required to wear stiff-collared shirts, ties and jackets, and a black academic gown.

After dinner the newmen would line up, three deep, and be inspected by senior students, those in the third or more senior years of study. The main objective of the line-up was to give senior students a chance to learn the names of the new students and vice-versa. At the same time it was a chance to introduce, or induct, the newmen into the traditions of the Res and to assign to them some of the menial duties that they would perform during their first year.

During the line up some senior students would from time to time instruct a newman to say something to another senior student, normally something semi-abusive. The senior ‘victim’ would immediately demand an explanation to which the newman would always respond with I had an urge sir.

Senior students were always referred to as Sir or more usually by their surname prefaced by the title of Mister. Furthermore newmen as a bunch were frequently berated for being slack, and particularly for not showing initiative (whatever that might have meant).

In many of the cherished ‘traditions’ the newmen were not only central to the moment but were urged to show significant initiative. Probably the most important traditional event was what the Residence styled the Arbor-day ceremony. It was held on the first Monday in September, a convenient public holiday in the 1950s.

In the simplest description, the day was marked by the planting of a tree, which, following some speeches rich with double entendre, would subsequently be ‘blessed’, or more precisely watered, by some faunal form. The whole episode would be witnessed by all the newmen and as many other students, male and female, who wished to attend.

The student accommodation was arranged in a style similar to the ‘staircases’ in Oxford and Cambridge colleges. In the residence under discussion here the units were termed ‘flats’ and in most cases they contained 10 study bedrooms arranged over three floors with a central staircase rising from the ground floor where there were only two rooms. Usually the ten most senior students, who were in the fifth year of study, were grouped in one flat and their number would have included the Head student, the Res Treasurer, and the Chairman of the Vigilance Committee that was in charge of all aspects of the induction of newmen.

On the week before one particular Arbor-day celebration the newmen were informed that they would wear only white shirts to the tree-planting ceremony, there they would fulfil the role of ‘vestal virgins’ and it was their responsibility to assemble some suitable animals to ‘bless’ the tree.

In this instance they were told that the Res was sick and tired of seeing only pet dogs performing the blessing and it was time for them, the newmen, to use their initiative. When asked what that meant, the Chairman of the Vigilance Committee retorted Use your initiative!

The Sunday before the ceremony passed quietly, the tree was obtained, and slowly but surely the usual Sunday evening silence enveloped the residence as the clock ticked on towards midnight. Then just before the witching hour, and from my room on the third floor of our flat, I heard muffled voices and a set of heavy footsteps trudging up the three flights of wooden stairs. The clatter stopped on the landing near my door but immediately outside the door of William Weavers the Chairman of the Vigilance Committee. More sounds of a whispered discussion, and foot shuffling, and then a firm knock on his door.

Curious as to what all this was about I opened my door to see what was going on. There before me were four or five newmen, all wearing long trousers, jackets, and ties as well as academic gowns but all looking decidedly worried. At the same moment Weavers, resplendent in pyjamas and dressing-gown, pulled his door open muttering loudly What the hell is all this? and on seeing the newmen he added What do you want at this time of night?

We’ve come to inform you of something Mr. Weavers, mumbled the spokesman.

Inform me of what?

To tell you about the emu.

Emu? What are you on about?

The emu we’ve killed.

You’ve what?

We’ve killed the emu.

By this time Eric Syngen, the Head of the Res, and ‘Skip’ McCash the Treasurer, were also out of bed and standing, dressed in pyjamas, on the landing. Following what we had just overheard none of us needed telling that the newmen were referring to the emu in the nearby zoo.

What the hell were you doing at the zoo? asked Weavers.

We were trying to catch the emu.

At this time of night? Why were you trying to catch it?

After a slight pause one of the newmen said: We had an urge Sir.

"To hell with your

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