Lock-down Diaries #9.

 Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, we’re so glad you could attend, come inside.  Come inside one and all for what will be the ninth in this series which started as a bit of a piece of nonsense to pass the time during house arrest and has grown into easily my most popular group of postings notwithstanding the effort I put into my historical travel blogs.  They seem to get somewhat swallowed up and disappear because I back-post them and only my close personal friends ever read them.  There may be a lesson there somewhere.
As always, it could not be simpler, if you want to jump into my latest little adventure then simply press the “read more” button below and you’ll be most welcome.

There you are, thanks so much for choosing to spend some more time reading my ramblings which will obviously resume where I left off in the last Diary entry i.e. having been moved from the Marie Celeste of ward 10E to my previous “home (not so far) from home” in ward 3E, the vascular ward of the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.  I am not joking, if either of the wards I occupied had been on the opposite side of the building and facing East I could easily have seen my home without even having to resort to binoculars, it can’t be more than half a mile from my door to the door of A&E, a door I am becoming rather too familiar with.
Time to get a little esoteric now when I state that fate is a strange thing and affects different people in different ways.  If you are one of my regular readers, hello again and thanks as always, but if you have landed here by some capricious chance of the forces of the Universe, or whatever belief system you may follow, you will be wondering what I was doing in hospital and why I like ward 3E so much better than 10E.
Royal London Hospital.
Royal London Hospital.
Fate has dealt me a very  good card here in that you are another potential reader / follower / viewer / friend or whatever you consider yourself to be.  Yes, I do consider anyone that reads this to be a friend and I do know many of my readers personally but it is not an exclusive club, all are welcome.  Fate may have dealt you a good card if you like what you read here or a bad one if you don’t, that is how fate works but at least on a practical level I can explain the hospital situation to you.  If you are not very used to this style of blog page, just go to the bottom and click back through a few pages by using the “previous button” on the left of the screen, you’ll get back to my initial admission to hospital soon enough.
Now that’s all sorted (hopefully) let’s get back to the ward.  Just a quick recap here, the bay I was in had four beds which seems to be the preferred size in the RLH which is fairly modern.  I don’t mind being in a ward with eight or 10 beds but four is a nice size.  You have the social aspect of people to chat to and yet it is not too huge and busy with no chance of a bit of peace and quiet at any hour.  No doubt a lot of research went into this and it does seem to work.
To give you a run round the ward clockwise from the door, bed 17 was an Asian guy called Rashim I believe (I am not sure), a quiet bloke but pleasant enough when you spoke to him, your humble narrator in 18, Mark in 19 and Jeff in 20 although he was usually asleep as he was on fairly heavy painkillers.
I mentioned last time that Mark had greeted me cheerily just about as soon as the porters had hit the brakes on my bed and plugged it in and we just hit it off instantly although how or why I really have no idea as I shall explain.  Incidentally, I should explain at the outset that I have cleared it with him to release some of his personal details and that of his wife here, I would never do such a thing without permission so if you ever do meet me in person don’t just clam up because you think I am going to expose you to identity theft by virtue of shooting my mouth off about  your personal details here.
I detected the merest touch of a Scots accent and so I asked him where he was from “up the road” (i.e. Scotland) to which he replied, “Fife”.  “Ah”, says I, “The Kingdom” at which he looked ever so slightly taken aback that a guy with an accent so obviously Northern Irish would know of the Kingdom of Fife.  I followed up by saying I had been to see Dunfermline F.C. play at home, had stayed with friends in Kirkcaldy before, had driven round the East Neuk and even eaten fish and chips in Anstruther (that is  a remarkably big thing as Anstruther claims, like many other places, the best fish and chips in the world).  I went so far as to quote the first few lines of the medieval poem “Sir Patrick Spens” which are,
“The King sits in Dunfermline town,
Drinking of the blood-red wine
“Where can I get a steely skipper
To sail this might boat of mine?””
I have even had coffee in Dunfermline in a coffee house built in a very old building which had these lines painted on the wall and engraved above the old fireplace.
Look all these things up as I am not going  go into them all but I think it established my credentials with my new “Fifer” mate.

