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Happy Mother’s Day

When I was twelve my mother died suddenly. I can’t remember if it was a Saturday or a Sunday, but I remember it was at the weekend. My mum had complained of a headache around late morning and had gone to bed to lie down. After a bit I went in to see if she wanted anything and saw that she was obviously in a lot of pain. She either couldn’t hear or couldn’t respond to whatever it was that I said to her when I went in to see her. I went downstairs and said to my dad

“I think mum’s had a brain haemorrhage”

I’m not really sure how I knew that, but I had spent many hours reading my parents medical textbooks (my parents were both nurses). We had a chat about it and my dad decided to call an ambulance.

Being a weekend it took a while for the ambulance to arrive. When it did my dad took the two ambulance men upstairs to my mum. They examined her and then told us that they couldn’t take her into hospital as they thought my mum just had a migraine, it wasn’t anything more serious than that. My dad told them that he thought it was a brain haemorrhage, but they disagreed. They told us that we would need to call our doctor to get the sanction for them to take my mum into hospital. They were not allowed to take someone with a migraine to hospital. The ambulance men left and my dad called the doctor. As it was a weekend it took some time for a doctor to arrive. In the meantime I sat on a chair by my parents bed keeping an eye on my mum while my dad looked after my brother and sister downstairs. My mum was quiet most of the time, but now and again she would say

“My head hurts so much, please let me die, please god let me die”

I sat there, deeply traumatised, saying nothing until after some time the doctor arrived, a locum named Dr Patel.

Dr Patel tried speaking to my mum, I don’t remember exactly what she did or said, but she concluded that my mum had had a migraine and shouldn’t be taken into hospital.

I carried on sitting by my mum’s bed after the doctor had gone. It was now probably early afternoon. My dad went to fetch my mum’s best friend Jean Banks from up the road. Jean came and sat in the bedroom with me, she sat next to the bed and I sat on a chair a few feet away. We both sat mainly in silence, staring at my mum.

My dad came in from time to time to see how everything was.

My mum was gradually getting less restless and quieter, only occasionally saying that she wanted to die. I remember thinking to myself that in my opinion she was slipping into unconsciousness and that as she had had a brain haemorrhage that probably meant that it was too late for any intervention, and that she was going to die. I was horrified at that realisation and spent the time sitting there in silence trying to persuade myself that I was actually incorrect, and that of course she would be fine.

My dad came in again to see how my mum was. When he saw that her condition was deteriorating he called the doctor again. We waited another couple of hours for the doctor to come back. When Dr Patel finally did return, she examined my mum and said that she was going to call an ambulance. I knew that it was too late. My mum was unconscious.

Finally an ambulance did arrive to take mum away to hospital. The ambulance men carried her downstairs and out of the front door. I walked down the garden path following the ambulance men and my mum on a stretcher, holding hands with my sister Sarah who was seven. We watched mum being put into the ambulance, the doors shutting and the ambulance driving away down the road, it was just starting to get dark. My mum had been laying in bed for probably 6 hours in excruciating physical pain. I had been sitting in the bedroom with her for 6 hours in dreadful mental pain. That day, that long and traumatic afternoon is indelibly etched on my memory forever. As we held hands at the end of the garden path we looked down the road towards the ambulance which got smaller and smaller and then disappeared out of sight.

“Will she be coming back?” my little sister Sarah asked me.

“No, I don’t think so.” I replied.

We slowly walked back into the house together, and there my memory fades.

My mum never regained consciousness, we agreed for her life support machine to be switched off a couple of days after she was taken to hospital, on 11th February 1975. I was just twelve years old and my twin brother Stephen and sister Sarah were seven.

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My Mum – Sally Valerie Diane Ambury 1940-1975

40 years on, I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember much of my mum, especially considering that we were together for 12 whole years. I just have a few fragments of conscious memory. The day she died is my largest memory of her.

What I do have however, inside me, is a feeling of strength and love that has kept me going through some times of dreadful adversity. It has enabled me to love my children and give them everything I can. It has meant that despite all the difficulties I have faced, I’ve had a happy life full of so many fun and interesting times. I cannot put into words how grateful I am for that. That strength, that happiness and relentlessness in the face of adversity, that, to me, is my mum, inside of me. My mum may have died very young, but she made me the strong and happy person I am today. Thanks Mum.

Mum, Sue, Sarah, Stephen

Massive thanks also to the many people who have mothered me when I needed it over the years:

Elsie Leah Reynolds, Kate Deans, Joyce Leforgeais, Denise Bell, Ha Thi Minh Tam, Hazel Lapierre, Sarah Pearson, Emma Black, Leah Black, and Paul Boca. I cannot thank you enough.

This mothers’ day I give grateful thanks to my mum, my surrogate mothers and to all mothers across the world who are doing their best to raise the next generation, the future success of our planet depends on you. Mothering, loving and nurturing someone is the most important gift you can give another person.

