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In my very first teaching post (I came into teaching as a second career) I vividly recall being appalled when a teacher of English came into the staff room one break-time and commented of a pupil, “Poor Jason, he’s so limited. He’s never going to achieve anything, he’s so dyslexic”. Well, this pupil, an eleven year old boy, used to attend my Science Club after school. In the last session before a half term, I showed the BBC2  ‘science strand’ programme ‘Horizon’ about buckminsterfullerene, and intended for somewhat older audiences. Buckminsterfullerene, also known as C60, is a molecule, made solely of carbon atoms, which a British scientist, Professor Sir Harry Kroto had worked out to be spherical and, in fact, made up of hexagons and pentagons – like a football (Figure 1).

Sir Terry football

Figure 1. Model of Buckminsterfullerene (C60)

In elucidating this structure, Professor Kroto had accurately constructed pentagons and hexagons on thin card, cut them out and sellotaped them together to make a ball. Imagine my delight and pride when Jason, a boy who was “never going to achieve anything”, came in after half term with a fine cardboard model of buckminsterfullerene which he’d made himself. I ensured that this took pride of place in a cabinet in the dining room, where pupils’ finest work was displayed. My thoughts turned to this when I read that Terry Pratchett’s former headmaster, Mr Tame, had told him that he would “never amount to anything”.

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In our exhibition, the legend accompanying Terry Pratchett’s Olivetti Quaderno electronic notebook reads, “Although I have no particular need of it, I can’t bring myself to throw away what is now vintage technology”.

I know this feeling well as my desk drawer is cluttered with, among other things, a British Thornton slide rule, which I haven’t used in at least 30 years, a Sinclair Scientific calculator (1974), whose ‘reverse Polish notation’ taught me how to keep track of the exponent when using the slide rule; and a Nokia 6030 mobile phone (2006), which I believe is now regarded as ‘retro’ (Figure 2).

Sir Terry tech

Figure 2. Alan Crooks’ collection of ‘vintage technology’

Moving on to the Corridor Display, the caption against ‘Death on Binky’ (Paul Kidby, 2000) reads”When I was a kid I was scared rigid of skeletons”. I can empathise with this as because, when I was about 6 or 7 years old, I had to walk home from school across a meadow, within which was a small copse. One day, one of the friends I was with mentioned casually that there was a skeleton under one of the trees in the copse. Well, at the time, I didn’t know what a skeleton was but imagined it to be some sort of crocodilian, like an alligator. I used to give that copse a wide berth thereafter, but wonder to this day what it was that was in this copse.

Whilst on the subject of Death, a visitor came in one day and commented that she wants Death at her funeral. She has written into her Will that , at her funeral, she wants there to be a tall man in a black coat carrying a scythe, and she wants her daughter to tether her white horse at the church gates!

More next week in this fascinating series from Alan.

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