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Just to add a little visual interest to the thing and in keeping with my Diary “ethos” of trying to tie my previous travels into current writings, formerly my “on this day” offerings, I have included a selection of images from “the Kingdom” for your hopeful amusement.

I have deliberately included an image I would not normally include as it is rubbish and far too over-exposed for the detail to be obvious so you must believe me that the inscription above the fireplace, as mentioned above, is the quotation from the poem I mentioned.   The images are mostly from Dunfermline and the wonderful Culross village where the whole place is administered by the National Trust for Scotland and is well worth a visit.
On the ward it was just about supper time but I had missed the totally wrong breakfast time ordering of lunch and supper designed to give the obviously idle “dinner lady” even less to do (please see the previous entry for a full explanation of that) and so one of the HCA’s (Health Care Assistants) told me they’d order me up a snack bag.  No problem, it’s grub.
Given the sandwich options on offer I went for egg mayo, one of the simplest of all sandwich combos and still one of my favourites.  I have to say they do a very  good one in the London and I even resorted to a another childish dietery practice (again please see the last entry for my usual hospital breakfast) of putting crisps (potato chips for my American friends) in the sandwich.  I apologised to Mark for this and he laughed and said he loved it as well.
At this point I should have been able to add yet another apparently incongruous and yet relevant image but I do not appear to have what I need despite over an hour’s diligent search.  Many of you will know that the sandwich is named for John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich.  An inveterate gambler, he asked his cook to prepare something he could eat without relinquishing his seat at the card table.  His cook, whose name history has sadly forgotten, put a cold cut of meat and perhaps some pickle or condiment between two slices of bread and so the sandwich was born, or at least popularised.  This happened in 1762 and within a year it was the rage of London society.  Americans eat over 300 million a year now, I wonder if they  know that their favoured snack meal originates form a dissolute British aristocrat and his love of losing money at cards?
For those of my lovely readers not au fait with British geography I should explain that Sandwich is actually a coastal town in Kent, complete with the very scant remains of what was once a great fortress.  By 1016 it was the most important port in England and by the 1060’s it was home to the fleet of King Harald Godwinson of England (a Viking as the name suggests) as defence against attack from Vikings, Danes and Normans and we all know how that ended for him.
I have been to Sandwich a few times and thought I had some images which I simply cannot find and I also have a vague memory of playing a gig in a pub there years ago with my mate Pete but again any images, if any ever existed, have been chewed up in the bombsite of my computer system.  Shame really as it is a pleasant little place.
Back to Mark and I had spotted that he was on TPN which means he was on the dreaded Nil By Mouth  (NBM) regime I had suffered under for so long in hospital in Margate the year before.  Let’s be honest, you cannot mis a TPN bag as it is huge on the IV stand.  I know how awful it is to have to sit and watch others eating when your own stomach thinks your throat has been cut and I offered to pull my curtains but he would not hear of it.  The poor sod was in that awful situation until the day before we were both released (that’s not really a spoiler, I am not still in the RLH although that in itself is another discussion for later) and he bore it manfully.
Before I forget, a little self-indulgence here as I know he reads this so, “Hi Doc” and regards to your good lady wife.
You may be wondering why I keep referring to Mark as the Doc and why I dropped a cryptic remark into one of the earlier diaries about introducing you to a Doctor that had nothing to do with the hospital and Mark is the very man.  I am jumping ahead here slightly as this conversation took place over a while and it really did take a little work to get it out of him as he is not at all a boastful man but to precis, and remember I have permission to tell you this, my new mate across the ward was no less than Dr. Mark Harley Ph.D and it gets better.  His Ph.D is in some weird and wonderful branch of physics that lost me after about three words of supposed explanation, but that does not say  much.
We had got round to the subject  whilst talking about what we did for a living and he tried to explain in terms that even I could understand what he did.  It basically consists of programming computers to think and get them to do maths and physics by themselves, at least I think that’s what he said and I was paying attention.  Get in touch if I have got that completely wrong, Doc.
