thinking about


“Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.”

I saw this quote – more of a soundbite, I suppose, as it has been extracted from its fuller context – attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Does it suggest anything about da Vinci: was he quietly spoken, or perhaps he was too often shouted down?

It rang a bell: I don’t like to hear shouty men. They seem over sure of themselves. Cocksure. Like a strutting cockerel. Cock-a-doodle-do!

I made a mental list of shouty men in the public domain and media. You might like to add to it or start one of your own. There’s no end of choice.

I found this other soundbite from Bertrand Russell,

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

It may have been in a movie or TV show but I seem to remember a Buddhist master instructing his novice and telling him, “A wise man walks with head bowed.”

The Weekend We Lost The Web (and turned to the telly)

I broke our broadband on Friday; the service provider only works weekdays – and I don’t blame them – so for two evenings we turned to the telly for entertainment.

It’s amazing how memory works; we remembered exactly what to do. You hold a slim, black device with buttons on the top; you point this in the general direction of the telly and repeatedly press a button while saying, “there’s absolutely nothing on”.

Remember in Britain – before we were called the UK – when we had three channels and you could find a film, a play, a sit-com, a comedy sketch show, or a documentary to watch? How did they do that?

And you’d go to bed – early, because they all closed down at half past eleven – feeling thoroughly entertained and informed. And I think those two words were in the TV charter; if not a guarantee then at least a firm promise.

We watched Gogglebox. If you don’t know Gogglebox, it’s a collection of “ordinary members of the public” filmed in their home, watching and commenting on the same programmes. The big advantage for the rest of us watching Gogglebox must be that we don’t have to watch the programmes they’re watching. They’ll be the worst of programmes which always elicit the best comments. Or if they’re not too bad, you’ll get to watch the highlights, which elicit the best reactions. And that’s all you need.

But the best and ironic thing about Gogglebox is when the “ordinary members” go off script and get up to things which have nothing to do with watching the programmes.

I don’t know how much the “ordinaries” get paid but the whole thing confirms the ridiculousness of what might be termed “The Gary Lineker Factor”. This is where the BBC insist they have to pay a celebrity near to, or in excess of, a million pounds per annum for evermore, out of taxpayers money.

But Gogglebox clearly shows there are no shortage of “ordinaries” who are willing to go in front of camera and do an adequate job.

Mind you, if that’s how The One Show’s Alex Jones was recruited, I’ll eat my words.

Sky blues

I have to remonstrate with myself in the middle of weeding the fruit patch. I need to take breaks more often than I want to. I’m far from my twenties now, and since then have clocked up forty odd years doing desk work.

Now that I’m master of my own time, more of that time is spent doing physical things: as well as tending the gardens, there’s the diy – building jobs, woodworking, decorating, and ordinary maintenance chores such as cleaning the windows, cleaning the gutters and drains, and generally cleaning! To say little of running 5 kilometres or more, every third day.

So, I strike the fork into the dug soil, and taking up my mug of tea I sit down on the wooden sleeper border edging the vegetable plot to contemplate the day.

It is sunny. Between the high hedge and power lines which run across the back of our garden, the sky is a beautiful uninterrupted blue. I think of Yuri Gagarin. Someone must. He was the first human to leave the Earth without having to die.

27 years old and seen the world

Briefly, from his point of view, he saw how thin the blue film enveloping our planet was from outer space; how fragile it looked before petering out into the overwhelming and utterly vast vacuum of black space. Like clingfilm covering a cantaloupe melon.

Through religion first, and then in more modern times science fiction, we have learnt to delude ourselves and avoid thinking of our world-home as being anything short of firm and secure. Even the true sciences deal with a robust mechanism, holding it all together: the climate may change but it will still exist in some form. Will it be blue; bluer, or paler? Will anyone be around to tell?

People all over often wonder whether there is life on other planets; it’s a wonder to me how there’s life on this one.

