I was in the middle of an anecdote about two Nobel Prize winner when the telephone rang. It was a third, Sydney Brenner. I answered, as I always answer the phone “Brown”. This is apparently a syllable that people find hard to parse, for the unmistakeable South African voice at the end of the line said “This is Sydney.”
“Oh. What an unexpected pleasure!”
“Now that the high-water mark of Christmas is over, I just wanted to thank you for the bottle of whisky you sent me for Christmas.”
“But I didn’t”, I said. I hadn’t actually spoken to him since the grand worm festival in September, when he told me that there were 24 errors of fact in the worm book, but declined to name any of them.
He asked how my Christmas had been, grumbled about his health, and said how nice it had been of me to visit. At this point, I asked whether he was really trying to talk to Andrew Brown, and he said no. He must have misdialled. There was a sticky pause, and he hung up without much ceremony.
After that, I was so affected that I got a nosebleed.