Falling down a cliff – extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

Happiness is when you are completely crazy and don’t know what the fuck is going on.

3.11.01

 

You have probably seen a film with the guy hanging off the cliff facing death and the whole of his life goes before his eyes. It is a recurring theme.

I’ve hung off a cliff.

Liz and I went on holiday illicitly, camping in Devon. Wow. I have a photo of her in our campsite. We pitched the tent between three dry stone wall of an old derelict barn. A most convenient campsite – sheltered and private. I was taking a photo and she was looking sexy and peeling her bikini top down. Incredibly, just as I was about to take the shot, a middle-aged couple walked past the front and Liz jerked the top up with an indignant look. That’s what I shot. It is a wonderful photo of her looking indignant.

Later we walked along the beach at Lyme Regis and there were fossils to be found. I’ve always loved fossils. I went back for a trowel and hammer and started digging in the blue lias shale, hoping to uncover a plesiosaur or an ichthyosaurus or two. At very least I wanted to find a nice full pyrites ammonite for Liz as a memento. In my usual manner, I became quite obsessive, particularly when I could not find what I wanted. All I was able to uncover were lousy flattened imprints. I wanted a good solid bronzed ammonite. I knew there was one in there. It had to be remarkable enough to impress Liz.

Liz sat on the beach in the sun. I became engrossed in digging in the shale and bashing open rocks. I had this notion that the best ones were higher up the layers in the cliff so I began working my way up the cliff face. The shale was very crumbly but I managed to secure footholds and handholds. I was hammering the trowel into the shale with the hammer so I could use the trowel as a piton for a handhold. Before long, without realising it, I had worked my way up to near the top.

I had just hammered the trowel in, when one foothold crumbled. I scrambled around with my foot to find another without success. Blue lias is like dried mud, layers of dried mud. It is very flaky. As I was feeling around with my foot the other foothold crumbled away. I was now high up the cliff clinging on to an embedded trowel and a handhold. I didn’t panic. It was all right. I had to get a new purchase in the lias, that’s all. It was OK. I looked down and it seemed a long way down to the rocks on the beach. Liz was not looking. I scrambled around with my feet but could not seem to find a crevice to get my toes into. The cliff was sheer and my arms were tiring. Then my handhold gave way and I knew I was in trouble. I was left hanging by two hands from the handle of the trowel and no matter how much I scrambled around I could not find a foothold. It was a matter of time. The trowel started slowly slipping out. I have to report that my life did not go through my mind, only a sense of foreboding accompanied by an exclamation or two.

The trowel finally came out and I went downwards.

Somehow I leaned into the cliff and clawed at the face with my nails and toes like a Tom and Jerry cartoon. I crashed down the cliff and hit the bottom along in the midst of an avalanche of debris. Liz screamed.

When the dust had settled I stood up virtually unharmed.

I have a photo of two long gouge marks down the cliff, made by my feet and clawed hands as I clawed at the cliff on the way to the beach. I escaped with ripped nails and multiple lacerations and bruises over arms, hands, belly and legs. Nothing too spectacular.

I laughed it off. It could easily have been a lot worse.

3.11.01

 

Happiness is the feeling you get when you survive something unscathed that could have come out a lot different.

3.11.01

The start of the wild life – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

Happiness is freedom to do what you want!

3.11.01

 

Looking back I can see that my wild life started when I was fifteen. That was the year I hitch-hiked in France with my mate Foss. We spent the entire summer camping out the back of a Youth Hostel. It was an eye-opener – different food, culture, experiences and freedom. We had to cook, shop and clean up after ourselves. There were girls, wine, cheese and bread. I was adopted by some older Hungarian girls, had a Scottish girlfriend and was befriended by an enormous German guy who adored the Stones album I had brought with me. I made friends with the French guys, discovered yoghurt, and had a

It was also the year that Foss also took me to the local Walton Hop for my first taste of live Rock Music.

The Walton Hop was a notorious dive. It was the haunt of the Walton and Hersham Teddy Boys. There was a knife-fight in the carpark outside the gig that first night. We edged around a baying mob (mainly girls) who were wanting blood as two teds with flick-knives circled and slashed at each other.

The first band I saw was the British Birds who had Ron Wood on guitar. They had the hair, waist-coats and Chelsea boots. I just had to have some of those Chelsea boots. They were loud and raucous with synchronised beat and guitars. They even had someone turn the lights on and off in time to the music like some primitive light show. It was incredible.

