Poem: The Moon

Writing

One small step for man,

One giant leap for mankind.

A man upon the moon you say?

Why yes, ‘twas the year of 1969. 

 

The moon, La Luna,

How mind-boggling you are to the eye.

Spherically similar to the Earth,

Yet still as different as day is to night.

 

A guardian of light,

Illuminating the darkness that cloaks the sky.

A blank canvas that man has began to touch,

Will it be to better you, or will it be your demise?

 

**Today marks the 50th year anniversary of the moon landing. The last time man returned to the lunar landscape was in 1972. When/ will we return again?

Silent Disco?

Writing

Always keen to try something atleast once, I thought I’d lend my supple body to a bit of shape throwing in a silent room full of strangers. Yes, the Natural History Museum in South Kensington is home to the type of event suitable for just about anybody, from dancing dads to tameful clubbers, the event I assure you, will enthuse us all.

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If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘silent disco’, as I was weeks prior to the event, in summary it’s like a ‘one man party’ but not in the sad kind of way. On Friday night the set up was that there were 3 DJs, each playing a different genre of music: Hip-Hop, EDM and Cheesy Classics. Every person had their own headphones provided, which had special switches you used to change the song, so for example if you were sick of listening to Snoop Dogg and Pharrell’s ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ (as if), then you just flick a switch and suddenly you’re listening to Abba’s ‘Take A Chance On Me’.

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So it really was like your own personalised party. But what made it even better was actually when you momentarily removed your headphones, it was such a bizarre experience but basically it was like some weird clashing choir. All I could hear was a mix up of three songs being sung out loud mainly by middle-aged men going gloriously off-key. Plus people were ‘dancing’ to what appeared to be no music.Weirdly enough, more people were dancing at the event than I’ve seen drunk in a club.  Yes, it looked very strange indeed. To say it was entertaining would be an understatement.

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At one stage the DJ’s had us doing the macarena followed by a massive conga line before finishing foff the night with a good ol’ rendition of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. What a fun night out.

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To check out other fun things you could try in London or even in a city near you have a look at my other post.

Poem: Time

Writing

We think about the future,

So that we can enjoy its ‘present’.

But like a dollar bill drifting in the wind.

We never do quite catch it.

 

We worry that it’s not on our side.

Like it’s going by too quickly.

Asking ‘where does it fly’?

 

Time – isn’t it a peculiar concept?

Does it exist or does it not?

As humans have we just ‘created’ it?

Or is it time that created us?

 

We can’t rewind the clocks,

And we certainly can’t speed them up.

Why don’t we just get lost in the moment?

And not worry about the time that we’ve lost?

 

red flame digital wallpaper Guy Fawkes UK 5th November poem

Poem: 5th November 1605

Writing

The dank presence of gunpowder fills their lungs.

Settling smoke distorts their view.

5th November 1605 – a night like any other.

If only this were really  true.

 

Traders to country, traitors to crown.

The Gunpowder Plot,

Dismembered, put down.

 

Destructive paths each had chosen,

Treasonous, treacherous.

Yet failed to make any  explosion.

 

Remember, remember,

The 5th of November.

A night to celebrate failure.

For to do evil on another man.

Will result in evil brought to the deliverer.

backlit dark light people Halloween 2018 Octoberfancy dress costumes

Why Do We Dress Up Like Kn*bs On Halloween?

Writing

If you read my earlier post, the title above may have sprung to mind. It is a weird concept if we remove ourselves from the festivities for just a second, and instead have a momentary out of body experience.

Envision yourself looking at your badly sewn together costume, your lop-sided devil horns and staining-for-weeks pasty make-up. Who the devil are you suppose to be? You’re certainly not getting into Hell now. Why is it that we make special efforts on this October night in particular to look extra garish?

Well, let me tell you:

Blame the grandparent’s grandparent’s grandparents

That’s right, the geriatrics are the reason pestering brats come knocking on your door demanding your diabetes inducing sweeties. As it turns out that the ancient Indo-European group, who lived 2,000 years ago, called ‘The Celts‘ celebrated the end of their calendar year on 31st October. It marks the end of harvest season and the beginning of Winter. The festival of celebration is named ‘Samhain‘, pronounced ‘sow-in’. It is believed that the festival has Celtic pagan origins.

So how does this relate to your dad dressing up as Batman?

Costumes during Samhain were worn and fires were lit to ward off any ghosts of the dead, which were believed to rise on the 31st October.  In addition to encouraging the foretelling of prophecies by priests and Druids and sacrificial practices to the Celtic deities.

Over time, for example with the invasion of the Romans and influence of Christianity led to a blending of cultural practices on this final October day. Roman’s influenced the ‘bobbing for apples’ by honouring the goddess of fruit and trees – Pomona. Christianity brought ‘All Saints Day’ known as ‘All Hallows day’ a church sanctioned holiday at the time (1000 AD). This took place on November 1st and so 31st October became known as ‘All Hallows Eve’ and eventually ‘Halloween‘.

Why The Term ‘Trick Or Treat?’

