Sunday, 7 February 2010

Just Another Spatial Twist Continuum

Balk logic with acquaintance that you have
And practise rhetoric in your common talk;
Music and poesy use to quicken you;
The mathematics and the metaphysics,
Fall to them as you find your stomach serves you;
No profit grows where is no pleasure ta'en:
In brief, sir, study what you most affect.
William Shakespeare (The Taming of the Shrew. Act I, Scene I)

AFTER SEVERAL DAYS OF HEAVY RAIN, without let-up, we had a break yesterday. The day began with clear skies, a pale, frightened blue. However, one could see mists forming over the North Sea (by evening we were fogged in) and swirling around the keep at Warkworth Castle.

Warkworth Castle is awfully old, and tumbled-down, but still substantial. Shakespeare set a scene in Henry IV (Part 1) in the Castle. Warkworth was hardly new in the 14th Century in the days of Harry Hotspur (Sir Henry Percy) who may have been born there in the 1360s. (He may have been born in Alnwick Castle, a few miles inland, the other Percy homestead in this part of the world.)

With the break in the weather yesterday morning, I hitched up Cailean and we headed across town and sat out on the Amble Pier.

A full-bodied lady, not a young woman, in a sweat suit and scarf with a woolly hat under her hoodie approached us as we sat looking out at the Sea through the Harbour entrance.

“Is he friendly?”

“Well, yes. Just ignore the yapping, he feels it is his duty to protect me.”

Cailean is a talkative little fellow; miniature dachshunds tend to be chatty. He also likes to hop and put his front paws on one’s shin. A kindly reply (Aren’t you a lovely dog?) gets his tail wagging. A scratch around the ears gets his whole body wagging.

“Not as cold as it has been.”

“No, this is rather pleasant. Even with the breeze off the water.”

And I mentioned the days of rain. The English like to form queues and talk about the weather.

“This has been a brutal winter. Still, mustn’t complain.”

For some reason we mustn’t.

And I watched two ruddy-faced women packing up their fishing gear, industrial-size rods, not the hook-and-sinker hand-lines that I grew up with. The women looked alike, almost twins. With them was a younger girl, as pallid as they were red; washed-out, straggly blond hair, and, I’m thinking, the features one associates with Down’s syndrome. The girl was so very white that I wondered if she might be an albino. Rare genetic misfortune if so.

There were several members of a family, all albinos, at Hurricane High School in Utah back in the 1990s. That was a close-knit community, and one might expect oddities with families doubling back on themselves.

The girl on the Amble Pier was mumbling to herself. I’m hard of hearing thanks to decades of extremely loud music (I have felt too embarrassed to consider a hearing-aid, but my eyesight is crap too and I have difficulty reading the captioning on the telly, so I really should have my ears looked into). The girl didn’t seem threatening.

In July of 1968 I spent several weeks in London with my mother. One day we were sitting on a bench at Marble Arch and a woman appeared, screaming obscenities, which she soon directed at us. We’d stayed sitting while other people in the area got their skates on. This mad woman was, I suppose, quite mad. Nowadays we have tablets one can (and really should) take.

When I was in Lower 4 at Warwick Academy, our Physics master was a Welshman with a Spanish surname. Go figure. One day one of the few girls in the Physics class must have been grappling with some demon, perhaps her blob, and she took umbrage at something the teacher had said, had addressed to her. He may have asked her for a formula. (I still recall a few formulas relating to motion ... S = UT + ½ AT² ... though I couldn’t explain them.)

The girl, who would have been about 12 or 13, stood up and screamed abuse at our teacher. It was the first time I’d ever heard a girl swear, and she did it with considerable volume and variety. I wasn’t sure how Gabe (the teacher) could possibly do the disgusting things that Carol (the girl) suggested he do.

Carol disappeared then and there. She walked out of the Physics class and Lower 4. I think she was switched to a Commercial course and spent the next few years typing and doing shorthand. The Academic students rather looked down on the Commercial boys and girls. Commerce was for dummies.

My first job was in the accounting and finance department at AIG.

Gabe was not a very inspiring teacher of Physics. I have an unsettled grudge against him. At the end of a term, back in Lower 4, we had to sit an examination. When Gabe had marked the papers and brought the results to class, he was in a state of bloody-minded rage that was almost a match for Carol’s. Gabe said that all the pupils that had failed the examination would have to take it again. And it turned out that only one of us passed it. Me. And the vile man suddenly decided that I should stay after school and take it again too.

I wasn’t too fond of Physics after that. Certainly no fan of Gabe.

That said, Gabe and one other teacher were the only members of staff from Warwick Academy who attended the funeral of my step-mother who’d taught History at the school.

I’m sitting on the Amble Pier watching the mists forming in the Coquet Estuary to my left; Cailean is watching a piece of paper that has blown past us.

I have a GCE “O” Level in Physics, and I took Physics and Pure and Applied Mathematics at “A” Level, along with classes in Statistics and Engineering Drawing. I picked up an “A” Level in Biology too.

When I studied the mechanics of DNA, I think the scientists had the strands spiralling in the wrong direction. Cannot say that ruined my life, I didn’t come undone when I found out years later.

I’m reading a life of Alan Turing, his was possibly the greatest mathematical mind of the 20th Century, and there’s rather a lot of Physics to wade through. And Scientific Philosophy. And there’s no way one can measure how long a piece of string is. In fact, existence itself is dodgy at best. “What is?” We cannot really answer that, so how the devil can we deal with “What will be?”

“We were talking about the space between us all ...”

I've wondered why the Mormons don’t come knocking at our doors here, or gather in pairs in railway stations. Where do we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?

Saw a programme on the telly the other night, on Time. The presenter and his guests all had ideas about time. And space. Apparently, if aliens don’t invade us and carry us off into Captivity and make us build pyramids for their worlds, our sun is going to burn out in several billion years’ time. That would be the end of the Earth’s time, and our solar system. Galaxies will dissolve; the Universe will expand until the spaces are so vast that the stars seem to go out. The Big Crunch is not a definite.

At the end, perhaps, all time will exist simultaneously. Carol will shriek her vulgarities at Gabe. I shall squint through the fog at Warkworth Castle. Harry Hotspur will say his lines in the Globe Theatre. The Angel Moroni might even drop through Joseph Smith’s ceiling.

“Is he friendly?”

“The Angel Moroni?”

“No. Your little sausage dog.”

“Sorry. My mind was wandering a little. Yes, he’s quite friendly, just likes to yap a bit.”

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