The bottom line is that we were absolutely chalk and cheese.  The Doc is a card-carryng genius with a brain the size of a small planet (sorry, mate but it’s true) and I left school with five or six O Levels (I can’t even remember now), too stupid to go to University and yet we just hit it off.  We discussed everything and anything and I was pleased to find out that he had a wide range of interests.
I have somehow or another managed to bump into other similarly clever people before but they all seem to be totally absorbed with their own speciality to the exclusion of all else.  During one of our many discussions, which went on all day every day for the six we shared in there, I offered a quote I had picked up once that an academic career teaches you more and more about less and less.  I honestly believe this to be true.
Again, it was similar to talking to, listening to and watching the Doctors.  I said before that being in hospital was like doing an Open University course, and talking to the Doc was like that but  on steroids.  I’ll be getting into some of the subjects in a moment and they are, in the proper sense of the word, mind-blowing, at least for a mind like mine.  I actually managed to get my Physics O Level and nobody was more surprised than me because  I failed my Maths the same year and had to resit.  The reason for this was Doc. Brown, my teacher, and I still don’t know how he did it.  I even told Doc. Harley  about it and he laughed.
We chatted and watched TV on our computers and he dozed a bit until he decided to turn in for the night.  As usual I had become totally nocturnal and insomniac and possibly managed an hour or two of sleep before the six o’clock obs round and so begins another day, that day being Saturday the 4th of July, American Independence Day.  I promise I am not even going to mention the role Freemasonry played in that conflict or why there is, to this day, a pyramid and a horus eye on a $1 US bill.  Look it up.
Nothing much happened on the ward that day but I do remember reading online that there was a bit of a furore about various celebrations in the US which seemed to fly in the face of current medical advice about social distancing, use of masks etc.  Like him or loathe him, the current POTUS, as Secret Service jargon for the American President is, Donald J. never seems to be far from the headlines.
I said nothing much happened on the ward and that is true as I didn’t even have a Doctor’s round at any point but that didn’t surprise me overly as weekends can be like that.  I did have a brief visit from one of the vascular Doctors but that was merely by accident.  One of the female members of the team had come up to the ward to see Jeff about something or other and, as she was leaving she spotted me and popped over for a chat.  It wasn’t a proper visit where there is always a junior doctor typing furiously on a huge mobile computer updating your notes as the “head honcho” examines you but rather it was rather a “social call”, although it was appreciated.  Nice to know they are up to speed on all the numerous patients they must have.  The life of a hospital surgeon must be multi-tasking taken to the Nth degree.
I had my usual running battle with the dinner lady trying to get a portion of food big enough to stave off starvation and they kept pumping syringes full of antibiotics into my cannula to fight the cellulitis in my wounds but other than that it was just a day of the Doc and I chatting.  We did this most of the time we were there with each of us taking time out for naps, or being seen for whatever various medical reasons there were but I did not take a single image that day.  I had got into the habit of doing such things as I knew I’d be writing this very Diary entry at some stage and that I would need some images to break the monotony.
On then to the 5th July, the Sunday.  I wasn’t sure if I’d get a ward round that day either although for whatever reason it seems you are more likely to miss out on a Saturday than a Sunday.  Obviously, this is not a scientific statement but merely my personal experience.  As it happened there was a Doctor’s round with a gang of four involved and, joy of joys, one of my favourite Docs on the whole team whose name I never managed to get.  He told me once but I didn’t quite catch it due to his mask and my hearing loss and I did not like to ask him again.  I did keep trying to read his nametag but with no success so I shall call him the Greek Doc. as I know that to be factually correct as I shall explain.
