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I’ve had some time to spare, so have recently started delving into short OpenLearn courses, courtesy of The Open University. Like the more interactive offerings from Future Learn and (from the USA) Coursera, they don’t cost a penny.

So far, I’d say it’s been time well spent. The courses get my brain cells warmed up, and are also a way of finding out whether I’m really interested in a subject and could cope with a more in-depth course. I’m pleased to report that at least some of my studious mindset has survived the years since I left the sylvan groves of academe to be an office monkey in the urban jungle.

Royal Holloway University

Royal Holloway, University of London, where I was a student in the 1990s.

No one gives feedback on my work (hey, these are free courses), but I feel I’ve been usefully exercised, and my mind opened to subjects that are topical and relevant (my Privacy Rights and the Law course) or eternal and relevant (the proof or otherwise of God’s existence, as handled in my philosophy lessons).

I now have some ammunition to use at dinner parties hosted by North London intelligentsia, should I be invited.

Interestingly, the other day I was reading a newspaper article about a case being heard at the Court of Appeal (it involved a Christian charity appealing against a ban on its advertisement, which had been deemed offensive to homosexuals), when I discovered a subtle but significant shift in the way I would normally process the details. In short, fresh from my study of privacy rights, I found myself looking at the case from the point of view of a lawyer or a judge.

Normally, my angle would be influenced by my own, established views, or my first impression of the rights and wrongs of the matter. The specific remit within which the judiciary operates isn’t usually the first thing I think of. But here I was, considering the point at which the charity’s right to freedom of expression, and its right to freedom of thought, religion and conscience, (as stated in Articles 10 and 9 respectively of the European Convention on Human Rights), come into conflict with the potential for harm to gay people.

I felt I should be wearing a white wig and a black robe. Proof there, I reckon, that my studies have left their mark on me already.