At least as far back as the 15th century, among Christians, there had been a custom of sharing soul-cakes at Halloween. People would visit houses and take soul-cakes, either as representatives of the dead, or in return for praying for their souls.

The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighbourhood and be given ale, food and money.

 

So there you have it, thank the ancestors for all of these spooky shenanigans.

Happy Halloween!

Check out my Celtic visit to Newgrange

Book Review - Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Book Review – Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Writing

Book Review – Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Having read this book, I now understand why it has sold over 9 million copies. This tribute to hope against adversity should be testament to the human mind’s astonishing capabilities.

Unlike alot of wishy washy self-help books, Frankl’s psychological account provides reason in the most brutal and honest of ways. Re-telling his own harrowing experiences of live as a concentration camp prisoner, and the mechanisms he personally put into practice with his mind which ultimately spared him his mental freedom.

This book has left me stunned and in a state of reflection. If Frankl could remain hopeful in such dire circumstances then really what circumstances can any of us say we can’t survive through?

A truly exceptional read.

A selection of some of the most powerful quotes from the book:

pg 74 – “Is that theory true which would have us believe that man is no more than a product of many conditional and environmental factors – be they of a biological, psychological or sociological nature?”

“…..that man cannot escape the influences of his surroundings?”

“Does man have no choice of action in the face of such circumstances?”

In this section, Frankl questions whether man has a choice of action in any given situation. With specific reference to other prisoners, he questions whether man is, put simply,  a product of his own environment or if he can rise above the situation his environment has put him in – the concentration camp. With uncertainty over his freedom,  over his life, will the prisoner give in and ultimately give up? Or will he mentally make the choice of seeing the positive on even the bleakest of days. Will he use past memories and future hopes to will away his temptation to fade into a type non-existence in an attempt to escape the torturous reality of camp life?

Frankl answers his own question with the eloquent statement below:

Pg 75 – “And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.”

 Pg 84 – “Nietzche’s words “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”.”

Pg 51 – “Standing outside we saw sinister clouds glowing in the west and the whole sky alive with clouds of ever-changing shapes and colors, from steel blue to blood red. The desolate grey mud huts provided a sharp contrast, while the puddles on the muddy ground reflected the glowing sky. Then, after minutes of moving silence, one prisoner said to another, “How beautiful the world could be!”.”

When your environment comes to be what is only contained within the four fences of a concentration camp, positivity must be sought after in the most simplest of forms. Frankl remarks on how a newfound appreciation for nature would act as a crutch to the dying man. How the beauty of the sunrise and sunset would offer a temporary moment of escape to the prisoners of war.

Pg 85 – “We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.”

Viktor Frankl discusses openly of the frequent suicide attempts by fellow prisoners, he exclaims how camp rules made it strictly forbidden to help save a man attempting to end his own life, you could not for example cut him down. He states how those men who felt suicidal felt like they had nothing more to expect from life. Frankl’s response is that life is still expecting something from them. Perhaps not today but someday in future. Perhaps they will be a father or a husband. A future child or wife will need them.

 

Man’s search for meaning is by no means an easy read, as much as it made me think about methodologies and attitudes, it made me honestly feel deeply emotional at points, as I was so immersed in the experiences Frankl unfolded. Lessons learned from his work can be taken into many areas of our lives, this book, although focusing on the most brutal and evil parts of human history has managed in the process to give liberation to both Frankl and the reader. We have been given a chance to learn from Frankl’s horrific experiences, and so the question is, as one of the book’s main highlights – will we make that choice?

An image of St Paul's Cathedral in London, UK.

7 Interesting St Paul’s Cathedral Facts, London

Writing
  1. Standing Tall – The cathedral stood as the tallest building between 1710 – 1965. Now The Shard bloody eclipses everything!!
  2. 35 years – The length of time it took Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild St Pauls’ cathedral after old St Paul’s was destroyed in the Great Fire of London 1666.
  3. Secrets held within – A notable feature of this London treasure is ‘The whispering gallery’. A whisper against the wall can be clearly heard at the other side, 112 feet away!St Paul's Cathedral taken from the side closest to the River Thames. Summer 2018, London, England, UK.
  4. Sir Christopher Wren  – The St Paul’s Cathedral designer was the first person to be laid to rest in its grounds.
  5. War – The cathedral was hit by several German bombs during the Blitz in World War 2. One was removed before it exploded; had it not been, St Paul’s would’ve been demolished.

St Paul's Cathedral photographed  from the Southbank side of the River Thames in Summer 2018. London, UK.6. Life And Death – Funeral services for several famous people have been held at St Paul’s, including Winston Churchill and Lord Nelson. The wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana was also held there.                                                                                                7. The Greats – The two largest bells in St Paul’s are named Great Tom and Great Paul. Great Paul has not rung in several years due to a broken chiming mechanism. Great Tom is sounded for the death of a member of the royal family, the Bishop of London, or the Lord Mayor of London. Don’t ask me where they got their names, atleast it’s not Big Ben!

