A Sandwich at the End of the Universe

July 5, 2007

I am in Margate visiting my Mum and Dad. They are in two plastic urns in my sister’s kitchen. My family are fairly knees-up-Mother-Brown if you know what I mean. I am the exotic boffin. One of the first things sister Sue said to me on this visit was “What was that thing I read in the paper about the Universe then ?”. Its hard to answer this question, because I don’t read the Sun or the Daily Mail so I have no idea what she is talking about. She digs it out. “See, it says you decided the Big Bang is all wrong. There’s sumfing else now.”I take a look. The basic line is that there wasn’t a unique Big Bang because the Universe had just bounced out of a Big Crunch. Is this news ? In a kind of self-parody the Oscillating Universe idea has re-emerged about once every two years since the 1960s. Right at the end of the piece there is a hint of what’s triggered the latest re-emergence, as there is a mention of Loop Quantum Gravity. Sounds interesting, but of course the people behind this idea don’t get mentioned and I still don’t know what its really all about. Its just all “scientists claim” and “now they think”. (If I can raise the energy I might dig it out. Must be Neil Turok or something like that ? Didn’t they do this about five years ago ?) Of course really I am just jealous. My ambition has always been to be in the Daily Mirror as “top boffin Andy Lawrence”. I have been in the Mirror a couple of times but it didn’t say “top boffin”. So my career is not complete yet.

So then we all went off to Sandwich. This really is where the sandwich was invented, by the Earl of Sandwich, an obsessed and lazy gambler. Sandwich is full of pubs and smart restaurants, so it was actually quite hard to find a cafe that would just serve you a sandwich, but eventually we did and I had a rather nice tuna baguette with pesto.

We were in Sandwich to see the gardens at a fancy house called “The Salutation“. My nephew Steve Edney is the head gardener there and has had a big hit restoring the gardens designed in 1912 by Jekyll and Lutyens. Suddenly I am no longer the family celebrity. Steve has been in the local paper and on TV and Monty Don gave it a plug. So I will too.