Thursday, June 14, 2007

Visit from an old friend

I've just received a visit from my old Australian friend Barry de Ferranti, who worked with me at IBM in Sydney back around 1960. Barry and his wife Wendy are holidaying down in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, and they drove up here to see me.

Between Barry and me, there has always been a mysterious and delightful alter-ego relationship. As soon as one of us mentions any subject whatsoever, from computing through to philosophy, including people and politics, the other has something new to say about this subject, as if we had been involved independently in similar preoccupations. We converse as if we were playing a friendly game of tennis... except that neither of us is aiming to win a point. So, today, we talked non-stop about countless friends and common interests, including our respective genealogical research.

While wandering around at Gamone, Barry was intrigued by a fruit tree:

It's a pear tree, but the fruit would appear to be growing upwards instead of downwards. I told my friend that it's an antipodean pear tree, with upside-down fruit. In fact, the fruit simply replace flowers, and it's perfectly normal for them to grow upwards. Later, their weight causes the pears to roll over into their "right-way-up" position.

In French, people often ask: "When two bike-riders meet up, what do they talk about?" The answer, of course, is: "Bikes." But, when two computing oldtimers such as Barry de Ferranti and me get together, we rarely talk about computers. If we were to stay together long enough, we probably would indeed end up talking about computers. But, before reaching that stage, there are so many other things that concern us.

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