Memories

DRIVING A BUS AROUND BLETCHLEY PARK #BUCKETLIST @SAVINGBLETCHLEY

There are so many interesting people on Twitter, and once you have your own network up and growing usually people will let you know if there is anything or anyone around that you might be interested in. For example one evening in January 2010 I was looking through tweets and chatting to friends on Twitter when a Twitter friend @HD41117 put me in touch with @beckie_williams. It turned out that Beckie’s great-grandfather recruited Kim Philby. How amazing is that?

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It is also a great place for things like book recommendations

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@SteveHills who I didn’t really know at the time of tweeting, but is now a great friend, recommended Agent Zigzag by Ben McIntyre to me. I ready it when I was away on holiday and it became my favourite book ever. It is the amazing story of Eddie Chapman, an English double agent who is an absolute character. Another great connection on Twitter was connecting to @herokate a year or so later. Kate’s boyfriend is a great guy called Michael who runs a famous Soho bar, a bar that Eddie Chapman use to frequent. I had a great chat with Michael one evening at my friend @Daren140’s birthday drinks. Daren introduced me to Kate who introduced me to Michael, and Michael told me stories from when he sued to hang out with Eddie Chapman. I love my Twitter friends 🙂

Something else very cool that happened because of Twitter at around the same time was that I got to achieve an ambition that I had had since I was five years old. I had really wanted to drive a big red London bus. I had tweeted this in to @davegorman in response to a request from him to everyone listening to his Absolute Radio show on a Saturday in January 2010. Dave had asked everyone to tweet in their childhood ambitions, so I duly tweeted saying that when I was five I wanted to drive a London bus. Dave was choosing some of the ambitions and trying to connect people up to help make them happen. Luckily for me I didn’t need Dave to help my ambition come true as Kelsey at Bletchley Park had seen my tweet, contacted the local gay nightclub Pink Punters in Fenny Stratford and asked them if I could drive their bus around Bletchley Park. How exciting 🙂

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Kelsey arranged for the bus driving to coincide with the next Station X social media cafe.

To make sure that I was a fit driver we needed to have a practice, so we all turned up for Station X and then got on the bus together to be driven to the Milton Keynes stadium car park. It reminded me a bit of the film “Summer Holiday” with Cliff  Richard. I was really excited and the bus was buzzing with everyone chatting about what they had been up to since the last Station X and whatever the latest was in our Twittersphere. It didn’t take long to drive to the stadium. Once there I was given a quick overview of what I needed to do, and then we were away. It wasn’t actually as different to driving a car as I had expected. The steering wheel on the bus was massive though and that took a bit of getting used to. I drove around the car park a few times, then had a go at a few different manoeuvres like driving backwards between two traffic cones. After 20 minutes or so the lovely guys from Pink Punters were satisfied that I was able to drive. I got back into the back of the bus and they drove us all back to Bletchley Park.

Once back, the driver parked the bus in front of the mansion house and got out of the driver’s cab. I went around the front and got in to drive. I was slightly nervous. What if I crashed into one of the huts? Just imagine how dreadful that would be.

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Photos by @9600 Andrew Back

I got in the cab, started the engine and off we went to cheers from the Station X crew on the bus. The roads at Bletchley Park are pretty narrow so it wasn’t as easy as driving around a massive car park. I did a couple of circuits around without any major problems, and then started around for the third time. I was getting a bit cocky, so I drove a bit faster the third time. Half way around I managed to hit a traffic cone when taking a corner, but that was fine, what’s a traffic cone between friends? We were almost around and it was all going well, I slowed down gradually to park in front of the mansion, and as we slowed pulled over to the kerb slightly so that the bus wouldn’t block any other vehicles that wanted to go past. I slowed right down almost to a stop, and then managed somehow to take the bus up the kerb and stop on the kerb. Awww. I had driven really well until the very last few seconds and then mucked it up. Ah well. I’d not injured anyone or anything, I’d managed not to crash into a hut, we had all had a bit of a laugh and I had achieved an ambition I’d had since I was five years old.

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Here’s a video of my efforts shot by @mikistrange on the day.

I got in touch with @davegorman afterwards to let him know that because of him I had remembered and now succeeded in fulfilling a childhood ambition. I got to meet Dave in person some time after that when he did his “Powerpoint Presentation” gig at the Royal Festival Hall, and then again when we both appeared on the Infinite Monkey Cage with Robin Ince, Brian Cox and Simon Singh in 2012. He’s a lovely guy. He helped calm me down just before we were about to go on stage when Brian Cox had jokingly said something like

“Is it alright if I ask you complicated technical questions during the show?” to me.

I almost had heart failure, though of course I tried not to show it. Dave did a great job after that backstage of making me laugh and keeping me calm. What a great guy 🙂

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This is an excerpt from the pre edit version of Saving Bletchley Park by Dr Sue Black which is now available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

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“Raymondos” – an exercise in writing dialogue – Arvon non-fiction course 2017 at Totleigh Barton

“Raymondo’s” – original version

My nan was great fun to be around. When my brother and sister were small she used to pretend that they were top hairdressers in their salon called “Raymondos” she would get all of her hairdressing accoutrements out of the cupboard and Sarah and Stephen would do her hair for hours on end. Or so it seemed. I would be sitting on the sofa watching and chatting and reading a book. Probably something by Enid Blyton.

Nan had loads of hairdressing paraphernalia: grips, clips, Vitapointe cream (which I can smell now as I write about it), curlers, pins, brushes, combs, setting lotion and papers. I must have joined in too sometimes as I can remember putting Vitapointe on my nan’s hair and then brushing her hair with a bristle brush. It makes me smile to think of those times.

