31 May 2014

Solo singing

And more from the young girl, who likes to try to sing, extremely loudly, while bouncing on her trampoline beneath the overhanging branches of my tree.

'Hello Andrew. Do you like my singing?'

'Eh... Do you want the truth?'

'Of course!'

'Well... It is very, very loud... and that particular song appears to have only one note.'

'Oh,' she said cheerily, 'I know lots of songs that have only one note.'

Empathy deficiency?

Back to talking to the nearby young girl again tonight...

'How's your Dad?'

'Oh he's still in hospital?'

'Yes but how is he?'

'Oh he's okay but he's in lots of pain.'

'That doesn't sound like okay to me.'

'Oh, he makes a lot of fuss.'

On the last evening of May

Meanwhile... Daughter's Day

In the Lake District (England). I think that is her man in the distance but he looks as if he's in a bad mood, or he may just be thinking, 'What have I got myself into here?'

Or no... probably just reflecting on how lucky he is.

Tree, Cloud and Light...

...above my garden, in a portentous view made just for me, by Nature, free...

People in Dundee

At Caird Hall, Dundee

The two children above were having a great run about, but I noticed a younger one still hidden away in the blissful darkness and just awaiting its day to begin. Good luck out here little one.

Reflections of Me

Beneath The Tunnel (3)

One time when I was older I was led from the chamber beneath my own tunnel and along a winding dark passageway until emerging into what seemed like the outside world.

There was a sky! Or at least there seemed to be. A sky above a soft landscape of countryside greenery that stretched, or seemed to stretch to a far horizon. A deep blue sky. Almost unreal in its blueness. Ah... That gave me pause for thought.

'Is that sky real?' I asked. 'It looks a bit like a painted dome.'

'What does it matter? You will never reach it so you will never know. So what does it matter? It can be whatever you want it to be, for you.'

'But I'd like to know if it is real. I would not want to think that something is real if it isn't.'

'Why not? What does it matter, if you'll never know?'

'But I might know, some day.'

'You won't. Trust me. You won't'

'But you might tell me.'

'Ha! Always assuming that I know myself, but if I did tell you how would you know if I was telling the truth or not?'

'Hmm... I wouldn't.'


'But maybe I could investigate for myself.'

'Hah, maybe, but then how would you know that what you thought that you discovered was real or not?'

'Well if I got up there somehow and hit my hand against it and it was hard, I would know that it was not real sky.'

'Really? Have you ever got to the top of what you call real sky to try that?'

'No but...'

'You'll never know my lad. The most you may ever know is that something does not behave in the way you expected it to behave, like if you discover a hard sky, but you'll never know, deep down, what is real and not real and even what real, eh... what real really means.'

Yes, that really happened to me one time when I was older, beneath the tunnel.

29 May 2014

Seeing the same thing differently

Beneath The Tunnel (2)

If I had told my parents about the voices in my head I expect they would have whisked me off to the doctor leading to a diagnosis of schizophrenia. I was myself rather troubled by them as they came many evenings while I lay in the darkness in my bed, but I was too young and ignorant to appreciate how seriously they might be taken.

They were a background chatter. A quiet but chaotic mumbling of many voices with no meaning ever discernible. Just mumble mumble... mutter, mumble...

Leakage... A interesting concept. Words leaking through from another reality, is what I think they were, really. And I don't get them any more now that I am aware, or think that I am aware, that the other reality is... well... is really real.

Because one time when I was about 11 years old, I found myself being led by the man in in the white garment from the chamber beneath what I thought of as "my tunnel", along a short dark horizontal tunnel and into a much larger chamber where many people were gathered. And that identical mumble mumble was exactly the noise that I heard as I approached, until on arriving within the chamber the conversations became clear, if still somewhat meaningless.

'So we will be executing the arrangements in seven twenty-one...'

'And that will be arriving from level six and outer aspect twelve...'

'Well we have sixteen new ones to consider but I think we'll only keep about four or five...'

