Friday, December 24, 2010

Infinity again

Sorry about this, but I am still trying to get my head around infinity. As I stated in a recent posting, I have come to the conclusion that the universe has to be infinite. However, there is a twist to this when considering the beginning, namely the "Big Bang"; the moment it all sprang into being (I was tempted to use the word "creation" for a moment there, but decided against it in case anyone thought I was a religious nutter "creationist", the moment in which in the eyes of the more switched on reader I lose all credibility!!!!!). It is this. I stated that the distance between two objects can only ever be finite, then if we except that the universe started very small, and then expanded to its current infinite size, then it cannot be infinite, because it takes an infinite amount of time to reach an infinite size. However, I also stated that because the universe itself is everything there is (in this universe at least) including time and space, there can be no boundaries as beyond the universe there is not even nothing, and you cannot have a boundary with something which is so nothing it isn't even that!

Are you still awake? Good, then I'll continue........

My logic now leads me to conclude that although you often read that the universe was incredibly small (the "cosmic atom") at the moment of the Big Bang, for the reasons I have already stated, it still had to be infinite! Scientists talk about a period of mind blowingly rapid expansion called "inflation" which proceeded at an even faster rate than prices go up in our wonderful economy. Could it be that it was this "inflation" that brought time and space into being, and that before that in the quantum phase state of the universe space and time did not exist? During this "inflation" I can only conclude that at that instant (no time at all) the expansion of the universe began but within an infinite frame of reference. So what has been changing since then? Well, clearly not the the size of the universe as "the infinite" is infinite. I conclude that what changed was the density of the universe as everything spread out.

From whence did this spreading out proceed? Well actually, scientists say there is no central point in the universe from where it is spreading, but is actually spreading from all points in all directions. For this reason, no matter where you are in the universe, the rest of the universe will always appear to be moving away from you more or less equally in all directions, and your view of the universe will be more or less similar to our own at all observable distances. Now apply a little imagination to this scenario, it becomes apparent (to me, at least) that for this to be the case, then the universe has to be infinite. Think about it.  Also, with entropy, the universe began its eventual "wind-down" to its eventual demise where all its energy has been expended and darkness rules the face of the deep.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Thought for the Day

If God is all powerful and upholds his creation by his mighty power, then why are our bodies so incredibly complex? If this god is so great then he does not need this complexity.......

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Finite Infinity Paradox

I have been giving some more thought about my previous post where I stated my belief that the universe is infinite. It has occurred to me that there is a problem  here and it is this: no matter how distant two objects might be apart in the universe, the space between them can only ever be finite. Similarly, if we consider two objects which start off touching, and then start moving away from each other, in order for them to be an infinite distance from each other they need to continue moving away for an infinite length of time. However, this cannot happen because no matter how much time goes by, it will always be finite and so will the distance separating the two objects. It would therefore follow (call this McAdam's Infinity Paradox if you like - I have not read these ideas expressed anywhere else) that in an infinite universe physical objects may only approach a separation of infinite distance, but never reach it.

We now find ourselves in an infinite universe where all distances can only ever be finite.

Perhaps the idea of infinity should be viewed as a concept rather than a physical reality, and that spacial distances are actually an illusion because of our own particular limitations in our perceptive ability. Consider that two particles on the atomic scale which are super-entangled will affect each other instantly and independent of the speed of light no matter how great the separation between them. In what sense can we say that there is a spacial distance between the two particles given that they act as if there is not? Could distance itself be an illusion?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Taxi of death

Driving near Heathrow last night I was shocked at the incredibly bad driving of a taxi driver.

I was waiting to enter a busy major roundabout when a London Cab shot past my right hand side with no regard whatsoever for the traffic already on the roundabout. It cut right across two cars causing them to swerve and brake violently, as well as honking their horns - as you would expect.

How do you account for such terrible driving in someone who is supposed to be a professional driver with responsibility over the lives and safety of others? If you were on a plane going on holiday and the pilot adopted the same mentality in flying the plane you would never fly again, that is of course assuming you survived the flight!

