When Crotchety Man was a student studying biochemistry in the early seventies the class turned up for a series of laboratory practicals to be told that we were getting a new supervisor. For the next few weeks, instead of the fully qualified doctor of philosophy we had expected, they had appointed a ‘demonstrator’ who was expected to be awarded her DPhil¹ later that year.
No reason for the switch was given but we were assured that the more junior member of staff was fully up to the job and no objections were raised. It probably helped that she was a pretty, soft-spoken young woman who seemed almost as nervous about running a few practicals as we were about doing them to the required standard. The young Crotchety Man certainly regarded her appointment as a bonus.
Our supervisor was introduced as Liz Press. That’s an unusual surname and it prompted one or two remarks. One of the other undergraduate students had come across Miss Press before and he was able to tell us a little more. Liz, of course, is short for Elizabeth and her middle initial was ‘M’; so our supervisor that term was E. M. Press.
There was some speculation about her parents’ motive for what we assumed was a deliberate choice of initials. Did they really hope she would one day rule an empire? Or did they, perhaps, think that saddling her with a funny name would, like the boy named Sue, help to build a strong character? In the end we concluded that they simply thought it amusing and it couldn’t do any harm.
I was reminded of the lovely Miss Press when I came across this tune from a band called L’Impératrice, which is French for ’empress’. The track is called Là-Haut, which I think means ‘yonder’, but it really doesn’t matter because this is a slowish dance/groove instrumental that gets the hips swaying and the mind carelessly wandering wherever it will go.
Là-Haut is one of those tracks that comes from a foreign country but strays far enough beyond the borders of the artist’s usual material that it infiltrates the Crotchety Kingdom. On the whole there’s too much disco over yonder in the realm of L’Impératrice to appeal this side of the Channel. But I very much like Là-Haut. And I do like that Parisian hat.
Dark Blue Note
- Oxford University uses the abbreviation DPhil instead of the more usual PhD for Doctor of Philosophy and it awarded Crotchety Man a Batchelor of Arts degree even though biochemistry is very much a science subject. It’s a peculiar institution.