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Pete's Retirement and New Horizons Party

Pete's leaving the Meteorological Office did not go quite according to plan. The original idea had been to finish soon after Pauline in the summer but he was asked to stay on to chair a panel session on "Smaller Satellites and their Use in Operational Environmental Monitoring Systems" at the IAA conference in Berlin. We therefore planned the trip on the QE2 timed to closely follow the end of the conference. Berlin and the QE2 are covered in our Newsletter. At work however progress was slow on the initiating of the major satellite programme at EUMETSAT and ESA which Pete had been involved in for many years and it was agreed that he could stay for the EUMETSAT Council Meeting at the start of December where it was hoped that the 17 nations would finally agree to the 1.5 Becu EUMETSAT Polar System(EPS) programme covering the next two decades of Polar Meteorological data in Europe. The last day at work was set for 6th December, however he was not even able to attend the whole of the EUMETSAT Council meeting because he had to go into hospital for another minor operation on the 4th. He did however have the satisfaction of attending the first day of Council where major progress was made in surmounting the final hurdles to starting the program before flying back. He also received a totally unexpected tribute and a magnificent model of the Meteosat Satellite presented by the Director General of EUMETSAT in full Council for his contributions as the UK Delegate to the Scientific and Technical Group and later to Council.

[Picture of Meteosat]

A Picture of Meteosat

The Operation was described as routine and Pete was released from hospital in under 24 hours, even so this unexpected activity put the plans for leaving parties etc into a certain amount of disarray. The other problem was that of numbers because of the many people he has worked closely with over the years and the many "hats" he wears with a desk at BNSC in London, at Met O HQ in Bracknell as well as his Remote Sensing Branch in Farnborough. The decision was to hold a party at home for those he had worked for, those who worked directly to him and a few close contacts in Industry and the Agencies. This was complemented with a Branch leaving celebration integrated into the RS Christmas Dinner.

The party at home was advertised as a New Horizons Party but also billed by some as "A First Retirement Party". Due to the shortage of time and a nagging uncertainty over the rate of recovery from the operation it was completely organised using electronic communications - from start to end Pete did not put pen to paper. Out of the 50 invitations 40 were Email and another 7 could be faxed only leaving three to be contacted by telephone (and two of them had modems on order!). In parallel to sending out invitations Pete set up a special page on our Web Site (without any links to the rest of the site - we did not want another 500 visitors in real-space). The page was updated daily with progress following the operation and had maps, parking instructions and towards the end a link to the Order of Play and Menu. All the thanks for kind words and presents were Emailed/Faxed out the next day - technology can work for one!

The Party went very well with 30 friends attending, mostly with partners, for a four course Sunday Lunch followed later in the afternoon by Retirement cake - decorated of course with "the ducks in a row", sparkling wine and speeches. Pauline bore the brunt of the work as Pete was not permitted to lift and could do little to assist up till the end. The food was mostly prepared the previous day and only the Venison Casserole had to be warmed and the Game Pies cooked on the day. Even the fridge on Corinna was full as well as the fridge and freezers in the house - it is surprising how much space food for 60 takes.

It was fantastic to see so many old friends, some who had come from great distances including Gordon who came down from Scotland. Thanks to Pauline's preparation it was possible to get round and talk to most of them. Jim Caughey gave a short resume of Pete's career and, as he put it, entrepreneurial activities which fortunately he only knew part of. He had found out about the gliding business and software writing but had not discovered the early electronics business Oxford Design and Development Service (ODDS to allow an associated firm SODS to be set up) or the consultancy firm Oxford Scientific Design Ltd although two more of the founders were present.

Pete's answering speech filled in some of the missing pieces and acknowledged the roles of a number of those present and missing in providing him the tools of his trade and shaping his career. He gave particular credit to Sir John Houghton, regrettably unable to be present, who had played a central role starting in college as Pete's tutor, through the Atmospheric Physics Department at Oxford, RAL and finally at the Met Office - amongst much more he taught him that scientific excellence and fun could be combined. He stressed the long time-scales and small community involved in the "Space Game" and the way that activities started early in his career had come back many times to haunt him later like ATSR, MLS and AMSU. The results from others gave great satisfaction, in particular the Stratospheric Sounding Unit (SSU) - the design of which was his first consultancy job and was his responsibility 20 years later when the decision was made to rebuild an old development model in his Branch to give one last satellite to extend the series. This was successfully launched last year. The SSU has, arguably, already provided the longest consistent climate data set from Space. At least a quarter of those present had been directly involved in the SSU story and probably over half indirectly. Pete stated that it has been a great privileged to work on so many projects from early in their conception to successful conclusion over 25 years.

Pete then spoke of the future, the sabbatical in New Zealand, and the Vision of opportunities waiting to be exploited without some of the current constraints. He thanked those from the "Third Floor" for the magnificent "Moondance" crystal bowl by Waterford and the other gifts too numerous to mention in detail.

Afterwards somebody asked whether such a party was a very emotional affair - the answer has to be yes but not perhaps in the way expected as Pete sees it very much as a transition opening up New and exciting Horizons with the knowledge that all present (and invited) were already lasting friends many of whom would be part of the next phase.

The second part of the celebrations was a Christmas Lunch the following Friday at a local hostelry with the Branch. It was almost a full house from those based at Farnborough as well as some old members along with an important few from Beaufort Park giving 29 in total. Unfortunately Petes's successor (and predecessor) David Pick was called to Town. Tony Lee who Pete had known since Oxford days, both gliding and work, stepped in and gave a very nice speech. Although again un-scripted the response from Pete covered much the same ground on the cyclic nature with old projects and contacts returning and how it had been a great privilege to work on so many projects with people in the Branch from early in their conception to successful conclusion over his 25 years in the game. Pete added some points on the duty to provide support, career development and an environment where staff could contribute free of the pressures and administrative loads which steadily increase. Being twenty miles from ones nearest boss has advantages but after seven years the responsibilities and sometimes relationships become more of those in a family. Particular thanks were due to Louise who did much of the organisation and Lillian who supported Pete for many years as his secretary and is also moving soon to pastures new on a well deserved promotion.

The Branch gave Pete a major contribution towards a hand held GPS - a Garmin 38 - suitable both for sailing and hiking - entirely appropriate after a lifetime in the Space Game. It is the size of a mobile phone, runs for 20 hours off 4 pen cells and tracks 8 satellites simultaneously to give an absolute position fix to typically 30 meters, computes instantaneous speed and direction, shows your progress on a map and stores up to 250 waypoints and 20 routes to guide you - an entertaining and useful toy which could be a lifesaver if caught out in bad weather sailing or hiking provided one does not become dependent on it.

[Picture of Garmin GPS 38

The Garmin GPS 38

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Revised: 14th July, 2020