The Anonymous Widower

The Britons Who Played For The Moon

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article on page 15 of today’s copy of The Times.

This is two paragraphs – – .

The team was organised by John Hodge, who was born in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex and who had previously worked for Vickers Armstrong, which during the Second World War built the Supermarine Spitfire.

Mr. Hodge, now 90, would become a flight director at mission control – the one time that ‘Houston’ spoke with a British accent.

I’ve heard of John before.

Like me, John Hodge went to Minchenden Grammar School and one of our maths’ teachers; George Bullen,when I was doing Further Maths in the Sixth Form, told us the full story of one of his brightest students.

If John had a problem, it was that he couldn’t get a language O-level, which was needed to get to University in the late 1940s.

So he went to Northampton Engineering College, which is now the City University, where the qualification wasn’t needed.

I think George Bullen, with his John Arlott Hampshire accent, probably told us the story of John Hodge for motivation.

This is another paragraph in the article.

Peter Armitage, 90, who grew up in Hable-le-Rice, Hampshire, was also in the Avro group. In 1969 he oversaw the simulator that Neil Armstrong used to learn how to touch down on the moon.

As I remember it, the simulator was a hybrid digital-analogue computer using two PACE 231-R computers as the analogue half.

This picture shows the similar computer, that I worked on at ICI in Welwyn Garden City.

These machines could each solve up to a hundred simultaneous differential equations, in real time, so were ideal for calculating the dynamics of complex systems.

They were some beasts!

From what I read at the time, they were key in bringing the Apollo 13 astronauts home, as they could be quickly reprogrammed, if you were familiar with the dynamic model., as undoubtedly NASA’s engineers were.



July 17, 2019 Posted by | Computing | , , , | Leave a comment

Next Year It’ll Be Fifty Years Since I Left Minchenden

It was in June or July 1965, that I walked out of Minchenden Grammar School in Southgate for the last time.

A lot has happened to me since, some of which is in this blog. Although some tales have been left out to protect the squeamish and the innocent.

I wonder if anybody is organising a fifty years reunion for the Class of 1965 from Minchenden?

Surely, in the true spirit that we learned at the school, we should make 2015 a year to remember!

August 31, 2014 Posted by | World | , | 3 Comments

The Problems In Schools

There has been several stories recently about the problems in schools in places like Birmingham, Bradford and Luton.

What worries me, is that religion is getting in the way of good education.

I went to a mixed non-religious state school, which took a very practical approach to religion and gave everybody who wanted it, a first class education. Science and history, were taught correctly and not with regard to fictitious religious texts.

So in my view religion should only be a lesson in a school and anybody with strong religious beliefs should not be allowed to influence the policy of the school. Schools are for education and not for indoctrination and repression.

The school should be co-educational, as in my view, this is to the benefit of every pupil. Could it be that the reason for the low divorce rate amongst my fellow pupils at Minchenden, is because of the healthy interaction there was at the school between the sexes.

I wonder what would have happened in Northern Ireland if all schools were not allowed to be affiliated to a particular religion!


June 11, 2014 Posted by | World | , , | 4 Comments

Swastikas Everywhere

There is this article about the traditional use of swastikas on the BBC web site. Here’s the first paragraph.

Swastika. The word is a potent one. For more than one billion Hindus it means “wellbeing” and good fortune. For others, the cross with arms bent at right angles will forever symbolise Nazism. Yet England is seemingly awash with swastikas. Why?

I first came across their use in perhaps 1963. Several of us at Minchenden Grammar School were looking at old school magazines from the 1920s and 1930s. We were surprised to see swastikas used to separate paragraphs in some of the articles, in just the same way that you might use asterisks today.

I remember asking my father, who was a letterpress printer about this and he said it was common to use swastikas for this purpose before the symbol’s adoption by the Nazis. But he also said, nobody used it now, so he’d sent all his swastikas to be melted down, as they weren’t needed any more.

March 14, 2014 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Murder At Minchenden

My old school; Minchenden Grammar School in Southgate was a fairly peaceful place most of the time, but last night just down from the school, a murder was committed, as is reported here. When I went to see the Olympic Torch in Southgate, we walked through the area.

April 19, 2013 Posted by | News | , | Leave a comment

To Southgate For a Cup Of Tea

This morning, I took the Piccadilly line to Southgate to try out one of the new Tesco-financed coffee-shops called Harris and Hoole.

The tea was excellent and properly served in a pot.  Note the triple-barrelled tea timer, which could time your tea to exactly 3, 4 or 5 minutes.  If they’d sold them in the shop, I’d have bought one, but they don’t at present.  But they are available on-line from here!

