Monday, 30 September 2013

"The geese that laid the golden eggs...


After World War Two, Winston Churchill described the code breakers at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire as the geese, and added ... but never cackled."


To this day many of the people who worked at Bletchley Park during the war still keep their secrets. In fact, all the activities that took place there were kept secret for many years after the war - even including the existence of the building itself. So it was sad to hear that The Churchill Rooms at Bletchley Park are due to be closed at the end of the year. The new chief executive has stated that Sir Winston Churchill 'is not synonymous with the code breakers work'.
Last Sunday, together with Jane, Brian and my young friend, I visited this wonderful place. I have a special interest in Bletchey - especially the Churchill Collection - where I donated six miniature portraits of the great man, illustrating his life from a small boy to that of Elder Statesman. My good friend, Jack Darrah, who over the many years since the war has built this vast collection to what it is today, welcomed us.


I understand that the reason for the imminent demise of the Churchill Collection is a condition laid down by the Heritage Fund who are funding the restoration of some of the historical huts on the site. As the government failed to help finance this true beacon of wartime intelligence it is gratifying that funds have now been made available. However Jack informed me that all is not lost as the collection will be housed in its entirety in Missouri. Although in the USA, Missouri's connection with Sir Winston Churchill is well known as it was there, in Fulton, that Churchill made his famous 'Sinews of Peace' speech. Better known as 'The Iron Curtain' speech he made it in front of a crowd of 40,000 people. This extract gives you a flavour of the mood at the time. "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent".
So, back to Bletchley Park. The most famous cryptologist working there during the war was undoubtedly Alan Turing, the mathematician and computer scientist. Today there is a beautiful, slate, full size rendering of this man - sometimes referred to as the inventor of the computer.


He developed the 'Bombe' an electromechanical device used by the cryptologists in Bletchley Park to help decipher German Enigma machine encrypted secret messages. Each of the rotating drums in this working rebuilt Bombe simulates the action of an Enigma rotor. Here is a close up photograph of some of the drums.


And here is an original Enigma machine captured during the war.


What an interesting day we all had.

The summer is still lingering on and the river beckons as always, so on Saturday afternoon I felt able to handle my dinghy once more and as my young friend has just about recovered from her fall, we decided to take Marsh Midget out for an hour or so. I must be getting old as having removed the cover I slipped off the seat to land up spread eagled on the bottom of the boat and unable to get up! This little illustration demonstrates my dilemma.


The more I wriggled upright the more the boat slid forward and made me slip down again. This went on for quite a while with my young friend having a good laugh from her vantage point on the landing stage. We discovered the solution eventually which was to tie both ends of the dinghy very tightly to the mooring posts so I could use my arms to heave myself up and back onto the seat! And yesterday we took the big boat out with my young friend at the helm most of the way back from Hambleden lock.

The opening of my exhibition is rapidly approaching and all the elements are slowly being assembled. Last Friday I decided on the printer for the 24 page catalogue. They have offered to create a link to my web page which will enable viewers to turn the pages of the catalogue. I'll have it running by mid November.

On Friday evening my young friend and I went to the annual Hennerton Backwater Bash in the grandstand of Phyllis Court. Just along from where I live is a two mile backwater to the Thames. I've often talked about it on my blog, but this 'bash' is in fact a lovely dinner attended by sixty or seventy riparian dwellers. During the dinner a quiz takes place. Our table didn't win, but we avoided disgracing ourselves. At the end of the evening we held the famous frog racing championship. I hastens to add that no frogs were harmed during the evening. ( Six frog handlers sit about ten yards opposite six others with strings stretching all the way along the floor. A big flat wooden 'frog' is then strung on to the string. Participants have to wiggle the frog with the string until it reaches the other end.) Great fun.

I have been busy painting as usual. Here is my latest watercolour - it's of a white tiger we saw in Singapore and a photograph (taken by my young friend) was used as reference.


Now the Henley Literary Festival has started, and today being the first day, I attended two events - Stella Remington - the first female Director of MI5 gave a riveting talk this morning at the Kenton Theatre, and Barry Norman, the well-known TV film personality spoke movingly about his wife and their respective literary careers in the afternoon.

1 comment:

Wes and Rachelle Siegrist said...

Hi Bill,
It sounds like you had a splendid time at the Backwater Bash, and the "frog Race" sounds like loads of fun! Your new painting of the White Tiger is beautiful! I hope you enjoy a lovely fall.
Love and hugs :-)
Rachelle