I first met the Greek Doc. the first time I was in 3E and he appeared one day as another Doc. was instructing a possee of younger Doctors who were all involved in the standard Doc. practice of talking about me as if I wasn’t there.  The Greek Doc. had detached himself and come to my bedside where he had opened the conversation in a most unusual and non-medical manner.  “Hello, I see you are a Campbell, do you know about the 93rd”?  It was such an obscure question that it caught me completely on the hop, and indeed, with my leg, hopping or shuffling were about my only means of mobility.  After a second the penny dropped.  “You mean the 93rd [Regiment] of foot”?  “Yes”, he beamed, “Well done”.  I told him I did not know a lot but I seemed to remember they were predominantly a Campbell regiment or had Campbell connections.
I also ventured that I remembered a memorial outside Stirling Castle which I thought was dedicated to them and also a https://www.argylls.co.uk/museum/ there.  Somehow I had dragged all of this out of the deep, dark recesses of my hindbrain, in the most unusual circumstances, and it was all correct!  The 93rd were what were known as the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (A&SH in Army parlance) until they were destroyed by Government cuts in 2006 and subsumed into the amorphous Royal Regiment of Scotland.  I’ll not go into the whole history, but it is a distinguished one and there is a good precis of it here.
I chatted to the Greek Doc. on both visits to the RLH and he confirmed (I cannot remember when now) that my notion of Stirling Castle was correct and whilst researching this diary entry I discovered a few things that I had not known before.  The Greek Doc. really did  know his stuff.
I knew the Regiment was raised in Argyllshire which is the traditional heartland of the Clan Campbell but I did not know that the Regiment’s official battle-cry is “Cruachan” which I had always believed to mean Onward (wrong, apparently) and for years it was thought to be associated with a Munro mountain of that name, A Munro being a  peak over 3,000 feet, but more recent scholarship suggests it probably refers to a farmstead facing the mountain beside Loch Awe which would have made a good rallying point in times of trouble.  Who knows?
The quick march of the 1st Battalion is of the A&SH is “The Campbells are Coming” and, as a final touch, the Regimental mascot is  a Shetland pony stallion, also called “Cruachan”.  All in all, I think you could say the 93rd are a Campbell Regiment.
Strangely, in all my many visits to Scotland I have only  ever been to Argyllshire once and that was in 2015 when I was travelling round Scotland with my dear friend Lynne, a Canadian.  Somehow we had ended up in Inverary which is the very heartland of the Clan Campbell and I honestly do not know how or why, let me explain.
I travel in a completely flaneuristic style i.e. I plan nothing ahead if I can help it and just go where the notion takes me.  Lynne is the complete opposite, she is also ex-Forces (ex militia,  regular Canadian Army AND Royal Canadian Air Force no less) and likes to plan everything like a military operation.  How we ever manage to travel together is a mystery to me and yet we have probably spent nine or 10 months doing just that in the UK, Portugal and all over Canada.  Much of that time was spent in a none too spacious campervan  (RV) which is about 26 feet long if I recall correctly and yet we have never fallen out when we travel, indeed we have had some great trips together.
It may have been that I had worked out this was my “home country” or it may equally likely have been that I wanted to visit nearby Loch Fyne as that is home to some very fine oyster beds and the company which runs them now also operates my favourite chain of seafood restaurants in the UK.
Having arrived in Inverary and with nowhere to stay we ended up in the most wonderful little cottage we rented from a guy we met in the pub (this is very much the way I operate).  He didn’t even advertise it, it was basically for his family when they came to visit but he’d let it out (at a very reasonable rate, I have to say) to people he had met and “vetted” or those who had been recommended to him by friends.  Apparently, Lynne and I passed muster and we scored one of the best stays of our entire trip purely by accident.  Such is the joy of the flaneur style and I have added a few images here to show you just what a cracking find it was.
I know Lynne reads this nonsense now and again so if you can remember exactly how or why we landed in Inverary, please drop me a line and obviously I’ll amend this accordingly and credit you.  I know your memory is much better than the drink-addled version that lurks in my skull!
The next morning we were out and about and exploring and we came upon the local war memorial.  Apart from being immaculately tended, it occupied possibly the most beautiful site of all the literally thousands of war memorials I have visited, on the shores of the Loch, it really is a beautiful and remarkably peaceful location despite the nearby A38 road.  The memorial was originally unveiled in 1922 to commemorate the fallen of the First World War and a supplementary plaque was added honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the second global war.

