Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Letting go

A letter to an amenable literalist.

..thank you. You too. It's rare to find a Christian apologist who acknowledges the benefits of politeness in discourse!

I was merely saying, I am less inclined to argue here. (There is little to be gained by trading punches with ghosts, holy or otherwise). I am however very interested to know why someone of previously good reason would kick over the traces and hitch his creativity to a belief in God. Especially a god constructed by the barely literate, from the shreds of other myths and legends and whose narrative is held together by a kind of cod poly-philosophy.

I have some sympathy with your reluctance to return without your hand holder. It is a wonderful thing, to have conviction.

There are gods I shall miss. In the process of moving on from childish things, I have now abandoned any fancies I may have entertained about being graced in paradise gardens by the young blue Krishna. I no longer yearn for the towering palely lit Mountains of the Moon where the only breeze is borne on the breath of angels and serves to gently tease the leaves of Yggdrasil. My frequent search for evidence of the paranormal no longer troubles me and pareidolia remains an amusing distraction. nothing more.

That other state of being, allied to a loss of self and designed to throw the ego to the whim of god, no longer bothers me. I have now become near grown up and relish the beginning of my education. What went before was fine and served well to glue my person to the backing papers as required.

Now, it is of more interest to me what happens in the quantum universe. Where rules are fluid things and understanding is hard won. I am more willing to put the effort in. At long last!

Yours is a seemingly comfortable place. So long as the ties that bind you to your god aren’t loosened. It is fascinating to hear you and those others of your bent, eloquently comparing and contrasting your beliefs with our knowledge. Straining to apply ’faith’ to our understanding and desperate to oblige inquisitiveness with evidence; only to find yourselves falling once more to scripture. Not a textbook, nor an instruction leaflet. A go-to document however, whose verses have been scoured and reinterpreted over the last thousand years by those who's driving motive has been the control of others. (I include the effort exercised by scribes to salvage something human from the older testaments as humanity began to feel compassion for itself and a prophet seemed a good idea).

It still works.

And if, as we have discussed, the simplicity and beauty of the verses is challenged by us as ’fiction’ you turn to terms such as ’hating god’ and ’insolence’ in an effort to aggrandise your faith and elevate your argument above humanity.

You talk of the ’New Atheists’. I repost with well meant scorn for your own arrogance. We have been around for as long as reason and self awareness itself. You talk of an earth no older than Sequoia, of dinosaurs and humans coexisting on the plains, of Natural Selection as a 'Faith' and Darwin as a 'New God' to those of us who reject your own. You fundamental literalists have only been around this same length of time. You are the unquestioning and willing victims of your own circular argument and other's political and financial success. At best.

The fact of this new medium’s ability to make our feelings known may make you flinch. This is no new movement though. It merely benefits from the internet’s ability to spread ideas as they develop. You too could benefit as greatly. It's merely that your understanding has no scope for development. It can't share the planet with humanism. Not because there is no room for variety, more because the majority are now inclined to offer real, physical hand holding. A steadying grip whilst you gradually relinquish yours on the malevolent grasp of fairies.

Welcome to the bottom of the garden, here's a spade...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Moving Air

Awoke to further intrusion from an unelected nonegenarian informing the country that he finds the concept of wind turbines unacceptable.

I on the other hand have no say in the matter of whether or not to allow monarchy to intrude on my life and assume the right to the oxygen of publicity. Or the oxygen I share with them for that matter.

Time for a revolution I think.

Its just that there's not enough wind.

Friday, 18 November 2011


For over fifty years I have listened to a few pieces of music. People have introduced me to some alternatives but, for the most part, I have remained loyally stuck with a limit of a dozen works.
My collection on compact disk is modest by most standards but large enough to warrant the occasional sort by name or composer. There are perhaps four hundred pieces. They are arranged in towers in the living room, unobtrusive.
They are however, merely an indicator of my tastes. A catalogue of forms that I have been interested enough to hear. Some have been a lifestyle theme or background for brief periods. I am not a habitual listener, preferring the spoken word in my home and car.

There is some music that can stop me mid breath however. Some notes and spaces that cause immediate stillness for attention or in preparation of rhythm. There are allegri, arias and arpeggios whose effect transcends mere listening. My breath caught, physical change occurs with quick cessation of movement. Eyes and hands left resting on their last intended object.

At these moments, I am immediately filled with wonder. There are few creative acts that can effect such change in so little time and they are solely physically generated in passion or pain.

