Life, The Universe And Everything

12 February 2021

A few years ago now a good friend sent me an article about a daughter learning about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and then her mother telling her about the Sanskrit Avatars, which tell their version on the beginning of life here on Earth. I appreciated that, but to me there are other people, for example the Aborigines, also the American Indians who all have their traditions. Whatever way is right, however things occurred, I really do believe that this world, along with the rest of the Universe, didn’t just happen by accident. With looming discrepancies about the true age of the universe, scientists have taken a fresh look at the observable, expanding universe and have now estimated that it is almost 14 billion years old, plus or minus 40 million years. But who is counting? After all, it is only an estimate!

This Earth is infinitesimal, considering that as well as our sun, our star, there are around 100,000 million stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. As well as that, there are an estimated 500 billion galaxies. With all the fighting and killing that we humans have done in the (extremely relatively) short time that we have been around, it is perhaps a good thing that the nearest star system to our sun is Alpha Centauri, at 4.3 light-years away. That’s about 25 trillion miles (40 trillion kilometres) away from Earth – nearly 300,000 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. In time, about 5 billion years from now, our sun will run out of hydrogen. Our star is currently in the most stable phase of its life cycle and has been since the birth of our solar system, about 4.5 billion years ago. But once all the hydrogen gets used up, the sun will grow out of this stable phase. I won’t worry about that though… not today. Time for a few more mugs of tea yet!

Some years ago I began researching our family history. I chatted to various members of the family – Mum and Dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles, piecing things together, making notes along the way. But then work as well as other things meant that I didn’t concentrate quite as much on our past for a while. However, it came about that during my many years with British Telecom I was part of an Exhibition Team and one year some of us helped to staff a BT stand at the Ideal Homes Exhibition in London for a full four weeks. So I had a little bit of spare time down there and this gave me a really great chance of obtaining copies of various certificates of valuable births, marriages and deaths.

When I was at school, history was not a subject I found interesting. I’m afraid I saw no value in it and as I have said before, simply being told that I had to learn things didn’t help. Other teachers made their subjects interesting, but… ah well. Except as I got older I had more explained to me, history became much more of a fascination. Most especially was how a whole series of apparently unrelated events combined to bring various people and families together. I knew that my immediate family were from London, but that circumstances, mainly work-related, moved our various ancestors around. A part of the family tree were in Cornwall, but when work in the tin mines became scarce the move was made to Suffolk and then to South Wales. Further moves brought them down to London. As you can well imagine, with a surname like mine there is a link to Wales, but tracing that name back is taking some doing. It is being done, slowly but surely, along with a bit of help for which I am grateful. However I already believe that a few proverbial ‘skeletons in cupboards’ are now being located! These aren’t of any trouble to me, but I believe many years ago things were viewed a bit differently, the social stigma, all that kind of thing. I have said about how my grandparents survived, (see my blog post ‘A Brief History Of My Time’) but it also seems that at least some of my relations from earlier generations were not quite as fortunate. I learned recently that my 3 x great grandfather died as a result of the shipwreck of the SS Admella off the coast of Australia in 1859, whilst his son died as a result of a fall from the SS Scots Greys in dry dock at Newport, Wales in 1876.

Moving forward to more modern times, I learned that my parents met in the offices of WH Smiths in London, but after the war my Dad wanted to be a schoolteacher, so he did what was necessary to achieve that. My two elder brothers were born during World War II, but then the Great Smog of 1952 came along and that didn’t help my dear mother’s health. So after I arrived on the scene the following year, it was decided to move out of London. My Dad got a teaching job in Whittlesey, a few miles out from Peterborough, so we moved there. I have mentioned trains and seeing recently a picture on Facebook of a Whittlesey railway station building being pulled down (the station is still there though and working!) has brought back memories to me. Naturally I was taught in the local schools, my two elder brothers were taught by our Dad for a while at one of the schools, but I never was. I have been told that was to my advantage, as Dad felt he had to be stricter with us, so as not to show any favouritism. He was always firm but fair.

