I went to a Buckinghamshire library the other day to talk about my new book. It was a good night, chatting Professor Brian Cox. That's who I wrote about - an unauthorised biography of the science guru behind Wonders Of The Solar System and Wonders Of The Universe.
I was asked what conclusions I have come to about the man himself. My answer? Nice guy, intelligent guy, brilliant communicator. Someone wondered whether I thought he would win a Nobel prize. I said no. They looked a little disappointed.
Writing an unauthorised biography is a peculiar thing, especially if the person you're writing about isn't a megalomaniac. The recent book about Simon Cowell was ostensibly unauthorised, but writer Tom Bower got hours of access to Cowell and he even turned up to the book launch. Cox knows about my book - we've exchanged a few brief, personable emails - but he's never going to endorse me. There's nothing in there that's particularly damaging to him, but he'll want to write his own one day I'm sure and he's holding stuff back. I don't blame him.
So what other conclusions did I come to? Well, while it seems as though Professor Cox dropped out of the sky into the laps of science-lovers the world over, that's not really the case. Frankly, in my experience as an entertainment journalist of more than 12 years, most celebrities have been trying to be such for longer than you realise. That's not to say Cox is merely hellbent on being famous. No, I simply mean he's thought about being a television star further back than his mega-success in 2010.
I've tried to find his early appearances on proto-broadband internet TV channel Network Of The World (apparently still broadcast in China) but to no avail. Please do contact me if you find something.
Still, it's been a fun project. I can talk intelligently but VERY briefly about the Law of Entropy. I've listened to mediocre but hard-working Northern rock (he was in a band called Dare in the late 80s/early 90s for far longer than his supposed attachment to D:Ream). And I've been to a lecture about quantum physics.
Plus, I'm the only person in my group of friends who actually knows what the Higgs Boson is. But then most of my friends did Humanities at university.
I would like to do an authorised biography some time soon. But then how would I end up eating dim sum in a Chinese restaurant opposite the Manchester science block in the rain?
The Wonder Of The Brian Cox... is out now.