Sunday, January 20, 2019

Saint Mildred of Thanet for Example

No shortage of Medieval Saints, over the years, following rule changes a great many of them were demoted by the Pope. Amongst the Girl Saints of the Medieval Period an unnatural number were the daughters of kings. Of the Boy Saints far too many had political ambitions. And when it comes to thinning the choice of Medieval Saints, I think it best to get rid of the ones who might still be recognized by Rome, treat with suspicion the daughters of kings, and tread warily when it comes to the more politically minded Boy Saints. As well, and this is critical, the eight railway bridges yet to be constructed surround Gormenghast, which is a very long way from a bastion of the sort of values a loving god looks for in his creations, indeed Gormenghast is probably a better reflection of what happens inside the walls of the Vatican. Finally the charm of Medieval Saints is their association with place, it gives them an authenticity, a lasting earthliness and I'll give you the example of Saint Mildrith of Minister-in-Thanet, which is in Kent, England, and in Mildrith's time Thanet used to be an island separated from England by a swampy channel. It's a story I'm going to have to shorten, and in the process stick to the basics which invariable brings out the worst in the more pedantic detailed orientated characters, but that's just the way life is in N Scale where because there is no plan interpreting as you go along is a prime source of divining meaning. And too, worth bearing in mind it's possible that your modeler might be having an eccentric reaction to the absurdity of the current, some might consider medieval, political circumstances. Or possibly it's a quite normal, entirely forgivable reaction to the number of bricks he's been making for walls without apparently getting anywhere closer to an idea of Gormenghast.

Following the death of a landowner a quarrel ensued about who was to get what. Observing the traditions of the time, two young boys with a very strong claim to the property disappeared. No one was fooled but where was the proof, the boys could not be found. A little while later things had settled down, the new owner had taken possession, when a heavenly light revealed what had happened to the two boys. They'd been killed and buried. It wasn't so much shocking as it was aggravating and what with the heavenly light something was very wrong. The decision was taken to impose a fine of something like fifty Deer hides on the possessor of the property. Thing is, one of the higher born young ladies, a youngster called Mildrith, had a pet Deer and following a difficult discourse it was agreed that instead of bumping off a whole bunch of Deer to pay the fine, much better to pay the fine in property which is how Mildrith's pet Deer was given the important work of deciding how much property. Blood oaths were taken, it was a pet Deer after all, probably wouldn't do much more than scamper around a little, the agreement was publically made and Mildrith's pet Deer was allowed to run a course. That course was pretty much a majority of the disputed property. It was like a heavenly thing, a dictate from above and in appreciation of the temporal nature of earthly meaning the new possessor agreed to build an abbey. Young Mildrith saw her chance and became the Abbess of the new Abbey. Much more to the point, when years later the Abbey fell into disrepair because of pillage by Vikings, Saint Mildrith's relics were removed by church authorities, some sent to God's regional headquarters in Canterbury, which is also in Kent, others sent to Holland which is the country of Holland. The locals of Thanet were heart broken, they felt robbed of a most precious part of their time on earth. Then in the 19th Century, over a thousand years later, Thanet managed to get some of Mildred's relics back and they are now kept in a Priory in Thanet still cared for by Benedictine Nuns.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Bridge Building

