Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Suicide

Last night, just doing an e-mail check before heading for bed, I took a quick look at Vaporise Barney’s blog site and found a post where he was writing about a justification for suicide. As he had disabled his comments I was not sure if this was just a rant he wanted to get off his chest and didn’t want to discuss it or whether it was, for all intents and purposes, a suicide note.

Whether it was or not might (or might not) become clearer over the next few days. I can only wait and see if he posts anything else. But I went to bed deeply unsettled.

On one level, I have only known the guy as a series of typed words on a computer screen, but it hasn’t prevented me from building a relationship with him and I would be deeply saddened if that was the last I was to ever hear from him.

Knowing that he has a wife and daughters I would also be intensely angry at him too. Pointless really as I don’t know where he lives, what he looks like or how old he is. For that matter he may even be a she and not have children at all – there is no way for me to verify anything. But just like when the hero or heroine dies in a novel, or a film, you feel choked up because you’re human and you respond to the thoughts and feelings of others, even if they are just written down and made up. And when, through blogging, you have interacted with them, you feel an even greater connection.

I have never attempted suicide, but I have been in some very dark places before and certainly thought long and hard about it. Being an atheist I’m not against suicide for karmic or religious reasons, nor do I feel it to be a “cowards way out” – I think it takes an extraordinary amount of bravery for someone to take the step. In fact, I believe it to be the ultimate act of taking control of your destiny.

But it is the most completely selfish act in the universe.

I appreciate the fact that, as Binty mentions on his site in a moving post about the same entry (http://averagetosser.blogspot.com/2006/02/suicide.html), the irony of it is that the person can believe that they are actually being quite selfless: they can truly believe that those left behind will be better off without them.

Maybe they would and maybe they wouldn’t, but that’s not really the point.

I can think of my mother in her last few days, dying of terminal cancer, and I firmly believe that it was better for everyone that she went sooner rather than later. There are times when the quality of life is so poor, with absolutely no chance of improvement, that it is cruel and inhumane to drag the life out for as long as possible.

But where the one who suicides gets it so tragically wrong is that they don’t give those who are close the opportunity to say goodbye.

Whenever someone dies you get caught up in a wave of thoughts and feelings, wondering what you could have done differently to prevent it. And when the person is close to you, you can be haunted for ever more.

Anyone who has had someone really close die suddenly and unexpectedly would give their right arm for one more opportunity to sit down with them, talk to them, say the things that should have been said but never were, try and find a way of resolving in their own head that there really couldn’t have been a different outcome.

I’m not going to say categorically that someone ending their life is wrong, because I can foresee circumstances where I don’t believe it is. But the one who commits suicide, by preventing those who are closest from the opportunity to properly say goodbye, is utterly and completely in the wrong. In my eyes it is unjustifiable and it is the most selfish act in the universe.

UPDATE
It seems that Anti-Barney is alive and well and still posting comments, so I can stop my hyperactive imagination from going into overdrive.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Bruce's Stone

Robert The Bruce looms as one of the most famous Kings in Scottish History, primarily because he led one of the more successful rebellions against the English, some 700 years ago. William Wallace might have been the psycho with the big sword, as played by Mel Gibson in “Braveheart”, but it was Robert who went on to rule the country.

In popular folklore he is also known for watching a spider in a cave, while he was on the run from the Edward I, that refused to give up and eventually managed to spin its web, leading to the famous phrase “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.”

Needless to say, with such a legend of the land, everywhere in Scotland likes to lay claim to him, especially for the sake of tourism, and this corner of Scotland is no different. Because many of the battles with the English took place in Southern Scotland, it is not uncommon to stumble across a “Bruce’s Stone” here and there to commemorate a victory or two.

Yesterday the kids and I visited “Bruce’s Stone” on the shores of Clatteringshaws Loch. There are signposts for it from miles away. Eventually you turn off the main road and bounce along a dirt track before parking up and walking the final stretch along a muddy path, out into the marshy surrounds to reach a chunk of rock sticking about 8 feet out of the ground. Next to the rock is a sign saying that after a skirmish with the English in 1307, “it is said that Robert the Bruce rested against this stone”

You can’t help but feel that the Scottish Tourist Board are pushing it a bit, if they have to promote a chunk of rock that Rabbie was rumoured to have leant against, 699 years ago.

