Friday night found me and The Petals On My Rose headed off for a Romantic Mini-Away Break in that most storied of romantic towns, Milton Keynes. Who says we don't know how to live it up?
Milton Keynes is an ODD place. I know people always say this, but I was not prepared for quite how accurate the description was. For starters, when we got to the railway station there was an approximately 35 minute walk to the town itself... and when we got to the town centre we found that it wasn't actually there. The whole place felt like an out of town industrial estate, except that it was IN town!
Aspects of it felt EXTREMELY familiar to me. Peterborough was designated as a New Town just after Milton Keynes, and so the way that the roads, pavements and cycleways were laid out was EERILY FAMILIAR. The next day when we took a BUS I found it hard to shake the feeling that we were on the way to EITHER Sainsburys in Bretton (where my Mum did her shopping) OR Peterborough Crematorium, as we zoomed along empty looking roads punctuated by roundabouts that had to have NAMES so that you knew where you were. At least Peterborough has an actual centre in it, Milton Keynes didn't seem to have anything. It was STRANGE!
The natives seemed friendly though, especially on the aforesaid BUS as everyone who got on seemed to know somebody who was already there. It was like an ongoing social club!
The bus was taking us to Bletchley Park, which is somewhere that has been on our LIST for YEARS, and was GRATE. Right from the start I found myself deeply MOVED by it all - the fact that all the work that went on there was a) so important but b) kept utterly secret for nearly thirty years meant that lots of the people who work there died without anyone knowing what they'd done. It also seemed to be something of a Pilgrimage Site for... well, for my lot really. Everywhere you went there were people who very obviously worked in computers, explaining things to each other. It was PACKED with us!
I have read SEVERAL of Ben MacIntrye's history books, specifically the ones about SPIES in World War Two (NB these are AMAZING books) so I knew a bit about some of the work done at Bletchely, and had a hazy idea that Alan Turing began inventing computers there, but learnt A LOT about it all during the four or five hours we spent wandering from hut to hut, LOOKING at things. As I say, it was very busy, but we quickly got into the rhythm of the place, so that we ended up seeing the same fifteen or so people everywhere we went.
My only criticism of the site is that the texts had a) repetitions b) gaps all over the place. I am now very aware INDEED of the fact that Eisenhower wrote a letter to Bletchley Park to tell them how much he appreciated them, as it was mentioned in nearly every hut, but I'm not exactly sure WHAT Colossus was as it was vaguely alluded to a couple of times but never actually explained. As The Text Of My Message said, they could do with a COMMS person to go round and sort it out for them!
Other than that it was FAB and definitely worth a visit, especially if you are a Compute Type - it's where it all began!