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Apart from it’s obvious significance for two ex-service people it stands as a piece or social history about the area and proves much of what I was saying about the area and the Argyll and Sutherlands.  Of the 83 names commemorated, 10 are Campbells with others from septs (minor clans associated with the principal Clan) e.g. a couple of McArthurs).

In addition (I’ve done the legwork for you, dear readers) a staggering 56 of the 83 were members of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders which shows just how local a regiment they were in the days when we still had such things and not the nonsense we have now where you can come from the Isle of Skye and end up in the Royal Anglians (traditionally drawn from East Anglia as the name suggests)!
Back now to the Greek Doc. who was quite often there when I was having my dressing removed for examination which could be an uncomfortable enough experience.  Those of you with strong enough stomachs to have viewed my wounds will understand why I would wince and gasp a bit.  The Greek Doc would be standing there muttering “Brave Campbell” which is what he took to calling me.
It appeared the Greek Doc. had a huge interest in, and apparently encyclopedic knowledge of, Scottisn military history  which may be partially explained, but only partially by his own military national service experience in Greece.  In my naturally inquisitive way I asked him what he had done in his National Service as I knew it would have existed in Greece in his youth and indeed still does.  He started talking about the Evzones, the Presidential guard, formerly the Royal Guard.  Totally obscurely I have met the last King of Greece, King Constantine II, a charming man who asked me for a light for his cigarette and then tried to recruit me for a basketball team!  A long story for another time.
I knew the Doc could not have been in the Evzones as there is, to this day a 6’1″ minimum height requirement to even apply and he fell some way short of that.  I had seen those seriously hard warriors doing their thing in Athens  and there were occasional idiotic tourists mocking their clogs with the pompoms on, their “skirts” (merely a very old traditional form of military  dress in Greece) and all the rest of the paraphernalia.
I’ll just give you one figure here, those clogs weigh three and a half pounds each.  You try doing the stylised slow marching they do with each leg extended at 90 degrees to your spine and see how far you get with that weight on your feet.  These are not chocolate box soldiers, they are proper hardcore fit men.  I was interested to see (I just had to look it up) that their non-ceremonial operational rifle was the Heckler and Koch G3, a weapon I have used myself and much admire.
I shall have to look up the Doc. one day and find out exactly what he did do, if indeed it is recorded anywhere online.
When I say the Greek Doc. was eccentric, I am being unusually understated.  This is a senior vascular surgeon wearing typical hospital scrubs.  Most medicos favour either training shoes or clogs which seem to be popular.  I like clogs as I know they are very comfortable and well suited to walking about for twelve hours at a time.  Not the Greek Doc., he wore zip-up Chelsea boots with a bit of a heel (perhaps he thought he could get tall enough to get into the Evzones that way) and carried his  medical equipment in a plastic  shopping bag.  I like eccentricity, it shows independent thinking and a refusal to conform which has been very much the hallmark of my 60 years on this planet.  The Greek Doc. was “my kind of people”.
The Doc’s ultimate eccentricity, however, was to wear an old British military leather sporran (regimental insignia removed) over his scrubs  which is one of the strangest  things I ever saw in my life.  If you do not know what a sporran is, it is the little pouch that men wearing kilts wear over the kilt on a belt and which predates the “manbag” by centuries.  Somewhere I know I have an image of me in my kilt (scary, I know) and would have posted it here could I find it but you know by now how that is going to end up.  I shall add a WikiCommons image here to give you an idea.  This is a civilian one and in considerably better condition than the Doc’s very old and battered piece of kit but it was the only image I could get and it gives an idea.
After the Docs had poked and prodded me for a while and gone on their merry way, the (patient) Doc and I took to talking and did we ever talk.  The conversation ranged from subject to subject and most certainly never got boring.  At least I didn’t get bored, I do hope the Doc didn’t.  When I say we talked about everything, I really do mean everything.
Don’t ask me how it came about as I have no idea, but at one point I was explaining to the Doc how difficult it is to operate a follow spot during a theatrical performance and how precise a skill it is.  I was regaling him with a story of how I once had to do it from the roof gantry of our main school assembly hall, a massive place which I think held about 1800 people or something lunatic like that. His face lit up and he said, “Hold on”, while he dragged his IV stand to the other side of his bed to retrieved a piece of paper and a pen.
The conversation then went something like this.  “How high up were you”?  “About 40 feet”, although with hindsight it was probably a lot more but it matters not.  “How far from the stage”?  “100 feet, give or take”.  “OK, hold on, I love problems”.  The man was clearly off his trolley, or so I thought.  At one point I  heard him say “SOH CAH TOA” which actually triggered an ancient memory in my completely non-mathematical brain.  It is something to do with working out sines, cosines and tangents from triangles although I am damned if I know what any of those things actually are.
