Archive | December, 2015

THE FESTIVE SEASON

18 Dec

December is marching along, not as cool as is its wont, but we don’t mind that, not those of us who find shivering an unpleasant way of spending our lives – though we are equally aware of the perils of climate change and not one of us wants to diminish our fears on that front. But none-the-less December is marching along.

It carries, like the kernel of a nut, its jolly few days of Christmas. There’s always been a celebration by humans around the time of the winter solstice because it makes sense. Celebrations warm us up, in earlier times than our own they gave our ancestors an excuse to eat surplus food before it went off – and there’s not many people who don’t appreciate the odd drop of mead or wine when it’s snowing outside. So it makes sense for an intelligent species to use that intelligence and get pissed occasionally in December.

There’s no shame in it, though some ultra-controlling religions would make you think there is.

We call our celebrations Christmas after a myth that evolved, slowly, over the first three or four centuries of the first millennium after a particular infant allegedly had a most peculiar birth. The story already existed and had been around in one form or another for over two thousand years, of course, because Christianity was so good at borrowing pre-existing mythologies and adapting them that it seamlessly made this one its own.

You’ve only got to look at the murky world outside your window to see why a bit of celebration is necessary. And it doesn’t matter one jot to me if all the joy and laughter is done in the name of a fictitious manger-baby or a classical deity with a name like Horus (he of Only Connect’s eye) or any one of the other fables that we as a species seem so fond of.

Let’s lift up our knees and warble our joy to the Universe!!!

Peter Rogerson 18.12.15

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THE FIRST FIVE YEARS

15 Dec

It is often quoted by people like me who have a point to make that the influences on a child for the first five years of his/her life casts a shadow over the rest of his/her life. And this is undoubtedly the case: it’s the main reason why religions have persisted into the twenty-first century – and that’s a point that’s been made so often that it’s boring – though perfectly true.

And there’s a corollary, a neat one, though not to do with that precious first five years. It’s to do with perception.

A man I know sneered at me not so long ago because he claimed I had privilege due to being a grammar school boy. I ask you: I’m in my seventies and the assumption (wrong as it happens) that I went to a grammar school is seen as something to be frowned on because the frowner clearly didn’t. I’ve lived my entire adult life to dangerously close to the end with this perceived privilege. Pity I didn’t feel it!

So a perceived advantage was used as a matter of scorn. Doesn’t say much for the scorner, does it?

But he made a point worth emphasising because I have been heard to adapt this very argument and use it as a reason to distrust quite a lot of the present Government – not because they were or weren’t grammar school boys but because they went to the one educational establishment where privilege is apparently on the curriculum. They went to Eton.

This is nothing to do with the sacred five years. By the time they were five the millionaire parents of most of these cherubs had already made sure they knew what their station in life was to be. No. This is to do with a system of advantage that is based on affluence and the notion that there is a social hierarchy in which the moneyed can rule.

Some get there via other routes – the late Margaret Thatcher (who by virtue of her gender could never have been an Eton boy) carried a destructive chip on her shoulder because of it. And others have too. It’s sad, but when you live in a society in which advantage is palpably associated to birth and wealth it’s almost inevitable, I should think.

And the man who accused me of being a grammar school boy? No names, no pack drill, but he’s probably still at the foot of the privilege ladder, waiting in vain for his first step up.

The chances are because of it he burningly resents his own first five years of life.

© Peter Rogerson 15.12.15

SANTA AND THE STRIP CLUB

14 Dec

Santa Claus had always had a dark side. He told himself that he couldn’t help it. He even explained, to himself, that it wasn’t really his fault. Mother Claus was to blame. She was a large woman who always struggled to find foundation garments to fit her frame with the result that when she tried to look alluring in a snug mini-frock she looked like a freshly-trussed chicken, bulging in all the wrong places.

When asked about her huge body she said it was all on account of her husband’s job. He went out delivering gifts to all the children in the world, and while he was away she had little else to do but fill her time with baking.

And eating.

She loved baking and even more she loved eating what she had baked. And it was perfectly understandable because she was a first class baker with a huge talent for producing large and delicious chocolate cakes. She produced many varieties, but they all had a crusty chocolate finish and when they were sliced a gorgeous gloop of liquid chocolate oozed out

For that part of the year when Santa was at home it was all right. He helped her eat the things that came out of her oven. He even ate more than his fair share because, as he explained, he was a busy man and busy men always eat more than lonely ladies.

Then winter came around and, well, he had learned, since Victorian times, to stretch time a little.

There was no way he could do his rounds in a single night. In fact, he couldn’t even do the Central African Republic in a single night let alone humongous countries like China. So he stretched time so that nobody else noticed and took around three months to complete his round. Next time somebody asks you how come he manages to visit all the children in the world in one night you know what to say now, don’t you? He stretches time and that is that.

Which brings me back to his dark side.

When he’s been away from the humongously huge Mother Christmas for a week or two he gets a twitching in his nether regions. He can’t help it and truth to tell he regrets it. But it happens, and in order to alleviate the worst symptoms he needs to find a distraction.

