Eric's less brief life history

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Dance, music & song



12 March: Born at 20 Third Avenue, Torquay, third son of Amy & Ray. Neighbour: "What is it?", Mum: "It's another boy", neighbour: "What a shame". I was to be called "Jane". First memory is walking along the road to number 49 where Dad's mother "Nana" and sister Auntie Gwen lived. Mum says Nana was very bossy and tried to run our house.

Dad's history was Northampton way, great grandfather Richard is in Brackley churchyard. Dad was a teacher in Sheffield when courting mum, once she was in the motorbike sidecar and it fell off. Dad threw it over the wall., mum continued on pillion.

Mum's history was in Plymouth, mostly navy related. Grandma took in washing for the local doctor to pay for medical treatment. Grandma's husdand (died before mum really knew him) was a navy ships sick berth steward, mostly at shore based navy hospitals, died at sea on route to Simonstown Hospital South Africa. Mum's sister Auntie Hilda worked in Plymouth Education office, lovely, encouraged me to read, gave me a Western novel by Zane Grey, I couldn't put it down.

My love of dance and folk music comes from Mum.

One connection with history is that Cecil Sharp collected his first morris dance from William Kimber at Headimngton in 1899, as a young morris dancer I was made to play in fron of William Kimber at Hedington for him to criticise me. He said "Make it snappy".

My scientific learning came from my Dad.


4th November: Move to Yarborough Road, Lincoln, dad taught at Sincil Park School. Dad had been fired from his job as geography teacher at Torquay Grammar School because he was a pacifist. He learned that he had been fired from the newspaper. We have the newspaper cuttings of the time, really nasty. I've written recently, and the current Torbay Council who deny all knowledge.

Lincoln was subject to bombing because of Ruston's tank factory there, and Dad didn't like the school, so we moved on next year, dad moved to Bourne Grammar School.

Memories of hearing a brass band passing the back of the house. I could hear them but couldn't see them, I cried for mum to open the gate but she couldn't hear me because she was upstairs hoovering.



3rd September: Move to a pair of cottages about 2 km out of Toft, Lincolnshire. Loo down the garden, water from a well, paraffin lamps. When the well ran dry we fetched buckets in a pram from Toft village a mile away. The cottages were declared unfit for habitation when we left, and demolished, grid reference about 52.73798207337625, -0.4243814131475143. Grandma (Mum's mum) and Auntie Hilda came to live with us when they were bombed out in Plymouth. Tanks from Ruston's at Lincoln went along the road.



19th November: Move to Northorpe, Lincolnshire. Soon after we got there a homecoming bomber (there were many RAF airfields in Lincolnshire near the east coast) crashed in a nearby field, we weren't allowed to look. We (dad) grew lots of food. We were veggie, so our cheese ration was 8oz each per week instead of 2oz.

I started at Thurlby Primary School. When I was forced to stay at home because of eczema/asthma I secretly cycled to school, didn't want to miss it! Mum had to chase me on foot. I made a spelling mistake, had to write out "Isaac" 100 times after school.

I went to Bourne hospital with my eczema and remember seeing an iron lung. Joy's step father Fred might have been there at that same time with his TB.

Memories of Sam Knipe (80 year old neighbour) playing concertina and Dad on piano. Sam closed his eyes and swung the concetina up and down. Sam said "Your Dad is the only one that can accord with me!" I found later that's because Dad knew that his Anglo concertina could only play G and D!



12th June: Move to 5 Beauchamp Road, Twickenham, a ground floor maisonette flat. We could see Twickenham railway station and shunting yard.

I moved to Archdeacon Cambridge Church of England Primary School where Dad was deputy head. Arthur and Owen started at Thames Valley Grammar.

First holidays after the war were to Torquay (dad's family still at Third Avenue) and Plymouth (mum's family in a temporary rented flat while their bombed house was rebuilt). There were miles of queues at Paddington, and we were standing in the corridor all the way there, lots of soldiers too. Later years we went by bus, stopped every hour.

Grandma (mum's mum) lived in a flat in Plymouth temporarily, the area where her house was was bombed flat, all houses gone; that's because it was near Devonport Naval Dockyard. But a clock (now with Richard) was still on the remaining bit of mantlepiece. The whole of Plymouth centre was demolished. After she moved back to her rebuilt house in St Michael Avenue there was a nearby Alexandra Park with super views over the dockyard and surrounding area.

We visited Auntie Beat in Streatham, who had a music box that could play 8 tunes. We saw a procession with Winston Churchill being cheered.

We were taken up to London to the museums. The best was the Science Museum, and the Childrens section in the basement.


Because I went to a Church of England primary school, I was offered a scholarship to Christ's Hospital (a posh private school) but thankfully it was refused by Dad for socialist reasons. I could have worn yellow tights and a cloak! And I wouldn't have met Joy! Or was Dad's reason that he needed to save money to look after Owen?

I starred in a local road safety film (the school was near a main road), I chased a ball into the road and according to the script was "obliterated".

September I started at Thames Valley Co-Ed Grammar School, 1.5 miles cycle ride each way, always home for lunch except when Owen was in hospital. I was the third Foxley boy at the school.



7th January: Move to 13 Albemarle Avenue, Twickenham. Dad walked two miles each way to primary school through Crane Park.

I broke my right arm swinging on a rope over the river in Crane Park and falling off. My first knowing hospital visit. I had to learn to write with my left hand.

For hobbies, we made balsawood and tissue model aeroplanes. A 4-foot span one from kit was great, a 6-foot one we (me & Owen) designed was so good that on its third flight it disappeared from Hounslow Heath over houses in the distance, never to be seen again. We also made small (about a foot across) models to be thrown in the air, with a competition to see flew for longest. Mine was a delta wing, good and strong. We also did photography, developing films and prints. assisted by free 35mm film from school friend Geoff Bonnett's dad who was a Gaumont British news photographer.

Went to Mum's folk dance club. They used records, but for some they couldn't get records. So I was given an accordion by one of the ladies, they sang me the tunes, and I was asked to play them. It took me a year to learn, I still crashed out occasionally.

My maths teacher Mr Blandford played accordion for the school folk dancing, I observed his left hand and tried to copy it. Mum & dad bought me a Hohner Student V 48-bass.

I had my own shed, and bought lots of ex-defence bits of electronics from Edgware Road and Lisle Street junk shops to play with. First I made by own crystal set (wow, then a diode instead of a crystal), and I found thet a "cat's whisker" wasn't actually that, it was a bit of silver wire. From the junk shops I bought wireless kit (transmitter receiver TR1155), radar units (their CRT tubes VCR97 could makes a persistent TV set), navigation systems (analogue computers for computing latitude and longitude from direction and speed as part of bomb aiming), electric motors. Unlike transistors, the radio/TV was mostly high voltage valves and stuff, and 2 kilovolts for the CRT.

I worked out (at home) how to check whether an integer is divisible by e.g. 7. 3 and 9 and 11 are easy!


GCE O levels. Failed English Literature, but OK on the others. The head (Mr Bligh) said I should take marks off my maths (which was 100%) and move them to English Lit. Each of the 3 Foxley boys failed English Lit worse than the previous.

I could (and did) take the engine of our Morris 10 car apart onto the bench and re-assemble it. Only one nut left over.

I was excused all PE and games because of asthma, and studied solo in the library instead. My highest achievement at school sport was scoring for the cricket team for one game, in our book as a win even though the others actually won. Clever maths. Inter-school sports were on the Twickenham Rugby Ground.

Dad gave me two bits of fatherly advice as a teenager. One was "Don't marry a teacher, we have too many in the family already". He was happy when I did. And the other advice was "Avoid prostitutes", the junk shops I went to in London were all in dodgy areas.

More playing at Mum's club. People like Patrick Shuldham-Shaw (composer of dances and tunes, and he had a 140 bass 7 row accordion) and Lesley Nichols (Squire of the Morris Ring) visited. Mum organised one or two big public dances each year. I was able to sit in with visiting bands, Nan Fleming-Williams, Michael Bell, Don McBain, John Armstrong. Joan Somebody and Elsie Avril played accordion and orcan flute at EFDSS gigs.

I was bought a 48-bass Hohner Student V accordion, the same as I now play for the clog and morris.

I danced and played with Thames Valley Morris, looked after by their squire Dr Christopher Penton (chief psychologist to the War Department). Weekends I'd cycle to his place, strap the bike on the back of his MG sports car, and he took me to see traditional players like Jinky Wells (Bampton) and William Kimber (Headington). He made me play in front of William Kimber who told me to "make it snappy". Chris also told me when I said "This way sounds better, why don't other people do it?" he said "Because they didn't think of it. You play it the way you think best. But absorb the tradition first."

I made a machine to play the game Nim, fairly easy given binary arithmetic. Then a more difficult noughts and crosses game playing machine for the school fete.

Fascinated at school finding out on my own (and proving) e.g. that for all integer n the result of (3n+1)3, if you add the digits together always comes to one If the answer's more than 9 keep adding digits together. And lots of similar results. Maths was fun and fascinating.


June/July: GCE S-levels, pure maths, applied maths, and A-level physics, chemistry: good, but maths only 98%. Years later someone I met from NPL Teddington said my name was still on the school honours board even though it had changed to a girls' school.

November/December: I took various Oxbridge scholarship exams in November, and luckily failed the lot, or I would not have met Joy! I left school at Christmas.


Thames Valley Morris had a rule, everyone must be able to play at least one tune on one instrument. So for a solo morris jig there might be 6 tin whistle players and one dancer.

This was still in the days of National Service, everyone had to serve 2 years in the armed forces. I had to apply for exemption (full time education) every year until it ended in 1962. But the Thames Valley squire, Chris Penton, chief psychologist to the War Department, said that I could do 2 years as a statistician under him instead.

My dad got tickets each year to the The Institute of Physics and The Physical Society's Annual Exhibition, in South Kensington. I saw early computers (Imperial College, and Elliot 402, they gave me the complete logic diagrams) and absent minded professors with their new inventions.

I went each year to nearby NPL (National Physical Laboratory) at Teddington Open Days, and saw 3 million volt demos, whirling arm dangerous aero test machine, and their ACE pilot early computer.


January to June I worked at Paint Research Station, Teddington. Dad said you'll just be the tea boy, but they gave me lots of interesting jobs. The first job was to measure the speed of sound in a film of paint, and plot it against temperature. Great to find real applications for what I'd learnt at home and school. And other exciting tasks with their "home made" electron microscope. It was all without computers of course. I took home some unwanted white paint, dad painted the loo seat, but the paint didn't have drying agent added.

September: Started at Nottingham University. First and third years were in Hugh Stewart Hall sharing with David Claxton (later a missionary in Congo, later shot by a robber). My 3rd year room was over an archway. One day I was emptying a bucket of water out of the window (as you do) and a very wet and angry warden Dr William Neil appeared below. I'm the only graduate who went on to join the staff who was NOT invited back as a senior common room member.

Early September I went with Thames Valley Morris to a Morris Ring Meeting at Abingdon. The Foresters Morris were admitted to join the Ring under Ted Ward. I asked to join them.

I often went with Mum to Cecil Sharp House, the EFDSS headquarters, for dances and courses. We got to meet Cecil Sharp's daughter Joan, who gave me Cecil's rose-wood three-hole pipe, specially made for him by Dolmetsch of Haselmere. I took the pipe there later, old man Karl Dolmetsch immediately said "I made six of them for a man called Sharp,".

First week at university I went to Folk Dance Society (with my accordion) and met Joy (who wanted an accordionist)! But I had to get rid of her boyfriend George first. She said "Goodnight Eric" to him once, that was enough.

And Joy's Mum was a good cook, and the home was "open house" to visitors and friends. I learned to be more sociable.

My life was all settled and sorted by 2 weeks into term!

January-June: Worked at Paint Research Station, 8 Waldegrave Road, Teddington. Great fun, given a variety of jobs to do! "Plot a graph of the speed of sound in a film of paint against temperature", played with locally made electron microscope, one of the first. Other jobs measuring the "whiteness" of paint. The standard was magnesium oxide, but titanium oxide paint came in and was brighter.

September to Nottingham University. Second week at a "freshers meet the staff" meeting I was asked by Maths department to make some electronic models of e.g. binary adders and UDEs for demonstrations on Alan Rose's computer logic course. They arranged for me to study the electronics degree too (I took two full degree courses at the same time) without examination and get some electronics training at the local Ericssons Telephones factory.


February: Brother Owen died, I had the phone call the day I got back from the Bristol Inter-University gathering where we'd given a Ukrainian dance show. I had to go back home for a few days for the funeral. It's such a shame that Joy never met him, the Rory of the family, very artistic but quiet, and ill on and off all his life. The death certificate said "acholuric jaundice Foxley type"

Sad summer holiday at Helensburgh, Scotland with Mum and Dad in a rented bungalow. I popped over to Edinburgh to see Joy, I was already wanting to see her.

The Christmas this year was desperately sad, lots of tears all round.

My second year was in digs on the Trowell Road with Joe (David) Pusey, son of a dustman, he later married Yona the daughter of an Oxford professor of theology,

The university folk dance society gave a Ukrainian cossack show at the Bristol Inter-University folk dance gathering.

I was president of Nottingham Folk Dance Society from 1957 to 1959 and organised the inter-university gathering at Nottingham in spring 1958. The band was lead by Kay Graham (fiddle), looked at me at one point and said "Who's leading this band?"

I got into playing at local dances with Kevin Briggs (Irish fiddler, many of the tunes in the Freds book are from him), and Kath Woods (drums, smoked and drank whisky getting better as the evening went on, wonderful rim shots) and sometimes a pianist. There was no PA at first.

Joy and I went to various EFDSS courses and events. Met Bert Lloyd, Ken & Sybil Clark et al.

There was a Morris Ring meeting in Kingston. I played for Thames Valley and Westminster.

Summer vacation of my second year I did an apprenticeship at Ericssons Telephones Beeston, first learning uniselector relay technology, then constructing a drum storage device for electronic digital phone exchanges. I used ferrite mixed with araldite to coat the drum, bad idea, it ruined the heads if you screwed them in too far.


5th July: Graduated with an upper second. Out of 60 intake, no firsts, only me upper two, three lower two, a few thirds, the rest passes including Alan Page. Ceremony at the Albert Hall, Mum & Dad came up and stayed in Portland Building at £3 a night.

Just before graduation I asked Joy "Will you marry me?". Joy-- "I'll think about it." but she soon accepted.

Started my PhD. I moved to a flat near the Arboretum with friend Joe Pusey doing a Chemistry PhD.

January: 1959 Inter University gathering was at Glasgow, I advised Jimmy Shand on tunes for the English dances, and joined in another hall with Jim McLeod's band, much livelier!

I played lots with Kevin et al, and solo gigs for Ken Clark. It was posh bow tie jobs for some of the Playford dances.

Started PhD to design, construct and use a computer to do logic (supervised by absent minded genius Alan Rose who had worked with Alan Turing), and equipment funded by British Railways hoping for the logic of points/signals interlocking to be automated. My grant was £340 a year. I told passers-by looking in the window at the flashing lights that it was a nuclear reactor. It took roughly one year to construct, one year using it, and 6 months writing it up. My thesis was due in 1st May 1962, the same day that Angus was due.


I was accidentally put on University payroll for helping out in calculating machine laboratories. It gave me two extra years worth of pension. I should really have been paid by the hour not on a salary.

June I moved to a flat at 11 Premier Road, near the Goose Fair Site.

Wedding on 30th July at the Albert Hall with Rev George Sails. Best man Don stayed with me at our flat off Gregory Boulevard, and we went together to the Albert Hall by trolleybus. As I knelt down at the front I heard Joy's mum hiss "59 shillings and sizpence", the price was still on the sole of my new uncomfortable shoes. The service was followed by food etc at Joy's mum's place "Fairbourne". Thames Valley Morris came, they were camping nearby at Shining Cliff, Ambergate. Afterwards we were taken by Gerry in his Morris 8 to town, then by bus to Derby Airport (now Toyota) where they cleared the cows off the field for our flight .. which was delayed. Take-off in a Dakota to Jersey at tree-top level. Hotel at St Martins run by friends Ian Leonard of Don & Mary.

The contraceptive clinic was surprised when I turned up to collect the cap, things were very strict then! We started married life in a flat at 11 Premier Road near the Goose Fair site.

Freds Folks first of several broadcasts, leader Kevin, members me, Kath (drums, worked in Portland Building catering, always started the evening with a full bottle of whisky), with extras Stuart Woodhouse (bass, professional music teacher) and Sam Brown (guitar, police car maintenance, Lincoln, didn't like too many chord changes). The first broadcasts were under the "Third programme" i.e. Radio 3. After the first run through, the bloke came up to me and said "I didn't like that F#minor chord in the third bar of ...", he knew his stuff. Later recordings were under OB (outside broadcast) producion, grotty balancing.

Regular broadcasts thereafter, all with Ken Clarke as MC and a guest. Guests included Tollerton Plough Play men (needed beer to get them talking, then they wouldn't stop), Rosemary Redpath, Isla Cameron, Steve Benbow, Nadia Cattouse, me ...

We held a folk song club in our flat weekly, one of the first such clubs in Nottingham. Regular folks included Spike, Harry Constatine, ... See here for a history of Nottingham Folk Clubs.

I was appointed to the Maths staff as a "Tutorial Assistant" in my second year PhD, giving me 2 unexpected extra years of pensionable service. Duties were to supervise labs of 30 hand calculating Brunsviga machines (costing £125 then) for 2 afternoons a week for £325 a year, less pay than my grant had been.

Staff meetings everyone used surnames. Very formal. Head of Department was Harry Pitt, later V-C at Reading.


When we discovered that Joy was pregnant we looked for a house. Wilfred Saunders (viola maker) phoned us at Bookham to say there was a house for sale near him. We moved in October to 136 Julian Road off Trent Boulevard.


Summer: We attended an EFDSS course at Barford, met Otto Wood. We also met the McDouall parents, who said that their son Chris was coming to Nottingham College of Education, would we befriend him. We also found to our surprise that Joy's skirt didn't fit.

We went with Thames Valley morris to Glen Coe for their summer tour.

Our folk song club continued at Julian Road.



1st May: Angus expected and my thesis due in. My thesis was early, Angus was late.
6th May : Angus started coming, but things slowed down, so Joy to hospital. I followed and slept in the nurses' home, and was called back in to hold a leg just before midnight. It was unusual for the father to attend in those days, needed special midwife recommendation.
7th May: Angus came 2am. I went back and immediately woke up Joy's parents and phoned mine!
July: Mum & Dad came up for my PhD graduation. Also graduating was Miss UK in a see-through top and no bra and the obligatory gown worn off-the-shoulder, plenty of paparazzi there but not for me.