Rogan barely had time to clamber on top of it, though, when Meg boldly proclaimed she needed a pee. She does have a habit of making this announcement at some of the most awkward times, but we have learned to our cost that it’s not always a good idea to call her bluff. There was a real bite to the cold wind and in this exposed area, the only slight bit of shelter for 250 metres was Bruce’s Stone itself (a good picture of the stone can be found on the web here: http://www.geography.dur.ac.uk/ForestSAFE/WFD/files/BrucesStone.gif). So as, I would guess, many people have done before, and many more will do in times to come, Meg left her mark on this historic monument.

Clearly an irreverent streak runs through the blood somewhere, I thought, as Rogan booted a wee stone along the path muttering, “I wonder if Robert the Bruce kicked this pebble?”

So, not the most successful of educational trips out. And once home we had to endure more of Maggie’s comfort baking (see Baking a Cake), which this time turned out to be mouth-wateringly, sweet, crumbly, buttery rock buns.

Sigh.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bleargh!

I’m feeling low and flat and weary and grumpy and I’m having trouble shaking it off.

It’s February. The weather’s miserable. There are yucky anniversaries of things. Spring is months away. There’s a lot of crap been going on surrounding Maggie’s parents. There’s more crap been going on with my stepdaughter. These are things I can’t write about in a public place.

It all seems a far cry from this entry: Life is Good

I’ve been spending far too much time blogging without even writing on my own blog. I’ve spent countless hours reading other blogs, leaving comments, going back to see if my comments have been commented on. Procrastinating, in other words.

What have I achieved? Bugger all. I’m even struggling to keep up the enthusiasm for the game over at the Fishwhacker Swindle where I’m being put on trial, accused of being another blogger. Just find me guilty then I don’t have to play anymore. That really isn’t fair, because Foot Eater has clearly put a lot of time and thought into it and I’m just being an ungrateful swine.

It’s been nearly 2 weeks since I actually wrote anything outwith the blog. Hah! Some bloody writer I’m turning out to be.

And the really annoying thing is that I could suddenly just snap out of it. The right thing said, seen or done and the mood could lift, just like that. But what is the right thing to be said, seen or done?

There are 2 fears related to this mood of indulgent self-pity. One is that my mood won’t lift and I’ll be stuck feeling like this forever; the other is that even if it does lift, who am I trying to kid that I could write anything anyone would want to read anyway.

The longer this goes on, the harder it is to try and dismiss either of these fears.

Intellectually I know that moods don’t last forever, that they do change. And my head can tell me that I have a modicum of talent, which could develop if I keep at the writing. But the problem is I don’t feel it at the moment.

Bleargh

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Mum's ashes

I've disabled the comments on this post, as I don't think it's something I really want to get into a discussion about. I just wanted a record somewhere for my own benefit.


It’s 3 years ago today that we said our final farewells to my mother. That morning the sun was shining and as the landlady of the B&B served us breakfast, she asked what we were in Brixham for. I said we were down for a funeral, and before she could stop herself she said "Well, it's a nice day for it," while glancing out the window. I think there must be certain stock phrases that just leap out of the mouth as easily as the toast pops out of the toaster.

Unlike a traditional funeral, we held our own ceremony up on the cliffs at Sharkham Bay in Brixham, Devon, with the focus being on the scattering of the ashes.

It is a beautiful spot on a cliff top with the coastline swinging round on both sides and fading into the distance. The sun was glittering off the sea and there was a mild breeze. To be honest, this caught me by surprise: from the moment I'd started thinking about and planning the ceremony, I'd had these visions of lashing rain and howling gales. In the end it was a beautiful spring day.

We stood in a circle and I led the ceremony, allowing everyone to say a few words if they wanted. Nearly everyone did, from literally a few words up to talks of several minutes.