He usually finds solace in “The Crook and Shepherd”, a pub somewhere near the equator where he can enjoy a pint or several of his favourite tipple. Men there talk to him in manly voices about manly things, like David Beckham and spark plugs, and he enjoys the repartee of manly conversation.

But one particular year, when the snow lay particularly deep on the ground and Rudolf was protesting about the cold round his nadgers, he decided go seek solace in an establishment that was unfamiliar to him. Called “The Ladies and the Knight”, it looked very much like the “Crook and the Shepherd except that the welcoming twinkling lights were a misty shade of red rather the yellow ones he was used to, and a kind of aroma hung around the entrance that he found both irresistible and subtly fish-like.

But he went in despite some reservations.

The barmaid was odd. She had cardboard and furry ears rather like Rudolf’s when he pricked them up, and when he glanced at her chest he was shocked to find that she’d forgotten to get dressed.

“Yes sir?” she purred.

“A pint of wallop!” he almost yelped in reply. “A lovely foaming pint,” he added. “Tell me, my dear, why can I see your boobies, all naked and … er … luscious?”

“Why sir” she responded, blushing fetchingly. “I am wearing the uniform of the establishment! And if you were to take a seat over there…” she pointed into the shadows, “my colleagues will entertain you with erotic dances after they’ve removed their clothing because, well, it does get warm in here and there’s nothing so unbecoming as perspiration…”

In a state of bemusement Santa took a seat deep in the shadows where she indicated, and after half an hour his whole body started wibbling and wobbling with emotion as half a dozen fetchingly beautiful young dancers appeared on a shadowy stage and removed layer after layer of unnecessary clothing before energetically removing their essentials and commencing to gyrate in such a way that beads of sweat formed on Santa’s brow and proceeded to run down his face in rivulets, splashing on the floor and forming salty puddles.

“You’re overdressed, honey,” said a voice at his elbow.

It was one of the dancers, and she pushed a firm and innocently naked part of her bosom into his face and wiggled it about.

Santa could feel his pulse starting to race. He became aware that he was wasting valuable present-delivering time in what seemed to him to be the most extraordinary of pubs, so he stood up, glared into the shadows at everyone near him – and “The Ladies and the Knight” had become almost crowded since he had sat down – and fled.

“Home, Rudolf, and don’t spare the whatever it is you’re not supposed to spare when you’re in a hurry!” he commanded.

Rudolf cast a shocked eye in his direction, noted the puce colour of Santa’s nose and the bits of flesh he could make out between the man’s whiskers and decided that now was not the time to argue. With a magnificence that only an air-born sleigh could generate, Rudolf and his team flowed into the air with a semi-protesting snort and a wave of a light brown tail.

The vast Mother Christmas was more than surprised to see him when he still had a good half-load of gifts, undelivered, on the sleigh and her confusion was further confounded when he rushed up to her and buried his beard into her adequate and very maternal bosom.

“Thank Heavens for normal boobs,” he sobbed, and dragged her up to their boudoir where he intended to explain some of the more obscure ways of the world.

