Farewell Leonard Nimoy

February 28, 2015

In the 1970s our family, wood effect colour TV only had 3 channels (although it had 6 buttons… (just in case?)) to watch. In those days, children were the remote control.

“Turn over to ITV son, nearly time for Corrie” my mum would say.


In the 1970s I don’t remember watching (and enjoying) many TV programmes with my parents, but there was one – Star Trek. I used to lie next to my dad on the living room floor (my dad had a thing about lying on the floor to watch TV) once a week and I was captivated.

Space ships, fights, aliens, strange new worlds… Kirk got the girl, McCoy told us he wasn’t a plumber, Scotty would somehow get the Enterprise through her latest disaster even though she cannae tak any more and Spock would find find things ‘Fascinating’.

In those days I didn’t know what physics was, but I knew I wanted to be like Spock, to study stuff and work out how it worked. That seemed like the best of things to do, to be.

Turned out that I wasn’t the cleverest kid, pretty bright, but no genius. However, I loved to learn, loved to know how stuff worked (many a toy suffered a carefully studied dismantling).

In 1983 my parents bought me a computer, a Commodore 64. I began to teach myself how to program, I found amazing worlds in games such as Elite (which introduced me to the Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction author Robert Holdstock as a bonus). In Elite I got to boldly go where no-one had gone before (at least, in my own mind). I had friends, but not many, I never really tried to fit in. My parents will testify that I spent much of my time alone in my bedroom on my computer, or around the house of those close friends’ on their computers.

At school I discovered Physics and Computer Studies and, having got my GCSEs went on to study Physics at A-level. I didn’t do particularly well, but I scraped enough grades together to get me to University and I continued with my studies, Physics and Computer Science. Once again, I did enough, loved the learning but struggled to reproduce it in my exams.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was on the TV, it was good, but that concentrated, logical science role was watered down, distributed amongst the cast. There wasn’t anybody quite like Spock, except for Spock of course, who made a guest appearance in a few episodes.

After graduation I began working for the MOD, who put my multi-discipline degree to good use. I was finally a proper scientist and remained so for 13 years. I continued to study, doing a Masters part-time and while I’m no longer a scientist (except in my heart and outlook on the world), having moved into academia, I continue to find things ‘fascinating’.

On Tuesday this week my youngest daughter was ill and off school and she cuddled up next to me on the sofa. When she turned the TV on, it happened to be on CBS action and they were showing digitally remastered episodes of Star Trek, The Original Series. This particular episode was This Side of Paradise. An episode (made in 1969) where the crew, including Spock, are infected with spores that make them happy, content, chilled out and emotional. It was an episode I remember watching with my dad back in the 1970s and here I was, with my daughter, at the same age, watching the same episode thirty-five years later. The generational baton had been passed. I was incredibly happy. So, when I heard that Leonard Nimoy had died yesterday the news stopped me in my tracks, because, having watched that classic Trek episode with my 7yo had reset my time clock. Spock and therefore Leonard Nimoy was in his 30s again. I had forgotten he was 83 and in recent poor health. The last time I had seen him he was hanging upside from a tree branch, laughing and smiling…

On social media I have met like-minded people and so my News and Twitter feeds are full of unbelievably touching tributes to Leonard Nimoy. He wasn’t just my inspiration, he was the inspiration to hundreds, if not thousands of scientists and engineers and we are united in a strange sense of loss.

Gamers playing Star Trek Online met on Vulcan, their avatars stood in spontaneous and silent tribute.

Star Trek Online - Leonard Nimoy Tribute

Star Trek Online – Leonard Nimoy Tribute (thanks to Gabriel Souto)

Above us in the International Space Station, Astronaut Terry Virts paid the most simple and beautiful of tributes.

@AstroTerry on ISS pays his respects.

@AstroTerry on ISS pays his respects.

No doubt many more of my childhood inspirations will slip away in the years to come, they (and I) are of that kind of age, but there is still something very sad about losing ‘my’ Spock.

He lived long and he prospered.



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A Procrastination of writers, Part 2

February 8, 2015

In January 2014 WordWatchers spent an amazing weekend at Symondsbury Manor.

I captured my thoughts on that wonderful event in this blog: A Procrastination of Writers

We had such an amazing time that we talked about doing it again on several occasions and then it finally happened and we returned for the final weekend of January 2015.

The line-up was slightly different this time round: alumna Katherine Webb tweeted her frustration at not being able to attend this time, Chris McCormack and Danielle Auld had left earlier in the year but our newest members Oliver Randle and Tom Haynes came this time, thrown in at the deep-end in many ways.

The biggest void in our group was that poor Mel, our organiser, was missing, hurt in a car accident earlier in the week and in too much pain to attend. She was very much missed.


It was strange to be back and wonderful at the same time. The building’s quirkiness quickly enveloped us in its familiar and comfortable magic. Very quickly, any fears that Symondsbury wouldn’t be as special as it was the first time, that we were looking back through rose-tinted spectacles, were dismissed. Symondsbury Manor is a magical place for a procrastination of writers.

Julian took up his place in the same chair that he had occupied the year before and, other than a few games of table tennis and to play the (still out of tune) piano he barely moved for the entire weekend…

Julian in his 'usual' seat

Julian in his ‘usual’ seat

Julian on the (badly tuned) piano

Julian on the (badly tuned) piano

I took my place at one end of the main table in the communal area and, basically, didn’t moved. Having promised WordWatchers that 2015 was the year I would bite the bullet and return to my novel, Endless Possibilities.

The weekend at Symondsbury seemed like a perfect opportunity to start to keep that promise.

It turns out editing is rather addictive once you get into it and I rarely went to bed before 1am.

The editing addict

The editing addict at 1am

Since we got back from Symondsbury I have continued to edit my novel. I’ve been getting up at 5am and editing until 6am. It was this schedule and methodology by which I wrote the last 45,000 of this same novel in just two months (compared to taking 2+ years to write the first 95,000).

So, when I arrived at Symondsbury my novel had 140,000 words, when I left after the weekend it was down to 130,000 words and now, after four mornings of getting up at 5am it’s down to just under 127,000. It’s getting harder, the initial hack and slash of the weekend is down to some pruning, but it’s taking shape. Years of practising the art of the 75-worder is paying dividends.

I already know that when I get to the end of this, I will do it again. I have already identified areas that I suspect will need pruning once I have the novel shaped the way I want it. This time though, I’m looking forward to it…

Until next time.

John Hoggard

John Hoggard


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