Out of Office Messages (the reason this blog was set up in the first place)


Those of you who are faced with the ordeal of engaging me in email conversation at work from time to time will know that I tend to use my own particular brand of out of office messages.  After some ‘encouragement’ from colleagues, I have decided to let the world (or at least, that very small part of the world that may one day look at these pages) see the kind of thing that those unfortunate enough to have to work with me have to deal with on a regular basis.

So, here goes …


5th May 2017

Thank you so very, very much for your email.  I am thrilled and excited that you have sent chosen to converse with me today.  Problem is though, I’m not around to read it just at the mo’.

No, this weekend I’m on the march with Ronko’s army.  If that means nothing to you, then shame on you.  Go and write “LE4 4EL” 500 times, and maybe Google it once to learn from your mistake.

Anyhoooo, regardless of what you may or may not know about Premiership manager nicknames and postcodes, the end result is that I’m in South Wales for the weekend.  I’ll be back in the land of email on Monday morning.  See you then.

Tara a bit.

30th April 2017

Thank you for your email.  Having just witnessed the complete capitulation of Everton Football Club at the hands of the next Premier League Champions, I will now spend the next five hours driving, in abject misery, from the north west of England to Dorset, whereupon I will be welcomed into the bosom of my family with platitudes, clichés and vapidities such as “it’s only a game”, “next time, eh?” and “where have you been all day?” (the latter being from my wife).  Monday will be spent chasing a Beagle along a windswept, rainy beach, writing a diplomatic response to a set of completely unreasonable criticisms from a journal reviewer, and trying to assist with GCSE Chemistry revision.


31st May 2016


Hello and thank you for your email; I feel truly blessed that you felt the need to write to me.

I’m afraid that this week I am away in the land of Goran Ivanišević, Slaven Bilić and Davor Šuker. No (for the 1000th time), I am not hollibobbing it; I am working at various HE institutes in Zagreb, Rijeka and Split, returning back to the bosom of unmarked exam scripts on the evening of Saturday 4th June. That said, that font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, tells me that electrons and electricity are to be found in most parts of Croatia, and so I hope to be checking emails infrequently. I suppose if you don’t get a reply to your email within 24 hours, it either means I’m struggling to get on-line, or I’m using the fact I’m away as an excuse not to reply (I’ll leave you to work out which it is).




24th March 2016


Thank you for your email.

In a moment of uncharacteristic bonhomie I have agreed to try and have a holiday. Not just that, but a holiday that involves my wife, my teenage children and two dogs. Truly, this has disaster written all over it, but I am going to give it a go. Assuming that none of us bludgeons any of the others to a murderous death, I’ll be back, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (or possibly blurry-eyed and bushed) on 4th April

I’ll get to your email as soon as I can.
Happy Easter.


Best wishes,



Thank you for your email.  However: (i) today is Sunday and (ii) Everton are at home.

Therefore, as you write this I am either (a) driving north brimming with misplaced optimism, (b) watching another dismal display of defending, not unlike Keegan’s Newcastle United of the 1990s, or (c) grumpily driving home ruminating on another two or three points lost.

I’ll get to your email as soon as I can.

Best wishes,

24th January 2016


Thank you for your email. However: (i) today is Sunday and (ii) Everton are at home.


Therefore, as you write this I am either (a) driving north brimming with misplaced optimism, (b) watching another dismal display of defending, not unlike Keegan’s Newcastle United of the 1990s, or (c) grumpily driving home ruminating on another two or three points lost.


I’ll get to your email as soon as I can.


Best wishes,



23rd December – 4th January 2015

(I fear I may have overstepped the mark this time. I’ll leave it for you to decide)

Thank you for your email, the contents of which I am sure are informative, instructive and interesting in equal measure. Sadly, I am unable to engage with you and your missive directly at this time as, in the words of the world’s most famous septuagenarian amateur tennis player and chanteur it is “Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, children signing Christian rhyme, etc. etc.” and consequently I find myself in the bosom of my family wearing a jauntily misplaced paper hat and smelling faintly of festive sherry and sprouts.

