Sunday, 19 February 2012

Impressive friends

Aeons ago, whilst at university in London, I had a friend who was studying aeronautical engineering. For the purposes of this post, I shall call him 'Gopher' (*).

Gopher was a great bloke. Imagine Ace Rimmer in a flying jacket. I used to go to Club E1 and other places with Gopher - he was a great bloke (**). One night we got talking to a couple of girls in the student union bar.

"What do you do?" they asked Gopher
"Well, I fly light aircraft, gliders, and race cars."
They turn to me: "And what do you do?"
"I'm on a geological engineering course, and I work freelance as a programmer."
They turn back to Gopher. "So, how often do you fly?"

I did not get a look-in all night.

One of my oldest friends, another aeronautical engineer, is getting married in May. He is an Iron man triathlete, a marathon runner, and, to add insult to injury, a literal rocket scientist. I am seriously in awe of this guy. And he is marrying a beautiful lady.

I have spent most of my life surrounded by people who are incredibly active and sporty. I spent quite a time at school with a leg in casts;during sports periods I was given the only jobs I could do: timing people on the cross-country runs or recording the completed swimming lengths. In comparison to these lovely people I am a laggard, a positive couch potato. And now my wife has taken up running, and is doing rather well.

My walking is a small attempt to at least partially replicate the highs that these people routinely achieve.

Walking is boring: you tell someone that you have walked 1,000 miles and their eyes glaze over; walking is boring, literally pedestrian. Running is interesting. Flying is sexy. Motor racing is doubly sexy. Iron man triathletes are Gods. Walkers are... well, boring.

I have lost contact with Gopher; I last talked to him ten years ago. A Google search has yielded no results. But I hope that he is still racing, doing amazing things.

I raise my glass of Laphroaig to him, wherever he is. (***)

(*) Why 'Gopher'? The answer: he goes for this, goes for that, goes for anything in a skirt!

(**) One day we were sitting outside the Atrium of the university, talking about this newfangled thing called the Internet. We chatted about the possibility of an on-line encyclopaedia that contained all the world's information at different levels of complexity. You could select a topic and see basic information, then drill fractally down into near-infinite detail. We realised that two men could not possibly assemble that much information, and it would have to be a collaborative effort. We envisaged a combination of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Dynabook that would render paper libraries redundant. Microsoft Encarta was launched later that same year, and seven years later Nupedia was launched, which spawned Wikipedia. That is the difference between the entrepreneur and the dreamer. We dreamed, they did.

(***) Technically it should really be a glass of Glenmorangie. I have happy memories of drinking the best part of half a bottle of that lovely liquid with him in that famous pedestrian bridge over Aspen Way in Poplar.

1 comment:

Alan Sloman said...

We still love you, David

Well, the nerdy walker types do, anyway!