Famous people

I quite often get asked "Did you ever meet anyone famous?". This is usually, but not always, linked to various posts I have held in the past. Some of the encounters were interesting, so I thought I'd jot them down.

I suppose some people might call this name dropping, but never mind.

Edsger Dijkstra
Well, I did shake his hand, at least. If you don't know the name of this very important man in the world of computing, then please look at the Wikipedia entry. He was a man of quite strong opinions! He once visited the University of Kent to give a seminar, and that's when the said handshake took place.
Joanna Lumley
Most people have heard of Joanna, but if not, there is a Wikipedia article. Well, sort of. She was receiving an honorary degree, and I got to shake her hand. More interestingly, I knew someone who was wardrobe mistress at the Marlowe Theatre in the 1970s, and I believe Joanna was in rep. there. My friend told me of the day when she was having coffee with this young actress, and heard that she was excited (and nervous) because she had an audition the next day for a part in something called 'The Avengers'. The rest is history. (for the avoidance of doubt, this was a TV series - a quirky spy show - not the later film franchise).
C Northcote Parkinson
Cyril Parkinson is probably best known for Parkinson's Law. This states that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion". You can find out more about him in the Wikipedia article. His second wife died in 1984. A year or so later he met and married a lady named Iris Waters, who was from Canterbury. After a couple of years living in the Isle of Man, they moved back to Canterbury. I had dinner with him, in Darwin College, on a number of occasions. After he died I still occasionally saw Iris at these dinners. She told me that she had actually met Cyril via a dating agency, and they first met on Victoria Station, she having travelled up from Canterbury. She said that he greeted her with "I'm Cyril Parkinson, and I'm going to marry you". And, of course, he did. He died in 1994, and is buried in Canterbury.
Rupert Webb
Rupert Webb played first-class cricket for the Sussex team for over a decade, starting in 1948. There is a little about him on Wikipedia. I must admit I don't remember meeting him - but my mother did (and I think she fancied him a bit, but she would have been in her teens at the time). She knew him well, because he was a lodger in her family home for some time (the same house in which I grew up). He moved out in the late 1940s, but was a friend of the family, so almost certainly I did meet him when I was a child. Many people will know what he looked like in the 1990s, because he had an uncredited part in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. He played the father of 'Duckface', the jilted bride of Hugh Grant's character, Charles.
Chris Woodhead
Chris was a British educationalist, who was most famous (probably) during his time as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England (1994-2000). You can find out more in the Wikipedia article about him. Chris was invited to give an open lecture at my place of employment, and the powers that be invited a number of local head teachers; I probably invited the ones that they did not. Chris was not popular in the teaching world, and had to implement policy that he didn't always agree with. The problem I had was the seating plan for dinner. He would be seated on my right, and really ought to have a teacher on the other side - but who could be trusted not to be too rude to him? I solved this by inviting my sister (a head teacher herself, but not from Kent), and telling her that if she wasn't polite, she would never be invited again. She told me later that they had had a lively discussion, that he disagreed with much of her research, but was very nice. I also found him a pleasant, friendly person; Wikipedia throws more light on him.

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Last updated: 10 Dec 2016