The Tiny Black Hole at My Shoulder

In addition to the super-massive Black Hole that lurks at the centre of our galaxy, biding its time (ok, let’s, for now, just presume that time does exist) waiting its chance to devour us all, there is, I have worked out, a very tiny Black Hole located somewhere near my left shoulder.  It is the only logical explanation I can offer.  You see, things disappear.  I have them in my hand, I put them down and when I return to them, they have gone.  I used to blame mischievous sprites, Imps, borrowers, but this is the age of rational science, I am a grown-up and I need to look for a more reasonable scenario.

Not, I have to admit, that this perceived schema is without its difficulties.  Things that disappear do have a tendency to reappear at a different time, in a different place.  I’m not entirely sure that happens with Black Holes, whatever the size.  I believe that nothing actually ever emerges from a Black Hole – although they must get full eventually I’m sure.  (I’m not!)  I envision a Black Hole as something like an astral waste disposal unit, sucking up stars instead of leftovers, and we all know what happens when they get full…

Anyway, in the same way that the pull of a full-sized Black Hole is so great that it does not even release light, this tiny one on my shoulder hangs onto my thoughts: what I was just about to do, why I was about to do it.  Like my possessions, my thoughts have a habit of reappearing where and when they are least expected.  Maybe, as well as being astronomically vital to the equilibrium of the Universe, Black Holes are also major pillars of anarchy – essential to the fundamentals of The Chaos Theory (that is my life).  I remember reading that everything that is consumed by a Black Hole is compressed by the gigantic forces of gravity, so that the Earth would be squashed down to the size of a golf ball, but would remain the same weight.  Now, I’m uncertain of what, exactly, Black Holes are made of, nor, to that point, have I any idea of why they do not consume themselves, but my word, if they’re doing what the scientists tell us they should be doing, they must be very heavy by now.  I can’t quite work out why they don’t all just sink to the bottom of space.  Also, forgive my ignorance, why don’t they suck in all the zero-mass space that surrounds them and therefore expand like a balloon, getting less and less black with every inhalation of lighter-than-air?

Perhaps this is what is happening with the tiny Black Hole at my shoulder. Perhaps the sheer vacuity of my daytime thoughts is forcing it to release its grip on some of my actual plans and intentions at a different time (again, if you want to understand how that is even possible, you must talk to someone whose knowledge of the astrophysical extends beyond the mastery of child-proof lids) and a different place.  Thus, when I go upstairs intent on doing who-knows-what (certainly not I) do I reach the top with no idea whatsoever of what set me on my way – although it returns to me three hours later when I am on the bus and can do nothing about it.  Similarly, it would explain why, when I put down the TV remote after muting some politician or another, I find it three days later in the fridge, under a carton of yoghurt whose Best Before Date preceded the Moon landings.  (Incidentally, how does a product that is essentially gone-off milk go off?  Is there, perhaps, a fundamental scale of gone-offedness of which I am unaware?  Maybe there is some kind of explanation available of how one knows when a Stilton has gone mouldy.  Is there, in essence, good bad and bad bad?)

I am (despite what you might believe) an adult and I now realise that I cannot place these disappearances at the feet of The Borrowers.  For a start, I have concrete floors – substantial excavations would be required, possibly involving heavy machinery, in order to provide them with a subterranean hide-away in my lounge – and, anyway, there are no mouse-holes in my skirting boards for access.  Borrowers are not to blame.  What, in any case, would they hope to make with giant keys, a mobile phone and a guitar-shaped bottle-opener?  (The bottles do not need to be guitar-shaped, you understand.  I think it possible my language skills may have been swallowed, together with my other slipper.)

In fact, it has just occurred to me that CERN spent some considerable time – and doubtless large, but ever-diminishing mountains of lolly – attempting to create a mini Black Hole some time ago.  I do not know if they succeeded, but I have heard nothing of the Large Hadron Collider for some time now.  Could it, perhaps, have gone the way of all of my astrophysical understanding?  I can hear it now, saying (in French, of course) ‘Typical!  Bloody typical!  You work all your life.  Tear your heart out for them.  Give birth to them, and what do they do?  Swallow you up, that’s what they do.  Sacred blue, it’s dark in here.  I’m sure I’ve put on weight…’  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it doesn’t turn up in my sock drawer before the week is out.

Anyway, the point is, I sat down here some time ago, with something very important to relate to you.  I am sure that I had it all carefully mapped out in my head, but somehow it has wandered off and is, by now, lost somewhere, staring at trees.  I can no longer find it.  I have nothing to guide me and, other than the fact that I have just discovered my mojo in an otherwise empty phone case, no clues with which to reconstruct.  Sooner or later, I will be forced to go back down the stairs, into the room where I first thought of it and my thread will be waiting for me there.  I’ve a bit of a feeling I might have left my Black Hole with it…

Odds and Sods – Why the White Rabbit?

I need your help.

