Friday, 1 April 2016

I was on Lawrie's boat. It was a bit weird :)

I've heard a few variations of Lawrie's story over the years - he's posted the latest one here - to some  amusement. The person referred to is, as a few people especially in Jisc quickly guessed, me. Most, but not all, of it is actually true though his post has a bit of the inaccurate blarney about it for storytelling purposes. The actual (i.e. more accurate) chain of events was a little different.

So; Birmingham, several years ago.

I'd spotted from social media that Lawrie was pottering around on the canals a bit, and was parked up very close to where I was living at the time. In fact, the place I was living in is in the picture that Lawrie uses in the tweet linking to his anecdote. So I sent him a message, and we had a bit of a message exchange, and I arranged to visit him at his boat after he sent me rough directions.

The first odd thing was that the boat wasn't quite where I thought it. The second odd thing was that, on boarding, it was a bit socially odd. I had never met anyone there in real life, and there were a few odd looks. I did think, and I kept coming back to this over the years, "Does Lawrie think I am actually someone else?". This was reinforced some time later by Simon - who I realised was someone I thought worked in HEFCE - asking me about working in Manchester, which confused me (I never have). I may have said something rather hostile/rude in response.

Anyway, I showed them the 3DS (bought from down the road/canal in Brum, not the USA), and Lawrie was much taken by it when I moved the slider from 2D to 3D mode as he had a go at playing Pilotwings on it. Here's the actual 3DS sitting on my balcony table, overlooking the same canal Lawrie and chums would boat down soon afterwards.

Dinner at Star City was mooted and I was invited (I didn't invite myself). That was quite good. Yes, I did play with the 3DS a lot at the table which admittedly was somewhat rude (I had recently bought it and a combination of that and the meds made for giddy excitement). I was somewhat gobby so oddly  Lawrie is inaccurate in writing "And I would say that whilst the person who came on board was inoffensive..." as I'm pretty sure I was obnoxious through the evening.

We walked back to the boat; actually it was not Simon and Lawrie but myself and Lawrie chatting most of the way back, as he described his cost-efficient philosophy for repurposing previous Jisc content (Jisc thinking was influenced by Becta's high profile shuttering less than a year previously), and also the fact that we both have Smethwick roots. I then trotted back to my apartment after an enjoyable, though at times weird evening.

Since then, I haven't met Lawrie though I've heard a lot about him as everyone in the sector seems to have a Lawrie anecdote - I may have described him as the "Ray Winstone of Jisc" on Twitter more recently - and we've had the occasional interaction on Flickr and elsewhere (though not Twitter, as he blocked me there ages ago - probably as the "odd bloke from the boat"). He's a good bloke with a track record of delivering good stuff over the years. It's a little weird being the subject of an anecdote you hear third-hand that changes over the years, but such is life. I'll be interested to see how the anecdote has morphed further in another five years :)

I still wonder if, when we were messaging pre-boat meeting, he thought I was someone else (in a similar manner to me thinking Simon was someone else). And with hindsight, it looks like there should have been more messaging and clarity about me visiting, before I visited.

As it unexpectedly turned out a year or so later there was a really weird genealogy twist to this story, but I've been saving that for another post another day. And, getting back to the actual point of Lawrie's post, I have some anecdotes of my own about (more extreme) incidents involving online privacy, again for a later day.

(Update: I apologised last summer on email to Lawrie for being probably obnoxious on his boat. And after today's exchange of blogging posts, Lawrie is following me on Twitter now. lol. We've had a pleasant private chat, and from my social media inboxes the posts caused some mirth in this niche of the world, especially with people who know both of us; so that's a good way to end the week. And also I won't be boarding his, or anyone else's, boat in future without an unambiguous, certified and signed invitation beforehand.)


  1. LOL; hark at the both of you at it. Your and Lawrie's posts are the funniest thing I've read this week. "Two Smethwick men with form, fighting over a comb - an undiscovered play by Samuel Beckett"

  2. I am pretty sure by now everyone in Jisc has a Lawrie Phipps anecdote or story they have witnessed or heard, and also a John Kirriemuir anecdote or story they have witnessed or heard. I am intrigued by the genealogy twist, as you put it. Are the two of you competitive brothers who dislike each other? :-)