Melvyn's newsletter - The Unintended Consequences of Mathematics - 11/02/2010



I thought this morning was fantastic! Why did my maths teachers at school not talk about maths like those three talked about maths? Bring history into every subject and then it lives. Only the past can make things really exciting. The future is finite. The past is infinite in its possibilities.

Now where did I go from there? Well, I went into a meeting with the son of a man I know who is setting up a company to do films about famous dead authors and wanted to talk to me about William Golding, followed by a meeting with people who are interested in doing some conversations on the West Bank, followed by a stroll through London to the place where I get my hair cut. (You can tell how stunned I am by the programme on mathematics. When I talk about haircuts that means that I'm still in shock.)

It was a wonderful walk through London. Town walking is of course not as good as country walking - we take that as read, or as said - but it can still be exhilarating. Dodging through the traffic, using my mobile. Death by mobile beckons, I fear. Through the Burlington Arcade and across Piccadilly, and dodging yet again down Duke Street, St James's, without so much as a sideways glance up or down Jermyn Street despite the sales. After the haircut, off to have lunch with an old pal from ITV. Much to chew on.

Then a dive down to St James's Park, again busy on the mobile. What did we do without the mobile? It's your office in your hand as you walk. You can look at the ducks (still there and in quantity) and check back to the office and ring Phil, the Producer of In Our Time, to make sure that what happened was okay and so far no complaints have been received.

And so the day goes on. It's a very lucky day. Tonight I'm going to see Ian McKellen in Waiting for Godot. We're doing the final, yes the final, ten programmes on the South Bank Show called the South Bank Show Revisited, where I am interviewing people that I've interviewed three or four times before and the first of these is Ian McKellen. Next Wednesday it'll be Andrew Lloyd Webber and then we start transmitting in about six weeks or so. It's a very tight turnaround, but the London air is so clear. When first I came to London to live in 1961, I hit the last of the great smogs. I'd never known a smog before and I've never known a smog since like it. It was worse than a Sherlock Holmes fog down on Dartmoor. Now London, when the sun comes out, basks in a clearness of light that would do credit to Carlisle. But not, of course, to the Lake District.

Sorry to waste your time with all this, but I did think the programme was tremendous and I'm still trying to work through the unintended consequences of doing a programme about mathematics.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

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