Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Clouding finite wonders with soaking bicycles

Bessy challenged me to a game of plant your favourite story about wheat and barley in the furthest cloud you can reach before you have to breathe again. It would appear that I held my breath a little too long and have just returned to consciousness. I'm not sure if I won or not - Bessy's nowhere to be seen.

I found that Margaret had spent the time without me creating another myth in which to live. At least, that's what she says. I commented that everything looked pretty much the same to me, but apparently it doesn't - and the corridor in the world through which I walk has been altered forever.

I was pleased to find it still found its way along the south coast cliffs with their view over the English Channel, and that Felix was waiting for me as usual. He, it would appear, has been on his own travels and returned with little idea of their purpose. I asked where he'd been. He looked at me with that look that reminds me of my childhood washing lollypops in brine at the front of the class when I should have been calculating something important - that look of the teacher who has to explain again why it's useful to know the square root of 367,946.25344. (Inicidentally - can anyone do that by long division?) It would seem that I know where Felix went because there are only a finite number of places it could have been. I conceded that but reminded him that finity streched to infinity. We drank our tea in silence, as Felix felt no compulsion to continue discussing the subject.

George has been using the intervening time to work on his aquarobics, or something. Anway - his hair was wet and his leotard was dripping behind reception when I arrived at the surgery this morning. I said he looked like he'd been having fun and he said that he didn't do things for fun but for the beautiful effect it was likely to have on the spiralling crystals of snow building in the sky above. I asked if he was up to something with Bessy, but he would have none of it and told me to get to work.

Cookie had pinned herself to the ceiling in an attempt to come to some sort of understading with the inarticulate and unrepresented in the world, starting with plasterboard and paint. This she was merrily eplaining to our first patient, who happened to be the watchmaker from the High Street whose dream is to ride a bicycle without wheels all the way round the world. Some people really have spirit.

And so I have returned and the myth continues in some form or another. Gladly I note the presence of those I love and their presentation to me of all sorts of wonders that, I trust, are not finite.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Building loops out of sand and dropping coins on Frenchmen

It is some time since Bessy woke me in the morning to a rendition of The funniest thing a dog can do (or something approximating that) - a piece she composed herself in her spare time. The tune is not bad but the woofs are in a constant loop so that it was midday before I realised the song probably could have finished by now and shut her up (by making a grunt that she associates with the dispiriting one given by a critic at some performance or other when she was a mere puppy. I hate to use such a manipulative means of stopping the music, but one has to get up).

Margaret was in the attic building herself a nest. I've no idea why.

I sat down with Felix and we drank some tea on his bench. He told me there were wondrous things going on at the bottom of the sea as a consequence of a child of nine dropping a coin off the edge of the cliff in the dying days of 1913. It would appear that the coin caused a flourish of improvisation among divers on the seabeds across the globe this year. I asked if such improvisation was likely to continue. Felix said he hadn't planned it to when he dropped the coin and we finished our tea in silence.

George competed to build a sandcastle on the seabed in an attempt to defy the tides. It worked and he got so carried away that he surfaced one day on top of his castle in the middle of the Atlantic. He called out to claim his prize, but everyone else had given up and gone home. This morning he looked as though he was still atop the sand: his eyes were bright and eager and ready to take what was his. Since I didn't have a prize, I left him and went through to the surgery.

Cookie had dressed the surgery up to be a reminder of a Napoleonic war tent. It would seem that some relative was a Napoleonic reader of indigestible facts of which, I hear, the great Frenchman was terribly afraid. When our first patient came in Cookie asked if she was Napoleon. For some reason she said yes and Cookie said that today's indigestible fact was that she would never walk on English soil. And she was right: the patient had spent her entire life hovering two centimetres (it couldn't have been an inch) above the ground.

Funny, these things. People throw things into the sea and wait for the loop to return to the beginning. Or decide that the waiting is too long and get on with building something even if it gets washed away in the big loop. Or get confused and become the loop themselves.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Non-progressing vaccuum-filled cherry pickers

Bessy was practising how to be a cat, having recently seen a performance of Ionescu's Rhinoceros. Margaret was cooking an egg that had no yoke or white inside it. It would appear that she was trying to see if there was a meaning to an egg, she told me, when it is no longer an egg. I looked at Bessy and wondered what she would be if she wasn't a dog anymore but a cat, and then wondered if we were anything that we thought we were.

Felix tells me that a vacuous egg is an inconspicuous weapon in some parts of the world on account of the vacuum inside when appropriately treated. Apparently, on shattering, the vacuum pulls the feet of anyone standing within a ten yard radius, thus arranging them like a star on the ground and immobilising them. I gulped as I thought of the consequences of that egg of Margaret's slipping from her spoon.

George walked on eggshells for the duration of a cherry harvest some years back. I asked him if he'd fallen out with the other cherry pickers. No, he said, he was nowhere near the cherry trees but in a pod at the bottom of the sea. We looked at each other for some moments before I asked the obvious question: what did he dress in? He didn't dress, he said, and smiled diffidently.

Cookie seems to have developed an interest in hanging loose thoughts on periodic progression of the non-progression of lifeless people. This makes for an interesting, though somewhat dispiriting, display. I complimented her on the volume of thoughts and wondered aloud if anyone really progressed, indeed, if progression wasn't just another myth made up to give life meaning. Cookie put that thought up with the others and we got on with the day.

There's not much to add. Only to reflect that the empty egg may one day be a cat, which would be paradoxical.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Denying one's place in beautiful myths

I was finishing my breakfast of toast and coffee when Margaret slipped out from the cutlery draw. This is not an uncommon event but that she had not invited me in to share the space was. I mentioned this and she told me to stop being soft and finish my breakfast. Bessy seemed to be in on the act too as she emerged with a fork piercing her snout in what, Margaret told me, was a test of self-denial. The hound had wanted to pierce herself with the bread knife.

Felix tells me he spent many years training himself in self-denial to such an extent that he is no longer here. That seemed odd to me given that were drinking tea together but I didn't push it. I must have been talking to myself all these years.

George has never denied himself anything, so long as it added something to his beauty or to his character, he tells me regularly. I asked if that wasn't a bit selfish. He looked at me very severely and said that when there were so many people around on whom anything beautiful or character-building was wasted - and here he stared at me some moments - his behaviour was quite the opposite. He turned to do some filing and I wondered what it was that meant I didn't take advantage of beautiful and characterful things.

Cookie, thank goodness, was practising how to build myths from rubber gloves. I asked if there weren't already enough myths to go around but she said that this would be a sterile one that no-one would ever contaminate. I guess that means it will be a better one, somehow.

And that's why there will always be some space in the world for denying myths and recreating others for when we're not here. Or denying myths unless they make the world more beautiful or characterful. Or anything that seems useful at the time. Mm.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Posing intently with prophetic blush

Tonight we are popping into town to listen to some chamber music. Bessy was, therefore, up early this morning practicing her glancing piercingly at the leading violinist so as to cause maximum distraction pose, which always makes us laugh. Margaret, on these occasions, floats up to a point in the centre of the auditorium where she remains, motionless, until the final note. This morning she told me that she would angle herself at 37 degrees to the horizontal on account of the ensemble playing Haydn. He would approve, no doubt.

Felix was watching the sea this morning with great intent. It would appear that a man was hoolah-hooping across the English Channel whilst doing unnecessary exercises to assuage the demands of a certainty-hungry society. I couldn't see the man. Felix smiled and said that he was half way to France. I asked if he was sure. Felix didn't reply but went very pale. I'm not sure why.

George was far from pale having applied copious quantities of blush to his cheeks. George, in is heyday, had been a regular participant in the annual blush your neighbour campaign. This involved knocking on as many doors as possible, calling the person who answered it 'lovely neighbour' and then applying rouge to their face in vast quantities. I asked George why he had never dabbed red all over me. He said that to call me lovely neighbour was going too far. I didn't think that was very pleasant.

Cookie was getting Mrs Jackson ready for treatment. Mrs Jackson has a very interesting ability to carve sheep kidneys with prophetic symbols using a hammer and chisel. I asked her today if she was working on anything at the present time - perhaps a prophesy of certainty in becoming a good neighbour. Cookie looked at me in her adult talking patronisingly to child way, and said: sheep's kidneys would only respond to a certain Baa Baa. I didn't follow, but that's the wonderful thing about Cookie: it's great to get lost.

Which brings me to a thought: that whatever one jumps through, it seems there's no way round the possibility that there's nothing on the other side. Mind you, if you do the jumping to beautiful music it probably doesn't really matter.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Enjoying time embracing shadows on drops of love

Margaret and I spent some hours yesterday walking in a most contemplative manner on the drops of water left in the air after Bessy has jumped into the water. It's a pleasant pastime and brings many rewards for the active mind. Bessy, incidentally, spent the whole day attempting not to produce a splash when she dived in so as to deprive us - in the most loving way - of this experience. She failed not least because a Basset Hound joined in and failed to realise quite why Bessy was so preoccupied with shaping herself like a sewing needle.

Felix, I discovered this morning, had spent the weekend examining the footsteps of a society ill-at-ease with itself during the autumn of 1354. The footsteps, he tells me, were interspersed with incisions typical of a common practice at that time of cutting one's shadow in order to release one's desire for central heating. This, it seems, was to deny an unhealthy preoccupation with the future. I asked Felix if the footsteps revealed a healthiness in their appreciation of the present. Felix looked at me for some time before saying that the footsteps were in the past as soon as they were made and, thus, could reveal nothing about their - or our - present health or otherwise. Bessy and I looked at each other rather blankly.

