If tomorrow never comes,
Then, how much further away from today,
Is the day after tomorrow?
When Pieman was very young,
and living at the beginnings of time,
he often slept with the Cave Bear Clan during stormy weather.
Over the course of many such nights,
Big Brown Bear who was also very old,
taught Pieman the nature of his belly-roar.
To this day,
Pieman makes use of his roar in dreams,
but only to pacify strangers and to quiet the rowdy,
and those of us who have difficulty understanding the Ancient Tales.
“It has to be the Stone on Gardom’s Edge…”
“What does?” says Wen.
“My Robin Hood Stone… I mean it didn’t look much like the stone on Gardom’s Edge but that could have been the angle.”
I study the sketch in our guide book.
“A lot of these stones look different from each and every angle you know.” …
…“Let’s go find the Hud Stone,” say I.
“Is the Hud Stone the same as the Robin Hood Stone?”
“Well of course it is!”
“The same stone that we are not totally sure exists at all?”
“Well it most surely does exist if it is what Mr Harris is calling the Gardom Stone.”
“All these names are apt to become a tad confusing don’t you think?”
“Not at all, it’s just one more way of marking time.”…
…A short walk later and we are approaching what are undoubtedly the outer precincts of a prehistoric enclosure.
Just then I catch sight of the Gardom Stone from some distance.
There is always a thrill when seeing a site or stone for the first time, but in this case the thrill is tempered somewhat by the simultaneous realisation that, even from this distance, it is obvious that the Gardom Stone is not the Hud Stone.
“It’s there,” I say, “but it is not the Hud Stone.”
“It’s been called, ‘The Devil Stone’ before now.”
“I can see that too, but let’s face it, we’ve had more than enough truck with that particular personage these last few months.” …
…“Is it significant,” interrupts Wen.
“Is what significant?”
“The fact that a lot of these stones look different from every angle… I mean it starts to look like another involution.”
“It’s spatially significant for your ubiquitous theory but how so otherwise?”
“Well, take your traditional temple of the elements.”
“Which few people ever do…”
…“Of what does it consist?” says Wen, ignoring me.
“It consists of a uniform central point and the distinct cardinals.”
“Eloquently put, O Something Feral, eloquently put,” she smiles.
“Oh I see, the distinct cardinals have been collapsed into a central point…”
“Collapsed and reversed, which is something of an involution is it not?”
“It is indeed, Little Grub, and if that is what they were doing…”
“It is genius.”
“Genius, yes, but to what end?”
“There is a stone which would be worth visiting. It is in Baslow which is on our way to the Symposium so we could stop off there, grab some lunch, check out the stone and then head off to our meeting.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“If I can remember where it is.”
“I thought you knew where it was; why else tell me about it otherwise.”
“I do, sort of, only we will be coming at it the other way, the last time I visited I came down off the moor but we won’t have time to do it that way.”
“How long ago was this?” says Wen becoming somewhat suspicious.
“About ten years. It’s a huge stone. You can’t miss it and I know the general direction of its whereabouts.”
“How big is the stone?”
“It’s massive. It’s the largest free standing monolith I’ve ever come across and we found it quite by accident.”
“Bigger that the stones at Avebury?”
“Not bigger, but taller than the stones at Avebury.”
“By accident you say?”
“Look, there’s nothing mysterious about it, I’d taken Al and Sal to see the Park-Gate stone circle and then we walked back over the moor, which is another necropolis by the way, to Baslow and lunch. There was some sort of monument giving a rather splendid view of the area and just after that we came down off the moor and found the stone.”
“A necropolis you say? It is not marked on the map,” says Wen with some conviction.
“Well, not all of them are.”
“The big ones though, they usually are, surely?”
“I didn’t imagine it. We even took a photograph. Al and I were laughing because of the, shall we say, somewhat rude reputation of such stones, so we got Sal to stand next to it and Al took a photograph on his phone.”
“Okay, if it’s as big as you say we should be able to find it again quite easily.”…
… Our-Father, Lady, Countess-Grae passed light and demure across the softly shifting shades of a turquoise beach.
Formless as beauty likened to the morning mist, her presence cleansed and refreshed the air as she danced; flitting capriciously between the stark but numerous clumps of white seaweed which lay sprawled like bleached and dying spiders: upturned and struggling in the yet cool but rapidly warming, morn-time sun.