However, even though it is Christmas, I feel it my duty to provide an appropriate response to your email. Thus, please indulge me for a few moments. I would be grateful if you would imagine that you have called one of those infamous telephone help lines (choose a poorly performing utility of your choice) and that you have been on hold for the last 45 minutes with only a muzak-mangled version of Greg Lake’s ‘I believe in Father Christmas’ for company. Suddenly you find you are greeted by an electronic voice asking you to select the most appropriate option. With that in mind, here we go:

  1. If you are a journal editor:

    Thank you for your rejection of my latest manuscript. I shall, of course take note of the reviewers’ insightful comments and, in particular, take particular care and attention to cite the entire canon of Reviewer 3’s work in all my future contributions, despite the fact it has nothing to do with the subject matter of my manuscript. All power to his h-index I say.

  2. If you are a Research Council employee:

    Thank you for your rejection of my latest grant application. I agree that it is entirely appropriate for you to take four months to reject a proposal that has been lovingly crafted over the previous six months on the basis of some particularly vitriolic comments from Reviewer F76RSD. A cynic might think that these comments were borne more from a desire to ensure that a competitor from an equally mid-ranking Russell Group university does not steal a march on one’s own research portfolio rather than a detailed analysis of the proposal’s scientific merits. Fortunately, I am free of such cynicism and am overjoyed that an esteemed anonymous colleague has taken the time to describe my ideas as “naïve”, “intuitively obvious” and (my personal favourite) the description of me as “academically lacking and intellectually weak”.

  3. If you are a conference organizer:

    Thank you for your email inviting me to chair a session at your forthcoming conference on macramé and wig manufacture in 17th century Prussia. Whilst not an ideal alignment with my own research interests, I would of course be only too pleased to make my own flight and accommodation arrangements to join you in China / Malaysia / Uzbekistan (delete as appropriate) at my own expense in July 2016. I look forward to hearing a succession of dull and ill-founded presentations after which I will attempt to encourage the audience of bored PhD students to generate some form of contribution which will no doubt result in at least one particularly arrogant yet bizarrely esteemed Professor to make a monologue on how useful his own research is and how it is significantly more important than anything else spoken in the previous 90 minutes.

  4. If you are a prospective overseas PhD student seeking to read for a PhD in my research group

    Thank you for your email; we are always keen to hear from high quality students looking for work that aligns with our research interests. However, we do operate particularly stringent entry requirements and to be considered you must reach the following standards: (1) Can you write your own name? (2) Do you have cash? If the answer to both questions is ‘yes’, please pack your bags and I will be delighted to welcome you to the Department in the New Year. (Incidentally, if you can only answer ‘yes’ to Q2, we’ll take you anyway).

  5. If you are a recruitment consultant:

    Thank you for your email. It is a pleasure to hear the sound of a barrel being scraped once more. I would be only too pleased to make my way to London at your convenience to be subjected to a critical analysis of my failings as an academic after which you can inform me that your ‘client’ does not feel that, on this occasion, my skillset is appropriately aligned to the needs of this most demanding of roles.

  6. If you are a Pro Vice Chancellor:

    Thank you for your email. It would be my pleasure to jump. Exactly how high would that be sir / ma’am?

  7. If you are an Undergraduate student who wants to complain about your coursework or exam mark.

    Look, just %^&* off will you.


Merry Christmas, one and all.



19th July – 2nd August 2015

Thank you for your email.

Erudite correspondents to this email address will know that I am a fan of the weighty tome known as the Oxford English Dictionary (or OED to us officianados). Each year, said manuscript is updated and it is with unabated glee that I pore over the manuscript to identify new additions and to then inject them into conversations to impress the lesser-informed (somewhat reminiscent of Blackadder III when he extends his “contrafibularities” to Dr Johnson on completion of Johnson’s first dictionary).

Sadly, this year’s OED update was something of a disappointment. No matter how hard I try, I am still to find an opportunity to employ the verb “to twerk” in everyday conversation. However, the regular updating of my favourite book has given me the idea to lobby for the inclusion of one of my personal favourite words: “holibobs”.

“Holibobs” – noun, meaning an extended period of leisure or recreation, particularly one spent away from home or traveling; e.g. “This year, I shall spend my holibobs on a Greek island for two weeks from the 19th July during which time I as likely to respond to emails as I am to perform a Miley Cyrus twerking impersonation”.

