I recently received my latest correspondence from my good friend and world traveller, Hieronymus Fudd. I would like to share it with you.
Guten tag mein freunde. Get it right über alles ye, by the way! Well here I am in Berlin. I can't believe it. BERLIN! It is massive. The streets are so wide. You could land a jumbo jet on Bismarkstrasse. Fantastic! I had a wee look this morning at that wall that everybody has been talkin' aboot. It is a bit dilapidated lookin', but I reckon oor brickie pal, big Tam, could get that thing back together in a fortnight. I did a wee bit of research into the German history too. You know me - always the professional. You wouldn't Adam and Eve it. It says that they invaded Poland!!! Oh Em Gee! They told me nothin' at that school. Anyway, I was in a local library and I decided to look up a word or two. The word 'Intermission' was quite interesting. The German definition against this word just reads 1918 to 1939. What's all that aboot? I did a wee bit sniffin' around, to see what sight seeing tours were on the go. Guess what I came up with. The photo below is the house that Adolf Hitler grew up in. Brilliant! I can just see Adolf in here.
It gets even better. They do guided tours inside old Adolf's house. Really good touches, like recordings of his speeches piped into every room, swaztika bath towels, a gas oven and even a set of heated rollers on Eva Braun's dressing table. On the way home I saw this chappie on the tram. Not sure who he is, but as they say aboot Quasimodo, his face rings a bell.
The above painting was created with a deliberate attempt to show speed and movement. The blurry effect is exactly what I was looking for. The jockeys are visible, but the racehorses are just hinted at. It is a technique that I use often.
This actual painting was a demonstration piece that I did for a group of artists. The image of this picture takes me back to my childhood, and in particular,my first ever visit with my family to Ayr racecourse.
The car was packed with snacks for lunch time. It was going to be a very long day. A family day out at the races - the first one ever. I was filled with excitement at the prospect of viewing this spectacle in real life, instead of the black and white fuzzy image on the television screen.
Our tickets were for the economy enclosure, which basically meant that we
were as far from the finishing line as we could possibly be. When the on-site commentator told the assembled crowd through the loudspeakers who had finished first, second and third, all that we could see through the dust was an indefinable shape of horses’ arses in the distance, with the white of the jockeys’ arses floating above.
Yes, you get what you pay for at race meetings.
But this fact didn’t bother me too much. I had my mind on other things. The day prior to the race meeting, my mother had bought me a twelve exposure film spool for use with the family camera. Not only that, but it was a colour spool and I was going to be in charge of the camera for the duration of our day at the races. It was a clever ploy. It gave me a feeling of importance and I wasn’t going to start asking annoying questions like, “when are we going home?” I decided that I would pace myself. I worked out that if I took two
photographs per race, my spool would be finished just in time for going
home. And that is exactly what I did.
Taking the spool along to the local photographer’s wasequally as exciting for a ten year old boy as the race meeting had been. All my own work, wrapped up in that mysterious little cylinder. The woman at the counter told me that it would take seven days to process the film. How times have changed.
Exactly one week later I was back at the shop with ever-rising anticipation. The lady had an odd look on her face when I handed over my little slip of paper with the spool details on it. She left me standing at the counter and climbed a cast iron spiral staircase which led to the studio on the first floor. A few moments later, a man descended the stairs and walked over to see me. There was something wrong. His hands were empty.
‘I’m sorry’, he said, ‘There wasn’t one single picture from your spool which was worth printing’. I just stood there with my mouth hanging open. He spotted a tear beginning to form in the corner of my eye. He continued, ‘Let me explain to you what happened son. You took those photographs of the horses as they passed you at the railings, didn’t you?’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I was really close to them. I can’t understand how I managed to miss them all.’
‘You didn’t miss them son – not really.’ He went on to explain, ‘They were just moving too fast. All that came out was a blur of colour. You wouldn’t know what they were.’ The tear broke free and trickled down my cheek. ‘How about I give you a wee tip? - Something that no other boy of your age would know.
Would that be okay?’
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘What professional photographers do is take the picture early. They snap the picture as the horses are coming down the track and long before they come level. That is the secret. It is an illusion, because they appear to be travelling much slower, but they’re not of course. Do you understand?’
‘Yes, I think so’ I said, sniffing.