Heavy rain, followed by snow, followed by some kind of an  invasion by Polar Air, a vortex or something, temperatures falling toward lows difficult to maintain in the forecourt of an elderly mind which sometimes has nightmares about cold weather, and for the currently very fortunate all of it is perfect weather for N Scale, more precisely Bridge Building. At the same time if the electric fails your modeler may well wax considerably less Christian as he devolves into Devil worship, Satanic rituals and the whole panoply of the demonic approach to meaning. There are eight critical new bridges. They are in your face bridges, they are not shy, they are definitely "look at me" bridges and it would be failure of character should I suddenly decide to do little more than stick a couple of decorative accents on them, then hide them with greenery or whatever. And at the same time eight bridges issued from my own greed for track, wide curves and multiple locomotives, an empire of train that threatened to relocate a Carmelite monastery that resulted in the curse of a brick making purgatory laid upon me by the Superior of Saint Teresa's Barefoot Carmelites coming true. One route out of this mess is to give all the bridges Saints names, not as easy as it sounds, there's months of research, possibly a little re-interpretation of the often misleading texts but at least the matter of where to start is usually solved by laying out parameters and this time there will be rigid discipline, none of this drifting off, getting side-tracked, boxed into a corner by a tasty morsel, such as the suggestion by modern scholars that Saint Teresa's visions were a consequence of hallucinogens from a mold that can develop in certain kinds of bread.

Down deep inside me I always knew it was more likely an error to play fast and loose with my own timeframe for the Medieval Period as a well spring for idea within the County of Saint Barbara. And by no stretch of a fevered imagination can Teresa be considered a Medieval Saint.  She was a product of the reformations that hit Europe in 16th Century and in my own understanding, there'll be vicious debates of course, the Medieval Period began with the retreat of the Roman Legions and had easily ended by the 11th Century. In the Medieval Period it was friends and peers that decided who was worthy of Sainthood, none of this Devil's Advocate from Rome turning up and asking silly questions like whether or not causing the earth to open up and swallow an unwanted suitor, or causing lightning to strike a really horrible person was something the Lord looked for in his earthly spokespeople. Entirely possible in a county named after the Saint Barbara of lightning strikes and causing there to be windows in a prison tower despite the express wishes of her father, she's the patron saint of artillery for goodness sake, could possibly get along with a non-medieval saint who chose not to wear shoes as a statement of her determination to remain a pure mendicant. The other thing to keep in mind is that Saint Benoit, the Patron Saint of Bridges was actually buried in a bridge he built over the Avignon River, typically enough he wasn't a Medieval Saint, far from it, and it was because of his suspect branding activities, stuff like healing the lame, straightening up humpbacks, his work with the blind and so on, that the wealthy decided to fund his bridge building ambitions in the course of their own desperate search for an alternative path through the eye of a needle.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Moving Beyond

"It Was" is as much to do with "Now" as it is to do with something that might have happened yesterday or seven hundred years ago. To open a book written by someone with the name Penrose, your apprentice will have to either just pull himself together, grow up or whatever, or he must reappraise "It Was."  Maybe Penrose, the Keith Richards wanna be, when the flow of his passage through the world so upset the flow of my own passage through the world was merely going through some kind of horrible, reptilian creepy phase. And possibly that difficult phase was a necessary one for him to realize that unless he improved his social skills, his future would be pretty much doomed to psychologically damaging every third person he met until one day he met his superior in the area of total complete and utter toe curling ickiness, they probably formed a bond, lived happily ever after in glorious isolation, shunned by the rest of the species. It's also possible my own reactions were, still are... shall we say a tad on the extremist side.

And in the grand scheme what does it really matter whether the current English Queen's oldest boy child has a thought or two around the poems of Leonard Cohen, it has nothing to do with urgings of a public relations firm desperately attempting to promote the idea that the titled are just ordinary people stuck in a carousel of damn stupid outfits and Grouse hunting.  Yes Indeed, the Sages were quite correct, for us people the passage toward better meaning in our miserable lives is to move beyond "It Was." All of which is quite a relief because it means I can now hunt down a copy of Roger Penrose the Mathematician's Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness, without getting all bogged down, wheels spinning in a mire of what could be High Principle. Penrose's point, I have gleaned, is that when things get very small, down there where the elemental is, wave function collapses, which means you can have two states, both of which make sense and are possible in the mathematics that reach beyond algorithms. That doesn't happen up here were big stuff bumbles around in an orderly, plodding and predictable algorithmic manner. Penrose reckons that neurons, the brain part of living things, contain tiny, tiny tubes inside of which stuff is so small wave function collapses. Yes! we're talking Slope in a Random Place, all very exciting for some, not so for others, but all might agree it's rather sad, deranged possibly, to think I've been trying since 1994 to open Penrose the Mathematician's book.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Final Straw

