Thursday, 26 April 2012


This blog is suspended due to lack of traffic and google/blogger making difficulties. F.

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Noumenal

I want to show you something. You open the door into a large room and see everything inside is covered by a large dust sheet. There is nothing to tell you what lies beneath the sheet, your only clues are the undulations and peaks of the fabric. The lie of the land. Now suppose you are a fly. You take wing across the room and alight wherever you may but still you cannot detect what is below the fabric. You can walk on it but you cannot lift it, nor can you see or drill through it. You sniff, taste, listen, touch and look but what the veil conceals is remote. Being a fly you don't find this strange. Understood as a metaphor the scenario portrays the separation between total reality and the world known to our five senses.

Helen Keller was famously both blind and deaf and with only three senses you have to wonder what her locked in world was like. Not like ours, yet in a similar fashion our five senses would give us no knowledge of an unsensed larger reality. On TV I saw a shark that was sensitive to the muscle electricity of its prey, if that were us we would be able to find each other in the dark and round the corner too. Alas we're as blind to electric fields as we are to magnetism so there are six and seven sort of senses we don't have. On the other hand we do know of them. As evolved organisms biologists tell us we need only be aware of enough of around us to accomplish "the three Fs", to feed, flee and reproduce. We also have a sense of time and space though we have no sense organs for these, they appear to be built into our brains. 

So a three sense reality, a five sense reality and more, but what the total reality might be we don't know. Science takes us into the unknown but it can't lead us to experiences beyond our senses can it? Well who knows because with physicists trying to unite the cosmologically large with the sub atomic small they have devised a 12  or 13 dimensional reality. Historically where science leads technology follows so through our five given senses we might one day be admitted to a larger reality by means of a gadget.

Like Helen Keller who gained a sense through a vibrating balloon touched to her lips and so learned to hear, speak and communicate, and become a professor. I want a gadget like that because I want to break through the veil of unknowing and see the furniture beneath. If there is any, assuming our brains are up to it, which they may not be.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Against All Odds

There's a comic play by NF Simpson called 'One Way Pendulum'. A defendant stands in the dock with his alibi shredded, the judge has just asked what the chances are of him coming out of a Sainsbury's at ten twenty two in the morning on a bright sunny Tuesday just as a number 27 mounts the pavement? Extreme in the least and so an obvious lie. Guilty! For a moment I had to think. Got it, every event is a unique event. What are the odds of finding a randomised pack of cards in any one particular order? 52 X 51 X 50 X 49….. or ten with sixty eight noughts, more than the number of atoms in the galaxy. Yet more likely to happen than what you are doing at this moment.

Need a rest? Who was it said, 'You are an Englishman and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life'? My headmaster, but he was quoting Sir Cecil Rhodes. Odds on you're English too. We may laugh but Rhodes had a point, life is a lottery and we could have been dealt a poor hand indeed but for the accident of birth. For a start we did better than the founder of Rhodesia and de Beers did, by popping up in late 20th century Britain and not the 19th where he hung out.

Nor do we have to hide our sexuality as he had to or suffer from consumption and die before fifty. Hooray! On the other hand we aren't one of the richest men the world has ever seen. Boo! Anyway, when my headmaster quoted Rhodes like any patriotic prig I believed him, after all wasn't half the map red, hadn't we won the world war again, didn't our planes crowd the skies and the Royal Navy plough the oceans? And we had the atom bomb too. I thought it a miracle and though I suspected something wasn't quite right I couldn't put my finger on it. Until things began to pile up, too late I learned the Americans had all the money, the French had the painters, the Germans the composers and the Russians could dance the arse off anybody. I felt cheated. We weren't top dog after all. I was born a hundred years too late. 

