Monday, 19 December 2011

Science and fiction

People often ask fiction writers where they get their ideas from. When I am writing I have absolutely no idea where the ideas come from, it's only afterwards - sometimes some considerable time afterwards - that I can make connections with events, or people, or conversations that have somehow become lodged in my brain. Usually these merge and emerge in a way that is so different from the original spark that only I would see any connection. So when I was asked to write a piece of fiction that made some connection with science I decided just to see what happened, rather than consciously writing a story based on a piece of Relu research. But because the programme is as much about people as research, I soon found that the story I was writing seemed to fulfil the brief quite effectively. In an era of climate change, what if......? You may read the story at

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

St Lucy and her lamp

Today, 13 December, is St Lucy's Day. St Lucy represents the return of the light following the winter solstice and as John Donne tells us in his Nocturnal upon St Lucy's Day, being the shortest day: "It is the year's midnight" - or it would be, but for the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. It's close enough for me anyway and I can start looking forward to longer days after Christmas. Climate change may be affecting the growing seasons, with the buzz of lawnmowers heard well into the winter, but we still feel the psychological effects of the darkness at this time of year. Like many people, I hate the shortness of these winter days and the long, dark nights. I do try to find something positive in it - for a few weeks I delude myself into thinking I am getting a very small insight into the life of our farmers, as I drag myself out of bed before dawn. Fortunately I can then stumble onto the metro train and sink into the Today Programme on my ipod, rather than having to milk any cows. But I shall be very glad to see the light returning, as St Lucy's lamp fires up towards spring.