Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Big Brother, David

My Big Brother, David

Regrettably, this entry is written in the past tense as my elder brother, David, died in 2005. For some reason, he seems to be "in the air" quite a bit of late (hence this post about him). For example, I just had an email from an old friend of his who has invited me for a chess game (or three - I'm not not sure yet).

Let me introduce David Bernard to you - by way of a photo and a few words I wrote about him at the time of his passing. If you have been following this blog at all, you will already have seen him in the header, he's the beer drinker on the right (not the coffee drinker on the left!). Here then is the obit and the photo.

"David was my big brother, my only sibling. I could not catch him up in age -
no matter how I tried, he was always six years older than me! We grew up in
the austerity of the immediate post war years, but in the privileged
position of being the sons of the family doctor - at that time an important

David always had his own unique style. Superficially he epitomised the
classic "Eccentric Englishman" of course. He looked at the world in a
special way, in an intelligent way. As a youngster, his bedroom was an
Aladdin's cave of half completed experiments in all of the sciences.
Mysterious things would be growing in jam jars and electrical devices of
unknown function would be in the process of creation.

He made extensive studies of wild flowers and mushrooms. I could never
understand how anyone could be interested in such things, but I had a great
respect for the way he would gain mastery over the latest subject of his
interest. Cryptic crosswords, for example, were an open book to him. He had
an extensive knowledge of astronomy. Yet he displayed none of the arrogance
of an academic, only the self-deprecating sense of humour of a true

At one time he specialised in making rockets out of washing up liquid
bottles. These were fairly sophisticated machines, powered by igniting a
mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. They rose to considerable heights. I tried
to emulate him by making my own rockets - but mine were just fireworks
inside a metal pipe, sealed at one end. Later on it was even harder to
compete with him as he climbed the academic ladder, eventually studying the
complex processes involved in the evolution of stars and nebulae.

His later career was based on his skill at computing. His approach was
unorthodox, yet indispensable to his colleagues. Essentially he was a "Mr
Fixit" for problems that others found intractable, even impossible. Yet he
seemed to take much more pride in the extra embellishments to his programs,
such as an initial screen containing animated goldfish. One of the best
presents that I bought him was a child's plastic toy - being a plastic pig
which had battery-operated flapping wings - the proverbial "flying pig". It
was advertised as being suitable for a three year old, a description which
pleased us both immensely. Clearly he had no concern about how he was viewed
by others. He was very much "his own man".

I will miss you, my brother and not just for the countless games of chess
that we enjoyed so much!"

Well, here we are in 2011 and I am presently playing against some of his friends. David liked to refer to one of them as the "Hawk" - he has a chess site called 'ChessFriendsWorld'.

New members are always welcome, we play chess in a relaxed and friendly fashion, via email (no time limit) - so I hope you will give us a "look see" and maybe join a tournament at some stage (it's free and there's no registration).

David wrote a useful chess program (now free) for recording moves and variations so please contact "Hawk" at the site if you would like to try it out.

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