In Search of A/The Point of Life

DEFENCE OF THE REALM: Running into bloodcurdling mannequins and pigeon-espionages. And Alan Turing, of course.

A couple of Fridays ago, on 26th November, we made a little trip out of Nondon, to visit Alan Turing’s playground in the legendary Bletchley Park. This was our very first time in the National Codes Centre, and our very first time in the new town of Milton Keynes as well. Both were – how could we possibly articulate this in a diplomatic way? – interesting.

Apart from playing a vital role in the second world war as the UK’s primary decryption centre, Bletchley Park is also known as the ‘birthplace of the computer age’, as claimed by the poster displayed in Hut 8 (as seen in the image above).  Hut 8, of course, was also where Mathematician Alan Turing worked. Like many, we are lured to the complex and, indeed, enigmatic Turing for several reasons, including how the Father of Computer Science was an obsessive AND VERY HIGHLY ACCOMPLISHED marathon runner, and who apparently conceptualised the beginnings of the modern computer in the middle of his run. The park itself was legendary alright – in that it actually looked locked in time, in roughly the period of WWII and perhaps, up to the 1970s at the very most. Look, for instance, at the numerous mannequins on display- what are they if not camp and scary? That the park was populated by otaku-type middle-aged men taking very diligent notes of the machinery and toys on display,  in the midst of a rather frigid Friday afternoon in a somewhat godforsaken place, also added to the sense of uncanniness that we felt. Our highlight of the day was the sight of  this poster, which condemns the ‘killing, wounding or molesting‘ (italics ours – BUT we SWEAR THE WORD WAS SCREAMING AT US IN ITALICS ALRIGHT) of homing pigeons. Anyone found fondling these sassy birds in an inappropriate manner against their consent will have to sit in jail for 6 months or be fined £100 (which must have been a lot of money  – we don’t mean to sound condescending – ‘in those days’). SHAME ON YOU, PIGEON-MOLESTER!!! Now go stand in your naughty corners, beside the scary parade of mannequins!! Oh, and put on that anorak (why else would it be there on the wall??) and cover your filthy, putrid little brains!!!!

By the time we made our way to Milton Keynes central late in the afternoon, the weather had become even more frigid. We trrrrrembled in pain as we walked/stumbled down the very wide streets, which somewhat resembled boulevards that are normally found in Paris (courtesy of Hausmann – better for the horses to trample on delinquent Parisiens), or the West Coast, rather than what we would normally experience in this sceptered isle. Would we run here? YES YES YES! The lovely wide roads look most inviting. Our ‘running goggles’ that we wear to filter every city were flashing and glowing excitedly. Would we want to live here? … ellipsis … We figure that we would not die if we lived here  – but perhaps worse that that we might live as if dead, or deadened, as we imagine we would in any city that is less than large/overcrowded/anonymous/mixed/always-changing/can’t-be-pinned-down-as-they-escape-easy-definitions, although of course we cannot and must not judge any place so quickly could we (that said, time does not guarantee good or better judgement – whatever that might be- and can infact invariably impede judgement…).

Yet, each and every of the cab driver that we encountered had moved there from an other city or country, and each sang praises of this new town (‘Everything that you need in life, you can get it here’;  ‘I moved here for a fresh start, from zero, after walking out one day on my marriage of 23 years’).

Ground zero, or as if ground zero (since total, complete erasure is never possible – hence the interesting, difficult-to-pronounce word: palimpsest), as if in a new land, as if tabula rasa, as if without histories, as if new, as if new encounters, as if new beings.

We have always liked that.