The little inspirations which make us who we are.
18th March 2017
I wrote a post five years ago on immortality - how it's creeping up on us all as data about us is gathered and stored, potentially for ever, and can be used to recreate us in some ways.
The data is on our social networks, in the location information our devices store and will be vastly increased in future by health monitoring technology and cyborg-like wearables and implants.
But there are lots of things which make us what we are which we never put down on paper, we never discuss with our friends, we never share with our devices. Things which inspired us in our past, which provided the reasons we made the choices we did.
I've been thinking about one of these recently. It's something that's been a part of me since I was a teenager, but which I've never shared. It's never come up in conversation, never been the right answer to a tweet.
It seems a shame to take it to my grave though - there may be a couple of folk out there for whom it'll mean something. And if I hope me digital will resemble me biological then it's the kind of thing I should commit to external storage.
So this small but important part of my make-up is about political inspiration. I lived in South Africa during the fall of apartheid and hugely respect de Klerk and Mandela, and admire Alex Salmond greatly, but the person who has influenced me most politically is far less known and never got to fulfil his potential.
As a teenager in the late 70s I lived with my grandparents and the TV I watched was the TV they watched. This was in the days of 3 channels and no video recorders. My grandparents were of the red-Clydeside generation and very interested in politics, so we watched Question Time with Robin Day.
And so my introduction to politics was one of great frustration, as I watched politicians being asked questions and failing to answer them with a combination of techniques we all get used to seeing as we grow older: ignoring the question, answering another question entirely, humming and hawing and just repeating the same line over and over again.
But there was one regular on the Question Time panel who didn't do this, who (in my memory at least) answered the questions he was asked or admitted he didn't know if he didn't. Who spoke clearly in a manner I could understand. He was a young Liberal MP, representing a seat in Cornwall. His name was David Penhaligon.
When I watched him I thought, "if I'm ever a politician, I want to be like him".
Penhaligon might have had a stellar future. He was reportedly very well liked amongst his colleagues, was recognised as being very bright. His views weren't always in tune with his party (nor indeed with mine, either then or now) - he supported nuclear weapons and capital punishment - so it's hard to know if he might ever have been leader.
Sadly, David Penhaligon died in a car crash at the age of 42. Looking back I have no idea if my views of him are rose-tinted or not - I've not managed to find any video of him speaking to confirm my memories, and perhaps I'd rather not do just in case.
Nevertheless, whenever I see any politician speaking, if they want to impress me they would do well to imitate David Penhaligon - that's who I measure them against.☝