The staff were attentive and if they can replicate this style, the company may have created something like an updated traditional coffee shop, that you still see occasionally in places like Harrogate. It certainly has a better ambience than Starbucks and is laid out with quite a bit of space.

At present, they don’t have any gluten-free offerings, but apparently, they’re working on it. They do though have EatNakd bars.

Overall it’s a good concept and I wish them well, despite the Tesco connection. My allergy to the supermarket chain stems from a business run-in years ago and where there are alternatives I go elsewhere.

In the 1950s and 1960s, when I was at Minchenden Grammar School just up the road, the only coffee bar was the Mayfair a few doors towards Cockfosters from where Harris and Hoole is now.  That place was beloved of teddy-boys and served coffee in those shallow Pyrex cups. It was off-limits during school hours!

January 29, 2013 Posted by | Food | , , , , | 3 Comments

Dwelling On Loneliness

I do think that people will admit that my life can be rather lonely.

Although, as someone, who has often worked alone in his life, my state is little different to where I have been before.

As a child, I used to spend hours with my Meccano or just with my father down at his print works in Wood Green.

I was also very much a solitary programmer for much of my working life. Or if I did work with someone, it was just with one person.  The only time I really had someone to work with was when I was writing software in the few years after I’d left ICI. And that was our third son, George, who used to sit in his chair, whilst I bashed away on an old Teletype. Occasionally, he’d get taken over to Time Sharing in Great Portland Street and sometimes, the girls in the office would take him away and play with him.

I sometimes wonder what happened to all those girls; Maeve, Maggie and and the Australians; Crystal Hendricks and Marie Thorpe.

But then I’ve always discarded friends throughout my life.  only a couple of my school friends are still in touch.  But what happened to Sheena Findley, Susan Portch, Caroline and the other girls from my year at Minchenden?  C was just as clumsy with friends, as her best friend from school, Ruth Mason, is just a name in the past. She got married and moved to Ruislip, but where is she now?

I did bump into my first girlfriend at Liverpool; Marilyn Garland, once at Swiss Cottage, a few years after leaving University. She had a baby then and is probably a granmother now.

Some of the Metier people I still know, as I must have got better at keeping in touch as I got older.

But I never really was a team player, and that has stood me in good sense, since the death of C.

I do many things I want to on my own. And in some ways, I like it that way.Although I do miss the company of a good woman. A bad one would probably be good to!

September 7, 2012 Posted by | Computing | , , , | 1 Comment

Torch Chasing in North London – Southgate

Today, I went to see the Olympic Torch Relay in Southgate, where I went to school at Minchenden.

Unfortunately, a jobsworth wasn;t allowing access to the old school grounds, so all I got was a picture of my first classroom and the wall that kept us all in. So instead, I walked to Southgate Green and watched the torch come through there. Note the Lothian and Borders policeman! Southgate must be one of the cushiest postings in London.

I also made a video of the Olympic Torch Relay as it passed.

I was standing outside Walker School.

July 25, 2012 Posted by | Sport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Route 38 Goes Retro

To celebrate the hundreth anniversary of route 38, Arriva have been running some old buses on the route today. three Routemasters, an RTL, an RTW and a K type are taking part according to this press release from Arriva. All except the elderly K-Type will be accepting passengers. I managed to get some pictures this morning.

I’m not sure whether the RTL was the RTL and not the RTW. It certainly wasn’t the RT which was also rumoured to be taking part. I remember the RTL particularly well, as they worked the 298 from Oakwood to Southgate, when I was going to school at Minchenden.

The RT and its various sub-types can be considered to be London’s first modern bus and the Routemaster was the ultimate example of the front-engined rear-wheel drive bus. The Routemaster was built with an integral aluminium body and two sub-frames to hold the engine and the axles.  It was 0.75 tonne lighter than the RT, despite carrying eight more passengers. No wonder it became a design classic, as the construction of some modern buses, is not as efficient as the sixty year old Routemaster.

Some Routemasters still operate on Heritage routes 9 and 15. Bookmakers don’t take bets on when they will, if ever, be retired.

June 17, 2012 Posted by | Transport | , , | 4 Comments

Ed Milliband Admits He Looks Like Wallace

It’s all here in the Daily Mail.

I suppose it could be worse, if looked like some other cartoon characters.

At least Peter Sallis, who voices Wallace, went to the sane school as I did, Minchenden in North London.

June 8, 2012 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment