Thursday, 31 May 2007


Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion, several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brothers path to happiness and heaven...The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out, in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.

Mark Twain, "The Lowest Animal"

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Number 4

I was twelve when my parents bought me my first computer. A Sinclair ZX81. They still have it in the loft I think, complete with a 16k ram pack. At the time I loved it more than anything else.

Even then, there were games to be played on it. Unlike today, with our DVD's, Steam and Bittorrent, they were printed in magazines for you to enter manually. Lines upon lines of indecipherable code. Each with its own number. 10, 20, 30... With numerous GOTO's. How sweet.

I thank my Dad for it today, but back then I cursed him when he refused to buy me these magazines.

"Scott, you should learn how to program the thing yourself. I've not spent all this money for you to be a parrot." He'd say to me.

So I read and re-read the book that came with it. ZX81 Basic programming. Eventually its arcane contents revealed themselves to me and I began to understand algorithmic thought.

Finally I eked out some functionality from the machine. My first hello world application was, perhaps predictably;

10 Print "Scott"
20 GOTO 10

I hacked and hacked at it, until eventually I made it do some modestly cool stuff.

Such as my first top down scrolling racing game. I remember my mates queuing up to play it. Those that had their own zx81's would wait as I saved the game to their C15 tapes.

I've not been without a computer since. This is my tech history;

ZX81 16k ram pack
Spectrum 48k - soft key
Spectrum 128k - hard key
BBC Micro B+ (School)
IBM 286
IBM 486
586 / Pentium

After this it gets blurry, as I'm sure it does for many. My Pentium based PC was the first and last computer I bought outright. Previously they were hand me downs. Since then, I've always hacked together components and built them myself. My current PC's have evolved into what they are today. None of them can trace a true lineage. Bless 'em.

I have boxes full of unused components rotting away in the garage.

I often wonder why I didn't pursue IT as a career. I do have an aptitude for it. The problem is, it bores me silly. To be frank.

I enjoy a programmatic challenge, I'll admit. But the thought of doing it full time is horrific. That said, I've found myself amateurishly developing my companies clinical databases, which are now served over our intranet (SQL Server, IIS, .NET using C# & However, it's just something that I do, so that I can help myself and others save some time and get on with the stuff of real substance - being with people.

When I code, I listen to two things. Mozart or Electronica. Back in my Sinclair days, I listened to Newcleus, (Push the Button) in particular.

These days, my favourite coding music is Four Tet, the brain child of Kieran Hebden of Fridge fame.

This is my favourite track. I write beautiful, graceful code when I listen to it.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

A Lifehack

Here's one for you. If you ever find that you have athletes foot, and suffer a break in the skin between your toes, I suggest you don't run around the back garden barefoot with your children. That way, you won't end up with a secondary bacterial infection and get toes like bananas.

It hurts a good bit, I can tell you. Your GP will probably advise the same, and also prescribe Flucloxacillin 500 MG QDS for a week.

I shall be working from home tomorrow, as I have no clown shoes.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Evolve or Die

So we've been to the Discovery Museum. Came across this book in the shop. Kind of fitting for the occasion. Don't you think?

A minute silence please

16:00 GMT marks the opening of the Creation Museum. It is a sad day indeed. I propose a minute silence, so that we may all remember the young minds that are withered and imprisoned within the lies that it represents.

As to my own small protest, I will be taking my children to the Discovery Museum today. A place devoted to learning, history and science.

This is Dominic enjoying his last visit.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

A problem

That clever bugger Isaac Newton said once, "If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants".

The problem is, I'm myopic. And my balance isn't so good.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Angel of the North

The Angel of the North has become quite the icon these days for the North-East of England. It's a beautiful and immense sculpture. I'm confident that Antony Gormley envisaged graffiti on his iron creation. I think he would agree it only adds to it's beauty.

Hundreds of thousands of people pass her each day on the motorway. She is huge. You can hardly miss her. The devil is in the detail however, which is lost at 70 MPH.

This is a more intimate image of her that I took this afternoon.

Addendum: Stew asks for this photo to be set in context. It's taken looking up at her left little toe. The same place incidentally, that I'm blighted with damned itchy athletes foot. I have cream for it, you'll be interested to know.


I like words. You may have already guessed this. As to my skill with them, you're the better judge than I.

Currently my favourite word is Perhaps. I catch myself using it all the time. The word, I think, is like fabric conditioner. Used in sufficient quantities, it can soften many things, such as disagreements, opinions and ideas. Also, when prefixed to a statement, the word can remind the listener that nothing is entirely certain.

Perhaps you know what I mean?

I would however, give up using this word forever, if it meant I could still say Fuck. This beyond doubt is my favourite word of all. I can think of none other so versatile.