Even more incredible were the audience. It was a bit of a time-warp to the fifties. Bottles and glasses flew through the air. Groups of Teds stood around the dance floor looking hard, with their greased hair, siddies, drape jackets with fur trim and brothel creepers. The girls grouped together with their beehive hairdo’s, full skirts, petty-coats and ankle socks. Some couples danced wildly, mainly jiving, spinning and throwing the girls around so that their skirts billowed out showing their knickers. One of them noisily screwed a very blousy looking girl against the wall on the landing of the stairs up to the gallery while a group of his friends stood around them shouting and clapping and egging them on. She looked completely disinterested throughout, chewing gum and looking bored while he thrust away under her lifted skirts. All quite a incredible to a fifteen-year-old lad. Some might have been put off by the experience but for me, it was incredibly exciting.

The next band I saw was Them with Van Morrison. They didn’t jump about quite so much and I remember being a bit disappointed at that. But they did stay behind at the end and sign postcard pictures. I had two of them. I later gave one to Phil at work, who was a big fan, and lost the other. I think my Mum threw it away when I was away at college.

Maybe it was the fighting that was the final straw that broke that camel’s back? The council closed it down, but I’d already got the taste. Live Rock Music set the heart thumping like nothing else.

I wonder what my parents were thinking, letting me go to a place like that at that age? I think they wanted me to live life and enjoy myself. They probably had no idea what it was really like. I’d always been pretty free and wild and they trusted Foss to look after me.

Perhaps they managed it about right. I’m not so sure I would have been happy letting my kids loose in France at fifteen years of age or to go to a dive with mad violent Teddy Boys!

3.11.01

 

Happiness. What the hell is happiness? A chemical rush? A hormonal surge? A state of euphoria? A sense of fulfilment?

3.11.01

Crazy Zen Beat Hipsters – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

Rich said we were ‘crazy, Zen, Beat hipsters’ and we didn’t give a fuck. I wrote him a poem and Tim made it into a song. It sent chills down my back to hear my words put into a song.

It was a silly throwaway poem that I wrote in ten minutes – really nowt but doggerel. But I kind of like it. It’s fun.

Thanks Rich. Thanks Tim.

We’re all crazy Zen Beat hipsters, aren’t we?

But then we’re all pretty ordinary nobodies – Jack Kerouac, Roy Harper, Zoot Horn Rollo, Picasso, Captain Beefheart, William Burroughs, Attila the Hun, Gandhi, Hitler, and my Dad.

Maybe we just want to be noticed? We are ordinary guys. Maybe we want to make sense of what it was about? Maybe we want to make things better?

We invented wars and invasions; complete with genocides and so many atrocities we can’t even record them all. We created fashions and styles and tried to capture life and describe it. We have sometimes tried to right wrongs. But maybe we just wanted to be special and we were all fumbling about in the dark, playing with our demons and trying to make a world we could be happy living in.

So many of us just want to feel important, believe we are important, think we deserve so much more than anybody else. None of us do.

If only we had been loved and praised enough all our lives. We’re all so insecure.

3.11.01

 

Happiness is security and not having to worry.

3.11.01

More tests – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

We are the biggest disaster that has ever hit this planet! By the time we have run our course, we will have killed off a greater percentage of life here than any comet or natural disaster since the beginning of time.

Our priority is to ensure that we change and become less destructive; to ensure that my prophecy of our terrible effect on the rest of life does not come true; to ensure that the destruction we are wreaking is halted and we learn to live in harmony with each other and the world.

There’s nothing daft or soppy about that!

If we don’t learn how to do that we are, along with every other living thing, completely screwed!

11.11.01

 

The major problem is that we are too greedy. We are consuming too much of the world’s resources.

Try telling that to a meathead hell-bent on owning the world and consuming it all. “Hey, look how important I am, yah! I own a castle, twenty Rolls Royces and a fleet of Lear Jets!”

But then we are all guilty.

How many tellies do you have?

Crazy isn’t it?

11.11.01

 

Happiness is when your endorphins flood your brain and tingle all your synapses.

3.11.01

 

Right. Despite all my tests, I was not satisfied. I requested a further consultation with the consultant. It wasn’t lungs and it wasn’t stomach, but the pain was still there and getting worse. I had decided that it had to be the colon. A section of the large intestine came up under the ribcage and that had to be the problem. By my calculations, it could be polyps, irritable bowel syndrome, or bowel cancer. I think I had already decided that it was bowel cancer.

Thank heavens we did not have the internet back then. I might have had a long list of possible ailments and have convinced myself I had them all.

The consultant was very sceptical about my condition. He reassured me that it was psychosomatic and would go away of its own accord. He doubted that there was any physical aspect to my pain. I was not convinced and he could see I was not going to let it rest until I had explored every possibility. There was nothing else for it other than a barium enema.

