It’s the opportunity to engage with these issues and many others that excites me about taking up my new position of professor of contemporary thought at Brunel. I have been a vocal critic of the burgeoning of creative writing programmes in British universities, and while teaching some aspects of literary composition under the aegis of the school of arts, I will be formulating and presenting course modules for the school of social sciences. I’m interested in such things as reading and memory in the digital age, the practice of pedestrianism as a form of urban study and political activism, the cultural supremacy of the so-called psy professions, and, of course, that perennial sawhorse: whither the novel?

I realise that the above may make it sound as if I’m more concerned with what I will get out of teaching these students, rather than what they may get out of me – but actually I believe the two are pretty much the same thing. The encounter I described at the outset took place at the University of Kent, and the multifarious debate engaged – or so the tutors told me later – their students proportionately. There is something mysteriously powerful that can happen when young, inchoate minds come into contact with older and more worldly ones in a spirit of intellectual and creative endeavour – if I believed in progress I suppose that’s what I’d call it.