September joined the Maths staff as "assistant lecturer", same time as Mike Pate. My first course was to "Intermediate" students, adults who didn't have A-levels probably because of the war. They were much older than me and laughed when I wore a gown to impress! Later I taught Numerical Analysis, taken over by Cecil many years later.

Lots of Freds Folks (just Kevin, me, Kath) all over the place, York, Burnley, Worcester ... as well as local. Only the MC had a microphone, then only a small speaker.

We had a letter from Pete Seeger's agent in the USA addressed to "Joy and Eric, Nottingham, UK" offering him to do a concert here. He came, the Co-op gave us their arts centre for free. He charged £50, tickets were 5 shillings, we collected £49 and 10 shillings on the door. He started with "Nottamun Town".

Promoted to "Assistant lecturer" on probation for 2 years. After the 2 years Mike Pate (appointed at the same time) was fired, I was OK because of published research.

Awarded PhD. In the viva the external examiner (logic Prof Smiley from Cambridge) asked a difficult question, "What would your computer do if ...?". The chairman Prof Rodney Hill, FRS saw my hesitation and immediately said "I'd have a nervous breakdown if I were you, what's the next question?". I was eternally grateful.

Once the PhD was safely obtained and I had a paper copy of the certificate, I published a paper saying that special computers to do logic were a complete waste of time, you could do it just as well on an ordinary computer.


Chris McDouall came to Nottingham "Clifton College of Education" as a music student, he stayed with us for a while, and did his required child study on Angus.

Promoted to lecturer. I had to have a medical, the doctor said you'll die of the asthma before you're 60, so the pension people will be happy.


27th January: Rory born at home with the help of midwife nurse Otterson.

Eric involved with the Manchester "Atlas" computer, many trips away e.g. to a course in London University who also had an Atlas, and to Manchester with Mike Pitteway (boss of our Computing Centre, we had no computer, just a link to Manchester) delivering and collecting punched paper tape. George Hall made several of us swat up and give talks on programming at Nottingham.

Local company Boots phoned, they were scrapping 2 computers, did we want any parts? Albert Nicolson and I went with a lorry and stripped out two EMIDEC computers at Boots on Station Street. We gave away the bits to anyone, for example the local Radio Societies. Then Boots found it was rented not owned. Oh dear, too late!


24th July: Hamish born. Bang goes any plan for two children, then a gap, then two more. Three's enough!



Busy year, a year to remember!

March to May: Vienna as prof at the Institute for Advanced Studies (funded by NATO to help Austria after the Russians left). My boss Roland Stockelle kissed Joy's hand, very trad Viennese. He and his wife Eugenie were very good to us. A wonderful first "abroad" experience.

May to June: As we knew we'd be moving house, Eric took Angus to school at Dunkirk, lunched with him on campus or in Highfields Park, and took him home afterwards. Then back to work to finish off.

June 30th: Moved to Greenfield Street, bought for £3500 from Clare's family (not owned by her mum, but in trust by the children). The students helped us move in and unpack and wash all the crockery in time for a student "squash" the day after. I built a big climbing frame (with the help of the physics department workshop stand drill) and all the local kids came and played all round the house (no gates in those days).

We have students round about twice a term for folk singing at our house. Maximum about 80 students, we needed to air the place afterwards. The children were entertained, Rory provided puppet shows for groups of them while we sang.

Summer squashes would involve barbecues and dancing on the lawn.

For multi-demominational Sunday evening services University Christian Society invited people like Sidney Carter, who came round to our house afterwards. "Change the songs any way you want, make it yours."

March: Appointed Director of University Cripps Computing Centre to start in July.

March to May, Professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna. We all lived there, plus Marion and visitors.

July 1st: Started director's job at CCC. I soon became secretary of the national "Inter University Committee on Computing" involving regular meetings with our government funding body (the "Computer Board") in London and locally. Head of the "Computer Board" was Lionel Rutterford, a real gentleman, a good contact for applying for funds, I got all I wanted. And I organised the "Midlands Universities Computing Committee" with Loughborough, Leicester, Birmingham, Aston and Warwick.


On one USA trip I visited aged Auntie Grace (age 80+) in Detroit, she walked me off my feet. Then (using a different Chicago airport which was in a different time zone, I nearly missed the plane) to relatives in Toronto and then the Air Canada inaugural jumbo on the way back.
Every new year the maths department ran courses for sixth-formers. I gave the same lecture "Introduction to Computers" six times each year. I included every visual aid I could think of, overheads, CCTV to the computer room, magic lantern slides... One year the technicians were on strike, so Angus worked all the CCTV stuff.