So, having left school I started work. I was a Civil Servant and am still bound by the Official Secrets Act, which I had to sign even before learning about what work I was to do. Years later my job meant contact with a nearby United States Air Force base and I was told much later that I had to be vetted and cleared before working with them, too. With my parents at work in or around Peterborough and me at work there too, we moved as a family to the outskirts of Peterborough. I still like Whittlesey and Peterborough, with their respective road layouts, their mix of shops. They hold many memories for me, but much has changed since I moved away from that area. After we moved to Peterborough, we continued visiting Whittlesey for a while, but other things took up my time. I was also seeing how some of the people I knew weren’t quite as I had at first believed, sadly their natures and ways were not quite to my liking. I was growing up, I guess! I have had occasion to look back and briefly wonder how different things might have been, but it wasn’t meant to be. As I sit and write this, I think of all the folk I have met and worked with, the many and various decisions made. It is easy to spend time thinking of the past, but that isn’t the right way to be. None of them were mistakes, they were all learning experiences. I was being taught. Even now, where I am now, I am still learning. I must still keep learning. To me, it really is important to accept what has already occurred and learn, moving on to new days and new ways, especially with what is occurring in this world right now.

So much has changed though, things are so different now. When I first started work at Post Office Telephones (as it was then) as a Clerical Assistant, we had in the office a calendar that worked on a paper roller. One of my jobs was to wind the roller forward each day. Then at the start of each month, I had to wind it back to the very beginning and roll the ‘month’ on by one. At the end of the year…you can imagine! No fancy bit of kit with digital displays, not then! My first manager was an ex-army major as I have said before and I learned much as I worked for and with him. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that something of a ‘culture change’ came about, until then we were not allowed to use first names towards managers! It took quite a while for the old ‘Civil Service’ culture to change. As I moved to better work in Leicester and in Nottingham, this world was changing. I continued to learn, to move around the Midlands, I saw my parents pass away, I also learned much about myself. My marriage and a divorce a while later also taught me. Finally I moved back to Leicester, finished my time with British Telecom and ran my own business for a while before retiring.

I have seen many things change, not all for the good in my view, but I have no doubt that previous generations will have said the same, just as future ones will say the same in their turn. I saw a quote the other day, saying how a hundred years ago the rich had cars and the rest had horses. But it is said that now only the rich have horses and the rest have cars… I still really like the old saying “the one constant in the Universe is that things change!”

This week… The Ant…
Every day, an Ant arrived at work very early and started work immediately. She produced a great deal and was very happy. The Chief, a Lion, was surprised to see the Ant working without any supervision. So the Lion thought that if the Ant produced so much without supervision, how much more would the Ant produce if supervised.

So he recruited a Cockroach, who had extensive experience as a supervisor and was excellent at writing reports. The first idea of the Cockroach was to set up a “clocking in” system. He also needed a secretary to assist him with writing and filing reports. He then recruited a Spider to manage the archives and monitor all of the phone conversations. The Lion was delighted with the work of the Cockroach and asked him to produce graphs of production rates and to analyse trends, so he could use them for presentations at Board meetings. This meant that the Cockroach had to buy a new computer, laser printer, etc, so he recruited a Fly to manage the I.T. department. But the Ant, who had once been so productive and relaxed, hated this new plethora of paperwork and meetings which now took up most of her time.

The Lion decided it was high time he nominated someone to take charge of the department where the Ant worked. The position was given to a Cicada who decided to buy a new carpet and an ergonomic chair for his office. Also the Cicada needed a new computer and a personal assistant who he brought from his previous department to help him prepare a Work and Budget Control Strategic Optimisation Plan. It was at this time that the Cicada convinced his boss, the Lion, of the absolute necessity to start a climatic study of the environment.

Having reviewed the charges for running the department where the Ant worked, the Lion found out that production was far less than before. So he recruited an Owl, a prestigious and renowned consultant who was tasked with carrying out an audit and putting forward suggestions. The Owl spent three months in the department and came up with an enormous report in several volumes, that concluded the department was over-staffed.

So the Lion fired the Ant, because it showed a lack of motivation as well as a negative attitude…

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