Archive for January, 2013

Third Law Part 13 – Christmas is officially over

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Christmas is officially over. I realise that Christmas was really officially over on twelfth night, some time ago. The decorations have long since been packed back into their boxes and restored to their high up inaccessible places ready for next year’s bout of figuring out which lights worked and which ones didn’t.

This however was not the case for my office. The Christmas cards have stayed there all month, totally unnoticed if I am completely honest. Ignored. Call me a miserable git but I don’t send Christmas cards from work. Whilst I don’t mind receiving cards if that’s your thang I far prefer chocolate, wine, whisky and so forth. Doesn’t happen very often mind you.

So today the Christmas cards at work were brutally disposed of. That isn’t entirely true for no brutality was actually employed. I was just feeling around for a dramatic way of putting it across. Emphatic was the other word that came to mind but it didn’t seem right. Perhaps “efficiently swept aside and deposited in the waste bin” might have done it but the fact that they have been there three or four weeks longer than they needed to be doesn’t sound particularly efficient.

Anyway in the bin they are and by now the bin has been emptied and the cards are on their way to the great rubbish tip in the sky, or wherever they are taken in Newark, and are no more.

This is worth examining. On each card was a greeting. The greeting varied from card to card but the sentiment was the same. “Happy Christmas from Reg, Val and the gang at Global Telecoms Solutions Ltd” or some such organisation. Often I have not heard of Reg, or Val, or maybe even both of them but hey, they obviously meant well.

The question is did the sentiment die with the card or does it live on in spirit? This is similar to the fridge/light bulb question but totally different. If you don’t know what I’m talking about Google it. You may not find the answer but it will keep you quiet for a few minutes. To find the answer is going part of the way towards finding the meaning of life. To go the rest of the way will take more than a few Christmas cards.

I went to a philosophy lecture the other week at the White Hart Hotel in Lincoln. It was a most enjoyable evening. When I first arrived I got talking to a woman and somehow the conversation got around to religion, possibly because of the philosophic theme of the night. It was at that point I must have mentioned that I couldn’t understand the whole religion thing despite having lived for a year in a theological hostel – Coleg y Bedyddwyr, Bala Bangor (again Google it).

Known affectionately as Bala Bang the hostel was populated by a rich mix of Ministers of Religion in waiting and rugby playing good time boys who were there because of its low cost and proximity to the library and bookshops (ie pubs and takeaways) in Upper Bangor. It was there that I discovered Bill Parry’s duck.

I was making food in the kitchen one day and in walked one of the apprentice inmates known as Dai Chink (don’t ask) with a gentleman in a dog collar. I was introduced to the visitor who proceeded to ask me whether I supported football. I replied that I didn’t which somewhat threw him. He had had in mind a line of reasoning designed to persuade me to abandon my wanton life of hanging out in pubs and playing pool for a simpler and more rewarding existence that comprised a service to a Higher Authority.

Rather than ask me what sport I did like he proceeded to tell me that if I was a football supporter I would be wanting to cheer my team all the time, wouldn’t I? I replied somewhat cautiously that I might but wasn’t completely sure about this. He went on to say that the lads that lived in Bala Bang did support a team and were cheering them on all of the time.

At this point I found my feet and said that I lived here and didn’t hear the lads cheering all the time. The line changed to a metaphoric cheer (!?) and that their team was God’s team. Oh okay I said and proceeded to eat my food, the missionary pitch being over as far as I was concerned. As an afterthought I said that he knew my name but he hadn’t told me his. At this he said that I didn’t want to know who he was which I accepted without concern.

Dai Chink however butted in and proudly announced that this was the reverend Bill Parry. I’d never heard of him and at that point we kissed goodbye (metaphorically) and they went on their way.

That night I remembered the incident and related it to the boys in the pub. It turned out that the reverend Bill Parry was infamous for his duck. Bill Parry’s duck was a World War 2 amphibious landing vehicle that he had bought with the intention of sailing with his family to Australia!

His first attempt ended in failure as the duck apparently sank in Caernarfon harbour, a few metres after leaving the quayside. His second attempt was slightly more successful but still only made it a few hundred yards further into the Menai Straights at which point it sank for good and the project was abandoned.

Both attempts made the local TV news in Wales and understandably made Bill Parry a bit of a laughing stock. He was by the time I met him a minister without a parish as presumably nobody would have him.

The story was slotted away in my list of anecdotes to be occasionally recanted over the years when the conversation turned to religion, or maybe even football.