First of a number of trips to USA (more details here), to see Internet prototype etc., called the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency, part of the USA DoD), NASA computing etc. Included some visits to Canada to see elderly relatives in Toronto and Bruce Shawyer (ex-Nottingham Maths) in London Ontario on the river Thames.


First European camping holiday of many, with the children. This one Norway and Sweden and a conference in Denmark.




While I was playing for a school children's dance show at Wollaton Park (MC Ken Clark) a stall-holder came up to me and said "Can I bring my bass and play with you tomorrow?". It was Geoff Bocking (who then joined Freds Folks band and taught me pottery), he played bass in a procession with a schoolchild marching in front carrying the spike of his bass. I joined his singing group "Lazybones", in which I played bass. Bren Linday sang and played guitar and drum, and also joined Freds Folks.


New two story computing Centre building I helped design, new computer ICL 1906A at £1.2 million then. Wow, 512 kilo-bytes of memory, 40 mega-bytes of disc! It needed a special power cable to the local substation, roughly half megawatt each for the computer and the air conditioning/cooling

I was secretary of the national Inter University Computing Committee, lots of London meetings with government officials. I organised the annual IUCC conference, invited speakers included Grace Hopper, Don Knuth, Dijkstra. Grace Hopper always had a piece of wire a foot long and explained "This is a nanosecond" at the speed of light.

Trip to USA, met up with Cecil Laughlin in Harvard and was treated to a Ploughman's meal at the local Irish Pub. Visit to "Spring Joint Computer Conference" in Atlantic City. And to the "Centre for the Augmentation of the Human Intellect" at Stanford.

Started the "Nottingham Algorithms Group" in the computing centre.


I discovered that large sums of money were disappearing from my account in the CCC. In those days computing centres were given special very generous funding from government "Computer Board" to encourage the UK computing industry, separate from the usual university funding from UGC. I reported my losses to the Computer Board and was then hauled up before the V-C and fired, "We don't wash our dirty linen in public." So he admitted that there was dirty linen. I was demoted from being a professorial director to an ordinary maths staff at the bottom of the pay scale. The "firing" made the front page of the Times Higher Education with big photo of me, and the front page of the Guardian newspaper. It was a cause of great trauma for a while, but looking back it gave me a life of great freedom since I could then do anything I wanted and the university couldn't prevent me or I would publish my story more widely. Hence a life of travel to help universities round the world doing whatever I or they wanted and taking as much leave as I wanted. Bless the university, I was away so much they eventually started to dock my pay when I was away, but kept paying my superannuation payments. What a life, I counted over 20 countries in the end, not being a tourist but living with students, experiencing the local culture, and helping developing countries in whatever way they wanted. Purposes of visits included helping set up new courses, writing software, improving computer performance, teaching the latest developments, handing out hundreds of millions of dollars for the World Bank, and I'm particularly proud of a US tour lecturing on music analysis.

The day I was fired from the CCC, Freds Folks were playing (as you do) at Butlin's Skegness. I was moaning to the others about "The b... university has fired me....". Our bass player Geoff Bocking said "Don't take it out on us, it's not our fault, come and take it out on a lump of clay". Fantastic, it opened up another of life's excellent opportunities.

Trip to USA with the NAG group, selling their wares at various places. In California at Lawrence Livermore we left Brian Ford to give the talk, the rest of us went round a winery.


Took up pottery! I was winging in the band (at Skegness Butlins) about being fired by the university, Geoff said "Don't take it out on us, take it out on a lump of clay." I went round to his place, he taught me, I loved it! He told me if I was doing it wrongly, I could ask for help when needed. Geoff left Nottingham (i/c 3D design at Mary Ward College of Education now British Geological Survey) in Keyworth. I used to go to his house and learn. If I needed help he gave it, if he saw me doing it wrongly he corrected me. Excellent.

He later moved to Ireland to be an HMI, I had another spat with the university, so I bought my own pottery kit and set it up in our stables. The best thing ever, to have it close. When you want to talk to the clay (or the clay wants to talk to you!) just go out and do it!

Freds band played once a week all summer for several years from 1975 at Butlin's Skegness, 8pm to 10pm, May to September. It made us more professional, uniform blue shirts (red not allowed), stand and face front, no music, plan ahead what you're going to play. Supposedly 3000 dancers, usually about 1000, but it needed a good MC. The first year the agent took 50% of the total fee, after that we didn't use an agent. One week the hall burnt down. One week Chris found his guitar case empty and had to borrow one from another band. Our MC was usually Pete Gregory, but several times Joy or Ken Clarke.

It was about now that the children started playing instruments, Angus first concertina then bass (more butch), Rory was taught fiddle by our friend Sue, and Hamish taught himself squeezebox.

