After leaving Tangmere, we wondered whether we could track down Moses Farm House, of which I have long had fond memories, the family having stayed there on our way to Cyprus in the 1950s. I had called my parents this morning to see whether it was near Haslemere, as I remembered, but they couldn’t remember. So Elaine had Googled it before we left, finding a Moses Hill near Marley Heights. Then as we passed Lurgashall on our way south to Goodwood, I noted that it rang a strong bell.
In any event, once we had been to Goodwood and Tangmere, we prowled around the astonishingly beautiful lanes of this part of West Sussex, which represent one of my strongest memories of that era. Convinced that the house was just around the corner, we pulled up alongside an elderly – but sprightly – couple to ask for directions. Weirdly, they turned out to live in nearby Moses Hill Farm, where they have lived for some 50 years. They knew the name of the people who lived there previously and it wasn’t Tobin, as it would have been if it had been Tor and Marjorie, Pat’s mother and her second husband.
(Later in the day, Pat told us that Tor often over-stretched in terms of property, leaving with the bailiffs almost literally snapping at his heels, though that didn’t happen here. Still, he was good painter, if temperamental. At least once Marjorie spent hours stitching up a canvas of a stormy seascape that he had slashed with his palette knife in the midst of a drunken nocturnal rage.)
Then the woman told us about the other house in the area with a Moses tag, Moses Farm House. Turned out that it was a few miles away, very close to Lurgashall. So off we went, little expecting to find it. As we drove down the lanes, squeezing past oncoming Lamborghinis, Ferraris and the like, I told Elaine that I remembered that the drive hooked back to the right. My main memories of the house were of discovering and adopting a nest of pheasant’s eggs in the hedgerow that ran alongside the drive and, secondly, of Tor firing an air rifle out of the windows overlooking one of the lawns – showing me how the pellets ricocheted off the plumage of the guinea fowl that robotically pecked their way around the grounds. Pat remembers there being three, dubbed ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Tor – but in this case the musketry came from a different direction.
Then we found the house, with the drive hooking around exactly as I remembered it. We drove in, hoping to find the current owners, but the house was empty. Strange sense of homecoming to a house that was never home, more of a way-station between Northern Ireland, Dulverton (where Tim’s mother Isabel lived with her second husband, Carey Coaker) and Cyprus. But pretty much the perfect end to an extraordinary day out from London.
Childhood haunt – and where the guinea fowl used to roost
After Goodwood, we continued south to the old RAF airfield at Tangmere, where we visited the Military Aviation Museum. I have always loved the name, whose origin is uncertain. ‘Mere’ implies a pool rather than a grand lake, according to Wikipedia, and ‘tang’ is thought to be of Norse origin meaning ‘tongs’. It could be that Tangmere was the pool at the fork, or junction of two ancient paths. The pool was later filled in to form a small village green. When I mentioned that Tim was shot down nearby (West Wittering) on 16 August 1940, the team at the Museum couldn’t have been more helpful, fishing out the records for us. They also noted that Tangmere – which is where Tim was based during the Battle of Britain – was bombed on the same day.
But the highlight for me, without question, was seeing the duck-egg blue prototype (K5054) of the Spitfire, with a mock-up of R.J. Mitchell‘s studio in front of it. Was thinking only a few days back of two things: firstly, the role of prototypes in advancing our thinking and economies, the subject of a paper I’m planning to work on with Alejandro Litovsky; and, secondly, Mitchell himself as a possible candidate for a scheme I have to hang a series of protraits of ‘unreasonable people’ through history on the walls at Volans’ new Bloomsbury Place offices. Quite extraordinary to walk in and find and K5054.
Tangmere was also a way-station for the Special Operations Executive. And there on the walls of one of the galleries was a photograph of one of my childhood heriones, Violette Szabo. She was only 23 when executed in 1945. Her last mission didn’t leave from Tangmere, apparently, but from Harrington, near Northampton. Knew of her via Carve Her Name With Pride, starring one of my favourite actresses, Virginia McKenna.
Today, Elaine and I drove down to Goodwood to visit the Cass Foundation’s Goodwood Sculpture Park, somewhere we had meant to go for ages. As the photos show, the range of exhibits is quite remarkable – and the fitfully sunny weather lent a fleeting, evnaescent quality to some of the encounters. Hard to pick favourites, but mine would include Catamarans on a Granite Wave (which put me in mind of Sutton Hoo), DNA DL90, In the Beginning, Paparazzi, System No. 19, and the one I would hauled away if I could have done so unobserved, Wendy Taylor’s Sycamore.
Spiralling supermarket trolleys: DNA DL90 by Abigail Fallis Paparazzi by Steven Gregory Sun’s Roots II by Phillip King Mirror image Mandala Eighty by David Annesley One of Us on a Tricycle by Steven Gregory Catamarans on a Granite Wave by Stephen Cox Catamarans in sunlight System No.19 by Julian Wild System No. 19, 2 Icarus Palm by Douglas White Sign points the way In the Beginning by Almuth Tebbenhoff Tree atop Regardless of History by Bill Woodrow Sycamore by Wendy Taylor Stefano by Keir Smith Yo Reina by David Worthington, with Head by John Davies in background Section of Portal by Jonathan Loxley
Here’s a post I did primarily for Volans:
I began to feel seriously uneasy about the economy some 18 months ago, warning colleagues at SustainAbility and elsewhere that I thought we were not only headed towards a recession, but towards something more like the early 1970s or 1980s, more protracted, stickier. All the evidence suggests that recession is not only here, but that it is gathering pace and is likely to drag in many sectors and economies that have to date managed to keep their distance from the vortex.