There was a bit of frantic scribbling and he came over to my chair (socially distanced as best we could although we both had tested negative for Chinese Virus or we would not have been there, and that is another story for a later Diary entry) and starts pointing out from a distance that it required a movement of approximately half a degree of movement of the follow spot on it’s axis at those distances to cover one foot of lateral movement by a performer onstage. He was showing me the process (not that I would have understood it) and about halfway through he said something like, “Oh wait, wrong, right angles”.  Wrong right angles?  What the Hell are wrong right angles?  I was now in an arcane world of dark arts and didn’t even have a torch.  He took off back to his table and started scribbling a bit more.
When he came back he explained that you always talk your solutions through with someone else because you may have been too closely involved in the problem and may have missed something really obvious and / or basic which is exactly what had happened.  In truth he would have been as well discussing it with the bedside lamp for all I understood!  Sorry, Doc, I am not trying to embarrass you, and I did say I was going to do this.
Where the problem apparently lay was that all that SOH CAH TOA jiggery-pokery only works for right-angled triangles (I hadn’t remembered that even if I ever knew it) so he had halved the triangle in his equation and worked it that way.  It made little difference to the answer which is definitively 0.53 degrees.  What he had proved beyond doubt though was that his idea of talking through your findings is of value and that is something I shall remember even if I am not applying it to geometry.  Dare I say it again, every day is a schoolday.  I could never have dreamed of getting a lecture form a man so well qualified, people pay bloody good money for that and yet there we both were and apparently both enjoying it.
Naturally, as we were getting on so well, there was a bit of friendly ribbing about how a guy with a Ph.D in one of the dark arts could get a simple geometry problem wrong (initially at least) but it was all in good fun.  To show this I jokingly asked him to autograph it which he did and he asked if I wanted the full Doctor title.  Damn right I did.  Lest you think I have gone completely potty, I have attached images of the calculation (complete with crossing out) and the Doc’s signature.  I told him I was going to take it home and frame it and I do indeed have it in pristine condition and may just do that.
A framed scribbled, signed calculation would be an odd decoration for the home but when the Doc gets the Nobel Prize for Physics I’ll be the one having the last laugh!  Speaking of laughing, we did have a right giggle about the complete absurdity of what we had just done and that in itself proves a point.
I have said often enough in my blog, specifically in these Diary entries that nobody would choose to be in hospital but it does not have to be an interminable nightmare and, if you approach it in the right way, it can actually be a rewarding experience not merely in terms of not having your leg chopped off or dying of a perforated ulcer or whatever else might have befallen you.  I honestly don’t find it a terrible thing being in there.  Should you ever find yourself in such a situation,  which I sincerely hope you do not, just try to get the best out of it, you may just be surprised at what happens.
That Sunday just kept getting better and better.  I don’t know if it was just due to normal shift rotation or whatever but on that afternoon I saw a unicorn!  OK, it wasn’t really a unicorn, it was the tea trolley in the middle of the afternoon but on Ward 3E your chances of a sighting of either are about equal.
The lady who was running the grub that day was a) civil and b) could obviously speak a bit of English, as shall be demonstrated shortly.
“Would I like a drink”?  “Sure, coffee, white no sugar would be lovely, thanks”.  No problem, up it came pronto and there were a couple of snacks set down on my table.  I glanced down and immediately broke into a fit of laughing.  The lady looked back at me and I shook my head, muttering something about just remembering a joke.  You could not make this up, just take a look at the image above and I swear I did not stage it.
Sitting in front of me were a slice of gluten-free chocolate cake, lovely with a coffee, and two dry cream crackers.  I promise I am not making this up.  No butter, cheese or anything else, just two dry cream crackers.  It was probably a hangover from the earlier jollity with the Doc. (both Doc.s in fact) but it was just so completely ludicrous that I could not stop chuckling.  I remember as kids we used to have competitions to see who could eat the most cream crackers without a drink (try it, it is harder than it sounds) so perhaps the lady was trying to give me fond memories of childhood but somehow I doubt it.
The (patient) Doc. had told me earlier to keep firing problems at him as he loved solving  problems, which I suppose is what scientists do.  I knew this was going to be a more of a problem for me than him as my mind does not work that way but the solution came a little later, as it so often does, when I was ensconced in “the throne room” where I do some of my best thinking.  I don’t wish to  be indelicate here but it was a bit of a Eureka moment and I was quite pleased with myself.
The Doc. and I must have been talking about computers and I remembered from the little Maths that had permeated my thick skull at school that it was all done on binary notation i.e. everything is either 0 or 1, indeed if you look at many on / off switches on pieces of electrical  equipment, they are exactly that, either 0 or 1, on or off.  I do remember various teachers trying without any discernable success to teach me this and failing miserably.  Despite appearances to the contrary I actually went to one of the best grammar schools on the island of Ireland and there were some brilliant teachers in there (I have already spoken of Doc. Brown and this particular diary  entry now seems to have more Doctors in it than a medical convention) but binary escaped me.
I did really want to find another problem for the Doc as he seemed to have genuinely enjoyed the last one and it would prove that I had at least been trying a bit to keep up my end of the bargain.  On top of all that, I had a sneaking suspicion that if I chatted to the Doc some more that I might just learn something and I certainly did.  I had wondered what was the earliest date (using the British system of DD/MM/YYYY) and not the back to front American system that could be recorded using only 0 and 1.  In my naivete I thought it might be 01/01/0001 but it seemed too simple.  It was.