It begins with a movie…

I was in the mood last night to watch a movie. Mary Magdalene is currently on All4 on-demand so I chose this; but it is one of these films were the director thought it was okay for the actors to mumble their lines during softly spoken moments. I find this irritating so I gave up on it after thirty minutes and switched to an old movie – Fear No More – which I found on Youtube. Even though this was a bit of a B-movie, and one of the principal actors had a distinct accent which suggested English wasn’t his first language, there was no lack of clarity in the dialogues.

Scientific Jesus – 5’ 5” in stockinged feet

This morning, my curiosity of Mary Magdalene had the better of me and I googled it to see how it had been received by critics. Across the board, it averaged 45-50% which is about right, though most criticism was concerned with its dullness, or “toothless” portrayals of the gospel narratives.

Reading further accounts of Mary herself, I hadn’t realised how important a figure she was in the Jesus story – the apostles’ apostle. Her name is written more times in scripture than those of most of his disciples. Later patriarchal christianity turned against her, conflating her character with that of another Mary, a fallen woman, a possible prostitute. This myth still carries weight in some quarters.

Contrary to her portrayal in the movie – as a simple working fisherwoman, seen on the beach, mending holes in nets – some accounts say she was likely a wealthy woman and had supported Jesus in his mission.

Jesus in the film is played by Joaquin Phoenix, so its Jesus looks a lot like Johnny Cash; in his hippy period, no doubt. He looked a lot older than his early thirties too, I thought. (Released in 2018, Phoenix would have been 43.) But it was the unkempt long hair and beard which was the problem. Had wardrobe not kept abreast of the news?

Not much is written about his appearance in the gospels but the prophecy of Isaiah has him as a disfigured man people would turn their face against. Of course, Christianity – a simple faith for simple minds to understand – wouldn’t understand that and so over the centuries, Jesus has been depicted not as an especially unhandsome dude, but looking a bit like you, or me.

Joaquin’s sun-blocked, ageing hippy Jesus

It’s quite a surprise – though not shocking – to see how science portrays the man based on all available evidence and assessments: a shortish, thick set man, dark olive skinned, and with short hair and a trimmed beard. Far from turning away from the sight of him, you’d probably not notice him at all in a crowd. If he was a wanted man, the authorities would need for someone who knew him to point him out amongst the rest. Hmm.

Here is a post in Medium about the visual depiction of Jesus which provided some material for this post.

I like the comments Medium readers leave; this one, I thought, was particularly funny,

“Respectfully, it should be pointed out that Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God. If we accept this premise, wouldn’t he have looked something like his father?”

It reminds me of a story my Mum tells us of a nativity play at some junior school in the 60s. The kids all had parts to play, the more confident and reliable ones play the parts with the most lines to memorise.

A boy – playing the principal shepherd, I think – was much more confident than his memory was reliable. Looking into the manger, he forgot his given line and no amount of off-stage whispered prompting from teacher could bring them to mind. So he improvised and said, in the clearest voice, what he must have heard adults say to new parents many a time,

“Ooh! Doesn’t he look like his father!”

He brought the house down.

Damn quotes!

It’s not that I don’t like quotes; it’s that I don’t like vague sentiments unshackled from their full context. (There are many things I don’t like in the course of viewing blogs; I might write a post on it one day.)

Here are some which just about pass muster;

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,

It’s taken from Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship. This was Goethe’s second novel of which I’m unfamiliar. To be honest, I’m not familiar with Goethe at all and it’s only the apparent completeness in the quote above which makes it acceptable for me to use.

Goethe – like Gertcha, a song by Chas & Dave?

I’m a great believer in personal discipline of this kind; the kind which improves mind – and that kind which improves body too, though not this – simply as I have no discipline. It must be nice, but “every day at least”? It’s a tall order.

Maybe it’s not so complete as I’ve also found this by Goethe, almost the same though slightly more expansive;

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

That’ll do for me, and, in a casual way, it is what I do and why I think to do it. On Youtube (though the place has become sullied with alternative politics and “destroyer” culture). It might be nice to have a dedicated blog…maybe?