Here is another wonder. The composer, removed from us by geographic distance and by time, effecting these and other shifts of physics, brain and mind and adding to the whole by prompting us to ask how this act is made possible in the first place?

It struck me recently that the reward we offer for the composer, performer and conductor's effort is obviously wealth. But on a far more basic plane, we offer another piece of music in return.

I would count amongst the many members of the percussion group, ourselves. The audience makes a response so cogent in reply and measured to the pleasure of the gift received, as to make the small percussive postscript to the piece a gift from them.


No conductor, no bars, no score.
The biggest orchestra in the house and more,
a solo piece in each and every seat.
A coda making every show complete.
Let's hear it for the crowd! In Paris, London and Milan.
Let's hear it for the driver of the minivan
whose first experience of Bruch or Bach
caused havoc as he missed a place to park.

Let's hear it for them.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Still voices 2


A chance meeting in a damp autumn street. A friend and his closer friend cycled on the pathway I walked and stopped to pass the time. These were two worldly wise people. I knew them out of the mainstream of my usual social life. They were employed. or one was. The other, a failed degree student clung to his mate like glue. I mistakenly took this for affection. In retrospect. Affectation of friendship was more likely.
They had a new man demeanour. Both cooked or aspired to cook and knew all the names of the great dishes of the world and their secrets. I was to join them for a dinner of Coronation Chicken and Souffle that evening. I was the audience.
Bob, the hanger on left to sign on. I remember thinking that even this was a sign of nonchalant ambivalence about the future. His friend, Steve and I walked on for a bit, talking about this and that. The Vietnam war mostly I think. Steve had read books about the effects of war on younger men and was keen to regale me with his knowledge. It turned out that he had recently been posted to the local Psychiatric hospital on placement from his course. He was to be a nurse. Whilst there, he had discussed trauma and felt that his destiny lay somewhere between the management of fractures and the glamour of new therapies. I was impressed. The temptation was of course to find a way to steer the conversation back onto firmer ground for me. To regale him back with quotes and anecdotes from what I knew of madness through the plays and poetry that had suffused my childhood.
I needn’t have worried about that. It became quickly clear that this new knowledge he was keen to share was too fragile to support a discussion. He filled the gaps in his understanding by finding his footing on the solid shores of nursing tasks. he quickly outlined how a therapy designed to help a trauma victim or the like could be assumed by most and delivered via a manual in stages. In a blatant backhanded compliment he suggested that I visit him at work. He would introduce me to the school of nursing and I could look at options for employment whilst there.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Still voices

Summing up thirty years in psychiatry.

Hanging on to the safety rails of salary and pension as community psychiatry careened from model to model, buffeted by the winds of political change has been a job in itself. Not a job I am proud of and one that proved at odds with the reason I sat in that precarious position for so long.

There were very few days of  safety. Lamentably many days of sadness, anxiety and frustration. Weeks and months at a time characterised by the worry that someone might choose to further destabilise the near catastrophe of the journey by indignation and complaint. Hours of thought blocking resentment at the blindness of a huge concern, unwilling to allow that research might support experience and permit the simplest progress. Minutes at a time when personal safety was compromised by public fury, stimulants or alcohol. Seconds when the blank looks of colleagues signal failure to accept that dogma cannot offer therapy. That communicating hope is a skill best learned as a child and developed through learning, not manualised in adulthood and offered as an alternative to creativity. The child in us all is ever ready to learn. This is the most valuable lesson of all.

The ability to deliver and participate in therapy is a rare skill. The ability to negotiate an alternative to therapy when the organisation suggests that it be used in any case, demands courage and a belief in the process of assessment. For as long as I can remember, psychiatry has been guilty of over treating members of the public rather than allowing proper periods of 'watchful waiting'. Largely, it must be said because it has never been clear who will be watching and who will wait. The identified patient is often the last to acknowledge that assistance may be useful. Families, feeling abandoned for real or fancied reasons are in no mood to wait or watch any longer. These are the desperate, in need of a lifebelt that will provide immediate safety, not a lifeline that they need to work their way towards. These are the puzzled, frightened folk, often living in social exclusion or refusing access to inclusion by dint of cultural mores, family influence or poverty.

