Category Archives: General

Applying for Jobs

I wrote this for a Departmental postgrad handbook, the publication of which has now been delayed – so I thought I would post it here.  I’ve been involved in another shortlisting process this week, and it only served to reinforce these ideas.

Writing an Application

I am not an extrovert.  The process of writing a job application – a document in which I am supposed to praise myself to strangers – is a peculiar kind of torture.  I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve done it now, but it has never lost that sting of embarrassment and awkwardness.

I think, though, that I have now learnt how to do it.  Of course, you’d have to ask the members of the Department here, who read my application for my current job, whether I did the right thing – though I guess it can’t have been too awful, given that I’m here.  But my confidence is not based so much on that, as on the fact that I have also now had the experience of reading hundreds of other people’s job applications.  Probably more than a thousand.  And whilst I won’t pretend that it is as unpleasant an experience as writing my own, I do find it dispiriting in its own unique way – because so many people who write them throw their chances away.

So, here is some advice from a serial application reader, about how to make sure your application is not prematurely thrown on to the ‘reject’ pile.

You have seen an advert for an academic job that you would like, and you have decided to send in an application.  How do your maximize your chances of being one of the lucky few chosen to get called to interview?

It is worth remembering that the first and most important purpose of your application is to get you on to the shortlist.  That may sound obvious, but it actually underlies everything else that I’m about to say.  Imagine that I’m in charge of this particular job search.  Imagine me sitting with a huge pile of applications in front of me – often fifty or a hundred, sometimes many more – and with not very much time.  I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me, just to picture the situation.  Imagine me trying to make a fair but quick decision about which applications to throw on the reject pile, in order to get it down to a manageable size – an initial long list.

At this stage, I can promise you that I am not going to be reading each application in great detail, developing a rich and well-informed picture of each applicant’s individual character and strengths.  There simply isn’t the time.  Rather, I’m going to be skimming through the applications in haste to see which of them match their selection criteria.  In fact, the last several times I’ve done this, I’ve had a spreadsheet open in front of me, with the name of every applicant down the side, and a list of criteria across the top, and I’ve simply gone through writing some variant of ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Maybe’ in every box.  Only when I’ve used that process to weed out most of the applicants will I spend more time with the applications still standing, trying to make a final selection.  So that is what you are up against, at least to begin with.

But – and this is the most important thing to realize – in any well run process, you will have been told in advance what the criteria are, in whatever ‘Further Particulars’ or ‘Person Specification’ or ‘Job Details’ document was made available to prospective applicants.

So, in order to maximize your chances, you need to follow these simple rules.

Rule 1: Read the Further Particulars carefully.

Rule 2: Read the Further Particulars carefully again.

Rule 3: Read the Further Particulars carefully one more time.  (If you’ve reached this step, you are already ahead of the majority of other applicants.  Trust me.)

Rule 4: Find out whatever else you can about the job.  If it is an academic job, do you know someone in the relevant department?  Give them a ring and ask them to tell you what sort of person the department is looking for.  Do the Further Particulars give the details of a key contact, and invite you to get in touch?  Use them, and ask them whether they can give you more detail about what they need from the appointee.  Unless you take up stalking at this point, you’re not going to do yourself any harm, and you may get a clearer sense of what the criteria in the Further Particulars really mean.

Rule 5: Don’t simply submit the same application for every job.  Just don’t.  Your aim in your application is not to say how great you are in the abstract.  It is to show that you fit this job, and that this job fits you.  The application you wrote for another job last week will not work for this job, unless the two jobs are identical.  If you haven’t got time to write a fresh application for this job, then you don’t have time to apply for this job.

