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Most of this page is an unaltered extract from what I wrote and published in late 2015, as a large page, linked from near the top of my charity web site NHSCare.info and described as "The "Bluebell" pages ... Robin's Mini-Autobiography from a Shrink's point of view". Yes, it's an "Inside Story" on Mental Health :-)
A few friends and relatives may be interested in my memories of places like St Crispin's school, Wokingham.
Recently, during covid19 lockdown, I've been contacting old friends, mostly overseas. Imagine my delight, speaking to our Italian teacher*, from nearly 20 years ago, to find that, for the past 5 years, she has been teaching Art at St Crispins ! I understand that St Crispin's is not the same as it was in the late 1950s and early 1960s :-)
* Alessandra - resulting in my adding old pictures to gpss.co.uk/italy/ . Here is that extract ....
1947-1963: I was born in May 1947 and had a happy family life, with my younger sister Sally, brought up by our parents, Len and Eve Lovelock, and living near Wokingham. We were a working class family, with dad working in a factory.
Dad must also have been into psychotherapy: I still remember clearly how he cured my first nightmares. I may have only been 2 or 3 (I was not yet into keeping written notes). I woke up crying, and complaining of "Dreamers". My parents soon diagnosed these to be turkeys, rushing towards me in glorious technicolour. This was their revenge for my rattling their cage where my mum did some housework at the farm house opposite. He put a stick beside my bed and said something like, "If they come again, give them a good bashing with this stick". I still remember that next dream, although it seems I did not need the stick. I crouched agressively, ready for a fight, and they turned and ran away. I've never had what I would call a nightmare since.
Dad would give me a clip 'round the ear when it was needed, and the threat of that, is why I never took up smoking. See Video of our holiday in Sicily" , filmed soon after my discharge from Bluebell Ward. Now it is June who hits me: Matilda and June just LOVE the smell of Enrico's Tuscan cigars :-)
Few know that I started at Eton College very young in life: I can still remember sitting in front of the Black and White TV, watching the Queen's Coronation, with the chairs filled with our two families. We were the Lovelock's and I don't recall the name of the others. The Royals ?
My father drove a motor bike and sidecar - something which I've always been suggesting I get for June - so we can look as grand as George and Mildred. Being echo-friendly parents, Len and Eve kept chickens and pigs in their long back garden, along the Nine-Mile-Ride, near Finchamstead. Being an enterprising man, my dad had "done a deal" with someone who worked in the kitchen of Eton College. They would fill a large empty oil drum with the left-overs that the boys had left on their plates. Dad would drive the motor bike and sidecar to Eton College once a week, to bring back the scraps to boil up, then feed as swill to the pigs. I fondly remember trips on that motorbike and sidecar, including holidays, across Salisbury Plain. We still have the silver cuttlery that mum had found lost in the food scraps.
On the subject of the pigs, I was told that there was one fat old sow called "Dopey" and that, as a little child, I would ride around on Dopey's back. I also remember one day, when the young pigs were squealing in pain. A small group of men were holding them, in the crook of their left arm, and using a pair of pinchers or plyers, on their "nether regions". No wonder they were making such a lot of noise. I looked up at my dad, who was watching the men do their good work. I asked, "Dad, what are they doing to the pigs ?". Dad replied, "Don't worry Robin, they are just having their tonsils out".
I thought little of it at the time, aged maybe about 5 or 6. However, I did remember how those pigs were treated a few years later, when they said that I was going into Battle Hospital in Reading, to have my tonsils out.... Of course, the pain after the op. was in your throat, and they bribed you not to complain by giving you unlimited ammounts of ice cream.