The last few years of my career were spent in community provision, in General Practitioner's offices and in Mental Health team offices local to assessed need. My job has been typically varied at the senior end of a nursing team where management was not necessarily the next logical step. Moving from Primary Care in doctor's surgeries to Secondary Care and vice versa is relatively common and often provides the most effective saving grace for a practitioner. Retraining and garnering new skills (learning appropriate protocols) happens by default. There are 'easing in' periods and useful elements of each other's disciplines are portable across the perceived divide. Those of the team who have gathered enough moss to feel at ease in this variety of milieux are usually close to retirement age. Usually becoming more and more valuable. Usually in supervisory roles and usually tired of the whole thing.

It has been nearly a year now. My retirement has given me the opportunity to record my thoughts and feelings about the work, but not the inclination. It has taken longer than I thought to allow the wheels to spin down. My memories are not so weighted towards recently departed events but rather, the whole of the thirty years is gradually becoming a more meaningful account. More easily accessible and with less heat.

I have found the causes of modern institutional eccentricity more readily understandable as the relatively primitive meets what has undoubtedly become enlightened thinking further on. That there are such marked differences in such a short time has proved frequently alarming. I can feel the good that has come of our parts in this transition and now, nine months on, no longer need to vent my anger at the system. Rather, in celebration of those of us in therapy, this may serve to throw a small but significant part of British mental health care into relief. There..

..here goes..

Saturday, 20 August 2011


I was visited by a Succubus this morning. Not the lame excuse for illicit guilt ridden sexual dalliances dreamed up by hemmed in Restoration virgins. Not the imagined demons of the dark hours conjured by pastors and priests. Not even the accumulated shards of fright I may have garnered over the years through nightly consumption of ever more finely crafted horror stories. This was a true Succubus of the soul.

Robbing me of my ability to move at all for an untold time. Severing communications between limbs and brain that we take for granted and incidentally casting a veil of immediate and tangibly petrifying fear. I was suddenly and for the first time in my life, granted access to the supernatural by this visitation. For an indeterminate period, I was scared of death, scared to live and terribly afraid of permanence. This last was paramount. The sudden irrational thought that sliced through the two sides of my consciousness leaving sharp barbed demands for attention was a questioning of my ability to cope with purgatory. That this fearfulness may rule my waking state with more and more puissance as sleep was to leave me. Any tiny rubs and strokes of hope eradicated, pushed aside by preternatural flaming terror. This was a visitation from hell.

The illusion soon revealed itself as such however. My singular impression of the potential for permanence began to dissipate as my waking self gained ground and rationality came within my grasp. Once more, the timescale here is hard to measure. Not now due to the emotional paralysis I was subject to but increasingly because I was coming to relish the prospect of exploring my experience. Time became at once a valuable cherished necessity and a gradually vanishing commodity. My waking self would soon slip quietly into it's customary service of our human timeline. My hypnogogic self clung to the awareness of time's gradually dominant state. I reluctantly allowed that any impressions I may be granted from this point would be guided by my own physical and emotional pilots. One to be dropped off at his billet on the Styx, the other to be piped on board by dawn.

Now less afraid and more intrigued, I was at liberty to test my paralysis and now aware of what the causes were, enjoy the lack of evidence for demons.

Arms, hands, legs, feet and face completely still I was made aware of the simple truth of propreoception. There was no doubt where I lay, in what position or direction. In common with the history of documentation of this condition, I was prone. I could now relate my awareness of the bedside clock with the rising sun and temperature in the room. One leg was uncovered and my right arm raised above my head. For the first time in this episode, I asked myself about duration. Becoming aware of the processes that I could consciously employ, I tried to move first one leg then the other. No luck. The effort needed was immense, merely to feel that some small change may be effected. All I seemed to be able to do was register that nerve and muscle fibres were at least acquainted. Full working relations had not yet been negotiated. My quarters were on strike.

Minutes now made good time. As my limbs began to thaw from the toes and fingers up, I realised how the enormity of this event had almost caused me to not merely suspend my scepticism but abandon all logic in my natural desperation to make sense of it. My imagination was the last recourse to something seeming akin to me whilst the awfulness took my sense of self by stealth.

It was during this presumably brief time that demons were available to me as reason and excuse for abandoned hope. Latterly, whilst aware of returning sensation, I was impressed by how much relief could be gathered up from the remains of this torture and formed into a countering force for good. How many such straws have been grasped over the years by those without the understanding to confound their superstition? At this time, I glimpsed the very subjective reality of faith in god. I saw the rationale behind beelzebub and understood the reason to abandon all my hope as I neared the gates of dispair.

