Sunday, 11 December 2016

Silence is Golden

There has no activity on the blog as I have settled down to write a novel over the winter months plus the lies and false promises that flood the main media from the UK Government have turned my stomach and left the taste of ashes in my mouth.  Here is a simple truth:
  1. People turn a blind eye when affairs do not directly affect them
  2. People prefer not to have to think outside of their own prejudices
  3. People like having a scapegoat - immigrants, sick, disabled - to explain away their own failures
  4. People will believe anything that supports their prejudices, no matter how irrational they are
  5. Modern politics and its media support relies on all of this to further feed irrational prejudices
  6. Return to bullet point 1 and repeat.
As a result UK society is now so polarised, it will never recover, no matter how much I blog about the stupidity and cupidity of my fellow humans. So I have decided to expend my energies on writing a novel of which the first chapter starts below, a sort of Christmas present from me, if you will.

1 - Have you ever walked in a wood?

A proper wood, not one of those where all the trees are all the same height, width, shape and drown everything in metres of pine needles, so that all that sticks out is the occasional red spotted toadstool amongst a sea of brown. I mean a wood which has Ash, Oak, Silver Birch and Rowan trees, all living in the right place for them.  A wood which gives shelter to blue bells, hare bells and wild honeysuckle along with all manner of animal, insect and fairy life.

I have a proper wood near my home in Scotland. One where if you are quiet and are willing to look you will see all manner of amazing things people in a rush to get on with their lives, as they talk and not listen, will never see and be all the poorer for it.

Take this path we are walking down now in Dun Dyke woods. There are autumn leaves carpeting it, newly fallen from the trees as they put themselves to bed for winter. If you listen you will hear the loudest song coming from the smallest of birds, the wren. If you look you can discover a root bent like an arch with what looks like a rabbit hole under it with moss and lichen surrounding the entrance. Many people think, “So what!” and walk on. 

Some adults, when the rabbit hole is pointed out, might say you are right, how clever, it could well be, but the leaves all around the mouth tells you the rabbits have left a long time ago and are living somewhere else now. For most young people that will be enough, the will rush on with their walk so they can get back to playing “Runddle-doodle’s great adventure” on their mobile phone, in the car, on the way home.  Occasionally one young person will go to look at the hole carefully and they will see a beautiful spider’s web half covering the entrance and what looks like a mossy door just at the point the light goes and the burrow takes a bends and a dip. They will try to tell their adult what they have seen and be rewarded with “What a great imagination you have, you should write fairy stories.”

Yet for Mr McLarty, whose burrow home it is, this is all to the good as he does not want noisesome humans seeing what is actually there. Not the moss green coloured door he made with a level of craftsmanship that would have left a time served cooper in tears. Nor the shoe lace attached to the doorbell with the perfect turkshead knot as the bell pull which any sailor would be proud of. Nor the Oggham script name plate on his door which tells you his name is ‘McLarty’ in runes picked out in red that would make a sign writer seeth at his skill.
Mr McLarty is a Scots Pictsie, is very particular about what he does and is very happy humans do not know where he stays.

Now there are pictsies who live in another dimension of space and time on a planet called Disc World. These pictsies like to fight anyone and if anyone is not available, they will fight themselves. They drink Granny’s Horse Liniment to excess, in fact anything with alcohol in it, if truth be told, and talk in a manner which Mr McLarty own Lalland’s Scots probably could understand at a push.  They pay great attention to what they call “Hags” folk we would call white or good witches. 

Now Mr McLarty likes a drink, a libation he calls it, from time to time but it must be a fine Scottish malt and he would always walk away from a fight unless there was no alternative. He gives not a fig for any witch as he is far more adept in magic than they will ever be.

See, the universe is a very confusing place which not even the most clever of scientists, here on Earth, understand. We know in our own language that words that look the same can mean different things. Well it is the same across the multiverse of dimensions. Here on Earth people have Tortoise as a pet, a vegetarian reptile which comes with its own mobile home. If you zip across the dimensions, beyond our visible universe you will find a planet Earth where Tortoise keep humans as their pets or in some other dimension a planet Earth where Tortoise are carnivorous and eat humans.

If you ever went into Mr McLarty’s home you would find handmade chairs of delicate beauty made from oak and ash, all around a wood burning stove on which a stock pot is always simmering and by which is Mr Mclarty’s favourite rocking chair, made by his own Granddad and been in the family for nigh on 500 years. His four poster bed would befit royalty and the throws and blankets are of the best quality human money could ever buy but one thing is missing, Mrs McLarty, for whom there is no replacing and who died ten years ago. Hers was the hand that wove and created all the soft furnishings to complement Mr McLarty’s skill with wood and iron.

