When the coffee cup shattered on the kitchen floor

As an eternal 1990s indie-pop nerd I could not but be thrilled this week when I realized I was going to Bristol

on the National Express.

Bristol, besides having lots of great mathematicians to talk to, is much lovelier than I knew. There’s lots of terrain! It seems every time you turn a corner there’s another fine vista of pastel-painted row houses and the green English hills far away. There’s a famous bridge. I walked across it, then sat on a bench at the other side doing some math, in the hopes I’d think of something really good, because I’ve always wanted to scratch some math on a British bridge, William Rowan Hamilton-style. Didn’t happen. There was a bus strike in Bristol for civil rights because the bus companies didn’t allow black or Indian drivers; the bus lines gave in to the strikers and integrated on the same day Martin Luther King, Jr. was saying “I have a dream” in Washington, DC. There’s a chain of tea shops in Bristol called Boston Tea Party. I think it’s slightly weird to have a commercial operation named after an anti-colonial uprising against your own country, but my colleagues said no one there really thinks of it that way. The University of Bristol, by the way, is sort of the Duke of the UK, in that it was founded by a limitless bequest from the biggest tobacco family in the country, the Willses. Bristol also has this clock:

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8 thoughts on “When the coffee cup shattered on the kitchen floor

  1. Noah Snyder says:

    Funny timing, aren’t the Mountain Goats playing in Madison this week?

  2. JSE says:

    Oh yeah, they played last week, I was already going to Bristol when they played. To be honest I’m more of a 1994-2004 Mountain Goats guy than a 2005-2019 Mountain Goats guy.,

  3. Craig Gjerde says:

    And in the clock support you can imagine the numerals 1, 2, 3, 4…

  4. JSE says:

    Wow, that’s a cool effect I accidentally produced!

  5. Tyler says:

    The lectures were fantastic too. My favourite three-part miniseries of the year!

  6. Artie Prendergast-Smith says:

    I wanted to get snarky about “British bridge” but then I listened to National Express and it made me smile. Dammit, Neil Hannon!

  7. JSE says:

    Yes I was aware while writing that referring to a bridge in Dublin as “British” could come out tendentious but I wasn’t sure how else to phrase it — “British Isles bridge”?

    Anyway, Neil Hannon forever.

  8. Artie Prendergast-Smith says:

    Well, depending on who you’re talking to, “British Isles” can also be a big no-no:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Isles_naming_dispute

    Luckily that page suggest an elegant alternative: just write “Northwest European Archipelagic bridge”.

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