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Letter written in 2000 to my school teachers on the occasion of my retirement

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So, a potted history of a very exciting 45 years since I left Thames Valley Grammar School in 1955!

In my first undergraduate week at Nottingham University I attended Folk Dance society, and (apart from enjoying the dancing) met a girl who wanted an accordion player (thanks Mr. Blandford) to help her teach folk dancing at youth clubs; hence my lovely wife Joy (a teacher, of course, my family is infested with them), three boys now aged 35, 36, 38 and a recent ruby wedding anniversary party.

My second undergraduate week there was a "meet the staff" evening for mathematics freshers. I got chatting to one lecturer, who needed a volunteer to build some electronic demonstration models for his "Computer Logic" course. I volunteered, the department arranged for me to attend (but not be examined in) the complete electronics degree course as well as my maths degree, and one summer vac I went on a 3 month apprenticeship course on electronic telephone exchange design at Ericssons (later Plessey, later Siemens) locally. So my whole life was really sorted out within 2 weeks of arriving at Nottingham!

At the end of my maths degree (I specialized in logic) they needed a Ph.D. student to build a special computer designed to do logic (remember you couldn't buy computers in 1959, you made 'em). I spent 1 year building a computer, 1 year solving abstruse logic problems on it, and 6 months writing up. A doddle with my background, I was very lucky the way everything fell into place! Our first baby was due to arrive the day my thesis was due to be handed in - the baby was late, the thesis was early. I'd already got on the maths academic staff here after 1 year of PhD, got bored with logic, and taught pure maths and numerical analysis.

Then in 1962 the University got a data link to the Atlas computer at Manchester University, and I got hooked on computers. I was appointed Director of the university Computing Centre in 1967 (professorial, with 60 staff, not bad for age 30). Very exciting in the early days, my knowledge of both electronics and maths was very useful. We bought a new computer (I signed a cheque for over £1,200,000), and I designed a new Computing Centre building. Then I had a row with the University (I could tell you exciting stories of corruption in high places, photo on the front page of THES, the vice-chancellor saying "We don't wash our dirty linen in public", and the whistle-blower being fired, I'd tell more over a drink in a pub), and went back to the Maths department as an ordinary lecturer. After the demotion, I felt less responsible to the University, and decided that life was for me to find fulfillment and enjoyment.

I kept the lecturing post at Nottingham (half in the Maths department teaching mainly logic, and half in Computer Science), but got the travel bug. Since then, I have kept my base at Nottingham, but taken short temporary appointments in over twenty countries. The longer visits were to Vienna (Institute for Advance Studies, I gave my first lecture in German (thanks Mrs. Bannerman) but afterwards the students said "We can understand your English better than your German"), Dar Es Salaam University (Tanzania, set up some MSc courses, learnt some Swahili but taught in English!), lots of visits to Cairo (ditto Arabic, it's the only country where I've been slapped in jail), lots of visits to India (they speak a sort of English), regular trips for 10 years to China (working for the Chinese government and the World BAnk inspecting the quality of university computer science departments, handing out millions of dollars as appropriate, and fighting at very high-level government meetings to get the Internet into China, the politics were fascinating), and for the last few years regular work doing Internet programming in Singapore. I still have trips to India (lecturing) and Singapore (world wide web) to come.

Away from work, Joy and I have brought up our 3 boys (TV news transmission in Germany, microprocessor control systems, and computers), and are much involved in dance and music. I morris dance, play for a clog team, and run a Ceilidh band. Joy clogs, and acts as MC with our band. Joy and I organize regular tours of Brittany with our morris, clog and band; I do all the public announcements and negotiations with town halls and police (thanks Miss Williams for the fairly fluent French!). I have my own pottery out the back, and produce 200 to 500 handmade ceramic pieces each year. I've been on the occasional national Methodist committee (thanks Pauline Webb), Joy and I were vice-presidents of Methodist Society here for ages. Joy is a freelance teacher of Indian dance and culture, and has spent more time in India than many of our Asian friends here!

So, sorry if I've bored you! I've a lot to thank TVGS and its staff for, I'd be delighted to keep in touch. We have a big Victorian house in Nottingham with many spare beds, and would love to see anyone related to TVGS who comes this way.

Eric Foxley

PS : Oh yes, I nearly forget, I did a month of school teaching in 2000, being requested by a local school to do A-level computing revision and some lower sixth Maths; it was a great pleasure and experience (so many teachers in my family and Joy's, I'm glad I've done at least a small amount), but I declined their request to stay on!

More history here.


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This page last updated Sun 28-Jul-2019 9:29 . Page visits since April 2001 Site Meter
Eric runs the Dunkirk Arts Centre and manages web sites for
Chaturangan, Foresters Morris , Greenwood Clog , Young Folk, Grant Publisher and Freds Folks.