The other day, I walked past a small garage and overheard a mechanic with his head under the bonnet of an old car;

"Ahh fuck, this fucking fucker's fucked!"


Lazy post

The last time I bored you with pictures at each mile of a run was the 23rd March. I figure I can get away with another one of these dullest of posts.

It's far from dull for me of course. Running is the only chance for solace I get these days. That, and the fact that it gets me high.

Mile 1

Mile 2

Mile 3

Mile 4

Mile 5

Mile 6

Mile 7

Thursday, 24 May 2007

I see them everywhere

I'm in our local co-op this evening buying fruit and some wine. I cut quite the figure, if I say so myself. Stood in the long cue for the till, I can see myself in the mirrors. I wonder how I've become a proper grown up.

I've been at meetings today you see, where my good suit was required. It was quite expensive. Not tailored of course, but cut in such a way that its wearer cannot help feel special. That said, being suited up has never made me feel entirely cool. I can't seem to shrug off the feeling that I'm at a job interview, and therefore subordinate to others. I'm an open shirt and slacks bloke ordinarily. At least I look the part, I tell myself.

In saunters a beautiful man. The girl behind the counter notices this. Her gaze lingers on his ass for a while. He knows this of course, for many women have done the same. That's why he saunters like he does. He grabs a basket nonchalantly, and with a single finger he tosses it onto his arm. He walks off down to the bakery section. I watch him move, for he is indeed beautiful. I catch myself wishing for his olive skin and designer stubble.

Having paid with my chip and pin, I leave the shop and return to the car. My family are waiting. Meg and Dom require a re installation to their car seats as usual. I oblige and do so with some additional tickling.

We're all laughing as I reverse our family estate car. I do it carefully, as it's as big as a wardrobe and the car park is tight. Right behind me is a gleaming Mercedes SLK. An 07 plate. It probably still smells of the factory. I'd rather not hit it.

Beautiful man walks out of the shop and sees us. He looks right at me, then at the SLK. He stops, eyeing the back of my car. It's quite apparent, given his expression, that should I even scuff the SLK, his wrath will be unbounded.

I manage the maneuver without incident and pull away. The junction to the main road is no more than ten yards away. As I wait for a break in the traffic, I watch him in my rear view mirror. He's walking slowly towards the Merc, fiddling with his mobile phone. As I pull away into the traffic he stares at the back of my car.

Quite why I look back I don't know, but I see him walk quickly past the SLK and unlock the door to the 1994 Vauxhall Nova parked next to it.

Make of this what you will.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Desiderius Erasmus

Tonight, whilst researching a future blog post, I came across Desiderius Erasmus. Born in 1466, he became an influential Renaissance humanist. Now this is interesting in and of itself, but did you know that he compiled Adagia? No? Neither did I. This Adagia is a collection of Greek and Latin adages that he compiled over 40 years. Many have become commonplace in our everyday language, and we owe our use of them to Erasmus. Here's some for you;

  • Make haste slowly
  • One step at a time
  • You're in the same boat
  • To lead one by the nose
  • A rare bird
  • Even a child can see it.
  • To have one foot in Charon's boat (we now say " the grave")
  • To walk on tiptoe
  • One to one
  • Out of tune
  • A point in time
  • I gave as bad as I got (we reversed it to "good", even though we mean "bad")
  • To call a spade a spade
  • Hatched from the same egg
  • Up to both ears (we use "up to his eyeballs")
  • As though in a mirror
  • Think before you start
  • What's done cannot be undone
  • Many parasangs ahead (we say, "miles ahead")
  • We cannot all do everything
  • Many hands make light work
  • A living corpse
  • Where there's life, there's hope
  • To cut to the quick
  • Time reveals all things
  • Golden handcuffs
  • Crocodile tears
  • To show the middle finger (yes, it meant the same thing back then)
  • You have touched the issue with a needle-point (we say, you have nailed it)
  • To walk the tightrope
  • Time tempers grief (we say, time heals all wounds)
  • With a fair wind
  • To dangle the bait
  • To swallow the hook
  • The bowels of the earth
  • From heaven to earth
  • The dog is worthy of his dinner
  • To weigh anchor
  • To grind one's teeth
  • Nowhere near the mark
  • Complete the circle
  • In the land of the blind, one eyed man is king
  • A cough for a fart (To attempt to cover up an error)
  • No sooner said than done
  • Neither with bad things nor without them (Women: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em)
  • Between a stone and a shrine. (between a rock and a hard place)
  • Like teaching an old man a new language (Can't teach an old dog new tricks)
Int history brilliant?

Monday, 21 May 2007

Did I just say that out loud?

Miche my beloved, needn't wear make up to look good. She has a complexion some women would kill for. Even in the small corners, where time has left its mark, she has by her very nature, tamed it.