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“Raymondo’s” – dialogue version

I was at my nan’s flat with my brother and sister, Sarah and Stephen who were around 5 years old, playing hairdresser’s with my nan.

“Now Raymondo, I’d like a shampoo and set. Please give me a lovely hairstyle, I’m off to a ball tonight in my best frock and I want to look beautiful.”

“Yes, nannie. I’ve got the brush, I’m going to brush your hair and make you look lovely.”

“Now Cynthia, can you please help Raymondo with the setting lotion and papers”

“Yes nannie. Raymondo here you are.”

Sarah picks up the packet of papers and the setting lotion ready to pass them to Stephen.

“Can I have the lotion please Cynthia” Stephen said with a giggle, delighted to be calling his twin sister by a made up name.

“Here you are Raymondo” Sarah replied and handed over the lotion, accidentally squirting some of it over nannie’s dress.

“Oh no! Raymondo, Cynthia, you are such naughty hairdressers!”

I looked up from the sofa and we all burst into laughter.

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Many thanks to Arvon Totleigh Barton, Lois Pryce and Sukhdev Sandhu for a wonderful week.

 

From 2003 to 2017 – Saving Bletchley Park, the Women of Station X, Stephen Fry, the Imitation Game and the Duchess of Cambridge #Bpark

I often get asked about Bletchley Park and my connection with it. Here are a few links that give an overview of my 14 year fascination and involvement.

 

Finding out about the women who worked there is how I first got interested in Bletchley Park in 2003, I got funding for an oral history project “The Women of Station X” to record the memories of the women who worked there:

 

 

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then I found out that Bletchley Park might have to close so I started a campaign to save it. The whole story is captured in my book:

 

US Amazon – Saving Bletchley Park

 

UK Amazon – Saving Bletchley Park

 

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and some of the highlights on my blog from 2008, read from the bottom up to get an overview of how my campaign started and what we did including getting Stephen Fry involved:
 
Here’s my old school 2008 blog: http://savingbletchleypark.org/

 

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I spoke about my life and the campaign last December at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA

 

 

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It’s been so wonderful to see the recognition of Bletchley Park growing over the years since the campaign started with books like Andrew Hodges – Alan Turing: The Enigma getting recognition and films being made like The Imitation Game starring great Hollywood actors like Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.

 

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Also who could forget the visit of the Duchess of Cambridge to Bletchley Park whose grandmother and great aunt worked at Bletchley Park.

 

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Have a look at these links and then comment below if you have any questions, or @ me on Twitter @Dr_Black, I’d love to hear from you 🙂

 

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Fabulous Saving Bletchley Park WCIT IT Livery business lunch 

I had a really wonderful time yesterday delivering a speech to the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists at their monthly business lunch on board HMS Wellington on the Thames 😀👍


I was so well looked after my the Beadle, the Master, the clerk and everyone else, it was an absolutely superb lunch. 


We all retired to a local pub afterwards and the conversations about the IT industry, technology, Bletchley Park and our incredible UK tech history continued until the evening. 


I had a fabulous time and can’t wait to go to more WCIT events 😀😍👍🎉 

20/5/2016 – On BBC Woman’s Hour then off to Buckingham Palace to get an OBE 😀❤️👍


Jenni Murray interviews me on BBC Woman’s Hour – 35 mins in 


  
  
  

Thanks Maserati for the wonderful car and chauffeur for the day 😀


  
  
  
  
 My wonderful family 😀❤️😀

  
  
  
  
  


  
What a fabulous day!! One of the best days of my life 😀❤️👍🎉🎉🎉🎉

Sydney Ambury – Royal Northumberland Fusilliers – WW1 and WW2 military service 

I’ve found this letter about my great grandfather Sydney Ambury’s (1885-1944) army service record and his obituary. 

 I’d love to understand more about what he did and what it meant. If you can help at all please comment below. 

  

I only discovered a few years ago that Sydney was born Solomon Benjamin Hamburg in Spitalfields the 8th child of Dutch Jewish parents Benjamin Hamburg and Flora Salomon Rina. Previous to then I and the rest of my family had no idea that he was Jewish or that he came from London. 

At 17 Sydney enlisted in the army in Hounslow and at 18 started serving in the British Army in Newcastle. 

I would love to know anything that anyone can shed light on in terms of my family history and his military service. 

Thanks for any information you can share 😀👍

Saving Bletchley Park – book launch at Waterstones Piccadilly 

Last night was one of the best nights of my life! My book Saving Bletchley Park was launched at Waterstones Piccadilly in central London. It was an amazing evening with speeches, a reading from my book, tears, drinks, great conversation and lots of laughter 😀 Thanks a million to everyone that came and made it such a special night ❤️   

    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   

RIP Lemmy – rock legend

 

Rock legend Lemmy who died yesterday aged 70


 

Motörhead were the best band I’ve ever seen live. They were my favourite band when I was 16, my friend Denise and I used to lie on the floor in her bedroom playing Motörhead – the album – over and over, really loud. I saw them play at Reading Festival in 1979, they were completely amazing. 

Me in 1980 – a big Motorhead fan

I’ve never experienced anything like it since. Just absolutely bloody incredible, mind blowing, orgasmic music.
Overkill still is one of my favourite albums ever. I should play it more often. 

Me in 1983 – still a big Motorhead fan

I only met Lemmy once, it was either at the Hippodrome or Limelight nightclub in around 1986. I can’t remember what our conversation was, but I remember I got a kiss on the cheek 😀

RIP Lemmy you will be missed. 

Lemmy dies at 70 – The Guardian 

Lemmy dies aged 70 after cancer diagnosis – BBC News