They dressed me in that same stupid backless thingee that you have to wear in hospitals, probably designed to make you feel embarrassed and stupid, so it keeps you in your place as a patient. Then they put me on a medical couch and inserted a hosepipe up my anus.

The nurse hovered closely watching the procedure. It was embarrassing but at least it did not impinge on your breathing and produce panic. The tube was uncomfortable but I could hardly complain. I had requested it.

They then poured a gallon or two of white barium solution down the pipe. It filled your rectum. It was at least warm and not too unpleasant – though it made me feel as if I were suffering from the worst case of diarrhoea I had ever experienced.

I had to lay still while they pawed over their monitor screens and positioned me in exactly the position they required on the X-ray machine. I lay there trying not to produce the biggest wet fart of all time. The major thing that was on my mind was the desperate need to get to the toilet without making a spectacle of yourself.

Once again I was able to see the results on the screen and the doctor talked me through. There were no tumours, polyps or abnormalities.

“It’s alright,” he reassured me, “it is all normal.”

I knew that I had to come to terms with this. Most probably my symptoms were psychosomatic after all? But I still wasn’t totally convinced.

28.10.01

 

Happiness is when your mind is in balance and is not craving for anything.

3.11.01

 

The art of living is doing and being.

11.11,01

 

I went back for a further consultation. The doctor argued his case that he could see no physical reason for my condition but I remained adamant. He recapped through the procedures; they had now checked the lungs and been in from both ends to check my gut, I had had a physical examination of abdomen and liver but he could see that I was still unconvinced, the only thing that was left was to check my abdomen with an ultrasound.

Once again I found myself in a hospital ward wearing one of those strange backless thingees.

The ultrasound technician was a young doctor. She placed me on a surgical couch and immediately lifted up the front of my smock to expose my abdomen. I found myself once again wondering what was the point of having a smock that had no back? but I did not put it in words. She unceremoniously plonked a big dollop of cold gel on my abdomen, which made me jump, and proceeded to smear it around.

I had this strange feeling that I had become pregnant. It was just association, Liz had had it done exactly this when she was pregnant. She began searching around with the sensor. She showed me the images on the screen and I found myself looking for a foetus. Pulling myself back to reality I pointed out where the pain was and she began checked, pushing the sensor over the area, in and out, focussing on the organs and providing me with a commentary of the organs we were looking at. As a biologist I found it easy to identify them and asked all manner of questions. She was very diligent and persisted until I was satisfied. There was nothing to see. Normality, bloody normality!

By this time I was hoping for a nice round tumour. Something they could identify and say- “See!  There!  That was what was causing the problem!” I wanted something they could easily cut out and deal with.

I did not want a negative result.

She checked the kidneys and liver, even had a look at the spleen. I was sure that it had to be lurking there somewhere. Everywhere she looking it came back with normality. The gut checked out, gall bladder had no sign of stones.

We ran out of places to look.

I had to face the truth – I was healthy.

28.10.01

 

Happiness is when you are completely crazy and don’t know what the fuck is going on.

3.11.01

Tarting up the past – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

They are presently digging up parts of Britain, indeed the whole world. They are uncovering the past and restoring it. They are tarting it up so that it looks attractive. They put in roads to the sites and trim the grass. They construct paths and riddle the place with signposts. They produce brochures and put in historical information on plaques. The result is a tourist attraction.

People have got so much money and time that they can indulge themselves. They can go and see things that look interesting. This may be natural phenomena, such as hot springs, waterfalls and gorges or they may be old ruins. The idea is to make it accessible and attractive. It is no good leaving them as they were. They have to be manicured and resurrected into the artists’ impression of past glory. We worship the past.

We are becoming heritage Britain. We sell a sanitised version of the past to tourists. Battle scenes without the blood – we are fascinated. Stone circles without the sacrifices – we are intrigued. Castles without the rape and pillage – we are in awe. We are then invited to visualise these events.

Soon the whole planet will be a big plastic historical amusement park for the benefit of affluent tourism. It brings in the dollars. It is big business. You sell your merchandise on the back of the curiosity seekers.

I enjoy doing it myself – but, at the back of my mind, I know that what I am viewing is not necessarily real. It’s been tarted up to make it look more attractive and not more authentic.

8.11.01

 

Some seek out sexual partners and spend hours making themselves look attractive so that they can have lots of sex with different people.

11.10.01

 

We pretend we are ruled by our minds when in reality our noses and emotions tug us around. We do not even register that we are responding to each other’s chemistry. We do not know what makes us do the things we do.

