Visit the God particle
On a pedal bike
Writing about inspiration in my post of 5th July, I mentioned food, photography, people with a disability, words and writers.
I forgot about science. Yet possible confirmation of the existence of the ‘God particle’, the Higgs boson, had been announced only the day before. Will this inspire me to venture into more creative writing than the couple of haiku I’ve had a go at so far? Well it might.
One recurring piece of advice to creative writers from those ‘doing it’ seems to be to write about something you know. I wouldn’t claim to know much about the Higgs boson but, oddly enough, I do have the basis to investigate more about it.
Way back in the ’50s I was a student apprentice in the central research laboratories of one of the UK’s leading heavy engineering companies at that time, British Thomson Houston. And in 1957 I was working, in a very junior way, on components for ‘Zeta’, the British attempt to utilise the power of nuclear fusion in a beneficial way (rather than the destruction of the hydrogen bomb).
Those were the days of real apprenticeships – five years with four days a week in ‘work’ and one day, three evenings a week for a Higher National in applied physics at college (the Rugby College of Advanced Technology, now Coventry University). I remember very well that my wage in the first year was £2 11s 6d a week, of which £2 10s went for board at the apprentice hostel. But I digress …
After finishing the apprenticeship I chose to go down a different path, starting over again by doing a few hours a week on a couple of weekly local newspapers, from where I went to writing about science and technology, then the management and marketing of it. Even in this field I could indulge my love of words and wordsmithing. And, in a roundabout way, it took me too into teaching English, which allowed me to pass a little of that love onto my students.
Although I chose to go in a rather different direction, I’ve never regretted those five years in BTH. If I do find the inspiration from the Higgs boson ‘discovery’, and the incongruity of the photo I’ve chosen to insert in this post might tip the balance, I’ll have even more reason to celebrate that half a decade in Rugby.
PS. The four greatest influences on my life: my paternal grandmother Lucy Livesey, who introduced me to the piano (including Eileen Joyce live), Beethoven and Delius (with Sir Thomas Beecham), opera (Carmen when I was 7 and The Ring shortly after), books, walking, love of food and the advantages of telling the truth; John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath – which I read when in Rugby and the basis of my bloody-mindedness ever since); the British Thomson Houston apprenticeship; my first two full-time editors, Mike Hide, then (1962 – 1966?) editor of Chemical Age, and Fred Roberts MBE, then (1967-1970) editor of Engineering, come a close joint fourth.