Sunday, 16 March 2008

LUDWIG VAN SPIDER; A STORY OF CROSS SPECIES COMMUNICATION

It takes an absolute age to teach a common garden spider to play Beethoven on a web. Firstly one has to link the intricate silken threads through a midi interface, no mean feat I can tell you. I had to enlist the help of one or two of our visitor friends for that one, but therein lies another long winded tale of intergalactic travel and other-worldly antics I can tell you just wouldn't wish to be burdened with, so I'll not bother today.
video
I reckon this little chap seems to have embraced the subtle nuances and minor to major key changes of one of the world's most enigmatic and recognisable piano pieces, even if I, his mentor, may say so myself.
It took a great deal of patience and understanding, not helped tremendously by my own ineptitude on the old Joanna, which knows no bounds. I haven't even got as far as 'Chopsticks.'
However, through unparallelled diligence and a rigorous diet of flies and woodlice, (I hate bluebottles especially, and those invertebrates get stuck between your teeth, yeeuk!) myself and Ludwig struck up a rapport musical which may go a very long way towards furthering homo-arachnid relations beyond anything the space program and all those experiments with L.S.D. ever managed.
At first, he found it easier to play if he went too fast. Impassioned cries of 'Adagio! Adagio!' could be heard across the haphazard urban landscape, as I pleaded with him to slow the piece down from the Andante he seemed to have settled upon. I was almost at the end of my tether, and so literally was Ludwig, when one beautiful Autumn morning, I took my early cuppa into the garden to find Little Luddy, concentration etched across his tiny multi-eyed brow, winding his way around the web, calmly and with such concupiscence as to bring a tear to even the most hard hearted of fellows. Each gentle up rise in tempo, each contour of the sound so delicately navigated it put me in mind of a youthful Evgeny Kissin.
And so, today, you can hear the piece in it's entirety. I hope you can enjoy it and perhaps it may inspire you to take up the challenge of inter-species communication. Let me know if you decide to train a centipede to tap dance, or encourage an ant colony to form a Welsh Style Voice Choir. It is difficult, but if you can handle the constant knock backs, the rewards are bountiful and uplifting beyond your wildest imaginations.
Good Luck, comrades in artistic ventures. With your success, the world will owe you a debt of immeasurable gratitude.
(All music composed by Ludwig Van Beethoven)

Monday, 10 March 2008

THE ALPHABET TREE

Wandering around with one's mind at best only partially fixed to any particular task at hand is one of life's pleasures. It was not too long ago now, whilst in one of these meandering ruminations back in the Autumn of last year, that I made a quite astonishing discovery. I have discovered a tree in the park.
Now, at this juncture I can hear cogs a-whirring and jaws a-flapping saying things like

"A tree in the park isn't unusual, you silly old Rexy"
or
"A tree in the park is akin to finding a shell on the beach"
Well that's all true, but don't pick that shell up, it may still be live and blow your hands off!

And since that kind of surprise is what can be chanced upon in life, the R.A.F. and U.S.A.F. being messy people who leave things like depleted uranium lying around in other countries, a result being less pianists, I refer you all back to the tree in the park. It's no ordinary tree. The photograph above is of some of it's fallen leaves, and of it's bizarre windblown fruits. Yes, it is indeed Dendrofallacium Lexicographii, an alphabet tree.

The alphabet tree is fairly ordinary to the eye in many respects, except of course it's fruits which fall to earth around November and scatter themselves a short distance from the tree. Not every fruit contains a seed which is one of the reasons that the alphabet tree is not as common as many of it's indigenous counterparts. Imported to Britain from as far away as Greece and Turkey by the great arboretum collectors of the 17th to 19th century, this broad leaved deciduous has few uses to man in industry or leisure, and has therefore rarely been introduced to the wider countryside on a large scale.
The fruits are not eaten by many creatures, but it is a widely held folklore belief that animals with the ability to pick things up with their forepaws such as squirrels or rats have used the fruits as educational devices for their young or even to hang above the entrances to their drays, burrows etc as signs for predators to stay away. Flocks of carrion crows were often to be seen wearing large fruits around their necks to delineate between the various rival murders.