‘What I want you to do, son,’ Mr Boyd continued, ‘is to remember this secret that I have told you today and to fill your spool with pictures and bring them back to me. I promise that they will be just super.’ On saying this he handed me a twenty four exposure colour film spool. ‘No need to pay for this son. It is free.’
I appreciated Mr Boyd’s wisdom, and I still do to this day. There was only one
problem. It was forty five years before I returned to Ayr race course. I forget what became of the free spool. It was a strange feeling, standing in the same economy enclosure. I felt the years dissolving. I was ten again. The day before the meeting I purchased a digital camera. Jackie Boyd’s words were ringing in my mind as I took up my position at the same spot by the railings. The first race distance was 1.5 mile, which basically meant a dead straight point to point sprint at Ayr race course. No bends to negotiate. As the race progressed I was pleased to see that the group of horses were in a tight pack. This was going to be ideal. I figured that I should snap my pictures as they passed the one furlong marker from home. That would be the perfect angle, just as Mr Boyd had said. I waited and waited. The ground began to tremble with thundering hooves. Then the moment came. It was time to press the shutter release button.
CRICK – CRICK – CRICK
That is the last time I buy a cheap Japanese camera!
The Sandylands promenade hasn’t really changed all that
much in a hundred years or so.
Largely deserted at most times of the day, it skirts the coastline
between the town of Saltcoats and the sand dunes of Stevenston
beach. It is the road to nowhere as far as vehicles are concerned.
The wide promenade has ample space for road traffic, but it all comes to
nothing quite suddenly. It is almost as if a Victorian council idea to link the two towns via a coastline road had begun and had then run out of funds to complete the project.
The only vehicles these days that can be seen on the half mile stretch of
road are local council bin lorries.
During the autumn and winter, the coastline is often bombarded with
powerful waves. Seaweed, tree
branches, small rocks and masses of general litter carried in these waves are
unceremoniously dumped on the prom.
The council workers’ task is clear. They have to remove the mess and try
and leave the place looking half way respectable.
At times, when high tides are accompanied by seriously strong winds, the
waves can carry right across the prom and shower debris on the main railway line which runs in parallel. It is on these occasions that the town of Saltcoats and the Sandyland prom in particular,
becomes the much favoured locale for BBC and STV news film crews.
Capturing a massive wave in action as it crashes over the sea defences,
spraying an unsuspecting train as it slows up in preparation for unloading
passengers at the nearby railway station is considered the ‘money
This Tsunami-like video clip, if decent enough, can be
used time and time again whenever there is the slightest rumour of sea breezes freshening and gaining intensity anywhere around the south west coast of Scotland.
It isn’t always a vision of hell though.
During the summer time, and especially at the Glasgow Fair, courting
couples can be seen walking hand in hand along the same stretch.
The guys have exactly half a mile to work their patter on the girls and
convince them that the sand dunes of Stevenston beach looming in the middle
distance is the place where all their dreams can come
And some girls, if they go ‘all the way’, do experience
Tsunami-like experiences. Others just feel as if they have been bombarded with crap.
And then there are the girls who really wish that they hadn’t listened to
the forecast at all, and are quite miffed at the prospect of hoofing it all the
way back to the town centre.
This is the second chapter of my Dan Brown spoof, “The Lost Ringpiece”. Here, the protagonist meets the girl. I would love to finish this novel, but as you know Dan Brown's books go on and on for ever.
Harvard University campus – 11:32 am. Dan Lambert ambled along Cambridge Street and took a left into the wide tree-lined expanse of Massachusetts Avenue. The sun was now high in a cloudless azure sky. Car horns from near and far performed their well known tuneless symphony. Pneumatic road drills providing the percussion. This was the sound of the city. It could have been any city in the world for the same song had been played and was being played all across the planet. Dan closed his eyes for a few seconds and considered this very fact. His mind was still in lecture mode after his mid-morning session in the splendid vaulted auditorium that is Sanders theatre. Closing one’s eyes in a bustling city such as Boston was not a wise thing to do. A pair of air horns, harsh and raucous, reminded Dan that jay walking with eyes closed could have serious, if not fatal, consequences.