You see, Miche smiles more than she frowns and spends more time laughing than she does shouting. In doing so, the lines that she does have, simply follow her natural countenance. It is most beautiful.

I love her for this congruence; the fact that what you see is what you get. Also, she is extrovert. So you're rarely left in any doubt as to how she is feeling. This gives vital balance to my introversion, as I'm often found to be frowning at some hidden quandary. Without her, I swear I'd disappear up my own rectum.

I try to tell her these things as often as possible. Being a man however, I frequently forget to say them aloud.

Saturday, 19 May 2007


"From Orestes to Hamlet, Medea to Macbeth, the underlying struggle is that of the individual attempting to gain his 'rightful' position in his society...I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing-his sense of personal dignity". Arthur Miller.

Sunday, 13 May 2007


See you in a week or so. We're off for a sojourn in Sherwood Forest Center Parcs. Which if I'm honest, is nothing more than Butlins for the middle classes. Anyway, the kids love it and that's what's important. Isn't it?

The ducks by the way, were snapped during our last visit.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Elpis and the nihilist

Hope is a dangerous thing. Our lord Zeus knew this only too well. That's why he made Pandora close the lid on her jar, just before this most potent of evils could escape. They called it Elpis.

Neitzsche had this to say of the story;

Pandora brought the jar with the evils and opened it. It was the gods' gift to man, on the outside a beautiful, enticing gift, called the "lucky jar." Then all the evils, those lively, winged beings, flew out of it. Since that time, they roam around and do harm to men by day and night. One single evil had not yet slipped out of the jar. As Zeus had wished, Pandora slammed the top down and it remained inside. So now man has the lucky jar in his house forever and thinks the world of the treasure. It is at his service; he reaches for it when he fancies it. For he does not know that that jar which Pandora brought was the jar of evils, and he takes the remaining evil for the greatest worldly good--it is hope, for Zeus did not want man to throw his life away, no matter how much the other evils might torment him, but rather to go on letting himself be tormented anew. To that end, he gives man hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man's torment.

Even the most rational and 'sane' amongst us hope. Quite what numinous spirit we're trying to evoke in doing so, I'm not so sure. Most frequently we hope for ourselves and those closest to us. Yet sometimes we hope for strangers. Mojoey for example, (an atheist and self identifying existentialist) hoped the other day for the stranger on his flight in the midst of a heart attack. Right now, I'm hoping that the parents of the missing four year old Madeline McCann are reunited with their daughter. Regardless of the mounting odds against them.

Now, I don't want to come over as some amoral parsimonious git, but you have to wonder; am I really hoping that my beautiful Meg never gets abducted? And did Mojey hope that he'd not have a heart attack? I hope he doesn't too, actually. See, there I go again!

So, are our 'altruistic' hopes, nothing more than projections of our own fears and demons?

Many of us find our universe to be arbitrary, pointless and utterly indifferent. I count myself amongst them. Hope, in these respects, must then be a hope against odds and probabilities. For example, we may hope that the paramedic doesn't get held up by traffic (that ultimate randomness), on his way to the RTA victim. We hope that the right people, say the right thing, in the right circumstances to ease the troubles in the Middle East.

Sometimes it seems that our hope has paid off. Madeline may yet be found safe and well. Peace in the Middle East, however unlikely, may well break out. The RTA victim could well be saved.

Of course, it would be ludicrous to think that the power of our collective hope influenced the outcome of these events. Wouldn't it?

Not for those who pray.

Now, I have nothing against prayer per-se. In fact, I think it can be quite beneficial, if only because it helps the person express their problems in a structured manner. This can be a step towards thinking things through.

I do however, have a problem with attributing fortunate outcomes simply to divine intervention. It implies to me, a form of learnt helplessness, nihilism even; that the only action necessary in life is hope.

Out of morbid curiosity, I've been lurking around "The intercession superhighway". Here you can post your own prayer, and harness the "hope power" of others as they repeat your missive to the lord.

Now, as I've said, I don't have a problem with this. In fact, I find myself hoping for some of the poor bastards who tell of their tragic tales. What is chilling about this site however, is the section where people post how their prayers have been answered. Here's a sample;

The infection has been cleared up and the swelling is finally down. Thanks all who have prayed.

MY nephew has been healed by God! Praise his holy name, and thanks so much to you and everyone else who was praying for him. Here I am copying you the bulletin I posted. Thanks to all of you who were praying and asking God to healed my nephew he is out of danger, the infection left, he gets to keep his arm, and he will still need to be under treatment though. Thanks for your prayers

I ask for prayer from every intercessor around the world to start praying for Godly men and women to rule over us in every area of our lifes. In our schools, in our governments, in our police force, and any other place where they excercise authority, and make rules and laws that affect our lives and the lives of our children. It is time for the body of Christ to start taking dominion in this earth. We do it by prayer, and watch the hand of God move. To God be all The Glory.