This was what I said. It’s not poetry, but it was from the heart.


Now is the time to finally say goodbye
Now is the time to lay our fears to rest
Now is the time to move on with our lives.

Mum made me. She made me who I am.
I grew in her belly. She nurtured me.

But more than just a physical act, Mum created the person I am.
She gave me love
She gave me perspective
She taught me right from wrong
More than anyone, she made me who I am.

I miss her
I miss her love
I miss her wisdom
I miss the way she would pull her mouth to one side and breathe out sharply through her nose when she was not impressed with what she'd seen or heard.

This past year has been a year of pain
A year of suffering
A year of false hopes.

It was a shitty end to her life
But then I don't know what a good end would have been.

But her legacy is within me
I cannot have truly lost my mother because I carry so much of her within me.

I hope I can be as wise as her
As loving as her
As understanding as her.

I heard it said once that people were always better for having known Mum
You cannot get a greater compliment than that
It is what we would all hope could one day be said about ourselves.

For all of us here, we know it to be true
That we are better for having known my mother.

And as such
Because of the way she has touched our lives
We all carry a part of her into the future with us.

I am my mother's son

And although I now move on with my life, without her mind and body
She will always be a part of me.


We then scattered the ashes on the cliff top, and everyone laid a daffodil, taking time to gaze at the ashes, the daffodils and the incredible views, before heading back to Dad's flat for food and chat.

I still miss her.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Meeting Dr Maroon

As I sat in the bar of the hotel waiting for Dr Maroon, I realised I was actually feeling a bit nervous.

Would he find the place; would he chicken out; would he be anything like he comes across in his blog; and, of course, what on earth would he look like? Young, scruffy, tall and Asian, or short, old, posh and Caucasian? It did feel somewhat like a blind date.

At one point a small, well-dressed, middle-aged woman wandered into the bar and hesitated as she looked around. Surely not, I thought, but then one of the bar staff said “Ah, Mary!” and promptly took her elsewhere in the hotel to discuss their business.

Is it a good idea to meet up with another blogger when you know little about them other than what you have read on their site? For him, I guess there was less to be worried about, as on this blog I don’t hide who I am; in fact there are even photos of me. But all I knew about Dr M was that he was a good writer and had a sense of humour that I enjoyed. If he was to be believed in what he’d written in various blog comments over the past few months, then I also knew that he was Scottish and lived less than 100 miles from the Central Belt of Scotland.

He could be a homicidal axe-wielding maniac, although he would be a well-educated, thoughtful and occasionally witty homicidal axe-wielding maniac, so that wouldn’t be so bad.

Far worse though, was the prospect that he might be some sad sod who wanted to show me his nasal hair collection or recite the names and birth dates of every Dundee United player since 1903.

I’m not into hero worship; I’ve never been awe-struck by meeting stars or celebrities in the flesh; and I’ve never been impressed by people name-dropping. The fact is, however, that I really enjoy Dr Maroon’s posts and comments and there was certainly a bit of concern that meeting him in the flesh might taint future readings.

Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. If I was to say he was a nice bloke or a decent enough chap then you’ll end up with an image of Hugh Grant from his “4 Weddings…” days, and that would be inaccurate. But he was good company and I did enjoy our lunch together. In fact, it was quite reassuring to meet a real live, flesh-and-blood person who also experiences the problem of time displacement when blogging: of how entire mornings can seem to vanish in only ten minutes.

So the risk was taken that meeting the man behind one of the more enjoyable blogs on the net would lead to disappointment but, if anything, I think it will actually make reading his blog a fuller experience.

Next time though he can pay for lunch instead of making an excuse to go to the bathroom, climb out the window and, tyres screeching, drive away in what, frankly, I considered was rather a reckless manner…

UPDATE

DR MAROON'S RIGHT OF REPLY.

“Oh, for the love of….“
was Kim’s astonished welcome at the bar.
“are you at least a doctor?”
he continued doubtfully.

