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Colin Johnson’s blog


Archive for February, 2011

Incidental Benefits

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Nice story that I heard from Steve Furber last night; certainly paraphrased and probably apocryphal, but funny nonetheless. As you may well know, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Andre Geim from Manchester. Following this announcement, the Vice-Chancellor invited him to come and discuss this with her. She said to him “Clearly this is a great achievement: what can we do to recognize this in the University? Name a building after you? Endow a professorship in your honour?”. To which, he is alleged to have said “you can get me my own reserved parking space by the doors of the physics building”.

Reminiscent of Clark Kerr’s comment that to be a successful university leader all you need to do is provide “sex for the undergraduates, football for the alumni and parking for the staff”. This comment does lose some of its edge in England where university football matches attract a crowd of a dozen friends and family of the players to a muddy field at the back of campus, rather than 40,000 spectators to a purpose-built stadium like in the USA.

Mave Johnson, 1939-2011

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Here is the talk that I gave at my mother’s funeral this week.

I am sure that you are all as shocked as I was by my mother’s death. It was only a few weeks ago that she was up and about, enjoying her life and going about her normal activities. Whilst she had been ill for a while, it was only in the last couple of months that this got in the way of her living a full life.

This life began when she was born at home in 1939, and the experience of living through the war and growing up in the post-war period shaped her life enormously. She was baptised at the local church – St. Paul’s, Daybrook – and went to the local schools – Burford, Seely and Haywood, as well as being active in the Sunday School at Arnold Road church. She had an active life as a young woman, being involved in ice skating, tennis and badminton, and enjoyed music, ranging from Dickie Valentine and Cliff Richard through to light classical music.

Her working life was mostly spent at Boots, where she started out working in the typing pool, and had an enjoyable working life, ending up working as a secretary to senior managers in the company. She made a number of friends at work who stayed with her throughout her life – whilst many of her close friends pre-deceased her, I am pleased to see that there are some here today. She had an equally rich family life, and will be much missed by me and by my father. For many years her own mother lived with her, and she was always very kind and considerate in looking after her.

She took early retirement in the early 1990s and was active in that retirement. She enjoyed her home life, and enjoyed keeping a comfortable house and the pleasures therein, in particular enjoying cooking and gardening, at which she was very green-fingered, being able to grow everything from little flowers to huge trees from a little seed or shoot, as well as making things for her house through her interests in sewing and knitting, She enjoyed the country life, and was very happy to move a few years before retirement to her house in Arnold, which she particularly liked because the local countryside was only a few minutes walk away. Throughout her life, and particularly in her retirement, she would often go for walks in the local area.

When I was sorting through her papers a few days ago I found a little note (she liked to write down little quotes that she had heard on the radio and television) saying “growing old is compulsory; growing up is optional”. I think that that is a positive note on which to end this tribute.