These stairs have a lot of significance for me. They are at Dartmouth House, just North of Piccadilly, in London’s Mayfair district. There you will find the home of the English-Speaking Union. The ESU is a charity that has an interesting history, all based on promoting friendship, communion and understanding amongst the English-Speaking nations and people of the world. This might seem an odd thing to build an organization on, but it might make more sense if you read the history. In any case, there are so many organizations of all sorts doing things, and in the scheme of things this is as good a reason as any to bring people together. The ESU administers a number of grants, fellowships, and scholarships, among other things, and one of them is the Lindemann fellowship. It is a one year postdoctoral stipend that you can get fresh out of your PhD, and it is designed to give young people a taste of America. It is highly competitive (only a couple are given out each year), and the final decision is made on the basis of an interview. You come up these stairs, all nervous and under stress since it is probably the first major interview upon which your career might depend, and the surrounding fancy parts of London may have helped make it all weigh a bit on your mind. You wait at the top of the stairs near the piano and listen for your name to be called and then you are ushered into the room and put in front of the interview panel.
I know this since I was here in 1992, being interviewed. I had set my sights on Continue reading ‘The Scary Stairs’