Monday, 10 June 2013

Q & A with Richard Grover

A special Q&A slot. To celebrate 25 years of teaching at Oxford Brookes, Richard Grover, Senior Lecturer in Real Estate Economics, agreed to answer my questions.

1. When you were at school what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was born in East Dulwich but we moved to Eltham when I was quite young, which means that I come from "Souf" London - not to be confused with Cockneys! My primary school, which was brand new when I went there, has now been demolished for housing. I passed the 11+ and went to Colfe's Grammar School which was then a state-aided school - long after I left it became a private fee-paying school. It too was rebuilt whilst I was there having been hit by a V2 during the war. I think I always knew I was going to be a teacher.

2. What did you study at university or college?
I went to the University of Kent at Canterbury before there had been any graduates. It was a new university. You will gather by now that I am part of the post-war bulge. Everything had to be built or enlarged to accommodate us. We are now of retirement age so the next big building work we will cause will no doubt be care and nursing homes, shortly to be followed by funeral parlours and cemeteries. I took a social science degree, eventually specialising in economic history.

3. How did you find your way into Real Estate?
By accident. I have always been interested in property. I took economic history because it allowed you to study real urban areas and property rights whereas economics was mainly concerned with mathematical models that bore little relationship to the real world. My grandfather was one of the first people to take advantage of the 1967 Leasehold Enfranchisement Act to buy the freehold of his leasehold house. I was fascinated by his explanation of the process - very much a case of a teenager thinking that at 14 his grandfather knew nothing but being surprised at 17 to find how much the old man had learned during the previous three years (borrowed from Mark Twain!). I got a job teaching economics on a real estate management course at Portsmouth - and then I was hooked.

4. What interests you most about the subject?
I find the way in which urban areas have come to be as they are a source of endless fascination. My wife (who is obsessed with the Victorians) and I have trod the streets of endless Victorian towns from Leeds (Yorkshire) to Truro (Nova Scotia) and Launceston (Tasmania). I am also a bit of an anorak about property rights - in particular how they come about, change, get lost and recovered. This has taken me to vineyards on recovered Indian land in Canada, to tourist resorts and shopping centres developed by the Maori in New Zealand, and the castles the ex-King of Romania secured under their restitution law.

5. What is your favourite building and why?
A difficult question because I tend to enjoy townscapes rather than individual buildings. To pick an individual building, I think my favourite would have to be the Anthropology Museum of the University of British Columbia. The building itself is quite striking and in a magnificent location but what really wins it over for me is the collection of art work from Canada's West Coast indigenous peoples that it houses. The totem poles and other carvings need just the right setting to exhibit them to perfection. These are from artists who were contemporaries of the Impressionists and twentieth century abstract artists and have produced exquisite work drawing on their own culture, and have handed on their skills and heritage to new generations in spite of persecution and neglect.

6. What is going to be the next big thing in Real Estate?
I have no idea but I am sure that with hindsight it will appear to have been completely predictable even though no-one predicted it would happen.

7. Outside of work, how do you relax?
My family are gardeners. My children are the fourth generation since my great uncle "Dug for Victory" to save the family from starvation. We are also musicians - I play the oboe. I suspect that the patience required to grow things and the recognition that practice improves performance are essential in the make-up of any teacher - that and the belief that next year will be better - no black fly, blight, drought, or frosts to spoil the harvest!

8. What is your favourite word?

And to finish with, some photos from Richard's celebration of 25 years at Oxford Brookes:

George, Joe, Albert, Ramin and Richard.

Speech by Joe Tah, Head of Department, who talked about Richard's enduring popularity with the students he teaches and told us the nickname that the students had given him: 'Sir' Richard

'Sir' Richard responds.

Cutting the cake.

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