Loss is waiting everywhere,
Because I’ve felt the shape it makes
I try to lose it in the crowd,
Taking shortcuts down alleyways,
Wearing black and changing my hair.
I relish the rain because it covers everything,
Only stopping to linger in a stranger’s stare,
I try to keep all my pages blank, then perhaps
Loss will not know that I’m still there.
Leave –a sonnet
Another coast, some late hour, my feet bare.
Someone loved this place,
there are colours everywhere.
I am drifting in a shipwrecked bed,
an exposed room, a worn wooden floor.
The light fell in, still and unbroken, a silent day,
except for the footsteps, that stopped at the door,
now turning, now walking quietly away.
Once my body knew a rough song,
the sound of our staggered breaths.
Since I sighed a hundred little deaths,
rootless, I went the way of the birds.
Empty places I have known, what could’ve been,
once wound tight, an unravelling dream.
The first flight over Penzance was a short affair lasting just 3 minutes at a height of 200 feet. This was achieved in a rather fragile biplane called a Farman with a propeller in the rear. This was around 6.00 p.m. on Saturday July 23rd, 1910. The pilot was the renowned Claude Grahame-White whose purpose was to fly over the three fleets assembled in the bay where they were expected to be informally reviewed by the recently crowned King George V. Poor weather had delayed the flight and high winds curtailed this first effort.
Grahame-White’s second flight from Marazion at 9.00p.m. that same evening was more impressive. It lasted some 15 minutes over the now illuminated fleet. Among the 200 ships present he was able to identify the flagship of the Home fleet, The Dreadnought, and the Admiralty yacht, The Enchantress. It had been his intention to show the vulnerability of the Navy to aerial attack. He had been supported in this endeavour by the photographer of The Daily Mirror, Vaughan T Paul. Grahame-White had learnt to fly at Reims under Bleriot who was the first to cross the Channel, the previous year in 1909. The next month Grahame-White flew his Farnham biplane over Washington landing close to the White House.
Despite the attention which it attracted this was not the first heavier than air flight to take place in the Duchy. Jack Humphries, a Dental Surgeon from Fowey had observed bird flight and made at least two flights with gliders from nearby cliffs. In 1912, the French aviator Henri Salmet, with the financial support of Lord Northcliffe arrived with his Bleriot machine on the 14th of June in Falmouth. He had intended to fly over Lands End, however the headwinds proved too strong for the monoplane.
On 24th September 1913, the Hamburg born Gustav Hamel, just 24 years old, arrived at Trengwainton from whence he flew his Bleriot monoplane over Penzance where he could be seen clearly from the Market Place, Market Jew Street and then to Newlyn Coombe and on to St Ives and was greeted by a large crowd upon his return. After meeting Lord and Lady St Leven and the local M.P., Mr T. Bedford Bolitho who examined his aircraft. The energetic Hamel flew off once more at 5.30 and returned having fulfilled his ambition of being the first aviator to have flown over Lands End.
Hamel and Grahame-White collaborated in the development of Hendon airfield which became a flying school, a site for aircraft manufacture and later taken over by the R.A.F. and is now its museum. Ballooning at Hendon had taken place as early as 1862. Airship bases were built in Cornwall during 1915 and 1916. For example, the Royal Naval Air Station Mullion was developed on a 320-acre site near the village of Cury and the first airship transported here by train. This Lizard Airship Station was later to contain a hydrogen producing plant and a small Marconi transmitter. Its situation was ideal for attacking U-boats in accordance with the intentions of the First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher.
Way back around 1960 I went to a course at Oxford at Ruskin College- a conference where I learnt about the flexibility of the labour force; that many people would have to take many jobs in a lifetime. I went on to teach Physics for some 37 years. I went on for a further week in Cambridge where in Heffers I discovered a fascinating book about the life and work of Albert Einstein. (I had previously read snippets from his own “The World as I see it” borrowed from the library of the local Methodist minister.) I recall the book as being full of photographs and diagrams which gave me some insight into aspects of General Relativity.A short seach has revealed this to be Albert Einstein, The Man and his theories by Hilaire Cluny This
ground has been covered on the brilliant DVD, Einstein and Eddington published by the BBC with Andy Serkis and David Tennant taking the leading parts.
Reflecting on this I think that my biographical interest in Science was much influenced by the television series on Louis Pasteur by the brilliant writer/director Nesta Pain. The importance of consistent and painstaking research in the laboratory seemed to be one theme I would have been wise to have retained from this brilliant series which I must have seen around 1958.
Two excellent biographers are George Gamow and Banesh Hoffmann. The latter’s biography of Albert Einstein-Creator and Rebel was written with the assistance of Helen Dukas who was Einstein’s secretary from 1928 and one of his literary trustees.
George Gamow was born in Odessa in 1904 and worked with Neils Bohr in Copenhagen and with Ernest Rutherford at the Cavendish Laboratory. His expositions are very clear and Thirty Years that Shook Physics covers the development of the Quantum Theory with chapters on the following:- Planck, Bohr, Pauli, De Broglie, Heisenburg, Dirac and Fermi. It closes with an exposition on Yukawa and Mesons.
These books may now be considered somewhat dated but they remain clear on the state of Physics up to around 1950. One physicist who always stands out as particularly exciting for both his work and unconventional personality is Richard Feynman. I can still recall his safe cracking amusements which are so well described in Brighter than a Thousand Suns on the Manhatten Project.
There are many books on Feynman including an engaging comic book but the classic biography is Genius, Richard Feynman and modern physics by James Gleick.
Finally, I would like to commend this recent historical account-
Faust In Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics and the Birth of the Nuclear by Gino Segrè