We watch our dogs sniffing lampposts and other dogs and think we are superior. At least they most probably know what messages they receive. We respond without it even becoming conscious.

8.11.01

Death in the bakery – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

Our vision is only clear in two small pools, like headlights, in front of our sight. Our brain makes up the rest and pretends that it is sharp and clear. Most of us go through all our lives without even knowing this.

Most of the world we live in is made up by our brains.

We males vie with each other in some primordial ritual to establish a pecking order of status. Our position is set by the chemicals we exude from our armpits and groin. Unknowingly we respond to the chemicals exuded from others. Most of what we respond to, we are not even aware of.

Our subliminal responses reveal our disposition. Our status is based upon the respect we command via these chemicals and other subtle messages from our body language. The game never ceases as our position is always precarious. We are only as good as the messages we are sending out. In order to reinforce our status some people in power bully and arrogantly show off.

Females respond to the signals we transmit in different ways to us. They respond to status. Females also respond to the subliminal messages they are putting out. They have their own pecking order.

8.11.01

 

 

According to the rumour in the bakery, two people were horribly killed while I worked in there.

One was a mechanic who was fixing the ovens.

The ovens were long tunnels through which a conveyor belt took the baking trays. There were many of these ovens all lined up next to each other. The bread moved through the ovens in a constant flow. It was all automatic. A machine plopped a lump of dough into a bread-pan and a conveyor belt took the dough through the long tunnel of the oven. The journey took twenty minutes, which was the length of time necessary to cook the bread. It emerged at the other end as a standardised, fully-cooked loaf.

On this occasion, something had gone wrong inside one of the ovens and the only way of dealing with it was to get an engineer to crawl up inside the oven and fix it. Of course, they turned it off and let it cool down first. The trouble was that someone inadvertently turned it on. It wasn’t on long enough to cook the guy it seemed he got mangled up by mechanical arms inside the guts of the oven that were there to keep the bread-pans in line! At least that was the tale that was circulating.

The other tragedy was when a man was killed in the flour storage bins. These were huge storage bins, circular and tapering. They were about thirty foot high and twenty-foot across. When they were emptied someone had to go down into them with a broom on a long handle and dislodge any flour that was sticking to the sides of the hopper. It was a very dusty, unpleasant job.

While this guy was down in the hopper sweeping out, someone, not knowing he was in there, pressed a button and a load of flour was deposited into the hopper, tons and tons of the stuff. The guy was buried and completely suffocated in the fine powder.

5.11.01

 

One push of one button could be enough to finish everything. Easily done.

7.11.01

Ron Forsythe Science Fiction – Future Projects

Future Projects

Please check out my Ron Forsythe Science Fiction site:- https://ronforsytheauthor.wordpress.com/

Recently I have been reading a Stephen Hawking book – Brief answers to Big Questions – and I found it extremely thought-provoking.

A lot of science, particularly in the field of astrophysics, is now stranger than Sci-Fi. Who would have imagined the 11 dimensions of M-theory? I find that aspect of science fascinating. The quantum world and time are plain weird and do not seem to make sense in terms of our own reality. But it was the other topics that intrigued me (neither of which are particularly new but both of which are on the verge of becoming real).

There were two main themes that set my mind racing. One was A/I. Stephen found this a threat to humans. He was looking at the huge advances that have been made in computers over recent years, doubling their capacity every two years, and predicted firstly that these machines would soon exceed human intelligence and secondly that they would be conscious. His fear was that their intelligence might far outstrip us and they could consider us superfluous. Now I am aware that this has been a standard theme in Sci-fi for a long time – right back to 2001-A Space Odyssey – but this is real science and it appealed to me.

The second theme of Stephen’s that stimulated my creative juices was the idea that we now had the means to genetically alter organisms easily. Not only can we switch genes from one species to another but we can alter those genes and create entirely new characteristics. So we could take a gene out of a daisy or a jellyfish and put it into a human. We could take a specific gene, involved in our intelligence for instance, and play about with it to see if we can improve on it.

Stephen suggested that there was no way of controlling this. Even if experiments on humans was considered unethical and banned, there would be nations with secret labs who would not be bound by such ethics.

Stephen suggested that we were on the cusp of a revolution. Not only would our crops, farm animals and food be radically altered in the forthcoming years, but we would be too. We are on the verge of identifying the genes involved with intelligence. Once we have achieved that we could optimize them, perfect them and ultimately create humans who were immensely intelligent.