There is a nice twist in the tail of this story. I was out with some of my old university mates a couple of years ago and I said “whatever happened to Bill Parry?”. The story goes that Bill is now a Sandra, or some similar female name. What a wonderful way to round off the story I thought.

Returning to the present I told that very story to the woman with whom I was chatting to at the White Hart. It didn’t raise much of a giggle and turned out she was a journalist working for a Christian publication.

A friend arrived and I moved on. It was an interesting evening. This was partly because the lecture and pursuant debate was enjoyable and partly because to a certain extent it crystallised my thoughts on the subject of philosophy – highly valuable considering my involvement with the philosopherontap movement.

The lecture covered the subject of Simulation Theory and the Matrix. The Matrix is a movie – Google it. Simulation Theory holds that we all just exist as simulations run by a civilisation more advanced than ours.

There are some convincing logical arguments in support of the theory although no certainty. It is an interesting philosophical subject to debate. During the debate there were some quite revealing questions from the audience. Some clearly didn’t have the intellectual capacity to follow the argument. Others clearly felt very uncomfortable with a line of reasoning that clashed with their own religious beliefs. At some stage it was mentioned that surely a people with the capability to run such simulations were dangerously close to being god-like, which was “obviously not possible”. The lecturer had logical answers to all the points made by the audience.

The bit of the debate that crystallized my own thoughts was the notion that none of this process of logical thinking was ever going to lead to anyone finding the meaning of life.  This was almost certainly the case whichever line of philosophy being considered though it doesn’t take away the value of the subject as a line of academic study and debate.

So I was left with my own original perspective that the meaning of life would either never be discovered or that there isn’t one so I might as well enjoy myself while I am here. The organiser of the evening had anticipated this because there was a wonderful drinks ordering system designed so that people didn’t have to get up to go to the bar. All you had to do was send a text to a particular mobile number with your order and table number. My pint of lager appeared within minutes of sending a text – surely a miracle! J

You can decide for yourselves if there is an answer to the Christmas card question but given the choice my preference is whisky or wine.

go to 3rd law part 12 here.

go to 3rd law part 14 here.

without xmas cards

Two old men sat at a table

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

The two old men were sat at a table outside a pub. It was a freezing cold January morning. Not a day to sit around chewing the cud and watching the world go by. This was theatreland and wherever you looked there were billboards advertising shows.

What were they doing there? Had they just come off a night shift at a theatre? It seemed unlikely. It was around 9.30am. Were they on their way to work? What’s the story?

Everyone else scurried by, heads down obscured by scarves, hands shoved well and truly in pockets.

When I am older and time is no longer on my side will I sit quietly waiting?
The story of a life, recounted, a nodding audience, dwindling.
My simple needs, a cup, a taste, the finest in a lifelong gathering
Collections of the day, the careless mind retreating.

Morning sun streams in through the slats

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

It’s snowed overnight but the day is now warming up and the sunlight streaming in through the kitchen window can be quite dazzling. Outside the snow is already starting to melt and we hear loud drips on the conservatory roof as meltwater drops off the sycamore tree above.

The pavements are still dangerous to walk on although not too bad if you walk on the fresh snow to the side. We are entering the dirty period of winter. The ugly brown payback for the beautiful pristine whiteness that we have recently enjoyed.

Two swans flying over a snowy field

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Today I saw two swans flying over a white snow-covered field. I didn’t get a picture as I was on a train and they would in any case have been tiny white dots in the shot. However it isn’t difficult for you to imagine the scene and mentally appreciate the art of it.  A few dark hedgerows and trees criss-cross the vision but mostly it is gleaming white and the magnificent pair of birds are an interesting dynamic – the only moving part of the picture..


Friday, January 25th, 2013

Homeless person says “morning”

I looked down at her as she spoke and said “morning” cheerfully back but didn’t break my stride and carried on past her into Leicester Square underground station. What was her story? It was a very cold morning to be sat on the pavement. Why wasn’t she at home with her family? Was she on drugs? Her lips looked thin and blue.

Man with disfigured face

I sat at a table on the train. It was only after I had taken off my coat and unpacked my laptop that I noticed his face. His left side seemed to have some sort of growth. It wasn’t totally clear what was wrong. Was it something he was born with? Did he have a cancer?

Mixed emotions struck. I wanted to look more but didn’t want him to see me looking. Pity, revulsion, discomfort, embarrassment.  There was nothing wrong with him other than that disfigurement and it seemed to me totally unreasonable that I had those thoughts. I wanted to know the whole story though it was none of my business. I also regretted sitting there but by the time I had sat down it was too late. I was committed.