I should have taken my certificates, because he has the unnerving ability to make you want to confess and for the life of me I couldn’t remember the title of my Doctoral Opus or much of what it was about, (though I didn’t tell him that). He is perceptive. A bit too bloody perceptive if you ask me, and I hadn’t really realised how seriously I was beginning to take myself.

Kim and his beard had the crisps, while I was allowed to choose from Cap‘n Bob’s Pirate Platters (½ portions, but you get an apple as well).

You know, he says he’s not into hero worship, why then did he ask me to autograph his arm with a felt pen which he produced for that purpose?

On a more serious note, neither of us I noticed, had a negative word to say about anyone round here, even though by that time we were “amongst ourselves” and could have.

We did look behind the curtain at the silly bloke pulling the levers, but that‘s blogging I suppose.

Blog on, me bredren!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Calvin & Hobbes

Click on the image for a larger (readable) version


I always had a soft spot for Calvin and Hobbes, and rummaging through folders on my computer I stumbled across this one yesterday. When I was a full time businessman running the web design company, this episode was by far and away my favourite one. I still think it's damned funny.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Cynical Romantic

Valentine’s Day is here. In our house, however, it hasn’t been celebrated for 9 years, because my daughter, Meg, was born on this day, 8 years ago. Half an hour earlier and she’d have been a child of Friday 13th, but she hung on to make it in to Valentine’s Day. A true wee child of love.

To be honest, I’ve always struggled with the concept of the day anyway. About 10 or 11 years back, one of my stepdaughters had a magazine with one of these “How Romantic Are You?” quizzes in it, so as a bit of family fun we all did it.

It was one of these where if you answered mainly ‘A’s then you were a true romantic, in fact so bloody soppy that you really needed a bit of a reality check; mostly ‘B’s and you were pretty much normal; and ‘C’s meant you were a hard-hearted cynic of monstrous proportions.

What seemed initially odd, was that all my answers were split between ‘A’s and ‘C’s. I didn’t have a single ‘B’ on my score sheet.

I had to think about it for a while, but it did kind of make sense. On one level I am incredibly romantic, but I think all this “show your love with a card with a heart on it, or a single rose” is a complete load of bollocks.

I love my wife passionately. I will take her to dinner at any opportunity, I will buy her flowers, and I tell her how much I love her every day. But I don’t need some crass money-making commercial machine to allow me to express my feelings to her. I much prefer the fact that Valentine’s Day is now forever associated with my beautiful daughter rather than money-grabbing opportunism of the most contemptuous kind.

So yes, I am a cynical romantic, or a romantic cynic. Take your pick.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Problem Solving

Time for a lighter post methinks...

Have you ever been going for a job and on the application form it says something like “Please give and example of how you solved or overcame a problem”

I always hated this kind of question because how on earth are you supposed to answer it?
“The TV remote control was lost and the family bickering had escalated to the point of violence. Dad was throwing a tantrum, and Mum was about to throw the vase at him when I found them tucked down the back of the sofa. Problem solved; family crisis and possibly divorce averted.”
Or
“It was absolutely vital that I have a black tie for this funeral I was going to. If I couldn’t attend and look smart enough my boss was going to fire me on the spot. I spent the entire weekend searching for one without success. Then I called my brother and he lent me his. Problem solved; job kept for another 4 months”
Typical problems, typical solutions, but probably not what the potential employer is looking for. An example of lateral thinking is what they’re after, but this is a rare occurrence for most of us.

Herein lies the difficulty: many of the problems that are big, dominating and take up vast amounts of our emotional energy are irrelevant once you have a solution and are really not worth the retelling.

However, I do have one problem-solving episode of which I’m quite proud, and if you ever desperately need to answer one of those questions, feel free to borrow it.

Many years ago, Maggie and I spent two weeks travelling around Europe. We arrived at a campsite in Utrecht, Holland, and it was chucking it down. Like most tents, ours was one that had the main part of the tent with the groundsheet sewn in, but a separate flysheet that went over the top to keep the rain out.