They were adults mainly, dressed in white garments, but males and females and dotted here and there amongst quite a substantial throng there were also a few children like me, dressed in nightclothes like me, and looking at me, and at each other, as I looked at them.

I don't recall what happened next, unless you count me awakening in my bed again in the morning as what happened next.

28 May 2014

What should I wear?

...on voting day

or maybe wear nothing?                                         

Beneath The Tunnel (1)

The first time, I thought I might have been wakening in a relative’s home, and then on not recognising anything and seeing only what looked like dark and polished stone I began to wonder if it was a dream, or if I was dead and with some god or other, but my initial verdict was that I was in a dream.

‘You’re a fine little lad,’ the man in the white garment with the shiny bald head and the sparkling blue eyes said as he sat looking at me. At least I think he was... is... a man. He certainly looks that way.

‘Who are you?’ I asked, remarkably untroubled, as I recall. And I do recall, even though I was just a little lad.

‘I am me,’ he said with a smile, ‘Just as you are.’

‘I am you?’ I queried, hesitantly.

‘No, you are you,’ he corrected, ‘But… Listen... Say what I say, exactly…’

And he proceeded to say, ‘I am me.’

So, thinking I was grasping a game, I slowly said, ‘I am me.’

‘You see!’ he declared triumphantly. ‘We both are me!’

I think I frowned.

‘Don’t worry,’ he said reassuringly. ‘We have plenty of time.'

And I looked up, and saw a long dark tunnel in the roof of the place where I was, and at the top of the tunnel there was a distant circle of light.

'You came down there,' he said, noticing where I was looking. 'And you'll go up again, don't worry. But you'll be back.'

I have never told anybody. They wouldn't believe me. They still won't. Why should they?

But what is real about each reality, is a problem I have long pondered, while coming to realise that most people think that there is only one reality, even though they often believe in the most remarkably unlikely and unreal things. Most people other than those who have also been beneath the tunnels, that is.

Most people will not have any idea of what I am talking about, of course, if I talk like this.

Except those who have been there. And of course the man in his bright white garment. He knows.

Yes... In his bright white garment, behind which I could see other dark tunnels leading out from the centre chamber that I was in. Exploring them, I thought, might be interesting.

Not today

When the time comes
but the time is not now
When the time comes
it will be dealt with
but how?
When the time comes
I will find a way
but it is not time
not that time today

26 May 2014

Delight in Dalry

Just outside the stair door of my daughter's rented flat, and growing wild (a bit like her)

That square of black metal in the top image with a rather thick layer of fresh rainwater clinging to it by surface tension was quite an intriguing mirror.

Light breaking through

Lights in Leith

25 May 2014

To be

How the hell would I know
what is going on?
I'm merely made of atoms
singing their own song
or maybe something deeper
but nothing known to me
my place is just to ponder
and simply briefly be

Our star

Hydrogen to Helium
that is all
in a big and brilliant ball 
Simple, bright
our heat, our light
all that stops the endless night
a different sun
than what was there
when I was young 
Going, going, going
Coming, coming
the end of dawn

23 May 2014

War stories

My dad went over to Normandy with the 51st Highland Division just a few days after the D-Day invasion. He was nineteen. When I was a child he told me the story that as they fought their way inland he was ordered to dig an L-shaped trench with his best pal, and having dug it they both hunkered down during an episode of shelling, each choosing a side of the trench at random. One shell landed very close-by and as he regained his composure after the explosion Dad discovered that there was nothing much left of his pal - blown apart in an instant.

Dad never talked much about the war until he was very old, and then he told me of his time at the Battle of Falaise, famous as the scene of an awesome slaughter of trapped Germans by the advancing Allies. He described to me how at times in Falaise he had to walk over a carpet of bodies in order to move forwards. And I have to remember - he was just nineteen.

He also told me of looking up in awe and watching a one thousand-bomber raid near Caen. More than a thousand aircraft dropping their bombs over the course of just an hour or so. And he was just nineteen.