George used to wrap surf boards in electric cable and sell them to newly-weds as a means of establishing marital harmony through pseudo-electromagnetism. It would appear that the device, when spun continuously by the happy couple, produced so much attraction between them that they were locked forever in an embrace around the board. I suggested that just because people were embracing each other didn't mean they wanted to. George wagged a finger at me and told me that cynicism was at the heart of all relational dissolution. I gulped guiltily and made my way to the surgery.

Cookie was distracted this morning with an unpleasant memory of a conversation she'd had with an upturned lover wearing decorative bobbles whilst painting clouds with his toes. That left me to attend to Mr Cherook who was in for root canal treatment. Mr Cherook is attempting to metamorphose into a cast-iron lamp post bearing no shadow on passers-by. I asked if such a light was needed to prevent an unhealthy preoccupation with the future that would lead to all people dis-embracing catastrophically. Cookie at that instant left the lover and said that there was no way of knowing what would make people let their trousers down in the dark. Mr Cherook looked completely confused. I struggled to follow too.

Be that as it may, I wondered if the future would mean anything if I was a drop of coloured water embracing my lover and gazing on our shadow below. I suppose it would depend on whether there were dogs having fun. Or anybody else for that matter.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Balancing contagious manoeuvres with unpleasant outcomes

I made a very curios discovery this morning when I woke: Margaret was balancing on Bessy's shoulders and Bessy was balancing on hers. I tried to rearrange the way I was sitting so that this seemed normal, but could not. I gave up and decided that this must be possible, even if I couldn't understand how.

Drinking tea with Felix on his bench overlooking the English Channel, I mentioned this phenomenon. Felix said it sounded like the ancient manoeuvres of a dying tribe of spiritualists he'd come across in these parts a couple of centuries ago. This rather upset me on account of Bessy and Margaret being the loves of my life. However, Felix reassured me that the death of the tribe and their manoeuvres were unconnected other than by the bodies doing each. I must say this did little to put my mind at rest.

However, I plodded on and asked George if there were any places he'd come across where a man could assuage his fear of annihilation due to the loss of important others. He said I was already well past annihilation and should button my lips in case of contagion. He has a curious way of responding sometimes, does George.

Cookie had arranged the surgery in such a way that we spent the morning treating all patients in a space of one inch squared. This was to allow the rest of the room to breathe. We managed it and I felt much the better for it.


Thursday, 27 September 2007

Drawing conclusions about duels fought between sand screens

For some reason Cookie was squeezed between the two panes of glass of the surgery's double-glazed window. I couldn't really make out what she was saying but it would appear she was attempting to come to a conclusion about the dualist nature of a hot and cold body. My first patient and I watched as the conclusion developed, but saw no change. So we drank some coffee and agreed to put off treatment for a week.

I mention this because Felix had introduced me to some very secretive information thought to be responsible in part for the sinking of the Mary Rose during the reign of Henry VIII. It was this: that a man (who happened to be Felix's future son if he'd ever have had one) had slid into a bottle of rum and floated across the English Channel until he came up against a Spanish ship, whereupon he concluded that no change would happen as a consequence of two countries duelling. Not in the grand scheme of things anyway. He floated back to the beach and was never seen or heard of again. Which is why it is a secret. Because nobody knows for sure that it was actually this that he thought.

And that brings me to George, who for some time as a young man pioneered a technique for turning sand into invisible screens for the unashamed stater of dubious facts. I wondered aloud if George kept one of these screens up around himself in perpetuity. George stated quite categorically that the technique was abandoned on account of the perceived future resource issues around sand and depleted beaches.

And that's where Margaret comes in: this morning she woke me by circling over the house calling out in the manner of a seagull. I know why she does this on days like today: because she's foreseen that all I wanted to do was play in the sand. To avoid me wasting my day as a child, I did it before I got out of bed, much to Bessy's annoyance.

Thus it seems there is no conclusion worth drawing from such events. Unless that is a conclusion in itself, which would be very puzzling.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Recognition of colurless horses riding submarines

Bessy had managed to wriggle into the bottom of a pot of seeding compost. She has done it every year since 1998. At that time I thought she might be preparing herself for a 'natural burial' and wanted me to plant an oak over her. So I did and it took her a fortnight to re-emerge in a somewhat bedraggled state. These days she does it when I'm asleep or otherwise occupied. Margaret interprets her behaviour as one of optmistic germination in an attempt to come to terms with sweet peas she happened to rip apart in the summer of 1998.

Felix and some fellows cut down a few oaks and built a horse that was able to paddle itself beside Cold War submarines whilst looking totally innocuous. In this manner they collected all sorts of useful data on submariner attitudes to everlasting dark days when not encountering horses. I suggested today that there must have been all sorts of things the submariners missed out on. Felix suggested I keep my theories to myself in case of harming the 'National Interest'. This much-spouted phenomenon seems to me to be such a vacuous one that I didn't bother arguing with Felix that any theory of mine would have little impact on a national, or any other, interest.

It was with some relief that George had returned from selling contraceptive pills to late flowering roses in the Algarve. George was competing in a competition and it would appear that he won it. I suggested that preventing contraception between flowers was likely to bring us more dour and dull days. George winked knowingly and said that just because a flower bought a contraceptive, there was nothing to say it would swallow it. I guess colour will live on, until there's a competition to get flowers to devour the pills too.

Cookie was preparing Mr Billowellow for a trip to the colourful world of musical-lip-balm-sticks-hovering-over-autumn-ponds. I've never been, but Mr Billowellow and Cookie always disappear for the duration of the appointment leaving me to get on with the rather lonely task of treating his teeth. I don't mind if it keeps the patient happy.

I think there's something in the burying of oneself deep away from the outside in an attempt to come to terms with the colour one has, at some point or another, destroyed. Recognising the lost opportunities regardless of the consequential dry lips would seem to be an essential outcome. Does that make sense?

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Planting with a backdrop of rearranged movement

It was a curious start to the day: Bessy decided Margaret needed to be educated in the best way to rearrange garden furniture and Margaret decided Bessy needed to be educated in the best way to rearrange rearranged furniture. I left them to it and planted some winter vegetables. Which made me wonder if there weren't opportunities in movement that one could exploit for one's own ends.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Forgetting songs when falling with graceful eyelashes

I woke this morning to see Bessy falling as a leaf in autumnal garb from the highest point of the beautiful oak in a neighbour's garden. She looked so natural I could have sworn she'd practiced it before but, being a leaf of only one year's living, this was clearly impossible.

Margaret was putting the finishing touches to the cold frame in the garden. She wanted somewhere to snuggle up in but not so much that she felt warm. It would appear that the sensation of a trill down her spine when curled up reminds her of her childhood and happy journeys to the seaside. I don't ask questions about these things. Thus she built a stone-walled cubicle with an old glass window for a roof, which looks perfect to me for hardening off some new plants in the spring - if Margaret leaves some space.

Felix had filled my space on the bench with wistful allusions to the past he was struggling to conjure up after a night with little sleep. He seemed troubled by his inability to put form to an era long gone when some distant relative had planted an acorn and sung a song for him. I asked if he could remember the song. The song, though, had been sucked in as the acorn germinated and so the whole episode was irretrievable. Hence his frustration. Sometimes I don't quite understand Felix. So long as he understands himself, though, I imagine the world will be OK.

George used to abseil down the necks of giraffes. It was, apparently, where he learned to really appreciate eyelashes. He fluttered them at me this morning in a most unnerving manner so I swept through to the surgery.

Cookie and our first patient, Mrs Jellyweeble were balancing each on a dental probe. Mrs Jellyweeble was once known for her remarkable ability to dress hamsters so that they were mistaken for City financiers betting on poor borrowers, or something. I asked her today if she couldn't dress a probe into some sort of floating giraffe absconding from responsibility. Cookie hopped off her probe and said that was the daftest thing she'd heard in ages given that there was no jam or cream on the premises. I didn't follow, but it didn't matter seeing as the day was such a fine autumnal one.

Which I suppose brings me to a thought I was having about childhood and falling gracefully: one ought to have perfected it or perfected another means of descending in a manner one doesn't forget. Or maybe one could learn to balance so that falling doesn't become necessary.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Hiding in wait for first-hand inabilities

I spent the weekend crouching in the long grass. Bessy wanted to pretend we were in a savanna and that we were lions waiting for a wildebeest. So we waited. And waited. And waited.

I'm not sure this part of Britain - if any part - ever had wildebeest, but the weather was good and the improvement in the sound of Bessy's growl was pleasing. Margaret brought us sandwiches and watched for game with binoculars, and the days passed in a contemplative reflection on the activities of end-of-summer insect life and philosophical assumptions on the part of dried stems of wild grass blowing freely in the light wind. How splendid.

Felix had heard that friends in an ill-fated early submarine (circa 1800) were passing by before they passed on, so he popped down to share some tea. It would appear they had no use for the beverage owing to their rather apoplectic response to Felix's prediction that in twenty-three seconds the vessel would sink and all perish within. I asked if it was worth me bothering with my cup of tea or if, as with the submariners, he was about to tell me I had only seconds to live. He said he wouldn't tell me even if I was, since I might not share a cup of tea with him. This rather put me ill at ease and I sipped my tea with a wary eye to note any change in Felix's expression.