The fundamental design fault with these tents arises when it’s raining. You cannot put the flysheet up first because you need to have the main tent structure under it to hold it up, but without it the inner tent is not waterproof so will get soaked during the time it takes to erect.

Along with several other dejected looking campers, we stood for a while under a small sheltered area, looking out onto the sodden field, trying to pluck up the courage to go out and put the tent up. Every now an then, someone would crane their neck to see if the clouds were breaking up in the distance, but they weren’t. This was the kind of rain that settles in for the week.

As it began to get darker a sense of despondent inevitability settled over everyone. Periodically a person here, or a couple there, would brave the elements and set up their tent in the rain watched, with sympathy and resignation, by the rest of us. Still no sign of a break in the weather.

And as I watched another couple struggling to build their tent in record time, he kneeling in the mud, she trying to hold the flysheet over him, I had a revelation. Suddenly I knew the solution and it was so obvious I couldn’t believe that no one else had thought of it.

I opened the bags and built the tent under the shelter, then Maggie and I carried the completed masterpiece out to a not-so-waterlogged patch of grass and pegged it down. Before we climbed in I glanced back and saw that everyone was now emptying bags and slotting poles together under the shelter.

OK, it might not be up there with finding solutions for famine or third-world-debt, but I still allowed myself a smug moment.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Death of my Mother

Mum always said she’d die in a February, and she was right. Today is the 3rd anniversary of her death. She was 65.

It was the Easter before that I’d heard about the cancer. Mum had a cyst or something in her ear and had gone for an operation to get it removed. It was during that operation that they’d discovered the cancer. They then cut it out, having to go much deeper than they’d intended and ended up removing other bits too. The upshot of this was not only that her entire ear was removed, but she was also left paralysed on the right side of her face.

When I’d heard what had happened I immediately drove down from Scotland to Devon to my parents. I took my 6-year-old son with me too. I knew he’d enjoy a road trip with his Dad, and it was the only way I could think of keeping me grounded. I wouldn’t allow the awfulness of the situation to overwhelm me if I had a child to look after.

“What nobody tells you, when they chop your ear off,” she complained bitterly, “is how on earth you’re expected to wear your glasses.” Sometimes it’s the little things that really bring it home.

That summer we made sure we had our family holiday in Devon, and Mum began a treatment of Radiotherapy. The side effects are quite horrific. I think most cancer treatments are based around the idea that they almost kill you – just enough to kill the cancer, but not quite the rest of you. It’s not a pleasant thing to go through, and unless it was your only chance to live, you wouldn’t.

On January 31st 2003, I got a phone call from Dad telling me that the results of the biopsy had come back from the secondary lumps that had appeared. It had been hoped that they were a part of the MRSA she’d picked up while in hospital, but it turned out that it was the cancer. The radiotherapy hadn’t worked after all. They’d done everything they could. All that was left was to make her as comfortable as possible until she died. I drove back down to Devon immediately.

The following day I went to the hospice to see her. “Do you know what’s happening?” were the first words out of her mouth when she saw me.

“Yes,” I replied

“I’m afraid, Kim. I’m afraid of dying. I don’t know what to do.”

All I could think of was to say that it was time for her to make her peace. I stayed with her for a couple of hours, holding her hand. We didn’t talk much. She was drugged up to the eyeballs and she started getting confused, then eventually drifted off. That was the most coherent I last saw her.

The following day she was asleep the entire time I was there. For the 2 days after that, when she was semi conscious she was in absolute agony and I spent most of the time trying to soothe and comfort her.

When talking to the doctor about how long she was likely to last, he said it could be a few days or several weeks, but we both knew that there was going to be no remission at this stage. I made it quite clear that to my mind, if it was a case of a few days of pain or several weeks then it would be inhumane to allow it to drag out any longer than necessary. Euthanasia is of course illegal, but in these cases the incredibly high doses of morphine and pain killers needed to keep the pain at bay will kill you before the cancer does anyway.

But the internal struggle was terrible. Here I was, trying to influence the doctor to hasten my mother’s demise when all I wanted, with every fibre of my being was for her to live. The conflict between the adult who understood the need for her release from pain, and the little boy who just wanted his mummy was overwhelming.

