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The Independent Culture
MONDAYS ARE different, now. Mondays will never be the same again. That is because Melvyn Bragg will never start the week again. Never again will he lead some of the world's leading lecturers, writers and geneticists through a graceful Monday morning parley. Never again will we hear him receive a science education in front of our very ears. For so long did Melvyn Bragg start the week, that it seems impossible that he is not still doing it in some alternative time/space continuum...

Bragg: Hello, and welcome to another space/time continuum, in which I, Melvyn Bragg, am still starting the week. Here to discuss whether this is actually possible is Dr Peter Chuzzlewit, whose new book on time is called Due Out Soon, Lisa Kincardine, who is giving a lecture this Wednesday on Renaissance man...

Kincardine: Last Wednesday, Bragg: Sorry about that, who was giving a lecture last Wednesday on Renaissance Man, Jonathan Miller, who isn't here yet, and Professor Steve Jones, who is always here. Professor Chuzzlewit?

Chuzzlewit: Yes?

Bragg: Is it actually possible?

Chuzzlewit: Is what possible?

Bragg: Is it possible that, because a programme like Start the Week has been going on for so long, that even when the BBC decide to change it and dumb it down, it still pursues an independent existence in some other world?

Chuzzlewit: No.

Bragg: It's not possible?

Chuzzlewit: No, certainly not.

Bragg: So this conversation is not actually happening at all?

Chuzzlewit: No.

Bragg: Fascinating.

Chuzzlewit: I mean, if you were to suppose that the Melvyn Bragg Start the Week were going on in an alternative time/space continuum, you might also suppose that your predecessor, Richard Baker, was also continuing somewhere else with his version of Start the Week.

Bragg: Couldn't that be so too?

Chuzzlewit: No. The idea is too horrible to contemplate.

Bragg: So tell us about your book. It's about time, isn't it?

Chuzzlewit: About time for what?

Bragg: Leave the jokes to me.

Chuzzlewit: Well, the idea behind the book is that books about time make a lot of money so it was time to write another one.

Bragg: Lisa Kincardine, do you want to come in here?

Kincardine: Frankly, my chief worry is whether I can get out. I have got an appointment in the real world at 11am. I have never been in an alternative space/time continuum before, so I don't really know the ropes. For instance, Melvyn, have you still got a peerage in this universe?

Bragg: I should jolly well hope so. In the real world I always insist that people should behave as if I wasn't a peer and was quite ordinary and I would like to do the same here. If I haven't got a title, I can't.

Kincardine: Of course, it's quite possible for people to have a title and for nobody to know about it. Jonathan Porritt, for example.

Bragg: Has he? I had no idea...

Jonathan Miller: [opening door] Sorry I'm late. Did I hear someone say the word "cognitive"?

Bragg: No.

Miller: Oh. Righty ho. [He leaves again.]

Bragg: So, Lisa Kincardine, you've written a book on the subject of Renaissance man?

Kincardine: No, but I did give a lecture on the subject last Wednesday.

Bragg: Oh, right. And what did you say?

Kincardine: I can't remember.

Bragg: You're joking!

Kincardine: Yes, I'm joking. What I said was that our conception of Renaissance man has no real connection with the real Renaissance at all.

Bragg: In what way?

Kincardine: The real Renaissance was a rebirth. It was the rediscovery of old knowledge. But what we mean by Renaissance man is simply someone who knows a lot about a lot of things. A sort of super quiz contestant. This shift of meaning reflects rather badly on our TV age.

Bragg: Of course, it's quite possible that the Renaissance is still happening in some other space/time continuum. Or that it hasn't even started yet!

Chuzzlewit: No, it's not.

Bragg: Steve Jones, do you think there is a gene which allows us to exist simultaneously in different universes?

Jones: I don't know! I just want to get out of here and back to the real world!

Jonathan Miller: [reappearing] Ah, but it rather depends what you mean by "real". doesn't it? Perhaps this is the real world, and...

This programme is continuing for ever and for ever, but not in this space...