© Peter Rogerson 14.12.15

PRIME FORCES

7 Dec

These days, with terrorist organisations clinging to this or that archaic religious system in which old texts dominate rational thought, it might be proper for me to suggest that some people are deliberately or foolishly ensnared by the impossible. And that impossible has to do with their faith and not reality.
I sometimes wonder how some people see the Universe. I mean, we all see little bits of it, our environment, even the stars that are unthinkable distances away.
If we’d lived half a millenium ago we’d have been told all about the primum Mobile, a Universe with the Earth bang in the centre of everything and a series of spheres high in the sky above it, with holes in them through which we could glimpse pinpricks of heavenly light.
In medieval times (note: medieval times weren’t all that long ago – the sixteenth century was five hundred years ago and I’m getting on for 70, so five hundred years is just over 7 of my own lifetimes placed end to end) people were persecuted for suggesting that the Universe was anything but that.
In the interim bright people have suffered for pointing out that the primum mobile is a load of old hogwash. Even Galileo (1564-1642) was castigated by the Catholic Church, which was more powerful than governments, for daring to suggest that the Universe was anything but earth-centred, and placed under house arrest and forced to recant his views by the Inquisition.
If that august body of intellectual thought had continued with its views (and it committed murder in order to try to perpetuate them) then we’d still be scared stiff of saying anything that didn’t follow the teachings of the church in fear of death.
But then, the world would be a very different place. Most of the technological advances of the past few hundred years have been made as a consequence of understanding reality and judging it for what it is. There’s a long list of everyday domestic bits and pieces (non-stick surfaces in pans, for example, semi-conductors that make most things work, etc) which emerged from space science, and if we still held the primum mobile as sacrosanct then there would have been no space program and no moon landings and none of the little developments that have become part of our lives as a consequence.
Mind you, there are some who deny that there were any landings on the moon and cite terrestrial places where they were faked! Silly, of course, but some people have religious views that are contradicted by the actuality of walking on the moon.
There are even people who deny the possibility of artificial satellites, yet are quite content to trust their sat-nav equipment.
When we stare at the stars or gaze into the oceans we all see what we see, but some of us interpret that experience in very different ways. It is possible to argue that the entire nonsense of the Primum Mobile is real and accurate, that the stars are a glimpse into the wonders of Heaven, but if you do you’ve got to de-construct a lot of stuff that happens in your lives. For a start you’ve got to get off that computer, because in the world of primitive belief it couldn’t possibly exist. It depends on stuff discovered and developed as a consequence of the Primum Mobile NOT being real.
My views are quite well known. The world, the Universe, everything out there has a physical reality and that’s what we ought to be discovering. There’s no point in trusting in fairy stories as a guide to reality. At the moment scientists have barely scratched the surface of understanding, because in order to understand they’ve got to witness, and there’s a whole lot of stuff that for one reason or another is invisible to them – at the moment. It’s not that there’s any deity there showing them reality bit by bit in order to prevent their confusion, just that the whole of everything is so damned big and confusing and far away in both space and time and any other dimension you care to think of that there’s still one hell of a lot to see and work to be done.
These days we can scorn the sixteenth century zealots who persecuted Galileo (who was bright by any standards), and I dared say that in another five hundred years future generations may well scorn us for the smallness of our thinking and the limitations of our intellectual vision. I mean, by postulating there was a Big Bang that kicked things off we’re accepting that tired old notion of beginnings and endings, and maybe neither exist. The authors of the Old Testament tried to see a beginning and they placed an adult man in a garden and not once did he ask himself what the hell was going on. But to them there had to be a beginning and that, with all its inconsistencies, was as good as any other.
I reckon that the best words a thinking man can come out with are “I don’t know” because when he says that he knows he can’t quite see enough of reality, yet is obviously sensibly aware that there’s a hell of a lot beyond that old Primum Mobile.

DREAMING OLD MEMORIES

6 Dec

Sometimes I get to thinking. It’s a novel idea, I know, but sometimes I do it. And here’s my latest bit if cranial nonsense.
I heard once, or it was explained to me by an expert or it emerged from an alcoholically-fuelled debate, that dreaming is a very special thing.
It happens, of course, when we’re asleep and our brain somehow grabs hold of images and events from during our lives and plays with them. One event might merge into another, or precipitate an intriguing plot-line for our sleeping heads to investigate.
What I picked up somehow is that this is a way our minds have of discarding unwanted rubbish and clearing space in our memories for new things. If that’s true it makes eminent sense because the last thing any of us wants to happen is for suddenly, mid-experience, a notice to be plastered in front of our inner-eyes saying “full up – stop living!”
We don’t actually want out memories to become full. It would be a disaster if they did, and each and every one of us must harbour quite a lot of unwanted detritus in the back of our heads, memories we will never need to access again, spaces where new experiences can be carefully filed away.
This may or may not be the way things are, you understand. I’m merely theorising on the basis of a half-remembered discussion from the days when my conversations with mates in pubs tended towards the esoteric. But assuming I’m right I thought I’d mention the aforementioned idea.
It’s getting to be like this. I dream quite a lot and forget most of what I dream, probably for some perfectly rational reason to do with nonsense. Yet of the few I do manage to recall once I’m conscious I’ve been aware that many involve people and events from quite a long time ago, when I was young. Last night I was wearing grey school shorts, I’m quite sure of that, and so were the lads I was with, on one of those home made vehicles made from orange boxes and old pram wheels that we were so fond of back then. And it crossed my mind that I’d had quite few dreams set in the black and white world of the early fifties.
So is my mind sorting through a fascinating period of history (childhood is probably fascinating for most us no matter when it was set – mine was the fifties and for my kids it would have been the eighties and nineties)?
And if that’s what it’s doing it’s a real cause of concern.
Is my brain searching through my past for what it considers to be irrelevant so that that part of my memory be overwritten?
I do hope not!
Those were precious years, so precious I’d do anything to go back and take a fresh peek at them, even relive them – but the tragedy is I’ve forgotten so much. Oh, I know there will have been hours, even days, of boredom, but I’d really love to treasure again the thrill I got when I started reading a Famous Five book that was new to me, or met, for the first time, my First World War ace hero, Captain Biggles. The second instalment of that war hadn’t been over for long (that’s how I look at WW2) and there was still a great deal of grey drabness around. Yet in the furtive monochrome of the lost years I found so much magic I’m sure that the land of dreams has already obliterated far too much of it to provide space in my memory so that I can remember new things, like what a prat the Prime Minister is and how wrong the present government is about just about everything it pontificates about. Wasted space!
And, brain, for goodness’ sake don’t obliterate precious fading memories as I dream because that black-and-white world was, I’m sure, a bloody sight better than some of the nonsense I’m expected to contemplate today.
© Peter Rogerson 06.12.15