Happy Mothers’ Day! :)

** This morning I decided to start writing my autobiography, working title “If I can do it, so can you” based on my blogpost and talk of the same name. This post is what came out first…..

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Communities 2.0, Wales, Digital Inclusion

I had a truly awesome day yesterday keynoting the Communities 2.0 conference at the Cardiff Swalec stadium. I gave my talk “If I can do it, so can you” which is all about how technology and education have changed my life, helping me to bring my family out of poverty and into prosperity. I had so much fabulous feedback and met some really lovely people. The digital inclusion people in Wales are an absolutely wonderful bunch.

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Communities 2.0 are just having their funding cut at a time when getting people online and tech savvy is becoming critical to lead an everyday life. It’s such a shame that all the good digital inclusion work, which has put Wales in a leading position in Europe, is now being scaled down.

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Being in Cardiff was also a great opportunity to meet up with my fab new friend Aimee Bateman. We met when we both gave a talk at TedxClapham recently. I expect really great things from Aimee, what a superstar 😃

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I don’t think I’ve ever had so many lovely tweets from one event. Incedible support. Thank you Communities 2.0 and everyone at the #c2conf for all your interest and questions.

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Reid Hoffman, Simon Greenish, Megan Smith, Julie Hanna and Sue Black Bletchley Park, November 2011

US CTO on Representation of Women in The Imitation Game

It’s so great to see the awesome US CTO Megan Smith speak about representation of women in the film “The Imitation Game” as not being representative of what actually happened at Bletchley Park during WW2.

White House CTO calls for open source APIs, visibility for women

“Smith pointed out that Joan Clarke, the code-breaker depicted in the recent film The Imitation Game, was just one of numerous female mathematicians who worked at the U.K.’s World War II lab known as Bletchley Park. Likewise, Smith observed that women’s contributions to the development of the Mac were been scrubbed from the movie Jobs, and from the space mission in Apollo.

The upshot, Smith suggested, is that a perceived dearth of women in STEM professions can be partly addressed by ensuring the proper depiction of those who are already working in them.”

Go Megan! :)

In November 2011 I was honoured to take Megan, along with Reid Hoffman, Julie Hanna and DJ Patil around Bletchley Park with then Bletchley Park CEO Simon Greenish. I met Megan when I approached her after she spoke on a panel at NESTA in 2010 and asked her to help Bletchley Park to buy the Turing papers which were then up for auction.

Megan Smith, Reid Hoffman, Julie Hanna and DJ Patil checking out the Turing exhibition at Bletchley Park

Megan Smith, Reid Hoffman, Julie Hanna and DJ Patil checking out the Turing exhibition at Bletchley Park

We had a wonderful day together, Google stepped in to help save the Turing papers for Bletchley Park, and went on to support Bletchley Park and The National Museum of Computing in many ways  :)  #serendipity

All in a day’s work

I had a great day today. Thanks to lots of wonderful people I had a really awesome day. 2 great meetings, I gave a talk at Twitter HQ and organised and spoke at an event at BCS Central London branch. Yesterday I spent the day in bed with awful cold/flu feeling absolutely dreadful.

What a difference a day makes. Incredible. Just got home at 1am feeling shattered but happy. Thanks to everyone who made today special: Julia Shalet, Mazi, Andy Piper and all at Twitter, Bryan Glyck and Kayleigh Bateman, Funmi Adeusi, Lucy Rogers, Anke Holst, Alan O’Donohue, Wendy Woo and Joan Lockwood.

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The Imitation Game + Alan Turing + Joan Clarke: reviews, facts, books, links, useful information

Have you seen The Imitation Game starring Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch? Have you wondered what is historically accurate in the film, what is true and what false? Is Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Alan Turing accurate? Does Keira Knightley’s portrayal of Joan Clarke get over her true character?

This blog post is a collection of links to information that is related to The Imitation Game and will hopefully go some way towards answering questions that you may have about Turing, The Imitation Game and Bletchley Park.

I have been involved with Bletchley Park and known about Alan Turing for over 10 years. I spearheaded a campaign to save Bletchley Park in 2008 which I write about in detail in my forthcoming book Saving Bletchley Park: the story of Bletchley Park and the campaigns to save it. Bletchley Park is now a museum open to the public, do visit if you can and don’t forget The National Museum of Computing next door.

REVIEWS OF THE IMITATION GAME

I wrote a review of The Imitation Game that @pubstrat on Twitter said is

One of the most thought provoking film reviews I have ever read.

Here’s my review written after seeing the film and being on a panel afterwards at the Phoenix Cinema in London: The Imitation Game: Art Imitating Real Life?

