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Flight to Arras

"This mixture of humanity and scrap metal makes me think of the Libyan desert, when Prevot and I inhabited an uninhabitable landscape covered in black pebbles that gleamed in the sunlight, a landscape clad in a stretched skin of iron" - Antoine de Saint- Exupéry

It’s the eleventh hour and I’m sitting here feeling relieved to have found a suitable sponsor, Qualys, for my thirty-eight page report on ‘Trustworthy Computing’, which will be launched by Computer Weekly to coincide with the InfoSecurity Europe Show (Infosec) in London next week.

I’ve put a great deal of work into the project over the last six months and attempted to balance the principal arguments in favour of Open Source or Microsoft-centric security as fairly as possible. In any event, you can judge for yourself if information security happens to be an interest, as the report, ‘A Matter of Trust’, should be available from the front page of ComputerWeekly.Com from Tuesday and after that, I’ll probably place a copy in the archive here as well.

I had been planning to drift down to my house in Kent this weekend to start work on my speech on middle-eastern ‘eGovernance’ for the conference I’m keynoting in Bahrain next month and get a little flying in at the same time. One look out of my study window at the pouring rain has rather changed my mind, so the only flying to take place will have to be in my imagination with a little help from Antoine de Saint- Exupéry’s book, ‘Flight to Arras’.

I seem to have discovered the author at least twenty years too late, so I’m making-up for lost time by buying all his titles from Amazon. Exupéry died in 1944, shot down over the sea, it’s assumed and with his disappearance, the world lost the author of ‘The Little Prince’ and another of those great existentialist writers and philosophers that France produced in such remarkable numbers between the wars. Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre, I can only remember a few and I only wish I had the time to improve my own French sufficiently to read my grandfather, Edmond Greville’s autobiography.

What appeals to me most about Exupéry is that he, like me, is a captive of the desert. He survived the loss of his aircraft in the Libyan desert and emerged, unscathed, to write about his experience. My own love affair with the Sahara was a little more comfortable because at least I had access to water, rationed though it was, when I attempted to run across it with every other essential, including food, on my back. Likewise, the Sinai desert, in the footsteps of the Exodus, was crossed on a mountain bike, so all I had to worry about was the heat and the occasional puncture. I should add that I left the bike at St Catherine’s monastery when I climbed Mount Sinai to enjoy the view.

Perhaps one day, I’ll satisfy my ambition of taking a biplane from England all the way to Dakar and points South of Morocco. Very ‘English Patient’ don’t you think?


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