And he also told me of the afternoon near Falaise when he headed alone into the woods just for a moment's peace and was startled to come across about twenty young and terrified Germans crouched in a ditch, and who immediately threw their hands in the air and allowed this nineteen year old lad to march them back and into captivity, to great applause from his older comrades. His enemies were all so desperate to survive the unfolding carnage they had no thought at all of using their many guns against the single weapon of this solitary Scot.

And he told me of the time his company startled a group of German officers, completely taken by surprise in a wooded clearing, and as these high-ranking Germans made a panicked attempt to get away in a staff car Dad was ordered to open fire with his big Bren-gun, and the car soon stopped and the officers were dead. And Dad was just nineteen.

But he told me most of the people he actually saw being shot were colleagues accidentally shot in the back in the chaos of battle.

Then he got wounded by shell-fire rather ingloriously when he left the safety of a ditch to retrieve some cooked breakfast from a frying pan that had been abandoned as some shelling had begun. As he was carted off by the medics he was told that the smile on his face was dazzling, because all he could think about was his luck at getting a flesh wound just a few hours before a big push forward was planned. He was transported back to Britain for several months of treatment and recovery, and he rejoined his unit when they had reached the Netherlands and he found that many more of his friends were dead.

The shrapnel from the wound was visible in Dad's leg as I grew up. I used to marvel at the glint of grey metal just below the skin on many sunny days, and it was still inside him on the day he died, and perhaps it saved his life. I was aged about six when I asked him if the wound meant that he was a hero, and he told me 'No, I got it in my leg because I was just a stupid hungry boy.'

And when I was seventeen, spending the Summer working on a farm in Perthshire and living with my Granny in Dad's childhood home, I found a little diary he had kept of his days fighting in France. I most remember one simple entry, which just read, 'Stepped on a mine today. Got the lads to clear off, then I jumped, but it was a dud.'

And the memory of Dad's war makes me think about what I was doing when I was nineteen - worrying about exams and my lanky appearance, and busy getting drunk most weekends and chasing girls. And it makes me think of the nineteen year-old lads around me now, worrying about their appearance and their mobile phones and i-pods and Facebook pages, and getting drunk and chasing girls. And I try to remind myself of Dad's war whenever I consider myself to be under any kind of stress. But when I asked Dad what he really thought of his times in the war, instead of the gloomy appraisal that I expected he just told me, 'Mostly, I had a great time. A wonderful time. It was the best time of my life. I got away from home and had a great adventure, and I've never had as much fun since.' He was about seventy-five when he told me that. He almost made me feel jealous, and diminished, and boring, although I'm still glad I've not had a war like him.

Another entry I remember from his diary just said, 'A grand day.' I think that would be a reference to the sunny weather of France, but to me it seemed an odd thing to report of a day a war.

And my Dad's war makes me also think about my Grandpa's earlier war – the war of my Mother's Dad. As a teenager my Grandpa had to kill a young German boy-soldier with his bayonet during World War I, and two personalities really ended in that incident because my Grandpa, I have heard, was never the same person again. He returned haunted and dangerously damaged by that single hand-to-hand encounter. The fact that he had to run a cold bayonet through someone in order to survive led to behaviour for much of the rest of his life that damaged others close to him. I only found out about that behaviour a few years ago, fo to me he was just a quiet and kindly old man.

And my other, older grandfather – my dad's dad and who I never met - was a 2nd Boer War soldier in Africa with several victims claimed from his misguided service for the British Empire. And who knows what fighters there were in the generations before that? Which makes me wonder if, emerging from an extended network of soldiering males, my brother and I may be the first male generation for a long time in that genetic pathway that has not killed other people.

I am glad that I have not had to kill or be killed, yet.