Today clearly wasn't the day as I made it to the surgery where I learnt George had spent the weekend practicing the look of a perplexed guardian of moral absolutes. I asked if such absolutes made any reference to the passing of seasons and the life of wild animals in long grass. He contorted his face in such a way that there was no question that the morality of wild animals in long grass had been decided there and then and was fixed forever. I didn't dare ask what that morality was.

Cookie was dressing a few words of hers in music so that they hovered like butterflies over the dental chair. When I brought in Mr Chamberlain (who is, incidentally, a practitioner of the art of producing vowels in ways that people think they are consonants) he was showered with a veritable symphony, owing to Cookie's profound liking of the patient's ability to construe her name into something that sounds closer to Cwwkyy. It's hard to reproduce in print.

It seems to me that there exists an association between hiding in long grass, being offered tea by someone pronouncing one's imminent demise, and being absolutely moralised just by a look. I have a feeling that association stems from the wonder of experiencing these things first-hand and the seeming inability, however hard one might try, to communicate it to anybody else. Which is also a rather lonely prospect. Unless one shares one's inability with others of similar inability. Or something like that.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Waking to rocket-propelled rifts and italicised nuptials

Bessy woke (after we'd spent the last week in a splendidly blissful sleep) and acted in a manner that suggested she had dreamt of the correct positioning of an underprivileged canine in an over privileged society. This involved her removing a rather splendid mohair suit I keep hidden for special occasions, and fashioning it into a kite, to which she attached herself and flew off in the sunshine to inspect the shoreline.

She clearly hadn't been sharing my dream which involved the re-enactment of Margaret and my wedding some years earlier, which had involved the rather pleasant joining together of family members for a period of abstract reflection on the meaning of rocket-propelled Robin Reliants and the need for cohesive forces to keep soggy chips (French fries of a peculiarly fat and British sort, to any non-British readers) together. When I woke, I felt like calling up all the participants to say what a privilege it had been to have them all attend but Margaret had spent the week dreaming about the rights of those of poor repute to a life of privacy. So I didn't pick up the phone, in case any of those who attended the wedding had, by some means, fallen into disrepute.

Felix had not noticed my absence for the week owing to his recent conviction that all conversations and interactions barely touch reality anyway. Bessy sailed in and landed on his lap and he ruffled her ears. He said she was a different dog from the last time he'd seen her. I said she was the same dog but with a different view on her position in life. This proved his point, he said, and gave her a cup of tea, which she accepted with a wink in my direction.

George was standing in the waiting area of the surgery in the manner of a soggy chip that has learnt to italicise itself so that it can make a statement of profundity. It would appear that at some time in the past, George perfected this position whilst aboard a dhow in the Indian Ocean, for the benefit of some bored fishermen with a need for excitement. Despite there having never seen a soggy chip, George tells me the effect was transforming, until they were all italicised and no-one stood out. A rift began to open between the fishermen, but then George moved onto the un-italicised soggy chip and harmony was achieved again. It's always curious to me what people get up to on dhows.

Cookie was in a rift of her own, she told me, though I have no idea what she meant. However, in a spirit of goodwill after a week of nuptial reflections, I did fall in with her rhythm as we got into the swing of things after a week away from the surgery.

Which brings me back to the changes one sees in all manner of creature after a short period away. Though, if one is to follow Felix's line, it's difficult to be sure those creatures - human or otherwise - were there in the first place. But then, does it matter if, on reflecting about them, one brings back happy memories?

Monday, 3 September 2007

Ringing patience by the ear and having fun

There's a curious thing that happens when the church bells ring in the distance: Bessy starts balancing candles on her left ear and wags her tail like there's a pile of her favourite comics in front of her. Margaret thinks she met Pavlov before she was born. I've no idea, but the bells were silent this morning and Bessy didn't do any balancing or wagging. I'm not sure what that means for her.

I took the day off today in order to count the gravel stones we have on the driveway. George left a note yesterday suggesting this would be a useful exercise in acquiring the art of patience and then of self-respect. I was looking for neither, but clearly George thought I should be, so I sat down in the gravel and felt like I was three years old again. What a joy, I forgot there was a day to pass and totally forgot to be patient.

Which brings me back to the bells. I reckon one either has a Pavlovian ability to remain patient when the stimuli suggests one shouldn't. Or one never met Pavlov in the first place. All very interesting.

Friday, 31 August 2007

Dressing abstract depictions of incessant enemies in burnt pantyhose

With a self-incriminating sniff, Bessy directed my attention to the notorious smell wafting through the hall. She'd left the bread under the grill long enough to help re-enact the ambiance of a scorched-earth policy orchestrated by a generation-gap guerrilla outfit that had withdrawn to watch a dire black and white silent movie. I looked around for the other props and noticed a group of men in green fatigues sitting around the TV having a smoke and laughing raucously at a silent film which turned out to be a reflection of themselves, with Bessy in the background. I left them some muesli and milk and put a bucket of water ready should the burnt toast turn into anything more.

Margaret never wakes when there's a smell of burning because she has horrors of being burnt whilst conscious. So I left her in bed.

Felix tells me he knew a man who used to communicate with the enemy using pieces of burnt toast arranged in various formations and posited above his head on the end of his sword. I asked if this had been discovered by his seniors. Yes, Felix said, but nobody, not least the soldier, understood what he was trying to communicate, so they let him carry on and the enemy ended up waving their own burnt toast around until everyone thought the war was over and ran out to burn toast together. Remarkable.

George was dressing a new patient in pantyhose when I arrived at the surgery. I asked, hopefully, if we were going to give up the serious business of dentistry for a day and act out something splendidly escapist. George told me I couldn't escape from anything, so I'd better get in the surgery and forget trying to get out of work. He has a way of turning glee to glumness, does George.

Cookie had managed to secure an appointment with an abstract depictor of incessant oddities who resides in the submerged spotlight above the dental chair. The appointment was ending as I entered the surgery. I waved up at the light, out of politeness to the depictor (though I've never seen or heard him), and asked what oddities were incessant these days. Cookie said that was a crazy question to ask given that everything is odd and everything is incessant, depending on what point of view one takes. She popped out of the light, and we got on with treating our first patient.

Which brings me on to the meaning of burnt offerings and the odd nature of all things dressed up ready for drama. Curious how it all seems to have something to do with retreating ignominiously, or making peace and falling into fits of laughter about oneself.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Swimming with wisdom in Alpine bus shelters

I woke up this morning to discover that, despite my dreams suggesting otherwise, I was not in Bavaria nor in a swimsuit made of ginger bread. Bessy, on the other hand, was most surprised to see me, judging by her reaction when I opened my eyes. Whether she thought I was in Bavaria too, I have no idea.

Margaret, whilst sleeping, wrote a long list of uncomfortable positions in which to sit. I thought that was a particularly productive use of her time and resolved to do the same should my unconscious allow it.

Felix told me this morning that Bessy had taken to learning a new language, having observed her mouthing things, and asked if I had encouraged it. At first it looked like she was yawning, to me but, when I looked again, I could see that she was indeed fairly fluent at something, though it was silent. Felix said she wasn't silent but was simply articulating herself at a pitch I couldn't hear. I asked why. Because I couldn't be trusted, he said, which left me feeling a little out of sorts.

George was part of a trial into the effects of sitting on radiator edges at extreme altitudes whilst picking one's toenails. It was part of a project to assess the potential behaviour of bare-footed male passengers waiting for buses in bus stops where radiators were positioned to give the impression that they were warm, even if they weren't, anywhere in the Swiss Alps. I asked if buses were so infrequent that he had to remain so long. That wasn't the point, for him. It was about endurance and he looked at me as if he wanted to let me know I wouldn't have been capable, which is probably true.

Mr Shortsleevestoshowthewrist was in with his daughter for a preschool check-up. The child opened her mouth for me to have a look. Cookie peered in, as she does, and commented on the beautiful arrangement of unsaid wisdoms that would unfold in later life. I'm not sure what these look like, but they were clearly there. I told the child to look after said wisdoms yet to unfold, at the same time as I wondered if I had looked after mine.

Which brings me back to not being where Bessy expected me to be and trials of endurance. There's got to be a lesson in that about avoiding negligence of wisdom.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Pruning thoughts around amplified caravans

Bessy was tucking the Wisteria in and pruning all the shoots when I woke this morning. As a dog, she's not bad at wielding shears. Margaret was at the peanut feeder in a way reminiscent of her youth because she was laughing like a child, which is wonderful to hear. Anyway, I left them to enjoy the late summer sunshine.

Felix was born sometime before his father, he tells me, on account of a strange tilt in the earth at that time. I asked if he'd rolled out first, instead of last. For some moments he looked at me very oddly, then said there is a phenomenon called the reversal of sloping time, which only certain privileged persons were aware of. I took that as rather a brush-off, so drank the remainder of my tea in silence.

George ran all the way round the earth in the manner of a tilted caravan (something to do with paying homage to a waylaid owner of such a vehicle, whose axle broke on the A40 to Oxford during the summer of 1956). He beat all the other contestants because he had mastered a curious technique of bunny-hopping-caravannery. I asked him this morning if he'd managed to park up in any beautiful spots, having shortly returned from some in Wales. He said the whole point was that, wherever in the world one was, one was always beside the A40 and therefore always smelling tarmac and exhaust fumes. I guess there's a reason for doing these things, but George wasn't in the mood for discussing it today.

