by Anura Guruge
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>> — June 2, 2014.
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>> — June 1, 2014.
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Mary Soames, Baroness Soames, LG, DBE, FRSL, the youngest of the five children of Winston ‘the GREAT’ Churchill passed away on Saturday, May 31, 2014. She was 91 years old. She was the widow of The Lord Soames.
I was saddened to hear the news and it was poignant that she died the ‘week’ of the 70th anniversary of D-Day — one of Churchill’s many triumphs.
I never met Lady Soames.
But, I could have and I should have and that I didn’t was a pivotal point in my ever eventful life.
June 1969. Paris, France.
She, as Lady Soames, was the British Ambassador’s wife in France.
I was attending the famous and somewhat magical “English School of Paris” (now called the “British School of Paris”)on the banks of the River Seine, just outside (at least then) of Paris
It was a school that changed my life.
I would NOT be here if NOT for that school.
They had a part-time, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Physics teacher that changed my life.
He was American, he was black, he was a very nice guy and he was an actual NASA physicist on a 1-year sabbatical, in Paris, to pursue his new-found interest in Simple Harmonic Motion (SHM).
[He never taught me this but a few years later, while at Swansea University, which too was famous for its research into SHM, I came up with a ground-breaking definition of SHM. Imagine a young lady jogging on a beach without a good training bra. If you just focus on one of her nipples, the up and down path traced by that point is a perfect example of SHM in nature. Damn good, easy to understand definition.]
I, at that point, wanted desperately to be an aeronautical engineer, once I had come to the painful realization that my eyesight precluded me from being a commercial pilot. He would listen, patiently, to my jabberings about wanting to be an aeronautical engineer. One day he said that he wanted to come and meet my parents at home! I arranged for that. Wasn’t a problem. He was invited for dinner. He came. He told my parents that I should study computers! The rest is history. I am trying to locate him …
There were two other famous folks at ESP at the time. ‘Cleopatra‘, the original Hush Puppy Basset Hound! She belonged to the Bursar and roamed about the School. I knew Cleopatra. The other was, my then best friend, Charlie Bird Parker Jr. — yes, the Bird’s son. We in 1969 inseparable though he was about 2.5 years older than me. We did physics together. I am trying to locate him, too …
ESP being a British school had the notion of PRIZES — kids got prizes for being the BEST AT.
In Ceylon I used to win dozens a year. At ESP I won three. For Math, Physics and ENGLISH. That amused me no end. [That year I passed English at ‘O’-level, the first person to have done so at ESP for 3 years!]. English was my 2nd language and all the others in my class were British or American — and I got the highest marks.
Lady Soames was coming for the Prize Giving and I was supposed to receive my 3 prizes from her hand.
I did not go because I got expelled — the first of my two expulsions in 3 years.
I refused to get my hair cut.
I was 15. It was my first MAJOR act of defiance.
I was living ‘at home’ but very uncharacteristically my adoptive parents let me get away with it.
My adoptive mother, an avid socialite, was very keen to meet Lady Soames and went to the Prize Giving and even picked up my three prizes (which were most likely some books).
So that, in a nutshell, was my big missed opportunity with Lady Soames.