I have been praying this prayer for about almost a year now. I have seen answere in the form of the judges now sitting on the supreme court. The fact that partial birth abortion is now outlawed. We must now pray for Mexico. They are going to become the abortion capital for the USA thaks to planned parenthood.

Yes, it is amazing, but it seems as if our FAITH is abounding more and more each day...PRAISE YOU LORD JESUS!!!!!

Please keep me in your prayers. I have another interview for a part-time library assistant job next week. Please pray that God would help me to remain calm, confident, & make eye contact.

I recently had an interview from Aegis! :) Praise God!

Thank you to all who have been kind enough to pray for us. Things HAVE gotten better and we are feeling a greater center of peace in the Lord and with the waiting. As always, He is ALL in ALL and ALL we really should desire. Everything else is 'gravy'.

Please pray for me to be blessed with a little more finances, I need my washer fixed and the lock on my door. thank you.

I got my washer machine fixed still waiting on God to send someone to fix my door lock. God is good!!,all the time. amen. (I think someone is taking the piss a bit)

Please pray for me, I have asked the Lord for money to pay off a HELOC and other bills. I have returned to church and finally joined a church after 4 years and want to do right by God in the way of giving. I do not want to lose my house. I believe that God will and can do this, I just need an answer. I have to pay the money by tomorrow.

Pray for Kym & Scott to be able to sell their house, property and businesses - for the Lord to send them someone willing to pay a fair price for it all so they may retire and Kym could move to a less stressful environment. (Hmmn)

Number 5

Number five is easy;

1992, this corner on the way to Miche's flat in Jesmond, in my first proper fast car (Astra GTI - 2 litre Turbo, limited slip diff, big end flange, triple whotsit...), 80 miles per hour and this song.

It doesn't get better than that ;-)

Why do we have to grow up?

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Number 6

I moved in to student accommodation at St Mary's Psychiatric Hospital on January 20th 1991. You could say it was a shock to the system.

The place was full of people dependent on the hospital to meet their every need. It fed them, clothed them and provided for their meagre social requirements. They terrified me.

You see, the hospital was isolated from the wider community in every way possible; Geographically, as it was in the middle of nowhere. Socially, because who in their right mind, would choose to enter an asylum? Economically, as the hospital was pretty much self sufficient in those days. Perhaps most crucially, it was psychologically separate from the community it served. For if you were admitted to the long stay wards, you were there for life. Society would rather forget you.

I was shocked by how little people hoped for their lives. All that was and all that would ever be, was the hospital. They denied the possibility that the new Community Care Act might mean the end of the asylum.

Many had delusions of grandeur, believing that they were better than others, and could therefore dictate in every sense, what others did. They also believed that they would never recover. Not ever.

Whole families lived within this system. Mothers, fathers, sons, cousins and daughters. All they knew was their perverse, closed system of psychiatry.

The patients on the other hand, were often quite nice.

Suffice to say, I hated it with every fibre of my body. Through each week, I would dream of my two days off, when I would drive the 47 miles back to the relative sanity of my home town.

I'd recently discovered the joys of Jethro Tull. They remain one of my playlist stalwarts. Skating away on the thin ice of the new day seemed to sum up beautifully, all my feelings of absurdity and the need to run the hell away from it all.

The words of the song remain meaningful to this day. I can't help but sing along, in the same way I did, driving down the A1 to Darlington. All those years ago.

Try it yourself. They're below the video, you may enjoy it.

Meanwhile back in the year one --- when you belonged to no-one ---
You didnt stand a chance son, if your pants were undone.
`cause you were bred for humanity and sold to society ---
One day youll wake up in the present day ---
A million generations removed from expectations
Of being who you really want to be.
Skating away ---
Skating away ---
Skating away on the thin ice of the new day.

So as you push off from the shore,
Wont you turn your head once more --- and make your peace with everyone?
For those who choose to stay,
Will live just one more day ---
To do the things they should have done.
And as you cross the wilderness, spinning in your emptiness:
You feel you have to pray.
Looking for a sign
That the universal mind (!) [sic] has written you into the passion play.

Skating away on the thin ice of the new day.

And as you cross the circle line, the ice-wall creaks behind ---
Youre a rabbit on the run.
And the silver splinters fly in the corner of your eye ---
Shining in the setting sun.
Well, do you ever get the feeling that the storys
Too damn real and in the present tense?
Or that everybodys on the stage, and it seems like
Youre the only person sitting in the audience?

Skating away on the thin ice of the new day.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Under Incubus

Number Six of my top ten, tells the story of my early experiences in Psychiatry. I will spill these beans, for what they're worth, another night.