Rule 6: For any application where you are allowed to write a covering letter, do so – and use it to set out clearly how you meet the criteria given in the Further Particulars.  After a brief and formal opening paragraph, the content of which doesn’t really matter, take those criteria one by one, and write a paragraph highlighting the ways in which you meet that criterion.  So, if they say they want someone who can teach modern Jewish philosophy, who has published at least two articles, and who can juggle flaming torches, you should write a covering letter with a paragraph that highlights the experience you have teaching modern Jewish philosophy, a paragraph pointing out that you have one article published and another on its way, and a paragraph explaining that you can indeed juggle three flaming torches, and on a good day four.  Follow the order in which the criteria are given in the Further Particulars; use the same language that they use.  Make it as easy as you can for a panel member reading your application to see at a glance that, yes, you meet their criteria – or that you come close, and are on your way to meeting them soon.  You may be able to combine a number of the smaller-scale criteria into a single paragraph – but try to make sure that you still clearly cover all of them.

Rule 7: Tweak your CV so that it provides clear evidence to back up your letter.  Your letter can refer the reader to your CV for more detailed evidence (‘As you will see from my CV, I have juggled flaming torches in market towns across West Kent and South London’).  See below for more CV advice.

Rule 8: Make both documents – your letter and CV – clear, uncluttered, and readable.  A covering letter that is six dense, narrow-margined pages of unbroken prose in Comic Sans (and, yes, that does happen) is not going to do you any favours.  Unless you are given different instructions (did you read the Further Particulars?) the rule for non-academic jobs tends to be a one-page covering letter and two-page CV.  For an academic job, I’d aim for two pages for your covering letter, without getting too precious about hitting that length exactly, and let the length of your CV be determined by what needs to go in it to provide full evidence of the way you meet the criteria.  Aim for well-ordered clarity and simplicity – for professionalism, elegance, and readability.  Avoid dense complexity like the plague.

Rule 9: Check what you have written.  And check it again.  And again.  And again.  And then get someone else to check it.  Eliminate typos, clumsy formatting, bad grammar, awkward phrasing, sentences of baroque complexity, any impressive-sounding phrases that you don’t actually understand, and any lavish adjectives that aren’t matched by the evidence.  By the time I’m on application number 75, I’m just about ready to scream at every covering letter that reads like a bad entry in a highbrow literary prose-writing competition.  Just cut to the chase!  Tell me what I need to know!  Please!

Rule 10: Select good referees.  Choose people who know you and your work.  Choose people who like you and your work.  If possible, for academic jobs, choose people who are prominent enough to be known to your selection panel.  Ask them (if at all possible) well in advance, and then send them a copy of your application (both the letter and the CV) and a copy of the Further Particulars.  If they have to send in the reference themselves (rather than being approached by the selection panel), send them a polite reminder a week before the deadline.

Rule 11: And, finally – read those Further Particulars yet again, and make sure you’ve done everything you were asked to do, exactly as you were asked to do it.

And good luck!

Creating a CV

I have always found writing a CV an anxiety-inducing task.  It’s not awkward in quite the same way as writing a covering letter is awkward, because it is more formalized, so it feels less like you’ve been asked to tell a roomful of people just how marvellous you are.  But I could never shake the feeling that I simply didn’t have enough to put in my CV, and that other people’s were bound to be much more impressive.

Just as with covering letters, though, the experience of reading hundreds of other people’s CVs, as I have sat on numerous appointment panels, has helped me to realise that approaching the task the right way can make a big difference.  Just as with your covering letter, you can put yourself quite a long way up the pile just by writing your CV sensibly.  I should say, though, that I only really know about CVs written by candidates applying for academic jobs, so if you’re applying for some other kind of job you’ll need to take the following advice only cautiously.

The first piece of advice, though, goes for all job applications.  You should definitely produce a new CV for each application.  That doesn’t mean you need to start each time from scratch, but it does mean that you need to rework the content and presentation so that it matches the job you’re applying for.  (And this is the one bit of the advice I’m giving you that I have consistently followed myself – so I now have a hard drive littered with the carcasses of dead CVs, because I’ve written so many.)

