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Why I Wrote wot I Wrote-bookcover

By: Bruce Denness

Why I Wrote wot I Wrote

Pages: 202 Ratings: 5.0
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As Joanna Lumley notes in her preface, Bruce Denness has always trod a precarious path between serious science and philosophical frivolity. The science reached its peak at the British Geological Survey and Newcastle University in the 1970s but even then – and certainly since – he always looked for the funny side of whatever he was involved in, which may explain why his research has seldom been taken seriously.

Bruce was born in 1942 on a farm in the Isle of Wight, where he grew up. His career then took him to the mainland (or England, as it is known on the Isle of Wight) and several countries in the Caribbean, South America and the Far East before he settled back on the Island again in 1984. Experiences gained during those years have contributed to the many letters that Bruce has since had published, mainly in The Telegraph and New Scientist. Admittedly, some of them may also have been influenced by regular visits to The White Horse Inn at Whitwell, Isle of Wight for invigorating Shiraz treatment.

Bruce Denness was born on the Isle of Wight, UK, where he grew up on a farm before graduating as a civil engineer and later becoming an engineering geologist. Subsequent periods at the British Geological Survey and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne enabled him to travel widely at home and throughout the developing world, working on projects ranging from landslip prevention and stabilisation, through coastal pollution prevention and climate forecasting, to optimising ecosystems. Since the early 1980s he has been an independent environmental consultant.

After 50-odd years of publishing scientific papers, Bruce seized on the lockdown imposed by the covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to bring order to his haphazard filing system. Therein he came upon the series of press cuttings of letters that he had written to newspapers and scientific and professional publications that provide the fodder for this mini opus. However, upon re-reading them, it became clear that, in order to still make sense, they required additional background explanation and context. Hence this book.

Freed of the rigid strictures of scientific writing, here Bruce skips merrily through historical events, anecdotes, clichés, and cloudy memories, with scant regard for grammatical niceties. He enjoyed it and hoped you will too.

Customer Reviews
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1 reviews

    The author is a distinguished scientist with an engineering base, who has made his mark in analysing landslides both in this country and throughout the developing world. In addition he constructed a model forecasting the rate of climate change which has proved remarkably accurate so far in its projections. However, if you mention the name of Bruce Denness in his native Isle of Wight, you normally get the rejoinder "Is'nt he the chap who writes letters to the Daily Telegraph?"

    The book is a collection of those letters mainly to the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, but sometimes to scientific journals as well, between the years 2004 to 2020, together with a comment on each letter expressed in an inimitable quirky style which some will find endearing and others irritating. The contents of the letters vary widely. Some are eccentric, displaying a love-hate ( more hate) relationship with his socks, the habits of a much-loved cat, the behaviour of tits nibbling at rusty metal garden furniture, the annual return of a family of Canada geese to a former home and the effects of rape-oil on his wife's bees. Some are tendentious, giving views on modern education and the National Health Service. Others are desperately serious, concentrating on the world threat of climate change and rise in sea levels.

    Denness has never lost his rural upbringing as the son of a small farmer in the Island. Nor has he forgotten the trauma of being a polio victim at the age of 8. Yet he writes throughout with an amused tolerance which most readers will find very engaging.

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