Thinking about the post provoked a veritable brainstorm of memories and experiences. Amongst them was this. My first 'success story'. Now, I've dramatised it a good bit, and made myself quite the hero. You see the story, in my telling of it, becomes mine. So I shall do what I want with it, thank you very much.

That said, I hope that you like it. It's my longest blog post to date, so I hope it pleases you just enough to reach its conclusion.

I know, half past one is too early to start drinking, but I’ve got nothing better to do these days. I’d polished the house into gleaming perfection before nine thirty this morning. What’s there left to do? Watch repeats of Emmerdale, or listen to the bleating smugness of Loose Women. Frankly I think I’ve done well waiting until now.

Anyway, on an afternoon like today it would be criminal not to enjoy a long drink or two in the garden. It’s looking wonderful. The sun plays in the foliage around our patio and a delicate breeze rustles the leaves of my favourite tree, Betula. I can’t hear the growl of the A1 either, which makes a change. The prevailing north wind normally tumbles the din and fumes right across the fields and over our garden wall.

Sitting down hasn’t come naturally to me. I’ve spent the best part of thirty years as a blur in the peripheral vision of my family. I would whisk up their detritus like a domesticated whirlwind, spinning off to deposit my spoils back into sock drawers and bookcases.

The gin helps though.

It didn’t really change when Thom, my eldest left for University. I still had enough to be doing with Lucy, who was in the midst of a belligerent adolescence.

Now the days just stumble past. I've still got my morning routine however, unchanged through the years. I’m up at seven, bringing tea (strong, no sugar, and a spit of milk) upstairs to leave on his bedside cabinet. I berate myself for leaving last nights dinner remains in piles on the kitchen top and get on with making order from the chaos my family are so expert at making. The problem is that I'm done by half past nine these days. There's just the two of us now, you see.

I knew that this empty nest was coming. My body warned me about it in its final throws of menopause. All it would let me think about for a while was babies. At night I'd dream of them floating and fluttering in me. During the day I could conjure up the milky wet odour of cradle cap on a whim. My stomach would wrench whenever I heard one cry on the TV.

I even asked David one night, without the slightest hint of irony, whether we should have another one. He let out one of his barking laughs, the kind that can silence a restaurant before realising I was serious.

“Dawn, come on sweetness.” He'd said leaning over to me. His face, now craggy still had that teak, solid kindness that I’d fallen in love with so long ago.

“We're in our fifties. Could you imagine what it'd be like having another Lucy when we're seventy?”

He had a point I suppose.

It didn't stop me spending the rest of the evening blubbing under Betula.

Have I already mentioned my tree? I still have the label from when she was a sapling fresh from the garden centre. Apparently the “Downy Birch is a fast growing small tree that prefers moist ground. It can grow up to five meters in seven years.” David bought me her in an effort to apologise.

That was twenty three years ago. The day I was committed;

Late in pregnancy with Thom I was supposed to be blooming; all glistening hair and good skin. My reality was quite different.

It had started innocuously, with a faint tingling of doubt in my chest. However, it became pervasive enough that I began to worry about everything. My abilities to be a mother, how I kept the house, if I could get to the shops and pretty much everything else.

I dismissed it as hormonal daftness at first. But the doubt grew and grew until it stopped everything. Rather than get to the butchers I'd not bother at all. It was too hard to make a meal for myself, so I would go without. Giving in to it spent less of the energy that I had precious little of.

It took me a while to grasp the root cause of it. When I did, it was like a bleak epiphany. I went crashing through my past like an elephant on a rampage. Battered and gouged I ended up slammed against the door behind which I'd locked my Secret for so long.

You see, being pregnant had awoken an old demon in me. It had festered quietly for years. Angered by being denied it lurked, clinging like a monkey onto my back. After I'd opened the door to the secret, it became so bloated that I could hardly move, save to breathe.

It was like each day its fingers gripped deeper and deeper into the skin of my back. I imagined its neck twisting around my shoulders, its fetid mouth suckling from my breast. Voraciously it would drink at my spirit.

David knew nothing of this demon and knew nothing of my Secret. All he saw was me curled up on the sofa. Each evening he would return from work and sit by me. I can remember him stroking my hair. He'd implore me to get up and eat something. For hours he would sit with his warm hands on my stretched stomach feeling his child move, frightened of the effect my sabbatical from sanity was having on his unborn son.

As the days went by his requests became more and more muffled, like he was talking through pillows. Until one day I stopped dead. This was the day that my demon had grown so large that it engulfed me in its belly folds. I hung there, foetus within foetus, stinking amongst its effluent, immobile.

David came home that silent night, to discover me on the hall floor. He had to force the front door open. I was a dead weight, crumpled behind it since he’d left for work in the morning.