I recall a brave young boy in the bed next to me, maybe a year or two younger than my 11 years. He was recovering from having one of his feet removed, after what I assume was a road traffic accident. It was the first time that I had seen gangrene, around the stump of his leg, and he was trying hard not to scream out, as the nurses tried to clean the wound. After they'd left, and he seemed in a conversational mood, we chatted, but I regret having said the wrong thing. He seemed depressed about going back to meet his school mates. Trying to be helpful I said something like, "It might make you very popular at school - like a wounded soldier". Then I asked the wrong question: "What's your favourite sport ?". This young lad responded in a very adult manner: looking me straight in the eye, and after pausing, he said quietly, "Football". After a few days of nasty injections, and lots of ice cream (I'd learnt to fake symptoms to get more), the pain in my throat had gone, and my parents arrived to collect me. I remember being strangely emotional, and tears streaming down my face when they arrived at my bedside. I had grown to love the people around me, including nurses, so much, that I did not want to leave.
Battle Hospital was very different then, from what it became, by the time that my mother spent time there. Rather than make it better, they do what the NHS do: bulldoze down the old building, and sell the land off. We have an Italian speaking friend who has an obsession with Gina Lollobrigida: Mine is with Miss Piggy - what a gal !
I was into "Art" from when I was a todler. It began with my father helping me sketch, on the back of old Ordnance Survey maps, laying on the floor. This love of Art continued through Primary School, past the 11+ (which I failed), into St Crispin's. In Wescott Rd Primary school, the teacher might chuck a bit of chalk at me, wrap my knuckles with a ruler, and on one occasion the head master, Mr Glurtis, gave me the cane for having an untidy exercise book.
In 1958 I started at St Crispin's, and "cruised along", never swatting, and sharing my love of Art with Gus, who followed that path in his own long career. The nearest I came to Art, in my own career, was drawing cartoons such as that of a workmate, dating from 1970, and in the Ferranti magazine. I got into video editing in the 1990s, with that Barossa Operation video which shows the military origins of my GPS Software. I suppose you might categorise my web pages or videos as being closer to "Art" than "Science" :-)
Coming back to education, I was lucky enough for my parents to select good schools for me to attend. After my first "Prep. School" being Wescott Road Primary, at Wokingham, they chose St Crispin's. This was a school that had already achieved tremendous publicity. They'd had good news coverage of the years imortalised by the movie "Grease". At St Crispins, the senior "teddy" boys (greased down hair, leather jackets, drain pipe trousers) did not race cars. They had other school traditions, such as using flick knives to carve their initials on the more junior boys arms. In 1958 and the early 1960s, St Crispins was very like the Secondary Modern school in the film "Kez".
At St Crispin's, there was an excellent punishment regime introduced by the Headmaster, Mr Eric Bancroft, a tough Yorkshireman. I experienced it first-hand. I was given "the slipper", on my backside, by Dossy Bevan, our form teacher, after I used chalk on the window, one April Fools day, to make it look as if it was broken. I also got the cane, deservedly, from Eric, after I, on the spur of the moment, delibrately tripped a younger boy, running in the playground.
Eric's "slipper procedure" was designed to avoid abuse, such as it being administered in anger. When Dossy saw what he may have thought was a broken window, he shouted at the class, "Who did that !". Eventually, I owned up: "Me Sir". He responded with apparent anger: "Go and fetch the slipper from Mr Bancroft". I still don't know if he knew it was just chalk on the window, but he would have known, by the time I got back, 5 or 10 minutes later. There was the long walk, from the Music Room, to the Headmaster's Office. I cannot remember if there was a queue, as in the film "Kez". Mr Bancroft (who knew every one of the 1000 pupils by name): "Why are you here Lovelock ?". "Because Mr Bevan sent me to collect the slipper" (note "Mr Bevan" and not "Dossy"). "Why is he giving you the slipper ?" - "Because I used chalk, to make it look as if the window was broken, because it is April's Fools Day, the 1st of April" (How appropriate that Dick and I collected Snoopy's robot boat from Brighton on the same day this year). I then did the long walk, along the glass corridoors, back to the Music Room. Dossy Bevan then told me to bend down, in front of the mixed class, and administered three hard wacks on my backside. He then gave me the slipper back, and I returned it to Eric. "Anything to say ?", I was asked. "No Sir", and I returned to the Music Room. What a well thought procedure this was, to use corporal punishment sensibly and with little risk of abuse. Mr Bevan will not have known what conversations transpired between Robin and Eric, and he had plenty of time to cool down.