Just as with your covering letter, remember that your CV is going to be looked at by people who have a number of criteria in mind, and are checking to see that you meet them.  So your task in laying out your CV is to make sure that all the evidence they need is very easy to find.  It’s not a bad idea, for instance, to rearrange the CV so that its main sections follow the order of the criteria from the job description – though do remember that, by convention, your list of publications should come at the end (and that’s where an appointment panel member will automatically turn if they’re interested in what you’ve written).

If you’re applying for an academic job that requires someone who has a PhD, the education section of your CV only really needs to tell the panel about your PhD, any Masters-level degrees, and your undergraduate degrees.  No one on the panel is going to be interested in what exams you passed at school – unless there’s a criterion in the job description about ‘a good general education’, or something similar.

When you give your employment history, briefly explain your key duties for each job – if (and only if) it will help you demonstrate that you meet some of the criteria from the job description, or if it will help you demonstrate that you have directly relevant experience.  Use, where you can, some of the language from the job description.  If they say they want someone who can ‘communicate clearly in written and spoken English’ for instance, and you had a summer job as a tour guide, you might want to say that it ‘required clear oral communication with diverse audiences’ or something similar.  Do keep it brief and relevant, however. I, for instance, have finally been persuaded that I no longer need to mention my teenage paper round, even though it did demonstrate some key paper-folding skills and an ability to work on my own when tired and cold.

If you have some teaching experience, look through any written feedback you got (from formal student feedback questionnaires, or from peer review, or from a mentor, or whatever) – and quote it, briefly.  (If it is good, that is.  This is not one of the settings in which you are being asked to demonstrate laceratingly honest self-awareness.)

Include as full a list as you can of any presentations you have given at conferences or symposia or seminars, or to other audiences outside the university.

List whatever other of your involvements or activities you think are relevant.  And remember, they are relevant if you can tie them to the criteria given in the job description; otherwise, they are not.  Mentioning you were in your university chess club is probably going to be ignored in all bit a few rather unusual academic contexts.

When listing publications, you will probably feel (like almost everyone else who has ever produced a CV for an academic job application) that you don’t have enough to put down.  Don’t scrape the barrel – the panel are not going to be interested in the paragraph you wrote for your school magazine when you were eleven.  But do put in commissioned pieces that are not yet written, and forthcoming pieces, as long as you describe them as such honestly, and are clear about their exact status. Oh, and if you list book reviews at  all, separate them out into a distinct section of your list, even if they’re kind of all you have for now.  It doesn’t do you any good at all if someone looks at your bibliography and thinks, ‘Oh, that’s a good long . . . oh, hang on a minute, they’re all book reviews!’

If you’ve had any reviews of or responses to your published work, quote them briefly.  (Again: only if they’re good.  It might be possible to win points by quoting a review of such startling, excoriating venom that you elicit awed sympathy from your reader – but that’s quite a high risk strategy.)

Finally – and I cannot stress enough how important this is – make sure your CV is neat and well presented.  You need, I am afraid, to become utterly, obsessively geeky about formatting.  In particular, you need to learn to use indents properly, and paragraph spacing.  Your CV should be neat, clean, readable, and elegant.  It should look thoroughly professional and polished, with headings of consistent style, consistent spacing around paragraphs, lists that have been formatted consistently, consistent punctuation in the bibliography . . .  You get the picture?

Imagine a panel member reading through a stack of a hundred applications on a late night train, with tired eyes and an incipient headache.  Imagine them faced with CV after CV that is a jumbled mess of crabbed 10-point scrawling, hunting wearily to see which of the criteria each one meets, and how well.  Then imagine them turning to your CV, and finding light spaciousness and legibility, and all the evidence they could need laid out in exactly the order they are looking for. You might be amazed how much difference that can make.

On Connoisseurship

I like cheese. I like trying new cheeses; I like returning to old favourites; I like knowing the cheeses that I like. If you ask me about my favourite cheese, you’d better be prepared to settle down for a bit to listen, because it’s a subject on which I have quite a bit to say. I even – I admit it – like turning my nose up at inferior cheeses, and not just at the cheeses but at the shops, the restaurants and the nations with poor cheese selections. I am, in my own small way, a cheese connoisseur.