I can remember being dragged into the lounge. I saw his face, usually kind and gentle, pulsing red with terrified rage. My thoughts moved so slowly, they like continents. His fury just blurred past me. I hardly noticed being slapped.

I watched the back of his shoes as he stormed from our house. He'd left mud on the carpet.

I don’t know long I lay there, head on the floor. But it was long enough for David to drive into town, request that a psychiatrist see me and bring me back Betula whom he’d bought to apologise, not for hitting me, but for having me committed to Grove End.

David and Dr Hines (as I would later come to know him) lifted me off the floor and into a chair. In front of me was my new tree, skinny like a gymnast in her brown plastic pot. There was something attractive about her. David knew I loved my garden, but there was something specific that drew me to her. Perhaps it was her asymmetry. She had two good branches that stood proud and a third, runt branch that poked stubbornly towards to floor.

David and the doctor were talking behind me.

“I’m concerned for your wife’s well being and that of your child.” Dr Hines told David. “However, I’m unable to treat her catatonia whilst she remains pregnant…”

And so it was that I found myself on Grove End. Acute psychiatric admission ward for the troubled. Having had Thom torn out of me the day before by a surgeon, I lay limp and inert.

After the Cesarean Thom had been placed gently on my chest by a midwife.

Stroking my hair she whispered quietly in my ear “You have a boy.”

I knew that he was on me. I should have been in the midst of a wonderful, spiritual moment. But my secret held me fast. I felt no joy, sadness or guilt. No glimmer of awakening or maternal stirring to drag me from my stupor. So Thom was taken away from me, the Stone Mother, to be nursed as an orphan until I recovered.

Perhaps in these more modern times David would have taken Thom home with him. But neither of us had any close family to help, so perhaps not.

I was detained at the pleasure of Dr Hines for some three months. During which time only one person other than David attempted to make any human contact with me. He was Daniel, the Student Nurse.

He was a slight boy, with long lank hair tied into a ponytail. There were still wisps of puberty about him but he possessed a stillness and an inner calm that was beyond his years. I found him soothing.

Each morning he would sit down next to me and take my hands in his. Sometimes he would talk quietly, and I would listen. He would bend low so our eyes met and he would tell me about the sky and how fast the clouds were blowing across it or the colour of the leaves as they blew from the trees. Other days we would just sit in silence, together.

I rarely thought about Thom.

Over time I found myself looking forward to Daniel’s visits, even though I was always mute and unresponsive when he came. He was solid and trustworthy like David, but yet delicate enough to hold my fragile world together long enough so that I might reach out of myself and make eye contact with him.

One day he didn’t arrive until late afternoon. I’d not long come round from Electro Convulsive Therapy and my head still ticked and buzzed. As usual for the hours following ECT I felt a bit brighter and was sitting up in my bed, sipping a cup of tea given to me by the silent Staff Nurse who stank of fags.

When I saw Daniel enter the dormitory a jolt of happiness and relief made me blurt out “Hello Daniel!”

He stopped dead in his tracks when he heard me, obviously taken aback. I smiled timidly at him. He regarded me for a moment, my first words hanging in the air between us before he smiled back.

“Hi Dawn, you’re looking well.” He commented as he sat down next to my bed.

And so we talked with each other for the first time. I was stiff and clumsy at first, unfamiliar with my voice but I quickly gathered pace. Daniel listened, calm and collected. With nods, frowns and smiles he teased out my story like it was spiders silk.

I told him of falling in love with David when I was sixteen. I told him how we gave in to each other on a ripe summer night in the fields behind my house. And I told him how I hid the sickness from my mother and him, and how I avoided both of them for weeks as my stomach stretched. I told him that David could never have known because he was still a child himself. I would have broken and lost him had he known.

I told him how I ran away to Edinburgh to give birth, alone and terrified in a damp bedsit and how I wept and wept at how beautiful she was, my little girl.

I told him how weak I was from the birth, and how we both starved and froze for two weeks whilst I struggled to decide what to do.

I told Daniel how I left her, my baby, on the steps of the Royal Hospital wrapped in my coat. And I told him how my spirit was torn and mangled as I ran away from her, choking on my bile.

In sharing this story I felt my beast wither and deflate a little, loosening its burden from my frame. I promised Daniel that I would tell David and Dr Hines. He felt that I needed to share and offload some more.

I chose instead, to live with the guilt of lying to him. This private confession had been enough to start my recovery. I had no urge to infect David with my guilt so that we might wallow together under its dead weight.

I’ve continued to carry it on my back, and will do so for the rest of my life, but from that day onwards I’ve been able to starve it of attention. In remembering Daniel, and how he helped me tell my story, the beast clings to my back, cowed and submissive.

