In My Own Time

18th November 2011 at 00:00
Walter Humes, Stirling University visiting professor of education


I ought to get out more, but I prefer to spend my time reading. Good fiction tells you as much about the human condition as philosophy or religion. Some writers I admire for their style and sheer intelligence (Julian Barnes), others for their narrative power (C J Sansom), yet others for their social insight (J G Ballard). I also read a huge amount of crime fiction. It is very cathartic and helps to suppress my homicidal tendencies when faced with the forces of darkness in Scottish education.


I tend to become a grumpy old man at the cinema as I am easily irritated by munching, fidgeting and chatting. However, during my recent visit to see the film version of John le Carre's, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I was struck by the virtual silence of the audience, as they sat enthralled by a wonderful cinematic experience. The casting was perfect, the filming superb, with a stunning performance by Gary Oldman as George Smiley and a great cameo for Kathy Burke.


The car radio is permanently tuned to Classic FM. My favourite composer is Haydn but I have varied tastes, including modern stuff (eg. Philip Glass, John Adams). My secret vice is that I quite enjoy some pop music, but I would never admit this to young people as it would seem like a pathetic attempt by an oldie to ingratiate himself; the names Adele and Jessie J never pass my lips. If invited to choose my desert island discs, I would face a challenging ethical dilemma.


I watch less and less TV, apart from news. Many programmes (The Apprentice, X Factor) now depend on a distasteful combination of boasting (by the contestants) and humiliation (by the panel). As for soaps, their addictive quality is nearly as damaging to the mind as drink and drugs.

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