I have never liked or understood science. At school I was good at English and foreign languages but I dissolved into rubble in front of a bunsen burner. When I failed my biology “O” level (we actually failed things in those days, that was the word that was used. FAILED) the only science qualification I ever attempted, I knew I’d never amount to anything.
Now, of course, I cleave to the heretical belief that knowing sod-all about science and having no interest in it hasn’t done me any harm. That’s the way things have turned out for me. I might not know Ohm’s Law from Garrow’s Law, but we all have our talents. Let others, the capable ones, deal with quantum field theory, leaving me to preview Mr Selfridge in 130 words.
Still, I like to think that I am a well-rounded human being, so I know about science, as I know about sport, on a pub-quiz, Trivial Pursuit level. I know names and discoveries – ask me about Michael Faraday and Edward Jenner. Go on, ask me. This is almost entirely due to those illustrated stories about famous people Blue Peter used to tell in the olden days. I am still haunted by the fate of Pierre and Marie Curie, my most favourite doomed lovers and it’s all down to you, Blue Peter.
Yet don’t go thinking that I’m some kind of proud prole, a winsome poet, a painter with words who shuns the corporeal for the spiritual, it’s just that the older I get the more I feel my lack of scientific knowledge. I want to learn about science, albeit on a superficial level (let’s not get carried away) because as I approach my twilight I can’t bear to think that I know so little.
Naturally, I look to television to fill in the gaps in my education, and specifically recently The Genius of Invention (Thursday BBC2). This isn’t just for that most base of reasons, because I am a Michael Mosley groupie; to ladies of a certain age like me, Mosley is our Justin Bieber. No, I want to know things. If Michael Mosley, with his very attractive forearms and tantalisingly unbuttoned shirt, is telling me about them, then so much the better.
But The Genius of Invention gives me a headache. I can see that it’s trying to make science popular, but it’s off-puttingly frenetic. We’re in the studio, we’re on location, we’re in the studio again, the three presenters (Mosley, Prof Mark Miodownik and Dr Cassie Newland) talk among themselves, then one of them talks to a guest, then we are out on location again. And so on.
Calm down! Spend a little time, explain things to me, I won’t go away, I am keen to learn. But The Genius of Invention doesn’t give me the chance. Last week’s, about the growth of mass communication, was a mess. Hurtling from Samuel Morse to the growth of Twitter, with a visit to Cragside in Northumberland thrown in. You’ll know Cragside, Britain’s Hidden Heritage went there too.
Really, The Genius of Invention, give it a rest. Literally. Stop fluttering over subjects, land on one and talk to me. Inspire me. Teach me. You will find that I am a good student.