‘Hey mind where you’re going you friggin’ Hobo,’ yelled the driver of the milk truck. There was something about Dan’s appearance - probably his well worn jacket - that gave him a certain dishevelled look. Considering all the life-threatening and dangerous situations that the professor had been through; to be mowed down by a milk truck in his home town just wouldn’t have been a fitting end to the maverick individual that was Dan Lambert. The irony of the situation made Dan’s pulse race for a few seconds. Milk - a basic need - but not for Dan. When he was a kid he developed lactose intolerance. His parents didn’t realise the seriousness of his condition, which eventually led to parasites feeding on his small intestine. It almost killed him.
His lunch time rendezvous whenever he was working in this particular sector of the campus was always the ‘Nameless Coffee House’ just off the main drag in Church Street. The ‘East coast Acappella’, a five-piece vocal group were performing a forty-five minute set starting at noon. Dan had seen numerous flyers posted up on various notice boards throughout the campus advertising the fact.
Just the tonic I need to chill out, thought Dan, Some close barbershop harmonies. Dan admired the sheer complexity of these types of vocal arrangements. He didn’t just listen to music, he analysed it. It was one of the biggest regrets of his life that he hadn’t been blessed with an ability to read and play music. Complex codes and cryptic symbols were a way of life for him. As a youngster in Martha’s Vineyard, one of his celebrated claims to fame was the way that he could solve a Rubik’s Cube puzzle with lightning speed. He flew to Budapest in 1982 and walked away with first prize in the Rubik’s Cube world championship event with a winning time of 18.44 seconds. Dan also played around with Chinese magic square puzzles long before the popular Sudoku craze began in the nineties.
The human brain was his passion, and demystifying the function of the mind and the ability to memorise had been the subject matter of the Sanders theatre lecture. It had been received reasonably well. Dan’s task was to deliver a talk on Cognitive Neuroscience to students studying at the University Interfaculty Mind/Brain/Behaviour Initiative. It was quite refreshing and far removed from Archetypes and Symbols; his usual area of expertise. The self same lecture had been given to a group of Socio-biology students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology just two weeks previously, so the notes from the MIT lecture were already prepared and fresh in his mind.
The lesson had a strong mind-provoking beginning.
‘If you remember anything at all about this lecture today,’ Dan said, ‘it is because the genes in your brain will be in an altered state. Memories make us who we are,’ he continued, ‘memories are the glue that bind our mental lives together. Long-term memory stimulates protein synthesis. In other words, if you remember something long-term, it really has to have been something important. You may have heard the anecdote about the guy who studied the instruction manual on how to tune in his television set for several hours, only to find that when he had cracked it – he had forgotten how to drive his car.’
This always produced a few chuckles from the audience.
‘Fortunately this story is of course a complete fabrication.’ said Dan with a smile, but he knew that in his own specialized field, the production of new proteins in his grey matter were essential in the black art of code breaking. Dan was also aware that the human being’s ageing process reversed the effect and that is what he feared the most.
What the hell, he thought to himself. I have a few years ahead of me yet. Just got to steer clear of milk trucks . . . small light aircraft . . . Illuminati . . . Yaks.
A blackboard in the doorway of the Nameless Coffee House displayed a message in three pastel coloured chalks, ‘Welcome to our cosy and intimate lounge. Enjoy pastries of highest quality and savour our wide range of coffees. Comedy stand up nite – Thursday 8 pm. Lunch time entertainment today – East coast Acapella.
Dan took a seat well away from the doorway and the traffic noise and ordered up a Bagel and coffee – black of course. The décor was typically New English, with a generous sprinkling of framed sepia photographs of the area surrounding Harvard Square, some dating back as far as the mid to late eighteen hundreds. The Irish community had left their mark, as they did in most Boston bars, with green, white and gold banners, flags and scarves draped around the Brazilian Mahogany beams, handrails and newel posts. An ornate mantel framed a wood-burning fire that bathed the room with warmth and the sweet smell of smouldering resin. The lunchtime patrons numbered around thirty, many of whom bore the university colour – a hue bordering more on rose madder, rather than crimson. Above the bar hung an ornate gilded plaster-cast version of the Harvard seal. Three open books within a shield. There was a single word split between the books’ pages.
