Running on Time

fixed-tomAh, timetables. Such a simple concept, such a noble achievement of modern society. Surely any university-approved combination of subjects should fit neatly into the weekly grid of half-hour slots? Ah, of course they would. But … how does said grid dovetail into the bountiful sprawl of The University of Queensland St Lucia campus? Or … does it?

As one of the earliest students to study a double-degree in arts and science, I discovered that this radical educational synthesis was somewhat of a struggle for university time-tabling. Admittedly, this had been an … issue … at high school too. “You want to study Physics AND Speech & Drama?”

My expectations for this lofty institution were so much higher.

Latin for an arts subject and advanced algebra for science seemed like a good idea.

Well … initially, it seemed like a good idea.

In this, the era before smartphones and html-formatted emails—when traversing campus involved long distance running and raptor avoidance—I discovered that whomever was responsible for carving half-hour information technology subjects into the timetable at one end of campus had no damns to give with regards to whomever was responsible for carving out two-hour Latin lectures—at the other end of the campus.

The upshot of this double-degree, notionally pushing me towards a career as some flavour of twenty-first century Renaissance Man, was that I regularly had subjects side by side temporally, yet loin de moi spatially.

I’m tall, but even with the unfair fitness advantage of youth, my bi-weekly two-hour Latin lectures were a ten-minute jog away. I’d shuffle awkwardly, puffing, sheened with sweat, out before the entire lecture hall of students—no side entrance here. No sir, step right up past the lectern.

With time I adapted to this reality, and as the semesters spun past and my degrees focussed on narrower (and less professionally applicable) interests such as ‘Old English Poetry’, these crises diminished. I stopped caring quite so much about arriving on time, or arriving at all. There was a greater purpose to all of this. The careful steps of the first two years edged towards a confident stride, perhaps even a little swagger. I knew where that tutorial room was, didn’t everyone? Of course it’s silly to walk across the entire campus to get to that class on time. Don’t bother looking at your inbox, who sends critical assignment information via email*?

Cramming six years of subjects into just four taught me that perception is sometimes worse than reality. Running across campus to catch those critical first five minutes of a lecture actually isn’t as important as the mad desire that put you into that situation in the first place. “Arts AND science?” someone once thought. “Who in their right mind would want to do Arts AND science, are they not opposites what is this water and oil nay this will not stand.”

Well then let’s call this the Yin and Yang of academia, if you like. Happily, I’ve embraced them both. I’m twenty years into an IT career, and make beer money on the side writing and publishing fiction. And that cross campus run?

I run half-marathons now. You know, just in case those jerks in charge of the timetables mess me around if I sign up for any cross-discipline post-graduate work.

Tom Dullemond

* Note: this disregard did not pay off for me on at least one occasion.


Tom Dullemond stumbled out of university with a double degree in Medieval/Renaissance studies and Software Engineering. One of these degrees got him a job and he has been writing and working in IT ever since.

Tom co-authored the middle-grade philosophical fantasy novel, ‘The Machine Who Was Also a Boy‘, and has sold short fiction to magazines as varied as Antipodes, Betwixt, Aurealis, and SQ Mag, as well as to a handful of anthologies. He writes a regular flash science fiction column for the CSIRO’s Double Helix science magazine, is an active committee member of Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, and is co-director of the writing business management web site Literarium (

You can find him at or @cacotopos on Twitter.