Readers’ Letters

27 Oct

Tearing up the town. And the country. And the parks, as well

INVASION OF THE MAMILS

Sir: I just thought I would comment upon your views on the MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) who are causing a stir in Richmond Park.

We have our fair share of these critters here in the Suffolk countryside. This species likes nothing more than to ride two or more abreast along narrow country roads, shooting down “the inside” of cars, waiting at a junction to turn right; my particular favourite example of this is when the dullard didn’t see the massive brambles protruding from the hedge which snared him entirely whilst completing this particular manoeuvre, his screams ring loudly in my ears, as I hope my laughter does in his.

We have invented a new term – pedalphiles – which, if shouted out of the window of an overtaking vehicle results in much shouting and fist shaking by the “victim”, which adds massively to our collective enjoyment.

David Evans, Suffolk, UK

SPEED MONSTERS

Sir: This seems to me a typical urban phenomenon: the “battle cyclist”, as we call it in Germany. In Munich we have the large “Nymphenburger Park” where cyclists are not admitted and we enjoy it! But there is no speed limit for these lots of obsessed joggers, which also create an annoying “speedy” atmosphere in the park.

I also can’t stand these speed monsters on cycles. That inspired me to make this linocut [which we reproduce above].

Jürgen Altmann, Munich

WOES OF THE MODERN SCHOLAR

Sir: this has been on my mind since I learned of the Idler, so I thought I might as well send it in. I have enjoyed learning all my life, so after high school, I went to college for engineering. I worked in a blue-collar type job, but missed the challenge of learning, so I went on to get a Master’s degree, and then a Ph. D. These degrees were a lot of work; I lost a lot of sleep and a lot of hobby time. I continued my education because I thought I was working towards an academic peak, and at the summit, I could spend the rest of my employed life utilizing all my hard-earned knowledge, and enjoying the easy-going effort towards my scientific pursuits. Alas, I am now under the realization that there is no summit to the academic hill: academics work endlessly. There is never any rest, for any occasion. One of my professor’s had a child, took one week off, and was back at the blackboard the next week (and they wonder why there are not more women in tenured positions). A year-long “sabbatical” was once a period to rest, so professors could be rejuvenated to continue their academic pursuits. Now professors use the opportunity to visit other campuses and get ahead in their research. The only rest professors seem to get is when they die, probably with a piece of chalk still in their hand. An even worse realization, this pseudo-employment (grad school) is not the final stage on employment limbo. There is now a “post-doc,” a temporary employment under the indenture of a professor in which you make a salary of an entry level scientist, but you contribute high-level knowledge and thinking. A post-doc is easily worth three times her salary. And many schools are now requiring 2-3 post-doc appointments before even considering employment as a restless professor. Anyway, the idler is making me rethink this way of life. The American work ethic instilled by birth often causes me to feel immense guilt when I say I am sick of working so hard. The well-written and sensible essays of the Idler ease my guilt and bring to mind a better way of living. Thanks again.

Djuna, Pennsylvania, US

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