They straddled the beach like shredded robes with their puckered strands wafting playful death throes in the sea breeze and as robes which had been wrenched, torn and wildly flung to lie forgotten upon the rising mounds of the blue dunes they appeared to have been discarded and scattered amid the sea’s insatiable passion for the sand.
And in her innocence, in her uncertain, whimsical passing Our-Father, Lady, Countess-Grae’s ruby feet caressed that same dry and now sullied sand: with all its succulence spent and with its surface baked-dry in the aftermath of the sea’s relief.
Yet cajoled and enticed by the arch of her feet and the spring in her step as she ran, the sand was compressed and spilled forth a deeper moistness; the dark clammy grains of which clumped and clung in a rich blue pulp and which squashed and squelched between the niches of her toes; cold, and invigorating as the new day which dawned all around.
A girl again, her laughter bubbled between short gasps, gurgled, giddy and pure as she moved; her reckless spirit sprightly and unabashed, flowing swifter and swifter, until, exhausted from running but still in playful mood she succumbed, collapsing onto the blue-green terrain beside a large vermilion boulder which squatted upon the lip of a small rock pool: its shade only vaguely unsettling her as she fell, splaying out her pale, slender limbs in limp, abject surrender to her surroundings.
As she gradually began to recover and her breath grew more even, her fingers scratched and gently scraped at the purple moss that spread like speculative boredom in dark, sporadic patches across the rock’s hunched and brooding form.
But she remained unmindful of the delicate intricacies and patterns which she so idly created for she was lost in the emerald-green sky and there she bathed her resting soul in the lushness of its translucence…
Earl Grae slumbered sardonically in his shell.
“…Still on your mind then?”
“Is what still on my mind?”
“I don’t understand.”
“The ‘he’ look, behind you.”
The etchings which she had scratched in the moss spelled Samuel.
“I still don’t understand.”
“The ‘He’, that is his name.
That is what he is ‘called’. That is what he is ‘known as’ or ‘goes by’.
That is his title; ‘hearkened unto’, or ‘requested by, the Lords’.
“Oh!” She read the name pronouncing each letter “… Who decided?”
“…When you were bathing…”
“Sa-M-U-El… mmm, I like that.”
“I like it too. A commendable choice…”
“Why, thank you, it was nothing… but, does Sam-U-El struggle, does Samu- El hurt?”
“Yes, of course he does but he loves it to death.”
“Oh death, Samuel has touched death then?”
“Grasped dear, grasped.”
“Sorry, grasped. How do you know?”
“I read it somewhere…
Here, tell me what you think.”…
…Left alone in my room for long enough I thought I might discover how they did it, how they worked it.
I thought I was being clever.
Initially, I had suspected the lights, either the lights or the heating, or perhaps both or maybe they sprayed something on the tiles?
But my room was just a room, cold and empty, ordinary, harmless.
The only thing that felt even remotely uncomfortable about it were my memories; the only ghosts in there were created by myself yet those feelings were real enough, too real…
They were more convincing than the six, blue, square edged pillars which ran down either side of the centre of my room, they were more convincing, than the old, piped central heating, and they were more convincing too than the fluorescent light fittings which droned overhead for that was how they worked it… they worked from inside your mind.
They turned the screws and tightened the bolts in there, and everything they did or said, or did not say, and did not do was designed to get in there and there was no way to prove it which suited them because they always needed proof, facts, solid objects, evidence…
And in that room, at that moment then, totally empty and bare and ordinary, there were only ghosts, phantoms which could be driven away, dispersed simply by looking at them and saying their name.
…Metallic blue piping ran at strangely oblique angles, stretching deep into the ever darkening glass cliff-face, sparkling in the sunlight when at odd times it emerged like some long forgotten swimmer up for air, jutting rudely into the open spaces a thousand feet above the softly shimmering, golden sands below.
Away in the distance men clothed in white mingled with the green of the hills as they ran and dived, swung and caught, oblivious to all who watched them perform their curious ritual.
Smiling to himself, Earl Grae gazed out across a deliciously calm, strawberry red sea.
Some sound over his shoulder… three of the power-station’s security guards, intent upon destruction, emerged from the cliff-face and headed out towards him. He turned and casually stepped from the outcrop of reinforced steel that had been his viewpoint.