Cookie was constructing a means of amplifying the thoughts of the butterflies milling around harmlessly in the surgery garden, from the various metal objects and wires in the surgery. I waited and eventually she tuned the apparatus into a particular butterfly's thoughts. It had ideas, it seemed, of becoming a champion for the rights of butterflies to have private thoughts. Cookie turned the apparatus off promptly. She had not realised they were so touchy.

Which brings me to tilted thoughts: when does one know objectively that they're beginning to lean one way or another? And would pruning them help restore equilibrium?

Monday, 27 August 2007

Turning mountains upside down with bleating sheep

Bessy, Margaret and I have just returned from spending the Bank Holiday weekend in the Brecon Beacons, a favourite spot of ours in which to get lost.

We had a bit of fun when Bessy decided that she would bleat. We couldn't find her for hours but then Margaret made a Welsh Cake as her Granny had taught her and the Beacons turned upside down and emptied Bessy out into my lap. She was still bleating, but wonderfully. Such was the weekend.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Unaware of cabbages returning with circular eyelids

It was a short sojourn and Bessy wasn't there when I got back. Perhaps it was longer than I thought. Margaret returned yesterday with a cabbage dressed in a monkey suit. I'm not sure why.

Felix was walking in circles when I arrived at the bench. He was contemplating how it must be when there's a reason to keep going over the same ground. I asked if he'd discovered such a reason. He stopped and looked at me as if I had just caused a fire alarm by raising an innocent eyebrow. No, he said, that's the point. I drank my tea and watched his circular motion and fell into a minor trance. Maybe that was the reason.

George once hypnotised a kangaroo with a nasty habit of being defiant. Today he suggested I should learn from the kangaroo's lesson. I asked what that was. George rested his chin on his hands and fluttered his eyelids innocently (at least that's what I thought).

I don't know what happened after that but Cookie said I was remarkably well behaved all day and that if I was lucky, the stars might bring me a wish that I hadn't yet thought of. I said that sounded great but Cookie warned me not to behave again, because it was boring.

Which brings me back to going on a sojourn, or thinking one is, or not even being aware that that is where one's just been. Or maybe I'm going in circles, and I've turned into a subdued kangaroo that was once defiant.

A brief sojourn

Bessy is guarding the end of the bed, while I make a brief sojourn to somewhere else. Back, hopefully, in a little while.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Rotating complexity causing water to boil in a pink wind

I woke up this morning and noticed the world wasn't where it had been last night. This troubled me, and it was all I could do just to get out of bed. I'm sure this had nothing to do with Bessy seeing a mythological creature during the night and Margaret chasing after it. The creature doesn't appear to have returned. Neither has Margaret. And the world's not righted itself yet.

Felix was exploring the mythical status of his own mind a few days ago, and discovered to his delight that his thoughts were as unsubstantiated - but as critical to the world - as they had been last time he explored, sometime in the Middle Ages. I said this sounded like Science had never arrived. He said Science was just another myth and, to make his point, didn't bother putting his kettle on the gas stove. The water boiled.

George once moved the axis of the earth, he tells me, by blowing warm air into a pink t-shirt attached to a brand new washing line. I asked if such an activity could reverse the rotation caused by mythical creatures being chased by a woman. George paused as he applied his lipstick long enough to signal that this was not the sort of thing he wished to discuss. So he didn't.

Cookie was still there. At least, in relation to the position she was at yesterday, if not in relation to the rest of the world. I asked her if she considered her position on earth to bear any consequence on the location of her spiritual friends in the yew tree. She looked at me rather oddly and said that in order for there to be a consequence there had to be an alternative, otherwise the two were inextricably linked, and therefore could not be a consequence of each other. This was quite complex for Cookie and far too complex for me, so I went to bring our first patient in.

So there we are: there's a mythical creature running around, the world has relocated, there's no need for a fire to boil water, and Cookie's gone complex on me. Perhaps that's why one shouldn't give up on myths just yet, if that was what one was thinking of doing.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Suffocating in congregations with little insight

Bessy was hard at work sticking all the molecules of air together in the back garden with superglue, when I emerged from my slumber. She gets so far and creates quite a mass of immovable air, and then begins to suffocate and gives up. Margaret looks forward to these days as she is forced to re-ventilate Bessy with bellows and it tickles her to see Bessy inflate and, if bellowed enough, to float. I attached a piece of string to Bessy's leg before I left, just in case Margaret forgets.

Felix lived in a water molecule for a period, he tells me, and charted its journey around the world. He had started in this very spot and, some three months later, returned to it. I asked if water molecules congregated, like humans, in particular places that meant something to them. Felix said that he knew for a fact that the molecules I kept excreting from my bladder, were always anxious to return. I considered my cup of tea and sniffed it a couple of times, but Felix reassured me that, like humans, water would always morph to suit the conditions.

George once won a competition in which the participants had to morph themselves into the shape of any object they liked so long as it was a teacup. George, being spectacular at this sort of thing, chose to be a teacup with a broken handle. It had some significance to a relationship he had at the time, but he won't say any more than that. The judges wept and awarded him first prize. I asked today if he might be able to re-morph into a teacup with handle glued back on. He replied that the past is the past, and there's no repairing what is broken.

After that sad bit of conversation, I found Mr Pillywiggle - he of the jaded sense of humour if the light's not right - discussing with Cookie the reflection of an insight he had just had, on the surgery window. I couldn't see a reflection and suggested we get on with placing his beautiful new crown. Cookie was, though, staring at a reflection with her mouth wide open. I asked her to describe it. She said it was of a man spinning on a ladybird whilst singing about a merry cow. I asked both of them what this insight was. Cookie said we didn't have to understand insights, just to appreciate that someone had had one. Mr Pillywiggle seemed perfectly happy with this vote of confidence. I guess the light was right.

So it seems that whilst one might have little insight, one can still appreciate unglued objects in life, even if said objects, when congregated, change their shape. I've got to talk to Felix about that.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Feuding over coloured utensils

I woke to find Bessy balancing the entire contents of the kitchen on her nose. The ceiling of the kitchen, the floor of the bathroom above, the ceiling of the bathroom, and the roof of the house had all opened up on time, thank goodness. Margaret was on top, with an umbrella, observing the horizon. I don't understand why she does it in the rain.

Felix tells me he visited the horizon not long ago, so that he could watch at close quarters the end of a dynastic feud that had been raging for centuries. The feud had something to do with the choice of red used for the stripes on the lighthouse. I suggested it was about time they finished their disagreement given that it was just about paint but Felix looked at me severely and said that what might appear trivial sitting here, had a very different complexity when you're standing on the distant flats. I looked at my cup of tea and wondered how much more complicated life could get, but didn't say anything more to Felix.

George used to paint stripes on glaciers in all sorts of colours. He then skied the glacier on his bare feet as a way of adding a random pattern to their soles. Cookie commented that it was good for a foot's spiritual well-being to be dosed up with frozen colours. George and I considered what she had said, but could find no relevance, so we got on with the day.

Which brings me to a thought I had as I was doing root canal therapy on Mr Brownsteig's lower molar: could a feud be painted a peaceful colour, balanced on a dog's nose, and marvelled at until it resolves itself?

Monday, 20 August 2007

Charging with misunderstanding into a feast of conversation

Bessy woke this morning, picked up Margaret's red coat and waved it menacingly at the ironing board. The board charged and Bessy ran out of the house. Margaret jumped on the board and brought it under control, and we all sat down to a breakfast of eggs and toast. I like it when weeks start like this.

Felix was ready with my tea when I arrived at his bench this morning. He had been to see a dancer on a bench overlooking the same bit of coast, but in a different era, and had returned early on account of the dancer's lack of conversation. I asked if the era was one past or future. Felix said that was irrelevant as there would always be something one could discuss if so inclined. I asked if we could discuss the effect of an era on conversation. Felix didn't comment.

George once sailed to Barcelona dressed as a sleepy fellow of inordinate intelligence, to dispute with a man there the origin of the Feast of Misunderstanding about the Concept of Unanimity. I mention this because this morning George and my first patient told me that if I applied myself in life I might actually turn out to more than a mere conception of a grave misunderstanding. I have to say that I was at a loss to know what to make of this. With brave face I asked the patient to come into the surgery for his examination and buried my anxiety.

It turns out that the patient - a Mr Adrian Buginmybedwithscurvy - is excellent at painting white walls white whilst alluding to the inherent diversity in colour that might have been. As I examined his teeth I asked if he'd ever had anything charge at one of his white walls, perhaps alluding to a perception that it might have been red, if only it wasn't white. Cookie said that within walls there were spirits with all sorts of emotions, including envy. Mr Buginmybedwithscury was lost. As was I.

So it is when the week begins with a feast for breakfast: one ends up conversing about misunderstandings and concepts of misunderstandings that blow one's mind away. Sometimes, though, I just don't understand what's happening, which is something I've yet to grow comfortable with.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Understanding tea that floats on a Sunday morning

Given that it is Sunday today, it was surprising that any of us woke before Mrs Beetleman opposite. Even more surprising was that Mrs Beetleman didn't surface at all. This caused us some alarm at first but we convinced ourselves that we were indeed awake - and alive - by reciting poetry none of us understood. Margaret is convinced that only when one is dead does one fully understand anything. I was happy to believe her this morning, given the circumstances.

