Category Archives: Travels

Discovering a Martian Fighting Machine

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After my post about the book The Martians Are Coming, and with nothing to do the next afternoon, I jumped on a local train and visited the home town of H G Wells, a place called Woking, Surrey, England.

I endeavour where ever possible, not to take what I am told, given, or learn at face value, unlike the listeners of that radio play by Orson Welles broadcast in 1938 in the USA, which resulted in mass panic, where people thought Martians were invading Earth. I need to dig down, chunk down, to discover more facts, to understand the truth behind what I am being told, what I read, or what I am being fed.
And so it was, after a short journey I left the railway station in Woking. I had read that there was a Martian Fighting Machine described by H G Wells in his book The War Of The Worlds erected in the town center. I walked down a road deserted of shoppers and with not very inspiring shops, having really no idea of which direction to take, only presupposing that any artwork would perhaps be in the town center.
Hawker Hunter Woking

Hawker Hunter Woking

As I rounded a corner my eyes caught sight of a jet fighter mounted on a large metal pole. Why was it mounted in the center of Woking I could not find out from asking local people, only that once it had been a indoor showpiece of the nearby Big Apple family entertainment centre. One window cleaner I talked to, said he had worked and lived in the area for fifteen years and had no idea what it was all about. I have later found out that it is thought to be the very last Hawker Hunter ever built.
Then down the road from the corner of my eye, (thank you Phillip’s Sausage), I saw the Martian Fighting Machine.
Martian Fighting Machine Woking

Martian Fighting Machine Woking

Martian Fighting Machine Micheal Condron

Martian Fighting Machine Micheal Condron

With very little information about the sculpture I took my time viewing this work by Michael Condron. Smaller than I imagined, some 7m (23′) tall, the sculpture seemed to be in the wrong place to honour one of Woking’s greatest authors.
A quick tour of the shops and a cup of hot chocolate and I was back on a train home, not knowing much more than when I started my afternoon trip. But now a little seed has been planted to research why the Hawker Hunter has been placed outside a rather seedy looking Big Apple family entertainment centre.

Fireworks in Kingston upon Thames 2012

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Every year on 5th November, to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, of as it is also known, Bonfire Night, the British people burn rubbish piled high, and on top of the bonfire, we will have a Guy, or a mannequin or dummy, which is the representation of Guy Fawkes.

During the evening when we light the bonfire we will let of lots of fireworks.
It is also tradition that the children will take the “Guy” into the streets, and ask passers-bye “A penny for the Guy“. As a boy, I would collect enough pennies to buy the fireworks for the night, and have great joy in firstly building the “Guy”, and then seeing him burn on the bonfire.
In 1605, a number of conspirators planned to assassinate the then King, James 1, to restore a Catholic monarch to the throne by blowing-up the House of Lords in the Palace of Westminster.
The Gunpowder plot was discovered, and the conspirators arrested. And, it is this that the British celebrate.
Due to health and safety, the population no-longer having gardens capable of having a bonfire, individual households or small groups getting together is now a rare occurrence to have a bonfire, but in Kingston upon Thames, the Rotary Club and Roundtable, get together and organise a large firework display. Along with the local radio station, Radio Jackie, who provide the commutation and music, the local Royal Borough also support the venture.
Amodest entrance fee is charged, and the many hundreds of people enjoy a superb evening of fireworks, and much money is raised to help the local community.
I have produced a small video of the evening, I hope you enjoy it.

Synchronicity, Bletchley Park, History Unfolding

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It was in the 1920’s that the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung first described the the terminology of synchronicity, saying that when two or more events occur together or are linked when there is no apparent reason for them to be linked at that time, things come together by what seems chance, this is synchronicity.