I never received the "Ultimate Deterrent" - a public caning - usually for repeated truancy. That procedure, not described here, seemed to be good for the poor lad who got it: he took it "like a man", and everyone respected him for it. Eric may have been feared by some, but he was respected by all.
I don't regret having gone to St Crispin's. Dossy Bevan had a passion for literature and music. I would attend the group of boys, in the evening, learning how to play the harmonica - or mouth organ. In our English lessons Dossy would read us books like "The Snow Goose", set in Dunkirk days, or poems by Dylan Thomas. I enjoyed writing essays. These sometimes featured my art class mate Gus, also a fishing companion. Gus and I would enjoy extra time painting at lunchtimes, in Ray Livermore's class.
I have to admit here, to employing psychology on a teacher, to get myself out of trouble
on at least one occasion: I was caught whispering in the back of the class
by Mr "Drongo" Graves. I had to think quickly.
"Lovelock! What are you sniggering about ?" - "Nothing Sir".
"It can't be nothing. Stand up, and tell us all about it !".
I stood up: "Must I sir ?" - "Yes! Go On! Let us all share the joke !".
"Well Sir, it was a cartoon I saw in the Daily Mirror this morning, Sir.
It was a scene of a vicar, baptising a baby in the font,
with lots of water splashing about. The vicar was
looking over his shoulder and talking to the congregation:
'Slippery little bugger, ain't he ?' ".
As I had hoped, Drongo could not keep a straight face, squirming, until he burst into laughter.
"OK Lovelock, sit down. I can hardly punish you now !" :-)
I'd gotton away with it, and employed a similar approach 20 years later, in Nigeria, when my colleages and I got into a tense situation with locals, that looked as if it was about to become a fight. It was only me who was armed - with an umbrella. I said nothing: it was all about making eye contact and facial expressions, including a well-timed wink. Don't rely on me for Personal Protection: I was never in that type of business.
I'm guessing it was in about 1962 that I started to swat, and took an interest in electronics. This was triggered by our Physics teacher, Mr Williams, using psychology on me. My grades in the end of term tests were always poor, in all subjects other than art. I remember doing a bit of swatting for the first time, including things like shadows, and what a penumbra was. When it was time to announce the results in the Physics Classroom, I was prepared for the usual humiliation. He addressed the whole class, giving the grade, for each pupil, one by one. Finally he came to me, and I expected the worse: "Lovelock ! What on earth were you thinking about, when you sat that Physics Paper ?". I mumbled something like, "Dunno Sir. Physics ?". He went on: "Well Lovelock, you didn't do too badly: 95% and top of class !". I was astonished, and that was a life-changing experience. I started to work hard on all subjects, and my main interests started to be science and engineering. It was at about that time that a fellow pupil (Peter Shurlock ??) got me started on things like crystal set radios. After a Science lesson, we would often go begging Mr Williams for some of his antique radio stuff. One lunchtime he pretended to be angry, and said "enough is enough !". He dragged out lots of cardboard boxes, full of electronics junk. He also pointed to a huge, antique, valve, radiogram. "That all has to go ! If you don't take it, I'll throw it away !". It did go, and I still remember that slow walk home, about 2 miles, pausing for breath every few yards. Sally will remember things like my crystal set with headphones, and the long wire aerial, stretching out of my bedroom window, up to the top of one of the trees in our Luckley Rd back garden. Also, my introduction to the military technology of radio jamming, when the short wave on my radiogram would interferre with my parent's newly aquired Black & White telly. They would shout "Robin!" when my scanning of the short wave band made the TV blink. Sally may also remember the shed, at the end of the garden, where I built the telescope, and my mates and I using her to test my newly contructed electric fence. Yes, I was into security systems early too.
