Following your own track
I was rubbish at Physics at school, but I had to do it, either physics or chemistry and for me, they were both painful.
I got 4% in my first physics test and cried all the way home. It is the worst mark I have ever had. One of the reasons I went on to get a C at O’ level was that the teacher, who I was terrified of, set up astronomy classes one term and it was gazing at the stars that helped me connect with a subject which otherwise felt way too abstract. Another reason I became less scared of physics, was Colin.
Colin was super-bright at physics, he just got it, with ease it seemed, but he was generous with his understanding of it and when I asked him to explain things I didn’t understand, he did it in a way which didn’t make me feel stupid.
Which is such a gift isn’t it? To be much better/ brighter/ more talented than someone, but to be able to meet them where they are at, with what you need, without your ego needing to get in the way to show how much you know/ can do/ have achieved.
Talking with Colin today, over forty (!!! gulp) years later, was the same. He explained nuclear energy and the risks and benefits in a way which was engaging and which I could understand, and all without patronising me in any way.
He is a man who loves his work, who believes in it and his team and it was a pleasure to speak with someone who had the same energy about ‘his thing’ as he had when he first came across it all those year ago.
What also struck me as we talked, was how, Colin has been led by his heart and passions. As a teenager he went with his family to a North Wales steam railway where he ran the shop at the tender age of fourteen. He was hooked and the tracks and steam have shaped his life in ways he could never predicted on that first family holiday. It was there he met his wife, holidayed with his children, and it was across the valley that he saw his first nuclear power station.
I love that about life, and it makes me smile. I bet Colin and I had careers interviews at school. I seem to remember I was destined to be an air hostess (I wanted to travel) or a bi-lingual secretary (until I did really badly in my German and French A’levels). I can’t imagine they could have suggested that Colin would end up as Nuclear Safety Group Head at Sizewell B, (which includes the role of Station Reactor Physicist).
We think we can logically plan things out and so often when A’ level students feel their life is over when things don’t work out the way they planned, it is these stories that I think we need to share with them.
Particularly with covid.
After we stopped recording, Colin and I both laughed at the idea of ‘being behind’ and ‘catching up’, as if life were some linear plan that took us from A to Z. For him it was a holiday and some old steam trains, for me it was the death of a friend.
The tracks we take are not always those mapped out for us and Colin and I are very grateful for it.
You can listen to our conversation here and below.
You can also buy Colin’s book here: