It’s the little things

My new favourite author, Michael Perry*, has a theory about making it as a writer. It is, he says, like shovelling horse manure. If you keep at it long enough, sooner or later you’ll have a pile so big that people can’t ignore it any more.
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In my writing, as in life more generally, I have a tendency to forget this. I seem always to be aiming for the one big idea. The thing that will bring everything together. A towering monument to my own accomplishment.

This is, sadly, just as unlikely as it is pompous. Continue reading

Growing on me (or, some notes from the microfarm)

This is the time of year when, provided I’ve done my bit a little earlier on, all kinds of wonderful things start to happen here in my little patch of the planet. And while I might have been a tad late (as usual) planting some of the seeds that I ordered way back in the dark evenings of winter, everything is doing its very best to catch up and to make the most of the lengthening days.

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What we think we think

With the general election coming up, I’ve been spending quite a lot of time talking to people about politics. Not just about the various candidates and their parties, but about what these parties stand for and the vision of the future that they are painting for our country. Yet the more people I talk to, the more I become convinced of one simple fact. None of us really know what we think about anything. We just think we do. Continue reading

Giving it some welly

Picture the scene. You’re enjoying a pleasant afternoon stroll along the coast path. You have the sun on your face and the sea breeze in your hair. The only sound you can hear is the gentle lap of waves against the shore below. All is right with the world.

Suddenly, the peace and tranquility are ripped asunder by a large bloke with a rucksack, racing along the path as if chased by the hounds of hell. In his right hand, he is clutching a yellow wellington boot.

He gasps a cheerful greeting and grins at you inanely as you step aside to let him pass. And then he is gone. Continue reading

Marching for science

It’s probably fair to say that I’m a bit of a science nerd. In fact, it’s a little more than that. I think that science is essential to how we develop as a species. It is an ongoing search for truth and understanding. It is how we rise above our own parochial views and engage with the bigger picture of the world around us. So when science comes under attack, I’m not going to just stand idly by. Continue reading

Just asking

The Prime Minister explained yesterday that she will not allow the Scottish people to hold a legally-binding referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. At least, not in the near future. Her rationale was that, until the UK has agreed a Brexit deal with the European Union, the Scottish people would not know what they were voting for or against. Continue reading

It’s not all Brexit, Brexit, Brexit…

A lot of people, me included, have spent the past few days, weeks and months worrying about the impact of our Government’s approach to leaving the European Union on the future of our country and of those we love. We’ve recently been presented with a whole load more to worry about with the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. And to cap it all, the lovely (if presumably somewhat gloomy) people at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, with their Doomsday Clock, have decided that we are now one step closer to global catastrophe. Continue reading

A populist explosion

Unless you’ve been particularly unobservant or on an extended spelunking expedition, you’ll have noticed that politics has gone through a bit of a change recently. People whom we would previously have dismissed as loons are attaining political office. The gap between the political establishment and the man or woman in the street has become a chasm. And everything that we thought we knew about electoral maths no longer seems to apply. Continue reading

We should act now to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK

There are some three million citizens from other EU countries living in the UK. And none of them know what will happen to their rights after Brexit. We need to give them certainty. No matter how complicated things may be. Continue reading

Flat-pack physics

I had the great honour of being invited back to my alma mater at Keele University yesterday evening. Except this time I found myself on the other side of the lectern, speaking to the Keele Physics Centre about how the art of origami is having a profound impact on the way we build things in physics.

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