Here’s a different thought by Goethe,

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”

See, there’s no proper context to this and we may interpret its deeper meaning as we will, or not at all; maybe superimpose the words in calibri font over the black and white image of a small urban boy with a dirty face; or a sunrise…

Elsewhere, at another time, I discovered this,

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself, “Is it true?”

Rumi anticipates the Theremin centuries before its invention

At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”

At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”

It’s attributed to Rumi, the poet, and I kid you not, someone had a mind to print those words across a photo of a garden gate; as if we didn’t know gates, and that it wasn’t known that Rumi’s gates were just metaphorical.

(I actually imagined them as “OR” gates in a process flow diagram, which shows you were my mind’s at.)

I would, if I could, print them over the “Publish” button, but it might not be absolutely necessary as evident from the increasing size of my “Drafts” folder.

Be kind, be true, and always be necessary.

Kindle vs. old paper & ink

the yellow pages

I used to be anti-Kindle but I changed my opinion with experience.

I couldn’t bear the radio or telly on in the background while I’m reading but I have cottoned on to having an audiobook playing. Then when the audiobook sounds more interesting than the book book, I can switch attention to that; then if it becomes less interesting, I go back to the page. That way I feel I’m making the most of my reading time.

I have been thinking how books are a big time commitment for readers. I favour shorts story collections for two reasons:

If you don’t think much of the one you’re reading, it’s no problem; they’ll be another one starting in a moment.

And they demand less of our time, so we can read more widely.

I don’t know if there is such a place but thinking along similar lines to Youtube etc., whereby a selection of excerpts or chapters from books were offered by means of a grid;

Shortly after five o’clock – when the spectators could not have counted certainly less than 30,000, and might in all probability have amounted to double that number – the procession moved off to a note of Mr. Coppin’s bugle, caught up and repeated by other marshals along the line. The procession was headed by the dark blue Pickwickians, for the very good reason that theirs was the oldest amongst the clubs… Boldly they rode and well, these Pickwickians, as indeed did the great majority of the members of those other clubs mounted on their steel steeds.

To experience the fresh air and beauty of the countryside was, in Blatchford’s opinion, to acquire a sense of what a socialist society would feel like.
While we waited for an ex-con to come by and make an attempt on Miranda’s life, we settled into an oddly pleasurable routine. The suspense, partly mitigated by Adam’s reasoning, and thinly spread across the days, then even more sparsely across the weeks, heightened our appreciation of the daily round. Mere ordinariness became a comfort. The dullest of food, a slice of toast, offered in its lingering warmth a promise of everyday life – we would come through. Cleaning up the kitchen, a task we no longer left to Adam alone, affirmed our hold on the future. Reading a newspaper over a cup of coffee was an act of defiance. There was something comic or absurd, to be sprawled in an armchair reading about the riots in nearby Brixton or Mrs Thatcher’s heroic endeavours to structure the European Single Market, then glancing up to wonder if that was a rapist and would-be murderer at the door.
He whistled over and over a tune whose end immediately suggested its beginning.
He felt old, and breathless from the uphill climb, and weary from thankless enterprises.

“My days have passed more swiftly than the web is cut by the weaver, and are consumed without any hope.”

The girl did not recognize a quotation. ‘Have you no hope?’ She looked up at him for a second. Her eyes were extraordinary, he thought: a smoky fawn flecked here and there with yellow, a colour more suitable in a cat than a nun. The question seemed to have struck her. Rather than give an answer, Fludd walked on.
‘I see you’re reading The Grasshopper Lies Heavy,’ he said. ‘I hear it on many lips, but pressure of business prevents my own attention.’ Rising, he went to pick it up, carefully consulting their expressions; they seemed to acknowledge this gesture of sociality, and so he proceeded. ‘A mystery? Excuse my abysmal ignorance.’ He turned the pages.

‘Not a mystery,’ Paul said. ‘On contrary, interesting form of fiction possible within genre of science fiction.’

