Archive for Tony Benn

Postcard from Cardiff

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Politics, Rugby with tags , , , on March 16, 2014 by telescoper

So here I am in Cardiff for the weekend, relaxing after a very busy and stressful week. It’s nice to have the option to get away like this, especially in the spring sunshine, so I’m glad I kept the Cardiff house going rather than try to sell it the moment I got the job at Sussex University. I have been working very long hours recently and with another month to go before the end of teaching term, I think I need to make better use of the weekends if I’m going to avoid a state of complete exhaustion.

On Friday I attended a meeting of the Council of the Royal Astronomical Society (of which I am an elected member) followed by a very interesting Open Meeting and a nice dinner with the RAS Club. After all that I took the late train to Cardiff instead of going back to Brighton.

During the journey I thought quite a lot about Tony Benn; the news of his death at the age of 88 was announced on Friday morning. Although I didn’t agree with his political views on some things, he was a person I admired enormously and I am very sad that he is no more.

I only ever met Tony Benn once, many years ago, as it happens, on a train from Brighton to London. It was one of those old-fashioned carriages, divided into compartments each with a door. I had almost missed the train and was so flustered when I got on that it took me some time to recognize the gentleman opposite who was just lighting his pipe.

I summoned up the nerve to speak, shook his hand, and introduced myself. We were the only occupants of the carriage and we talked for the entire journey – an experience I’ve never forgotten. In person Tony Benn was wonderful: charming, kindly, impeccably polite and above all absolutely fascinating to talk to. As I recall it, I did most of the listening. Not that I minded. I’m a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk..

People also forget that Tony Benn was one of the very few politicians to champion LGBT rights. It’s now a fashionable thing, but it wasn’t then back in the dark days of Section 28.

So I’d just like to record a little personal farewell to Tony Benn. There’s nobody of his stature in current British politics, and none whose company I’d like to spend a train journey in, either.

Yesterday I was out and about in sunny Cardiff running various undemanding errands, in the course of which I came across an internet cafe. I’ve never actually used one of those before, and was quite surprised that an hour’s access cost just £1. I took the chance to sit down for a bit and wrote yesterday’s blog post there.

Saturday was the last day of the Six Nations rugby and Wales were hosting Scotland. The two sets of supporters were mingling and imbibing throughout the city. When it came to the match, Wales thrashed Scotland 51-3.

Earlier England had comfortably beaten Italy so were top of the table, but would only win the competition if Ireland lost the last game to France in Paris. It was an exciting finale, with stout Irish defence enabling them to cling on to a lead of just two points. So well played Ireland, who probably deserved the title, but also good signs for England whose young side have performed admirably this year. Better luck next year?

At least English supporters can now enjoy one of their favourite pastimes: blaming everything on the French.

It’s warm and sunny again today so I think I’ll take another walk around. I really miss Cardiff, but one has to follow one’s star wherever it leads.