Another folklore tale surrounds how each seed containing fruit would lend itself to growing different sized trees depending on the letter shape of it. Though I'm aware of no scientific studies or evidence to back up the 'wives tales', some old verses still get passed on in the oral tradition. One such rhyme goes, to memory, something like this;

The tree of the letter shaped A through to H
Will not grow an inch above yon garden gate
A bough or a branch grown from I to an M
Will wither and die when the size of most men
From N to the Y seeds are not quite as high
As a tree from the letter shaped as a Z
Which will always stand twig branch wood shoulder and head
Above any other in forest or glade
Which are all the letters from which our words are made
.

I think it's lost something in translation, but you get the basic drift.
In the days before the tree was introduced to the bounds of these shores, the natives of it's origins had their own stories bound by it. Of course, in Turkey, the Turkish trees had a different alphabet, as they did in Greece. When imported to Russia, a similar thing occurs. It's as though the tree has a very close bond with the people around it, like it can understand the basic language of those humans around it. Everybody in those countries will tell of how their ancestors could almost feel the trees listening to their thoughts, eager for human contact or even symbiosis.


The ancient Gods of Greece had their own favourite letters from the tree seeds.

I suppose we could all pick our own favourites too. Some would be quite partial to an E, and there are those for whom there is great comfort in an R. I asked the B.F.G. what her favourite is.
I'll leave you to guess what her answer was.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

SCHOOL TRIP

Back in December, before the school Christmas break was upon us, my son went on his first trip away with the school. Not just a day trip, but a full on activity holiday involving the kind of dampness which can only be truly achieved by going to Wales during the winter. Dutifully, I bought him a new rucky and some ill fitting strides, pairs 2, muddy waters for the absorption of. It was suggested he take plenty of spare clothing. We packed it all, including wellies strapped to the outside of his backpack.

On the morning he was due to leave, the bag became the focus for all his pent up excitement, as he carried it around the house in preparation to go. He was driving me nuts with it up and down the stairs like Sherpa Tensing on speed at least half an hour before we were due to leave, bumping into the furniture and just generally getting in my bleary eyed way at what is best described as a part of the day when I'm not at my most organised or patient.
But leave we did, astonishingly on time, down to meet the bus outside the school. Dozens of other parents were there seeing off their excited and some slightly anxious kids. I suppose there was a little twang of 'My Baby is going away' stuff, but I just thought of all that spare time and peace and quiet, and what fun he was going to have compared with yet another week of school. Besides, one week away from a T.V. blethering on about impending Christmas was gonna be good for this kids soul and probably my bank balance.
There was a slight feeling of apprehension as the bus was late, then showed up looking like this.
In the early hours of the morning (before ten am anyway) I'm easily confused, and my first thoughts were that the bus company name had been written by an artistically very talented dyslexic. Perhaps I've been doing too many crosswords of late, because my next fleeting cogitation upon the matter was that this must be an anagram. Reaching swiftly for my pen and paper, (which I always carry for quick note emergencies, a trick learnt whilst tracking the movement and locations of urban skips) I established the obvious reason this particular coach had been sent, the anagram emblazoned on it being "Ya cab must wif". Well I expect that'll be years of pukey kids and fat arsed drivers in it, I mused.
And then, as my grey matter lurched into slovenly action, things stated to add up.

Welsh! Aha! Of course, what an oaf I felt. Send a coach from Wales. Why not? Much easier to keep your carbon footprint maximised by sending a coach from Wales over the bridge and then drive back to Wales with some kids.

Bit by bit, child by child, the vehicle loaded to just about it's full potential. I thought I'd use this valuable time to check the credentials of the cabin crew. What better recommendation could they have than this.

A 'Hendy men' can do anything. They're always reliable and so my mind was put at ease by this comforting sight.
And so the time came for the bus to roll out toward its destination. Final hugs and kisses ensued until even the potential bed wetters were crammed in and the doors were closed on a bus full of over excited youths destined for a foreign land.
This is the last view of it disappearing.

And from that moment until four and a half days later, my house was quiet. And I came home to write a poem which you can look back to if you want. (Leavings, Dec 10th 2007)