Back to the man in court and the unlikeliness of our being in any one place at any one time. Like being born. I wasn't born during the Black Death or the stone age or a primitive tribe stuck up the Amazon, and nor were you. Homo Sapiens emerged some 250,000 years ago and since then hundreds if not thousands of millions of us have lived horrible lives and met horrible deaths, the whole Hobbesian nightmare - nasty, brutish and short. And on top of the happy accident of the when and the where of my birth I had the luck of a safe home, sufficient food and loving parents, and the fairy on top of the icing was I ticked all the boxes, healthy, handsome, bright and white too. Infinite good fortune and not of my making.

Phew! Through by the skin of my teeth. What are the chances?  Life was mine to throw away. 'And when you go up to Heaven,' the headmaster concluded, 'you will find St Peter himself behind the stumps'. Well naturally.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Time On The Cross

Easter, the spring celebration of birth and regeneration with hot cross buns, chocolate eggs, funny bunnies and a long weekend too. Whoopee! 'What you doing for Easter Jesus? Oh just hanging about.' The christians stuck it on the Romans but they got their retaliation in first. 'Put your feet together mate, I've only got one nail left.' And he obliged, gentle Jesus meek and mild, except when kicking the money changers out of the temple and running pigs off a cliff.

Spring, the death of winter and resurrection. Here's how to calculate when the festival occurs, it's the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Simples! 'Spring is sprung, The grass is ris, I wonder where the birdies is, Some say the bird is on the wing, But that's absurd, Surely the wing is on the bird?'

Absurd. Easter like xmas, when people go to cold stone buildings and do a lot of mumbling. (Thank you Eddie Izzard.) Me I can't bear to see that bleeding man on a cross, I never could, it frightened me as a boy, but then I was brought up in a time when death, blood and suffering wasn't the norm. He died for our sins even though we weren't born and yet to commit any, not that there's anything quite so simple minded as sin. No, he died because the established religious zealots wanted him out of the way. He was treading on their turf. Nail him up.

Mr Steiner came to a New York advertising agency and asked them for an original poster to promote the sale of the nails he manufactured. The creative department got to work and produced something to their liking. When Mr Steiner saw it he held his head and tore his hair. It showed Jesus on the cross and one Roman soldier saying to another, 'For a good job well done use Steiner's nails!'  No, no, no it wouldn't do, he would lose all his goyim customers! They had to try again. A week later Mr Steiner was called back to see the new poster. He fainted. It showed an empty cross in the foreground and two Roman soldiers pursuing a half naked man across the distant hills. One soldier was shouting to the other, 'This wouldn't have happened if we used Steiner's nails!'

Friday, 30 March 2012

Sky Rats

I am sick and tired of telling tourists in Trafalgar Square not to feed the pigeons. Ken has banned the practice. Do they listen? They do not. Get a new guide book. Or go to the north side and swap your sandwiches for excrement up there. The Heritage Wardens do nothing and the man with the harris hawk has given up and gone home. It seems even the vigilantes are defeated. I refer to the east european gent seen stuffing the blighters into a sack to flog to expensive restaurants. Where is he is now? Have the well to do given up on pigeon breasts?

The other day I was looking at the camp kid on his rocker atop the fourth plinth where Tom Paine should be when I heard a woman shout. 'Oh that pigeon! Have you got a tissue?'  'Too late luv, it's miles away by now.' Serve her right, she shouldn't have been feeding them. There's a bijou lock up built into the south east corner of the square, offenders should be stood in there for the night, pour encourager les autres. They're a sorry bunch hobbling around on their knackered pins. Damn nuisances. But back to the pigeons.

It's been a while since I last shared an Underground train with a pigeon but I had that privilege the other day, one hopped on at South Ken and off again at Sloane Square, it pecked around and waited for its destination to arrive. I don't know who was the more anxious, me or the bird. Whether it was making a single or return journey I couldn't say but I doubt it had a ticket. For all I knew it was working every platform on the line. When I surfaced there was a crowd of them in the square opposite Peter Jones, perhaps he was going to join them.