It may be a trick of the light, but I think there is more and more such connoisseurship around. I can without exertion think of people I know who are coffee connoisseurs, music connoisseurs, car connoisseurs, game connoisseurs, beer connoisseurs, television serial connoisseurs, whisky connoisseurs, Dr Who connoisseurs, computer connoisseurs, book connoisseurs, tea connoisseurs, film connoisseurs, and Buffy episode connoisseurs.

Yet I am deeply ambivalent about connoisseurship as a way of engaging with the world.

Good

On the one hand, connoisseurship is a good thing.

To be a connoisseur is to be engaged in delighted exploration of some small aspect of creation. It involves a formation in discrimination – the ongoing discovery that some small portion of your view is not a blandly monochrome smear, but is richly dappled, and beautiful.

To be a connoisseur can also mean a delight in inviting others on journeys of exploration. It can involve becoming an evangelist for the beauty of some small aspect of creation, infectiously teaching others to taste a richness there that they have been missing.

And to be a connoisseur sometimes goes with a turn away from mass produced items – the repeatable and predictable – to smaller producers, to artisans and cottage industries. It can be a small, and very enjoyable, gesture of resistance to economic empires.

Bad

On the other hand . . .

To be a connoisseur can mean that enjoyment becomes harder to come by – that one cannot simply drink a cup of cheerful coffee, but must analyse and compare and criticise, reserving one’s delight for the very few occasions on which one’s exacting criteria are met.

Worse, to be a connoisseur can lead to a delight in disliking: an ever more finely honed ability to pour scorn on the items that fall short: the inadequate, the ordinary, the mainstream, the popular. Some connoisseurs can be recognised by their grimaces: the sign of the permanent bad taste in their mouths.

Still worse, to be a connoisseur can involve the cultivation of superiority, an education in despising the lumpen mass of ordinary people who never look beyond their instant coffee, who think a cheese is just a cheese, and who think there is no telling difference between a Mac and a PC.

To be a connoisseur can mean developing a taste for luxury, to justify spending more and more on less and less, year by year willing to divert more and more resources and then still more into one’s quest to complete one’s collection or further one’s education – until one is willing to make purchases that one’s undiscriminating former self would have regarded as obscene.

And to be a connoisseur can require a training in falsehood, learning to declare distinctions where no distinctions exist – relishing the subtle tastes of an expensive wine that in a blind tasting one would confidently have identified as plonk.

Ambivalent

There is more and more such connoisseurship around – and I am very ambivalent about it. I am ambivalent about my own tendencies to connoisseurship (part of my general geeky obsessiveness): a version of every paragraph above could turn up in my self-description. And I am ambivalent about its spread around my world.

It strikes me that I could start collecting examples of connoisseurship, refine my categorisation of its problematic and positive features, identify excellent exemplars of these vices and virtues. Perhaps, in time, I could become known as someone who displays fine discriminating taste when it comes to displays of fine discriminating taste . . .

Our brains have just one scale, and we resize our experiences to fit.

XKCD 915: Connoisseur – Randall Munroe – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License

Oh, and just in case you’ve been wondering: the quick answer is probably Curworthy. For now.

 

In memoriam

Andor GommeOn Friday afternoon, my father-in-law, Andor Gomme, died at home. This isn’t the place for proper reminiscences, but I wanted to post a brief note on one tiny part of what we have lost. Amongst all the other things that he was, you see, he was a quite remarkable academic, and he taught me more about what it means to be one than, I think, anyone else. I can’t imagine, though, that anyone will ever say of me what must certainly be said of him: No-one who met him could ever think the word ‘academic’ a synonym for ‘narrow’ again. With seriousness, with delight, with a vast store of carefully culled detail, and with spacious clarity, he wrote on Dickens, on D.H. Lawrence, on Jane Austen, on Shakespeare, and on literary criticism in general; he edited several Jacobean tragedies; he taught his way through the works of Doris Lessing and Paul Scott; he wrote standard works on the architecture of Glasgow and of Bristol, a masterwork on the architect Francis Smith, and (most recently) on the development of the English country house; he produced an edition of Bach’s St Mark passion – the list goes on and on. I’m not sure universities make people like him any more.