I don't normally go to see Felix on a Sunday owing to his not drinking tea on the Sabbath. I asked him today why he didn't, as he has never followed religious doctrine of any sort. He said he had been to visit friends in Ireland one Sunday and discovered they had all taken to drifting aimlessly on logs in their local lake. Since they had survived the day without tea, he decided that it was safe to abscond on the Lord's day, whether or not he was around, which, I suppose, makes sense.

It makes me think just what wonderful things there are to discover from one's closest friends on Sundays that begin with a shock. I'm sure there's something in that.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Fossilised waste products of imagination

This morning I was dreaming of the consequences of acid erosion on the tails of Precambrian squirrels. I've no idea if such animals existed, but the effect was disastrous and, no doubt, has ramifications today. This dream may have been prompted by Bessy's discovery yesterday of fossils of creatures morally corrupted by a declining will to paint beautifully. I'm not sure how Bessy elucidated this but Margaret fears contamination and has insisted the fossils be put in quarantine. Bessy isn't too pleased.

Felix tells me there are men in the lighthouse below his bench who have been corrupted by their poor grasp of location. This has lead them to believe that they are in the centre of a gigantic slag heap somewhere in the north of England. I asked if it made much difference where they believed they were so long as they were where they are. Felix looked upset and said if they didn't believe they were down in the lighthouse, where did that leave him. The idea left me feeling a little queasy, so I didn't pursue it.

George ponders from time to time on the prehensile abilities of humans carrying themselves across gorges whilst discussing the rights and wrongs of moral degradation in the Outer Hebrides during the reign of King James I. He was at it again this morning when I arrived at the surgery and had hoisted himself above Mrs Farshorewithnosand who was waiting to make an appointment. I suggested to George that now might not be the time to contemplate matters Scottish but he looked down on us and said it was a terrible time and terrible times were always apt to be contemplated on Thursday mornings. I left him to it.

Cookie had wrapped the surgery in a paper made from the forgotten products of fruitful yet wasted imagination. It looked very pretty, but sad too.

I suppose there's something in beautiful things, or beautiful people, buried or forgotten. Perhaps in time they'll be dug up and thought of as fossils grasping, still, for expression.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Tunnelling through armoured thoughts

Bessy tunnelled under the house last night. It would appear she was looking for the firefly that had stolen the thought she was having when Margaret put her out to relieve herself before bed. Margaret followed her through the tunnel and sang songs about restless cities crying for the greenery they'd left behind. Needless to say, I was kept awake.

Felix commented that stolen thoughts are on the rise along with all sorts of other antisocial behaviour. The secret is to guard one's thoughts by remaining silent about them. I said that sounded like he'd just revealed a thought, to which he replied that I was the one putting my thoughts in danger. It felt a little like ping pong, so I drank my tea in silence.

George once built a tunnel underneath the Atlantic because he had been told the bedrock was a good place to grow a beard, which at that time appealed to him. I asked him this morning if burrowing somehow helped him retrieve stolen thoughts. He looked at me sternly and said that in this world people ought to be more happy to share their thoughts so nobody feels compelled to steal them. I asked if he'd like to hear a thought of mine. He said there was some filing to do and left me standing at the desk.

Cookie was standing on the dental chair. She said there was a plane of interesting information at that level, she'd recently discovered, and she was listening in. I asked if she was stealing thoughts. There's no need to protect thoughts, she said, with armour. I'm sure that's a good metaphor, but I've no idea how it related to my question.

Which brings me back to the way I lost the thought I was having before Bessy lost hers. I had hoped this blog would help, but it hasn't. But then, there are always other thoughts to take its place, like thinking that there's a wonderful piece of apple pie waiting for me to eat when I get home. If, that is, nobody's stolen it.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Catching wisdom with moribund chest hair

Margaret and Bessy were sitting in the garden with the rain pouring down this morning. I asked if either wanted a hot drink. They then disappeared from my view and the next thing I knew there were shrieks of laughter from behind me in the kitchen. It's an old trick they like to play when they think I'm not all there. I find it mildly irritating, so left them and went to find Felix.

Felix tells me there are men with irregularly trimmed chest hair on their way to subvert us all by preaching incessant words of moribund wisdom. I asked what wisdom is ever moribund. Felix asked if I knew my name. I told him what it was. He said that was moribund since neither of us needed to know it. That rather disturbed me.

George tells me that when he was reading vast works of medieval tax code he used to catch raindrops with chopsticks. I asked him if that was a trick he still did. He looked at me very severely and said that wisdom was not acquired by trickery but by the development of self control and intellectual rigour. I nodded and left the reception silently.

Cookie was in the photo on the wall. The photo is one I took of a man playing a flute in a Confucius temple. He was in pain, Cookie told me, so she was going to bring him for us to treat, which she did. And we treated him, and he was pleased, and then he went back to the picture and played a happy tune, which was lovely.

And there I am again: thinking that all is lost only to discover that, after all, it isn't. Or perhaps I just don't want it to be, so it isn't. Or perhaps it is all a trick, and someone's having a good laugh at me as they trim their chest hair.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Observing transient reflections through shards of pottery

Bessy spent most of last night building an observatory from the bricks lying about the garden. It would seem she wanted a closer look at her alter ego, residing currently on a piece of rock near Pluto. Margaret said I should check the view through the telescope before Bessy did, just in case said ego was frightening. I like Bessy as she is and had no wish to see her as anything else. So I left Margaret to do the scary bit and went to find Felix.

Felix is, he tells me, the alter ego of a canary known to float along the French Riviera on a polystyrene cool box and, at the same time, that of a professor of philosophy with bunions, buried in an Oxfordshire churchyard sometime in the nineteenth century. I asked if the two original egos knew each other. He said that was impossible given that the bird was incapable of seeing anything but its own reflection.

George was an astronaut once and took flowers with him in case he found a suitable recipient in space. I suggested the flowers would never droop if there was no gravity, which would be a good thing. George said there was no merit in that, since the drooping was an essential part of why we found them beautiful in the first place. I felt George was about to start his life-is-transient-so stop-wasting-it lesson, so I left for the surgery.

Cookie had covered Mr Barryparry's face with a special cloth weaved from the thoughts of all the nice people in the world who hold fragments of pottery together as the glue sets. Cookie insists it helps fragile people who come to the surgery. I asked Mr Barryparry if he'd seen his alter ego and broken into many parts. Cookie said that was perfectly possible given that Mr Barryparry visits churches built with movable parts. I'm not sure I or Mr Barryparry followed, but the allusion was charming, as ever.

It seems to me that, however hard you look for the other side of a personality, it'll always be obscured by glued-together fragments of one sort or another. Perhaps it's not worth looking for after all given the transience of life. Or perhaps it is, if it interests you.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Trouble in the garden

With the trouble in the garden today, Bessy thanked Margaret for avoiding sending her out. I'm not sure any of us knew what said trouble was, but it wasn't worth risking getting involved.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Knitting anxious dreams for extinct cakes

Bessy dreamt she was a rhino last night. This wouldn't be a problem normally, but she woke up in a sweat worried that she might already be extinct. Margaret gave her a kick and she yelped, and soon she was her normal self.

Felix tells me that the world is extinct in its entirety as soon as a moment in time passes. He said that we were extinct too and that we should all be breaking out in anxious sweats. I gave him a kick and he yelped and poured his tea all over my trousers. The wet patch is still there...which sugests to me there are exceptions to Felix's theory.

George lead an expedition once to find a lost bottle with a curious message, somewhere on Salisbury Plane. Amid gunfire from friendly army people, his team of one discovered no such bottle but did discover a curious message scribbled on the underside of a performing two-legged cow (who, incidentally, has a sister knitting sweaters in Alaska). I asked what the message said. George went pale and said there were messages that were not meant for mortal eyes. I'm not sure what the cow made of it but George came back a changed man.

Mrs Billawellow was complaining that her husband was cooking too many sweet cakes and that was why her teeth were rotting. I suggested she consider declaring the cake an extinct species, making its removal from the house a fait accomplit. Cookie said that to make a species extinct just so a person could save their teeth was a disgrace. I agreed, suddenly realising how insensitive I'd been to her nature concerns, and Mrs Billawellow smiled at the thought of another cake.

Which brings me back to this blog, which will soon be extinct, if it isn't already, just like me. Or perhaps extinction itself will soon be extinct, which would be a relief.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Oil paintings and open wounds

Bessy likes to lick wounds. I believe at heart she is a healer. I'm not sure Margaret's mother, hanging on the wall in the form of an oil painting, shares my confidence in the hound: Bessy was licking a wound on her face that had appeared overnight. She was most disconcerted but Margaret told her to quieten down. I suggested it was now time to remove the picture. Margaret's mother praised Bessy and her wound-healing.

Felix tells me that to suffer wounds is a fool's game. He says pious men drifting in submarines might insist that breaking each other's bones was good for the soul, but he begged to differ. I said it sounded like he didn't think much of biblical torture and tormented sacrifice for the good of self and others. He opened his flask of boiling water and poured it over my head. I screamed and he asked if I thought it had done me any good. He has a way of making a point, does Felix.

