Friday, 27 September 2013

A bright flash of light seen in 500 years time

I was at a dinner this week.

It was in memory of my brother, Jim, and brought together a few of his old friends. One of the things we are doing is creating a memorial fund in his name at his Oxford College, St Anne's. We are creating a fund "in perpetuity". Every year the Jim Stanfield Memorial Fund bursary will be awarded to a deserving chemistry undergraduate.

And when I say "every year" I mean "every year". It will literally continue for hundreds of years and the great thing about doing this with an Oxford College is that they will be around in 500 years time and a new undergraduate in 2513 will be beamed up to Oxford to study "The Laughable Way they used to do Chemistry in the 21st Century" and will be awarded the Jim Stanfield Memorial Fund bursary.

As a (failed) physicist I do enjoy thinking about the passage of time. I sometimes read relativity for fun and think to myself "I used to understand that stuff thirty years ago". I find it fascinating that the light we see from the stars left millions of years ago. Flashes of light echoing down the ages.

So, I was moved nearly to tears when our delightful guest speaker, Clarissa Farr, the High Mistress of St Paul's Girls School, closed her speech with a poem by Elizabeth Jennings, who coincidentally also attended St Anne's College. It is called Delay.


The radiance of the star that leans on me
Was shining years ago. The light that now
Glitters up there my eyes may never see,
And so the time lag teases me with how

Love that loves now may not reach me until
Its first desire is spent. The star's impulse
Must wait for eyes to claim it beautiful
And love arrived may find us somewhere else.

In 500 years time a young undergraduate at St Anne's College, Oxford will receive a letter telling them that they have been awarded the Jim Stanfield Memorial Fund bursary in honour of a wonderful man and in their own way will think "The radiance of the star that leans on me was shining years ago"