I September 2019 I published a post entitled ‘Making Up For Lost Time: a Soapy Head, a White Rabbit and a Black Hole Paradox’ (You can read it here.)  It was a fairly unprepossessing thing – just me postulating, as usual, about something that I did not understand: Time on this occasion.  As most of these things do, it started off with a real – if insignificant – incident and, once I’d started to write about it, well, you know how it goes, don’t you; you’ve been on these journeys with me before.  I could live with what I had written, or else I wouldn’t have published it.  Its reception at the time was more lukewarm than school custard, but with another post to write and publish, I never gave any particular thought as to why.  If people like what I have written, that’s gratifying; if they don’t, it’s understandable.  I was not nominated for the Booker after all.  Its fate, as with most of what I write, was death by neglect – except, for some unfathomable reason, it has not died.  It has come to life as some kind of zombie post: tottering, arms outstretched, onto my list of most-read posts almost every week and I have no idea why.

I have re-read it a number of times, to try to glean from it an essence that I can revisit.  Nothing.  I have checked out the tags: not a single mention of vitamins, keep fit, or diet – nothing that would explain why people keep stumbling across it: because that is what must happen.  I have even considered the possibility that some poor soul keeps getting it each time they log onto WordPress – a kind of Groundhog Day blog, which, I am almost certain, would ensure that I, personally, would never try to log on again.

The subject of time has seeped into many of my posts, because I find it so very difficult to understand.  Scientists say that it does not exist; that it is a manmade construct.  If that is the case, what lies between now and then?  What sits between lunch and dinner on a rain-soaked Sunday afternoon (other than Carry on Camping, of course)?  What is the pub landlord banging on about when he rings his bell of a Friday evening?  How do we get older?  Astro-physicists tell us that the Big Bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago – and if that’s not time, then I don’t know what is.

Anyway, White Rabbit was far from my first – and certainly not my last – plunge into the unfathomability of time, which has nagged away at me for several posts (all of which, if time really does not exist, must have been written simultaneously – showing a distinct lack of imagination on my part.)  It cropped up most explicitly in Dog Years, which I have also just re-read, and I, for one, remain none-the-wiser. 

Whilst Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit was also obsessed with Time, the quote I used at the end (from White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane) was clearly about drugs.  Could that be part of the reason for the on-going interest in this post?  Well, no, I don’t think it can.  The world is full of drug references.  Why would a single, oblique reference in an unknown blog entice new readers in? 

I have to confess that it is highly likely that I am missing the one, certain and bleedin’ obvious reason.  (Perhaps the title is very similar to a different blog that is worth reading.)  Maybe you too have inadvertently stumbled into my White Rabbit post and you could tell me what you were hoping to actually read at the time.  I would be so pleased of your help…


On holiday, last year, I was talking with a family member about the plethora of great songs either explicitly about or obliquely referencing drug use.  We listed many and I compiled for him a ‘Now That’s What I Call Drug-Refrencing’ CD for Christmas.  Here’s the track list.  Try it on Alexa – she’ll be thrilled to play it for you:

1.      White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane (Slick)
2.      One Way Ticket – The Darkness (J. Hawkins/D. Hawkins/Poullain)
3.      Elephant Stone – Stone Roses (Squire/Brown)
4.      Bad – U2 (U2)
5.      White Light/White Heat – Bowie (Reed)
6.      China Girl – Bowie (Bowie/Pop)
7.      Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – Beatles (Lennon & McCartney)
8.      Happiness Is A Warm Gun – Tori Amos (Lennon & McCartney)
9.      Cocaine – Eric Clapton (J. Cale)
10.      Medicine Jar – Wings (McCulloch/Allen)
11.      Golden Brown – Stranglers (Stranglers)
12.      Itchycoo Park – Small Faces (Marriott/Lane)
13.      Meet Me On The Corner – Lindisfarne (Clements)
14.      Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed – Thin Lizzy (Lynott/Gorham/Downey)
15.      Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix (Hendrix)
16.      Perfect Day – Lou Reed (Reed)
17.      Gold Dust Woman – Fleetwood Mac (Nicks)
18.      Morning Glory – Oasis (Gallagher)
19.      Dealer – John Martyn (Martyn)
20.      Waiting For The Man – Velvet Underground (Reed)
21.      Roll Your Own – Jethro Tull (Anderson)
22.      F.U.B.B. – Wishbone Ash (Wishbone Ash)
23.      Day In The Life – Beatles (Lennon & McCartney)

Some of the versions I’ve included are covers (Bowie’s version of ‘White Light/White Heat’ easily eclipses the V.U. original).  I left out ‘Heroin’ by Velvet Underground, because it wasn’t a ‘hit’ record* and, to be honest, as Lou Reed wrote about little else, I could have simply copied his Greatest Hits compilation.  Similarly so the mid-period Beatles.  Also, I have just realised that I left off ‘Ebeneezer Goode’ by the Shamen – for no other reason than I am probably too old for it.

