In case you may not have heard, British broadcaster and former Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman gave a lecture and book signing of his bestselling book, Empire, Wednesday afternoon on Highfield campus.
The book in question was chosen for 2014 as part of the University of Southampton’s new initiative ‘One Book, One Southampton’ to engage the student community through reading. I was lucky enough to attend the book signing that took place in the Lattes cafe in Building 32, which was positively buzzing with students and Southampton staff. The queue was packed with Paxman admirers all grasping onto a copy of his book Empire: What Ruling The World Did To The British, which studies the history of (you guessed it) the British Empire and the leading figures that shaped it.
My luck peaked tremendously after waiting for what seemed an eternity in a tiny queue for those who didn’t quite make the ticket sale but hallelujah – we made the cut! I mean ‘wow, a lecture with Jeremy Paxman’ I kept thinking, the thought whirling round my head like a dog chasing its tail. But if you cannot appreciate the privilege of being lectured by a man who has had a distinguished career in journalism, has travelled vastly around the world and interviewed a myriad of political figures, cultural personas and influential characters, then I must sympathise a tad or two.
The lecture itself, I care to mention, was an excellent talk that opened the mind to a course of incredible, thought provoking facts and notions surrounding the moulding of the British Empire and its mind-boggling history. Paxman, educated at St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge, question master of University Challenge and something of a journalistic icon, shared his knowledge of the Empire and all its trials and tribulations; from the playboy aristocracy that built it to the various wars that resulted from countries under Britain’s Imperial rule.
The lecture ended with questions from the audience, one of whom demanded which of Paxman’s interviewees was considered his favourite. Paxman paused for a moment and, after stating whether or not he actually had a ‘favourite interview’, he considered the Dalai Lama to be one of the most inspiring and amusing interviews he had ever taken.
Jeremy told a small anecdote of how the Dalai Lama had brought with him a small purple canvas bag, whom the latter referred to as his ‘bag of treasures’. After the interview, as Paxman was speaking with his producer, the Dalai Lama peered his head around the door stating that he had lost his ‘bag of treasures’ and wondered if they could offer him assistance in retrieving it. Paxman found it hiding underneath the table in the studio where the interview had taken place, and the Dalai Lama was so delighted he insisted Paxman have one of his ‘treasures’.
And what was it? A glorious, luxurious sweet wrapped in gold. That’s right, it was a classic Werther’s Original. I don’t think you can go one better than that.