Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The handstand

My father has been unable to find any trace in the records of St Paul’s College of one Eddie Flowers who, at the end of 1946, or so he recalls, caused a commotion by climbing onto the steepest roof of the college and then, after scaling the tallest and most rickety of its nineteenth century chimneys, performed a handstand between the chimney pots.

The fact that Eddie, as my father remembers, had been sent from England to Australia during the last year of the war was in itself suggestive of privilege, he says – a fact which could only point to the likelihood that this Eddie Flowers was the son of Tommy Flowers, the man who designed the Colossus computer and who therefore, according to my father, single-handedly saved the Allies from an inevitable and inglorious defeat.

Only the son of such a war hero, sent out to Australia for his safety but always conscious of the greatness of his father’s deeds – deeds which he could never be allowed to forget – would have had any need to show off on a chimney in this way, my father says. My father – himself once an expert on computers – is still hoping to find another witness to the handstand and, from this, some confirmation that his conjecture is right.

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