Monday, November 01, 2010

Freethinking festival

Hello all

It appears that the only time I remember to make a blog-post these days is whenever my (former) marketing manager is about to make a public appearance, and he demands that I help him publicise that fact. This time, he contacted me excitedly about his upcoming appearance at the Radio3 Freethinking Festival, to be held at the Sage in Gateshead from 5th-7th September.

'So what are you doing there Mark?', I asked, feigning interest.

'Hey, you'll never guess Joseph. I'm appearing in their 'speed-dating with a thinker' event on the Sunday at 2:45pm. Tickets are free you know.'

'Are you claiming to be a thinker, Mark?'

'Er, well, not me directly. It's a sort of, er, label I get to use for the duration.'

'You sound unsure. Well, I hope it goes OK. Think of me if you still have enough thinking-power after being speed-dated - Christmas is on its way and I am still more than a bit needy myself. If you could think up a solution to my predicament that would be great, actually.'

'Sure, Joseph. I'll put my, er, thinking cap on and see what the old grey cells come up with, yeah? Oh sorry, gotta go. Trick or treaters at the door. See ya later.'

I didn't hear any doorbell, or any knocking, but with that excuse he was gone. Another less than satisfactory conversation out of the way. I went back to reading about how cuts are going to affect local services. As I am effectively squatting in this barn, I am of officially no-fixed-abode and therefore receive very few services. Not even the local council newsletter that talks about re-developing the site on which my barn sits with the 'region's largest' soft-play installation for the local children. Planning permission has been submitted apparently. My bag is packed.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Autumn Symposium

Dr Mark Booth has asked me to publicise his forthcoming symposium entitled 'Progress in Paediatric Parasitology' where 15 internationally respected parasitologists will be speaking on this very topic. I did wonder if he was going to ask me to make another personal appearance, after my triumphal video interview in Cardiff earlier this year. He promptly replied that this wouldn't be neccesary. He suggested I visit the symposium incognito if I am worried about being recognised. That's not such a bad idea, providing I can hitch my way that far North in time. If I set off tomorrow I should make Peterborough by the weekend, Wetherby by the 20th and Stockton by the 23rd, when it all begins. Wish me luck!

British Society for Parasitology Autumn Symposium
23rd-24th September
Durham University Queen's Campus
Stockton on Tees
For more information, including a full programme and speaker's abstracts, visit

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Going Public

Hello all

Another call from my marketing manager - Dr Mark Booth - the other day. He sounded upbeat."Hey Joseph, you'll never guess!" he said cheerfully.

'I'm sure I won't, so just come straight out with it, Mark", I replied flatly. His enthusiasm before the facts sometimes gets to me.

"OK, well basically it goes like this - the British Society for Parasitology is having their annual conference at the end of March at Cardiff University and I'm giving the Public Understanding of Science Lecture on the evening of the 29th. Cool, huh?"


"Thanks - but here's the kicker - I'm going to showcase your excellent work on public understanding of parasitology. You know - the blog, the book - like, everything!"

"I'm flattered"

"Aw come on Joseph. I know things aren't so great right now but this could be your chance to get back on your feet. Especially if....."

He stopped speaking. I assumed I was supposed to prompt him to go further, so dutifully obliged."If what?", I intoned.

"OK - now think before answering - but what do you say to making a personal appearance?"

I almost dropped the phone in surprise. No one had asked me to make a personal experience for quite some time. And I still had the problem of the death threat that has hung over me since I accidentally poisoned a town full of pet rabbits (it's in the book). "I, er, well, er, in principle. But I'd have to come in disguise or something. If this got public, you know...."

"I'm sure you'll come up with something," said Mark breezily. "you're a resourceful chap. Anyway, must fly. I've got a hundred slides on the value of public engagement for the early stage researcher to write."

"Huh, surely..."

"Just pulling your chain Joseph. I'm not that nerdy!"

He shouted farewell as he put down the phone. Rather irrevelently I looked in my diary for availability on the 29th March. All I had written down was that No.3 is due for a vaccination. Nothing else for days on end, before or after.

Right then. If I am to make an appearance, I'd better think about what to wear!


Saturday, February 06, 2010

publishing disaster

I received a call from my marketing manager the other day. He sounded apologetic. I asked him what was wrong. He told me that the company who published my book 'The Wonderful World of Joseph McCrumble' appears to be no longer trading, or at least they have been taken over by another company under dubious circumstances. I asked him whether this was the reason why I never received a royalty cheque. He said 'To be honest Joseph, you might have lost out on a few quid, but I'm pretty sure you just didn't sell any books'. I asked him, after reminding him the HE was supposed to be MY marketing manager, what HE should do - as I am in no position (still in the barn, still poor) to take this any futher. 'Not all is lost!', he said breezily as if struck by a good idea. 'Stand Up for Africa have it in stock at their website. We just have to tell people not to but the book through Amazon, Blackwells or any other retailer. That way the royalties go straight to the charity. OK?'

'Sure, Mark', I replied. 'So how are you doing these days - it's been a long time since you were in touch. I thought you maybe forgot about us.'

'No way Joseph. I've just been a bit busy. New job, new house, new prospects. It's all pretty good here. You thinking of moving out of that barn any time soon? We'd love to visit but we can't spare the time to travel down. You know how it is. But, hey, if you're passing this way any time don't be a stranger, yeah?'

'Sure, Mark', I said quietly, resisting the urge to put two vocal fingers up. 'Actually, it's still pretty hard down here. No money, no job. Several people are, in fact, depending on Ravel's job as a part time gardener. I've taken on a few things here and there but it's all been seasonal or temporary. I'm overqualified. Who wants to employ a PhD scientist to pick cherries?'

'Yeah Joseph, I guess it must be a bit tough. But hey - why don't you lie on your CV and say something like you've done nothing but pick cherries your whole life.'

'Lie?', I squawked. 'I can't lie, it would ruin everything I stand for. No lies, never!

'So you're standing for poverty and zero-rated aspiration are you Joseph? It's not like I'm suggesting you make up a qualification...'

'Never!', I interjected. 'Sorry mark, I just can't. Well, anyways, it was great talking to you. If you are ever passing this way, we are the third barn after the green cottage next to the woodland burial site. Bye.'

I put the phone down, momentarily proud of my stance. But then I saw Ravel walking towards the barn, his head low, his hands and clothes soiled. Dolores opened the door and let him in. He smiled at me and pulled out his week's wages, handing them all over to me before taking his seat at the dinner table. I counted the takings. It was less than the previous week's by at least 20%. There wasn't enough to feed us all, let alone pay for the new sweater I promised Dolores for our wedding anniversary. The words of my marketing manager rang in my ears as I drank my parsnip soup. Maybe it was time I put my pride to one side. After all, it's not like anyone would actually notice, would they?