Mr McLarty’s son and daughter are always telling him to move on and find a new Mrs McLarty or at least move to a nice apartment of burrows near them where there is no fear of any human ever finding him. There he would get to see his grandchildren more often, as his son and daughter think it is too risky to take their children into the woods to see Grandad, “It is time you lived like a modern pictsie and got up to date, Granddad.” His grandchildren tell him. Grandad says to that, “This newfangled world is not necessarily better”, he likes it fine where he bides as he has all his best chums around him, many he has known for two hundred years or more. What is more the handmade chairs and tables he has made all his life are back in fashion as pictsie folk in the modern mega burrows are after the traditional ‘look’ to keep in touch with the old ways, so he is still doing very well for himself, thank you very much. 

This does not stop his son and daughter from worrying as they remind themselves that Da is not getting any younger, the woods he lives in are always getting smaller; as the humans take more and more of them away to build their own homes or massive roads with no thought for the lives that live there already.

They would be even more worried if they knew Jack, the boy who had told his dad about the door down the rabbit hole and he and his older sister Lynne, were coming back to investigate Mr McLarty’s  burrow more closely.

“Honest, sis, I saw a proper door!”
“It’s just one of your tall tales Jack, who would build a door down an old rabbit burrow? I mean, what’s left of Dun Dyke wood ’s only not been built on ‘cos at least one adult knew there had to be somewhere left for us to play and explore. ”
“Dad says it is because it is a site of special scientific interest it has plants in the boggy bit that are special  spun doo’s” or something like that.”
“Sun dews ya numpty! Aye, there’s also rare newts and toads in the bog and bats living in the special boxes the woodland ranger put up. Dad says it has become a haven for local wildlife and since all the foreign pines have been chopped down, a lot of native trees have self seeded in the new clearings as well as the deliberate planting and the Dun Dyke burn has brown trout in it again.”
“So, can we not have a keek down the burrow with your fibre thingy maybe there’s no door but we may find a nest of slow worms? Go on, sis, it will be fun...”
“Mair like aa we’ll see is a load of stoor and a collapsed roof.”
“So you are up for it then?”
“Aye or you’ll ne’er stop dinging my ears until we dae.”

The ‘fibre thingy’ Jack was talking about is a flexible, fibre optic lense. Her Dad had brought an old broken one home from his work to help Lynne with a science project on bending light. It was no longer good enough for the precision engineering work their Dad did, looking at bits of jet engines that you could only otherwise see by taking the engine to bits and pieces, but the blind spot was not much of a problem if you were just having a keek down, say, a burrow to discover if a door was actually there. You could plug the device into your mobile phone and with some digital wizardry then enlarge what you saw up to ten times its actual size. At just under half a metre in length it was just the job for the task Jack had in mind. 

Lynne put all the bits and pieces to make the fibre optic lense work in a small back pack and daundered into the kitchen to tell her Mum her and Jack were going up to the woods to do some nature exploring. Lynne stood in the kitchen door with her brain in neutral nodding as required, as Mum went through the usual check list of things Lynne had to do to keep her wee brother safe, the check list of wearing safety helmets for their bikes, crossing the main road at the pedestrian crossing and not talking to any strange folk. Oh! Try and keep Jack from falling in the burn or the bog or the both (a mission impossible task for Lynne, if ever there was one). In the meantime Mum was busy cramming biscuits, fruit and bottles of apple drink into an air tight box just in case they got a bit peckish during the afternoon, as Lynne was walking towards the back door to get her bike her Mum grabbed her back pack undid the zip and stuck a toilet roll in, just in case they were “caught short”.

“What took you, sis?”
“The standard spiel?”
“Aye. An’ enough food to keep us going for days.”
“Rightee oh! Last one tae the crossing is a googled eyed, tatty boggle.”

There was the hole, just as Jack remembered it. They put their bikes to rest against a high tree stump, Dad said it was left that way to give the local hen harriers, hawks and kites somewhere to perch to either look for or to digest their lunch. Lynne began screwing the bits of the fibre optics together, put in the batteries, switched it on, attached it to her mobile phone to check the lense was not all covered in muck and was working. Once all was ready, Jack began to carefully poke the flexible bit down the hole as Lynne watched the screen for anything interesting. This is what they saw:

