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Special Fares Apply

At the top of the Bakerloo line, sometimes and sometime not part of the Bakerloo Line (and now on the Overground), snuggled in a little dip in the fares zones on the tube map, sits Watford Junction. So far is it from the loving embrace of the familiar travel zones, that, emotionally speaking, it might just as well be a little way before the Andromeda galaxy. It is a station where 'special fares apply' which is the transport equivalent of approaching the singularity at the heart of a black hole, where special physics apply and even Einstein couldn't be sure what would happen.

To add to the sense of mystery, there was only one place to visit this far 'up': Bletchley Park. According to my records, I was there in 2009, but for some reason I didn't record the date, but it was after Ruislip Gardens in March, and before Mill Hill East/Finchley Central were collected on the 9th August. All else is conjecture.

Some lovely signage at the station:

Bletchley Park...it's the bombe!  (sorry..)

Bletchley Park is a place I have long held romantic visions of. During the Second World War it was the home to Britain's codebreakers, and many of the thousands working there had no understanding of the true significance of their jobs. And they kept their mouths shut - for years afterwards in many cases, never speaking of the incredibly important work they did in bringing the war to a quicker end, and in our favour.

In this age of tweets and bloggers, can you imagine the same? Maybe something of similar importance goes on now, and ten thousands workers busily defeating terrorism Don't Tell, but I suspect not. Something has changed in our national psyche, in that we live out lives constructed through our social-media identities. Even generationally, it is different between my sense of my world, and that of my 18-year-old nephew, with a need to constantly describe and display one's life for exterior scrutiny and validation. My phone and home server both died on my late last year, and for the best part of six weeks I had no internet / mobile service at home and mostly it was wonderful. A feeling that is of course at odds with my returning to blogging about my tubewhoring around the city.

Bletchley Park, is also the spiritual home of one of my heroes - Alan Turning - a man's who genius was later squandered to petty social prejudice - a fact which still make me cry and rage with the utter the stupidity and awfulness of it. One of the best minds of the 20th Century, a genius ranking with Newton and Shakespeare, was destroyed with court-imposed drugs to cure him of the 'crime' of homosexuality. And given his war service, even with the social mores of the time 'special fares' should have applied. It's like smashing the Rose Window in York Cathedral because not everyone is a Christian...

I'll just finish my rant with this: I'm typing this on a Macbook, on the cover is the familiar apple logo; an apple with a bite missing.  Apples with bite marks are, of course, deeply resonant within a Judeo-Christian culture, tree of knowledge, forbidden fruit and all that...but this specific apple is a reference to Alan's apple, the bitten, cyanide-laced fruit which was found next to him after his suicide. If ever a suicide could be poetic, it was this one - so remember Alan Turing, father of our modern computer age every time you see that damn Apple logo...EDIT: the apple bite story turns out to be a myth, but it is such a beautiful myth, I'm leaving up here.  Mostly because I still think about the tragedy of Turing's suicide when I see that damn logo.

But these thoughts aside, trying to remember my visit now, it's best to say that I want to go back.  It's too big to take in in a single trip.  There's so much of the history to digest, so many fascinating machines to gawp at, and the whole history of computing.  I should have written it all down soon, my specific memories have faded too much, all that is left is the impression of wonder and sacrifice, of the terrible difficulty and importance of the work done in small, over-heated sheds, of the slog of it all, mental and physical, for which most got  no public recognition at all for their war work, such was the secrecy needed.

So I'll finish with some pictures of the machines and try to express the beauty of the patterning in them.  Go there for yourself; the geek in your heart will just pop with joy.

I took squillions of photos, but the computer has hidden them, so only a few of inside of machines for your delectation after the cut

and finally...obligatory, proof shot from the station (which for some reason, won't rotate left):


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 18th, 2012 03:54 pm (UTC)
Yaaaay! Welcome back!

Also, I'm hideously jealous-- I've always been fascinated by Bletchley Park. It is, indeed, the bombe :)
Jan. 18th, 2012 04:50 pm (UTC)
next time you're over we must go! I really want to go again, there's is just so much there to take in. And I go to play with an Enigma machine - just amazing!!!
Jan. 18th, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC)
oh - and next post should be Bethnal Green - that's how long it's been!
Jan. 18th, 2012 04:31 pm (UTC)
nice to see you back
Jan. 18th, 2012 04:35 pm (UTC)
Awesome! And you look like you're having fun, which is the point! So nice to see you!
Jan. 18th, 2012 04:53 pm (UTC)
Hello! I was just wondering the other day whether you were ok, and here you are! And I want to go to Bletchley Park sooooo much now. My friend went there recently as a prize in some competition, made all the more poignant because her mother actually worked there, and between her blog and yours, I think it's somewhere I'd like. A lot :)
Jan. 18th, 2012 05:09 pm (UTC)
wow - did her mother ever speak about what she did? A lot of people either never told, or didn't really know themselves the significance of their work. I still think it amazing that nearly 10,000 people worked therer through the years, and yet the purpose of Bletchley didn't become come knowledge until very recently.

