Tripped down to Plymouth early on Wednesday afternoon for a stroll around the Barbican before the Professor Sally Ledger lecture at Peninsula Arts on Dickens and the People.
The Barbican was looking a bit winter-weary, all deserted with scaffolding and building in progress before the tourist season begins, chill wind off the sea. As we were leaving smoke wafted across the sky and Bookhound did his usual Victor Meldrew piece on inconsiderate people lighting bonfires during the day in the middle of a city.He gets most agitated about such things.
That's quite a big bonfire I said as a great plume of smoke billowed up into the sky and the sirens wailed in the distance, got nearer and police and fire engines screeched to a halt.
Of course we had to go and gawp as The Plymouth Gin Distillery belched out some very dramatic-looking smoke and you can read all about it here, but even funnier, the comments afterwards.
My camera goes everywhere with me but sadly on this occasion the battery would have been helpful too, however that was at home in the charger. Undaunted I then adopted a high risk strategy and with a flourish produced from my bag my new Sony Ericsson K800i mobile phone with David Bailey quality camera contained within.
Now mobile phones mean little to me, bit like cars, as long as it fulfills the function designated I'm happy. This phone then new to me but old to the Kayaker who had given it to me about two hours previously, which should all be enough to tell you that it would be mid-2009 before I'd mastered the on-off button never mind the camera, but needs must, this was an emergency.
Then off to Peninsular Arts and Professor Sally Ledger.
Is it me or are Professors getting younger?
Bit like doctors and policemen?
But a brilliantly informative and listener-friendly lecture on just how Dickens championed the people and mobilised such a huge audience and still does with great references to Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Bleak House and I could have listened for hours.With the wonders of modern technology Sally Ledger was also able to click a button and show us the film clip of David Lean's Oliver asking for more, cleverly reminding us how we have become even more familiar with Dickens.
I sat there thinking how that moment of instant visual reference in itself was magic.
In the old days it would have involved a flustered teacher ordering us all to pull the blinds down, we'd make a big fuss about doing this and one or more blinds would detach or stick.Then there was palava of the reel-to-reel projector and a lot of hairpins falling out as the teacher dashed to stop the thing runnning too fast or catching the film tape as it flapped wildly and flew off the spool at the end.
None of that with Sally Ledger of course who then shared with us, on questioning, that the latest BBC adaptation of Bleak House is amongst her favourites.
Next week it's the last in the series, Shakespeare with Professor Stanley Wells.