She was unconscious the last few days when I was out seeing her, and on the 8th of February she died.

My father and I went out to the hospice where Mum had been placed in a small separate room. We went in, but Dad was overcome with grief and had to leave. I stayed for about 10 minutes, knelt down by the side of the bed and spoke to her.

I was 36 and I’d never seen a dead body before. She was cool to the touch and had a slightly yellowish tinge, but she looked like she was just asleep. I’d lost any lingering faith in any kind of god a few years before (see Losing My Religion) but I didn’t know, really didn’t know at that point, whether if I spoke some part of her would hear me, whether she was hovering up in the corner of the room somewhere, whether she had gone on to another plane of existence, or whether that was it, nothing, nothing more. So just in case, I spoke to her. I told her about the funeral arrangements I was making, and of the strangeness of being next to a dead body. Finally I said goodbye.

The following day I drove home, returning with Maggie for the scattering of the ashes nearly 2 weeks later. I might write more about that in another post sometime, as it wasn’t your standard funeral.

When I did get home, I remember watching Maggie and Meg very closely, and seeing the life in them, something animating them, something I’d never seen before. Because I had never not seen life in a person before (forgive the double negatives), I had never seen it at all. Only after seeing its absence was I able to truly see life for the first time.

In time I learnt that the best way to deal with the grief is to let it happen. Each time the waves threatens to hit you, your natural reaction is to shun away from them, to try and ignore them or distract yourself: because the feelings are so intense, you cannot believe you’ll survive them. But if you allow them to crash over you, then after a while they recede, and you survive. Eventually these waves of grief happen less frequently. They aren’t necessarily any less intense, but you know from experience that they will pass.

65 isn’t old. 65 is usually the time that people start saying “I’ve done my time for everyone else, now’s the time for me.” We can put off our lives until we retire, until the mortgage is paid off, until the kids have left home, until some unspecified time in the future. But what happens if we don’t make it to that point? We have then delayed living our lives until it was too late.

There were many reasons why Maggie and I decided to turn our lives around, why I decided to sell the business, stop being a full-time, professional web designer and businessman and take up writing instead, why we moved to an area of the country that has a slower, easier way of life and is so much closer to the sea. But one of the biggest influences was the death of my mother.

Life is too short to leave it until later.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Blunt Cogs

Despite the fact that for the vast majority of the time I strive to be perceived as a warm, considerate, wise and empathetic individual, there are times when I love nothing more than to go down to the pub, tell dirty jokes and make wild exaggerations about my sexual prowess. There are, however, a couple of problems with this.

The first is that my wife doesn’t really understand it, as she just doesn’t see a need for foul language unless it is really called for. I’ve always known that she was a bit uncomfortable with strong language and coarser behaviour, so over the years I’ve toned down this aspect of my personality and rarely display it in front of her. In fact, it has become extremely unusal for me to display it at all. I have no desire to make people feel unnecessarily uncomfortable; this is not about denial, it’s about consideration for others. I fully respect the fact that for many people, including my wife, they shouldn’t have to put up with language and behaviour that makes them feel uneasy.

The other problem is that I don’t actually have a peer group I can do this with anymore. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, this kind of activity was pretty standard with the people I mixed with. Even when I returned to education and went to University, I managed to find a group of friends with whom I could let down my hair, swear like a trooper and engage in crude, jokey behaviour.

But then, after leaving Uni, I found myself in the role of family man, and a couple of years after that I spent a lot of time building up a reputation as a respectable businessman, which left no outlets. I guess I thought that maybe I should have just “grown out of it”, but the truth is I’ve found myself yearning for the kind of company where I can release a certain amount of caustic tension.

Sooner or later I guess it was bound to happen, once I got into blogging, that I would find an intelligent, witty and utterly foul mouthed group of bloggers that I would end up hanging around with.

