Monday, 17 November 2008

That'll be different. Wednesday 12 November 2008

Submitted our first drafts with commentary and thought about theme. Called my bit funeral and I spoke to a friend about what I was preparing; I described the different components, Jimmy Woods digging graves, the death and funeral of my friends' mother, the tune September Song and wearing a remembrance poppy. He asked if I was calling it September Song, he plays gypsy guitar and he has four versions of it on his ipod; that in itself seems extraordinary because I think I imagined I was one of the last two people alive who knew the song. I've never considered calling it that but I didn't know why because it does encompass ideas of the past, my father and time running out. Thinking about themes make me realise that I'd stuck with funeral because it is literally (is it literally?) at the funeral where all the components converge. I'm feeling a bit giddy and excited about changing person and seeing what happens to hand in next week. I was pleased that the lecturer made us work with someone different this week because it’s useful to have a change of perspective. And it’s diverting to speak to someone else.

Someone called Jo Marchant was on Start the Week on Radio 4 on Monday. She spoke about the Antikythera, a calculating mechanism dating from 70 BC that was recovered from an Aegean shipwreck in 1901 by pearl divers. The device links the technical calendars used by astronomers to the everyday calendars that regulated Greek society. Its intermeshed toothed wheels represent calendar cycles; by turning the wheels users could distinguish the relationships between astronomical cycles to figure out the relative positions of the sun and moon and forecast eclipses. It’s a complicated but it’s unlikely to have been a one-off. It made me think about the althiometer in Philip Pullman's Dark Materials. When Jo had spoken others on the panel expressed astonishment that whoever had made the device hadn't made something Really Useful, 'they could have made a alarm clock'. Jo replied that within the context of the times the maker had made something Exceedingly Useful and that first century BC Greeks would have no use for a clock, alarm or otherwise. This made me think about two things, an anthropologist called Evans-Prichard who studied the Nuer, who are/were Sudanese pastoralists. He reported that they did not have any expression equivalent to time which meant that they couldn’t speak of time as though it was something actual, it didn’t pass, couldn’t be wasted, couldn’t be saved and couldn’t be made up. I’m compelled by the notion that we invented something as stressful as time and I wonder what we do or don’t do now that will appear incomprehensible to future generations. I suspect that building substantial great structures to the glory of a god that we’ve made up might be one thing, but of course it’s just as likely to be something that seems wise and reasonable to me at the moment. I very uneasy about the common assumption that putting children from the age of four or five away in schools from 9.00 till 3.00 every day is a kind or sensible thing to do.

I went to Crail this weekend to visit my mother in law. Crail is a very strange seaside town in Fife. On my last visit the man in the museum directed me to a petrified Carboniferous tree trunk on the beach. I was completely overwhelmed by the sight of it, it’s huge and unbelievable. A few weeks later my daughter Ali went to visit her Granny and then went in search of the fossil tree trunk. She couldn’t find it so asked a likely looking local. He said he thought it must be in the opposite direction because, ‘there are only rocks that way’.

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