Monday, 26 May 2014

The Paradoxes of Time


The love of the written word came early in my life, and I remember spreading out on the floor to read broadsheet newspapers well before I left junior school. My father ended up taking me to a huge bookshop stacked to the ceilings with second-hand books, where I could select whatever I wanted without charge. I chose classics, which is why I talk funny.
     Now I am a pensioner I have indulged my desire to write stories, and I do it with gusto. It is gratifying to be told by the limited friends with whom I can communicate that they like my work, which normally focuses on the near-future and believable Sci-fi, heavily laced with quirky humour.
     I base my stories on research, and avidly read about UFOs and new technology to give them a believable foundation. This brings me to the subject heading of this blog, since there are paradoxes associated with time that make my mind go into meltdown. Not that it needs much help to do that, since I suffer from brain damage.
     My initial concern lies with the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second (rounded), in a vacuum. To calculate the equivalent miles per hour, this would be multiplied by 60 seconds x 60 minutes, giving a rough speed of 67,000,000 mph. Thus, the Zeta Reticuli system of Sun-like stars is only 39.5 light years away from planet Earth. Hence, I presume that a spaceship travelling at a sustained 67 million miles per hour would take 39·5 light years to reach us.
     My problem is that we seem to be drowning in a sea of UFO verifiable reported sightings and alleged confirmations by various governments, which are subsequently and hastily retracted. This assumes that inter-planetary travel is a regular occurrence for our alien visitors, via wormholes, warp-speed devices and perhaps other dimensions. No wonder the sceptics are having a field day scoffing at others!
     In my naivety, I wonder if the speed of light is an appropriate, provable measure of distance. It does seem to me that 67,000,000 mph is unachievable by any method of propulsion, sustained for any worthwhile period. Yet, there they are, these aliens, flying in our skies, rising from our seas, mutilating our animals and, I am reliably informed, mutilating us as well.
     One problem is that I am convinced of their existence, since I have been in company where we have witnessed their spacecraft in action. This was in the days before Photoshop could be used to confound everyone with fakery.
Last week, I saw a TV documentary featuring Professor Stephen Hawking expounding on time travel. He insisted that it could only be done “by travelling forward, into the future.” This theory is based on the paradox that if a person could travel into the past, and chose to shoot his grandfather, he would cease to exist.
     Which leads me to wonder, if a person travels into the future, and someone living in that future shoots him (or her), wouldn’t the same paradox occur? Surely Professor Hawking is not as daft as I am?
     As regards alien visitors, there is another plausible explanation for their regular and repeated visits to our wonderful planet. They could have been here for a considerable time already, living undetected by the masses but with the tacit agreement of some of the powers-that-be, who are technologically powerless to prevent it, and are their intellectual inferiors.
    At least, that is what I gleaned from President Reagan’s speech about aliens at the UN. No wonder the US Government allows its citizens virtually unrestricted access to guns, in case things get nasty.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

A FLIGHT OF FANCY

My poor wife is recovering from her recent hip replacement operation, and is hobbling along with the aid of her wheeled “walker”. Watching her improving pace, I was struck by the power we take for granted in our hips and upper thighs, and the reliance we place on them.
     In one of my more exotic flights of fancy, I remembered a visit we made two years ago with our younger daughter and our two grandsons to the City of Science and Arts in Valencia, which is a couple of hours from where we live. Near the entrance a Dinosaur Park has been built, which features life-sized replicas of repulsive creatures that roamed our World many millions of years ago.
     One in particular caught our attention, and that was the fearsomely aggressive Tyrannosaurus Rex. Its outer skin had been enhanced to replicate the latest findings, which were that it contained small feathers. My mind went into overdrive, as I envisaged being chased by something that resembled a giant, fledgling cockerel.
     The thought of this spectacle changed my attitude to the extinct species, and I burst out laughing. Can you imagine being chased by something that looked like that?
     This was all going through my mind, as my wife disappeared into our kitchen to get herself a drink. I must emphasise that in no way am I comparing her to a T-Rex. However, my timing on this occasion was bad, as she turned back and poked her head around the corner to ask me, “Why are you laughing?”
     How could I possible tell her, without causing grave offence? After all, it was only a flight of fancy.
     One final point; I was watching the Discovery Channel a few months ago, and was told that modern day dinosaurs are all around us: they are the birds!
     I therefore think it is relevant to tell you a factual story based on my early years. This is recounted below.