Free from its countless, tiresome folds for a moment, his voluminous black cloak billowed forth as he plummeted to earth, only to metamorphose into wings the span of an Albatross’, and caught upon the up-draught, Earl Grae soared gracefully skyward away from all danger, however imaginary.
High above the cliff-tops he went, ever upwards. Like a mighty Condor he flew lazily through the warm summer sky, gliding languidly on the streams and jets of hot air; a translucent impostor upon the thermals.
And then, shortening his wing span he slowly began to spiral downwards in great sweeping arcs. Gradually he descended until when no more than sixty feet from the beach he levelled out, skimming the retreating shoreline. As he flew a semi-ridiculous love song permeated his consciousness, wandering aimless for a moment before finding form two bodies, warm in embrace, passed by below, melting into the sun bleached sands as he wheeled away.
Their conversation carried on the breeze…
“Will you ever stop loving me?”
“No. I will never stop loving you.”
“Whatever I do to you?”
“Whatever you do to me, I will never stop loving you.”
“But what if I no longer loved you?”
“Even if you no longer loved me, I would not stop loving you.”
“What, even if I were to take away your life?”
“If you were to take away my life, in the very instant that I died I would love you still.”
“Mmmm,” she sighed, I wonder.
…Mother said, “The spiral patterns on the gate don’t mean anything, dear, they’re just decoration.”
If life is a search for meaning then it would be as well to point out from the start that there is none to be had, that way more people would be able to relax and appreciate their surroundings.
The gate of number eight Teesgrove Road did not mean anything but at least it now existed for me in some sort of meaningful way. Those spiral-line pieces of metal made me think that they were a pretty beautiful and elaborate way of saying absolutely nothing…
In fact those spiral-line pieces of metal made me wonder just where the gate of number eight Teesgrove Road stood in relation to the other gates in the street and the very short answer to that question was that the gate of number eight Teesgrove Road was unique.
The Urban and Suburban Town Planners sit around tables drawing up each new uniform vision of the future and the people they have designed the latest uniform homes for move in and immediately start turning meticulously planned dreams into their own personalised versions of heaven or hell.
At some point in time between the construction of number eight Teesgrove Road and our arrival in the street, the previous owner must have flicked through brochures, or paraded around showrooms, ‘hummed and ahhed’, and eventually plumped for the intricate, metalwork, spiral-line design which was, years later, to become a source of such wonder.
People, I have heard it said have no grasp of what they do.
The metal work spiral-line design on the gate of number eight Teesgrove Road did not mean anything to mother but it must have been having some sort of an effect on her reasoning because when she finally got around to transforming the stairs and hallway of number eight Teesgrove Road the metal work supports she chose to adorn the newly scraped, sanded and varnished wooden banister rail comprised a spiral-line design.
“Ooh look,” I said when I first saw it, “the banister rail now matches the garden gate.”
“Oh yes,” said mother, “so it does, I hadn’t realised.”
The spiral-line metal work design of the supports for the newly scraped, sanded and varnished wooden banister rail were black but of the twisted metalwork slats which were to alternate between them and which had come through the post at the same time, some were black and some were white.
Someone at the Mail Order Firm had made a mistake.
“Tutt… look at this,” said mother “they’ve sent the wrong ones… I ordered black… Damn and Blast it… Now what am I going to do? They’ll have to go back, it’s no use… They’ll have to go back… I’m not having ‘em… Flaming Marvellous… it’s not damn difficult is it… I mean, black is black isn’t it? It’s definitely not… blasted white…And I wanted to get it done this weekend…”
I started laughing.
Mother started laughing too, “it’s not damn funny” she said and then her laugh started to turn into a sob…
“Try it anyway,” I suggested “the skirting board and the picture rails are still white, you never know, it might look okay.”…
The Mail Order Firm had sent ten twisted black slats, five twisted white slats and ten black spiral-line designs which we arranged in a three to one ratio, starting at the bottom of the stairs with two twisted black slats, a spiral-line design followed by a twisted white slat and proceeding in like manner until we finished with a twisted white slat at the top of the stairs.
Now when mother was vacuuming and I huddled into the corner of the dog-leg two thirds the way up the stairs so as to feel the full effect of the vibrations rattling the floor-boards and juddering the stair-well, I could also trace the spiral-line design with my eyes… and amid all that noise, with cold shivers traversing the length of my spine…
I could think of black…
and then think of white…
A Cellular Life