A lecture with obstacles.
In memory of Professor Tom Whitehead, Birmingham, UK, who passed away in October this year
In the late 1970s and early 1980s Gerald Siest released some of his impressive energy in organising fabulous conferences for his European and overseas colleagues in the Abbey of Pont-a-Mousson, France. One year the contingent from the United Kingdom included Tom Whitehead, international clinical chemist if any, always smiling and full of stories, some of which have appeared in this column.
Many of us including Tom were accommodated in a wing to the monastery, where a bathroom was shared between two bedrooms and could be entered from either side. One evening after a fluid meal the idea came up that we should play a practical joke on Tom, who had an excellent sense of humour. A strategy was worked out. The person sharing the bathroom with Tom should take a late shower and then block the bathroom for Tom, expecting that he would be back late from his supper. Our doubts about the practicality of the joke were quickly dispersed, when it was discovered that there were plenty of cardboard boxes in the exhibition area and it was felt that the exhibitors would only be too happy to find their rubbish removed when they arrived in the morning. After several raids into the exhibition hall Tom's bathroom was soon tightly packed with boxes from floor to ceiling, wall to wall, and we all went to bed. Next morning we listened to Tom's excellent but uncharacteristically muted presentation.
At tea break the colleague, sharing bathroom with Tom, said that he had heard muffled sounds coming from the other side both during the night and before the start of the morning session. However, the soundproofing provided by the cardboard boxes had prevented him from deciphering the spoken words.
Recollected by Magnus Hjelm