Worked in Tanzania for 3 months, my first trip outside western culture. I stopped at Cairo on the way out.

A "must do before you die" action is to watch the full moon rise over the Indian ocean from the Tanzanian coast. Wonderful, it's a strange shape at first because of the cooler air by the ocean. I did lots of snorkeling to the coral reef just offshore, lots of exotic fish.

Also Sudan. I was called out to Sudan to solve Elliott 803 problems at Khartoum University. The problem turned out to be white ants in the processor, I think looking back that the two UK staff there just wanted some English company for a while. On the way back down to Dar see the Kilimanjaro story in the diary.

On the way back home from Tanzania I came via Nigeria (goat in the plane gangway from Lagos to Ibadan) and stayed with Dave & pregnant Louise Scott.



Another of my trips to Cairo, this one to sort out the performance of their new big ICL 2900 mainframe. You could see the problems as soon as you walked into the computer room, by the pattern of flashing lights (in those days mainframe computers had big panels of flashing lights). But it would have been rude to tell them that immediately!



1981 I spoke at a music conference in Paris at Pierre Boulez's research place IRCAM, still there by the Pompidou Centre. Very advanced computers and music facilities, the French don't separate arts and science the way we do, so were way ahead in computing in the arts. At various music conferences I became known as "Eric the ethnoid", I was the only one studying folk music.

Lecture tour of mid-west USA universities, honor lecturer on "Music Analysis and Classification".

Also later years business trips to Cairo, Egypt and 1981 (computer networking to link their University computing centre ICL to the department Data General), and 1991 (lecturing on Z, plump member Abdul called the Greek letter capital Xi Ξ "hamburger") and ....

And through them a trip to Kuwait, all very Arabic except in the university, where all was western. My only first class air travel, by Kuwait Air, the upstairs lounge smelled strongly of booze. Everyone who invited me round for a meal offered whisky, illegal there!

And later a USA business trip mainly to a number of oil companies in Tulsa et al to advise on improving their computer performance.

Lots of teaching in London through Eddie Bleasdale, 1 to 5 days courses on computer security, performance, etc. Most courses were in London, some on site for folks from industry, others in government departments (Foreign Office). Some were out at e.g. RAF Strike Command HQ, where I guessed their main system password correctly first time, they hadn't changed it from the one it came with.


Joy met me in Oklahoma after I'd taught summer school in Victoria, Vancouver, and we stayed with Mahir and toured to southern USA in his car. We saw the meteor crater in Arizona, the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, adobe houses in New Mexico, Pike's Peak (the highest road around, 4300m, Joy fainted while running to a loo that wasn't a loo).

Hamish lead Freds Folks whenever I wasn't around.

I played and danced with Victoria Morris (old and gentle) and Seattle Morris (young and virile).

Attended Vancouver Folk Festival.

July: Taught Pascal language Summer School at University Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada. I lived alone in the house of a ex-student Jon Muzio, he was away. Canoed up from the sea up a river with an ex-Bookham neighbour John Woods. Drove to the top of the island, the furthest west longitude of my trips.


Joy's first trip to India. For her 50th birthday she went to study dance in Baroda = Vadodora. I went out in March the next year to see her final performance. Then we went sightseeing to Delhi, she got dysentery, and her visa turned out to be invalid. I eventually obtained a "no objection to leaving" certificate for her, pretending I was a noble husband come to take her off their hands.

About now I was external examiner at Bristol University for 3 years. The last year (Bristol made it my last) the staff wanted to fail a student who'd done much better in the exams than they expected, they thought he must have cheated. I refused to support them, since I had been given no actual evidence of cheating. But they marked him down. He appealed unsuccessfully to the University, the High Court and eventually the Queen, but got nowhere. I got an accurate write-up of my actions as part of a 2-page spread in the Sunday Times.

My book "Unix for SuperUsers" was in the top 10 in California for a while. Also German, Japanese and Italian versions.



Went to USA for meeting of IFIP (International Federation for Information Processing) Working group in and language to describe music. Ended up with SMDL (standard music description language) similar to HTML but no-one used it.



Freds Folks was one of the resident bands at the Whitby Festival in 1989. We stayed in a hotel next to a rather snotty southern band. We usually played for two sessions a day, just once the "bop till you drop" midnight session. In the report we filled in at the end of the week we were a little critical of some of the aspects of the festival; we never got invited again!

First of many trips to China for the World Bank. The first time I was met off the plane with "Welcome to China, we see that you are a cow". I was paid to go and sort out their microprocessor laboratory, and integrate it into their syllabus. But instead they'd advertised that I was giving a 4-week course on Software Engineering, they charged 30 people from over China through the nose for this, and kept the profit. On my birthday, a special meal with "Victoria sponge", and a speech explaining the I was a cow, cows eat grass (indigestible to us) and produced milk (easily digestible) so that's good for a teacher who takes in difficult information and gives it out ... Limited tourism under my own steam, China wasn't yet touristy. No-one else at the Great Wall when I was taken there.


