Philip Boobbyer, Reader in History and a specialist on Russia, is my guest this week. Philip has been at the University of Kent since 1995, and we begin the interview by discussing the changes he has witnessed over the years. Philip grew up in Oxford to a sports-loving family and whose parents worked for a Christian charity. Philip talks about how faith has changed the way he looks at the world, and we move on to talk about how we tend to find later in life the same characteristics in ourselves that we recognized in our earlier selves.
Philip talks about the popular music he heard when he was growing up and how he felt ambivalent about it, and how he came to prefer more folk-based music. We learn about how he studied Modern Languages at Cambridge and how he hadn’t planned to go into academia, and Philip reveals how the ‘academic door’ opened for him.
We learn about the trips Philip made to Russia just before Gorbachev came to power and why it was both scary and fascinating at the same time, and how the country had changed by the time he next visited it. We find out who the teachers were that inspired him as well as how he had a good, healthy peer group, before moving on to discuss the motivations we have for the things that we do, and the relationship in our professional lives between confidence (or the lack of) and expertise.
We discuss the importance of applying one’s subject to the life situation of one’s students and equipping students for their lives ahead, before discussing our respective experiences of voting for the first time in an election and about Gorbachev and his agenda.
The conversation then turns to why the question ‘What does it mean to be good?’ is the elephant in the room, and Philip gives a qualified answer to the question as to whether his memories are predominantly positive. Philip makes a distinction between being peaceful and being positive, and we learn why Philip feels the need to retell and revise his stories and why he thinks we have an innate need to turn a negative memory or experience into a lesson.
In the final part of the interview we discuss how the way one remembers can depend on one’s mood, diary writing, what Philip’s teenage self would think about what he is doing now, why there is an important role for faith, whether our sense of vocation expands with age, and Philip reveals why he is more of a ‘living in the present’ type of person.
Please note: Opinions expressed are solely those of Chris Deacy and Philip Boobbyer and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Kent.