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King Alfred School


My grandparents and visiting their old house
Richard Gregory Scientist
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My father’s father was a vicar at Parkston and he had a certain amount of private means, he had a large house, and I used to spend the summers there actually, it was called Melville, very nice house in Parkston. It had crown cranes on the lawn. My grandmother had two aviaries. She was absolutely potty on birds and animals and she had a load of animals including a monkey called Patapan, which bit me in the arm. I’ve still got the scar actually if you don’t believe me, there. This monkey and I had a complete war. We absolutely loathed each other but it was always putting grape skins everywhere and there was a very nice conservatory that I used to sit in a lot and this monkey like it as well. He was always putting these wretched grape skins everywhere and I really felt that having animals in the house is not such a good idea. I think really houses are for humans. I’ve always felt that ever since. My grandmother was an amazing woman actually. She was a bit of a poet. She published a certain amount of poetry. She was an expert on Horace Walpole’s letters, really an acknowledged expert, and very good on French literature and poetry, a very cultured woman actually. My grandfather was an athlete. He was a cricketer and all-round athlete, gentle man, with a very dominating wife, and a man of peace, a man of the church. How much he really believed I don’t know but I think he was a very good vicar probably. So that was the sort of thing and then my father found this is home, he was brought up in, he called it The Cover. When he went there he felt smothered and it was rather a torporish place actually, very near Bournemouth, you know. But they knew a lot of very interesting people, it was quite a- In fact, they knew Alfred Russel Wallace who lived near there. Alfred Russel Wallace retired near Bournemouth because he loved gardening and the climate is pretty good round there. My father used to play in his garden. I, of course, couldn’t remember who Alfred Russel Wallace was but my father could and he mentioned to me a couple of times this grand old man with a beard that he knew as a boy, you know. So that was broadly that and I went to see this house the other day. You know it’s very strange, isn’t it, when you go to see a house in your family later on? It was covered in creepers, a beautiful garden, very large and wonderful, with a huge mulberry tree that my sister and I used to sit in and lovely pond with fountains, the whole bit, and crown cranes, I mean it really was something. Went there now and it was complete shambles, you know. Most of the garden has gone, all the creepers are off the wall, and it’s now about six or eight apartments with people living in it, which I suppose is okay, but I find this conflict of what you’re seeing in the moment, the real time, the present, with one’s memory, you know, in a situation like that, is quite extraordinary. It’s like two films running at once on the screen. You get your memory images, which are incredibly strong, and then you open your eyes and there’s this, house, what has happened to the creeper? Where’s the pond? Where are the birds, the monkey, indeed? The whole lot, all gone. This juxtaposition of the past in one’s memory and the present I found really strange when you visit something in your past.

The late British psychologist and Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol, Richard Gregory (1923-2010), is well known for his work on perception, the psychology of seeing and his love of puns. In 1978 he founded The Exploratory, an applied science centre in Bristol – the first of its kind in the UK. He also designed and directed the Special Senses Laboratory at Cambridge which worked on the perceptual problems of astronauts, and published many books including 'The Oxford Companion to the Mind', 'Eye and Brain' and 'Mind in Science'.

Listeners: Adam Hart-Davis Sally Duensing

Born on 4 July 1943, Adam Hart-Davis is a freelance photographer, writer, and broadcaster. He has won various awards for both television and radio. Before presenting, Adam spent 5 years in publishing and 17 years at Yorkshire Television, as researcher and then producer of such series as Scientific Eye and Arthur C Clarke's World of Strange Powers. He has read several books, and written about 25. His latest books are Why does a ball bounce?, Taking the piss, Just another day, and The cosmos: a beginner's guide. He has written numerous newspaper and magazine articles. He is a keen supporter of the charities WaterAid, Practical Action, Sustrans, and the Joliba Trust. A Companion of the Institution of Lighting Engineers, an Honorary Member of the British Toilet Association, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Society of Dyers and Colourists, and Merton College Oxford, and patron of a dozen charitable organizations, Adam has collected thirteen honorary doctorates, The Horace Hockley Award from the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, a Medal from the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Medal from the Institute of Incorporated Engineers, and the 1999 Gerald Frewer memorial trophy of the Council of Engineering Designers. He has no car, but three cycles, which he rides slowly but with enthusiasm.

Sally Duensing currently is involved in perception exhibition work and research on science and society dialogue programmes and is working with informal learning research graduate students and post-docs at King's College, London. In 2000 she held the Collier Chair, a one-year invited professorship in the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Bristol, England. Prior to this, for over 20 years she was at the Exploratorium, a highly interactive museum of science, art and perception in San Francisco where she directed a variety of exhibition projects primarily in fields of perception and cognition including a large exhibition on biological, cognitive and cultural aspects of human memory.

Duration: 3 minutes, 58 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2006

Date story went live: 02 June 2008