The best and worst presents you’ve ever received?
Presents are enormously significant to children who are not spoiled. As a child, I received them only on my birthday and at Christmas. The one that gave me the greatest satisfaction was either my first Action Man (my sons find this baffling) or a paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings. The worst present—which I received as an adult—was an outrageously expensive Swiss watch made by IWC that caused me anxiety for years until, eventually and predictably, it was stolen.
Are things getting better or worse?
Some things better, others worse. By the material measures my friend Steve Pinker collects, things are mostly getting better. However, our capacity for self-destruction grows greater every day.
What is the most embarrassed you’ve ever been?
When I misspelt the word “embarrassed” in front of the entire Glasgow Academy at a school version of Mastermind—with Magnus Magnusson in the chair. I shall never live it down.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
That I am an introvert driven into the public sphere by economic circumstances.
If @nfergus could spend a day in one place at one moment in history, where and when would that be?
“I’d quite like to pop up in the cabinet room on 2nd August 1914, and give a brief but shocking presentation.”https://t.co/I0M9ULIFvb
— Prospect Magazine (@prospect_uk) April 27, 2019