George's face looks something like an oil painting on days when he's in a rush. I noticed a small red mark on his chin and wondered if it was a shaving cut or a slash of lipstick. I mentioned it and George said it was neither, but a scar from an attack by a stuffed dodo in the the Science Museum. He turned round and touched it up, and we continued with the day.

Mr Hussain's best friend had smashed his teeth with a squash racket. Both his upper central incisors were fractured at the level of the pulp. He regularly put his tongue over the exposed nervous tissue and I asked if he was a healer. Cookie interrupted and said no, Mr Hussain walks on his toes like a graceful ballerina - it was what she most liked about him. I guess she knew what she was talking about, but I didn't.

Which is why I brought Bessy in at the beginning, because there seems to be something about licking wounds of the past and present, and in the meantime playing with the dead, and doing it all without taking any scars. Or inflicting any.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Influencing stones and tractors

Felix tells me there are ways of driving tractors so that a tyre mark is never left, but you had to be a master of passing through life without influencing it in order to know how. I mention this because Bessy has a tractor logo stamped on her bed. This may seem innocuous but Margaret this morning was seated in mid-air as if atop a tractor but was, in fact, above Bessy's bed. Though there was no tractor in the kitchen, there were tyre marks on the floor. It was most strange.

George spent some time in a priory that had fallen into disrepair. In fact, I believe it would be more accurate to say he lived among a priory, and spent much time contemplating how best to climb the ruins with both hands in the pose of prayer. I asked him this morning if during that time he ever found himself thinking he was atop a wall when in fact he was mid-air. He asked if I was OK, which I suppose meant he hadn't.

Jack Wobbleripple came in clutching his milk-soaked tooth, which he'd knocked out when he tripped over the old stone he was making into a witch. We sat him in the chair and Cookie gave him a good telling-off about stones and witches. I asked if he'd thought he was sitting on something and then discovered he wasn't and that was why he'd knocked the tooth out. Cookie said I was always talking about keeping secrets that weren't really secrets and that I should get on and re-implant the tooth. I'm not sure I ever mentioned secrets, but then, Cookie knows things I don't.

And that's why passing through life and influencing it seems so hazardous, if there's a stone or a wall in the way at least.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Waving hello to composed crocodiles

There are times when Bessy and Margaret go out for a night-walk in the wind and rain. When they do, I wake up full of woe. Last night they went for such a walk. This morning I was full of woe. There's no explanation for it, as far as I can see.

Felix had spied a foreign sailing boat on the horizon and so popped over for breakfast. He had left a note on the bench saying if I waved, he'd see me and wave back. I couldn't see any boat, let alone Felix, but I waved since I needed cheering up. And sure enough, Felix waved back. At least, Bessy wagged her tail and barked at the sea.

George eats breakfast from a banana leaf as a way of reminding himself of his days on the coast in Sri Lanka. In those days, mind, he used to surf on banana leaves, he tells me. This morning his hair was in a mess, he said. I commented that it looked as good as ever. He said that if I cared, I'd have noticed the stray hairs sticking out. Given there are only half a dozen and they were all plastered down to his skull, I decided it was better if I left him to worry alone.

Mrs Benson came in today for a check up. She has a very remarkable ability to possess composure even under the harshest conditions. Only this morning she had retained it despite being flogged in a market for stealing a crocodile with ear muffs, somewhere along the coast. I asked if she felt humiliated by the experience. She smiled enigmatically and Cookie remarked on how composed she looked. And then we polished her teeth.

What it is to be composed, whether walking in the wind and rain, hopping onto distant boats or surfing on leaves. It seems easier to compose a short recollection of a day, than to recollect composure for a short day. Perhaps it comes down to what one wears on one's ears.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Monks examining nests with integrity

In applying for a post as an examiner of archetypal dog pack leaders, Bessy happened to question the integrity of the process. Margaret said there were no leaders, only followers, just like there were no processes, just followers of them. Bessy was a little put out and left the application for another day.

Felix is a man of integrity, so I have no reason to doubt him when he tells me there is a monastery on an island in the North Sea inhabited by monks dressed in yellow and with continuously itchy feet. I asked what happened if their feet stopped itching. Felix said the monk is thrown out and condemned to a life examining the outside world. I thought that was rather a good outcome, but Felix was nonplussed. He looked at his feet longingly and we drank our tea in a most contemplative state.

George says he had a good monk as a friend once, and they excelled in competitions on forward planning. In one competition the competitors were asked to forward plan for the arrival of the unforeseen consequence of the unknowable. That seemed rather complex to me. George said that was why I couldn't compete. I asked if he'd planned to spend his last working days as a receptionist in a dental surgery. He said yes, but not in this one, in a manner that left little doubt that he intended me to be offended. I was.

Cookie's mind was competing with that of Mr Barnes for a place in the ancient nest that once sat in the yew tree, but which was burned to ashes ninety-three years ago. I couldn't interrupt in case it did them some harm. Cookie got there first, as usual, and Mr Barnes said he wouldn't play again, as usual, and I replaced the composite (white) filling on the edge of his right central incisor that his mind had fractured whilst scrambling up the tree, as usual.

And there lies the complex interweaving of examining and competing, and winning and losing, and of doing nothing but watching it all happen, which is my preference when all is said and done.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Spirilevation whilst fixing a washing machine

Bessy had taken it upon herself to fix the washing machine, the spin cycle of which appears to be defunct. She thought she could do this by pushing it out into the garden and trapping a pigeon inside and then chasing it round and round until the spin cycle continued unaided. The pigeons stayed away and Margaret got in instead. It was a bit cramped but they were still at it when I left to visit Felix.

Felix says there are people who spend their lives spinning. I asked if that wasn't a bit pointless. He poured me a cup of tea and said I could answer that myself.

George once exported washing machines to an uninhabited island in the Pacific. There was a rumour at the time that a rarely seen phenomenon called a Spontaneous and Unforeseen Population Explosion was about to take place there. I asked if the members of said population would be fully clad when they exploded. George said it was only people like me who envisaged humans of any population running around without a well-tailored shirt and trousers, or beautifully sewn dress. The machines are still there, apparently, and used for some sort of gull to lay eggs.

Cookie has invented a new instrument for the surgery. It is called the Spirilevator and is intended, at the same time as elevating a tooth from its socket, to lift the patient to a higher spiritual level. It looks very much like my conventional elevator but with pretty symbols engraved on the handle.

Mrs Hellovajob, whose spirit was very low on account of her being a miserable person, was unaffected by the instrument, despite my best attempts to give her a fair go. Cookie looked a little disappointed that spirilevation had apparently failed in this case. I suggested the combination of local anaesthetic, pushing, and blood, had conspired to delay the onset of said spirilevation but it would no doubt come. Cookie consulted the yew tree and came back to say spirilevation had nothing to do with the pointy bits on churches so they wouldn't get involved. I'm not sure I followed.

But there has to be something that links the chasing of a higher spiritual place and trying to generate the self-momentum necessary to keep a washing machine spinning. I suppose it's optimism or speculation, or the fear of explosions of some description.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Parking goldfish in colourless driveways

Thanks to a general amnesty for blocking people's driveways offenders, I found Bessy asleep under a car parked in front of our driveway this morning. Margaret said parking in such a fashion was all the rage these days, given that private property is little respected in some quarters. I said I might give it a go, if I could get the car out.

Felix tells me that someone parking in front of your car is considered, in some parts, to be a sign of things to come. I asked if he meant as a fabled obstacle of some sort, a test of my character. He didn't respond immediately and we drank our tea. Later I asked again what he meant. He said I'd have to work out his sign before I could understand the sign of things to come. Bessy yawned and we left for the surgery.

When we arrived, George was on the roof looking out with the binoculars he has applied false eyelashes and mascara to. As a boy of four George had stalked rodents in the highlands of Ethiopia whilst singing melodies of great merit to his younger brother, Arnold, and dealing in coffee beans with local farmers. I asked if George felt blocked in some way in adulthood. He turned the binoculars on me and said that he knew how to get rid of blockages, if he needed to. I gulped.

I found Cookie with Mrs Carmichael dedicating the goldfish in the tank to a new deity they'd just that moment invented. This is what Mrs Carmichael does with her time. The deity was the god of summer things with no colour. All Mrs Carmichael's deities have no colour somewhere in their name. I asked if this blocked her to new business that demanded colour from gods. It would seem not. The goldfish had turned grey and Cookie was ecstatic.

Perhaps the person parking their car in front of our driveway feels life is getting less colourful, and wanted to change that a bit by parking the car for Bessy to wake up under. How thoughtful.

Monday, 30 July 2007

The disreputable walk on daisy stilts

I found Margaret reciting some sort of incantation in the kitchen. She doesn't believe in any Gods and neither does Bessy, but Bessy's ears do a little pirouette and she begins to walk on stilts. It makes Margaret laugh when she wakes up feeling sad, which is fine, but it took me an age to persuade Bessy to come for a walk without the stilts.

Felix tells me he balanced the needs of himself and the world last night, whilst sitting on the bench. It was clearly an exhausting exercise, since he hadn't made any tea. I asked what had brought the need to balance. It seems there are times when he feels a disproportionate equality coming on and this is what spurs it. To me that sounded like equality, just more so, but refrained from commenting because Felix was clearly past discussing it.

It was with some relief to find that George was looking equal with the world this morning. However, that relief soon dissipated. He told me my first patient was very cunning and liable to bring himself into disrepute without anyone realising it. I asked if that meant he was unduly equal as a consequence. George, with hands on hips, said the disreputable had no right to a consequence. That seemed a little dark for first thing in the morning.