Gone quiet

Sorry for the blog silence. I’ve only got a little bit more to do on the Rowan Williams series, but there just has not been the brain space to do it at the moment. It’s not so much the absolute lack of time (though that’s been true for much of the last week or so), but the difficulty of changing mental gears after a day of wearing my Head of Department hat and worrying about undergraduate admissions, departmental handbooks, and assessment and feedback strategies. And now, just when I have a bit of time, I realise that my notes for the remaining posts are on the laptop, and the laptop is off with Hester who is currently away from any internet connection…

Watch this space – but it’s probably best if you don’t hold your breath whilst doing so.

Comments

I’ve finally caught up with the fact that Akismet is doing a great job of catching comment spam on this blog – so I haven’t had to deal with the stuff manually for quite a while. So – if I’ve ticked the right boxes – I’ve turned off the need to register, and the need to get your comments individually moderated by me before they appear. Hope that makes it a bit easier.

Interregnum

I’m going to be away from the blogface for a week or so, so the series of posts on ‘The Body’s Grace’ will be interrupted. I’ll get back to it towards mid August. I hope then to get round to the question of biblical moorings for RW’s argument, to a few criticisms I have, and – probably right at the end – to the claim that, as far as RW’s theology goes, you can’t have ‘The Body’s Grace’ without the ecclesial stance that he has taken to the sexuality debate since becoming Archbishop: to see the latter as a betrayal of the former is to misunderstand both.

Dan Hardy on the public nature of theology

Dan Hardy died on the 15th of November last year. Earlier this month, in Cambridge, I presented a version of the following paper at a celebration of his work in Cambridge. It’s simply an exposition of one of his papers: Daniel W. Hardy, ‘The public nature of theology’ (An address to chaplains in institutions of higher education in the UK, 1991) in God’s Ways with the World: Thinking and Practising Christian Faith (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), 206–216.

The characteristic heart of Dan Hardy’s lecture to a 1991 gathering of university chaplains was his description of God’s work in the world. God is at work, Dan said, forming social life, at work drawing existing patterns of social life beyond themselves and towards Godself. God’s work is found where social life is becoming itself: in the contexts in which, and processes by which, societies take account of themselves, of the configurations of their social practice, of their visions of the common goods that bind them together – and so labour to repair and extend that life.

Dan speaks of God’s involvement in this work in a variety of ways: the activities by which a society becomes more fully social ‘exemplify God’s activity in the world’ (215); this activity ‘perpetuates God’s work’ (214); it can be identified ‘as God’s work’; God is the ‘highest basis’ of society (215). ‘God works through the ways in which society fashions itself’ (216) (all emphases mine).

What activity are we speaking about, more precisely? Dan will not let us get away with any shallow or simplistic account of society’s self-formation; the lecture provides (208–9) a characteristic Hardy list of the key ways in which this labour of repair and extension takes place:
• societies labour to know the world more truly (to test their existing patterns of life and thought against the resistance of the world, and to discover in the world new possibilities for action);

  • societies labour to understand and imagine directly their own ways of acting (construing their social life in such a way as to identify its fractures and to see ways in which it might develop);
  • societies take account of and work to replenish the language they speak (a constantly evolving inheritance of metaphors and similes, of idioms and grammatical habits that make possible whatever conversation a society can sustain);
  • societies take account of and labour on their culture (a constantly proliferating collection of stories and representations, investigations and escapes, in many media, that carry the identity of the society).

