Some weeks ago I promised you, dear PooterGeekers, that I would be telling you what I planned to do with my life now that the Medical Research Council no longer has need of my services. Those of you who come here for the trouser jokes can stop reading now. The rest of you might be interested in becoming involved in the exciting new road-going PooterGeek experience. Well, the trouser-joke lovers can stick around for this sentence because, thanks to your collective generosity, UK taxpayers, my bank accounts are now bulging like the spandex pants of a guitarist in Kiss. This is of course redundancy money.
Many people have suggested to me that I do something “sensible” with it like buy (a large chunk of) a house. One glance at the state of the bubblicious UK property market is enough to tell me that I might as well withdraw the cash in bundles of crisp tens, nail it to the outside of a garden shed, and set fire to the whole blummin’ thing.
Another, rather more pleasurable, way of burning up a wheelbarrow full of tenners is to live off it like a Trustafarian while you make “Art”. This I intend to do for at least a year, during which I will apply with my film composer friend Richard Brincklow for a Wellcome Trust SciArt grant. We hope that they will give us money to make music inspired by some of the interesting things discovered by the human genome project(s), especially some of the insights it and related work have given us into questions of “race” and human identity. We’ll compose and arrange our works, take them around schools and colleges to explain the music and the science behind the pieces to young students, invite them to contribute their own compositions and, finally, perform selections with a “chamber pop” ensemble in public concerts. Yes, I will be singing again, but without the make-up this time.
You are all welcome to get involved. I hope there will be a Website where you can listen to and comment on recordings of works in progress and samples of the accompanying explanatory talks that I want to present alongside the music—sort of mini Christmas lecture-style seminars about genomics for intelligent laypeople. You are also all invited to come along to our “recitals” when they take place. You might have to pay to get in, though.
Because Richard and at least two other potential collaborators on the project live there, and because it’s a happening kinda town, I’ll be moving to Brighton. If Wardytron’s experiences are anything to go by, this might prove to be challenging in itself. I know there are lots of ‘Bloggers and Lefties in Brighton. Hello to you all. Please don’t be afraid to drop me an email when I appear in your manor in about a month’s time.
To supplement my income I’ll be doing some more wedding photography
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but for money. I’ve already had my first paying gig. If any of you have friends, relatives, or colleagues who would like someone to take quirky, beautiful photographs of their nuptials on film, please, please email me so that I can get in touch with them and show them a portfolio. They won’t get frozen families in carefully tiered ranks, but they’ll get some memories of real human beings enjoying themselves. And I’m not just good, I’m cheap.
You will not be surprised to read that I will also be writing. Again, I hope to get paid for this. Some of it will be boring to most of you, but I will tell you about various little projects as and when they come up. I’m not precious. Do get in touch with me also if you need someone to bang out readable, witty copy for commercial or technical purposes.
What I am not going to be doing over the next year is any scientific research. My disillusionment with my own achievements (or lack thereof) and with the UK scientific establishment is so great that even my slightly crazed enthusiasm for doing science has been crushed.
When I was eight or nine years old I won a competition to go to see a première of the original Star Wars—back in the days when Han shot first. I was so excited that there was a real possibility that I would wet myself before I got to the cinema. My dad (for whom anything short of encasement in an iron lung was no reason to skip school) took me away from my afternoon classes early and, as he handed me over to him, the headmaster (Mr Rehorn, I think) explained that in maths we had been doing the number of degress in a triangle. “There’ll always be one-hundred-and-eighty—until Damian proves otherwise sitting at some computer in Cambridge.”
After nearly thirty years I finally made it. (My school had never got anyone into Cambridge so they told me to try for Oxford instead.) When I arrived, what I actually discovered, sitting at my computer, was that I couldn’t really cut it with the big boys, and that I wasn’t sure if what the big boys were doing was all of real benefit to humanity. It’s time for me to move on and do something that I can excel at—and something that I have no doubt is completely and utterly trivial.
A while back I read a review of a biography of Glenda Jackson MP. One sentence in it stayed with me—something like: “The tragedy of Jackson’s life is that, instead of being the great Glenda Jackson, she chose to become a lousy Tony Blair.” I have spent fifteen years of my working life trying to be a medical researcher. Over the past couple of years it’s become clear to me that, even though I know I am better at my kind of medical research than some of my peers, I’m not good enough. Fortunately, I have now been given an opportunity to try to be better at something else. I start today. I don’t have Glenda Jackson’s kind of talent so all help will be gratefully received.