On Thinking

On Friday night, I was driving from Nottingham to the Peak District with my daughter and partner for a few days away. Twelve hours later, I was on a train from Buxton to Abergavenny, on the lookout for nine other confused academics. After a night in Crickhowell, during which I located the nine (easily distinguishable from the football team also staying at the hotel), and an awkward hour of trying to look ‘natural’ for a photographer, we were on our way to the Hay Festival where we found ourselves in the BBC tent being unveiled as the BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers. It’s an honour to be selected to take part in the scheme – and especially exciting to be named alongside such a fantastic bunch of fellow researchers.

Now I’m back in the Peaks, thanking my family as always for their unending patience. Loitering near the neighbouring farm in the hope of picking up a wifi signal, I find myself loving the quiet, the glorious hills, and all these sheep.

New Generation Thinkers 2016-2017

The Operator

Doris Lessing became a telephone operator in Salisbury (now Harare) in 1937. In ‘My Mother’s Life’, part 2 (Granta 17, 1985), she writes: ‘My mother experienced this as a final defeat: her daughter was a common telephone operator. The life she was leading … was “fast,” cheap and nasty’.



Conan Doyle on the line

To celebrate the birthday of Arthur Conan Doyle (born 22 May 1859), here is Watson telephoning Nathan in ‘The Three Garridebs’ (1924) before passing the receiver on to Holmes:

‘Just ring him up, Watson.’
I did so, and heard a thin, quavering voice at the other end of the line.
‘Yes, yes, I am Mr. Nathan Garrideb. Is Mr. Holmes there? I should very much like to have a word with Mr. Holmes.’
My friend took the instrument and I heard the usual syncopated dialogue.