I found out that a legal footpath existed between our house and the nearby village. It led from our immediate neighbours' properties, through their gardens, past a chicken run and pig sty. It continued down a trail in a small wood, over a sign-posted wooden stile and then through the back garden of another house before emerging into the main road, above a railway bridge.
     There was another sign identifying the footpath outside this house, but I often felt slightly embarrassed about taking this route; however, it was a considerable shortcut on the normal lane that we took by car, and no one seemed to mind.
     Next door’s sty contained the biggest pig that I had ever seen, reminding me in size whenever I saw it of P.G.Wodehouse's fictional sow belonging to Lord Emsworth and called “The Empress of Blandings”. The chicken run contained a noisy cockerel which was not near enough to our house to be a bother.
     One day, as I passed this menagerie, the wire mesh door was ajar, and the hens were wandering around pecking the ground outside, as is their want, supervised by the “cock of the roost”. This bird, to me the size of a pterodactyl, started making a threatening, high-pitched sucking noise, flapped its feathery and leathery wings and took off in my direction.
     I took off too and was chased up the garden path at extraordinary speed by this prehistoric monster, which was flapping its wings to maintain low-level flight, and scratching the backs of my bare legs with its talons until I was bloodied.
     I always checked cautiously in future, to make sure that all the gates were closed before entering this arena.

    Who knows, the neighbour might inadvertently let the Empress out as well? Pigs were reputed to eat all traces of a human, without leaving any part to identify.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

And all the horses were blessed

This Sunday 2nd of February 2014, Sandra and myself walked into our local Spanish town, sat in a favourite café for a welcome cup of coffee (these costing just over a euro each and of a sensible size - not those soup-bowl sized insipid drinks they serve in England). Afterwards, we went out to watch a parade of horses passing the local priest, who threw holy water over them and blessed them. This annual attraction is called the Romería (or Pilgrimage) of San Antón, which is devoted to the local equestrian community.
The sun was shining in an almost cloudless blue sky, the bands were playing, and a cold wind was blowing from inland.
     It reminded me of my early youth 54 years ago, when I last rode a horse in Wales. My motive for doing so was less than honest, as I related in my first book, The Rough & Tumbles Of Early Life, which was intended to be a family momento for the grandchildren.
     This story is shown below, for your amusement. I hope you enjoy it!