It was early one Sunday morning, the British clock system had been adjusted back to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) that morning, that meant that my clock showed 7:30am, but my body said it was 8:30am, and I had nothing meaningful to do and wide awake.
As a Radio Ham (G8YJQ), I had heard of the RSGB (Radio Society of Great Britain) National Radio Centre based in Bletchley Park, the war-time home of secret code breaking and the birthplace of the first modern computer. I decided to visit the National Radio Centre.
I often like to revisit the basics, to start again to review, as if I knew nothing about a subject, as it reinforces the foundations of expertise, to pick-up knowledge missed along the way of learning a subject.
I joined a group of visitors, as toured the radio exhibition very quickly, leaving me in their wake as I read the documentation written about the displays, which they skipped over. The exhibition was quite small and a little disappointing to me, so I had finished my visit very quickly, even after a long conversation with a guide and another radio ham.
I decided to visit the rest of the Bletchley Park facility again as I had travelled a long way, to see if the model aircraft of the Italian aircraft (Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero) I had donated, had been used in their exhibition, and no it had not been used, to revisit, to reinforce and relearn what I knew about the site and its’ history.
I joined another small group of people of many nationalities, and we met in the main house to hear the initial opening lecture about the code breakers, setting the scene for the tour. Even though I had heard this talk before, it had been with another guide, and he gave us information new to me. As we wondered around the site, new information was being imparted, especially about the decoding Bombe machines, I had never understood how they worked, I had a concept, but now after the guides talk, I was beginning to understand.
That reminded me of something I had learnt when I first started in the computer field in 1963, sometimes you don’t need to know how something works to use it.
We eventually visited the National Museum of Computing housed in buildings of part of Bletchley Park.
Here the guide explained about Tunny code breaking machines, or as it is also known, the German Lorenz SZ42 cipher-machines.
Two new “Ah Ha” moments came to me, that the cipher machines Enigma and the Lorenz used by the German’s to encrypt messages ran side by side in the Second World War, being two separate systems or methods of transmission of a message, one being morse code the other being teleprinter.
The second “Ah Ha” moment came as I realised that I had heard and read about Lorenz in two different contexts, one was for the equipment to encode messages I was viewing, and the other was for the beams of radio waves the German aircraft to fly along and used to locate targets to bomb in the UK during the war. Both the encrypting machine and the beams were made by the German manufacturer Lorenz, but people had when speaking about the systems, had truncated or missed off what Lorenz model they were talking about, just like saying it was a Ford, but what model Ford, was it a car, was it a transit van?
As we walked around listening and learning, a couple in our group were talking about papers and artefacts that had been left to them by the husband’s now deceased mother and father, and that some of the letters were now making sense, they now realised that they had been written to and by people who had worked in Bletchley Park. These people at Bletchley Park in the Second World War had been sworn to secrecy at to what they were working on, what they were doing or even where they were, many taking their secrets with them to their graves many decades later. I now regret not asking my now departed Uncle Frank about his work in the 2nd World War, because as I research more, I believe he may have had had some dealing with the Bletchley Code Breakers.
Also, the couple told me that they had in their possession, left by the father, many old thermionic valves and parts used by the Post Office in the UK who used to run the telephone service.
Passing on from the Tunny Gallery, we passed into the Colossus Gallery, showing a reconstructed decoding machine, the worlds first digital semi-programmable computer, designed and built by Tommy Flowers, a telephone engineer, who took standard telephone switching gear, thermionic valves and other bits and pieces, to build this worlds first computer of it’s type.
As we listened to our guide about how the British Government, after the finish of the 2nd World War, did not want the secret be known by other powers and especially the Russians of Colossus, and apart from two machines which were sent to the Secret Service’s headquarters at GCHQ, all other machines were destroyed, along with paperwork, designs and drawings.
Colossus Bletchley Park

Colossus Bletchley Park

It was only a few years ago that a group of enthusiasts led by Tony Sale, who gathered information from photographs, people who worked on the Colossus, and those you built and maintained them, that rebuilt what we can see today, a working Colossus which can decipher and work as the originals did, and does so for visitors to see today.

Colossus valves Bletchley Park

Colossus valves Bletchley Park


When our guide had finished his talk, the couple’s eyes were alive, as they had some parts, letters, paperwork, documents and some knowledge from the father, who they now realised had worked with Tommy Flowers on the original Colossus, and I urged them to go and speak to one of the guides who I knew had worked on the rebuild and was now sitting in a small office near to the working computer.
I think at first reluctantly the guide listened to them, but he became interested, as here was new knowledge being delivered, and so off they went to another area of the exhibition, only to return with a framed photograph of Tommy Flowers, and in that photograph was the father.
I was witnessing the discovery of new knowledge, the recovery of history.
Leaving Bletchley Park, and a almost two hour journey, I arrived home and settled down to a wonderful hot chilli con carne meal I had made, and switched on the TV. To my surprise the BBC were showing a Timewatch series, “Codebreakers: Bletchley Park’s Lost Heroes“, the story of code breaking and the Colossus, reinforcing what I had learned not a few hours earlier.
Synchronicity. If I had not been bored and decided to rekindle my Ham Radio interests, to visit the National Radio Centre, which happened to be at Bletchley Park, and if I had not continued to do another tour of the park, I would not have had those “Ah Ha” moments, seen many more things, and learnt so much more, meet the couple who had a direct connection to Colossus through the father and Tommy Flowers, then see the TV program.

Isabella Plantation Richmond Park

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An area of the Royal Park of Richmond Park waits to be discovered, a fenced-off garden, full of trees, plants, shrubs, colour, clearings, streams and ponds.