Cookie's mother was, Cookie tells me, a desperate protector of the world of daises. I mentioned this to the apparently disreputable patient as I tried to work out what he was going to do that would bring him into disrepute. I didn't work it out, and I didn't see an act that would do anything other than ensure the man has my highest opinion, but Cookie told me it had happened regardless, though she didn't see anything either.

Which brings me back to stilts, and finding one's balance with the world, and celebrating the disreputable people just in case they help, or they're not disreputable.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Sharpening the unavoidable by blowing bubbles

Bessy woke us up this morning with yelps from the bathroom. She was eating soap and blowing bubbles, something she finds endlessly amusing. Margaret refuses to allow her to continue, mind, because she believes too many bubbles ruin a dog's self control.

Bessy was, however, still blowing bubbles when we wandered up to Felix on his bench. He said bubbles helped to give a dog's mind a sharpness they wouldn't otherwise have. I said I thought Bessy was sharp enough. He said that was a control freak speaking and that if I challenged him again on the matter, it would prove I was. I was rather put out by the suggestion but avoided contesting it for fear of making the situation worse.

George's mind is still sharp. He is a role model for me, he told me as I walked into the surgery, if I only paid attention. For example, look at his analysis of the proportion of vines with sub-optimal grape quality, that developed into full blown vintages having been mashed by size nine bare feet in the remote corner of Chateau Lacroix's northern courtyard in 1957. I agreed that this was a huge intellectual feat, and left for the safety of the surgery.

Mr Bunrose was in for some periodontal treatment. He's a very genteel man and seemed a little flustered as he entered. Apparently he'd bumped into an old school acquaintance he spent his life trying to avoid. Seeing how upset he was by his failure on this occasion, I suggested he gave up avoiding him so that he wouldn't fail in future. He said it was impossible to not try and avoid someone whose sole intention in life was to be unavoidable. Cookie said there was nothing wrong with that, as to avoid one's true self was shameless cowardice.

Which brings me on to the squirrel stealing all the food from the bird table. I wonder if he's doing a bit too much bubble-blowing and inducing a little too much unavoidability into the table.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Occupying character with traits whilst free falling

I found Margaret sitting on the kitchen table with a leg in the air. Her thoughts were crackly, she said, and she thought this might help - like it does with a radio. Bessy often wakes in the morning with her legs and tail sticking up in the air. It means she's been free falling in a dream and I've woken her before the parachute opens. I think it startles her somewhat to see my face next to hers mid-air.

Felix regularly parachutes into occupied territories, though he's stayed out of the Middle East. He tells me, though, everywhere is occupied, so his choice isn't limited. I asked if he'd ever parachuted into himself. He said that was one place that was too occupied, what with living and so on. I said that sounded like he thought I wasn't occupied sufficiently. He looked at Bessy and they both sighed.

I wonder, with George, when he's polishing his nails or texting his girlfriends, if he is sufficiently occupied. He reminds me often that it may seem like he's doing nothing but there's always the past to recall. For example, today George told me that in his youth he'd traded character traits with City Bankers and made himself a small fortune. I asked if he'd ever run out of traits. He scowled and said he had enough character to trade for eternity.

Cookie was gazing out of the window at our next patient who was sitting in the yew when I returned from my lunch. I asked her to call the patient in but Cookie said there was no need to since we could do everything from here. It's a trick of Cookie's that I play along with from time to time. I therefore gave our patient an inferior dental block and proceeded to place the filling she needed, with her seated on the yew tree and me in the surgery all the time. It's an impossible thing, but Cookie manages to get my hands to occupy two different spaces at the same time, though I've given up trying to work out how.

And so here I am now, thinking about free falling and occupying, and wondering whose space I'm falling into without knowing it.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Artistic imbalances and moral puddings

Margaret tells me there is a theoretical risk of Bessy's temper losing its balance today. I'm cautious when Margaret gives these warnings owing to their usual inaccuracy. However, even if the risk is small, I insist Bessy luffs - a word I have come to love. The imbalance, theoretical or not, is, as a consequence, yet to materialise.

Felix went to see his brother last night. Said brother, he told me, has formulated the hypothesis that war is the byproduct of making babies. Bessy looked disappointed, owing to her having delivered several dozens of puppies into the world. I told her it was only a hypothesis and she should continue with her luff-pose. Felix said his brother had another hypothesis: that war was the byproduct of trying to correct imbalances in the world. Bessy lay down and sighed.

George was part of a chain gang in his youth owing to an imbalance, apparently, in his morals. It is why he is so able to detect such imbalances in me, he says. One day, whilst affixed to a chain, he carved a beautiful pattern in the rock he was supposed to be breaking. He was freed because the governor recognised his moral imbalance was responsible for a magnificent work of art. I asked why he had given up the life as an artist. He said all life is art and, anyway, the rock thing was a doodle.

Our last patient this morning came in to have a wisdom tooth checked. He told us he is a manufacturer of horsewhips. Cookie said that was disgusting and nobody would ever find her eating fluffy puddings made from animals.

And that brings me neatly back to unproven theories about a dog's temper. Regardless of their veracity, they help start the day with some useful exercises.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Misinterpreting the handprints on a white elephant

Bessy woke this morning with a new doctrine that she wished to foster upon our small family, if not the world. It took some time to elucidate given her disrespect for the early morning, but is, as I understnad it, that we recognise the importance of White Elephants to our way of life. Margaret said we spent enough on Bessy already and, if she wasn't careful, she'd invoke the doctrine of slaughtering White Elephants. Bessy picked up her lead and we went to see Felix.

Felix tells me he is the opposite of a White Elephant. I asked what that is. He said that it was so unique, there wasn't an idiom for it yet. I suggested a black cockroach. We drank the remainder of our tea in silence.

George was looking very severe as I walked into the surgery this morning. He has a doctrine too: that I am to be treated like a self-aggrandising vagabond of little importance on Tuesday mornings, or any other morning he feels it necessary. Today I asked him, despite the frown, what he thought about White Elephants. He said there was nothing more flattering than to be pampered and spent money on, despite knowing one's lack of self-worth. I thought that was rather sad, so went to find Cookie.

Cookie was dressing up Mr Sickinabucket ready to do handprints. Cookie is experimenting with ways for patients to express themselves while lying in the chair with their mouths incommunicado. Mr Sickinabucket is a man with a lot to express.

When I had the rubber dam isolating his lower left central incisor, ready for root-canal treatment, I asked if he had ever considered his vast expressive ability as a form of self-aggrandisement. He indicated I look at the sheet of paper, which by this time had numerous multi-coloured handprints on it. He proceeded to dip a single finger in the paint, then apply it to the paper. Cookie said that it reminded her of a young plant that has had all its leaves eaten by slugs and that the slugs were probably sleeping well at this moment with a full belly. I don't think that was Mr Sickinabucket's intention.

Which made me think that doctrines, like any other expressive form, seem doomed to misinterpretation. On the other hand, it makes life more fun, which is a doctrine I'd like to instigate - at risk of being misinterpreted as something I haven't yet thought about.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Plastered heels

Being Saturday, Bessy took to her heels and hasn't come back. Margaret asked if we might plaster the walls with our youthful dreams again. I said we weren't youthful anymore. When we're three hundred years in the ground, she said, we'd think these days were youthful. So we're going to dream and plaster the walls, which should be fun.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Apples sucking brains from white cubes

Some days Bessy just doesn't want to get out of her bed. And some days Margaret doesn't want to get out of hers. And some days both sit under the shower and discuss apples falling from trees. On these days I have a slice of toast, put my jacket on and leave them to it. Today was such a day.

Felix was uncommonly quiet and pale this morning as we sat drinking tea. After gazing at the rain from beneath our umbrellas for some time, Felix told me his favourite seagull had taken to placing scary pictures in men's loos. Seeing how much this disturbed Felix, I didn't enquire why.

I did ask George, though, on my arrival at the surgery, if the scary child called Rosy was still due to visit us today. George told me there was nothing truly scary in the world, and that it was time for me to grow up. I turned my eyeballs inside out and George shrieked. I like that.

The scary Rosy came into the surgery and climbed into the sink. She told me that if I was going to look in her mouth, she was going to open my head and suck my brain out. I know she's only joking and that she's only three so she probably couldn't manage but, just in case, I said that from where I stood, her teeth looked fine.

Cookie tells me she thinks white cubes are scary because you never know when they're the right way up, which is true, I suppose.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Waterfalls making assumptions with devil's dung

Bessy was up wagging her tale at the crack of dawn today. It seems she has heard about Asafoetida at last, from the blue tits. It's been a long time coming. Margaret wanted Bessy to have nothing to do with any devil's dung, she said, so I was prevented, against my best wishes, from introducing Bessy to said plant.

Felix doesn't believe there is a devil, because if there was one there wouldn't be waterfalls and, since there are waterfalls, there can't be a devil. I said that this bit of deductive reasoning was based on the assumption that the devil could make rivers flow uphill, and that it is questionable if the devil would do that. If that was the case, he said, he'd find another assumption which would prove there was no devil.