Dan eyed the seal with curiosity; his mind ever alert to symbols, hidden meanings and signs. The three books took on the shape of an inverted pyramid. The opened pages of the top left book bore just two letters “V” and “E”. The adjacent book was similar, just two letters again - “R” and “I”. The third book had one letter on each page - a “T” and an “S”. There was a different symbol in addition to these two letters in the third book. It appeared to be a pyramid with two lines extending from the sloping sides in a downward direction. The symbol sat exactly centrally across the opened pages. Dan followed the direction of the pyramid’s extended slopes. One line pointed directly to the coffee machine at the corner of the bar. The other extended slope lined up perfectly with the harp symbol on the Guinness sign on the bar top. A harp, thought Dan, ‘What’s the connection between coffee and a harp?’ He didn’t realise for a moment that he was actually thinking out loud.
‘Is there a prize for guessing the correct answer?’
It was a female who posed the question. She sat alone at an adjacent table. A stunning looking woman, about thirty-five years old, tall, slim and with bangs of dark brown hair that drooped over one eye. She was wearing a Harvard sweatshirt and white denims. Pushing a handful of loose hair behind one ear she flashed a smile towards Dan. ‘I know you,’ she said, ‘You are Professor Langdon aren’t you?’
‘No – that’s another book. I’m Professor Lambert, but you can call me Dan. Have we met before, miss . . . ?’
‘Valkyrie . . . François Valkyrie. I was present at your lecture this morning,’ she said extending her hand. Dan accepted her handshake. Her delicate fingers were lost in his grip.
‘Ah, so you were one of my students? Would you care to join me?’ Dan said, ‘You can tell me what your thoughts were about the lecture.’
Francois slid into the seat across the table from Dan and smiled once again. There was an instant attraction between them. ‘Your lecture was most interesting, Professor . . . sorry, Dan,’ she blushed. ‘I particularly liked the part about long-term memory stimulating protein synthesis in the brain.’
Dan said nothing for a second. He was analysing her accent. He quickly determined that she wasn’t local. The “roundness” of her vowel pronunciation when she said the word “about” hinted of a Canadian accent. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said eventually, ‘I was day dreaming there for a moment. Long-term memory, you say. It’s all true you know. In fact, as I mentioned at the Sanders theatre, your brain will now be in an altered state just because you stored something in there this morning. We all have our own little universe in that grey matter that is inside our skull.’
‘Amazing,’ said Francois.
‘My sentiment exactly. I am forever in awe at the power of the human brain.’
‘I couldn’t help noticing that you were deep in thought a moment ago,’ said François, ‘Do you never switch off, you know like – chill out?’
Dan laughed, ‘You’re very observant, François. And you are right, I find it hard to quell this instinct that I have to analyse and find hidden meanings in everyday objects. There was indeed something puzzling me when you spoke.’
‘I thought as much,’ said François, ‘Can I help in any way?’
It was Dan’s turn to blush, ‘Oh you wouldn’t want to get inside my mind. It was nothing really.’
‘But on the contrary I would like to, Dan. I have a natural curiosity too.’
Another moment of hesitancy, then Dan caved in. ‘Well I tell you what, François, I have been back and forward at Harvard for years now, both as a student and in a teaching capacity. And it’s a strange thing, you know. You look at objects every day, but you don’t really see them properly.’
‘I think I know what you mean.’
‘You do?’ Dan said.
‘Yes, I can totally relate to that.’
‘Well to tell you the truth, I have been sitting here studying the Harvard seal on the wall above the bar. It has been there for, oh I don’t know, a hundred years, maybe more. Do you see it?’
‘Yes – and you’re right. I have seen it often, but I have never really looked closely at it.’
‘Exactly. Look at it now, there are three open books. Each book has two letters taking up a full page.’ Dan pulled a scrap piece of paper from his pocket and produced a gold biro from inside his jacket. ‘What has been puzzling me is the symbol between the two letters in the third book; the book that completes an inverted pyramid.’
‘Yes but . . .’
‘There is no mistaking that the symbol is yet another pyramid, one that is properly aligned this time. And if you look closely, the sloping sides extend down past the pyramid and point to objects on the bar; one being the coffee machine, the other points directly to the harp on the Guinness sign. That is what I was saying a few minutes ago. There must be a reason. I’m not sure if it is pagan or Masonic at the moment.’
François took a moment to study the plaque. ‘Isn’t it an “A”?’
‘The letter “A”, you know – a pyramid on top with two lines extending downwards?’