‘Oh no,’ Betty disagreed. ‘No science in it. Not set in future. Science fiction deals with future, in particular future where science has advanced over now. Book fits neither premise.’
Mason grabbed the other by the arm, but that arm had lost the greater part of its outline, had become a vague patch of light already fading, and when Mason looked at the hand that had done the grabbing, his own hand, he saw with difficulty that it likewise no longer had fingers, or front or back, or skin, or anything at all.

All these excerpts are kept available in the library without defacing any book. Some have notes made by me in the course of reading, again without resort to defacement; any can be further edited or erased. The ease at which they can be retrieved, then copy and pasted above, could hardly be easier.

By the way, the bit above about listening to audiobooks is in jest.

I tried but couldn’t get on with audiobooks. Two things: the voice of the reader interfered with my imagination. And I’m not convinced yet that listening is the same as reading. Especially while doing housework or driving a car, two of the suggestions made to increase my reading time.

I can see the science-fiction future where whole books are transplanted into our brains as false memories; public libraries, if they remain, will look more like out-patient clinics. In this respect, I’m firmly attached to the traditional way of books, or at least something closely resembling it.

Rory’s 12 Bloggerz questions

Rory of A Guy Called Bloke asks 12 Questions of us for February. Check out his blog here for more!

How high are your current energy and wellbeing levels as in are you relaxed, chilled, tense or stressed or do you think that despite everything you are doing pretty well and your mental health is balanced?

I think I’m constitutionally resilient but since coronavirus I’m sensing a bit of fatigue. Of course, this may not be directly and entirely attributable the virus but the long term strain of being under lockdown.

Still, I’m optimistic.

Do you perform any ‘refreshing cleanses or routines’ to help you prepare for the day or the week ahead?

I think I should and I’m envious of those who do. However, I’m too lazy to bother.

When was the last time you had a major ‘declutter’ of the house and do you have one planned again?

I don’t like clutter but I don’t like planning either. It tends to get done spontaneously once reaching a vague tipping point.

Do you have a ‘happy place’ you can go to relax and chill out – if so what or where is it?

My ‘happy place’ is in my mind. I’m grateful for that. I imagine what it’s like to be in a field or meadow, surrounded by verdant trees, in high Summer.

What are three of your favourited songs that you listen to when you wish to wind down and let the day pass you by for a while?

Matthew Halsall is a wonderful trumpeter and composer. He’s from Manchester, England. Here he is accompanied by Nat Burchall on saxophone, who’s also from Manchester.

The band is Godwana, the name of the supercontinent which existed before the continents drifted apart.

Miles Davis needs no explanation other than this tune being a litmus test as to whether you like Jazz.

I think ‘So what?’ was Davis’s stock response to suggestions given him in the studio.

John Coltrane on the sax too.

Feelin’ Alright is a top favourite rock tune of mine. I first heard it on Joe Cocker’s album. He did excellent covers so I didn’t like the original Traffic version much. But here’s the writer, Dave Mason, showing how it’s done, and during lockdown.

Which is more important in your eyes … to be kind or to be nice?

Is there much difference? I think you can try to be kind but it’s up to others to decide if you’re nice.

When was the last time you experienced a strange and bizarre dream and what was it about and also, what do you think it means/meant?

I don’t normally recall dreaming but I did last night. I was in a place that was flooded and there was a bridge over a rushing stream – a bridge over troubled water, I suppose. I don’t know what it means, if anything.

When was the last time you accidentally made yourself jump or you scared yourself?

I can’t really remember an example. Probably when I was riding my bike when new and I fell, or almost fell off it.

If you had the opportunity of looking 10 years into your own future and living there for a day – would you take the journey?

Providing I could return to the present time, it would be very reassuring, however bad.

How organic are you and your lifestyle [as in chemical free]?

Not a bit. It’s too expensive and too much bother, and I suspect the benefits are marginal. On a global level, I think it would be impossible to feed the population adequately.