Since then Betula, my tree has grown into a beautifully, verdant specimen. Even with her thickened and gnarled runt branch pointing down to the earth she is stunning. During the time she’s grown David and I have had our ups and downs, both ordinary and extraordinary. But we’ve nurtured our children to adulthood and saved enough to live a modestly comfortable retirement.

Now that Lucy’s left home however, I’ve had too much time for myself. Time enough to ruminate and allow the beast to be fed again. I’m not strong enough now to carry it, should it get any larger.

So it’s time to exorcise it and cut it from my back. Time now to do something before it suffocates me again. Perhaps I’m drunk, the bottle of gin looks considerably emptier than it did an hour ago. I don’t care though, something has to be done.

David’s tools are in the back of the garage. It smells damp and unfamiliar in here. I find the biggest saw he has hung up on the rack by the dusty window. I take it and stride out into the sun.

It takes me a good half hour to saw through Betula’s runt branch. I’m dirty and sweating from the exertion. The palm of my right hand has reddened and blistered from gripping the saw so hard.

When I finally cut through the branch it fell to the left, scraping the inside of my thigh causing blood to pour down my leg. No time to dress the wound though.

Spade, I forgot to get the spade. Back to the garage. I find it quickly, where I left it yesterday. Two short planks of wood catch my eye on the shelf above. Perfect. I take them with me too.

It’s hard work digging the tough soil behind the hedge. It’s full of clay and stones. I get on my knees and dig some of them out by hand.

By the time I’ve dug a hole wide and deep enough I’m covered in mud and grime. I’m sweating and the blood has caked hard on my legs.

I drag the branch, bouncing down the patio steps and gouge it over the lawn. I tip it into the hole with a sense of grim satisfaction.

It takes less effort to bury it and I’m done just as David arrives home from golf.

I watch David survey the scene as he gets out of the car. A deep frown furrows his face. He looks first at Betula, noticing immediately how the light shines differently on the patio. He sees his saw on top of the pile of sawdust and follows the gouge along the lawn to the hedge behind which I’m standing.

I watch him walk towards me. I feel oddly calm, resigned even. He gets a shock when he walks through the arch.

It takes him a second or two to absorb what he sees; his wife bloodied and torn, dripping with sweat and stood over a makeshift grave.

He snaps back into life, runs up and holds me by the top of my arms.

“Dawn, what in the world has happened? Are you alright?” He asks.

I wait for a moment, looking into his eyes and remembering our lives together. Remembering how long he’s lived in ignorance, and how long I’ve lived with the Secret.

“She died you know.” I say to David,

“Who did?” He asks, looking nervously at the grave.

“Our first child, on the steps of the hospital”

“Dawn, what are you on about?”

“It was the middle of winter, no baby could survive all night wrapped in a thin coat like that.”

“David, we need to talk....”

Monday, 7 May 2007

Please, no

How evil are you?

Neutral? NEUTRAL?

Right, I'm off to eat some raw meat 'n stuff. I might even start a myspace page.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Number 7

There are brief moments, when circumstances converge into a perfect instant. Number Seven is such an occasion;

Where I grew up, had a small, but lively rock scene. My band was only small fry, but there were still numerous venues for us to play in. The best, by a long shot, was the Cellar.

As the name suggests, it was the cellar. Whilst small, dark and damp, the Beatles' Cavern still comes to mind. Though I doubt it smelled as bad. It was my favourite place in the world. You see, I was seventeen and for the first time ever, I felt like I fitted in; just another misfit amongst the goths, crusties and metal heads.

Upstairs, the Cellar was salubrious. It was the bar for the 'trendy' set to drink in. If you went to back of the pub however, and down the circular staircase, reminiscent of the path to the underworld, you would enter my alternative reality.

Anyway, let me cut to the chase.

Kerrie, the landlady, took a shine to me, and I to her. How could I not. She was 28 and hot, in a kind of vampish, landlady like way. She was also very assertive. So, like a doe eyed, 17 year old rabbit, I allowed her to take advantage of me. Repeatedly.

Now, I could delude myself that my rugged good looks and charm won her over, but looking back on it, I think it was more to do with pissing her ex-partner off. At the time however, I didn't give a flying fuck. For that was what I was getting. And that, my dear reader, was important beyond anything else.

Kerrie had some F-list connections in the wider music scene. One of these was Mark. He drove coaches for a living. Sometimes his firm got contracts for bands touring the UK.

Imagine my delight then, when I discovered that he was touring with one of my favourite bands - The Pixies. I loved them, still do for that matter. In my view, they were the most influential band of their time.

So Kerry, bless her, arranged for us to meet Mark and The Pixies at the Mayfair rock club in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. We arrived two hours before the show. The roadies were still assembling the PA.

I didn't recognise Frank Black at first. He registered in my peripheral vision as the unassuming bloke at the back of the club. Mark introduced us.

