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Departures

Yesterday was a mixed bag of a day. The warm, welcoming start to the day turned into a cold, damp afternoon just at the point I was going for my walk. On the other hand, my phone returned to normal function. But we lost Tim Brooke-Taylor and Stirling Moss.

For people of my generation, Stirling Moss was a hero. A man who risked life and limb on the motor racing circuit. But also came second in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1952 when driving a Sunbeam Talbot 90. That is arguably when he first came to serious public attention. 

He certainly influenced my father. For my father went out and bought a Sunbeam Talbot 90. He bought the coupe version, that is to say, the one with a fabric roof which if one had time and energy, that could be rolled back to experience the joy of open-air motoring. What on earth induced him to buy one painted a gold colour remains a mystery. At a later stage in its life, it was, to general relief, resprayed black.

It must have been a very substantial commitment for father. When he bought his medical practice, he had no money, none, not a penny. And at a time when bank borrowing by an individual was severely frowned upon, not least by banks, he managed to persuade the National Bank to lend him the entire amount.

The practice he bought was affordable, very run-down and on the market because the previous doctor had committed suicide by sticking his head in the gas oven. An oven that continued in service for many years afterwards as our family cooker. Not something I knew at the time.

With the coming of the NHS, my father was hardly a supporter of the Labour Party, but he absolutely welcomed their nationalisation of health services, he was bought out. The valuation was based on that still relatively run-down state the practice was in. Fair enough.

But payment on the 1940s valuation was not to be made until his retirement, in the 1970s when father was in his 70s, and the sum was by then quite small. Not that I ever heard him complain. So his financial position, considerably short of poverty, was one of an overhanging debt secured against a distant payout. But that Sunbeam Talbot was a symbol of progress in his professional life.

Father was of that generation of drivers who obtained their driving licence without the inconvenience of having to take a driving test. And it showed. His driving had that risky combination of a lack of attention with speed.

Indeed he had his list of visits, it was in the days when your GP came to you when you were ill, written on a notepad which was attached to the steering wheel. And from time to time, he would write onto that pad, while driving.

There was a particular spot locally where the police would set up a trap for speeding motorists. My father was stopped regularly. And the conversation was generally something like, "You'll be on your way to an urgent case doctor?" to which the inevitable answer would be, "Yes".

But for other drivers the phrase, "Who do you think you are? Stirling Moss?" became firmed attached in the public mind to the police when dutifully trying to improve safety on our roads.

Tim Brooke-Taylor (TBT) made his impression on me "una seconda notte", the second time around. When "The Goodies" started, where he had one of his most memorable roles, I had just graduated, got married and started my first job. We could not afford a TV, and when we did get one, it was rented. So he made little impression upon me then.

At a time when the coronovirus is taking many people from us, it is almost invidious to single out just one from among their number, as worthy of special mention. For each and every one, is a loss and worthy of our equal consideration. TBT will not be the only one to have brought something memorable into the lives of those around him. But he did so for a public audience and hence his passing is a matter of public comment. Goodbye and thanks for all the fish (vide "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"; which he did not appear in, but should have).

The two days without my mobile phone properly connecting to my domestic wifi hub are over. I finally found that I could make contact with EE, who provide my phone, via Twitter. And got their fairly prompt attention. 

Their first suggestion was to power off and then power up my phone. Had done that - no change. In my days in computing, we called that "Big Red Button" time. The standard delaying tactic when one could not diagnose a problem and needed some thinking time.

The next suggestion was to switch off the phone's setting for "Wi-Fi Calling" and then switch on again. Pink button time? Had done that - no change. I suggest that since they will need a piece of technology working at their end, they should perhaps look at that. But to humour them I will try it again. And lo, the phone properly connects to the network.

The claim is made that they have taken no action at their end. So it's just coincidence that two minutes after I suggest that the problem is their end the problem goes away? Hmmm. But anyway, a working phone again. Mixed feelings about that. I hate phones.

The walk was brisk and cold. If the direction weren't wrong, I would imagine it was that special mid-winter wind which comes straight off the ice-covered Urals. So a shorter walk than many yesterday, just 3 miles, and a session on the rowing machine to ensure proper total exercise.

Today, the next step is another online meeting, this time one-on-one with an MSP colleague. We will be comparing notes about our respective experiences in different parts of our country, looking forward to that. You know who you are.



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