How well do you sleep and how many hours are you able to sleep daily and more importantly, how rested do you feel each and every day upon waking?

Eight hours nightly is the goal. I read a good book all about sleep a couple of years ago. Both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan boasted they got by on just four hours sleep and both suffered prematurely from dementia.

The only thing is our dogs have a different agenda. I don’t know if dogs need eight hours; they don’t seem to think so!

When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and felt immediately better for it?

It’s hard to remember what it felt like before Covid-19. Living through it is out of my comfort zone but I don’t feel better for it at all.

Give me an idea and a prompt to steer it by

I had a yen to write from a prompt yesterday and went searching for one. A good one I could not find.

Don’t get me wrong; I know it’s a hard job thinking up prompts; probably harder than writing from a prompt itself. I imagine for regular prompters, it might seem like thankless work too, at times.

What makes a good prompt?

A prompt shouldn’t be overly explicit or prescriptive. Nor should it be so apparently meaningless as to be vague; then you might as well not have a prompt at all.

I quite like an image prompt because as it’s said, a picture paints a thousand words, so that’s half the heavy lifting done for you. However, I’ve reason to doubt the wisdom of that saying. There are many photos which are mute, expressionless, taciturn. They won’t do at all.

I like a challenge too. A kind of recipe prompt; there are rules, ingredients and it’s up to us to concoct a dish worth serving. I suppose it’s a bit like Ready, Steady, Cook, the show where celebrity chefs are handed a bag of assorted and seemingly random ingredients, and given twenty or so minutes to impress the audience with their kitchen skills and imagination.

Word limits are good too. These require the writer to read their piece over and again; it’s odd how many of us don’t do that normally! It teaches you to be economical. It points out tautology, and filler words. It encourages you to seek alternatives, where one word serves as good as two.

Prompts usually take the form of a photograph or a phrase, with or without additional instructions. I haven’t seen other artistic media used; paintings, sculptures, songs, dance…perhaps even those funny little GIFs used fondly on social media threads.

What about newspaper headlines? Not current ones, mind; we don’t want to risk politics and polemics.

Share Your World

Melanie of Sparks from a Combustible Mind asks to Share Our World with some interesting questions.

Be sure to pop over to her place and see other replies.

Here are my answers,


What’s a relationship deal breaker for you?

I’m not sure if this is for a romantic relationship or any kind of relationship. In either case, I don’t enjoy working hard at it. If I feel as if getting to know and like a person is hard work, it’s a turn off.

Do you believe in extra-terrestrials?

No, not a bit. For a long time I’ve been interested and fascinated by how life developed on Earth and the sheer complexity of the system required, not just to produce life but protect and sustain it, and then allow it to develop into complex forms which are symbiotic. The chances of it happening elsewhere and relatively close by are truly remote.

In the morning, do you hit the snooze button on your alarm (sometimes repeatedly) or do you leap out of bed, ready to face the day?

I used to hit the snooze button though it was set for fifteen minutes before needing to get up. These days, I don’t use an alarm but I like to get up and dressed reasonably early. I’m very much a breakfast man. After breakfast, I’m ready for anything.

If you came back in the next life as an animal, which animal would you choose to be? (and even if you don’t believe in that, let’s suspend belief for a moment just to have a little fun)

I don’t believe in the afterlife or reincarnation but it’s fascinating to think how other animals might view the world. I would be a hawk – in England, my favourite is a buzzard but I know that’s the name of an entirely different bird in the US. Buteo buteo is the latin name of my bird. It circles high on thermals, hardly ever needing to flap its wings. Its eyesight is acute; it has a sort of telescopic nature to its eye lens. It can spot a mouse from a thousand feet. But it’s the ability to fly unaided which would fascinate me.

What do you plan to work on this year to make it better than last year (personal goals, physically or mentally, or all three)?

I plan to get our house in order (literally), get some order into our gardens, get back on my bike with a notion to deserve an upgraded model, and hopefully find time to do some art.