It was in the kitchen of one of those young people fashionable restaurants, the kind where the wait staff all thought they were either the splitting image of one of the Ramones, Suzi Quatro or at a pinch Debbie Harry. We're talking the 1970's when I already felt old and working there made me feel even older in that mature and sneering, superior kind of way.  A Keith Richards wanna be, his name was Penrose, was one of the waiters who so got on my nerves it soon became very apparent to fellow kitchen staff who, while rolling a cigarette out back in the ally, would express concern for my mental well being, general attitude and job prospects. And it's true all of us kitchen hands were basically deemed too ugly, old or unfashionable to even be seen by the clientele. As well I was bottom man on the greasy pole, which is how most in the culinary arts think of the dishwasher. So, should I ever make the error of seeking psychiatric assistance there may well be dozens of reasons why Penrose got on my nerves .

 The tragic thing is Penrose is also the name of a mathematician with incredibly interesting views on the possible relationship between consciousness and quantum physics, his wise question in the early 1990's was why no exploration of consciousness from mathematics? But such has been the lasting impression made upon me by Penrose, the Keith Richards wanna be, that despite having had several opportunities I've never been able to open a book by anyone called Penrose. It's pathetic, it's tragic, a sad commentary on your correspondent's capacity to be reasonable. Nor has Penrose been the only one, there's the obvious unmentionable name that rhymes with hump, then there's Descartes with his useless 'therefore', anything associated with a Mill, there's Jane Austin, does go on a bit. More recently I read the dreadful news that Queen Elizabeth II's oldest male child has positive thoughts about Leonard Cohen, which for me when it comes to the names Leonard and Cohen could well be the the ultimate Camel's back breaking straw. And is why I'll be forced to never again even consider pausing over the meaning of Cohen's several mentions of traveling blind in his really very beautiful poem, Suzanne.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Oh Gosh

John Walking Stewart, whose books and pamphlets were written back when printers replaced the s sound within a word with a double f, such as the well known tangerine beafft of the forrefft, not an easy read for the better speller but huge fun for those of us who find spelling a challenge, had a theory about Laplanders and the English. He thought them advanced and the reason he did so was because in both Laplanders and the English, subservience did not come eaffy. Well, Good Lord, one of the great minds is turning in his grave at the moment, crawling to get out and anxious to rewrite his Moral State of Nations, particular with reference to the English Speaking Peoples. 

If I recall, his point was based upon his suspect observation that the English Yeoman and the Laplander would look the Lord of the Manor straight in the eye when being addressed, whereas lesser language groups would bow their heads, kneel, cow-tow, do anything but look the Lord of the Manor or their cultural equivalent straight in the eye. Oddly, Walking Stewart, in one of his travels was accused of suborning blasphemy while visiting Boston Massachusetts  resulting in his having to quickly find passage back to the British Islands where soon enough he found himself in trouble with the secret agents of the authorities over his views on the English King George the fourth's choice of wife.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


By some accounts, many, many generations ago, toward the end of the Cretaceous Period while Dinosaur still lumbered around before getting their act together by becoming Birds, our ancestors were four legged, tailed, furry and inclined toward skittering around in an often nervous manner. We were good at hiding and when chased by something cold blooded we could scamper up what passed for the trees  Not that easy for us to scamper up trees these days, but back then we more likely did so in the way that Squirrels and Cats do today. In short, we had claws, not nails. Diet-wise we were omnivorous, and not hard to imagine the brief period of plenty we benefitted from when the Dinosaurs succumbed to environmental challenges, it must have been kind of like giant lumps of manna from heaven and we probably multiplied in a dramatic manner, so we were ready for the Paleocene which was when we mammals came into our own, started bossing every one else around. And it was probably during the Paleocene when to avoid the more bad tempered meat eating mammals our variety of mammal took to the trees which back then would have included Conifers, and pine nuts, all very healthy and wholesome.