  • The spider whose web was in the entrance up in one corner with her recent victims hanging neatly in a row
  • A family of slaters whose lunch of rotten wood was disturbed by the fibre optics progress
  • A worm’s head poking out the side wall as if looking to see who was disturbing its peace
  • A big black beetle who reared up on its hind legs as if to stop the device's progress, then thought better of it and scuttled away
  • A golden centipede on its sinuous, scurrying way to find its lunch, possibly of slater
  • A perfect blob of moss which looked almost like one of those round boot scraper brushes in the form of a hedgehog they had at their back door
  • A moss green door with neat funny lines painted on it in red

You guessed the last one, didn’t you? I had given that one away, so you were not too surprised they found a door. Yet imagine Lynne’s surprise, confusion and general befuddlement when she saw the ‘fairy tale door’ her brother claimed to be there was not so much “fairy tale” as solid wood. Lynne took a photograph of the door then had to convince herself that she was seeing a door by looking at the photograph she had taken, no it was not an optical illusion, some moss on the fibre optic lense or any other sort of distortion therefore, her logical scientific brain told her, no matter how improbable, it could only be a door, half a metre down a rabbit hole. Jack was having no such problem believing what he was seeing; he was dancing around Lynne singing, 

“I told you so! Nyah, nyah, nyah! I told you so! I told you so!”
“So what do we do now, sis? Use the fibre optic like a battering ram and knock the door down?”
“No, who ever made this door deserves our respect, so we will knock and see if anyone is at home.”
“And then knock it down!”
“Most certainly not, we will come back another time and try knocking again.”

So they knocked on Mr McLarty’s door, as gently as they could, and waited.

You would think given all the disturbance in the burrow with slaters, centipedes and beetles skyting hither, thither and thon, the ground shaking dance of Jack on finding the door and the pounding on his front door by the fibre optic device that Mr McLarty would be right and sensible to high tail it out of his back door. This was not the Pictsie way. If someone came to a wood pictsie’s front door it was usually because they had need of a Pictsie for advice or to carry out some magic to heal a child or a beast. None of Mr McLarty’s pictsie friends would ever come to the front door unless they needed Mr McLarty’s professional expertise as a Pictsie. A Pictsie never ignored a knock on their front door no matter how hard or how puny. So Mr McLarty put on his best Tweed jacket over his paint and glue splattered apron and opened his door to be bedazzled with such bright a light as he had never seen before. At first he thought it must be the Pictsie death god “Gettaefreuchie” come to take him off to Pictsie heaven which Mr McLarty thought was a bit unfair as he had at least another hundred years in him yet.  As his eyes became more accustomed to the light he could see what looked like a giant glass eye in the centre so he spoke to it in the formal welcome of a pictsie,

“Who ‘er ye be, speak free tae me aa whit ‘er tis that ca’s ye tae ma door?”
At the other end neither Lynne nor Jack had quite got their head round the fact there was this man, around three centimetres tall, who looked like a slightly more pointy faced version of their own Granddad.
“Weel, iffen yer na gain tae enswer I’ll be awa back intae ma werk.”
Mr McLarty gave what he was beginning to think of a giant boggle’s eye one last stare and was about to turn round when a human voice came down his burrow.
“Please, sir, we are sorry to disturb you from your work but we were just exploring your burrow, found your door and wanted to know who lived here.”
“The name’s McLarty, an if ye hae na need o’ me tae helpit ony bairn ir beast I’ll be oan ma wi.”
“We were wondering, Mr McLarty, just what are you?”
“Whit? Ye dinna ken? Forbye am a Pictsie an’ wha ir yees?
“I’m called Lynne and my little brother is called Jack, we are humans.”
“Ah ken weel fit yees ir an am guessing yer just twa bairns wha ir oot tae dae mischief.”
“ No, sir, not in the slightest, we are just fascinated to find, sorry, I mean meet with you so unexpectedly.”
“Lassie, ye dinna sound as if yer  ony cheil, tho am fir guessing yer wee brother’s a bit o’ a scamp. If ye want tae cam bye fir a cuppa a’ can sortit fir ye tae dae so. Bit first ye hae to tak an unbreakable Pictsie oath ne’er tae tell ony buddy far I bide oan pain o a curse camin doon on yer family. Will ye tak that oath for ye an yer brother.”
“I promise my brother and I will never tell anyone that you live here, cross my heart and hope to die if I do.”
“I’ll maybee’s na gae thit far if ye dae, bit I can tell yer honest at heart, lass. Cam awa ben.”
Suddenly Jake and Lynne were outside a normal size door to them but which was most certainly Mr McLarty’s front door down the burrow.
“Dinna staund thir tae lang, ye pair o dreeps, yer letting aa the heat oot. Sae cam awa bye an pit the door on thon latch.”
“How did you do that Mr Mclarty?”
“Pictsie magic, hoo er else wid a dae thon, lass? An iffen yer worrit about the time sae ye get hame tae yer Ma fir yer tea, thons stoppit fir noo an aw. Ye could spen an oor ir twa wi me here in ma hame an wince yer back ootside, it will be like jist seconds hae passit. Now I hae some scones wi epple jeelie oan the go. Dae ye tak milk an’ sugar in yer tea?”
Lynne and Jack settled around Mr McLarty’s table with its neat table linen table cloth embroidered with birds and insects, set neatly with plates, cups, saucers and bone handled cutlery. There was a china jam pot on the shape of an apple, beside it a butter dome shaped like a cow and a pile of sultana dotted scones steaming gently, just out of the oven.