On a day of national holiday during my Department of Trade and Industry trip to China I caught a boat to a small island off Hong Kong. Found a morris team with no musician but a spare accordion! Thanks, Dave Scott!

Trip to China with Department of Trade and Industry to look at manufacturing in the autonomous Guandong province. Never decline an invitation! Included Shenzen, Macao and Zuhai (I "got lost" and looked at the back of the factories in the dustbins and garages, and found 3 new BMWs and 3 new Mercedes hidden at the back.)

Many trips to China for the World Bank "Chinese Provincial Universities Development Project", a 10 year 500 million dollar programme, inspecting universities and evaluating development dollars for them. We had six western professors and each with a Chinese counterpart, specialists in Physics (Zacharov, Russia), Education (? King, London), Medicine, ... and Computing (me, I had to do computer science teaching and computing centres), The year after Tiananmen I had to interview (with no-one else present) staff at Beijing Normal University (the one most involved in Tiananmen). They all spoke English except one who didn't want to be interviewed, so said he only spoke French. No problem, I interviewed him in French! At a final meeting which included Chinese government officials, my one-hour wind up summary at the final meeting took 59.5 minutes. We all agreed that the internet was a good thing all round and Universities should be joined, but a young party representative said that it was not in the interests of the party. No more argument allowed!


Formally retired 1998, went half time for 2 years (dropped the maths part of the joint maths/computer science appointment), then third time for 2 years and lastly quarter time for one year. Instead of walking (8 minutes) to my office on the local campus I cycled (10 minutes) to the new Jubilee campus for the last 2 years. Somewhere are photos of my 13 different university offices over the years.

2012 onwards I became a specialist in using NHS services; they are great! Bowel cancer declared terminal in October 2012 (but they sorted me after much chemotherapy, some radio therapy and 2 surgeries in 2013 and 2014), and in 2018 I ended up on life support for pneumonia + sepsis + acute kidney failure and in City Hospital for 3 weeks. They know me too well.

First artwork for the City by Priory Park unveiled 22nd October 2016 by Robin Hood with city sheriff, local councillors and MP present, see here. Second artwork in new housing behind the Savoy Cinema was unveiled 18th October 2019.

Several trips to Malaysia (via ex-PhD student Abdullah Mohd Zin), one was teaching "Z", I lived in Kajang the sate capital of Malaysia. Other trips in Kuala Lumpur.

Many visits to Singapore (adapting software I'd written for marking student work "ceilidh" to their requirements). The routine was take my luggage to a Saturday gig here, they'd drop me at the bus station after the gig after midnight, bus to Heathrow, check-in 6am for 9am flight to Singapore, arrive 7am next day, car to my flat near the university, shower and into work for 9am. After work massage and walk up Bukit Timah Hill, and no jet lag. All very efficiently organised. Joy came once.

One "ceilidh" trip to Helsinki Finland, they suffer from clever students who try to cheat. One member showed me his sauna, I was thinking of building one. Special drink was birch sap and vodka.

Trips to Taiwan, one with Joy organised at the other end by Julia and Teng. And one organised by Bill Lou at the army training college, he was a major. I was made a General in the army, they translated my software into Mandarin. My driver followed me everywhere in the car even if I walked. My batman prepared everything in the flat. At a dinner for all the Generals at the end, they had many toasts followed by Karaoke, I sang Danny Boy, the only English language song on the list.

Many trips through Joy's contacts to India (via Joy, teaching and lots, always introduced as "the husband of the famous Kathak dancer Joy", not as "the famous computer person"). Some trips teaching at MSU Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (one of the largest faculties of engineering in India, Joy's dance guru's husband was dean of Engineering there), one for the Indian Institute of Engineers, one at South Gujarat University. I went for a 3 day holiday after one teaching trip on my own to friends (a mill owning family the Velankars) at Sangli for a rest. They had arranged day 1 lecture to 3000 students at their local university (walked up the middle aisle of the lecture theatre with the VP to rhythmic clapping, frightening, it was a good job that my research in writing software to mark student work made a fun talk), day 2 public lecture on education in England (the audience asked about trade unions and workers' rights, hard not to embarrass the very traditional mill owner), day 3 open a new eco factory (factory making equipment to generate cooking gas from cow poo), so no holiday. The owners (Velankar family) ran a real imported Victorian spinning and weaving factory, frightening to go round, so many noisy and close machines, you couldn't see across for the dust). On the train back to Mumbai I chatted to the lady opposite, and she arranged for her driver to take me to Mumbai Airport.


The other history page is here. This copy edited Friday 31-Mar-2023

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