Mum and dad on Highway

A couple of weeks ago I sent a bunch of video cassettes to Digital Converters to be converted to a digital format that I could view and edit on my PC.

Among the cassettes was one featuring this episode of Highway featuring my mum and dad.

Highway, presented by Sir Harry Secombe, was a British TV series that was broadcast between 1983 and 1993 and produced by Tyne Tees Television in Newcastle upon Tyne. It was a religious broadcast that featured religious songs, readings and interviews with people about their faith, lifestyle and how they feel God has been at work in their lives.

I can’t remember when this was broadcast—1988 or 1989 maybe? (I’ll have to ask Mum.) After his haemorrhages he had a portion of his skull removed as it had become badly infected and a couple of years later was replaced with a plastic plate wired in with titanium. After removing the portion of skull, it left an indentation that was large enough for Dad to fit his whole fist into. This broadcast was clearly after the restorative surgery, but you can still clearly see the scar down the middle of his forehead.

During the interview with Sir Harry, Dad spoke about how he encountered God after having a triple subarachnoid brain haemorrhage in early 1983. You hear how his voice still stumbles over some words in the video.

This is one of only three recordings that I have of my dad who died in January 1998.

Happy 72nd birthday dad

Dad and me in 1971
Dad and me in 1971

Today would have been my dad’s 72nd birthday.

If he had still been alive and healthy, I wonder what I would have bought him for this birthday…

Dad loved watching Scottish rugby (he would have been very animated watching today’s six nations match against France). He loved motor sports—bikes or cars, it didn’t really matter, although he had practical, hands-on experience of bike racing when he was younger.

At one point he was very much into building models of motorbikes, and his early love of steam railways led to him collecting 00-gauge Hornby models with a long-term plan of converting the old wash-house built next to our house into a room for his model railway.

He sang and acted, he played bagpipes, and he used to enjoy sitting on the edge of my bed listening to Queen, especially “Radio Ga Ga”.

I wonder what he’d have been into now had he not died at the age of 52.

Happy birthday dad, I love you.

Return to Childhood

Misplaced Childhood by Marillion
Misplaced Childhood by Marillion

Yesterday the prog rock concept album Misplaced Childhood by Marillion (then fronted by Fish) turned 30.

Thirty?! How old does that make me feel?

I remember the summer that it came out. My cousins Alan and Colin were into Marillion, I recall, which is what put them on my radar.

During the summer of 1985 my family went on holiday to Guernsey in the Channel Islands. It was an extravagance and looking back my favourite get-right-away holidays while I was a kid: it was a fabulous experience. We were, I recall, in part celebrating that my dad had survived three brain haemorrhages in the spring of 1983 (“Beware the Ides of March!”).

I remember standing outside the John Menzies in St Peter Port gazing at a window display that included a large cardboard cut-out of the boy from the cover. The whole thing captured my imagination: the artwork, the title, even the name of the band (Marillion is a shortening of the Tolkien collection The Silmarillion).

It wasn’t until a few years later before I actually listened to the album. It’s still one of my all-time favourite albums, and by a long margin my favourite Marillion album.

Happy birthday.

Day 4: A song that makes you sad #30dsc

30 day song challenge day 4: A song that makes you sad

Peter Gabriel—Father, Son

(I wanted to embed the official video but wasn’t able to; you can watch it on YouTube.)

I love this song but it always brings tears to my eyes when I listen to it.

It was written by Peter Gabriel about his father Ralph while on a weekend-long yoga trip. These are the lyrics:

Father, son
Locked as one
In this empty room
Spine against spine
Yours against mine
Till the warmth comes through

Remember the breakwaters down by the waves
I first found my courage
Knowing daddy could save
I could hold back the tide
With my dad by my side

Dogs, plows and bows
We move through each pose
Struggling in our seperate ways
Mantras and hymns
Unfolding limbs
Looking for release through the pain

And the yogi’s eyes are open
Looking up above
He too is dreaming of his daddy’s love
With his dad by his side
Got his dad by his side

Can you recall
How you took me to school
We couldn’t talk much at all
It’s been so many years
And now these tears
Guess I’m still a child

Out on the moors
We take a pause
See how far we have come
You’re moving quite slow
How far can we go
Father and son

With my dad by my side
With my dad by my side
Got my dad by my side
With me

What makes me sad is when I listen to this song is simply that I couldn’t enjoy a longer relationship with my own dad. He died when he was 52 years old, having had a triple sub-arachnoid brain haemorrhage at the age of 38.

I hope that I can have long and meaningful relationships with my three sons.

The Photon Connection

Poster for The Photon Connection
Poster for The Photon Connection, the 1982/83 IEE Faraday Lecture presented by STC.

In 1982-83 Standard Telephones and Cables Plc (STC) marked the start of its centenary celebrations (1883-1983) by presenting the annual IEE Faraday Lecture.

The IEE Faraday Lecture was founded in 1924 to commemorate the life and work of Michael Faraday. As a pioneer in the field of electricity and electromagnetism, his work laid the foundation for many of today’s advances in technology.

At the time my father worked for Exacta Circuits Ltd in Selkirk, which was owned by STC. Dad was one of only eight people selected to present the lecture. Other lecturers included Sir Kenneth Corfield and David Brown (now Sir David and chairman of Motorola). It was a real priviledge for Dad to present it.

Dad presented the first lecture at the Usher Hall, here in Edinburgh on 5 October 1982. I got special permission to miss school to travel up from Selkirk to be there in the audience — mostly school pupils and students — for the matinee performance. I loved it and got to go backstage afterwards, meet the crew and I even got a few souveniers, which I still have. I later made the set in Lego — that’s just how good I rated it — which Dad photographed (using the Kodak-equivalent of a Polaroid camera) and showed it to his fellow lecturers and the backstage crew.

When Dad died there were two things that I wanted of his: a copy his signature (something so personal and unique to him) and his copy of the Faraday lecture that he presented: The Photon Connection. I got both, and I have his autograph bluetacked to my PC monitor right here.

The lecture was about light. It was about how optical communications (optical fibres) would change the way that we communicate, locally and globally. This evening I read it through again — the first time I’ve read through it for about ten years — and it struck me as incredibly far-thinking for a piece of work from 1982.

This is from the conclusion to the lecture:

Photons, not electrons, will connect us. When we master these techniques we shall have a resource limited only by our own imagination. And our imagination is already at work.

We know that we shall not just talk on the phone, but talk and see each other, too. Send pictures.

… Send data as far and as fast as we wish. Run dangerous processes from a safe distance.

We’ll shop from home if we like. Order our goods. Pay for them. Book our holiday. Or an evening out. Check our balance in the bank! Vote on vital issues. Receive our newspapers electronically. And our mail. We’ll work, perhaps, from home. We shall have as many television channels as there are human interests.

The disadvantages of distance will diminish. And those of time. We will communicate anything to anyone, anywhere. With all the speed of light.

The World Wide Web wasn’t invented until about 1989, while the Internet had been around for quite a while.

And today we have all of these things. I take some pride that in a small way my Dad was part of bringing this about, and part of spreading the news. He was certainly influential in nurturing my interest in computers, in communications, in information architecture.

If you’d like to read the lecture for yourself, you can download it in PDF format, for which you will require a PDF Reader program such as the free Adobe Reader.