Sunday, 22 January 2012

More Matters Enigmatic

It has been so long since my last post that part of me feels like making an apology - but the bigger, better part reminds me that this is for my pleasure and recognizes the potential danger of becoming ruled by a compulsion to blog, so I'll continue as if nothing has happened...

Amongst the many nice gifts I received at Christmas was a(nother) book about Bletchley Park, to add to those already devoured (some of which are reported elsewhere in these ramblings).

This time, it is Sinclair McKay's book "The Secret Life of Bletchley Park"...

This was a pleasant-enough read, different from all the other technically focussed books in that its subject is very much the people at BP and the context in which they served. The book looks at social, domestic and human aspects, without spending much time on the cryptanalytical methods and technologies at the core of the work. Also - unusually - the book doesn't become too distracted by the "celebrities", affording equal weight to some of the humbler folk on which the activities depended.

McKay describes the experiences of those who worked at BP, drawing heavily on other published materials and (apparently) a few interviews with veterans. We are given a glimpse of working conditions, billeting arrangements, recreational and cultural activities, romances between staff members and dealing with the imperatives of secrecy - both during and after the war. The book concludes with some descriptions of how BP veterans dealt with the changing conditions after the hostilities and attempts a brief sketch of the broader legacy of the work at Bletchley Park.

It is a rewarding read, but might have been better edited, not least to avoid an irritating sense of repetition. The book tries to assess the broader legacy of BP's work and occasionally is marred by repetition. [ed: scratch that - you've said it already]

Whilst we're adjacent to the subject of "Enigma", may I commend to the attention of British readers the weekly "Enigma Code" puzzle in our beloved "Radio Times"...

I'm no puzzle junkie, tending to sneer at Sudoku addicts, but this particular game interests and entertains me.

It takes the form of a "crossword without clues", in which all the squares are numbered with integers corresponding to the letters of the alphabet. Your task, should you decide to accept it, is to associate numbers and letters!

Give it a try - I saw a fellow passenger on a flight doing the same type of quiz from a different newspaper recently. I don't know which paper it came from, but I can confirm there are more of these puzzles out there if you become hooked.

Fortunately, I'm not the addictive type!

...-.- de m0xpd