P&J Column 10.9.15

63 years – more reign than a Scottish summer

Hugh Gravelle-Scrope, Royal Correspondent

Yesterday Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the realms of the Commonwealth, became the longest reigning British Monarch, having ruled for 63 years and 213 days.

And what times she has lived through! War, the loss of Empire, devolution and the decommissioning of the Royal Yacht Britannia. How culture has changed – she has seen the rise of the Beatles and the Stones, sky-dived with James Bond and lived through the era of the soap opera, before being unwittingly cast in the biggest one of all. She has lived through personal disappointments – not least the fact that 3 of her children’s marriages ended in divorce whilst her own did not. She has had to cope with the death of a beloved mother and sister, as well as the survival of Nicholas Witchell. She has had to tolerate intruders, assailants, and regular conversations with David Cameron.

Throughout it all, she has endured, dauntless, exhibiting more staying power than a marathon runner after an illicit visit to a blood-bank. 63 years!   Let the republicans and satirists say what they will – it is a length of service you will never see from an elected politician. With the possible exception of Robert Mugabe.

Davinia Smythe-Barratt, ordinary mum

Like all ordinary mums, I cherish quality time with my husband. For tax reasons, these trysts usually take place on foreign soil (like our ‘wee butt & ben’ in the Cayman Islands). But this week the kids and I got a rare treat, as Milo was scheduled to attend the Offshore Europe Exhibition. It was a flying visit, however, because the fascists at HM Revenue & Customs would have declared him UK resident if he was here for more than 6 hours.

Naturally, I kept Emmeline and Fidel off school so they could see their father. We ordinary mums don’t half get a hard time from schools these days for term-time absences. Even though it was just one day, the rather strident Headteacher kept raking up ancient history like our Slovenian skiing trip in May and last month’s jaunt to our Patagonian yurt.

Milo was busy at the conference from noon until 5.30pm, but he had very thoughtfully scheduled 30 minutes of family time before the chopper picked him up. You’ll be as astonished as I was that our 5pm journey through Aberdeen was absolutely beset by traffic! It’s just my luck. The one time I need to drive across town to meet someone at the venue of an international conference, hundreds of selfish polluting gas-guzzlers get in my way.

Fidel had a brainwave. Why couldn’t daddy’s helicopter come and pick us up from Muggiemoss Road? He’s so practical, that boy. Incredibly, despite being informed of our plight, the pilot refused! Instead of a ‘can-do’ attitude, all I got was “Air Traffic Control” this and “Risk of fatal injury” that. Appalling.

Eventually, we made it to the AECC only to find a jam-packed car-park. Luckily, Emmeline spotted a space right at the door labelled “Emergency Vehicles Only”. Thank goodness someone had made provision for situations like ours. We had 3 lovely minutes on the helipad before Milo’s departure. His was a lot faster than ours, though, as an ambulance driver had chosen to park right behind the Range Rover. People can be so inconsiderate.

Professor Hector Schlenk, Senior Research Fellow at the Bogton Institute for Public Engagement with Science

As a scientist, people are always asking me questions like, “Is travelling to Mars really feasible?” “Is fracking safe?” and “Will we ever be able to eradicate the defective gene that makes some people support Rangers?”. The answer to those are respectively yes; yes – with appropriate environmental controls; and don’t be ridiculous, that’s not genetic – it’s a personality disorder.

This week, people have been asking me about zero gravity whisky. Ardbeg distillery sent a vial of the water of life into space to mature for three years – talk about space-aged! – and have recently compared the taste to an earth-bound sample of the same maturity. The papers have been full of stories about the “noticeably different” aromas and taste, including an “intense and long after-taste, with hints of wood, antiseptic lozenges and rubbery smoke.” These results are fascinating – they hint at ways of modifying the behaviour of terpenes, the building blocks that make up whisky’s flavour profile. They also solve the mystery of where Jilly Goolden has been hiding since she did “I’m a Celebrity”, and conclusively prove that Ardbeg’s PR people have an Einstein-like genius for publicity. Live long and prosper.