Once again, these ideas are not Science Fiction, they are real science – but my mind is already looking at storylines. Soon real science may become Science Fiction. We’ll see.

What Stephen’s book achieved was to inspire a few storylines. We’ll see if they mature into stories or novels.

Keep watching this space.

Education, careers and Captain Beefheart – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

Religion is a compulsory subject in British schools. Every child has to be brainwashed every single day with a religious input, by law. Isn’t that absurd?

It is an archaic throwback to the days when religion was the cornerstone of society and schools were first conceived as places where children of the elite were schooled in Latin Grammar so they could read the Bible. Later, schooling became more widely available to the general public as society had progressed and there was a need for people with knowledge and skills to carry out the various tasks and careers needed by society.

But where does the concept of educating people to expand their minds fit in? A career is one thing but a questioning mind is something else altogether. I wanted my education to be expansive, fun, illuminating and thrilling. I wanted discovery, excitement and revelation. I received facts to learn for exams. I did not really count that as an education.

13.10.01

 

Captain Beefheart was on at Middle Earth up in Covent Garden in London. That was an event that would change the whole of anybody’s life. Captain Beefheart, complete with Zoot Horn Rollo, Rockette Morton, Alex St Claire, Drumbo and who knew who else. The whole Magic Band. That was worth £5,000,000 of anybody’s money!

The only problem was that it was right in the middle of A Levels.

This was a crisis.

No problemo. It was the week before my Biology. I wasn’t one for revision anyway. I always did well in Biology. Besides I needed a good night out. It would set me up for the exams. But I needed my grade to get my place at university to study medicine. No problemo. I told you, I always do well in Biology.

But this was the whole of my future!

No problemo!

There was no choice in the matter. It had to be done. Beefheart might not tour again. The world might end and I wouldn’t have seen him.

Besides – it was a whole week before.

I went. Rockette Morton was ill so they postponed. They put on Aynsley Dunbar instead. There was no comparison.

They put the Captain on the following week and made it a double bill with John Mayall, complete with Pete Green on lead.

Now that was a slight problem. That was the night before my Biology exam. But a double-bill with Captain Beefheart with John Mayall and Peter Green – who could possibly afford to miss that???

If I went I would not get back until three in the morning. My exam was at nine. That was about five hours sleep. That also meant no night before revision (the only revision I tended to do). I had this theory that it was pointless revising more than a day before an exam. You forgot it all. It really wasn’t so much of a theory as an excuse – back then my memory was very good. It was just that my mind was on other things that seemed much more important to me back then.

This was my future we were talking about! My future for fuck’s sake! My eminent career as a doctor, a surgeon even! Surely I was mature enough to understand that?

But then, Captain Beefheart might not tour again, the band might break up, and Pete Green was scintillating on guitar. Besides I always came top in Biology; I didn’t need to revise. I could breeze it.

But you had to admit that five hours sleep and no revision was hardly perfect preparation for a crucial exam.

I had to think this through for all of five minutes.

Where were my parents in all this? Where was my father’s guiding hand? My mum’s words of wisdom? I can’t remember. I think they had given up on trying to influence my choices. They had decided that I was a law unto myself. While not shining in my academic endeavours, I did seem to get by, so they tended to leave me to it.

The concert was brilliant! One of the best ever! The Magic band were storming! Beefheart was incredible! John Mayall, even with Pete Green, paled into insignificance.

The Biology exam was all right but there were a few questions that proved a little tricky. A bit of revision might not have gone amiss.

When the results came out I had missed the required standard by a grade. That could have been a single mark! One fact! One glance at one page of notes! The university was not impressed. They declined my services. Instead of studying medicine I did a Zoology degree at a lesser establishment. I went on to establish a scintillating career as a teacher. The pay of a teacher is not greatly comparable to the pay of a surgeon. But what the hell! Who wanted a career anyway? There was far too much real living to be getting on with, a whole universe to explore!

Some concerts are worth £5000,000 of anybody’s money.

2.11.01

 

Why is poetry not the only compulsory subject in schools?

13.10.01

 

There’s no doubt that nuclear energy is a big mistake in this age of global terrorism. A plane smashing into a nuclear plant could be a catastrophe.

Just imagine how many tens of thousands of terrorists, each consuming twenty tins of beans, it would take to sabotage a field of Wind Turbines?

3.11.01

Mexican Pyramids and religion – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

So we’re living in the USA and we decide to take Christmas off and drive down to Mexico City. Our neighbours all think we’re nuts. Why would anyone want to go to Mexico for Christmas? Besides we’ve got little kids and it is obvious that we won’t survive. We’d all be killed. There are bandits down there! It’s one thousand five hundred miles! There’s a dirt road. It’s uncivilised. It’s a Third World country! We can’t take the little kiddies to their deaths in some third world country. We should stay in the USA, party and consume!

