Mussels and Students

It rained so much and so hard and so malevolently yesterday that I saw bewilderment and despair in more than one of my colleagues’ eyes – John M., clutching his waterproof trousers which had got wet on the inside; Sally, with a thousand-yard Mediterranean stare (“I shouldn’t be here” she said simply); Stephen and I, tempted beyond reason to put down thunderings as the answer to a crossword clue; and David, fresh off three planes over two nights (Chile – Miami – New York City – London – OISE) trying hard, seemingly, to account for his having apparently splashed down in the North Atlantic.

On a day like that you wonder if you have reached a tipping point. But the lessons were pleasant and productive, the students cheery or at least resigned, the coffee hot, and the homecoming, when it came, welcome. We retreated, in short, from the brink and girded ourselves for another, slightly less rain-washed day.

I have posted before on the apocalyptic sensibility we all share at times. On that occasion it was jellyfish (they are still planning to take over the world, in case you had forgotten). And now a team of researchers from Cambridge University has concluded that Britain is in the crosshairs of up to fourteen invasive and destructive species, from Killer and Demon shrimp to Zebra and Quagga mussels, the latter recently found in a river near Heathrow airport.

These invasive species threaten our economy (in other words, our water pipes) and other, sleepier, domestic species. As one of the authors of the report notes, “where we’ve got Quagga at the moment [at Wraysbury], there are populations of a vulnerable river mussel known as the depressed river mussel, which is about to get even more depressed.”

And I thought I was having a bad morning. My students may come from abroad, but they are for the most part symbiotic rather than invasive, and they do not herald the apocalypse.


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