John F. Allen's Blog at

30th July 2020

Two minutes on the Boring Billion

Filed under: About science,Diary,Not extinct — John Allen @ 8:53 pm

Poster presentation for Microbiology@UCL,28th July.

10th July 2020

Beautiful baby boy born in Bern

Filed under: Diary — John Allen @ 3:55 pm

On March 8th, 2020.

I find few words to describe here my feelings on the birth of Aaron. A son to Sarah and Mariusz. Our grandson.

Carol and I drove to Bern so that Sarah would have her mother around, before and after. Aaron was born about ten days later than originally predicted, though clearly only a few days beyond term. 4040 g; 55 cm.

“Beautiful” is my value judgment, of course. Just occasionally in life one can surely be permitted to present opinion as fact.

There is a lifetime of thoughts on which to reflect. After months of hesitation, concern for privacy and so on, here are a few photos. This grandfather is as proud as can be, not just of the wonderful little man himself, but of the close and loving relationship between Sarah and Aaron, and between Sarah and Carol. We must have done something right.

Aaron is 15 hours old. Sarah is as tired, and as happy, as can be.
With proud father, and half-sister, Sophie. The nurse wears face protection; Switzerland was on the ball with Covid-19. The staff were wonderful. Bern University Hospital was outstanding in every respect.

We had to leave the day before Sarah and Aaron were discharged from hospital. March 11th, my own mother’s birthday. So day one is all I’ve seen of Aaron in real life, though photos and live video calls have been a blessing. We are planning a return visit in a few weeks’ time.

Sarah with Aaron at one month, 8th April.
Sarah with Aaron at two months, 8th May.
Aaron at three months, 5th June.
19th July. In Switzerland, face coverings are obligatory on public transport.

Beautiful baby boy born in Bern

Returning from Bern, 11-12 March

Filed under: Diary — John Allen @ 11:05 am
Charging points seem to be on offer…
…but there is only one…
…and it is out of order. It was the same in each of our sample of service stations. Electric vehicles crossing France between UK and Switzerland? The infrastructure is just not in place.

Récharge Véhicule Electrique?

Another service station, near Dijon, again had just one designated EV parking bay. It was sad-looking, and unoccupied. A cable had obviously been laid, under a pedestrian pathway, between the charging point and a Cummings diesel generator adjacent to a large metal fuel tank. The generator was running and emitting diesel fumes. The charging point had an informative panel with a map of France, and, I assume, details of how to use it. The instructions were obscured by a single A4 paper sheet, taped on. The sheet bore a simple message in large, bold letters – PAS DE SERVICE.

In Bern, February to March 2020

Filed under: Diary — John Allen @ 10:54 am

An update. These are travel photos. Interesting, for us at least, but not the life-changing news to be described in a subsequent post.

The Aare
Sarah and Carol on a day out in Interlaken
Carol with mountains
Neubrücke and the Aare
Looking across the Aare from Bremgarten to the footpath on the South side of the river. When you take that path, you wonder at first what huge device is shaking the footway, and you. It is soon clear you’ve been crossing the efflux from a hydroelectricity generating station. Nice.

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