I was thinking merely in terms of the integers 0 and 1 and my 01/01/0001 might even be right on that level, I never asked the Doc. because what he taught me in the next hour or so just drove all thoughts of that out of my head.  The answer, if you are interested, is Friday 26th March 953 BC.  As always, I am not making this up, how could I pick a random date like that?  I am completely serious, I was taking notes on  my laptop as he spoke and I will cut and paste them here exactly as written,
“Friday 26th March.  953 before zero AD.
1st Jan 1970. -9.2 quadrillion milliseconds.  Epoch time
64 bit millisecond off set from epoch time.
Millenium bug.  32 bit
19th Jan 2038, latest date for 32 bit.   Everything will reset to 13th Dec 1901.
I actually thought I understood it a bit (no 32 bit pun intended) as he was explaining it and I’ll try my best but will undoubtedly fail miserably.  I might talk really nicely to the Doc when he, his good lady wife (of whom more in the next Diary) and I ever manage to get out for our long-awaited drink together.  I’ll ask if he’d like to make a guest appearance here and explain it to you properly.  Get me with the grandiose plans of having guest contributors on my tiny little blog.  What next?  Frankly, your guess is as good as mine.
I suspect our proposed walk round the East End (the Doc, his good lady wife and I were tentatively planning a wander round just to introduce them to the area) might be on hold for a while given the state of my leg but that is yet another story for the next Diary.
The concept the Doc. introduced me to is all to do with Epoch Time (get me with the fancy talk) which is a computer idea that basically sets the “creation of the Universe” at the first of January 1970.  Where that leaves the Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Macedonians, Saxons, Vikings, Khmer, Australian aboriginals, Maori, Inca, Mayan and who knows how many other civilisations is anyone’s guess. In computer terms I was ten years old before the world even began, I told you I was bloody ancient!
From that fairly arbitrary anorak start point, everything is measured in milliseconds. Feeling a rush of totally unwarranted intelligence (as  I thought) sweeping over me I asked why not nanoseconds or picoseconds, I think they are the correct terms for really small fractions of time, you know what I mean, it is about the time it takes your brain to work out that the politician on the TV is lying.  I suppose it would just get too unwieldy if you went to smaller increments.  Anyway, why would you need to measure enough for such a fraction of time?  I am still not sure how the 953 BC date comes about but I trust the Doc.
Epoch time is fun and if you want to play with it then here is a website.   Don’t say I never give you anything, dear readers.  I shall take as an example the end of the First World War which, as most people know, was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month i.e. 1100 hrs. on 11/11/1918, a momentous occasion in the history of the world, or Europe and parts of Asia and Africa at least.  The answer, if you use the link I have given you, is  -1613826000000.
That looks like just a bunch of numbers when the “eleventh hour” etc. is so much more evocative, indeed it gives rise to our modern English expression of the “eleventh hour”, but that is supposed progress.  Who knows?  That is a question for a much more astute brain than mine.  I merely write about what I know, don’t write about what I don’t know and, most importantly, I think I know the difference (yes, I know that is another paraphrase and a very important one).
It was a most surreal scene.  There we were, the two of us both hooked up to vartious devices and / or with various “lines” sticking out of us, both dressed in hospital pyjamas (mine with one leg crudely chopped off at the knee to accommodate my bandaging) and discussing all sorts of subjects that would normally have been the preserve of a University seminar or tutorial (I don’t know the exact terms).  Both of us were  in a degree of discomfort and the surroundings would not have been what were normally thought of as conducive to intellectual thought.  No “dreaming spires” here, unless you count the huge towers of the new RLH and yet there we were.
We discussed just about everything and I do hope I kept my end of the conversation up as I regaled (and most probably bored) the Doc. with my travel stories, music stories, “war” stories etc.  I would like to think the Doc. and I became mates under those most unusual of circumstances and it reinforces my idea that strange things happen in the face of shared adversity.  No, this is not going to become a spritualist rant but it’s true.  Meet someone under extremely hard circumstances and you have a mate for life.  This is not the fanciful ramblings of an old man, I know it to be the truth.
I know it is unusual for me to split one day onto two entries but I am going to do so here for a couple of reasons.  Those who have been kind enough to follow this raving, moonstruck nonsense from it’s inception will know that I do not like to have massive entries as people reading (again, my thanks) quickly lose the will to live and I don’t blame them and so therefore I’ll pack this up here and start Diary #10 shortly.  Trust me, it is worth waiting for as you have not yet met the Doc.s lovely wife.
As it happens, the is a position I find myself in sriting this really do suggest a break here.  I know I keep making promises as to the next episode and always fail to meet my own deadlines so I’ll just say I shall have the next one out asap.
If you think my (true) story of meeting the Doc. was a bit odd, just wait until you meet his good lady wife next time, that is off the planet in terms of coincidental “meets”.
For now, and if you want to see how distinctly odd and completely wonderful an enforced spell in hospital can be, stay tuned and spread the word.