The moment stretched as the colour drained from Dan’s face. He glanced down at the scrap piece of paper on the table top. He had already scribbled down the letters V – E – R – I – T – S. The now familiar symbol when placed between the “T” and the “S” spelt out the word VERITAS. Dan mouthed the word without actually saying it.
It would have been fair to say that in Dan Lambert’s brain at that precise moment, his proteins would have been getting synthesised like fuck. He wasn’t going to forget this embarrassing moment in a hurry.
‘I was trying to tell you,’ François said, ‘the letter “A”, placed where it is in the plaque makes up a Latin word – VERITAS.’
‘You’re right,’ admitted Dan, ‘I have been guilty of analysing things too much.’
François reached over and touched his hand, ‘Veritas, the Latin word for “Truth”’.
Dan looked at her with a quizzical expression, ‘Did you just speak in italics?’
‘Yes I did.’
‘But how did you do that?’
‘It’s something I have been studying at the University. I have also been picking up some Morse Code . . .’
Dan’s corduroys instantly and quite unexpectedly became moist on hearing the “C” word. ‘Code?’ he repeated.
‘Yes . . .’
‘You mean . . .?’
‘That’s right . . .’
‘This week I have learned this particular letter, “. . .” And next week I shall learn another letter, but for now all I know is, “. . .” It is a twenty-six week course.’
‘Do you know what “. . .” means?’
‘Yes I do “. . .” is the letter S’
Dan arched an eyebrow and gripped both of her hands whilst gazing intently into her eyes. ‘Let me just say one thing, François,’
‘Go on,’ she said, rather seductively.
‘- . - - - - - . . - . - . - . . . . . - - - . . . . - . . - - . - -’
‘What does that mean, Dan?’
‘You will know in twenty-six weeks,’ he replied.
‘I can’t wait,’ said François, ‘Some of my girlfriends are running the Morse code course along with a study in talking in hyperlinks.’
‘Yeah. There are amazing benefits in that course.’
‘It must open up countless other possibilities,’ said Dan.
‘It sure does.’
‘Woke up this mornin’, feelin’ fine,’ sang the lead singer of the East coast Acappella vocal group. The other four members produced a vocal percussion effect that sounded uncannily like a bass drum, a Hi-Hat and an acoustic slap bass. It was the old Herman’s Hermits’ hit, and even after listening to the first line, Dan knew that these guys were good. When the last line of the first verse was reached - “Somethin’ tells me I’m into somethin’ good”, Dan and François had “a moment”. Something had definitely clicked between them.
Dan gazed down at their hands. They were still loosely clasped together. It was only then that he noticed the small crumpled piece of paper that he had been using to decipher the code from the Harvard seal. The code that turned out not to be a code at all. The paper had blown over to reveal the reverse side.
Good grief, thought Dan, I had forgotten all about the message that the old drifter had placed in my hand at the intersection.
Dan released his hand from François’ and lifted the piece of paper from the table. ‘Now, this could be interesting.’ he said.
We all like to travel - don't we? I certainly do. But I don't get the chance to travel the world the way that my good friend, Hieronymus Fudd does. He is the original, 'I've been everywhere man', as the song goes.
I will make no secret of it, the best part about having a friend like Hieronymus is the fact that he keeps a diary of his adventures. Not only that, but he sends me regular updates on what is going on in his life. I love reading his letters, and I would like to share them with you from time to time on this blog if I may.
You may have see the television series, 'An idiot abroad' - well Hieronymus is nothing like him.
Hieronymus is a Fudd. His father before him was a Fudd. His mother is a Fudd. He is the 'Marco Polo' of the modern world. And most importantly, he is my best friend. Here is his latest account of his travels. Hieromynus arrived in China last week.
What a week I have had! I hot-footed it into the mountains - over treacherous ravines - through swollen rivers - just to feast my eyes on this. The place that has become the talking point of the far east. The Great Wall of China.
Here it is in the picture. Are you as impressed as me? It just doesn't seems so big when you see it close up, does it? Pretty unimpressive if you ask me.
It has been said that this Great Wall is the only man-made object that you can see from the moon. Well excuse me, but I just can't see why that would be so. For a start, there is a roof over it! You only need to talk to the locals about this myth. Here is the reaction that I got when I told them of this tale.
