The Port Run – Moulding of the family

 As for our lecturers, we felt at the start that we had been short changed.  Our original partnership was to have been Ian Simmons, an eminent biogeographer and ecologist, a wonderful and provoking lecturer and a hugely likeable if somewhat tangential professor, and Helen Goldie, an inexperienced, young lecturer, who was also extremely likeable.  Unfortunately, Ian had to pull our almost at the last minute, and two other lecturers had to come in.  Dougie Pocock was one of my heroes at Durham.  Slow moving but quick witted, he was involved in teaching dry social geography, but his passion, which he passed on to me, was in humanistic and perceptual geography.  Perceptual geography dealt with how we perceived space and the world around us, a topic I still wish I had more time to look into.  While most geographers drew maps to scale and found facts on their nearest hillside, Douglas showed us how we see our space differently, throughout the seven ages of man, and wherever we have come from.  The best example I remember was a Christmas card that Doncaster Borough Council sent to MP’s in London.  It drew a sketch of Britain, and had a thick line showing the M1, petering out into a cobbled road and finally an arrow saying, Donkey carts from here, finally reaching Doncaster.  Humanistic geography took it one stage further, instead of how we perceive our space, it looks at how we feel and express space, through our words, thoughts, music and art.  Although it got bogged down in its own language, I also felt it was a much misjudged branch of the discipline, and should have been more pivotal as themes such as appealing, preserving or creating landscapes, tourism, culture, roots and background are all central to the way we live our lives.  But Dougie was thrown on us at the last minute, and I always felt he was less prepared for Porto than the rest of us.  He worked in an interesting way, very pedantic, carefully and cautiously.  But he also just did what he wanted.  I remember that he said to my tutorial group one time “No-one seems to notice that I am just here doing my little area of geography for my own pleasure.  I like it, I love Durham, I need never go anywhere else, and I just hope no-one else notices that I don’t really contribute to anything apart from my own little world”. He then put his finger to his lips “ Don’t  tell anyone will you”.

 He could not stay the whole time and there was an overlap between him and Jim Lewis.  I found Jim a youngish arrogant lecturer of human geography.  He forced arguments down your throat, and reminded me of Mel Smith in looks, temperament, actions and words.  He came out to Portugal an old hand, he was a visiting lecturer at Coimbra University to the south of Porto, spoke fluent Portuguese and knew everything there was to know of the place.  But even he, who I thought I could never get to like, and I am sure he thought I was never to be someone he would have the time of day for, seemed to mould himself in the group, and as his bravado diminished he began to appreciate the cogs of the team.

 With all the tensions, age differences, backgrounds and origins, it was amazing that we ever got through the first week, but by the time we thanked Taylor’s boss and some of us got a lift back along the precarious track in a minibus, others walked and most of them drifted back to the road by boat, we were one big happy family.

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2 thoughts on “The Port Run – Moulding of the family

  1. The Port Run – Moulding of the family – String Knife and Paper

  2. The Port Run – Moulding of the family – String Knife and Paper

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