Author: Fergy.

Hello there. I am a child of the 50's, now retired and had been enjoying travelling pre-virus. Now I am effectively under house arrest. Apart from travelling, I love playing music (guitar, vocals and a bit of percussion) as the profile pic suggests and watching sport, my playing days are long over. I read voraciously, both fiction and nonfiction I'll read just about anything although I do have a particular interest in military history of all periods. I live alone in fairly central London where I have been for over 30 years since leaving Northern Ireland which was the place of my birth. I adore cooking and I can and do read recipe books and watch food programmes on TV / online all day given half a chance.

4 thoughts on “Lock-down Diaries #9.”

  1. I can’t seem to be able to leave a comment on #10 – have you disabled them? I was going to say that I had never realised that the name Kayleigh was invented by Fish, although of course I realised it wasn’t in (much) use before that song! Interesting stuff, as is the link with Newcastle 🙂


    1. Hello mate,

      I hope I find you well in these unusual times.

      As far as I know I haven’t disabled comments as I love people commenting on the site but you know what I am like with this technology lark and who knows what buttons I hit accidentally?

      Apparently the Kayleigh story is true and Fish even used to have a section on his old website featuring people with that name. My mates Mo and Pete run the website but it has had a total makeover so I am not sure if it is still there but apparently they did some sort of check with the National Records Office or census or whatever and it seems to be true.

      Yes, the Doc’s good lady is indeed a Geordie lass and I cannot wait to meet her when it becomes possible. Come to think of it, I can’t wait to meet anyone when it becomes possible!

      Hopefully there will be another diary soon so please do try to leave a comment there when it appears. At least that way I’ll know if it is just the one entry or the whole site and I can go hunting for the problem although I have no idea where to start.

      Speak soon,



    1. The Doc is unreal. Brilliant bloke. What we didn’t ie there and chat about for literally days on end isn’t worth thinking about. I mean, Epoch time? I’d never heard of it and now I am going to bore the you know what out of everybody I meet with about it.

      You haven’t even heard about his wife yet, that is where it gets really freaky. All will be revealed in #10 which I shall make a start on this evening but it might take a day or two to complete, these things take me forever as you have probably seen.


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