Sunday, April 29, 2012

2012 - 25

Theory

I was sitting here thinking that a great name for a book about woody herbs would be A Brief History of Thyme. It grew into my head while trying to compose a theory I have about time travel...

As a wannabe writer with more imagination than staying power, I've come up with lots of ideas that involve time. Time is probably my favourite concept and as I've harped on on here, also one of the things that pisses me off. Being 50 doesn't help. Last week, while feeling under the weather (and aren't we all feeling that today?), I sifted through the hundred plus files in my documents folders - all the ideas, half finished stories, quarter started tales and stuff that fits into my In Progress folder. Which is a bit of a misnomer as it seems that whenever something gets put in my In Progress folder, that is effectively condemning it to never being continued.

What I did was categorise all the different files - not by genre, but by underlying theme. Futuristic stories (not necessarily SF) has been a favourite of mine over the last six or seven years. Stories that start with a breakdown of how society broke down; or what happened in the intervening years between now and whenever a story is set. Future History is exposition that a SF writer likes; it gives a basis for a story; sets the scene; explains things and 'theorises' on what might happen between now and then.

A few years ago I came up with a neat idea, that has probably already been done, but not necessarily in the way I devised it. It's a kind of deus ex machina tool that would have allowed me to use time to my best advantage. To date, I have started 9 stories that either use or attempt to extrapolate on the 'creation' of this concept that would change the way the world worked (fictionally, of course); would end poverty and famine and allow unlimited space travel and all powered by a AAA battery. The theory was essentially easy time travel, but not in the way we understand it.

We all time travel; every single one of us. We go to sleep and when we wake up the world has moved on however many hours we slept for. But, of course, that's cheating; time travel is about the far flung future or past, not about sleeping. Yet, the concept of suspended animation was all about sleep and suspended animation allowed people to time travel to the future. One SF novel I read when I was younger called God Whale by TJ Bass was about a guy called Larry Dever, who, after a serious accident which results in him losing his legs, is cryogenically frozen and far exceeds his thaw out time, waking up on an Earth that had evolved beyond his limited comprehension. It allowed someone from the past to be in the future plausibly. Travelling forwards in time without ageing is a tried and tested tool and we've seen it in everything from Star Trek to Lost.

Going back in time is a different thing altogether. In Stephen King's novella The Langoliers, the writer hinted at the idea that it would be impossible to travel back in time for very long because the past ceases to exist. He had big Pac Man type creatures chomping the scenery, but the idea stuck with me - does the past actually exist, or is it just a previous memory of the present, of the now? I don't think travelling into the past is possible; but could it be?

There's this pretty good explanation; if man, at any point in his duration, came up with a way to travel back in time, then he would play God and change the events in history that resonate the most throughout history - the Holocaust, Hitler, WW1, Christ's birth, life and death, plus many more and it would allow us as anthropologists to study these events for real, but it would also allow us to change events, thus sending a temporal shockwave throughout time, altering everything in its path - the Butterfly Effect. So, by that alone, it would be fair to say that no one in the future has ever discovered time travel; unless, of course, you apply the same logic to the past to the future, in that it doesn't actually exist, so no one can develop time travel in the 41st Century, because the 41st century is 2000 years away and nothing exists there yet. except a date, which man assigned it.

But what if the future does exist and man found a way to travel back in time? Could it be done in a way that would not alter human history or evolution? Would it, like Timecop be held to strict rules and regulations - time police patrolling history to prevent people from assassinating Hitler, or just rewinding time and stopping the assassin before he does his deed? Or would it be something else entirely; something that we are almost totally unaware of, but not totally...

Answer me two questions, honestly. Have you ever experienced deja vu? Have you ever met someone for the first time, but been convinced you knew them (and/or vice versa)?

Could it be that we suffer deja vu because we have been there before? Could it be that the person we have just met, but we seem to know, is actually someone we did know, but thanks to subtle changes in the past, destiny changed and we never met them after all? But, some resonance remains, possibly deep in our subconscious, which is pretty much oblivious to time?