One Sunday the pigeons of Trafalgar Square were invited over for lunch by the pigeons of St Paul's. Come the day they duly arrived and everyone enjoyed a good meal. In return the Trafalgar Square gang invited the St Paul's posse over to their patch and they were pleased to accept. The next Sunday was a fine day, one o'clock came and went, two o'clock, three... It was getting on for four by the time the St Paul's posse arrived. 'Where the hell have you been?' their hosts demanded to know. 'Oh, it was such a lovely day we decided to walk.'

Should have got the District Line.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Toilet Humour

I used to work with a loud mouthed journalist who loved to employ Kelvin Mackenzie's loutish put down against any criticism of the Sun, 'You read it though doncha!' Kelvin's usual evasion and bluster. One brave day I spoke up, 'That's right I do, if it's in front of me, and I read toilet walls as well.' It did the trick. It's true, I mean you have to do something while you're standing there. The other day I stood before black crayoned Nietzche disapproving of a god that needs to be worshipped. So last century. Elsewhere, 'To be is to do - Sartre. To do is to be - Camus. Do-be-do-be-do - Sinatra'. Old hat but funnier.

How does the soprano sing? 'I dreamed I dwelled in marble stalls with many writings on the walls…' Something like that. 'The future of Britain is in your hands - While you're reading this you're pissing on your boots - Be alert, Britain needs more lerts - Always stick up for your dad because he stuck up for you - I like grils…' etc. etc. Old familiars all of them and once in a while a resurrected classic.

Like 'Here I sit broken hearted, paid a penny only farted.' Well that's dated isn't it? From a time when it did cost a penny and an old penny at that, when the coin had value and spending one was an expense. It's 30p at Victoria and a bleak experience it is too. In Harrods the bathroom costs a round pound. (My dog needs to use the bathroom! You hear that in New York.) Inside al Fayed's super-bog you get a tall man in a funny hat and not a peep on the walls. Daylight robbery. Get back to Egypt. I'm told ladies' loos don't host this kind of entertainment. Can it be true? Is that why stand up comedians are mostly men?

Years back there was a publication called The Golden Convolvulus which maintained the only place people could express their sexuality was on toilet walls. This was before Lady Chatterley, homosexual and divorce reform, abortion and the Pill. Since the 60's the fear of sex and its consequences has largely disappeared and as a result the confused and the lonely have largely fallen silent. Which all round is a good thing. Nevertheless there are still gay call numbers and wham-bam assignations. Piss poor I say. Why go cottaging when there are so many other places to meet?

I used to frequent 'Norman's - the grumpiest landlord in Soho' and The French House in Dean Street, still do the latter, the haunt of artists and writers I've seen some good stuff there. Here's something intriguing and truly memorable: 'My name is Armitage Shanks and I am not impressed'. A world opens up. But this from Alan Bennett beats them all: 'When the English have to resort to the toilet for their humour the writing's on the wall'.

Friday, 16 March 2012

St Patrick's Day

Tomorrow is St Patrick's Day and another opportunity for Brits to celebrate as only they can, by getting get pissed. Sunday being Mother's Day I worry she'll be left safe and sober. But Saturday first, with slopped glasses, silly hats and some good crack if I've heard it right, perhaps later if they're up to it. Nor will the festivities will be exclusive to O'Neill's or the other plastic paddy pubs, any place will do, and the young drinkers won't be on original drinks either, believed to be Magners, The Murphy's and legendary Guinness - the first nitro-keg beer - each one the invention of a marketing department and no more Irish than my granny. If you can fake authenticity you've got it made. The money rolls in.
But enough of my jeremiads, they are but by way of introduction. Here's a tale from O'Sullivan's Bar in Greenwich.

'Paddy is a gentleman!'
But he likes to drink the stuff
And when he's down upon the ground
He's still not had enough.

'Paddy is a gentleman!'
The kindest man you'll meet
So take him warmly by the hand
And help him to his feet.

'Paddy is a gentleman!'
He weaves a drunken dance
And we might be in his shoes
Not by choice but chance.

'Paddy is a gentleman!'
He'll call to you all day
And then he'll heap abuse on you
And you will walk away.

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