Back on 3rd August.



27th June – 13th July 2015

Hello, and thank you for your email.

Regular correspondents to this email address will realise that, once again, you are receiving an automatic response meaning that, once again, I am away from the university.

It has been pointed out to me that were I a car, my body would have qualified for “classic car” status many years ago, rather like Chief Inspector Morse’s gleaming Jaguar, of which I have seen an awful lot on daytime television in recent weeks.  However, I must confess that if one was to draw an accurate comparison between my body and a car, instead of a splendid 1960 Jaguar MK2, one might suggest that my body currently resembles something that might be driven by that other television favourite, Noddy, or perhaps a circus clown where bits and pieces are seen to fall off at various intervals, or are simply not functioning and are frequently the wrong colour.

As a result, I’m afraid that GP insistence (we’ve gone beyond the ‘advice’ stage) is that I am off campus until 13th July.  I have, however, managed to hide from him my addiction to email.  Thus, whilst you may not get an immediate response to your message, I’ll almost certainly get to it in the next 24-48 hours.  Bear with me.

Now, where’s that nurse gone … “Nurse? Nurse?” …  …


Best wishes,





15th June – 12nd June 2015

Thank you for your email. This is my now weekly note where I tell everyone that my inability to shake off something that my wife judges to be no more ‘than a bit of a sniffle’ is now taking on legendary status. I’m afraid that I will be away from the University until 22nd June. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.


Best wishes,



8th June – 14th June 2015

Thank you for your email. I’m afraid that the fact you are receiving an automated response means that my body is stubbornly refusing to give in to the beneficial effects of modern medicine and remains in a state of near collapse. Current thinking is that my office will remain empty until 15th June, at which point I hope to return and to assess the car crash that is my inbox and incomplete work. I’m afraid that your email will form part of that car crash. I’ll get to it as soon as I can.


Best wishes,



26th May – 7th June 201

Thank you for your email.  It turns out that bit of a cold I’ve been trying to shift for a few weeks is actually called pneumonia.  I’m under strict instructions to hide away in a hermetically-sealed bunker for a few weeks in order to avoid infecting others with the plague.  I’ll be in touch when I’m back on my feet; sooner if I’m allowed out occasionally to charge the laptop.

Apologies for any inconvenience.

Best wishes,


3rd April – 13th April 2015

Thank you for your email; I am sure its contents are edifying and instructive in equal measure. However, if your email contains a query, I must advise you that between now and 13th April, I shall be answering far more immediate and important queries than yours; queries such as “are we nearly there yet?”, “is that it?”, “what’s for tea?”, and “I’m bored; can we go now?”

Working on the assumption that no one member of my family kills another one over the next 10 days, I will return to my inbox on 13th April.
Best wishes,


19th March 2015

Thank you for your email.

I am away from the University and unable to check emails today (19th March). If you think your email is urgent, might I urge you to pause and reflect on the OED definition of (i.e. “requiring immediate action or attention”)? If, having reflected, you maintain that it is urgent, please contact ***** ****** (*.*.*******@*********.ac.uk) who, I am sure, will be able to help. Otherwise, I will read your email and respond appropriately tomorrow (20th March).

Best wishes,

24th December 2014 – 5th January 2015

Thank you for your email.

My good lady wife advises me that it is Christmas time and, therefore, an appropriate time to take a holiday. Consequently, I am not currently at the University. Therefore, for the next two weeks I will be sitting at home, checking my emails at 15 minute intervals and replying immediately, no matter how trivial.

My good lady wife advises me that I have a problem.

Happy Christmas.


20th July – 4th August 2014

Thank you for your email.
I must advise you that after 10 happy years at the University of Birmingham, I have decided, in the manner of a failing politician, to spend more time with my family.

However, my family has decided that two weeks is more than enough time for me to spend with them.  Hence, normal service (or as normal as it ever gets) will be resumed on Monday 4th August.

If your email is urgent, I’m sure ***** ****** (*.*.*******@*********.ac.uk)  will be able to help.

Best wishes,