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Hans Rosling and the John Snow Society

Books + Ideas, — September 2011

Last week Camilla and I went into London with two of her colleagues, to listen to Hans Rosling deliver the 2011 Pumphandle talk of the John Snow Society, "Epidemiology for the Bottom Billion - where there is not even a pump handle to remove!".

The talk was excellent - Rosling is a fantastic speaker - and well worth a listen if you're at all interested in public health or demographics. Afterwards we went along to the John Snow pub for the society AGM, which they got through with impressive speed. (Our connection with the society is through its president, Paul Fine, who is an old family friend, and we've maintained the web site for many years.)

We would have hung around to talk to people, but Camilla and I had to get up at an ungodly hour the following morning to drive to Portsmouth to get the ferry to Caen, so the four of us headed to Chinatown where we had dinner in the excellent Beijing Dumpling.

The train in and out of London was effortless, and Liz showed us how to take the right exit out of Paddington for the Hammersmith & City line and then guided us from Euston to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The train is a bit more expensive than the bus (if you want an open return) but faster and more comfortable, so I think this will be my preferred way of getting to London in future.


  1. I did learn a little of John Snow, I think, in a TV doco. drama called Seven Engineering Wonders of the World.

    There is another John Snow whom I had seen in action with Ray Illingworth's conquering Test side at the SCG almost forty years ago. He was not the fastest, but he knew how to intimidate and rattle the batsmen. That was one commentator's remark.

    Comment by DL — September 2011
  2. No further comments ? I'll take up on your train ride to London.

    I'm a fan of train travel. An air of anticipation precedes each long distance train journey I take. It is something I don't get flying. I remember the scene of a roaring, glowing, flickering log fire in the waiting room of a country train station in a cold, dark, early winter morning. The feeling of warmth, sense of cosiness, security, intimacy, and contentment is not found in any airport departue hall or VIP lounge. The old world travel is now lost.

    I don't get to travel by train as often as I'd like to. When I am touring China, my preferred mode of transport is by rail. It is reliable, inexpensive, and the network quite extensive. China's railway is the big people mover. The big cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, Guangzhou had not one. two,but three or more rail heads to move the people especially during the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival when over 200 million people are on the go. http://acidcow.com/pics/6316-crowded-train-stations-in-china-22-pics.html

    I was in Shanghai with my daughter last November. We had two train trips, one, a long overnight journey to one of the country's major attractions, the Yellow Mt. or Huangshan. The station we boarded the train is fairly new. It is bland but functional. Outside the station, there is a big mustering area for the busy seasons. Inside the station, there is not one or two, but six cavernous waiting rooms. You get a sense of the enormity of the task to move the people.

    I took note of the little things I saw on the train and in the stations. For example, in every waiting room, there is hot water provided for drinking purposes. In some trains , there is a conductor in every carriage and a hot water urn for that cup noodle or bottomless cup of tea. Most regular travellers carry a cylindrical drinking vessel for such a purpose.

    I was at a big, busy interchange in Guangzhou ( Canton ), where the railway meets the Metro, city route and long distance buses. The scene seemed chaotic. It was not even the peak season.

    I am planning for my next trip in November. I'll probably fly to Beijing, then by rail to Xian for a close encounter with the terracotta warriors, and on to a more remote section of the Great Wall, Jiayuguan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiayuguan_%28pass%29 , I might have to go alone because I can't find a travel companion.

    One day, I'll give Eurorail a try. I think it is too clinical for my liking. I like the hurly-burly of a lively train journey.

    Comment by DL — September 2011
  3. I've never used Chinese trains, but we just got back from a trip to Paris using the Eurostar and that went really smoothly. I think trains are definitely the way to go getting around Europe - or at least Western Europe, from the UK.

    Comment by danny — September 2011

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