Celtic Cavemen

Writing

Newgrange, Co. Meath, Rep. of Ireland

The Emerald Isle has its fair share of busy cities and pretty coastlines so why not go and visit a big-ass dome in the middle of a field instead? Or atleast, that’s the logic of my two wonderful parents. Well, it’s safe to say Mother (and Father) knows best and here’s why:

This folks, is Newgrange:

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Yes, I know, I wanna join the big conga line into the pit of darkness too, but before we join all the fun let’s do a little bit of scouting out of the area, shall we?

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You can see a significantly smaller dome in the adjacent field. Just beyond this meanders the River Boyne.

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The River Boyne

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comfy

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The highest point of Newgrange’s ridge is around 61m above sea level. This naturally high terrain would have made it a prominent part of the landscape to its dwellers. Earliest evidence of human activity (farming tools) is sometime before 4000BC.

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For heaven’s sake, although I studied geology, don’t ask me what the stone was. I think it’s a mixture of slate, quartz, blood sweat and tears. So basically a conglomerate! Oh, I must mention, the exterior as in the picture is not 100% reflective of the true structure when first built, it is instead an interpretation. As with the passing of time I’m sure you can imagine it wasn’t looking it’s best, so this late face lift was somewhat a blessing to Ireland’s tourism piggybank.

Moving on swiftly, the theoretical reasoning for the Neolithic construction was to act as a passage tomb for sunlight. Specifically in alignment with the Winter Solstice (Dec 21st). It is believed that its function was deliberate, thereby pre-dating the astronomically oriented structure of Stonehenge by approx 500 – 600 years.

So cavemen built this mound and passageway combo for some teeny weeny little light beam to shine into their peepers come Christmas Eve? Well, kind of.

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Tri-Spiralled entrance stone.

Celtic legend mentions the significance of the ‘three-leaf spiral’ or the tri-spiral, and nowhere is this more exemplified than at Newgrange. Here you can see sets of Tri-spirals which hold as many answers as they do questions, on both exterior and interior rockforms of the lithic structure. The tourguide suggested several potentially plausible theories to explain these carvings on the main stone of the passageway entrance, suggested explanations included religion –  each prominent spiral may have represented: The Father, The son and The Holy Spirit respectively, other suggestions inferred that the passageway  entrance stone’s use was as some sort of megalithic map.

Which reminds me, I briefly mentioned earlier, in addition to Newgrange, other more modestly sized domed passageways can be found peppering the neighbouring fertile fields of the River Boyne floodplains. It’s believed that they served a similar purpose. You can see that there are several sets of tri-spirals in the image above (perhaps representing the three domes) and what looks like a wave motion (River Boyne) engraved at the bottom of the entrance stone. This may have acted as a guide to the local people of the time?

A more nonchalant reasoning may have pointed to the engravements being solely for decorative purposes. Holding the tomb in such high prestige, perhaps, as you would decorate your home as an expression of pride, so to may the people of this land approx. 3,200BC.

Leading on from the mysteries of the entrance tombstone, the passageway and subsequent chambers of the sleeping mound  bared even more secrets than what could be imagined.

Linking back to the significance of the sunlight, it is believed that when the passageway was initially constructed, the beam of sunlight during those Winter solstice’s would have penetrated to the back of the recess and indirectly illuminated a three-leaf spiral engravement on the internal wall. An example of the carving shape below:

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If we think back to how creation of the structure would have occurred  we may begin to understand the reasoning for such intelligent design.

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Prof. Tom Ray the School of Cosmic Physics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (inhales deeply after that)  confirmed the need for such stringent accuracy of the build to produce the desired illuminated effect. He infers that had the passageway been a few metres longer, sunlight wouldn’t have entered the chamber. If the two roof-box slabs forged a gap just 20cm lower the beam wouldn’t have been effective. They’re putting our engineers to shame, Elon Musk eat your heart out!

What would the chambers have been used to for?

-Rituals: With the average age of death at the time being just 26 years old for females and 29 years old for males. Heck, I would’ve taken a bit of wacky backy and sang kumbaya round the nearest tree too! In all seriousness, the relationship between sunlight and spiritualism has stood the test of time. You can see why, sunlight is important for life, it’s important for growth. Therefore the power and prestige of the sun must’ve been paramount.

In addition to potential sun worship, especially during times of natural light shortages, evidence points towards the ritualistic custom of ‘Trepanation’ being praised within Newgrange – the removal of a disc of bone from the skull of a living person to allow ‘evil spirits’ to leave the body. In some findings, as reconstructed in the picture, it was determined that the ‘patient’ survived due to the fact that the bone actually began to grow back. I’ll never complain of a headache again!

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Other theories suggest that Newgrange was used as a place to practice religion. In some ways acting as our  religious buildings of today would.

Shrouded in mystery and unanswered questions makes this unforgettable site a gem of the Emerald Isle in my eyes.

As for what I saw inside the passageway, well, maybe I’ll keep that a secret. Go visit!

**Check out extra pictures on Instagram