Monday, 15 August 2011

A small planet..

I was suddenly taken by how this Bee and it's attending Hover Flies would experience the Alium. Miracles of tiny neurological engineering and balance control mean that they are the masters of the sphere but, how much further does their perception extend?

More of this and my own developing sense of wonder at our position later...

Saturday, 30 July 2011


So still today. Northumberland is holding it's breath--

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Lightning by Warner Bros

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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

In response to requests.. Basic Bread Recipe.

I have had a number of lovely people asking for my basic bread recipe on Twitter. I have cut and pasted a few times but then thought, it would be quicker to post this and allow folks to navigate here..

For basic wholemeal bread you will need:


Wholemeal flour. The best you can afford. Look for the words, 'Bread', 'Strong', 'Very', and 'Organic' doesn't hurt either.
Instant dried yeast. Any make, so 'Own Brand' will be fine.
Olive oil. 
Granulated or Caster sugar.
1/2 Pint of tepid water.

I have deliberately avoided quantities. I always start with a half a pint of water as it approximates to a coffee mugful. Just double up for two loaves etc.


Dissolve a teaspoon of sugar in the water and pour into a large mixing bowl.

Add a dessertspoon or so of oil. This will give the bread a more chewy texture and help with keeping past one day. (It is patently better to bake anew but day old bread makes better toast).
Pour a pint jugful of flour into the bowl and mix until you have a thick batter. The consistency is not crucial and changes according to the flour you are using.

                                Add yeast to the batter and mix further

Gradually add flour until you achieve a workable ball of dough. A handful at a time will ensure that you reach the point where it leaves the bowl sides cleanly. Add a large pinch of salt.  

 Kneading firmly will result in either a ball or, as here, a sausage shape. Remove from the bowl and place in a well greased tin or a baking sheet.

                  Now, set to one side in a warm place. A sunny windowsill is ideal. Failing that, an airing cupboard or the top of your oven as it heats up.Depending on your oven, preheat now to 180 degrees or Gas 6.

35 minutes later. Ready to put into the oven.

Et Voila!.

The consistency is characteristically open and substantial when you use wholemeal flour on it's own. A lighter sponge is achieved by balancing the whole flour with plain white and I prefer '00' pasta flour or Very Strong Bread Flour for this. It contains more gluten, requires more kneading and is less tasty. The right balance produces a lovely bread however.

Now improvise. You can add any nuts, cooked beans or dried fruit to the dough. Brushing the risen loaf with milk and sprinkling seeds on works well. 
A roasting pan of water in the botom of the oven softens the crust, as does wrapping in a towel after you take it out.

If you want to take this further, I can recommend Elizabeth David's English Bread Cookery as well as the good sense afforded by Nigel Slater on the matter. Remember. The best flour = the best bread.

Friday, 6 May 2011


Readers of this diary will have perhaps discerned a tentative theme linking all the other posts. My thoughts are never far from my effort to weave maths into my understanding of our physical environment and of our universe. I'm never far away from media and have become an info junkie where TV and Podcasts are concerned. There are good and not so good resources available. The BBC and Channel 4 generally make a good fist of it, with Discovery tending towards the more populist, music video approach.

It was with some trepidation that I watched Morgan Freeman interpret the script, whilst attempting to bring a basic guide to Universe theory to the Discovery audience. 'Through the Wormhole' is (note I say 'is' as all television is now immediately recallable) the latest in Discovery Channel's canon of Whoosh Bang 'docutainment' pieces. It attempts to draw a linear comparison between three basic concepts and does so with clarity and imagination. (In as far as imagination now requires the kind of cinematography that Kubrick pioneered in 2001 and has not changed since).

Amongst the fireworks, the gravitas and the biblical references chucked in at the start, to appease those who don't hold with physics, there lies a gem. Freeman tells of a group of scientists inhabiting roughly the same time and space, who together and separately develop ideas that challenge each others concepts then come to compliment and add to the sum of all our understanding.

My maths, as some will have gathered by now, has always been a sparring partner. I was given to understand that algebra was the key to all. Without an understanding of 'Sets' then understanding of numbers was impossible. Without an understanding of numbers then calculus and trigonometry would be to me as Chinese or Serbian languages are to British Wild Flowers. 