Your correspondent isn't one to look at his feet very often. Never had a good or affectionate relationship with them. They are fundamentally unattractive, they are prone to exuding often foul odors, they are constantly complaining and I have found that it's just better not to dwell upon them. But I do have to cut my toenails now and then, which means being brave, getting up close and personal with them. It's not a chore I ever look forward to, yet over the years I have noticed an interesting quality to my toenails, they are thickening, they are curving and frankly are becoming more like claws than nails. It's exciting. Possibly in old age there's been a wonderfully dramatic genetic slippage in my collection of genes, rather than retreating closer and closer to the womb which is the sadly dictated direction for so many of us as we enter dotage, I am in the process of retreating to the more Squirrel like phase of our species, back to the good old days when we had claws, far too busy for nonsense like tool making and no time for language much beyond "Uh-Ho" and "Yum-Yum." Nor would we have had any problem making sense of our world. And one things for sure our remains would have been snapped up by the Paleocene's equivalent to birds of the air, none of this domination by the funeral home industrial complex....

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Boggle

Don't envy anyone who has to work the outdoors, particularly on winter's days such as these last few days. There's an element out there of damp in a light drizzle that slowly gets into the bones, and if you don't have the right clothes, can't get warm and dry at the end of the day at home or in the snug of barroom that damp stays with you and slowly it builds in a painful kind of way until sunshine returns to warm your back, which in some parts of the world can mean waiting months. My own thin blood, weak character and elegant wrists preferred a barroom and a change of subject. Not all barrooms were the same and in those days in that city there were many more barrooms than churches, so there was plenty of choice for places to forget. The other thing about barrooms, like churches, each creates an orbit around which like minds might gather, and you could often get a sense of the clientele by the content of the ashtrays, unfiltered cigarette butts were sure sign of wholesomeness, no showing off with the lardydar filtered brands. And it was in such a bar that I shared many a conversation with an old man who'd been railway worker. He was a Scotsman from Glasgow, his accent as powerful as a foreign tongue, his vocabulary would have challenged a dictionary and when he said, with a glitter in his eye, that he had a new boggle at home, I was mystified, but in keeping with the masculine nature of unfiltered cigarettes I reasonably assumed he'd remarried, or maybe he had a new girlfriend.

Either way, the new boggle was the joy of his life, beautifully dressed in red, well made hands, little boots, had a wonderful hat, he was very lucky to have found her and he was having a hard time wondering where to keep her. This was a problem which would easily be solved if Cathod did the right thing and got himself run over by a bus. My own polite suggestion was that Cathod sounded like a bit of a trouble maker. And indeed he was, Cathod apparently had poor habits. My friend didn't use the words poor habits, he used another word, which I still blush to think about, and which covers anything from being a little untidy around bed making through vomiting all over a kitchen table, and onward toward unspeakable acts of depravity such as crossing a picket line. When my friend noticed a confusion in me, he became professorial and in some detail, with great patience, explained how the urine of an overly passionate male cat damages precious paintwork and then he went on a bit about the trouble they'd had with cats when he worked the railway yards. It was many weeks later, I was working an unfamiliar milk route, rounding up the debts on the weekend, Thatcher and her Tories had begun the pogroms that ravaged the safety nets to make the world even safer for billionaires. And lo, I bumped into my friend, he was way behind on his payments, he could manage a shilling or two, and he showed me his Boggles. He lived alone in a row house, to get to the walled backyard you had to go through his home. Boggle is an old Scottish word for elves and sprites, some angelic, mostly evil. My friend's boggles were little painted gnomes, hundreds of them.