Originally fenced off in the 1700’s to grow trees, this area was transformed in the 1950’s by George Thomson and the head gardener at the time, Wally Miller. They cleared areas of plants to be replaced by rhododendrons and azaleas and other exotic shrubs and trees. Over the years since, streams and ponds have been added, including heathers, camellias and magnolias to name just a few.
So much bird life can be found within Isabella Plantation.
In April and May, Isabella Plantation is so full of colour, and I have tried to capture it on a short video.
I hope you enjoy.

Dover Castle, English Heritage

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The first sight many people see of the UK, or England in particular, are the White Cliffs of Dover. These are the chalk cliffs on the English side of the Strait of Dover, (in French Pas de Calais), and is the narrowest part of the English Channel at some 21 miles (34 km). At this distance it is possible on a clear day to see the coast of the other country, and at night see the lights over the other side, even as one local Dover person told me, the car lights as they travel along the French coast roads.
The White Cliffs of Dover
So, the first sight as people catching the ferry plying the Channel are the brilliant white chalk of the cliffs, and certainly on the many returning flights to the UK, as I look down to catch a glimpse of home, the white cliffs stand out above anything else on a cloudless day.
Atop the cliffs of Dover has been a significant position for man since before the Roman’s invaded, as a lookout position to repel invaders, place for navigation, a place for communication.
In the 1180’s, the then King of England and provinces of France, (King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou), Henry II, built a castle on top of the cliffs at Dover, and over the next 800 years, the buildings and grounds have been adapted to the changing needs and demands.
Dover Castle of Henry II
On my first visit to Dover Castle, I caught the high speed train (130 mph, 210 kph), from London, and arriving at Dover Priory train station it was a short walk, but very steep climb to The Castle. (Listen to my hypnotic The Castle CD).
My first impression was, “this is not a real castle, it is not in ruins“, it is pristine unlike many other British castle I have visited. Despite the bombardment in the Second World War, it is said that Hitler had stated that the castle should not be attacked as he wanted it as a base for himself, the buildings where like they had just been completed.
So Henry II built his castle to impressed his many foreign guests, as was said, the castle was built as a bed and breakfast, an overnight hotel, as well as a garrison, and as people crossed from France, the elegance and richness would show what a powerful King he was.
Inside the battlement walls, the buildings are well maintained, it was still a military garrison until it was handed over to the Ministry of Works in 1963, and then onto English Heritage who now run the castle. But, it is not only the buildings above ground, there are extensive secret tunnels cut into the chalk, which housed up-to 2,000 persons in WWII, including a hospital, now mostly open to the public, exhibiting the history they have played over the years. The sights, sounds and smells are recreated to give a great understanding of what went on there.
In the Great Tower, there awaited another shock for me.
Dover Castle Great Tower
English Heritage have laid out displays, showing what it would/may have looked like in the days of Henry II. On level one, the guest bedroom, level two the Kings bedroom, throne room, and a small chapel attributed to Thomas Becket, who had been murdered by said agents of Henry II. Henry denied any involvement in the murder, and it is said this small chapel, still in use once a year, was Henry’s penance to St. Thomas Becket.

Dover Castle Thomas Becket Chapel
The shock for me was the quality of the furniture, the vibrant colours of the paint and cloth. It looked too modern.
As with all the guides situated throughout the castle grounds, eager to engage and full of knowledge, I was able to enquire as to the authenticity of the exhibits, surely they could not be true, as all the movies (mostly American) I had seen of those times, I thought that everything would be dark and grey. The guide had found his ideal visitor, for he was able to give me all his acquired knowledge, the fact that the woodworkers had the skills to produce such stunning work, that they had the ingredients to produce dyes of such striking colours for paints, murals and cloths.
Dover Castle Royal bedroom
Wow, I was shocked, as were the other visitors I spoke to as we toured the castle. Perhaps the British were and are a colourful lot after all, with OK some French influence.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Barge

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A quick bus ride from Kingston upon Thames to another town downstream on the River Thames, took me to Richmond upon Thames.
Looking down from the old Richmond Bridge to the boats moored on the banks of the Thames, I was taken aback at the sight of the Royal Barge, being prepared for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee river pageant to be held on June 3rd.
The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Barge at Richmond upon Thames.
Costing £1m, this 28.6m (94ft) barge called Gloriana, powered by 18 oarsmen, will head the river pageant from Wandsworth to Tower Bridge, leading it is estimated 1,000 boats carrying some 20,000 people. It has been said it will take one and a half hours for the pageant to pass any one point.
Covered, in parts, with gold leaf, the vessel sparkled in the sunlight.
The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Barge showing the Royal Crest.  
The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Barge showing the stern crest. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Barge showing the gold leaf lion.

