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.

A step change, hopefully without a dismount

Today saw the unveiling of the London Mayor’s (revamped) Vision For Cycling In London. Launched by one Andrew Gilligan (yes, that one) freshly appointed as the Mayor’s £38k a year two day a week cycling commissioner.

The main item being focussed upon in the Evening Standard is the proposed ‘Crossrail for the bike’, a fifteen mile route from Hillingdon to Barking designed to be continuous and largely segregated. In particular people are focussing on the proposed change of use of a lane on the Westway from cars to cycles, it appears my blog was ahead of the curve on this!

Just imagine it, take all the money you’d spend on something like Crossrail (£12bn+?) and for maybe £1bn we could have a suspended cycleway running east to west

My Kinda Westway, February 2008

It might be tight in London, but that shouldn’t mean we can’t find the space for a single dedicated East-West route for bikes. And if we really can’t, why not take the vision of Crossrail into another mode and make something elevated or tunnelled if we must. Cyclists aren’t going to go away.

Lucky Seven, February 2012

This was idle talk five years ago, it was hopeful talk one year ago – it’s a heavily promoted part of a plan today. However, we are not talking about an entirely elevated route such as that mooted as the Skycycle or that I first mentioned. Instead this would reuse an existing part of the Westway which has seen a reduction in motorised traffic and hence space is available for reuse. Continue reading

Twelve great tracks of Twenty-Twelve

Slightly late, but always on time, my music of 2012 posts continue with my favourite tracks. Everything here is new until the end, I’ve weighted the more appealing tracks higher up but skip away, if you like everything on here there’s something wrong with you and if you like nothing on here there’s something terribly wrong with you. Full spotify list is just here folks, links inline with every track for Spotify and iTunes (quick preview on iPad/iPhone etc.).

Frankie Rose – Know Me [Spotify] [iTunes] [YouTube]

I’m not sure you can “waste your time in fiction or rhyme”, but at first I thought this was the lead track off a magnificent debut. Later in the year I realised this was in fact a difficult (or indeed, much improved it seems) second album. “Know me, don’t know me” is my singalong chorus of the year. Continue reading