Today started off as what you might term a ‘normal’ day but it was not to end that way, as we shall shortly see. The day started off with quite a lot of rain in the air and developed into kind of thin drizzle when we started off to go down into the town. We picked up our newspapers and then made for the park where we were pleased to unite/coincide with our University of Birmingham friend who we had not seen for several days. We had quite a lot of news to exchange with other – in particular, we recounted the stories about our ex-Leicester Polytechnic colleague about whom there were many stories to relate, many of them amusing in nature (as yesterday’s blog reveals). On our walk down, we received a call on my mobile from our visiting hairdresser who had been trying to make contact with us for some time. We have an appointment now in our diaries for about a month’s time so we will have to endure our shaggy locks for some time yet. We were exchanging a lot of stories with our friend about what is often known as school boy ‘howlers’ i.e. things written by school children which are the results of stress and half-remembered facts but which now are incredibly amusing. One of these that springs to mind is the story that ‘Sir Francis Drake played with his bowels whilst the Armada sailed up the English Channel‘ whilst yet another reveals that ‘Migration is a headache that birds get when they fly south for the winter‘ Whole books have been written full of stories like these and a few are still genuinely amusing, even to this day.
Whilst we were in the park, I turned on my phone to check something or other and received the news flash that the Duke of Edinburgh had died. Like the rest of the population, I felt a sense of loss for the other members of the royal family but knew that the minute we got home we were going to get ‘wall-to-wall- coverage’ of the sequelae to the death of the husband of the monarch. I was prepared for the fact that the news channels would be dominated by this but not that the BBC went into blanket coverage, broadcasting the historical tributes and stories of the Duke’s life in the most extreme detail on every single channel. I suppose that they must have masses of material ‘in the can’ waiting for this event to occur because it was evident that the Duke was getting increasingly frail. At the age of 99, there were some of who thought that he would not survive his latest stay in hospital where he had yet another heart operation designed to keep him going (was it another stent, I wonder?) I did have the feeling, though, that is he had managed to hold on for another couple of months or so, then he might just have made it to his 100th birthday (on which occasion, the Queen would no doubt have to send him a special letter of congratulations) But having said that, he has probably got at least one letter of congratulation having married to the Queen for over 70 years (73 in fact).
I have a very slight personal recollection of the Duke of Endinburgh as follows. His mother was known as ‘Princess Alice of Battenberg‘ although she had many other titles by which she was known, including Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark. (Her story is quite a long and convoluted one if you want to follow up that sort of thing via Wikipedia). She had suffered several traumas in her life including deafness and schizophrenia and was given shelter by the present Queen and Prince Philip in quarters in an obscure part of Buckingham Palace. Anyway, she died in December, 1969, three days before the Duke if Edinburgh was due to attend a graduation ceremony at the University of Salford. Although we had been looking forward to receiving our MSc’s at the hand of the Duke when we heard about the death of his mother three days beforehand and we said to each other ‘Well that’s it – he will never come to Salford now‘. (I checked out the veracity of this statement by rummaging around to find the exact date when I did graduate with my MSc and my recollections were correct) Well, he did come to Salford University and gave us our degrees, exhibiting, no doubt, the old-fashioned sense of duty and devotion to the advancement of the young that we have by now come to expect.
Last night, I was attempting a procedure on my newly acquired IBM ThinkPad and succeeded in somehow messing it up so much that it became unusable. Thinking that I had nothing to lose, I decided to reformat it with a copy of Windows 7 which completely overwrites the version of XP on the hard disk. This has just about succeeded and the version of Windows 7 works OK except it cannot establish any wireless contact with the internet and also seems to have lost all of its sound drivers. Whether this reparable or not, only time will tell.