Talked Out

My trip to Bath yesterday turned out to be very enjoyable and entirely free of aqueous complications. The train ran on time from Cardiff to Bath Spa, although it was hideously overcrowded. About an hour later I was met at the station by Gary Mathlin and taken to the University campus  in his car. I didn’t get to see much of the city because it was already dark, but parts of it are very beautiful in a very Jane-Austen type of way. The University of Bath campus is a very different kettle of fish, a 1960s modernist construction in which I would have got completely lost had I not had a guide. Quite smart though. Better than most of its ilk.

The talk itself was in quite a large and swish lecture theatre. I’m not sure how many turned up but it might have been close to a hundred or so. Very mixed too, with quite a few students and some much older types.

I thought it went down quite well, but you’ll really have to ask the audience about that! I answered a few questions at the end and then there was  a very generous vote of thanks and I was given a gift of a very interesting book published by Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. Thereafter I was whisked off to dinner, which I hadn’t realised was going to happen. I had the chance to chat to various people, including students and members  of the William Herschel Society, all of whom were very friendly and convivial after a few glasses of wine. Fortunately, Gary Mathlin lives in Cardiff so he gave me a lift home afterwards so I didn’t get back too late.

This morning I had to head straight to London without going into work in order to get to Imperial College to give a lunchtime seminar at the Theoretical Physics group, which is based in the Huxley building. I think it is named after T.H. rather than Aldous, because I wasn’t offered any Mescalin. Of course seminars like this have a much smaller audience and are much more technical than public lectures, but I still found myself having flashbacks to the previous evening’s lecture. I talked about various bits and pieces arising from work I’ve been doing with various people about the cosmic anomalies I’ve blogged about from time to time.

After this we went to a local pizzeria for a late lunch (and a couple of glasses of wine). I would have liked to stay longer to chat with the folks there, but I wanted to get back to Cardiff at a reasonable hour so I left in time for the 4.15 train.

Walking back home from Cardiff station along the side of the River Taff I was struck by its rather sinister appearance. Still high after the recent rains, and lit only by the lights of the city, it glistened like thick black oil as it flowed very quickly down towards the Bay.  I felt more than a hint of menace in the sheer volume of water streaming past in the darkness.

So far we’ve escaped the worst of the season’s bad weather. The fells of Cumbria, in the far north-west of England, have had 14 inches of rain in 2 days, which is a record. If that happened in South Wales I’m not sure even Cardiff’s formidable flood defences would cope! The  forecast for this weekend is terrible so I don’t think I’ll be doing anything very much outdoors. That suits me, in fact, as all this travelling about has left me well and truly knackered. Time for an early night, I think!

10 Responses to “Talked Out”

  1. Rhodri Evans Says:

    Yes it is T H Huxley 🙂 I used to have my “maths for physicists” lectures there as an undergrad. Brings back horrible memories of incomprehensible maths lectures….

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    When I was a child I loved the novels of Paul Berna, the nom-de-plume of a French children’s writer many of whose books were translated into English. One was called Flood Warning and put across the sheer terror of a flood very well. Another was called Threshold of the Stars and was a very superior 1950s piece of science fiction about a moon landing (and related espionage) by spacecraft that were spherical. Good stuff.

  3. Anton,

    I find rivers fascinating because they change so much from day to day, in colour and texture as well as speed and volume. They’re almost like living things. I’m sure to people who live by lakes and oceans, the water also seems to have moods.

    This evening I stopped for a while to watch the Taff – by no means a particularly large river compared to, say, the Severn – and was very struck by the combination of its obvious power, its quietness and its very deep blackness. It was actually quite beautiful but also a bit spooky.


  4. Rhodri Evans Says:

    I couldn’t live somewhere near water. I grew up in Pembrokeshire only 5 miles from the most stunning coast in the World. Water is in my blood (literally!).

  5. Rhodri Evans Says:

    Oops, I meant *not* near water. Typing too fast or had too much red wine this evening…..

  6. The two top insititutions in London , UCL and Imperial want ‘Huxley ‘connections. It is Andrew Huxley for UCL and a building named after him for Neuroscience research. Lunch in a pizzaria near UCL is always good as there are so many of these joints in Central London, unlike the Imperial surroundings. But Imperial has a very nice ‘senior cafeteria’ perhaps he best in my experience. You are right about Bath in a Jane Austen type. The Church you see near where she lived I guess gave her the idea of the title in the ‘Northanger Abbey’ novel. Bath is a beautiful place, but expensive to rent or buy even a broom cupboard. As for the University Campus I agree it is modernistic and I wish that it in someway reflected what Bath is in a modern way. I had a friend in a senior position and he was young and modern in outlook but others did not like him. Sounded like his life was like living in the Gothic setting of Jane Austen in that novel!!

  7. Anton Garrett Says:

    Bath is where the movement to preserve our historic buildings began, when some developers and architects planned to demolish a large amount of 18th century Bath 40 years ago and replace it with concrete brutalist filth. One modernist architect said that his profession had to be prepared to say “Sod You” and they have said it in concrete for too long – unlike modernist paintings you can’t avoid their creations in everyday life. They did more damage to our historic city centres than Hitler’s bombs ever did. I try to eschew feelings of vengeance but it does give me pleasure that some architects still living are seeing their 1960s buildings reviled and blown up as part of redevelopment plans to make architecture more human again. Le Corbusier’s quote that a house was a “machine for living in” says it all: nothing personal. It’s factually true, of course – but it’s not the whole truth, and therein lies the problem.


    • telescoper Says:


      I agree to some extent but the problem with Bath is that the new buildings seem all to be in the style of a naff mock-Georgian pastiche. I love the old parts of Bath, but there is scope for having a bit more imagination in the newer architecture without destroying it.


  8. Anton Garrett Says:


    Well Georgian is a steal from ancient Greece; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But I’d agree that it needs to be done well.


  9. I thought the lecture was truly fascinating. In all honesty, when in my role as Audio Visual Technician for many such events at the University of Bath, I do occasionally have to fight the urge to take a nap. I have learned to take a book or magazine, just in case, but on this occasion, said reading was not required whatsoever, as your lecture had me engaged and eager to learn more.

    I still smile at the anagram of your name and your blog title, even now. Very clever, sir!


    Sebastiaan…. :o)

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