Without a doubt it’s a strange collection of people, whose liberal use of four letter, Anglo-Saxon profanities I find oddly comforting. Many have adopted extreme and unlikely blog personalities, which makes me suspect that I’m not the only one going through a mid-life crisis where part of me is attempting to reclaim some kind of lost youth.

From the Japing Ape, who presents a view of the human condition as seen through the eyes of a mature Gorilla, raised in human society, to Dr Evil Scientist, who would never tell James Bond his plans before killing him; from the Irish craic of the Anti-Barney, to the Scottish creativity of Dr Maroon, who is creating stories using the very bloggers who visit his site as principle characters; I just love this corner of the blogiverse. I have no idea whether these people are, in reality, anything like the ones they portray, but it doesn’t worry me one bit. In some ways I suspect that because of the natural anonymity their assumed monikers give them, they are in some ways even more authentic than they would otherwise allow themselves to be.

The more I got drawn in reading these blogs, the more I couldn’t help but get involved, so a few weeks ago I ended up being a part of the creation of Blunt Cogs, which is an online comic strip written by, and starring, this particular set of bizarre and wonderful folk. Much of the language is strong and most of the humour makes more sense when you regularly read the blogs of the characters involved and have a good sense of who they are and their relationships with each other.

However, what led me to write this blog entry was reflecting upon the realisation that despite the fact that it has been taking up quite a bit of my blog-time over the past 3 weeks, I have completely failed to mention it on the Ramblings of the Bearded One.

To date most of the traffic, or at least most of the people who have been prepared to comment on this site, has been from the family-orientated end of the blogiverse - primarily stemming from a common experience of being a parent to a child with Downs Syndrome; some have come from the Losing a Hundredweight journey I’ve been undertaking for almost a year now; and others have randomly drifted in and decided to stick around.

Over the months I have enjoyed the thoughts, comments and contributions of my regular readers and, if truth be told, I was a bit unsure about causing offence or uneasiness. I’m not aware of (I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong) explicitly using the ‘F’ or ‘C’ word on this site, and as such this sets up a certain mood, or level of expectation, and I think it would be unfair to suddenly introduce it our of nowhere. Again, this is not about denial, but about common decency; about not intentionally setting out to offend.

However, this blog is about various facets of me, so to pretend that this side of me doesn’t exist is, well, a bit stupid really. However, I don’t believe in unnecessarily inflicting my humour on anyone who’s not prepared for it. While I find much of the content of Blunt Cogs ranges from the mildly amusing to the hysterically funny, I am very aware that it will certainly not appeal to everyone.

So for those who want to explore this strange and twisted world, the link is up there on the right, but don’t say you weren’t warned.

Friday, February 03, 2006

6th Sense

I’ve often wondered about the whole notion of the 6th sense, because so many things seem to get caught up in the one concept. The other 5 senses, of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch are quite specific about what they are covering. The so called 6th sense, however, not only helps people to read minds, contact the dead and see auras, but also to predict the future.

Now I know there is much that is unexplained in the world, for example the collective consciousness of some groups of animals which mean that certain shoals of fish, or flocks of birds seem to move as a single entity. Absolutely fascinating, and as yet, totally unexplained.

But just because there are some unexplained phenomena about doesn’t mean that we can leap to a whole pile of spurious conclusions.

The best analogy I can come up with is to imagine a world where there is no sense of smell. In such a place, it would not have been necessary for the language to have developed to explain the variety of aromas, as no one would be experiencing them.

Let us suppose, in this olfactory deprived world, that a few people had, by bizarre evolutionary flukes perhaps, actually developed a sense of smell. You can imagine how a conversation might go:

“You want to know something strange? When I wake up in the morning, I can tell if someone has put the coffee on and is frying bacon, before I even get up out of bed.”

“I don’t understand it. Do you think it’s related to your uncanny ability to know when little Abbey’s nappy needs changing without even looking?”

“Maybe, maybe. Sometimes, I just fear I might be going mad.”

“Are you kidding? I’d love to have your powers. Now, before you go to a priest for an exorcism, I want you to tell me what lottery numbers are going to come up this weekend…”