We smile. We’re off to Mexico.

We set off with our van and a tent, three kids and some Mexican money. You don’t need much. It’s cheap down there.

Petrol is forty-four cents a gallon. That about twenty pence! Wow! It’s over £2 in England!

Don’t eat the food. Our neighbours told us. They are distraught. Live out of tins. So, as soon as we are in Mexico we buy tortillas from roadside vendors and they are brilliant. And we ate the salads washed in local water.

Don’t drink the water our neighbours tell us. It is full of bugs. So we drink the water.

Don’t stop for anybody under any circumstance, they tell us. We will be robbed and murdered. So we stop when we’re flagged down going through the mountain. These guys have a car that has broken down and they need a push. We give ‘em a push and they don’t rape Liz, shoot the kids or me, or even rob us. They smile and wave thank you.

The roads are lethal. We will inevitably be killed on the road, they informed us. Well admittedly the road does suddenly come to abrupt ends every now and then, when we round bends so that we find ourselves bouncing along rutted dirt tracks at seventy miles per hour. The main road is a single lane death trap. Mexican drivers can be a little volatile, fast and erratic. One day we watched as we picnicked at the side of the road as a car careered off and into the desert at about a ton plus. But the driver and passengers were alright. They reversed back onto the road and drove off as if nothing had happened. Admittedly there are little shrines every few hundred yards down its entire length where other drivers have met their demise. But nothing happened to us. We loved it!

It was tough walking through some of the poor Mexican towns with money and a camera. Our camera was worth more than some of their entire lifetime earnings. We could change lives with a single contribution.

There were roads with beggars. They didn’t pester you like in India. They sat despondently, almost hopelessly. They had little wooden bowls. There were old misshapen ladies, cripples and kids. If you put something in their bowls they ate. If you didn’t they starved. We put some in but still felt guilty.

We reached Mexico City and went up in the revolving restaurant to survey the smog. There was a lot of it.

We went out to the pyramids at Tehuacan. We camped by the pyramid of the sun. We woke to the sun rising over the pyramid of the sun. We climbed that pyramid and the pyramid of the moon. We stood at the top and imagined human sacrifices. The pyramids used to be painted red with huge carvings and plaster frescoes. They were scary places but incredibly beautiful and awe-inspiring. You could imagine the music blaring, the crowds gathered and the sacrifices to the gods. The steps were supposed to have run with blood.

I could not help thinking that it was the same god all those years ago, before Mohammed, before Christ – the same vicious, demanding, blood-thirsty god! Same people! Same superstition. Same fear! Same sacrifices! Same stupidity!

Nothing changes!

We don’t get any cleverer!

We still are just as superstitious and stupid as ever we were!

Oh, of course, I am so wrong! I forgot! This is the age of Christ, Mohammed and the rest! Not some primitive superstition! Not like the gods of Rome or Yahweh, or the Earth Mother! No. Not some superstitious human creation of a messed up human mind. This time, unlike all the past times, it is real! I shouldn’t forget that, right!

But as I stood on top of that pyramid and thought about all the blood running down those steps I saw all human-created religion from all cultures, over all time. Nothing changes. It’s just wrapped in different clothing.

So we came down the steps where religion had killed countless thousands of innocent fools and headed for Taxco. A town up in the mountains. We stayed and had Christmas away from Christ and the commercial god of avarice. We stayed in a beautiful old hotel and listened to the firecrackers. And the kids ran through the streets with their Panyattas and smacked them with sticks to break they open to get the sweets inside and it was wonderful!

11.11.01

 

My idea of straight and your idea of straight might be totally different. I’m amazed at how straight I’ve become. It quite shocks me!

I wonder if I’m quite so willing to put my life and mind on the line?

11.11.01

 

Human beings are the same the world over. There’s thick ones, and ignorant ones, rich, poor and nasty ones. There’s good and evil ones. There’s violent and aggressive ones. The majority of them are pleasant, friendly and helpful. You just gotta find your way around and get along with them. I’ve always found that if you smile, are friendly and treat ‘em fair then they do the same to you.

I guess I’ve been lucky and never run into the real bastards yet!

11.11.01

 

The trouble with honesty is that people can find it so disappointing. To reveal all about yourself is to destroy your image. A radio programme has better pictures than a T.V programme. Everyone has his or her image of you. None of them are right.