Now, I've no recollection what we talked about, but suffice to say, I gushed a bit. I do remember however, what a nice guy he was. There are some, who enjoy only talking about themselves. Perhaps, like Narcissus, all they see is their own reflection in others. Frank appeared quite the opposite.

He seemed to give his time willingly and chatted aimlessly with Mark, Kerry & I for what felt like ages. He bought us a beer and we hung around until the audience started to enter the club. I felt so damned cool, stood next to Frank, as his fans double took.

Later, we managed to find a great spot to stand, right next to the mixing deck, on the balcony above the crowd. A place that only those who had passes could be.

So there I was, stood behind the sound engineer, in a club that I shouldn't have been in, drinking beer that I shouldn't have drunk, stood next to a woman that by rights, I shouldn't have been with, watching my new mate Frank raise the roof.

They opened with Debaser.

The crowd went wild.

Hope for us yet

Isn't it interesting, that whilst the populace of Turkey ranks bottom in declared belief in evolution, hundreds of thousands of people rally in support of secularism.

Hat tip to the Atheist Jew who came top in my search for the table below.

Caveat emptor

Not be sold to minors. Serious injury may be caused by philosophical ramifications.

Out of principle I'm not buying one. Can't abide that packaging, it's a bloody nightmare getting into it.

Friday, 4 May 2007

May the 4th be with you

Today was pet day at Meg's shiny new school. A culmination of a week's preparation. They've fashioned pet homes out of shoe boxes and made collages of petshop animals. Each animal's name scrawled in lanky script under it. They've told animal stories and been on bear hunts.

This morning, each child brought in a pet for the rest of the class to meet. There were cats, Guinea pigs, fish, woodlouse, worms, a pony and numerous dogs. Mcleod was amongst them.

I'd arranged for a late start at work, so could spend much of the morning with the kids. They had a wail of a time.

Miche was there too, as she volunteers as a classroom support on Fridays. She knows the teachers quite well and was chatting to one of them whilst watching the kids enjoy themselves.

"Now, this is what it's about Miche, not those damned targets, key achievements and benchmarks. This is what we should be doing all the time." She said to Miche.

Miche was delighted to hear it. You see, we both feel that our young children are monitored, measured and evaluated far too much in our education systems. I imagine that there is a template child somewhere, like a cardboard cutout, that our government compares all other children to. God forbid we create a child too bad or too good. Too different, even.

Coincidentally, I came across this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson on my lunch break today. He summed up my thoughts on the matter brilliantly. I urge you to watch it. Now, it's twenty minutes long, but this man is a wonderful speaker, and bloody hilarious too. I guarantee you will enjoy it.

Apologies for the title. It had to be done.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Too much of a bad thing?

My beautiful wife said to me today,

"You think too much."

She worries that my incessant Socratic Questioning will get the better of me. Perhaps she imagines me in a world of entropy, where everything is reduced to blandness. A world where love, beauty and awe have been swept away by explanation.

I say to her, "It's an impossibility, for I will never truly grasp the immensity of my love for you."

Marvin Minsky came to mind;

"We all are reluctant, with regard to music and art, to examine our sources of pleasure or strength. In part we fear success itself– we fear that understanding might spoil enjoyment. Rightly so: art often loses power when its psychological roots are exposed. No matter; when this happens we will go on, as always, to seek more robust illusions!"

The more I understand not only the world, but myself, the more I appreciate what I have. However fleeting it may be.

Illusion or not, no matter.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

My P-Zombie

What is the point to music? If there is no point to it, then why do so many of us choose to surround ourselves with it? And what makes this thing, that has no substance or physical currency, so very valuable to us?

Perhaps, music helps us experience the gamut of our humanity. It enables us to feel things as they really are. Let me describe why this might be so;

Rhythm, being the form upon which all music is constructed, helps us understand our relationship with space and time. The beat of a drum, bone against stone or a staccato violin have us moving along with them. Even if they don't (for many of us are not natural dancers), rhythm becomes significant when it's absent. We all experience the persistence of rhythm when the beat drops out of a dance track, don't we?

Rhythm and bodily movement then, are inextricably linked. Music perhaps, enables us to feel the natural limits of our bodies; back and forth, in and out, shake it all about... In these movements, we test our place in the world.

What other art form exists not in the moment, but over time?

Now, I'm tired after a frantic few days in my personal and professional life. So I'm going to retreat for a while, with my headphones and Four Tet...

Let's leave melody, cadence & timbre for another night.

I sleep like wood

To those who say, after a good nights kip, "I slept like a baby"; you have obviously never had children.

"So," I wonder, "Did you wake four times, calling for your mother. And tell me, how many times did you shit your pants, then?"

Posts of more substance forthcoming...