Over time, I have alternated between finding this a cause for concern and for excitement. On the first front, I have been saying in public for a while now that I think we may be seeing the last days of a golden age for a certain sort of corporate citizenship. Having lived and worked through the recessions of the 70s and 80s, I recall the way in which major companies squeezed back on their spending and staff in areas like safety, health and environment. A real trial if your business model depended on that spending and those people, of course, but over time the societal pressures on business continued to build and the removal of at least some of the earlier corproate defensive structures meant that over time the pressures drove even deeper into the heart of the beast.
My current sense is that this latest recession has at least as much rubbish to clean out of the system as those earlier ones, so though things tend to be a bit faster paced these days the net effect is that the undertow will extend through into 2010, at least. Again, more than a nuisance if your business model depends on corporate citizenship thinking, spending and people.
But, at the same time, and this is where the optimism creeps in, I think we are in the process of seeing an historic shift in this space, which I have tried to capture over the years with the Waves analysis I began in 1994. Wave 4, which has been building for a while, is now well under way, and over time is likely to focus increasingly on disruptive innovation and scalable entrepreneurial solutions to sustainability challenges.
As corporate citizenship and CSR expenditures are squeezed, I think we will see a shake-out in this field, a trail by ordeal. One possible consequence, and it’s one which I think Volans Ventures will be particularly well-positioned to respond to, is likely to be a refocusing of corporate budgets into areas where the greatest social and/or environmental return can be achieved (and demonstrated) per unit of spending.
This is something that that the ‘power of unreasonable people’ almost guarantees, though this is not without its downside risks – and the demonstration component still needs a good deal of further work. At the same time, too, it may be that some companies will decide to do more of this sort of thing internally, by developing their own entrepreneurial ventures, as we predict in The Social Intrapreneur. That said, the social intrapreneurs we spoke during the course of that study were united in wanting more contacts – not less – with leading social entrepreneurs.
Overall, since I studied economics in the 1960s have been a firm believer in the redemptive power, over time, of the processes of creative destruction. This is a subject I pursued in The Chrysalis Economy (Wiley, 2001) and more recently I refreshed my thinking on this side of economics by reading Thomas McCraw’s stunning biography of one of the most interesting and infuential economists of all time, Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction.
Early on in our two-week holiday, which we are spending in and around London, Elaine and I went in to see how things are coming on with the new Volans office in Bloomsbury Place. Then we had lunch with Sam, before returning to the office to screw legs on to a new sofa. Then Elaine and I visited the neighbours in the British Museum, which is some three minutes walk away. We particularly wanted to see the Sutton Hoo hoard, after reading the book The Dig, but were struck by the standard of the exhibition design throughout. Then a raid on Waterstones and the old Virgin record store in Piccadilly on the way home.
Among the most beautiful things I have ever seen were the cuneiform tablets we were shown in Syria a few years back. This morning I finished a book I had meant to read since I began to write The Good Afterlife Guide over 15 years ago, subsequently abandoned because Elaine said I would be the subject of a universal fatwah: Gilgamesh.
The ‘new’ English version by Stephen Mitchell (Profile Books, 2004) begins: “In Iraq, when the dust blows, stopping men and tanks, it brings with it memories of an ancient world, much older than Islam or Christianity. Western civilization originated from that place between the Tigris and the Euphrates, where Hammarubi created his legal code and where Gilgamesh was written — the oldest story in the world, a thousand years older than the Iliad or the Bible.”
The story was decoded from the cuneiform fragments on 11 clay tablets discovered in 1850 in the ruins of Nineveh, although they were not fully deciphered until the end of the nineteenth century. And it was extraordinary to read of Utnapishtim, a Noah-like rider of the Flood, conceived ages before our own Noah surfaced. I was particularly struck by the way that story doesn’t simply circle back to its beginning, but evolves in a spiral, reaching a new level as it ends.
When I met him recently, fellow cyclist London Mayor Boris Johnson and I very much saw eye-to-eye on buses – particularly on the need to get rid of the bendy nightmares and the potential for rehumanising this city’s overground public transport by reanimating the spirit of the much-loved, much-missed Routemaster. Now he has joined Transport for London to launch a competition to design a brand new bus for London, inspired by the Routemaster.
At a launch event in the London Transport Museum he and Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy invited would-be designers to submit their ideas. Budding designers are encouraged to submit their designs in one of two categories:
The new bus “should have a stylish, imaginative design which will have a big impact on the streets of London. Key features designers must consider include an open platform to allow passengers to board and alight quickly and easily; good use of interior space; accessibility; and green technology.” Further details and full terms and conditions at www.tfl.gov.uk/anewbusforlondon.
I began this blog with an entry reporting on a visit to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, on 30 September 2003. The blog element of the website has gone through several iterations since, with older material still available on this site.
Like so many things in my life, blog entries blur the boundaries between the personal and the professional. As explained on the Home Page, the website and the blog are part platform for ongoing projects, part autobiography, and part accountability mechanism.
In this new iteration of the site, the ‘Comments’ function has been reanimated. Please do make use of it.