The reality has got to be less than the imagined. The mysterious enigma is more intriguing than the openly blatant.

I am a crazy Zen beat hipster from Merton in Surrey on the Thames delta in the deep south.

31.10.01

Research – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

 

Life is about experience. What else is there? You gotta get out there and experience everything! Change your mind! Go everywhere! Meet everyone! Find the best minds and rap the hell out of them! Do everything once and avoid the ruts! Avoid the humdrum! Avoid the rot and decay. So much more than fun! So much more than sex! So much more than children!

There’s a galaxy out there! It spins! There’s a mind in here! It thinks. It spins. I wanna know what makes them spin!

11.11.01

 

I did research towards a Master’s degree.

It seemed a good idea at the time. I was working as a laboratory technician and I they gave me day release to do it.

Research sounds fun. Research is not fun. Research is the ultimate in boredom.

As an entomologist I negotiated to study the eutrophication of Lake Windermere through the presence of Chironomid Midge Larvae fossils in sediments – the afore-said-mentioned Chironomids being indicator organisms – an indicator organism being an organism that can be used to determine the quality of the water in a lake or river.

You see! Now that even sounds boring! But I can tell you that that does not sound one tenth as boring as actually doing the research! That is real boredom!

When Malcolm Mclaren sorted out ‘Boring’ as one of his key words and phrases, along with ‘Never trust a hippy’ and ‘Anarchy’, he did not know what he was talking about. If hanging about on street corners, with no employment, no prospects, no money and nothing to do, is boring, he ought to try research identifying the fossil head capsules of midge larvae. That’s boring enough to ossify what’s left of your brain.

I was studying Lake Windermere but I did not even get to see Lake Windermere! They sent me a slab of mud!

And when I started I didn’t have a clue as to what one Chironomid larval head capsule looked like compared to any other type of midge head capsule. I’d never even heard of Chironomid midges! I wouldn’t know what one looked like if it flew up and bit me – and they most probably have!

Still research was research and I got stuck in.

What fun!

I negotiated for someone to send me a complete core sample of mud from the surface through to the boulder clay sediments laid down when the lake was formed. It was thirty metres long. A great long brown turd of mud.

The basis for my work was that the mud was laid down sequentially year by year. So by studying what organisms lived in the water, and hence were preserved in the mud, you could tell what conditions in the lake were like at the time the mud was deposited. The boulder clay was the earliest stuff. The turd got progressively more organic and rancid as we went from glacial to present time.

My first job was to cut the huge tube of mud up into ten centimetre chunks and bottle each chunk in alcohol to preserve it and then carefully label it. I put these on a shelf in a sequential order. There were hundreds of jars, each one representing a period in the lakes evolution.

My next task was to learn to identify all Chiromid larvae from the diagnostic characteristics of their head capsules, which were the only part of them preserved in the mud. Each different species had distinctive arrangements of their scraping plates. Each different species lived in different oxygen tensions.

The first problem was that no one had ever bothered to describe them all. I had to search through all the literature and gather stuff together. I had to take photomicrographs of head capsules and describe them myself. When I knew all the different types and how to identify them, which took a year, I moved on to being able to find them in the mud samples.

I had a binocular microscope, a pipette and hundreds of slides. I’d put a squirt of mud in a dish along with ethanol, peer down my binocular, tease out the grains of mud with a needle and carefully find every head capsule that was present in the sample. I’d make these into slides and identify them. This took hours. The room was full of the fumes of alcohol, xylene and Canada balsam (used to make the slides).

Only when my supervisor was satisfied that I could find each and every one of the head capsules in the mud sample was I allowed to attack the mud stored in the jars on the shelf. You see, some head capsules were large and easy to find and some were small and irksome. You had to find them all to get accurate data. If you missed some the data was skewed.

See, I told you it was boring.

By the end of two years I was the world’s third leading expert in Chiromid larvae. Fucking hell! I’m not sure where I would be now? Perhaps, unbeknown to me I am now the world’s leading expert, the others all having died of boredom.

You are most probably dead from boredom just reading about it.

If you want to really know what boredom is try doing research. I can promise you it is not scintillating.

Then I was let loose on the mud. I had to take samples every so many metres along the sample and record a hundred fossil head capsules at each level. The idea was that the lake started as a pure Alpine lake and then gradually silted up to become the putrid eutrophicated mess I was these days. I was to plot that progress and make comments on what had happened to the oxygen levels as organic material built up in its pristine glacial waters.

Sounded easy enough.