Jack struggled hard with his own demons not to simply reach out and grab one of the scones whose scent was even now wrapping itself around his heart as he waited ever more intensely to be invited by Mr McLarty to take one. Mr McLarty was carefully pouring water, just off the boil, into the teapot so he would not scald the tea while Lynne looked around this tidy and well kept room, her mind itching to ask where Mrs McLarty was. 

All the time Mr McLarty was pondering the deep worry of all Pictsies; were these wee humans just on the take, like all modern humans, or could they relearn the old ways and work with the world their elders and so called ‘betters’ have long ignored. The world few modern humans called by the its real name ‘Gaia’, Mother Earth, without any real knowledge of what the word had long meant as they pursued their single issue campaigns saving this or that while much else died unknowing and unknown. He wondered if these wee humans, who appeared so polite and caring on the surface, had any depth to them. Too few humans nowadays had any moral depth at all, he thought; greed for the world had taken such a deep hold on them while, all the time, they pretended otherwise.

Scones, Mrs McLarty, Trust; each had their own important issue to be approached, as they sat down to drink tea and take a scone or two.

“Jings Laddie; yer een ir oot oan organ stops, tak a scone afore thon een fa oot an roll doon yer cheeks”, laughed Mr McLarty. Jack’s arm whipped out like a racing snake, it was almost magic how quickly the scone moved from the pile to his plate.
“You Lassie, oot wi it, whit er is oan the tip aa yer tounge.”
“I was wondering where Mrs McLarty is, if there is a Mrs McLarty?”
“Aye ye’ve seen aa the fine things makkit by a lassie’s haund an yer wondering wha’s? Aye there wis a Mrs McLarty, love o’ ma life an her bairns’. She wis taken awa by the “Gittaefreuchie” whilst thon houses an road wis biltit. The greed o’ human’s broke her heart and the poisons they pit oan the land finished the job. She couldna thole the sufferin aa a the plants, insects and the grund wis pit tae as men and machines tore oot the wood we loved an pit killer trees in thir stead fir their ain an na Gaia’s benefit. Aa wishit she could see that some human fowk now ken aboot the poison trees and thir killing of oor land. It wid dae her hert guid tae see dragon flies an sun dews back in the bog efter aa these years and hames makit fir the bats and wee birdies. At least tis some recompense to the destruction rauchit by previous humans.”
“The Git- tae- freuchie?” asked Lynne.
“Aye thon boggle whit taks us Pictsies tae the Eillean Glas wince ir bide on Gaia is at a close. A place where we live oan fir aye.”
“A Pictsie heaven?”
“Aye the difference is Eillean Glas actually exists.”

Lynne thought hard and long about another question then decided the better of it. Instead she asked:

