Today I set off on another futile quest to find some stock for my business, driving 135 miles to a meeting that lasted for five minutes. The address sounded promising enough and I envisaged a vast industrial estate. Instead, I arrived here:
After driving aimlessly for a few miles, I pulled over and stopped the car. I had no idea where I was, except that I was somewhere in Bedfordshire.
I've never really liked Bedfordshire. The countryside is generally flat and dull and its two main towns - Luton and Bedford - are twinned with Hell and Purgatory. However I was impressed that somewhere which had seemed over-developed and urbanised could still contain so many miles of remote, slightly menacing countryside.
With a growing sense of desperation, I fiddled with the power lead of my satnav until it suddenly sprang into life, telling me I was nowhere. Was this a fault or an upgrade? I turned the engine on and started driving.
Just as I was thinking horrible thoughts about Bedfordshire, I passed through a town that actually looked quite pleasant:
I was in Olney, a place I had never heard of. Most of the buildings were pre-20th century and had been made out of this attractive local stone:
Then I discovered that I was in Buckinghamshire.
The one thing that spoiled Olney was the traffic. The A509 cuts right through the heart of the town and the buildings shake as juggernauts hurtle past. Looking at Olney on Google Earth, I can see that the town is surrounded by flat fields of no particular merit, so perhaps this is one of those rare occasions when a bypass is justified.
After Olney, I made a slight detour to Bletchley Park, home of the World War Two codebreakers:
The actual museum of Bletchley Park is a rather disparate collection of exhibitions, mainly housed in outbuildings. Some of the exhibits are fascinating, whilst others have a more specialist appeal (I'm afraid that I have a limited interest in the use of pigeons for espionage).
But whether you're interested in the subject or not - and I have to admit that there are only so many encryption machines that I want to see in an afternoon - it is hard not to be impressed by the sheer ingenuity of the codebreakers. The dazzling complexity of these machines made my head hurt:
Before I finished my visit, I had to see the ultimate codebreaking machine: Alan Turing's Colossus computer:
As much as I enjoyed Bletchley Park, I think I'll have a break from visiting remote industrial estates for the time being.