And all the while, I failed to see what was so difficult about the concepts so described. I grasped Sets and got Venn Diagrams. My view of the world allowed the notion of difference between Apples and Oranges without trouble. There was no problem as far as I could see, with the seemingly impossible task of grouping shapes into forms and relating them to each other. The physical world was so described. I was being told what I already knew. But I was also being told that I didn't and wouldn't understand it.

It was arithmetic I didn't understand. Because I could not see why it was important to be able to perform long division in order that my comprehension of the universe be complete, I stopped looking for links.

Branded a difficult innumerate child, the only gratification I recall registering in my teachers face was when I did indeed fail 'O' level Arithmetic. A feat seemingly reserved for those in 'Remedial' classes and one that cut a notch in the stick they used to beat those unfortunates into servitude on leaving school.

Since that time, and in pursuit of knowledge and creativity, I have gradually come to love the maths I once feigned illness to avoid. There is nothing in our world that is not perfused with the essences of information common to ourselves. We are a part of many sets. Our advantage over other's is our way of seeing the resulting diagrams and making bright diversions into tools.

'Through the Wormhole', adds much to this in it's simple descriptions of the passage of understanding. We have The Big Bang as formulated on the back of Einstein and others. Expansion, currently propounded by brilliant minds at MIT, and M Theory bringing in the whole. This last, a mind expanding beauty, neither confirming nor denying previous notions but fitting all into wonderful, ultimately graspable integrity.
It is to the credit of the program makers that the term 'Wormhole' never appears in the script of the first episode.

Having viewed the program and been through a series of physical symptoms known to all thrill seekers, I wondered about how to turn this clarity and excitement into useable form. How to benefit from the story in a lasting way.

I took the puppy for a walk and we talked about up and down and sideways and how long it took to get from here to there and why.

Alfie now 'sits' much quicker. A definite side benefit.
 We decided, Alfie and me, that it was less than helpful to think about our small three dimensional space as having markedly different elements. It is, after all, only our experience of gravity that confines us to Up or Down or Sideways. If all three directions we inhabit are merely termed as 'space' it becomes easier to think about the addition of a further one direction. That thought removes the need for numbers to be involved. For now.
We walked and, in the sudden clarity that seems to enhance access to memories I remembered questioning my teacher once (and only once) about the axis that may be between x and y on a graph.
Further, I wondered was there an 'out of' the point Zero where positive and negative plot points converge. 
It may well be that he had not encountered the idea of 'x', 'y' and 'i' and probably considered the Sqare Root of minus one to be an amusing mathematician's witticism. Either way and in any and all possible events, he sneered at my ambition and turned his back. I remember that black robed back very well indeed. I also remember wishing that I could feel confident in an encouraging respomnse had I discussed my thoughts with him about Topology and the similarities between the wood on five bar gates and gravity.

So, armed with the safety of a general sense of 'surround' it becomes more possible to pull a fourth way into the picture. One that does not yet require Time but remains within our linear perception.

We play with Möbius Strips and Klein Bottles (as seen in previous posts). We enjoy having our perceptions messed about with so long as we return to the safety of comprehension at the end. I remember watching the beautiful simplicity of Carl Sagan's teaching when demonstrating how a square may be 'forced' into another dimension as it is revealed as a cube and casts a shadow on a two dimensional world. His desktop became a Flatland analogy and a little girl watching, was rapt.

I play computer games. We have come a long way from Space Invaders now in many respects. Although the necessary suspension of disbelief remains the key to their success. We are now able to become immersed in stories that require our presence, to spring into being and live with us here. The cinematic metaphor no longer applies to gaming, (beyond those magical intro sequences) and we are now offered character parts in tales without boundaries, tales that require our skills and creativity to develop and defeat or lose. Our actions are limited only to the quantum distance between pixels, as described in photons. We have access to all the dimensions we know and, due to the confines of a screen, our recreation in some more dimensions is made fact. There has not been so great a revolution in narrative entertainment since the invention of the printing press. A radio play and good book will always win out as simplicity is all when great stories are successful but we now approach Gaming in a new way. We are able to exercise our understanding of the world in ways impossible before.

'Portal 2' is, of course, in two dimensions. I literally shudder to imagine the task that faced it's programmers as they sketched out the concept way back when. We play, as the developers know, to their rules. Rules that we have agreed to adhere to as we have bought into their previous works, the Half Life series and Portal 1, which gradually abandoned the need for shooting, ducking and hiding in favour of the manipulation of your environmental dimensions. All this for entertainment. And, just as we walk, and Alfie fetches willingly, unaware of the hidden agenda that has taught him to return and sit on cue, I gratefully immerse myself in others efforts. I am entertained, delighted and informed along the way. The programmers toss me pixels. I part with cash. The payoff though, for me is much, much bigger than my wallet.