I wish boat I once owned, Mr Toots, had looked like The Royal Barge.

A surprise meeting

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It is when you have expectations that there could be something around the corner, when you start to look for something unexpected, even at a subconscious level, and perhaps using Phillip’s Sausage, that we are in for some surprises.
It could be looking above the shop windows to the roof-line that we will see some architecture from a bye gone era, unseen by the majority of shoppers, or below the shop front, lying on the footpath, a high valued bank note, or a small coin.
If we spend a little more time just being aware of what else is around us, seeing more than George Miller’s 7+/-2 visual deletion, we can enrich our experiences.
In the photographs below were creatures that I had walked passed not seeing them only five minutes previously, preoccupied in my mind with other issues, it was not until I was walking back having resolved my thoughts and had a relaxed mind that I saw them.

Praying Mantis Malaysia

Praying Mantis Malaysia

The first one, a grasshopper was camouflaged in a hibiscus bush whilst I was in Malaysia, and the second again in Malaysia, a praying mantis, its legs held in a strange position, and a look on its’ face as shocked of seeing a strange human as me seeing it.
Grasshopper In Malaysia

Grasshopper In Malaysia

Look beyond what you see, go below the surface level, chunk down, as things are not what they seem to be.

Just around the corner a surprise

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You never know what is just around the corner, as you walk along the pathway of life.

Isabella Plantation Richmond Park
In Richmond Royal Park, hidden away is the wonderful Isabella Plantation, offering a wide variety of trees, shrubs, heathers and plants, flowering and blooming at different times of the year, which is in contrast with the wider Royal Park, being open spaces, clusters of trees some old, some just planted, valleys with hidden waterways and deer, free to roam, eating their way around the park.
Contrast of colours in Isabella Plantation Richmond Park
The difference in colours of the trees, bushes and shrubs within Isabella Plantation in the warm sunlight of a Spring day, is better than any painting masterpiece, for if you look deeply, often there is something special that you have not seen before, if you use Phillip’s sausage there is so much more.

Isabella Plantation Colour

In contrast to the Isabella Plantation, walking across well trodden pathways of Richmond Royal Park itself, is an open landscape, and in the early spring devoid of much colour, but by keeping oneself aware, there is hidden beauty to be seen.

Grey Squirrel in tree in Richmond Park
Grey Squirrel eating in Richmond Park
Hidden in an old tree a grey squirrel watches down as walkers pass beneath, waiting for them to go so it can descend to pick-up a seed to eat.
Then a flash of colour as parakeets take flight as they are disturbed from feeding by a passing walker.
Parakeets eating in Richmond Park
Parakeets eating in Richmond Park
Parakeets take flight in Richmond Park
How much do we miss about us, as we tread the old pathways, not concerned, not interested as to what may be around the corner?

Riverside, Kingston upon Thames

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Tomorrow I start my journeys again, to Kadikoy, Istanbul to give a NLP Master Practitioner course, a PhotoReading, Memory and Mind Maps course to the public and a number of companies. So today I have been catching up on arranging hospital appointments, banks, course facilities, the blog, relaxing.

I love walking, especially by the Thames River (click to see river film) in Kingston upon Thames, along the Queens Promenade, which links Kingston to Thames Ditton and Surbiton.

The number of swans, geese, ducks living on the river is amazing. How can the river support so much wildlife? Perhaps the walkers feeding them bread. (see photograph of swans in a large number).

Swans and geese being fed on the River Thames in Kingston upon ThamesHampton Court, the Royal Palace of Henry VIII. If you do not want the slow leisurely relaxing cruise, you can always walk, about an hour along the other side riverside pathway. You can catch a small ferry boat for £1, to take you across, but it seems only Saturday and Sunday, plus Bank Holidays.

Parr's Ferry at Kingston upon Thames

At the mooring of Parrs Boats and the ferry there is an old air-raid shelter that had been converted into a small refreshment bar. It has been established here for a few years, with walkers and regulars stopping by for a sandwich, a slice of homemade cake, a drink, an ice cream and friendly faces, and has been refurbished by John, an ex local policeman, full of joy, willing to join in a conversation.

Riverside Cafe on the Queens Promenade on the River Thames, Kingston upon ThamesRiverside Cafe, Quality Thames-side Refreshments, with John is still developing the area, and actively seeks ideas from his potential clients.

It is only a small walk from Kingston’s town center, but the warm welcome, the quality refreshments at a reasonable price, the chance to sit and drink a warming hot chocolate, or coffee made from locally roasted coffee beans from Coffee Bay, watching the passing walkers and boats, makes one happy to be alive.

It is good to support local businesses and to relax whilst doing so.