My first trip to Aberdeen– and the first events on the Darwin’s Microscope book tour agenda– were all excellent. I feel spoilt in a most wonderful way. I must thank Ken Skeldon from the University of Aberdeen for arranging everything, the team at Waterstone’s Cafe Scientifique for the invitation to read, the hospitality, the cake(!) and the lovely book on Old Aberdeen they gave me as a thank-you.
Congratulations to Gillian’s friend Heather for making the five excellent ‘Darwin’ birthday cakes! I believe she makes cakes for all occassions at http://www.heatherscakes.com, based out of Edinburgh.
Thank you to Marie, Yashka, Gillian, and Sandra at the University of Aberdeen Natural History Centre, to Jenny from the Reading Bus, and to Iain, the man with the racing pigeons. Also thanks to Sue & Jenny Downes from the University, and thank you to the Aberdeen Geological Society for their invitation to a lovely dinner after an excellent lecture by Lyell Anderson, who is working on Darwin’s geology collection at Cambridge’s Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences.
Thank you to Kevin Mackenzie, from the U of Aberdeen Microscopy & Imaging Facility, for an absolutely breath-taking crash course on Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM, like the image on DM’s book cover,) and other microscopy.
Everyone was kind, welcoming, intelligent and wonderfully generous with their time and help. I will be returning to Aberdeen for the Sunday events of the Word Festival and I am looking forward to it immensely!
I arrived in Aberdeen on Wednesday afternoon to be greeted by Ken and Sue, who whisked me on the senic (beachside) route to my lovely little boutique hotel, the Carmelite. It is very chic and has excellent food and service- you may notice that ‘excellent’ is actually the ideal word to describe the entire trip. The breakfasts were massive (far too big, in fact,) and amazing. The first day I had a massive omlette (which I simply could not finish) and the second, eggs balmoral, fluffy scrambled eggs topped with, of course, smoked salmon. Amazing.
Fortunately, I had time to unwind from the flight and prepare for my reading that night at Waterstone’s. I also had time to fret about the suddenly heavy snowfall!
Ken (Skeldon, from the U of Aberdeen, coordinator for all of the science outreach and education events), told me that he was hoping for about 40 people– that would be a good turnout, especially in the snow, and it was about how many people attended the last Cafe Sci (which was the first of this season).
Seventy-two people attended. 72!~ Of course we were all thrilled. I had no idea until afterwards, when the Waterstone’s staff counted & let me know. Fantastique! Thanks to Waterstone’s and their friendly staff for hosting the Cafe Sci. It is a wonderful event and more bookstores should do something of the kind.
The evening began with me reading for about 20 minutes from DM. Then there was a nice little break for coffee, drinks, and more Darwin Birthday Cake! Some people bought the book and I was able to sign copies and chat with some very lovely and enthusiastic people.
Then came probably the most interesting part of the evening, where a number of people asked questions and I did my best to answer them, and there was also some discussion among the people gathered there. Many people were curious about integrating creativity and more artistic measures into their science work, which was wonderful to hear. I believe the use of descriptive words is a big part of this– many people complain of ‘dry scientific writing,’ but poets and scientists both have to look very closely at things. ‘Into the Light of Things,’ I believe Wordsworth said.
Many people also appreciated the accessibility of the poetry. It is interesting, taking two things which can sometimes be very intimidating (poetry and science,) but putting them together in such a way where both become more accessible or welcoming or interesting.
The evening was certainly a success. I do hope those who attended enjoyed it as much as I did.
Next: the Reading Bus & Natural History Centre on the 12th, the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Charles Darwin! Poetry & Pigeons (and more cake)…