Briefly, set in a dystopian, industrial testing station, you are awakened to discover that your success in the prequel has resulted in merely starting your ordeal again...
Negotiating the various topological tests you are offered depends on your ability to manipulate your surroundings using a new physics.
Portal requires the creation of an 'In' and an 'Out' door in selective, flat surfaces. Sometimes to escape the confines of a room and sometimes to advance your understanding of the natural laws.
Using a 'Portal Gun' it is possible for example, to enter a wall and immediately exit the ceiling of the same room. The potential for adventurous problem solving geometry and topological exploration becomes enormous.
Physics remains constant. The further you fall the faster your momentum gathers and the further you may correspondingly leap as a result. There is much hilarity and there are actual 'pit of the stomach' moments as you successfully fire a portal at an approaching floor and rush headlong at twice your entry speed, onto a previously unscalable height.

And all the while, remembering that the gates you make are not merely 'holes in walls' but that they are actually 'bending space', becomes your increasingly mesmerising mantra. Correspondingly, the comprehension of inter dimensional geometry becomes tangibly 'in the world'.

Suddenly, with help from a belligerent, anxious maths teacher (see above), the abandonment of religion as a cheap salve to confusion and a computer doing what it does best, M Theory is put within the reach of the innumerate.

The journey that led to the development of M Theory was intriguingly fraught with difficulty. Having come to separate similar conclusions about their individual efforts to understand expansion as an explanation of the creation. Two scientists not only worked in tandem with their opposition in the field but used the scientific process to it's limits and beyond, in order that all predecessing information was not lost. The humility with which they greeted the condemnation of the scientific community made for a consolatory lakeside walk in the early hours, in Finland where a conference had heard their thoughts and tossed them back. A time to discuss where they may have missed the point, where the goal became the thing rather than the workings. And so Dark Energy was conceived.
And suddenly, the simple construct of a never ending cyclic system comes real. The desperate grip we have maintained on traditional ideas of 'time' is loosened. At once, it is possible to turn and face the world we live in and relinquish gods.

I am so tempted to talk here about my own humility. To make a blushing statement about my inability to grasp the bigger picture and to leave the workings to the boffins there at Cern. Why should we do that though? A understanding stands of value regardless of the numbers. And it was with a burst of pleasure that I found myself writing on the back of a magazine, in mathematical symbols with the names and dates. Reminding myself of key events and elements of the theory, arrows and equals signs and 'more than' crossings out. Here, I was joining in the dialogue. The maths made real. My mind was suddenly engaged and all this possible at last through my fantasy and hope of confluence of science and art. I seem to be a mathematician after all. And so because a common  language binds the themes.

The theory? If we are stuck with linear Time and the minuscule 'A-Tomic' nature of the Big Bang from a Singularity of infinite Density and Heat, then our minds are stuck with "Yes, but what before?". Here is the rod that I have been swiped at with by creationists in doorstep and online debate. They come from a far more powerful position, all they need to do is wait, and point at scripture. They have a strange interpretation of our common philosophy but it allows them to maintain a millenium of belief, backed up by frightened church authority and those without the stomach for a fight. Misunderstanding or ignorance are thrown back as 'Lies' and God is cited as the arbiter of reality.

This arbiter has, however only been available to us for a few thousand years. gods the world over have only flourished as a result of technology and before, it was never made clear why they only showed their faces to a few rural peasants or quite why there has been no encouragement to write the tracts that bind the faith together over and over as we gain more empirical understanding of the world.
There is no need for super nature. We are still recovering from the medieval construct of our world. We need no longer permit this halting force to stay progress.

If my understanding remains simple and I get the basic premise then, there is no need either for a Uni-verse. Any more than there was evidence for flat earth or a single solar system or a solo Milky Way. The probability of more than 4 dimensions makes more sense. Space time and gravity and light are armatures and through the incomprehensible gaps in structure, information is shared across, from small time to infinitesimally small time.

Our universe will once again become too close in time and state to another. There will be more almost instant conversions of matter as Membranes converge or touch. A bigger bang may well result and round and round we go again. Except, there is no 'again' and no 'round'. There just 'is'.

