The bright green postcard that guards it spells out Ciceronian wisdom in large white letters: ‘a room without books is like a body without a soul’RACHEL LOUGHRAN

The door of Kevin’s room bursts open: “Yo, MTV welcome to my crib!” The trainee science teacher throws his head back and laughs, half-embarrassed at the enthusiasm of his welcome as he ushers me inside. Kevin had forewarned me that his room at Homerton College was “a pure riot”. The duality of the Glaswegian phrase meaning ‘extremely messy’ but equally ‘extremely fun’, seems apt. As I look around at the unsorted stacks of notes, papers and pictures strewn on the desk (and on the floor), it occurs to me, that the main thing to surface from the hodge-podge of miscellany is an unmistakable sense of joy. Joy and books. The top-shelf above the large wooden desk, is occupied by an extensive collection. The bright green postcard that guards it spells out Ciceronian wisdom in large white letters: ‘a room without books is like a body without a soul’. Kevin picks it up. “I really do believe that” he says, as we sit down on an unmade bed to discuss his own philosophy on the art of finding balance in unbalanced world. 

Rachel Loughran: Can I presume that books are an important feature of your desk space?

Kevin Glasgow: Absolutely. I brought a lot of books from home when I moved here. And almost none of them are anything to do with my course! My car was so full and my Dad was like: “you are aware that Cambridge has one of the largest libraries in the world?” But it’s not the same. I like having my own books here, especially books that I've read before… Books are such definitive things, and I don't feel like very much in life is definitive, but books are. They’re a bit like a comfort blanket I suppose, or a way of evoking memories.

RL: Is there a book up there [on the shelf] that that targets a specific memory for you?

KG: Yes, there's a few. This one [J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye] which as you can see has been very well read, reminds me of high school… The [school] librarian did an activity called ‘duet for one’ where you had to pick two books that had a similar theme. We were quite young at the time. I picked this and Curious Incident [of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon]. I talked about young people's attitudes, social angst, that sort of thing. It felt important at the time. I also wrote my name on it and stole it from the library so it's obviously had some sort of impact on me. 

“Every weekend I go and sit by myself in a café to do my work… it’s a way of not being too insular and engaging with the world outside university.”

RL: So, not only have you kept the book, you’ve kept the memory of your school transgressions with you in a very tangible way? 

KG: A tangible and possibly incriminating way!

RL: It's interesting that literature seems to be such a big part of your life, even though you're a scientist and are currently working towards PGCE in science teaching.

KG: True. There's quite a few books up there that are philosophy based actually…When I was studying in Scotland I seriously considered changing track to do Philosophy instead of Science. I don't regret it because I'm quite happy where I am, but in hindsight I think part of me was meant to do it.

RL: Do you feel like the transition from Scotland to Cambridge is reflected in your desk space at all? I see a bottle of Famous Grouse on the desk…

KG: Guilty! No I don't think so though. I didn't feel the need to ‘Scottish-ify’ it. And to be honest, I'm not that passionate about nationality. I’m probably more passionate about being from Glasgow than I am Scotland as a whole.

RL: Well, your name is Kevin Glasgow…

KG: This is true! It just never fails to entertain the kids at school!  I don’t mind though: I'm Kevin Glasgow from Glasgow, that's just who I am. 

RL: Do you see your desk space and is an extension of yourself?

KG: Yes, but probably just by accident. I haven’t put much thought into it to be honest… For a while I had a Domino's leaflet pinned up that I found on the floor. I've been to Domino's once. It’s fair to say it’s a bit of a mismatch… I tend not to do that much work at my desk though. I try to keep work out of my room. It's my space with my books, I don’t want it to feel infiltrated.

RL: Does your desk space a become a refuge from the pressures of work?

KG: I definitely try to make it that. It's not always easy. I tend to write a list of things I have to do ‘for tomorrow’, and then put it to the other side of the desk as far away as possible.


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RL: A symbolic move?

KG: Exactly! Besides I’m more interested in working in noisy places with people… Sometimes with science, you’re so consumed with the micro that even when you’re studying things like cancer, you forget about the human element of it. If I’m doing my work and there’s lots of folk around, it feels like I’m still engaging with people. Every weekend I go and sit by myself in a café to do my work… it’s a way of not being too insular and engaging with the world outside university. 

RL: Though being a true Glaswegian, does that not mean you have to... 

KG: [cuts me off] I’ve given up trying to start sporadic conversation!

RL: Let’s just leave it there, shall we?

[Kevin smiles]

KG: Let’s.

Kevin's DeskRACHEL LOUGHRAN

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