Also a lot of Turing's work on patterning in nature has been proving influencial in current biology, further proof, if such were needed, of how much was lost to science with his early death.
Jan. 18th, 2012 05:42 pm (UTC)
http://angalmond.blogspot.com/2011/09/bletchley-park-experience.html is the account of her day there; I think somewhere else she says that her mother never said much about it.

I get rage about Turing's death too - how could they do that after defeating the Nazi ideology? *boggles*
Jan. 19th, 2012 10:54 am (UTC)
ooo - like the beautiful hexagonal quilt. I took lots of close shots of the wiring and machinery as I think they will make great starting points for quilting/ embroideries.

Maybe we should organise a group trip there sometime in the Spring...
Jan. 18th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
So pleased to see you're back tubing it.... This has quite made my day.
Jan. 18th, 2012 05:09 pm (UTC)
awwwww....sweetpea! Thank you!
Jan. 18th, 2012 10:21 pm (UTC)
Hello. I've no idea if you've been posting and I've just not been reading LJ, but I missed you!

I ventured our to Perivale this week - and new Tube stations make me think of your blog!
Jan. 19th, 2012 10:49 am (UTC)
I really, really have to sit down with the new map, and list all the additional stations that now count towards the final tally...what's the news from Perivale?
Jan. 19th, 2012 12:31 pm (UTC)
Well, I'd not been to Perivale before - as far as I remember - so it was all new to me! I was there because I wanted to take photos of the Hoover Building in early morning light. I've yet to process my images, but I took these on my mobile:

From the end of Perivale's platform:

And the Hoover Building at dawn:

Jan. 19th, 2012 01:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this! I remember going past the Hoover Building when I was a kid,and thinking how cool it was, but I never actually knew where it was and had begun to think I'd imagined it. I wonder where we were going, because as far as I know it wasn't a part of the world we had reason to visit.
Jan. 19th, 2012 02:09 pm (UTC)
You're welcome!

It's here: http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=hoover+building&ll=51.53395,-0.318604&spn=0.029632,0.055189&hq=hoover+building&hnear=London,+United+Kingdom&t=m&z=14&vpsrc=6

I took a large number of pictures on my SLR, which I will post once I have processed them - I'll post a link on this thread if I remember...
Jan. 19th, 2012 02:45 pm (UTC)
Ah, possibly going to Heathrow then. I've been to Uxbridge a few times lately to visit a friend and never realised I was so near!
Jan. 19th, 2012 10:29 am (UTC)
So glad you're back doing this again! I'd love to do a few more stations with you :)
Jan. 19th, 2012 02:37 pm (UTC)
Rotating Watford Junction left would probably disrupt all the trains into Euston...
Jan. 19th, 2012 04:35 pm (UTC)
What a nice surprise to see one of your posts. Fascinating as always!
Jan. 19th, 2012 10:16 pm (UTC)
Hurrah, welcome back.

Bletchley Park does sound fun, I really should make it up there.
So where's next on the list?

I hope you made it up to the V&A - they just had an exhibition on Post Modernism with a mention of Leigh Bowery.

Incidentally, according to Stephen Fry (from talking to Steve Jobs) Apple's logo wasn't inspired by Turing "But should have been".

Edited at 2012-01-19 10:26 pm (UTC)
Jan. 20th, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, made it to the V&A for the Power of Making. Didn't really have the time (or inclination, truthfully) for Postmodernism as well, but I do want to see the textiles made from Golden Orb Spider silk. The idea of putting spiders into little harnesses and milking them for their silk boggles the mind.

I'm sad to hear that about the apple logo - it was always the story I was told by friends from the Beeb who supposedly Know These Things...how very disappointing for it to be wrong.
Jan. 21st, 2012 11:24 am (UTC)
Don't thinks I'd noticed the spider silk exhibition. The Transformation and Revelation one looks intriguing. Mind you, there's some fun at the RA and Tates too - could be a fun season for museums and galleries.

Apparently it's a popular legend (although from the wiki on Turing: In Series I, Episode 13 of the British television quiz show QI presenter Stephen Fry recounted a conversation had with Steve Jobs, saying that Job's response was, "It isn't true, but god, we wish it were.")

According to the designer: Interview with original designer:
I designed it with a bite for scale, so people get that it was an apple not a cherry. Also it was kind of iconic about taking a bite out of an apple. Something that everyone can experience. It goes across cultures. If anybody ever had an apple he probably bitten into it and that's what you get. It was after I designed it, that my creative director told me: "Well you know, there is a computer term called byte".

Jan. 21st, 2012 11:38 am (UTC)
Incidentally, saw this and thought you might be interested: http://www.fadeoutdesign.com/london.html
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )


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