“Why do human’s and Pictsies no longer get along?”
Ah, weel, thon’s a tale whit’ll tak some tellin, sae it will, bit I’ll hae a bash, if’n ye’ll listen anent tae whit I hae tae speil. It’ll na be easy listening, a’ll tell ye.”
“Please”, said Lynne.
 “First, ye need tae git a haud o the idea thit where ever the old language of the Celts is still heard thir is awies Pictsies, ir Piskies in Kernow an Breton, ir Pixies in Cymru an Eire. We are part of the language, the tales, poems an history o’ the Celts aa aroon Europe, ir auld Britons if’n ye prefer jist tae think aa oor ain place. Pairts whir the auld language is still spoken hae mair o’us than pairts where it is jist the names thit ir leftit.
Tak this place, Dun Dyke. This hill’s been ca’d thon since lang syne, jist efter the ice went back, whit wi’ thon ice giants being defeated by Corcoran, Culachan an sent back hame. Fowk think its ca’d thon cos aa the dyke an ditch aroon the auld fort at the tap. In fact its cam frae same auld word as the Erse noo ca’ “Dundaulk”, jist oer the years fowks ears’ change the spellin’o’ aa the words as they forget the auld ways an meanings.
The people of the Pictsie an whit ye noo ca’ Picts kenned hoo it went. Hoo we wir aa pairt of the whole. They worshipped an unnerstood Gaia alang wi us in a wie aa yer David Attenboro’s in aa yer modern wurld will ne’er ken in ae muckle puckle aa eons. They listened tae the land and thocht hoo tae dae whit wis richt – they had Pictish shaman fowk wha were supposed to be the link. Some who wad listen tae us, an some thit thocht they kenned better an kilt thir ane, bluid sacrifices, whin thir wis nae need frae Gaia fir sic a deal. Thae boundit up in their own importance an poo’er, kept a grip through fear an poisoning men against men sae they fecht each ither rither than lookit oot fir the world an thir ain fowk. Sae it went o’er the centuries fowk listening mair tae the greed o’ the deaf shamans than the world. Tae try an save whit is noo Scotland frae aa this death an greed, we Pictsie and oor Erse Pixie brothers and sisters tried tae bring peace between the Scots an Picts. A fine bauchle thon turnit oot tae be. The bad shaman’s got thir feet unner the table richt efter the deal wis done but noo they ca’d themsel’s ‘Christian’ priests bit thir message wis the same tae the high heid yins as afore; whit is yoors is oors an the deil tak the hindmost. In this way the rape of Scotland began as greed took it doon, alang wi’ the rest o the world.

These ‘Christian’ priests, then startit condemning fowk who kept the auld wies wi us Pictsies as sinners, pagans and eventually witches, thir ‘Christian’ hatred kenned nae bounds as these puir fowk wir hunted doon hangit, drownit an burnt tae ashes doon the centuries fir dae’in nothing worse than kenning mair about the real world thin aa thir priests iver wid. We used tae say in the auld language, “Cho glic ri sagart is eallach leabhraichean air” which means; a priest’s wisdom only comes from his books, they ken nothing of life, jist whit they read ir whit ar telt tae ken. Nae matter thir bookie wis jist a load of auld blethers an nonsense makit up tae please a lang deid Roman Emperor an tae weild earthly poo’er fir thir ane ends. They cowed the fowk wi thir talk o’ the Christian Trinity, thrie gods in one whit coverit aa the options fir maist fowk. Aye we Pictsies’kenned the thrie gods they usit tae keepit the fowk doon, “Tri nithean a thig gun iarraidh – gaol, eud agus eagal”, the three things that come unasked - love, envy and fear.
These ir noo the things at the hairt o’ man, the thrie ‘Gods’ thit makit him whit he is.”

A silence spread across the room after Mr McLarty stopped talking. Mr McLarty looked at the two children across the table from him, waiting for them to tell him he was talking rubbish; he did not know the Christian God, as priest after priest had tried to persuade him over the last few hundred years. He had said more than he had meant to, maybe harder than he had wanted to. Was he become just another priest with only book knowledge? 

He watched their eyes for anger, for hatred, for fear at this blunt challenge to their world view but only saw thinking, the testing of his words against the youngster’s own short experience of life and the world. He thought it would be the girl who would be first to answer but it was Jack who surprised him;

“Do you know, Mr McLarty, this is the first explanation of the world I live in that actually makes any sense. We hear the local Parish minister at school talking about the Christian God, his good works and yet you only have to look round your own town and ask, in that case, just why are so many people homeless, living rough? Why are children dying in conflicts around the globe in any ‘Gods’ name? Why do our politicians say lots, wring their hands but do nothing except look after themselves?”

That left Mr McLarty astounded that such a scamp of a lad could see through the fog of centuries quite so clearly.

“Jack’s right, how many times have politicians said they would love to stop the killing of little children or help the poor but there is nothing to be done, it is the way of the world, the other side needs to stop first. Why should this be the way of our world? The politicians’ financial backers drill holes in the ground and poison drinking water trying to get oil and gas out of the ground while the politicians tell us it is a price worth paying; not the politicians or their friends paying - of course, just the local people whose drinking water now catches on fire or is too polluted too drink. These politicians love themselves, are envious of others whose riches and power are greater and fear ordinary people ever working it all out.”

Mr McLarty’s jaw dropped further, in the case of these two he had to do a lot of rethinking of his view of modern humans. If these were the views of modern children, were these views coming from the views of their parents or is it simply their minds were open to seeing what actually is rather than what they think it should be?

“Thank you for the tea and scones, Mr McLarty, but I think Jack and me had better get back. You have given us a lot to think about. Can we come and speak to you again, please, it has been most interesting and instructive” said Lynne.
“It’ll be my pleasure, indeed. I’ll jist show you tae the back door so ye’ll ken whir tae come next time.”