*Although Lou Reed’s version on ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal’ is as close to a ‘seminal’ recording as I can cast my mind to.

Anyway, there it is.  I now predict lots of new readers – or a knock on the door from CID at least…

A Little Fiction – No Matter

blue and red galaxy artwork
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

The ectoplasmic cloud swirled gently around the room. At its centre pulsed two indistinct orbs, one of pink and one of blue, both of which were quite unlike anything you could find in the Dulux catalogue. As the cloud drifted around it coalesced slightly, resolving itself into two separate nebula that swirled lazily around the pastel orbs. Between them was a world of silence – not because they were unable to communicate verbally, not even because communication between them took place on a plane that transcended the verbal realm (the language they used was actually, to the human ear, slightly reminiscent of somebody inhaling a jelly fish) – they were silent because the blue globe had just returned home from his works ‘do’ some two hundred years after it had finished. (Perhaps I should explain here that the lifespan of the blobs was something approaching fifty thousand Earth years. Furthermore, the planet upon which they currently bobbed, circled its sun five hundred times every Earth year. Time passed very differently – especially if you were waiting for the pizza delivery.)
“Look,” said the cyan sphere at length, desperate to break the silence. With an audible grunt the pink nucleus pulled her aurora around her so tightly that it almost became solid. If she had a back, she would have turned it.
“Look,” continued Blue. “It was two hundred years, not millennia. I just got lost on the way back. You know what it’s like – can’t tell one constellation from another after a while. They all look the same, bleedin’ planets: round, brown, spinning… mostly. Before you know where you are, you don’t know where you are.”
“Particularly when you’ve hung a few large ones on,” spat out Pink, with a vengeance that made her drizzle slightly. “Who were you with between leaving the party and fetching up here two centuries behind schedule?”
“With?” Queried blue. “With? I’m a wosname… amorphous cloud, barely visible at my core and I trail away God knows how far into the ether at my perimeter. I don’t know. I could have been with anyone. That is part of the nature of being vast.”
“Doesn’t stop you getting home on time,” said Pink.
“Look, O.K. I’ll level with you. I needed some space. You know what it’s like, trying to squeeze yourself into a physical void of finite volume.”
“Of course I bloody do. I was stuck in here for two thousand years last night on my own whilst you were out partying. I’ve got the kind of omni-directional cramp that only an ectomorph can know.”
“Why don’t you go out and get some fresh air?”
“Fresh air?” cried Pink as ice crystals instantly formed throughout her being. “Fresh air? Have you forgotten where we are? Space is a vacuum. There is no air, fresh or otherwise around here… Mind you, if you were any kind of a blob, you’d find me some. In the past you’d have popped across to that little blue and green planet… what’s it called? Never mind, it doesn’t matter. You’d have gone there and brought me some back.”
“It’s two billion light years away…”
“And in the opposite direction to the pub.”
“Right then,” said Blue. “Right then. If that’s what you want, I’ll go. You want fresh air, I’ll bring you fresh air. Don’t wait up, I may be some time.”
“Particularly if you get lost again,” said Pink.
Blue snorted derisively, sending out a pulsar that engulfed a neighbouring solar system (the third planet of which was, ironically, in an Earth-like orbit and brimming with fresh air). “Right!” And, slamming the door behind him he sped off into the vast emptiness, leaving behind him a trail of vapour that would, one day, give birth to life on a million planets. All was quiet.
“Blimey,” said the room, at last. “That was close. I thought he’d never go…”

A Little Fiction – The Custodian of Time

A Little Fiction – You’ve Got A Geriatric Friend In Me

The Haphazardly Poetical – Clock


Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

Clocks are such maudlin devices: ‘tick’ there goes a second of your life, ‘tock’ and there goes another one. I wish I could live without them really, but I have an almost pathological hatred of being late, so it’s not terribly practical. Still, I do not like clocks, particularly the pendulum ones that beat away, ‘you live/you die’ hour after hour, day after day, and the chimes that subdivide mortality into easily-digested portions: ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for three…(I know, I know.) Clocks, it seems to me, are the anthropomorphic representation of human frailty: Disney does impermanence. Yet, despite the abiding reminder of mortal transience that is inherent in the spinning wheels, they are, in some ways, even more maudlin when they stop. The image of mortality is too close for comfort – especially if you have to climb a ladder to change the battery…

The clock speaks to me: it speaks of passing years.
It speaks of fading memories that echo in its wheels.
It speaks of future darkness as eternal slumber nears.
It speaks of frail mortality with each second that it steals.

It calls ghosts to me: each pulse of beating hands
That holds within asymmetry the pause that marks the last
And tumbles ceaseless, whispering as falls the hourglass sands:
Today the dark antithesis of promises now past.

A gentle recognition of the endlessness of time:
The inescapability of what must be will be –
The closeness of the curtain in this earthly pantomime –
That rings to sound elevenses, then once again for tea.


The Haphazardly Poetical