When I finished reading Stephen King's 11/22/63, I was drawn back to a scene right near the end, on the last page, in fact, when an elderly school teacher is dancing with a younger man she has never met, but feels she knows him, despite it being impossible to have known him. This kind of allowed the concept to be reborn in my head, that time could be constantly changing without any of us being remotely aware of it. That subtle changes to history are being made by time travellers, so that the ramifications in the future are not as bad as they could be.

Yes, if you go back in time and kill Hitler at birth you would stop one dictator; but what if you killed Adolf and someone altogether even worse replaced him and WW2 ended up being a completely different kind of war that resulted in a power ruling most of the planet? So you kill Hitler, find it's a bad idea, so go back and not kill Hitler, returning the world to how it was - which is essentially the premise behind the aforementioned King novel. Killing Hitler or changing any massive historical event, like I said, could have untold consequences along the timeline, changing everything for the worse.

But what if you could trace back, through the ribbons of history and find an event, really insignificant, that changing it has little or any effect on the immediate time?

The most obvious memories in my head that relate to this are almost disconcerting. For starters, when I was 7, one of my earliest memories is of seeing Ann Hathaway's cottage and thinking that I'd seen it before, which was actually impossible as my family had never been there before and we had spent the previous six years in Canada. The weird feeling I had when I saw it was so strong and distinctive, I figure it's why I still remember it. Weirdly, several years ago, when I saw the cottage again for the first time in 40 years, it had absolutely no effect on me; in fact, I didn't recognise it.

The other one that resonates in my head is a former colleague of mine called Phil Thorne. From the moment we met, we were convinced we knew each other and evidence suggested that the people we knew, the places we hung around and the stuff we did, in the 1980s, meant there couldn't be any way we didn't know each other; yet we didn't, even if we were convinced we did. Both of us racked our brains looking for one thing that linked us which would explain how and when we'd originally met, but we both kept coming up blanks. Really disconcerting was the fact that we seemed to know things about the other that we shouldn't or couldn't possibly know. I remembered Phil's girlfriend of the time, but yet had never met her either. He knew that I'd lived in Canada! How?

Could it have been that someone from the future had returned to subtly alter something in the past, probably unrelated to me or Phil, but as a consequence, the original meeting between the two of us never happened, but our subconscious had a vague recollection of something that couldn't have happened?

Here's a weird one: when I was about 13, I was friends with this kid called Denver. I was one of a bunch of people he used to hang around and the thing that stuck in my mind about Denver was he was writing a book and had been since he was about 10. I actually drew some inspiration from him and despite being a bit of a nerd, he was pretty much well respected by his peers, despite his weird forename and even weirder surname. He went to a different school and within a year just about everyone had 'forgotten' him. Yeah, they remembered him, but it was a bit like he was slowly just sinking out of their minds. The last thing I heard about Denver when I was younger was he'd moved away from Northampton. End of.

When you have a friend with an odd name, it kind of burns itself on your memory; you might forget the spelling, but you know what it is all the same. When Facebook got big and I got involved; I was sitting at my desk one night and I had a clear and vivid recollection of one of the last times I saw Denver. It had been in the Weston Favell Centre, at the start of the summer holidays, which would see us eventually return to an Upper school and not a Middle one. He had already told us his folks were sending him to Northampton School for Boys and the summer holidays were going to be the last time we had together. I remember talking to him about his novel, which was about 50,000 words of handwritten adventure about a group of kids. So I did a Facebook search for him and guess what, there was just one person in the entire world with his name.

I thought, it's been over 30 years, should I contact him? What would I say? 'Hi, I used to know you when you were 13'. Would he remember? Would he be the same Denver or someone else with the same weird name? I bit the bullet and sent him a message.