12 Questions for January ‘21 (part three)

Rory’s Twelve Bloggerz Questions this month are quite long ones, and so the answers are going to be long reads!

I’ve answered the first questions previously. Here are the last of the answers.

All answers are off-the-cuff thoughts and may be modified tomorrow. 😀

What is the magical property to Toilet Paper – as in why during the lockdowns is this product always running short – for something which is principally an end product waste service item …. it is considered unhealthily desirable by a panicked population – why/?

What did they do in the Stone Age? I think I read they used smooth pebbles and broad leaves.

Somewhere in history, the West took a wrong turn going for paper, possibly as a refined substitute for pebbles and leaves. Paper is expensive and environmentally destructive. Toilet paper manufacturers have been funding sanitation in developing parts of the world simply to persuade the people to use their loo rolls instead of traditionally washing with soap and a jug of water. It’s saying that smearing excrement residue over your buttocks’ skin is better than washing it off?

If I ran out of paper, I would use water. I wanted to install a bidet a long while back but the wife was against the idea.

Did you acquire any new skills or attributes during the last year as in did you start growing a beard or longer hair, become a hunter or a gardener and fending for yourself and your table or develop a new set of previously hidden muscles or something else?

I sound like a broken record, sorry, but I took up running. I had regularly run before but not for some years. Normally, I enrol in night classes, including yoga for some years, but lockdown put an end to it so I decided to take to running instead.

I have no need of a beard and my hair growing years are behind me. Hunting would involve a gun and I’m a bit averse to them. I already garden.

I liked John Bishop’s story of signing up for a workout course at the gym. The instructor promises him he’ll develop all those muscles he’s never used before, and Bishop says, I’m forty-two; if I haven’t used them yet, I don’t need them.

How many masks do you own and do you wash and clean them on a regular basis or are they not used as much to warrant that – are they disposable or patterned and bespoke made or commercially bought?

I had a bunch of safety dust protection masks already, for when I use power tools, so I’ve been using those. I haven’t had to buy others. I did borrow one of my wife’s surgical type masks on one occasion and mine are better: they fit tighter around the face and nose, and didn’t slip down. You see a lot of people with their nose poking over the top of medical type masks and I think that’s why.

I have kept away from most public places since Covid so haven’t needed many masks.

In fairness ‘online dating ‘ has been around for a long time and was fast becoming one of the most progressive ways to ‘physically date’ – but are the days of old ‘dating and courtship’ now long gone?

Will the new dating game be a snails pace marathon or what is fast becoming termed as “slowed virtual dating” – is the physical side to dating now gone forever?

Don’t ask me, I’ve been happily married for the past thirty-five years.

Funny though, I have thought about it as a “what if?” I can’t recall good things about dating. I went to a single-sex school between the ages of 11 to 18 which didn’t help. Dating was a random exercise, I remember. Girls I liked didn’t seem interested to talk, and girls who liked me never told me outright – all those missed opportunities! Of course, it must be different for adults, especially older ones.

In my view, the one utopian idea in Huxley’s Brave New World was the positive expectation to have sex. Actually, I think it was also in Shogun, Clavell’s historical novel set in Japan. The Japanese nobles couldn’t understand the European coyness about sex. Mind you, the culture was portrayed as a bit one way.

Maybe when you get beyond raising children, it’s either companionship or sex (though maybe financial as well?). Forget hobbies and all that, just put up a photo and say whether you’re looking for sex or companionship or a hand with the cost of living.

During this last year what have you entertained yourself with more – reading, writing, music, films, outdoor activity, new hobbies, a balance of everything, work …or something else?

Reading has been the same – slow.

Writing has been the same – impetuous.

Music. Yes, it has increased through listening while running now, and also having music play through my newish smart speaker while working around the house.

Films – about the same, when I find them.

Outdoor activities – less walking and cycling but a lot more running! New interests – yes, the running.

Work – what’s that? Oh, I think I remember… a bit over-rated, I thought. 😝 [smug smug sorry]