I was prompted to post this because of a Twitter discussion that I’ve now forgotten, and it’s not really a propos of anything, but still, it’s interesting.
In Jeremy Paxman’s enjoyable book The English he discusses how he thinks we don’t particularly celebrate intellectuals in this country, with an entertaining example.
Apparently, when three French scientists recently won Nobel prizes in the same year, the government declared a special public holiday in their honour. In contrast, when Aaron Klug won his Nobel for chemistry in 1982, the Boston Globe reached him in his small Cambridge laboratory and he delightedly told them that he planned to use some of the ($157,000) prize money on “a new bicycle”.
Several US local papers covered the news along with Klug’s (under)statement:
I rather like the understatement, I have to say.
Jeremy Paxman is to many the embodiment of Englishness yet even he is sometimes forced to ask: who or what exactly are…
Here’s another telling, from James Starrs’s book The Literary Cyclist, in which the author describes the bicycle as “a most reassuringly human response to his rise to fame”.