His reply was really freaky. Yes, he was the same Denver who lived in Northampton, but he didn't remember me or any of our mutual friends. He said he went to NSB, but claims to have gone to Boothville Middle prior to this, not Goldings Middle. In fact, most of his story held up, especially his amazement that I knew he had written a book when he was just a teenager. "How come you know that?" He said. "Only a handful of my friends knew I was doing it." I felt like screaming at him that he told me himself, in the Weston Favell Centre in 1975! But I didn't reply; he either remembered me and didn't want to know me, or his memories of his past were clouded, or even different from mine. His curiosity of how I knew about his book seemed to be the only thing that bothered him.

The last thing I did was ask a couple of the people I knew back in 1975 that I still know now; both of them remembered Denver, mainly because of his strange name; but neither could tell me where they knew him; one even went as far as suggesting that perhaps we knew of him, because of his odd name. But it remained a mystery. Perhaps I should have pushed the issue; but to what purpose? If he didn't want to acknowledge his past that was his business and if he wanted to rewrite his history, then it's his life.

Perhaps, something happened in 1972 that changed his parents minds about what Middle school to send their son, so instead of following the path that I seem to have a recollection of, he went in another direction; but because he had been an early source of inspiration to me, his memory was burned into my subconscious, enabling me to access memories that maybe didn't happen after all... Who can say; but when things like this happen, it makes me think that possibly something is happening to time that we're not aware of.

A Little Light Relief

Politics! There's almost nothing better for a good chuckle. Who would have thought I'd feel that way? The politically responsible lefty who abhors Tories with a burning passion. How can I find the current state of the country amusing? Easy. There's nothing I can do about it and there's nothing better than watching a bunch of posh arrogant buffoons make a complete and utter mess of the country, while struggling to comprehend how much a pint of milk costs.

I should be apoplectic; bemoaning the downward spiral of this once great country, but I'm a realist as well and it seems the whole of the Western world is beginning to get fed up with the haves, while we have nots grow exponentially. There appears to be the beginnings of a sea of change happening all over Europe and the only wrinkle on that is that the far right have been growing faster than most of the others; but not enough to turn Europe into another fascist playground.

The fact our current government couldn't find their own arses with a map and a torch is actually a joyous thing, despite the impending shit we're all facing. The Western world has got to rethink itself, because frankly, the only way it can cut all the debt is for everyone to return to the stone age for a decade; either that or come up with some way of just ignoring the fact that everyone owes everyone else and get on with trying to stimulate the economy, investing in the future and making life a little more bearable.

The Tories, or at least the really fucking mental ones, seem to think we need to cut everything back to the bare bones; instead of just cutting it by a third, cut it all, save all that money, get Britain out of debt and start again. However, we'd have 40% unemployment and no money to invest in getting those 40% back in work. Benefits would spiral (but the Tories would find a way to stop that, by making sure no one was eligible for anything until they were 80 and could bring their parents along as proof) and we'd end up back in debt because we couldn't make a decent contribution to world trade.

I don't like Ed Balls, I think he's as much of a tit as Gideon Osborne, but he was right when he said that we need to lessen the cuts and invest money into jobs and the future. I'll go one step further, Dave and co need to change a startling fact - whenever there is a Tory government in this country, unemployment soars. Just look at history! Every period of high unemployment in this country usually happens when the Tories have been in for a while. The Thirties, the late Seventies and most of the Eighties. When unemployment comes down, inflation usually goes up or interest rates or sleazy scandals. The track record of the Tories is considerably worse than that of the socialists. Socialism might be abhorred by some people, but it's fairer on the entire country.

But, we all know whose fault it is - Thatcher's. once upon a time you gave a shit about your community; thanks to her you only really give a shit about you and yours. I'm alright, so the rest of you can suffer. Well, any of my right leaning readers - see if you feel the same way when your livelihood begins to be seriously affected by the cuts that appear everywhere and leave only a few people unscathed. How long will you, like Dave, be able to blame Labour before it becomes like a poor excuse rather than a reason?

