Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dog days

And so the summer holidays begin. For the next six weeks my best efforts to do any work will also involve child juggling and the need to occasionally stop a seven year old in mid-flow while a client explains something technical over the phone.

For the past three years, we've attempted to juggle work and kids on school holidays without the support of any professional childcare. This summer, child number one is well and truly old enough to look after herself - though I'm reluctant to leave her in charge of the other two for too long; child two has some cricket and tennis planed but will probably be bored by about 3.15 today, while child three is booked in on a Lighthouse activity week, two days of tennis, two more of football, a cricket day and a couple of U9 matches, plus an art workshop. So, I expect to be working some odd hours as I carry out my taxi duties around and about Buckinghamshire.

We're all off to Cyprus for a fortnight - hurrah! - and I hope to be able to spend some decent time with the kids while the weather's good (that said, we haven't seen the much hyped mini heatwave here yet in the slightly misty and distinctly grey Chiltern microclimate).

Normally I'd be pretty quiet at this time of the year as most of my clients seem to disappear from about now through to the end of August, but somehow things continue to roll along this year.

Today I'm writing a staff booklet, but have become horribly distracted - not least by an hour's conversation with the rather wonderful James Burke recalling his time as the BBC's science correspondent covering the Apollo Missions. I must say that I was utterly charmed by the man who started off by saying: "Don't forget, we're talking about 40 years ago and I may not remember anything," and who then recalled events, people and impressions as if Armstrong had landed on the moon just a few months ago.
Asked why the US sent men to the moon, he responded, after a significant pause, by stating that it was a gigantic political PR exercise....having already said that the $24 billion spent on the programme was roughly equivalent to what American women spent on make-up over the same period.
What was most revealing though was how much NASA relied on journalists to make sense of the space programme for the world's public - the US broadcasters focus on adventure and the race to the moon first caused the public and then Congress to lose interest in space exploration once that 'race' had been won, while the BBC focus on scientific benefit enabled the British audience to stay loyal to Apollo right through to Apollo 17 and beyond.
Next week I'm talking to the Apollo author, Andy Chaikin so the dissertation's moving along well at the moment. I just now need to be able to hook into the Soviet side of the story in some way.
It may be dog days for the work that pays the bills - but for now, I'm having a pretty good time.

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