We inhabit time as we inhabit space. Equipped only for the bits that we can sense. If able to abandon those senses, even briefly. It is possible to get a wonderful impression of our suddenly enhanced position in our place. No gods, no fairies and no beginning or end. Just so.

And furthermore, as Alfie has no concept whatsoever of his origins in Spain, and the worms that inhabit his gut are ignorant of their simple place, I relish being wrong about these thoughts. Because I can. I am allowed.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Whoops. New spuds glut!

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Saturday, 30 April 2011

On your marks....

Starter ready. Loaf anytime today...
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Thursday, 28 April 2011

What rule of thirds?

What happens when you break the rules? You often get 'crunchy' results. Not sure what I mean. Feels right though..
Oh.. hang on.. weaves, golden sections, thirds all over the place!

Must try less hard...

What you sow

We sowed a random handful of wild flower seeds last year. Forgetting is good gardening!
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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

One way..

Yesterday, the BBC morning news offered a commendably straightforward piece on the potential for success of a Martian expedition.

In contrast to their customary patronising style when considering things extraterrestrial, the reporter and presenters demonstrated deference to facts and focus in their debate.

An invited 'Expert on Space Technology' was asked about the potential for exploration in our lifetime. 'Return' versus 'non-return' options came up. "Yes, we could do the trip, if it were one way for the astronauts involved.. There would indeed be volunteers". Our man at the BBC went on to suggest that there would therefore be ethical issues that may arise. That allowing someone to opt out of our gravity and security, to end their lives in depleted circumstances on a dusty planet may cause moral problems. Good for him.

The simple questions offered simple answers by the expert, time took over and we were returned to the mundane. However, the resonance of that item rang and rang as the true position of the volunteer came clear.

It remains a feasible, if fiscally driven option, to land a voluntary staff on Mars. These almost incomprehensibly driven people will have been vetted and secured by all and any means. The success of their mission will depend entirely on the balance of their selflessness and if this success is to be measured as of value then the self will prove a very special self indeed.

But of us. What are we, who neither opt to go or opt our fellows in? What are we to make of this arrangement after all? Is there an analogue that already points us to the way of using this?

Our scientist parents. Those who not only do the hard sums but are prepared to appear on television and help explain the facts. They are trusted by a process that protects us all from fear. We like the sums to be so hard as to appear impossible. We enjoy the principle that makes us thankful for our phones and satnavs and consigns their workings to the margins of magic. We laughingly shrug off the intellect necessary for the understanding of these wonders whilst trusting our betters with the complex truth. And all the while, the fear of separation is ignored.

The divide is vast. In order that the distance is diminished we talk of 'mission' and of 'trip'. The journey that these astronauts will take will carve a memorable slice of life in merely getting there. It will take months. Months which will begin with regular reports and nightly updates and we'll follow all the maths as best we can. Until the journey and it's meaning become commonplace and the crew forgotten in their efforts until landing safely on the Martian dust.

All the while, lip service will be paid to the emotional components of the exploration. We will be informed and entertained by reassurances of cognitive diversions for the crew. Their psychological safety, first assessed at interview, will form the core themes of news and bring sobriety to light entertainment. We will worry, and assume that this great scientific work has covert agendas. That we will all somehow benefit from a stronger psyche as a result of the volunteers self sacrifice.

Then there will come the ultimate global understanding that, they're not coming back. That there is now a separation that exists between us here on Earth and our former siblings there on Mars. How do we manage this now?

There are existing analogues, but not complete or satisfactory ones. We have cast others off before. In history, we've often thought of banishment as more severe a penalty than death. In ecstasy we single out the most devout and give them money, fame and singularity. As payment for their sacrifice we offer lonely people power. Our human story is pinned by popes and kings and presidents whose failings are a benefit to us. Their isolation celebrated While we share our joint discomforts.

This exploration will be different. The first hints of deference to the bravery and sacrifice are here. On television and in the scientific press, we talk about the special qualities required whilst all the while, we may be unprepared for what the journey means.

On the day our pilots land on Mars, our small chaotic systems will snag and stumble. A gradual culture of understanding will cause us all to pause before the next speech or statement or action is expressed. We will become suddenly bereft. Because, for the very first time, we will have separated part of us, a small and almost negligible fraction of our family, to stand apart and be uninfluenced by anything we do. Except our information. Whilst we continue massacres and missions in the name of myths, our siblings will be quietly dependent on the stories that we send.

