Author Archives: Alex

The Route Masters need a new map

Last week I watched the BBC’s ‘The Route Masters’, a series which has attempted to profile the roads side of Transport for London (TfL) in similar style to that given to their Tube cousins last year. It took until episode five before we finally reached an episode on ‘The Future’ which covered cycling. So, what kind of approach are the BBC taking to talking about cycling? And how much of this is a reflection of the institutional TfL view of it?

EyeTVSnapshot[189]

First mention of cycling comes from Michelle Dix of TfL – “we want to encourage people to use public transport, or of course cycle”

EyeTVSnapshot[190]

And of course we get a motorist chatting back from behind the wheel – “how to get people out of their cars, I don’t know whether you can.” We then see some enforcement of yellow box junctions via CCTV and police catching drivers using waste ground beside a dual carriageway to escape a jam via a backstreet. “Drivers are not the only ones who are breaking the rules to speed up their journeys”, says the strangely sober voiceover and off we go to the cyclists section.

EyeTVSnapshot[91]

We start with an aerial shot of cyclists negotiating a multi lane gyratory, this is legal.

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Funny Little Plans

Just over a year ago, I reached a decision. I’d spent the best part of a decade working for Waterstone’s and I decided that for whatever reason the magic had gone and it was time for me to leave.

Of course, I then promptly got hired by Apple and spent a year doing maternity cover. So all those plans went on hold, but with that over I’m back into the pile of ideas and trying to strike on with a few things. I’ve already blogged about one of those, my attempt to write up the family history into something more biographical (and perhaps even fact checked for accuracy). There are some other little plans, so I have F Yeah! Dead Imprints! back up and running as I delve through my bookshelves.

Anyway, I’ll be on here from time to time craving your indulgence for whatever’s taken my fancy. For those of you in the book trade, I will be floating around the London Book Fair (as I was advised to a year ago!) and you can of course nag me if you want to catch up there.

Delving into the Past

At Christmas a couple of years ago, I sat down one morning decided it was time to start writing down what my parents knew of their parents history. They were all gone by then, but it struck me that there was much of their lives I had never known. The scant facts I knew could be fascinating; my maternal grandmother was at Bletchley, my paternal father worked on radar during WW2. However, due to lives cut short there were never any great tales told to me of ‘what happened in the war’ on my mum’s side, and neither they nor my father’s parents indulged in what they perhaps saw as boasting whilst alive.

The notes I took that first attempt were short, and filled with questions. Did Granny Good go to Bletchley in ’41 or ’42? How did she get there? Where did Grandfather Good serve in the war? How did he meet some of the more famous people mum remembers from her childhood? There were no answers to hand. I decided that it was probably about time someone try to write more of the history down and test it against the remaining evidence, and grudgingly I realised that someone was me. A good part of this also needed to involve scanning and archiving what remains into a digital form, not least so that I can study it when I’m not at my parents.

So in the middle of March I sat down at my parents and started to look through everything. The good thing is that both my mum and her ancestors kept a lot. The bad thing is that with one thing and another we’ve never gone through them. The rough initial inventory was one old suitcase stuffed full of correspondence, two boxes full of slides, and another couple of boxes of photographs. Setting up to start archiving and reviewing all of this I realised I was missing the scanner power supply. Off we went rifling under beds and in drawers and before we knew it we found some old notebooks and a large wallet. I open the wallet and look through, in seconds I’m holding a letter complete with this passage:

Bletchley vacancies

Yes – typical – in about half an hour of effort for the first time I have a clear letter that lets us know when and how my granny made it to Bletchley. And it’s been sat in a drawer of a room I’ve slept in several times for many years. Irritating and yet rewarding to have finally found it, though there was plenty more. No diary to clear everything up, but plenty of scattered fragments to help fill in the details. Having known less about him, my grandfather’s surviving wartime documents were even more interesting. There were sections of his naval history, and plenty of notes on radar, but it was his photos of Bermuda and his radar work that fascinated me.

Bermuda Radar Device John Good relaxing on Bermuda

So very quickly, I had all of my war questions answered. I knew where they were and when, and I now know what threads to follow up to see if I can get more detail. All told I wound up with a few hundred photos, and a few hundred pages of correspondence to review, more than enough to keep me busy before I even try to look into official archives. Now to draft up the first version of a biographical history.