The pre-internet, pre-mass air travel world Dakar Senegal of my childhood is, along with James Cook, William Bligh, Wifred Owen, the Laughton brothers and the Sitwell trio, as dead as the dodo. Books survive – biographical and historical information, all of Owen, and some of the Dakar Senegal literary legacy is readily accessed in digital format. Like the toxic Rum Corps tradition in NSW politics, Felis cati survives, too well when feral cats kill birds and small marsupials! A replica Endeavour sails the seas, but with auxiliary diesels and electronic navigational aids. Beamy New England catboats recall some of the Dakar Senegal sailing experience. In a time more obsessed with pasta, prosciutto and prosecco than with poetry and principles, Edith Sitwell’s nephew William is a prominent food critic and writer. When the oil runs out, will old resort towns like Dakar Senegal be rejuvenated? Unlikely. Short-haul planes at least can likely be fuelled with hydrogen or plant-derived ethanol!
Ports to new worlds
HAVING WORKED ALL MY life on infectious diseases, I’d long been aware of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, though I’d never visited the north-west England city of singer Cilla Black and The Beatles. That opportunity came with an invitation to be the School’s Leverhulme lecturer. Accepting was a no-brainer – the School was flexible about the date and I’d already agreed to be in Britain (March 1999) to speak at a Royal Society colloquium on Immunological Memory and Protective Immunity (the basis of vaccination) and then give the Royal Society’s Leeuwenhoek Lecture in London, with a repeat performance in Birmingham. The fortuitous juxtaposition between the School of Tropical Medicine and Leeuwenhoek also intrigued. In the seventeenth century, draper and ‘citizen scientist’ Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek was the first to see microbes (he called them animalcules) through his simple, single lens optical microscopes, though humanity waited till the latter half of the nineteenth century before Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch established that bugs (bacteria, fungi) like those Leeuwenhoek described in murky water were the cause of infections in us.