'Wot a road of bruddy wubbish, by the way!'
I tend to agree.
David Copperfield, the american master of illusion once thrilled audiences worldwide by walking through this wall. Excuse me David!!! When you stand in front of the wall it is easy to see how he managed this 'illusion'. Just outside the shot in this picture there is the entrance to a gift shop. That was how it was done. No smoke - no mirrors.
By the way, they have enough china on sale in that gift shop to accomodate around 1000 greek weddings!
That is my moan about the Great Wall out of the way - however, there are a few other chinese locations that I was none too happy about. Take Ho Chi Min city as an example. I would say that it is well named, because it is unpleasant in equal portions. Around 50% hoachin' and around another 50% mingin'.
It wasn't all bad news though. I had a wonderful experience over in Peking last week. I stopped by at a traditional chinese restaurant for a dish of my favourite food. Chicken fried rice with a curry sauce. I was slightly puzzled when they sat the bowl down in front of me. The knife and fork were missing. In their place were two long wooden sticks. What was I supposed to do with them? Of course, one of the locals took pity on me and demonstrated how I should pick up the rice with the points of the stick.
I can't begin to explain here how difficult an operation this is!
Then I had a brainwave. Luckily for me, I had a fork in my bag. The look on the chinese people's faces when they saw this strange impliment was a picture. It was certainly an eye opener for them.
(I would just like to stress at this point that the orbital cavity of the chinese race is perfectly normal and that I am not making fun of them in any way. You, may however, have a different slant on it)
Anyhoo! . . . they were in awe at my use of this new impliment. They even gave it a special name in honour of me. They called it a Fudd Food Fork. I really was chuffed. Felt a little bit like Forrest Gump, to be honest!
Here is the fork in question. The restaurant owners quickly took this picture and dispalyed it outside on the pavement on a wooden board. There was some text attached which translated as . . .
Fudd Food Fork. For feasting on Fish, Fries, Fondue, Fresh Fruits, Fritters and Fancy . . . Cakes.
Well, on that note, I shall say farewell till the next time. Another adventure - another country.
Goodbye my friend. CUL8R
Well, for my first blog I would like to prove that I have a sensitive and serious side to my writing. Apart from what I am going to add here, my stuff is all comedy based.
This was my first attempt at poetry, and the inspiration to pen this came from two distinct sources.
A few years ago I was watching a news item on the TV. The footage was of Princess Diana attending a film premier in London. As you can imagine, when she stepped from the car there were flash bulbs popping everywhere. She was wearing a very expensive looking gown and a beautiful diamond necklace. The reporter was going on and on about her beauty. I saw it in a completely different way. All should become clear.
That was inspiration number one.
The poem itself is a dylanesque type work. In that I mean Dylan Thomas, not Bob Dylan. I want you to imagine whilst reading it that Richard Burton is doing the narration. This is where inspiration number two comes in. I once heard Burton reciting a Dylan Thomas poem on TV. It was a voice-over to a piece of animation. I think the poem was called 'Underwood'. or 'Under milk wood'. I am unsure. They were great friends, Burton and Thomas. My favourite work is 'Lament'. Check it out on You Tube. Burton's voice is just made for Thomas' work.
So here is my Dylan Thomas-type poem. It should be read to a beat, rather like a sonnet, but the last line of each stanza is a statement. Hope that is as clear as mud!
The winds of time, supreme, sublime,
Blow seasons through the mist and wait
upon the crust, still dormant yet succumbing to
the mantle thrust,
The land that forms the gem
A torrid pyre, a liquid fire devours a cold
and rythmic heart, and heralds change and stirs the beast,
in echoes loud and voices strange,
The forging of the stone.
Near canyons deep, though long asleep,
Forgotten forests bear new fruits of wealth and wait
with dreams begnine on callers to the devil's gate,
The blood within the jewel.
A sinew twists a powerful wrist,
That mops a saline glistened brow,
And rapes the tomb of seas decayed, their once
so noble hearts exhumed,
A breath to warm the rock.
So clear and bright, the naked light,
That splits the prism sevenfold, and spawns a glow,
Its secrets bared with each descending hammer blow,
The moment of the birth.
Her gaze instils the writer's quill
to laud in rhyme, an accolade,
In mortal eyes her beauty pales, for on her lily skin
The queen of all the gems.