Yesterday, I returned to the Royal Institution to take part in the family day. I must admit that I was not too keen as I had just completed my first week back in full time lecturing, had a bunch of deadlines and would have preferred a peaceful saturday to deal with domestic things. Not to mention that it was -8c when I poked my nose out the door in the morning to catch an early train to London and the forecast was for worse to come. Still, I had promised the Ri that I would take part in the event where families can bring their children along to the Ri to listen to lectures, take part in demonstrations and look at the exhibits. Some of my Twitter followers had even tweeted that they were coming along so I felt I had to make the effort. I hadn’t even prepared a lecture but thought I would ad lib. I wasn’t even sure that anyone would turn up.
So I was really pleased to see about 500 families with children from tiny toddlers right up to teenagers. Some of them had even been to the actual Christmas Lectures but wanted to come back again. It was strange to be the centre of attention again. I signed autographs and had my picture taken with the kids. One young teenager had even memorized the periodic table and wanted to recite it back to me – which she did whilst being filmed by her proud parents. However, the sweetest child who stole my heart was Rose who rushed up to me and handed me her drawing of the brain and a letter about how much she liked the lectures.
The Christmas lectures had been great fun for everyone but I was unaware of the impact that they had had on the children. Of course, the ones who attended were excited by all the cameras and action but I did not appreciate that children at home would be inspired. The parents came telling me how grateful they were. It was deeply moving. And to think that I was not so sure about coming. Never again.