This, for those of us involved in higher education, is the Phoney War, that period in early September each year, when face to face combat has not yet begun. However it is a very real if distant prospect, a nasty glow on the horizon, and it is inevitable. There is nothing you can do to stop it, and after what seems like decades of peace war planes now fly overhead, and they are dropping bombs (lighting fires all over) and you just hope, holed up in your bunker, that you can hold your nerve and not cop it this early. It is enervating as they used to say, weakening, some of us have been known to disappear altogether, to distant lands, only to turn up just in time, shaking, conspicuously hungover. The corridors are empty, there is that fustiness (you can't get fustiness out of a university, it comes with the furniture, with the cleaning fluid) but you are as alert as a rabbit caught in the middle of a field, just before making a dash to the safety of the long grass. Oh the long green grass!
Mobilization is underway, the transports, the mums and dads, shifting men, women and material; mostly duvets. There are intense preparations, dummy runs, mental exercises 'What shall we do?' is the begged question. 'How shall we respond?' to this, to that. We have so many bad ideas at once! 'Have we the numbers??' 'What about equipment!?' 'I've forgotten the fucking password!' and all the time you know there is just that body of knowledge, that pack on your back for you to rely on, except suddenly you seem to have lost something.
Then comes the throng, the throng of eagerness, of bright eyes, it's hand to hand, it's street-fighting, you take cover, you block it out, in the office, listening. But you get used to it. Then it becomes normal, then you begin to prefer it.