George once canoed over a waterfall whilst eating all the words he'd ever said, backwards. It was a right-of-passage ceremony at the age of fifty-three and was intended to prove that despite the large volume of words he'd produced over the years, he could stomach them as well as everyone else. At the same time he was to prove he had a head for heights. He passaged with ease, evidently, though what to, I have never discovered.

Our last patient yesterday tells me he is a water rat with a penchant for standing, Christ-like, against south-facing brick walls. Whether or not this explains the state of his gums, I don't know. I told him off (again) about his smoking habit and lack of oral hygiene, and then asked him if he believed in the devil. He said the devil lives in people who give too much advice in an authoritative manner. Cookie said that was unfair, because there was no crime in making commercials, authoritative or not. I'm not sure what she meant.

Which brings me on to the blue tits in the garden. They're not there. I'm sure there's some devilry in that.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Social deviancy and lipstick smudges leave anticipated impressions, thankfully

It was with some pleasure that I found Margaret climbing up the Wisteria again this morning. It has been some years since I saw this last. Bessy was posing on the washing line in the manner of a social deviant with ruffled hair. I have no idea what she meant by a social deviant, but seeing these things makes a morning a real joy.

Felix never combs his hair because he says somebody passing may misread the signal. I asked if not combing his hair might send another signal, for example, an intention to climb a tense rock in a socially-determined manner. He declined to discuss the issue, he said, on the basis that anyone who read a signal in that way wasn't permitted to walk past the bench.

George read a signal wrongly and ended up working with me, he tells me (and his girlfriends) when his lipstick smudges. George climbed mountains in his youth with the same friend who set up as a florist in the Kalahari Desert. En route to the top of one particular mountain they discovered the origin of the 'anticipating exhaustion' pose. I wondered aloud if this meant they would be better prepared for when exhaustion arrived. He said I was extremely naive to think that just because exhaustion was anticipated, it would actually come to pass and, besides, there was little consensus on what the exhaustion pose should be. We left it at that.

Cookie was looking at me in a most exhausted manner (dare I say, pose?) when I entered the surgery after my mid-morning cup of coffee. Mrs Splence was in for an impression. Being beautiful expressions of a person's oral character, as Cookie sees them, she had just been migrating herself into Mrs Splence's jaw, so that she might partake in the wonder that is being taken an impression of. It keeps her happy, and the patients like the communal air it gives the procedure.

And that's the wonderful thing about days like today, when all the people that populate my world leave an impression on me that I can later ponder.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Bessy playing hide-and-seek with youthful sneezes

Felix tells me the small pile of stones he's laid in front of the bench are to bring peace to this little stretch of English countryside. This surprised both Bessy and me, given Felix's trenchant opposition to ordered stones and his self-declared bias towards realism.

Bessy never walks past an obstacle without limbering herself up and curling her lips back to make an unattractive grimace. Felix told her that these stones were more than a mere play-thing for dogs. She was clearly offended, as jumping over obstacles is a daily challenge, a proof - if you will - that she is not as decrepit as me. At least, that's how I interpret it.

George is always ready for a challenge. When I arrived at the surgery he was leaping about like a manicured bunny on hot coals. He does this every year, for a whole day, on the anniversary of the death of a friend of his who hopped twenty-four hours a day in order to achieve inner harmony. Remarkably he also did it whilst playing hide-and-seek in badger sets.

My first patient this morning lost his brother whilst playing hide-and-seek when they were three years old. The brother is still out there, apparently, as my patient wouldn't sneeze if he wasn't. Cookie has a rival sibling, she says, but given that I've never heard Cookie sneeze, I can't be sure the sister is still around.

And that's where the pile of rocks Felix built is so interesting to me. If you build something like that, how can you be sure the thing you're building it for isn't hiding behind it? Perhaps he's seeking, and peace is hiding, and always will be. Or maybe Bessy will knock the stones over and realise she's no fresher than me.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Plays raining from existential clouds that smile

I dreamt last night that Bessy had written a spectacular play when unconscious. I checked with Felix that it had only been a dream, when I drank tea with him at the bench. Felix said there were two ways of telling if a dog has written a play when unconscious or not: firstly, by asking the dog if it remembers writing it and secondly, by performing the play and seeing if the dog goes into an existential crisis when it sees it.

Cookie, when not otherwise engaged with the yew tree or her pop idols, likes to write fictional treatment plans for patients. Thus, Mr Warner arrived this morning expecting, according to his notes, to have implanted in his mouth Clouds-that-rain-sparkly-things-to-make-everyone-smile. I knew this was one of Cookie's fictions because the curmudgeonly Mr Warner wouldn't wish anyone a smile. There may be a sensible and self-preserving reason for this.

Margaret fell off a cloud once, when trying to reach for a tin of beans. We don't eat tinned beans anymore. George tells me there is a great tradition amongst his ancient clan of deliberately falling from clouds in order to improve the experience of eating tinned beans. He was sure I had missed a great opportunity by giving them up.

Talking of which, I am taking this opportunity between patients to recall Bessy's unconscious play from my dream, given the reviews it received. I have an idea I might have George perform it in the waiting room. From what I can recall, there were no clouds in the sky on the day the play took place. And there were no beans either, which is a shame. I trust Bessy will outlive the shock.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Chasing fairies in a Victorian Manner

When Bessy was a mere puppy she had a fetish for being attached in some manner to the roofs of black cabs. I mention this because, as I left to see Felix at the bench this morning, I noticed a hedgehog caught in a tree by its suspenders reading a work of non-fiction in Hindi. I've come across a fellow blogger who may have an opinion on this.

Felix grew attached to his bench approximately fifteen years ago when I was just starting out at my new dental practice. He tells me he was the first person to sit on the bench when it was erected in memory of a Mr Billious Hensham. Mr Hensham, it turns out, was a vegetarian who drove a black cab. He never came to see me, either when he was alive or dead, which I put down to Bessy.

George was with his Victorian Manners book again when I arrived at the surgery. He tells me Victorian Manners were the inevitable response to the liberal mayhem that came before the Victorian era. Cookie said she has a friend who sews the edges of skirts at any time of the year - not just in Spring - and that in her opinion there's no reason why said edge should be liberal.

Which reminds me of the artist who pops in every month to show us paintings of spring chickens dressed as bankers in pin-striped suits. They also ride in black cabs. I asked him today if spring chickens during the Victorian era were considered dangerously liberal or fashionably conservative. He looked at me as if I had said something untoward.

The interesting thing about Cookie is that she provides me with ample opportunity to escape George's Victorian censure in a way that I find most eerie. I suspect there was a similar phenomenon at work when the fairy that cab-attached-Bessy was chasing, got away.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Understanding cheese graters with impressionable personalities

When Cookie called me into the surgery this morning I was surprised to see Vivian - the lace maker - painting a cheese grater with waterlilies. This is the thing one does, according to Vivian, to make a statement to one's dentist about one's personality.

This reminded me that in the district adjoining the one George stayed in last summer in Paris, there was a woman who painted waterlilies on teeth for a small fee. This amused George no end and he rolled up each morning for a new set of lily-painted teeth. Felix detests any sort of lily because they remind him of men conniving in darkened rooms to bring about Armageddon.

What Vivian was after, it seems, was some attention to a wisdom tooth that was causing trouble as it erupted. Cookie detests the word erupt because it reminds her of her adolescence. Instead we talk of teeth glimpsing the world in its multivariant ways and coming to an understanding with it in due course. It keeps her happy.

Margaret wasn't very happy this morning because Bessy, instead of going out to relieve herself, had in fact built a barbecue from the loose bricks at the bottom of the garden. Margaret has an aversion to barbecues because they remind her of a misunderstanding she had with herself when she was three days old.

And that is why I am growing so concerned about the allegedly humble cheesegrater making its appearance in the dental surgery. What if, having expressed one's personality to one's dentist via a painting on said object, one comes to a misunderstanding with that personality? I'm not sure I know how I would cope.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Somersaulting over the hot water tap

I spent the night exploring the pipework, Bessy in tow, and surprised Margaret this morning by appearing from the hot tap instead of the cold. Bessy and I had a little chuckle and Margaret did a somersault. Which was a curious thing.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Drowning ancestors from walls of rhetoric

When there were men standing on walls purveying their rhetoric for a crowd's soul, one of my ancestors wrote poetry in the depths of a coal mine. Margaret has an ancestor who used to give advice to sheep on how best to secure themselves booty from shipwrecks on the South Wales coast. George's Great Grandfather canoed to India without a paddle. Cookie, meanwhile, insists she has no ancestors at all. Which is an intriguing thought.

As we drank tea in the sunshine this morning, Felix reminded me of the poet in my past, by alluding to Percy Bysshe Shelley and his drowning under rather disputed circumstances in 1822. From his vantage point overlooking the sea, Felix says he's seen several drownings in his time, including that of his ancestor, Tifanny, who was born in 1734.

In the surgery, Mr Bronson was sitting with a poetic swelling under his left eye. Mr Bronson tells me that suffering with pain is a goal worth striving for, that it brings about an elevation of the soul. Given his self-contentment I was rather ashamed to suggest that I might truncate this spiritual uplifting by removing the remnant of a tooth that was its cause.

I wondered if Mr Bronson might have felt the need to proclaim the merits of pain and suffering to the world from the top of walls. He said he proclaimed many things to the world, but only when he was alone on a sailing boat in the middle of the sea where nobody could hear him.

Which brings me back to my ancestor who wrote his poems on the mine wall, and then cut the wall for coal.