How comfortable will we be with that? For one, I know I'll always think of our marriage made with Mars as binding and binary. If one of us thinks constantly about his representatives elsewhere then I'm guessing so will we all to a degree.

This is not an opportunity for betterment, it is the end of what we think we are.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The auld mune

Out with Alfie In the garden, paying attention to his routines whilst he paid attention to the odours of the evening. I found myself unexpectedly laughing at the moon.
As Alfie gains great pleasure from his empty bowl. When finished it's only function is to tickle his interest in it's stainless reflecting surface.

My interest was captured wholly by the pale pink moon.

In the same way I think. The moon's function, pulling seas around and foiling clear views done until a later time my heart was tugged and memory spun back to school. To English class. To Iain Crichton Smith and his love for Hugh MacDairmid.

The Bonnie Broukit Bairn

Mars is braw in crammasy,
Venus in a green silk goun,
The auld mune shak's her gowden feathers,
Their starry talk's a wheen o' blethers,
Nane for thee a thochtie sparin'
Earth, thou bonnie broukit bairn!
- But greet, an' in your tears ye'll drown
The haill clanjamfrie!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Sky squatter.

Quiet on the Coquet

Where Alfie and I found a little calm this morning.
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Maths and springtime

With the arrival of unexpected growth from forgotten bulbs and cawms come numbers, patterns and Fibonnaci yet again.

Snakes Head Fritilary   
With unerring accuracy for balanced colour, if not a perfect checker pattern. This puzzle keeps alkaloids tucked deeply underground in bulbs quite capable of flooring rooting dogs.

...and this new opened packet offers shade from leaves that offer interesting bite resistance then complete voiding of a puppy's cramped insides.

So gardening will prove a hazardous activity this year.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

My writer's block

Dog sitting. Until his final inoculations. We Can't even saunter and somersault around the garden due to nocturnal vulpine visits...
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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

With apologies for the hiatus.. I have been laid up with a particularly virulent pathogen and am now benefiting from Alexander Fleming's marvellous medicines. Soon better.
This has been made no easier by the arrival of Alfie. The iPad doesn't permit the easy inclusion of pictures so, that will have to wait until I can keep him from chewing my leads as I work. more later...

Monday, 7 February 2011

Spuds in a bag..

I shall be following the info offered on

Pics and progress to follow!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A sandwich filler..

With apologies to regular visitors to these pages, I am putting the stand down and waiting for the various house modifications to be finished. My computer is relegated to a cold extension spare room. Until the earth tilts in our favour it fails to entice me in.. Adding pages means using an iPad or Blackberry. Neither conducive to photoblogging.

I am currently celebrating however. For many years, I have made my own bread. It has taken a decade to reach the understanding that it really does matter what flour you use. And a further decade before I stopped kneading it into dry resigned playdough.

I have ignored instruction and reduced my technique to complete simplicity. No yeast. No salt. No sugar. Flour and water and time only. For those who might like to try:

Buy the very best wholemeal flour you can. Ironically, our ancestors would have thought nothing of this technique and paid less. We have reduced ourselves to paying more for unrefined materials. In a a warm bowl (one that you are willing to relinquish to the process for a week or so) mix a cup of the flour into a half pint of lukewarm water. Mix well and cover. The yeasts in the air and the flour will now awaken and get to work. Eating and farting just like the rest of us.
I place this simple starter by the stove. It will go through a variety of physical and chemical changes over days so best not disturb.
When it looks bubbly and no longer smells of vinegar but rather has a grassy, warm effect add more water and mix again. There are no rules about time. The first crop of bubbles took me three days.
After five days and with no appreciable turn back to vinegar, halve the mix. Clean the bowl and repeat with the leavings.

In a separate bowl, mix your starter with a further half pint of water and add good quality strong White flour. I use 00 pasta flour and try to get organically grown. In this instance it makes a difference.

Now proceed as with any other recipe. Mix, knead and wait for it to double. This will take longer than usual but it's worth it.

40 minutes at 150 (in a fan oven) results in a very palatable sourdough. I shall now only use yeast when time is short. Having two loaves in ones repertoire is sufficient to anyone's needs I think. One for a flourish but the other for meditative sandwiches.

I plan to just have the starter sat by the stove now. Bubbling. Pending my return to a PC and/or when Apple see fit to providing us with a USB socket, pictured on Twitter only. At @richardhesketh1

I thank you!