One cloud

Possibly Cloud 9

Our Star

Hydrogen to Helium
that is all
in a big and brilliant ball 
Simple, bright
our heat
our light
all that stops the endless night

a different sun
than what was there
when I was young 
Going, going, going
Coming, coming
the end of dawn

22 May 2014

The Torture Tree

Little girl neighbour was back in my garden tonight, and she began patting the leaves of one of my trees (a flowering cherry) while resting her face against it and saying, 'Ah... my lovely, lovely tree.'

'Actually it's my tree,' I had to inform her while indicating which side of the boundary the trunk penetrated into the ground, 'and I'm thinking of cutting it back a lot and reducing its height to about this...' and I raised my arm to as high as it would reach above my head.

'Noooooooo!' she screamed. 'You can't harm it! It's my lovely tree that reaches over my trampoline!'

'Oh well,' I conceded, 'If you like it as it is I'll maybe leave it alone.'

'Yes! Leave my lovely Torture Tree alone!'

'Your Torture Tree? Why do you call it that?'

'Because it hurt one of my friends when she jumped on the trampoline and fell into it.'

'And you like it for that?'

'Of course!'

'You like it for hurting one of your friends?'

'Of course!'

'That's not very friendly of you.'

'But she was annoying me, and so my lovely torture tree tortured her.'

'You're worrying me a little bit now Rachel, you really are.'

'Why? Don't worry. It won't torture you... Unless you try to cut it down.'

So... I think I'll leave it as it is.

21 May 2014

A light sandwich

From ground to sky

Talking of the infinite

She has definitely taken an interest in mathematics, my little neighbour. Following on from our discussion on rotational symmetry she approached me as I trimmed a tree last night and asked, 'Andrew... What do you think your house number divided by nothing equals?'

'Eh?' I said, thinking fast and suspecting a trick.

'Your house number...' she continued. 'Or my house number... or any number, divided by nothing, I mean by zero... What do you think it equals?'

I decided to cover more than one option.

'What I think,' I responded carefully, 'is that to divide any number by zero is meaningless, because, thinking about it in the other direction, to ask how many times nothing must be multiplied by to equal something, is meaningless... but, I do know that some people might claim that any number divided by nothing equals infinity, but then I think infinity is pretty meaningless too, really.'

'Well done!' she said, and I wondered if I should be pleased or insulted to have my mathematical opinions praised by an 11 year-old.

'Well done,' she said again, 'because our teacher was saying that to us today, but he said that some people would disagree about it being meaningless.'

'So what do you think about infinity?' I asked.

'Well...' she began cautiously, 'I think that if it exists it goes on for a long, long, long, long, time... But I actually think that it might be meaningless too.'

'Ah, I think you might be right, but I don't know.'

'No, neither do I.'

'So we agree?'

'Yes we do!'

And then she referred back to a discussion we had some years earlier, I think, when she asked, 'You don't believe in God do you?'

At least I think that she was thinking back to our previous conversation on that topic, and I could see the link.

'No I don't,' I responded, 'but then I don't know what the word God really means. But not knowing means not believing, I think.'

'No,' she said. 'I'm still thinking about it though.'

And I decided to say nothing and just leave her to think.

Conversations with my little neighbour are going to be quite interesting this summer, I think.

19 May 2014

Mathematical matters

One of my little neighbours is 11 years old, and she was watching me applying replacement house numbers to my wall this evening.

'Oh, I wonder if I have put this zero the right way up,' said I, expecting to mislead her, but the detail of her instant reply surprised me:

'It doesn't matter Andrew because it has rotational symmetry... Now you see that is an example of a practical application of mathematics.'

Clearly I will need to keep my wits about me as our frequent conversations progress.

I did, however, feel it necessary to point out that as it was an oblong zero rather than a perfect circle, it only had symmetry through a 180 degree rotation, as opposed to any degree of rotation.

'So what you mean is it doesn't matter what way up you put it, like I was trying to tell you,' she told me, with a tone of indulgent patience that would be more appropriate from adult to child than from child to adult.

Heavy and Light