1963-1965: I left St Crispin's school, to study electrical and mechanical engineering at High Wycombe Technical College. I learnt a little German, and made friends such as Fritz and two Iranians. This included two 6 month periods at RADYNE, including workshops and the laboratory - where I learnt to keep proper notes. Lord Carrington shook my hand and presented me with a book, as a leaving prize. 50 years later I was able to shake his hand again, when my wife and I met him in his garden. "Goodness me Robin, you have not changed a bit: still that mass of curly hair !" :-)
1966-1971: joined Ferranti the UK Defence Contractor, who paid for me to go to City University in London, leading to my B.Sc 2.1 in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. This was a "sandwich course", in which 50% of the time was spent at Ferranti. I went through Apprentice Training School, Workshop, Wiring Shop, Drawing Office, Laboratories, and Software Department. By graduation in 1969, I was not only trained as a "systems engineer", including both hardware and software - I had also gained even more important experience: interacting with working people like myself. It even included my introduction to Sales, including "wining and dining", after I introduced my tutor to the FM1600B that City Uni purchased. I came back into the rapidly expanding Software Division, and was one of the small team of 6 people, who did all the software for CAAIS, for the Royal Navy Type 21 Frigates. My job title was "Programmer/Analyst". I did all the LinkX data link software, and part of the radar tracking. This is where June and I met, and when we were married in 1971. Ferranti is where we met some of our best friends. That cartoon above is from when I was looking for the next job.
1971-1981: After 6 months of "Positive Vetting" for the required security clearance, we moved to Holland, and I worked for the NATO research establishment called SHAPE Technical Centre (STC, now called NC3A). My job title became "Senior Scientist" and my work included working closely with military officers, including American USAF returning from Vietnam. I decided to write demonstration software, used in our Laboratory, as a means of showing military officers our ideas, before we wrote these into our reports. I had the priveledge of managing the implementation of SHEWS - the SHAPE Early Warning System. This supplies SACEUR with information from the NATO Europe Air Defence Systems, from Northern Norway to Eastern Turkey. SHEWS was desribed by SACEUR General Rogers as "the best thing since sliced bread", and was presented at an international conference in The Hague, a few years later. It was in Holland that our first two daughters were born, starting with Samantha.
June and I remember the day of Samantha's birth, at home: 6th March 1974. Neither of us got much sleep that night, and I drove June and tiny Samantha, the few miles to Leiderdorp Hospital. June said she was fine, after an hour in the private room, where a nurse took this photo. I had time to drive directly into work, and get there just in time, to brief DSACEUR about SHEWS. This Brit, was deputy to SACEUR, and top of the UK Military. I was ready, just in time, before DSACEUR, and his entourage arrived. They sat down, just in front of me, sat next to my touch-interactive colour screen. My boss, John Unsworth, introduced me: "This is Robin Lovelock: sorry about Robin's disheveled appearance; he has only just got in, after being up all night, with his wife June, having their first baby". The first few minutes of my "briefing" consisted of smiling faces of top brass, thrust close to mine, asking questions like, "How is she and the baby ?", "what weight ?", "have you decided on a name yet ?". I remember responding with answers like, "6.5 pounds" and "Samantha", despite the fact that I had not made any written notes all that night :-)
It was at STC that I learnt, from the Americans and procedures, how to approach security. e.g. use secrecy when it is needed, such as the existence of Stealth Bombers, GPS, or the Internet (ARPANet). But make something unclassified if it makes sense to do so. e.g. principles of EMP Protection, so that electronics, or even mechanical things like a door lock, can withstand the effects of a high altitude nuclear burst. Click on that leaving certificate, or Samantha, to see bigger versions.
from Robin: The visit counters give a rough indication on who else is visiting, or has visited, this page. I don't hide or disguise my visits, but they may appear as "Ascot", or miles away, like "Horsham" or "Houghton-Le-Spring". Positions may not be accurate, but times are. Not all visits are seen, and some browsers hide location.
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