Now, this is very much a "no names, no packdrill" blog. I think it makes everyone feel better if they know their anonymity will be respected, if that's the way they like it (your secret is safe with me, Your Majesty). I wouldn't, for example, use the actual name of my plumbing colleague, though I might use that traditional reportage formula: "Let's call her Zelda".
But, let's not call her Zelda, let's call this person Zelda:
Professor Zelda Legend, OBE MA PhD AcSS, Head of Department, Professor of Kidology and Fellow of Weatherwax College, Cambridge
Professor Legend has researched and published widely on environmental governance and policy processes, and on interpretations of sustainable development in theory and practice, particularly in the context of land use and environmental planning. She has supervised many PhD students on a range of environmental topics. Her work has also made a substantial contribution to public policy. She was a member of the standing Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution 1998-2008 and has served on a number of other public bodies. She is currently a member of the Strategic Research Board of the Economic and Social Research Council and served on sub-panel H31 (Town and Country Planning) for the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. Professor Legend was awarded an OBE for services to sustainable development in 1998 and in 2000 received the Royal Geographical Society's 'Back' Award for contributions to research and policy formulation in this field. She was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute in 2006 and an Honorary Professor of the University of Copenhagen in 2008. For the academic year 2008-09 she holds the King Carl XVI Gustaf Professorship of Environmental Science, hosted by the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.
Impressive, eh? That is the description of an academic mover and shaker. I have changed the names in the top line to protect her from idle curiosity, but the rest of that description is accurate, and it's not hard to put a name to such a distinguished CV. After all, there's no secret side there -- this is a public person in the full sense of the term. The title Professor Dame Zelda Legend can surely only be a move or two down the line.
Why am I telling you about this person? Well, for one thing, I/we have been banging on about grammar schools, the decline in opportunities, and state educational change'n'decay all around. But, evidence has been rather lacking. OK, I and my fellow ancients may not have become bank robbers with a crack habit but, let's be honest, neither do most of today's school leavers.
So, if I say that Prof. Legend is 57 (the same age as me) and went to a grammar school in a New Town 30 miles north of London (the very same one my sister and my first two girlfriends went to) then you may guess where this is going. You see, I know Professor Legend, but had no idea that I did until I chanced on her picture yesterday, and realised that the last time I had seen her was in 1972 on the campus of the University of East Anglia. She had a different surname, then, and was waving goodbye to the young man sitting next to me in the car as we drove off, her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend, my good friend Dave.
Now there's some evidence.
But, actually, to me this says something even more salutary about the passing of time, and the way our imagining of old friends and acquaintances gets frozen in the past. Zelda, as far as I was concerned, was and always would be a rather small, intense, hippy-ish 17-year old girl, with very long, very brushed straight hair and a fondness for maxi-skirts and velvet, eternally stranded in 1972 with the label "friend's girlfriend", like an evolutionary path that led nowhere.
But -- what do you know? -- all that time she had been evolving, independently of anyone else's memory or imagination (gasp), and creating an astonishingly successful public life that has propelled her into a stratosphere where the things we have in common are as tiny and as far away as, well, 1972.
I find that an extremely cheering thought, and have nothing but admiration for Zelda's achievement. We can all bask a little in the reflected warmth of such success. Do I envy her? Not at all -- I'm very aware of what has to be sacrificed on that particular altar. But I do feel that she's scored a solid row of gold medals for Team