Riding as my New Love
After my previous, unrequited attempt at love, I decided to tackle the problem of finding a playmate head-on. “Where do these delectable young females congregate?” I asked myself, and realised the obvious place: riding schools.
The nearest one was not far from where we lived, situated on the fringe of a nearby and more upmarket village next to our ex-mining community and en route to town. The following day, I approached the owner, who was the only instructor as well, and found that he would take me as a pupil the coming Saturday for the princely sum of five bob (a quarter of one pound sterling, which was worth much more than it is today). I accepted and looked forward to my new sport, and to the close proximity that I would soon enjoy to my new companions.
To my humiliation, the trusty steed which was deemed appropriate to my level of untried skill was a pot-bellied Shetland pony; a donkey was not much smaller than this well-fed dumpling. In spite of my embarrassment, none of my all-female companions seemed to be least interested in my plight and retained a superficially placid composure that was similar to mine.
I suspected that some of the slightly older ones, as I looked suspiciously at their dead-pan expressions, were concealing their unbridled mirth and would be cackling with laughter after the lesson.
The basic skills were explained to me alone, like which side of the horse to mount, how to hold the reins and get the steed to start, maintain movement and stop, as we set off to the true countryside that was literally around the corner.
For three quarters of an hour we rode through woods and across moorland, with me playing the role of “tail-end Charlie” (or last man in an aerial-combat formation of aircraft), with the instructor coaxing us along as if we were a herd of cattle being driven along a well-trodden trail.
When we returned to the stables, I pitched in with the others and helped remove the saddle and rest of the tackle from my sweating partner, groomed it with a brush and fed it, aping the movements of the others as they tended lovingly to their own shapely steeds. I resented this to a small extent, feeling that I was being taken advantage of and acting as an unpaid skivvy, but logically accepting that this was part and parcel of the range of activities associated with owning one’s own horse, which I had no intention of doing.
Oh did I ache the next day as I got out of bed; it seemed to be affecting parts of my body that until then I thought only contained bones. How was it possible for me to be aching here, there and everywhere, I wondered, localising each source of pain, and realising that there was more to this new sport than I had reckoned beforehand. Regardless of this, I vowed to continue, and booked lessons for the following weeks.
After some time spent riding the same, mellow creature, the instructor brought out the biggest, snorting stallion that I had ever seen before, which was tugging with its muscular head at the reins being held tightly by him. He nodded to me and said, ‘You are going to ride this one today.’ I thought, ‘Ah, this is more like it,’ inwardly thanking my new friend, and mentally rubbing my hands with glee at what the girls might be feeling now.
The ride that day was marvellous, as my flying carpet unwrapped itself and flew across the moor, with the instructor looking on as our backsides disappeared in the distance; pot holes that might have tripped the airborne animal were a vague consideration, but that fear diminished as the pace of the horse did not slow down once during flight.
After exhausting the moor, Champion the Wonder Horse came to a halt, and we patiently waited for the rest of the herd to catch up. The instructor looked as if nothing untoward had happened and, after we returned to the stable, I was wary when removing the tackle from this volatile animal and grooming it, not to stand near its legs in case it lashed out.
The following week, it lost all patience as we were riding on a narrow bridle path through the wood, veered onto a turning to one side, and tried deliberately to throw me off by bucking, and racing under tree branches that brushed against its lowered head.
I ended up several times by riding the vicious thing with my body at right angles to the saddle, leaning one side or the other as circumstances dictated, and hanging on with grim determination, feeling that it would turn back and kick me if it succeeded in throwing me off.
After an eternity, it realised that its current attempt had failed and I fought hard but successfully by pulling the reins and pressing on its sides with my stirrups to return to the others, where the instructor looked totally unperturbed by events. By now, I had developed enough of an empathy with this rogue creature to be wary of it, and to understand its moods.
We graduated to leaping over low fences in an enclosed meadow, and I did not enjoy this at all, being fearful of landing hard on the body area in front of my buttocks with the attendant risk of damaging my pubescent manhood. The life I would have preferred with horse-racing, if it were going to happen, was clearly going to be confined to racing on the flat, and would certainly not extend to steeplechasing.
During the intervening period, I had bought riding jodhpurs, a quilted jacket, and black purpose-designed helmet, all from my accumulated pocket money.
When my Welsh grandfather was told what I was currently doing as a hobby, he donated two whips that my youngest aunt had left at home when she married and fled the nest.
One was a flexible whip, that I could imagine being used to urge a horse to go faster, but would never dare to apply to the enormous specimen that barely allowed me to sit on its back; the other was short, inflexible and thick, and braided its entire length with a strong cord. I could only assume that the latter device was intended to club an errant horse on the head, if it misbehaved, and might even have served as a weapon to deal forcibly with the lustful advances of my aunt’s previous boyfriends.
With my original intention in mind, I looked forward to developing a fledgling relationship with the other riders receiving tuition at the stables, but found it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand with the strong, horsey smells assailing my nostrils.
The fodder itself smelled uniquely rich and savoury, but not so that I would entertain the idea of sampling it myself; the odour of animal perspiration was more of a distraction, and the smell of horse dung was in a class of its own.
This melange of horse smells was not in the slightest degree conducive to my amorous ambitions, but I remained optimistic of my chances. However, none of the girls showed any symptoms of suffering from nymphomania; not one of them had a tendency to caress their aching thigh, or had a mischievous gleam in their eye as they stretched seductively, or wore lipstick, or offered any other encouragement that could give me a glimmer of hope.
Our conversations focused solely on the behaviour and wellbeing of our four-legged friends. The girls' high–pitched tinkling voices were beginning to irritate me like church bells, with a detectable twang to them that I thought to be unattractive.
No doubt they found my pronounced accent not to their taste either, but by this stage I had lost interest in horse-riding and abruptly packed it in, which must have disappointed the Old Man, who I found out later had been showing interest from afar in my new pastime.
However, he had not financed it, and as far as I was concerned, the choice was therefore mine as to what I did with my personal life.
Nor did I have any intention of revealing my continuing interest in the opposite sex, after his earlier aggressive reaction when I had done nothing more than look admiringly at the young lady outside our house.
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