It took me a year to do. The preparation of the slides using xylene and mounted in Balsam was tedious and also a health hazard. It stank and gave off fumes that filled your head with muzzy carcinogens. Your eyes went crazy staring intently down a binocular microscope for hours on end. It was horrendously boring.

Only when you’d got all your data could it become remotely interesting. The culmination of three year’s work was to analyse the changes in species and plot what had happened to the lake.

Wow! That was weird!

Contrary to work carried out on pollen and crustacean indicators my research did not show steady progress from oligotrophic conditions, through mesotrophic conditions, to eutrophic conditions. No. The lake didn’t start pure and sparkly and gradually silt up through the centuries. It started pure and then rushed into being eutrophic. There was nothing gradual about it. It even started to get a bit clearer later on and then silted up again. I found that fascinating.

I handed in my report.

It was a highly detailed report with flow charts and photomicrographs and bar charts. It was bitchin’. Even if I say it myself. I was proud of it.

A Master’s degree can be done in a year. Mine took three. But it was the Biz. I had stuck it out.

My supervisor was a really interesting man. He actually enjoyed assessing reports. He started off by reading the report backwards for spelling mistakes. Bear in mind that this was before the age of computers. It was all typed. If there was a single mistake and you had to type the whole page again and there were no spell checks. He found a few, well actually a few dozen per page.

He then read it for grammar. Then he read it for sense.

I received my report back from him covered from head to foot in corrections.

I retyped it all. I am a prolific one-finger typist. Then I resubmitted it.

He went through the process again and came up with a few things he wanted changing. Then he consulted the oracles as to the validity of my findings.

We had a meeting.

“Very impressive bit of research, hrrrmmph.”

“Thank you Doctor Watson.”

“Trouble is that it conflicts with other research carried out on the lake.”

“I know. But those are my findings. My overseer was satisfied with my results. They are accurate.”

“I don’t doubt that. It is just that I cannot submit them without further proof of their accuracy. They do not conform to research in other areas done on this lake.”

“What do you mean, you cannot submit?” I was getting annoyed. I’ve been three years doing this. I’ve been overseen and checked all the way. My results are accurate and my conclusions are valid. Surely this is something for me to discuss at my Viva?”

“No. I can’t give the colleges name to research that is in any way suspect. You will need to back it up with further study. I suggest two more core samples. That would amply back up your findings.”

“Two more core samples!” I was horrified. Even with my increased speed, I was looking at two more year’s work! Two more years of xylene fumes and pawing cross-eyed over a binocular microscope. I was horrified at the thought of it. No way was I going to do that! I argued. “I don’t want to convert this to a Doctorate. I just want a Masters!”

“Oh, this will be a Masters.”

“You are not seriously suggesting I spend five years doing a scabby Master’s degree?” I was angry.

“I think that is what will be necessary to enable us to have full faith in its credibility.” He replied in a calm and reasonable tone. Doctor Watson was an extremely refined man.

Our first baby, Dylan, had just been born. I was a father now. I had responsibilities. I was working as a laboratory technician on extremely low pay while I did my Master’s degree. We were living in a very dingy little bedsit but we had been offered a house in Hull. Liz’s Grandma had died and her mother had offered us a whole house! That seemed like a dream. I didn’t need this hassle with my research. I needed to get it out of the way and get on with my life.

“Look. I don’t need this,” I explained to him in my best controlled manner. ‘I have written up a valid bit of research. It is more than enough for a Master’s degree. I am not going to do any more core samples. I’ve had it with all that! If it isn’t good enough then fuck it! You can stuff it up your arse!”

I wasn’t furious. I wasn’t out of control. It felt really good.

He stared back at me aghast. He was a professor with refined tastes, a man of decorum and manners. Nobody talked to him that way.

But then, I was heavily into ‘fuck it’!

I walked out.

I went down-stairs and wrote out my notice for my technician’s post. The lecturer overseeing my research was a really nice chap. Derek had become a friend. He begged me to rethink. He urged me to go back immediately and apologise. He would see Doctor Watson. He would explain. Maybe we could compromise on one core sample. It wouldn’t take that long. He would help. We could publish the results anyway. I did not have to throw it all away. He begged me to reconsider. I apologised to him and thanked him for all his help but I had made my mind up.

I never went back to that lab. I left all my slides in the drawers, all my work scattered over the work surfaces and all my core samples on the shelves, and never looked back.

Fuck the Masters degree.

I served out my notice, all but the last three days, when I went down with a heavy dose of hepatitis.

And that’s how I came to move to Hull and become a teacher!

31.10.01

 

The trouble is that we all let ourselves down. We can’t live up to the ideals we set ourselves. We fall short.

31.10.01