It seems that November is shaping up as a bit of a European tour for me. Trips later in the months to Naples and Edinburgh have been on the cards for a while, but my friend and colleague Salvador Macip and I ended up popped to Alzira, Spain on November 8th for 24 hours. This unusual behaviour was prompted by our success in winning the European Prize for the Popularization of Science.
The prize was awarded for our book, provisionally entitled ‘Playing God: the new dilemmas at the frontiers of medicine and science’, which looks at a range of current and forthcoming developments in biomedicine. As part of the prize, the book should be published in March 2014.
Setting out from Leicester at 04:30, we got the red-eye flight from East Midlands to Alicante, we were in Alzira, Valencia in time to check in and enjoy lunch outside in the sunshine.
In the afternoon we went to the local museum for the official photo shoot (even though the award was not being made formally until the evening). This was the first time we’d had a chance to meet the other winners. As well as a photo shoot, there were also TV interviews.
The award ceremony was a much bigger deal than I had anticipated, with a meal for 750 people. The meal was preceded by a display of traditional human tower (“castle”) formation.
We were on a table with Andreu Martin, a well-known Catalan crime writer and winner of the evening’s big prize. Also with us were our agent Carlota, Andreu’s communication officer, and Eduard Castanyo (who works as a translator for the publishers Edicions Bromera as well as being, in a different incarnation, Sal’s high school English teacher) and his wife.
The meal didn’t start until after 9 pm and it was always destined to run into the small hours. However recent political events in the region, particularly the closure of the Valencian/Catalan language TV station by the main government, led to some highly charged speeches.
The whole evening was exclusively conducted in Valencian/Catalan. I was therefore grateful to Sal and to Eduard for their translation of the highlights for me.
Finally, at 01:30 local time (more than 20 hours after I’d got up) it was our turn. I gave a short speech, translated by Sal, who proceeded to explain more about the book and to add his views on the TV closure.
After Andreu had collected the final award of the night, there was a further round of official photos and TV interviews (this time they declined my contribution!) then a few final snaps of our own, farewells and thank yous before returning to our hotel and 3.5 hours sleep before it was time to get up and head off to the airport for our flight home.
And finally, was it the lack of sleep, or was this really a toilet for Daleks in the petrol station on the way home?
If you’ve read this far you might be interested in the following links:
The University of Leicester website report on the award (with link to Press Release)
The Press Release from Edicion Bromera (in Catalan)