Snuggle up with a warm book and a box of tissues

21st October 2005 at 01:00
Careful! Don't get too close. When anyone else has a cold, it's a namby-pamby, wee bit of a cold, but me, well it's nothing less than "the cold of which researchers dream the perfect cold, the cold supreme". I really just want to curl up inside a warm duvet, but there are all these electronic things lined up for my classes; the film extract on the big screen, the PowerPoint extravaganza and the demonstration of the virtual learning environment.

Amazing what you can do with a laptop, isn't it? They are tiny portable miracles. But for teaching purposes they require suitcases of accessories.

"It's not rocket science," I was told when I complained that the solution to a technical problem was yet another lead. OK, it's not rocket science, but when your brain is glued solid with the cold, you feel you are attempting a manual re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere.

Is it too much to ask to have a wonderful room where blackout curtains swish at the touch of a button, everything is joined up, plugged in and the techy stuff is concealed behind lovely walls? A bit like the Odeon?

And why, when you are poorly, do you end up with cover? I know. I know.

Because you have spread your germs around the staffroom. The class were studying popular romantic fiction and had been assigned a batch of Mills and Boon. At least, I consoled myself, it meant low-tech page turning.

It was worth covering just to watch them dutifully and bashfully perusing titles such as Night of Shame, Love Call, Bride for a Year and Millionaire Mistress. The boys' expressions were mostly macho, slightly frowning, as if embarked on a scientific inquiry, but some of the girls looked relaxed, twisting strands of hair round their fingers as if they were in a hot chocolate advertisement.

We discussed bodice-rippers from Wuthering Heights to Pride and Prejudice, heroes from surly Heathcliffe to pompous Mr Darcy and comparisons to Mills and Boon's Jasons and Lukes. What was the attraction nowadays in a dark, brooding hero who would charge in on a white horse and sweep the heroine off her feet? The girls felt that the books were simply a relaxation, an escape. The boys caused uproar by saying that they felt that women had had enough of empowerment. The Spice Girls were history and what women really really wanted was a Byronic hero who glowered fiercely.

The boys wouldn't be swayed. Davie was convinced romance was making a comeback. "Everything that goes around, comes around," he said.

That night I found myself wondering if maybe Davie was right. A good crowd turned out to the Odeon to see Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice. It has been said the film has "no ooohs, no aaahs. No tight britches, firm male buttocks or heaving bosoms." But when Mr Bingley went down on one knee to propose to Jane there was a collective gasp from the row behind. Eight girls, all decked up in empowered T-shirts and sporting dangerous face jewellery, did a kind of orgasmic Mexican wave swoon.

And at the end, when Elizabeth and Darcy do that almost-but-not-quite kiss and the music swells, there were snuffling sounds from the row behind. When the lights went up, the girls, mascara streaming, dabbed at their eyes.

Maybe Davie has his finger on the pulse, I thought. Maybe romance is making a big comeback. Or maybe the girls had just caught my cold.

Dr Carol Gow lectures in media at Dundee College.

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