Funny old world isn’t it. Win a Nobel Prize for, “Discovering a key aspect of cell cycle control, the protein cyclin which is a component of cyclin dependent kinases, demonstrating his ability to grasp the significance of the result outside his immediate sphere of interest” and all anybody ever remembers is that you aren’t cutting edge cool and politically correct.
I’ll tell you a story. Back in 1972 they put on a special excursion train to take people from up here to see the Tutankhamen exhibition in the British Museum. It was a huge train, and it was the old style coaches with the six seat compartments and a corridor down one side.
My mother took my sister and I. I don’t remember much of the journey down, the exhibition itself I do remember something of. It was certainly spectacular enough to leave memories which have stuck with me.
But coming home I have another memory.
In ‘our’ compartment there was my mother, my sister and myself sitting on one seat, and facing us was a father and his two children. Both adults were similar age, both born in the 1920s. There was a little polite small talk, but frankly I think everybody was tired by then. Anyway it was summer, a hot day and the compartment was hot. So the gentleman opposite would do the sensible thing and take off his jacket and tie. But before he did so, he first asked my mother’s permission.
Because back then, that’s what you did. It was a sign of good manners.
Indeed I was brought up to stand up when a ‘lady’ entered the room, and I was also brought up to believe that ‘lady’ included school dinner ladies as much as it included teachers or friends of my mother.
Now Tim Hunt is older than me. In 1972 he’s have been 28. He’d have been the generation that was taught that you asked a lady present for permission before taking your jacket off.
Since then, he’s been working for a living, he’s had a life. He’s achieved stuff that most of us can barely understand. So perhaps he’s missed out on a few pointers as to current trending social etiquette.
I sympathise with him. Keep your mouth shut and those desperate to be offended will have to get their kicks out of attacking somebody else.
I suppose there’s always a chance they might be offended by this. If so then I suppose I ought to include a link to one of my books, that way they can show their offence by buying a copy and burning it publically.
Even better I could leave a link to one of the ebooks, so anyone offended can download a copy more cheaply, print if off at work so it costs them nothing in paper and ink, and then burn it. You cannot say I don’t try to be accommodating.
But one real consolation is that in forty years time, when fashions have changed at least twice, those doing the pillorying now are going to be so embarrassed by how out of touch they were back in the second decade of the twenty-first century.