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In My Own Time

Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland

Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland

Books

- With 19 higher education principals and two small boys to look after, "my own time" is at a premium. What I would like to do with my time is write a series of phenomenally successful historical novels of ideas. A relatively select number of readers have discovered my initial attempts. Rosslyn Blood was fun, set at the interface between public affairs, biotechnology and all the daftness about the mysteries of Rosslyn Chapel. The Unbelievers did quite well here and in the US. It's set in 1860s Edinburgh as someone murders their way (for good reasons) through Scotland's richest family. Current demands have restricted my output, though. I'm as likely to read history as fiction; history is fascinating as you see how people, in every generation, tell themselves different stories about how they and their tribeclassnation fit into the world, and how that affects their actions with vast consequences for war or peace, poverty or prosperity. The last book I read was Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

Film

- I like a good British war film that shows stoicism, commitment to getting the job done and belief in the ultimate rightness of the cause, despite the conflict it entails. Sort of like a day at the office, really. You can't beat The Cruel Sea, a classic with Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, Denholm Elliott and Virginia McKenna.

TV

- I'd like to say something clever here, but the honest answer is Top Gear. I thought the attempt to fire a Reliant Robin into space was excellent. But I think the finest thing I saw recently was Last Tango in Halifax, with Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid - funny, moving and truthful.

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