We have been up to Leeds to see middle nephew graduate. The ceremony was quite short compared to Birkbeck, Goldsmiths and the OU, presumably because the 'Great Hall' isn't that large. If I had done a Ph. D. I would have felt short changed because all the other ceremonies I have been to (except Oxford, which doesn't count, obviously) have read out the Ph. D thesis titles. Birkbeck is, I surmise, quite bit on queer theory so there were titles such as '[name of person], Gay and Catholic', which I though had a certain elegance to it.
I don't think I have been to Leeds before, I think I changed trains there once and stuck my head out the front of the station but that was it. In terms of Midland / Northern cities I have seen recently I would tentatively rank them in order of apparent prosperity / confidence from most to least as:
Birmingham, whilst less of a dump than it used to be (TM), badly needs cleaning and painting. Being dragged in as a London suburb by HS2 is not going to help.
Having said that, I am now 99% convinced that it is game over, and HS2 is not going to happen. HS2 is on the roof and it won't come down, to use the old joke. [There was a theory floated on some website / tweet / something, that the management of HS2 Ltd was picked by the Labour (?) government on the basis that (i) they weren't going to get in again (ii) the incoming government would cancel it, therefore they didn't need to pick a good team to run it - don't know of the truth of this, but David Rowlands doesn't look like someone you would pick for your A team to me].
By comparison, I would put Lille in 1st or 2nd place.
Clearly my ranking based on a day in each city is bordering on the meaningless, but no more so than, say, the Mon Oncle magazine list of 25 most liveable cities. I remain convinced that the correct thing to do is to, by means of electronic tags and trained marksmen, to confine the Mon Oncle editorial staff to their winning city, Copenhagen this year, and see how liveable they think it is then.
Having said that, something often draws me to buying Mon Oncle magazine. Like Wired in its heyday it is something that one shouldn't take too seriously but it has a certain something. Certainly the photos are good and well chosen. There is something curiously sexless about the photos though, I don't think 'Mon Oncle man or woman' actually has sex. You may recall that Node, the putative magazine in Spook Country (which turns out, in the novel, to not really exist), is described as being 'a Belgian Wired with better trousers'. I would aspire to producing a 'Mon Oncle for people who actually have sex'.
Meanwhile, I am surprised that the death of James Martin wasn't bigger news http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240187220/James-Martin-Obituary given his donation of large sums of money to Oxford University for the James Martin School Of Slightly Dubious Weird Shit. Apparently he coined the term 'fourth generation language' (certainly Google Books seems to bear this out - only one reference pre-dates his use of it in 1982 and that is clearly mis-dated). I remember one of his books, in the company library in the first place I worked, seemed moderately convincing, though I have a copy of another book - part of the Weasel Collection Of Books On Teletext And Similar - and it is lacking a certain insight, and I cannot help wondering if he got interns / employees to largely write some of the books. I am still not clear which of his companies / company sales made him the money - he clearly had a lot and it is not obvious to me that either was sold at bubble time for bubble valuations.