The note taker

August 30, 2009

No doubt my father’s note taking at Changi and Krangi became a survival strategy; a way to ward off both the boredom of captivity and an apprehension, that seemed to increase as time dragged on, about what the future would hold.  If there was to be a future, that is.  But I doubt if this is how he thought of it.  He arrived in Singapore with his notebooks, after all, and had filled up one of them in the weeks before his capture.  In fact, he had already been an inveterate note taker for many years.

The pages shown here are from his 1931 notebook; he would have been nearly 17 at the time.  As can be seen, he was an avid bird watcher, though his notes were essentially ecological in nature.  A bird’s nest might be described in detail, but this might lead to other observations about the surrounding plant life, soil composition, or of the droppings found (and, yes, studied) at a nearby rabbit warren.  It was all connected.

As indeed was his work and leisure.  By this time, he had already joined his close friend Eric Basden as a lab assistant at the Imperial Institute of Entomology in Farnham Royal near Slough.  The pay was not very good, but for the moment this was of little or no concern.  It would have been hard to imagine a job that so completely mirrored his natural interests.  And then when the day was done they would cycle down to Burnham Beeches, Egypt Woods, Temple, or Hurley for a little field work.

Extract from 1931 notebook

Leaving for camp along the

Thames near Henley, 1930

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