Sciblog 2008 (part 4)
'Hand me that Gitane, Grump,' I said. She was standing outside, leaning against one of the honey-coloured pillars. 'You know it's bad for you.'
She took one last long drag and looked at me. 'You look dreadful.' she said.
For a few moments we stood together in silence before going back inside to the library. It was hot and I couldn't concentrate, and soon all the words were jumbling around like Poincaré's atoms.
However I managed to note that Maxine skilfully handled the discussion on linking, and several people made valuable and interesting contributions, then there was a summing up session with Peter Murray-Rust, Cameron Neylon. Richard Grant (who was rather impressively sponsored to come to this and another conference in the UK from Australia by his department), and Timo Hannay - during which they challenged everyone in the room to get a senior member of science academia blogging - which must be more of a challenge for some people than others.
Then, in the bar afterwards, I talked to Jon Turney and Brian Clegg and a couple of other people I knew, and then, when we eventually retired to a nearby pub, was delighted to meet a Danish Trekkie, Bertil Dorch. Then, after talking to several other very interesting people - someone over from the US, then another from Switzerland, yet another from Germany - I departed. Though Dr Grump was, I expect, still in full flow, and good for another couple of hours yet.
It was warm. The air felt soupy and thick as if I were swimming through it. Then, as I crossed the reverberating Millennium bridge, for a few magical seconds a brightly lit boat full of dancing people passed underneath. The sound of the music and the laughing swelled and then fell away, and for a few moments I stood still and watched them drift slowly down the river. So many people I'll never know. For an instant they were quite close to me and yet completely unaware of my existence.
I looked around me. Does anyone else have this - a moment of intense realisation of exactly where you are? It is as if something falls away from my eyes. I want to imprint it on my mind. Behind me the dome of St Paul's glowed with a soft white light and to either side harsher lights marked out the banks and bridges. The music faded away altogether and I could hear the lapping of the water and a gentle murmur of voices. The great unlit towers of the Tate Modern loomed large and black, and beside it people spun around the Globe Theatre like small wasps escaping from a nest. I was invisible and deliciously alone. I could do exactly as I liked. I turned a corner where the street was dark and empty. Another city.