Consumerism

Walking round Tesco's doing my shopping, I realised that there is so much pre-packaged, fat saturated crap or boxed up and precisely measured rubbish we don't actually need. I once commented that civilisation will end when you can buy all the components of a meal, ready prepared and just needing cooking. In Tesco you can buy all manner of things that just make my mind boggle. Why on Earth would someone want to buy, I dunno, pre-prepared mashed potato, or ready sliced runner beans, or peeled spuds, or trimmed sprouts, or anything that takes a human being a few seconds longer to prepare? It's just madness.

My old mate Colin is a microwave fiend. He has nothing in his flat to cook with except a microwave and therefore he lives under this false economy of only buying microwavable pre-packaged shit from supermarkets. Yes, he buys a lot of reduced stuff at the end of the day, but it's still not really practical or healthy. I said to him recently (he's house sitting for friends) that he ought to, you know, use the cooker, prepare himself a proper meal, rather than depending on the x-ray box. But no, that was too much like hard work! I wouldn't mind if he worked in a 60 hour a week job and had 3 kids to bring up; it would be a piss poor excuse, but it would be a reason.

I said to him that instead of looking at the reduced section in Tesco, why doesn't he pick up a couple of chicken thighs - very cheap - a pack of mixed fresh vegetables (all supermarkets do them) and a box of chicken Oxos. He could produce a healthy, tasty, chicken soup/stew using just the microwave, which he could make last for a couple of days and it would be 100 times healthier than a Tesco value Lasagne that's been reduced to 49p (which has more salt and saturated fats in it than Dawn French). You could tell he was reluctant to even consider it and that really gets my goat. There's this kid at work, who brings in a bottle of orange squash every day; it costs his mum about 10p a week to keep him hydrated - most of the rest of the kids I see bring in cans, cartons or bottles at a thousand times the cost. I'm thinking his mother might be on benefits and is watching her budget. All credit to her, she's becoming a rarity in this day and age.

I'm pretty much old skool. My parents grew up during the war and through rationing and this made them frugal, but not necessarily poor quality. Yes, my mum only worked part time, some of the time, but it didn't stop her from doing it all herself. Yes, even in 1998, when she died, she could buy all manner of convenient things to make her life easier, but I think the closest she ever got to using stuff like this was frozen peas. But yesterday, I tidied up the freezer, to see if I could more room. The entire middle section of consists of frozen leftovers - meals or lunches for the wife, bags of frozen apples and rhubarb, blackberries and little things like mango pulp, or fresh pesto or bags of part cooked cassava; things some people would just chuck away, but I know that I might or will use them in the future.

The wife's brother often used to comment that our cupboards looked like we were constantly expecting a nuclear winter; there are bags and boxes of all manner of 'essentials' and it could be considered slightly extravagant, if it wasn't the fact they were lentils and other pulses, or things that have a long or vague use by date, you could call me that, but I don't think so. Yes, I could probably survive a month, as it stands, if all hell broke loose and all the shops closed for ever, but that isn't the reason. The reason is purely down to wanting a choice and one that isn't going to bankrupt me in the process.

Stuff
  • Rain
  • More rain
  • Cold
  • Wet
  • Miserable
  • Weekend
  • Have you ever met a Jeremy Hunt?
  • Summer tomorrow, allegedly.
  • North Atlantic Oscillation
  • An albino giraffe eating a choc ice.

2 comments:

  1. The one that gets me is White Sauce mix in a packet. It's chuffing flour and salt!! ,and you still have to add the milk!!!! I could make one from scratch nearly before someone got the packet open for fractions of the cost. Don't even get me started on Bread Sauce! ;o)

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  2. Meringue mix get me. It's a pouch of egg whites . . . "Just add sugar!" Incidentally, there is a book called "THe Land That Thyme Forgot" by William Black. It's about English eating habits.

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