… or “how everything can go horribly wrong”.

Person celebratingIt had been quite a successful week and I was due to round it off by having lunch with friends from my ex-job and possibly buying an interesting historical photograph.

Then, just after midday, the phone rang – “are we supposed to meeting for lunch?” Oh no. I’m usually quite good at checking when things are supposed to happen and getting to places on time, but this time I had just screwed up. It was basically an information processing problem – the relevant email had suggested 12 o’clock on Thursday or Friday with the caveat that, if Thursday, then people had to be back at the office by 1pm. Basically, I’d registered the second time (1pm) in my visual memory (although I’d put the correct time in my calendar). Fortunately, they were very forgiving and we have rescheduled for next week.

I decided to go into town anyway to do my chores and have a spot of lunch.

It was raining heavily.

People walking on a wet pavement

It was raining

To Sanders, the print shop, in pursuit of a photograph. We identified it from the website, but couldn’t find it. We searched through the folder where it should have been and the folders where it might have been. They wondered whether they had sold it, but didn’t seem to have any way of checking. They took my details and asked if I was interested in similar items. The similar items were postcards that are available for a fraction of the price on ebay.

woman chasing something with a butterfly net

… in pursuit of a photograph

I headed off to the Old Fire Station for a spot of lunch. Here, things took a turn for the better as I bumped into an old friend and work colleague (hers, not mine).

Passenger list SS Canada 1920Lunch was followed by some token exercise and a couple of hours of data therapy on the History Centre computers. Most of my research is locally (i.e. Oxford) based, but this time I was picking up the threads of my family history research (that’s the project that I started in about 1970 and last paid any serious attention to in 1997). It wasn’t what I was planning to do, but it’s what I ended up doing. It’s amazing how evocative something as simple as a 90 year-old passenger list can be – without really trying, you’re suddenly on the deck with them, caught up in the excitement and uncertainty of the one way journey across an ocean and a continent. There really is nothing more beautiful than data. OK, maybe owls.

OwlOn the way home, I bumped into a couple of friends and, after perusing the owls in the window of the old Congregational Chapel (stuffed or pottery?), had to explain, rather sheepishly, that I couldn’t invite them back for coffee as I was too embarrassed by the state of the house. Fortunately, they were very forgiving.

Picture credits: “celebration” and “in pursuit of”: Microsoft clip art