In all this, Dan’s focus falls on the labour of taking account, but above all on the labour of extension and repair that is built upon such account-taking: the labour by which societies become more social. True, he opens with a description of the plight of English society that at first seems more backward looking, even to the point of having a touch of nostalgia about it – referring to an England where ‘people almost always felt that social life was stable, in such a way as to allow everyone to know where he or she stood’ (206), and to the fragmentation that has eroded this stability as new, conflicting or competing interests have emerged: English society losing its ways of being together. But this hat-tip towards nostalgia is only a hook, and Dan uses it to pull the head of the reader around to face forwards – to the creation of society as a never-ending task, a task that always requires the imaginative weaving in of those strands that threaten to pull society’s temporary settlements apart. Sociality is a task, and being a society is not a given but a hope and a goal.

Speaking to an audience of university chaplains, Dan also describes the place of institutions of Higher Education in this society. They are institutions whose job is to concern themselves explicitly with a society’s means of reproduction, repair, and extension – in all the ways I have described (knowledge of the world, understanding of society itself, the study and replenishment of language, and the critical interpretation of culture). Universities are, or should be, engines that drive the processes by which societies become more social.

This labour of sociality (and the work of universities within it) is a participation in God’s work – and Dan assumes that his audience of Christian chaplains are amongst those who can acknowledge this fact; they are, indeed, involved in the characteristic form that this acknowledgement takes: worship. But Dan makes it clear that it is neither the case that only those who worship can contribute to proper formation of social life (and so participate in God’s work), nor the case that those who worship simply add an extrinsic, decorative gloss to a labour of social formation and transcendence that can function perfectly well without them. Quite where between these two poles it is appropriate to stand, Dan does not explain – at least, not in this paper. Here, he contents himself with warning his readers against two characteristic temptations, and then helping them to understand that their task is to negotiate some way between these temptations. On the one hand stands the temptation to think that the Christian, especially the ordained chaplain, has power – such that the Christian is capable of producing proper sociality, either in a Christian enclave or as a mover and shaker in the wider world. On the other hand stands the temptation to think that Christians have no responsibility, no gift to give, no vocation that has anything to offer to the work of those who labour on public sociality.

Dan does offer his audience a hint of where they might stand between these two temptations. Their role is, in part, to hold all those (including themselves) who labour on the formation of society open to the deepest vision of what is going on. Penultimately, their role is to remind people that they are about the formation of a sociality that is whole, that is one; it is to keep alive rumour of a common good. Ultimately, it is to draw those labourers into worship: into the acknowledgment of the ‘highest ground’ of their work, yet Christians can pursue their penultimate task even where the deepest spring of their vision – the God acknowledged in its worship – is not, or is not yet, recognised by the social labourers they seek to help. Their role is certainly to speak, as Dan puts it, ‘from the deepest awareness of the truth of God’s work in human life’ (206, my emphasis), but not all the speech that comes from the deepest awareness of the truth of God’s work in human life will be speech explicitly about God.

Dan barely touches in this paper on the content of the vision that Christians might help society pursue; that is, he says little the nature of the common good. It is clear that he has in mind some form of unity-in-diversity, in which a single society is forged from diverse communities and tendencies and possibilities – but the point of his piece is not to offer to his audience (or to suggest that they can offer to their audiences) a fully formed vision of social flourishing. The Christian task, as Dan describes it, is to assist at the emergence of social vision from within the contexts and processes by which a society already takes account of itself and works on itself.

Here it matters that Dan’s audience was a gathering of Christian university chaplains in England. The church in England (and not just the Church of England) is, Dan says, well placed to carry out the kind of task he has been sketching, because unlike the American churches, the English church is ‘immersed in social life’ (208). ‘Church life in this country’, he says, ‘is deeply immersed in the means by which English sociality occurs’, in ‘the means by which the public is a public’, in ‘the devices and means by which the public sustains itself’. He is well aware that the English church, too, faces the temptation to become sectarian, to withdraw from immersion in public sociality into a place where they can simply be themselves – what Dan calls ‘the sectarian route of establishing group or individual identity’ (211). But he holds that, nevertheless, the English church is still ‘by its nature public religion’ (209), that it works ‘right within the places by which English society continues’ (210). Such a church is well placed to be sociality’s midwife. University chaplains are one example of the way in which this immersion works: they work right in the heart of the universities by which English society is itself.