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There are many other reviews including:

“Broken codes, both strategic and social” The New York Times

“Why you should watch The Imitation Game and why you might want to skip it” Tech Republic

An engrossing and poignant thriller” The Guardian

What’s the best review that you have read and why? Do post a comment below and I’ll add it to the list :)

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Veteran Ruth Bourne, 2 Turing experts and me on stage after a screening of The Imitation Game in London

BOOKS ABOUT ALAN TURING + JOAN CLARKE

The book that inspired the film is Andrew Hodges Alan Turing: The Enigma a definitive biography of Turing. Very few of us would have heard of Alan Turing if it were not for Andrew.

Alan Turing: his work and impact by Barry Cooper who relentlessly promoted and campaigned for more recognition for Turing and his work by organising the Turing Centenary celebrations in 2012.

Alan M. Turing written by Turing’s mother Sara Turing.

There’s also Alan Turing e l’intelligenza delle macchine by Teresa Numerico in Italian.

I’m eagerly awaiting a book by Kerry Howard “Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park” the story of three female codebreakers: Mavis Batey, Joan Clarke and Margaret Rock. Kerry has recently had contact with Joan Clarke’s relatives which is very exciting news. The book will be out later this month (January 2015).  There’s also lots of info on Kerry’s “Bletchley Park Research” website.

FACT OR FICTION? WHAT IS TRUE AND WHAT IS FALSE?

Steve Colgan and I put together

10 things you need to know about The Imitation Game“, which looks at what was true and false in the film.

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We also did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session which is a public Q and A about The Imitation Game and Bletchley Park: “IamA Dr Sue Black, I started a campaign to save Bletchley Park as featured in The Imitation Game. I am joined by co-author of my book Saving Bletchley Park and QI Elf Steve Colgan and we are experts on the history of Bletchley Park and Alan Turning AMA!

FIRST HAND STORIES ABOUT ALAN TURING

I, of course, have not met Alan Turing, but have met several people who did over the years of my involvement with Bletchley Park. Turing’s mentor at Bletchley was the codebreaker Max Newman. Newman also testified for Turing when he was sentenced and prosecuted. I’ve spoken several times to William Newman, Max Newman’s son about Alan Turing and what he remembers of him. William told me stories of when he was a child and Turing used to visit. I relate two of these in Robert Lewellyn’s Carpool interview with me from a few years ago about Turing and Bletchley Park and it’s significance.

CAN YOU HELP? WHAT’S THE BEST LINK YOU HAVE FOUND?

I will be updating this page regularly, this is just a start with information that I know of. Please do add useful links in the comments below and I’ll add them to the page as we go.

 

 

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 20,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Decoding the Past at Bletchley Park

Sue Black:

Fabulous blogpost interview with Kerry Howard @captainridley on Twitter about the female codebreakers at Bletchley Park: Mavis Batey, Joan Clarke and Margaret Rock 😃

Originally posted on A Celtic-Dragon's Blog:

An Interview with Researcher and Author, Kerry Howard
By J. Lynn Stapleton

The Mansion, Bletchley Park Museum, Milton-Keynes, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 6th August 2013 The Mansion, Bletchley Park Museum, Milton-Keynes, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 6th August 2013

In August of 2013, I had the opportunity to visit Bletchley Park. There was so much to see and take in, and yet there was still much to uncover as the park’s restoration continues. Many of the huts which held the Bombe machines were still in poor condition. The Park in itself had been under threat of demolishment more than once, which would have been a great tragedy as it is one of the most historic points in British history, and indeed world history, as the site where the German Enigma code was broken thus ending the War as much as two years earlier and saving millions of lives.

Bletchley Park, also referred to as Station X, was home to the Government Code and…

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Gamergate, Malala, fighting and winning #everydaysexism

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I just retweeted this tweet from Gandhi because I believe it to be true. Thinking about feminism in particular I believe we are at the fighting stage. What with #gamergate and @Malala for example we are at a stage where we are getting close to a tipping point. In my 20+ years as a woman in tech and in fact my whole life as a conscious being, I’ve been aware of sexism all around me. As a teenager in the 1970s I can remember asking why there were so few women singing on Top of the Pops. The answer came back that if women wanted to be singers/rock stars they would be. I thought that was wrong then, I know that it’s wrong now. I now hear the same argument used around issues like the low number of women in tech, or women on boards “if they wanted to be there, they would be there”. What absolute rubbish! When there is equality of opportunity and has been for some time, only then will “if they wanted to be there, they would be there” be true. We do not have equality of opportunity anywhere in the world yet, but we are getting close to having the circumstances that will help to bring about that change.
There is a lot of resistance to change: gamergate, The Taliban etc but eventually that will change. We are in the fighting stage for sure of Gandhi’s saying, in the West at least. The more voices that chime in from different quarters in support of equality for women, the sooner change will happen. We may be in the “fighting” stage, so we are not there yet, but in the big scheme of things, there’s only one more phase to go, and that’s winning. It can’t happen soon enough….