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Who are you?

Anthony Houghton

In brief, my name is Anthony Houghton. Iʼm 66. I now live in Fareham, Hampshire. I have three children, all of whom have left home, and one granddaughter.

The Early Years

School was a very long time ago now, and it was nice when in 1969 it came to an end and I went up to University (Kent at Canterbury), in theory to read Physics. In practice, I spent most of the time drinking Guinness and playing with the computer.

I knew by then that I wanted to be involved with computers, and in particular how people and machines interacted (or should I say interfaced? - perhaps not). However, I also knew that I did not know a lot about how businesses work, and felt going down the programmer/analyst route would not give me the people skills I would need.

As my ex-wife had already got a job in Wiltshire, we moved there, and I drifted from job to job before joining the Ramsbury Building Society, a small local Society with 25 branches, as an Assistant Branch Manager.

In 1986 I realised that it was time that I stopped trying to become a Branch Manager, a job I was singularly unsuited for, and remembered that I had intended to get into computers.

Computers

Fortunately, a job came up in the Societyʼs IT Department, and I finally moved into the Business Analyst role (although it was a good few years before I got the job title).

Several mergers and a move to Dorset later I was still working for the same firm, 23 years after I joined, although by then it was called the Portman Building Society. This has subsequently been absorbed into the Nationwide.

Writing

For those who donʼt know what a Business Analyst does, it is to computer software what an architect is to a building. We take the computer users requirements, analyse them and turn them into a design. But whereas architects have the advantage of being able to produce a set of plans, computer systems can only be presented graphically to a limited extent.

The challenge is, therefore, to produce a document that can be understood by the lay users, whilst at the same time being rigorous enough that the programming team can build the system without misunderstandings. To do that, and make the document readable, is a skill that seems to escape many in the field.

So having spent many years honing my writing skills, what made me decide I needed to write an entirely different type of document?

The Crisis

It was becoming clear that the days of large end-user IT Departments were coming to an end and, that if I wanted to carry on doing the design work (which I enjoy the most), then I would have to move to a software house.

That, and various structural changes that were taking place at work (change of Chief Executive, move to a new Headquarters building, etc.) left me feeling I no longer "belonged".

Fortunately I was able to leave the Portman on very favourable terms, and started Moorcroft Computer Services setting myself up as a sort of general purpose computer bod for the small business and home user market.

Photography

I first started taking photos when I was about eleven, using an old pocket bellows camera I had inherited. I got to be quite good, given the limitations of the camera, but then puberty happened, and other things became more important.

It was not until the late seventies that I started getting seriously interested in photography again, and bought my first SLR.

For a time during the early eighties I seriously thought about trying to make a career out of landscape photography. But the kids came along, and the lifestyle would not have allowed me to see them every day and be fully involved with the family. Also we needed the security.

Although I continued to take photographs, time pressures alone meant that increasingly this became restricted to recording the family growing up. But, with the advent of digital photography and with fewer restrictions on my time, my interest in landscape photography was eventually re-awakened.

Landscape

Another strand that has run through my life, is understanding the landscape. I can remember spending days with my father tracing Roman roads across the country, and him explaining how you could tell that a hollow way was more recent by the way it cut through the road we were following.

As a child (and indeed to this day) I would spend long hours staring at maps, and took great pleasure in relating what I had seen on the map to features on the ground.

I loved the films John Betjeman made for television, and the works of Alec Clifton Taylor and W G Hoskins have influenced me greatly.

I find it uniquely satisfying to know why somewhere like Eyeworth Pond, say, is where it is, what the broad track beside it was used for and why this was never metalled.

Putting it together

Shortly after left the Portman, I was reading an excellent book on Narrow Gauge Trains by John Timpson. Instead of the usual brief history and nerdy discussion of motive power that most railway books indulge in, Timpson mixed a description of a trip along the line, usually with the engine driver, and interviews with the people involved with the day to day running of the line.

There were plenty of fine photographs in the book, but they were obviously taken from stock, as very often the trains shown were not being hauled by the engine Timpson rode.

I also found it frustrating that, more often than not, a particularly interesting line-side feature that Timpson described was not illustrated. On the other hand, I could see that the balance between text and photographs would be upset if every single feature were depicted.

Putting on my Business Analystʼs hat, the solution seemed obvious. Take the book as it is, add a CD of illustrated journeys along the line, and link that CD on to the various operating companiesʼ web sites. And an idea was born.

So there we have it: computing, writing, photography and landscape. Mix them all together, and what I end up with is a Strolling Guide. I hoped, at one time, to publish parts of this site in book form, but the days of including a CD in a book have long since past.

I hope you enjoy the site.

Anthony Houghton

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89).   Poems. 1918. 34. ‘As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme’

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.
Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
http://www.bartleby.com/122/34.html

Horribly flowery, but I just love the line, "What I do is me: for that I came".