Dan’s counsels to the gathered chaplains, then, spell out what this immersion means for them, and what it means for them to assist with the emergence of social vision from within the university contexts and processes by which a society already takes account of itself and works on itself. They must, he says, pay attention to ways in which social life is being formed (and in which society is transcending itself – repairing and extending its life). They must pay attention to the institutions that contribute to that formation/transcendence – in one of which they themselves work. They must do this because they are seeking the ways of God in the world, and with the awareness that it is truly God’s work that they are seeking. And they must realise that their vocation is to show others how these institutions, these patterns of social formation, are part of a bigger picture – ultimately a picture whose lines of perspective converge on God. Their job is to hold up a mirror to the university labourers in the fields of sociality, in order to show those others what work they are all about. A chaplain’s job is to ‘help the universities identify themselves and their future’ (212), and ‘to hold up for the university the vision of the society it exists to serve’ (214) – and in and through that (and, perhaps, only in and through that) to call the university to worship.

God’s Plan

A quick exchange on providence:

Does God have a plan for my life?

Yes. God published it a while back. God’s plan is to kill you, and give you life.

One movie meme

From Faith and Theology

1. One movie that made you laugh
Kind Hearts and Coronets. Perfect.

2. One movie that made you cry
Most sad films will make me cry a little. Pan’s Labyrinth, for instance.

3. One movie you loved when you were a child
Watership Down (1978). Trips to the cinema were rare, and I remember getting very excited about this one.

4. One movie you’ve seen more than once
Die Hard. In it’s own way, unimprovable.

5. One movie you loved, but were embarrassed to admit it
I’m not really embarrassed by my taste in films. I’m quite happy to admit liking some romantic comedies starring Hugh Grant, and even some starring Tom Hanks, for instance. (I even quite liked Titanic – but I didn’t ‘love’ it.)

6. One movie you hated
Baby’s Day Out. A shockingly poor film.

7. One movie that scared you
I’m easily scared. The Sixth Sense took me straight back to my childhood fears of the dark, for instance.

8. One movie that bored you
Gone with the Wind. One Christmas when I was young. I stayed awake by playing with my new Lego set.

9. One movie that made you happy
Cinema Paradiso

10. One movie that made you miserable
Schindler’s List

11. One movie you weren’t brave enough to see
Oh, the list is long. I tend to avoid all horror. Am unlikely to see, for instance, 30 Days of Night any time soon.

12. One movie character you’ve fallen in love with
Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) in Casablanca.

13. The last movie you saw
State of the Union – Hepburn and Tracy.

14. The next movie you hope to see
I’ve just been given the DVD of Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

One book meme

Okay, I know I’m a long way behind the times, but here goes.

1. One book that changed your life:

Hans Frei, The Identity of Jesus Christ. It unexpectedly took over my PhD, and was probably the first book I ever read carefully.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:

Lord of the Rings, more than any other (I think, and excluding books I read to my children). Yes, I was that kind of teenager.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:

Jane Austen, Emma. Or Mansfield Park. Or Pride and Prejudice. But probably Emma. On a desert island, I might be able to get away with pretending that I was Mr Knightley.

4. One book that made you laugh:

Barry Pilton, One Man and his Bog. I remember my Dad reading it out to us while we were on a family caravanning holiday, some time in the ’80s, and us all ending up helpless with laughter. You probably had to be there.

5. One book that made you cry:

Pretty much anything sad will do. The Time-Traveller’s Wife, for instance.

6. One book that you wish had been written:

Hans Frei’s history of modern Christology.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

Richard Swinburne, Providence and the Problem of Evil.

8. One book you’re currently reading:

Elliot Perlman, Seven Types of Ambiguity.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:

John Milbank and Catherine Pickstock, Truth in Aquinas.

10. Now tag five people:

I don’t have five blogging friends. What do you take me for?