Man with metal frame on head

He had a metal frame on his head. Curious. I only saw him for seconds and then he walked off out of view. I wonder what his voice sounds like. What’s his favourite food? Is he an Aston Villa football fan? So many things about him I don’t know. All I can say is that he was probably in his late fifties, I would think.


The right kind of snow

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

snow scene at Whisby Nature ReserveIt’s not very often we get the right kind of snow in this country. You know the sort, penny sized falling deep settling crystals grinding everything to a halt for days and the schools all close and kids celebrate and go out to play snowballs and sledging and come home cold, wet and exhausted to consume gallons of hot chocolate with buttery crumpets huddled around the open fire.

This year there was promise but the first flake flurry came merely as a token gesture. Grey skies arrived and folk left work early on Friday to avoid the “worst of it”. Travel warnings intermingled with announcements of thirty thousand homes without power in Wales confirmed our suspicions. We were in for a goodun.

No fresh snow came on the Saturday but there was enough on the ground to go sledging on West Common. Walking on the road, cleared by the gritters, was easier than walking on the pavement. It took me a lot longer to get to the Prince to meet Ian than it normally would but I was warm enough. I was dressed for the worst. The forecast was still for snow.

The snow didn’t come. It was cold out but the house was warm as toast. I had stocked up with coal on my way home from work and was up before dawn cleaning out the grate and setting the fire. It felt like a man’s job but I knew that in years gone by it would have been done by the woman of the house. The caustic smell of the ash made me cough and reminded me of my grandfather who was a miner and who died before I was born. Seeing the fire relight from the heat of the coals left overnight was quite satisfying.

I sit here now, still waiting for the snow. It is still promised and for the kids there remains the hope of no school tomorrow. Cold noses and frozen hands are eagerly anticipated. In an ideal world it should be the right kind of snow but in practice we’ll take any kind. Crumpets ahoy!

The gentle snow

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

The gentle snow fell,
brushing my cheeks
laid bare, the light caress
of a cold lover. Emotionless.

Miniature flakes
filled the sky,
icy promise.

The Third Law Part 12 – Sport, Excitement and Romance

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

It’s another cold day in Glocamorra. I’ve just noticed that the heating switched itself off so I’ve changed it to “all day”.  Today is one of those gentle no pressure days. I have some boxes of kids books to put up in the attic and Hannah to pick up from Newark Northgate train station and that’s the lot.

There is something romantic about a railway station. The start or the end of an adventure. Of course this is not always the case. You might be one of the entrapped majority, slavishly arriving for your regular commute, cursing a delay, the absence of a seat or the underperformance of the air-conditioning system.

The rules

Do not talk to anyone and avoid eye contact.

This was traditionally achieved by carrying

The jug of milk

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

I sat having breakfast, Weetabix with a banana and grapes, and stared at the milk jug. It’s a four pinter. Not as big as a six pinter but it still holds a goodly amount of milk. Whatever is in my bowl the milk is a constant. It’s been there as long as civilisation and before. It is easy to let the mind drift off to days in the past where the milk has been there with other people sat around the table, or around the fire.

The delivery mechanism has changed over the years from jugs to bottles to cartons and plastic bottles but the basic content inside is the same. We get trendy modern variations such as semi-skimmed and skimmed milk (yuk) but the white stuff is fundamentally unchanged.

There is something comforting about the timelessness of the jug of milk. Having it on the table means all is well, nothing has changed.

It sits there, unpeturbed

The milk in its white glazed jug

With pictures of cows on the front

At your service.


Pick up and pour.


When I was at university I would have three pints of milk a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. It ranks as one of my all-time favourite drinks together with water, a good cup of tea and a pint of Timothy Taylors Landlord bitter. Years ago it used to be Marston’s Pedigree but Landlord has overtaken it. The milk does have to be cold though.

These days three out of four kids have the taste. When everyone is at home we go through five or six pints a day. Anne has to supplement the delivery from the dairy with purchases from Tesco.

Drinka pinta milka day.

It’s disappeared off the table in front of me now, the jug of milk. Put away in the refrigerator by an efficient soul. Breakfast is over though the cereals need putting away. I’ll do that once I’ve finished my second cup of tea and dropped Joe and his trumpet off at choich.

The dishwasher gurgles.

Christmas Pudding, Xmas Pud, brandy flame,

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

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steam and sizzles on a sunday

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

A Carwyn James story

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Philosopherontap interviews Alun Davies who played rugby with Welsh fly half Carwyn James in the 1950s.