Taxi drivers have always had a bad press, and I am sure a large proportion of them are very good and do provide a professional and safe service, but unfortunately there are many, in my experience, who perpetuate the negative stereotype. I have experienced most aspects of this stereotype at various points in my life with taxi drivers being downright rude, arrogant, overcharging, not sticking to agreed pricing, and driving recklessly.

It did occur to me after last night's experience that maybe that particular taxi was actually stolen, but on the other hand, with it being a taxi, I wasn't really that surprised.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Shall we Dance?

So its finally happened! Two women dancing together on "Strictly Come Dancing". 

If you are a regular viewer of this weekly spectacle and don't quite connect with this, the answer is because I am talking about the Israeli version of the show. The contestant is a lesbian, and the professional is not. Needless to say, the religious intolerants are up in arms. Good. This shows them up for what they are - bigoted. Reminds me of when some witches opened up a shop on my local High Street. The local religious leaders were up in arms. Good. Anything which gets their backs up is fine by me - so long as its harmless of course!!

Anyway, back to our dancing belles. As a red blooded male, I found a certain fascination watching their routine. It did seem kind of weird though, seeing two women dancing so passionately and somewhat erotically together. I can't say I found it a particular turn-on - maybe a sign of my age, or just that it was somewhat "outside the box" of  my normal viewing experience. Did I find it offensive? - No. Do I want to see it again? - Not particularly, though it will no doubt appeal to some.

Then I got to think a bit more about it, and it does seem that women , not just the lesbian variety, do have some rather quirky ways. Why do so many women dance together at parties? This is somewhat a common occurrence, but how often do you see men dancing together? The former is very much seen as the norm (more or less), but the latter definitely is not. Another thing women seem to like to do together at parties or other social occasions is visit the loo. What's that about? And then we come to the ultimate experience that women like to do together - shopping!!

I suppose, all in all, the latest "Strictly" development is not really so strange. How long will it be before you see two men dancing together? How outraged will the "moral high grounders" be then? How long will it be before we see this happening on our own British version of the show? Do I care? - Not really.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Service Please

There are times when I feel really frustrated and ashamed of this country. Why? - well its not because we sold Czechoslovakia down the river to the Nazis before World War 2 - no - something much closer to home than that. I am talking about manners of shop assistants and other people who stand behind counters purportedly offering a service. Not to mention the scruffy streets, yobs and drab architecture.

A few years ago I took my good lady wife on a holiday to Singapore, which, as everyone knows is a shopper's paradise. Everywhere we went, people fell over themselves to serve us, with good manners, cheerfulness, enthusiasm and appreciation of the fact we were honouring them with our custom. Now, I fully realise that some of this was over the top and very pushy as we were perceived to be what we were - holiday makers with money to spend and therefore a quick business opportunity. I appreciated the fact that we were treated as important human beings and the shop keepers gave us their undivided attention until we finished our transactions - or not - bade our farewells and continued happily on our way. Of course, just about everything else about Singapore was better than here - clean streets (and I mean CLEAN), no yobs and the feeling you could walk the streets safely at night. OK, I know they have draconian laws over there to enforce all this - including the banning of chewing gum - but then so what?? - if you act in a civilised fashion you have nothing to fear. They also have an efficient, reliable and inexpensive rapid transport system to boot.

At the hotel where we stayed (The Shangri-la), we were given a free upgrade to an executive suite on arrival, treated like royalty with a warm welcome back from a staff member every time we returned from each trip out. When my wife was unwell one night, we found flowers and chocolates awaiting us the next evening. We nearly had to force our leaving tip upon them (well, actually, we did force it) as the staff protested they were only doing their job. They really knew the meaning of customer care and customer service. Being the International Globe Trotters we are, we have also visited many other countries, and while Singapore was a supreme example of good service and good everything else, we have pretty much become accustomed to various shades of good and better service wherever we go.

But then you have to come home.

Returning off a holiday we arrived at Stansted Airport and joined the queue to buy rail tickets to travel the final leg of the journey home. The queue was somewhat long; there were many foreigners having difficulty making themselves understood while buying their tickets, or rather, trying to buy them. Not to worry, I thought, there were two sales windows open and the rate the queue was moving told me we would easily make the train which was not due for another 25 minutes. Suddenly, my blood ran cold, and I felt a red mist clouding over my eyes as I saw one of the windows closing - and it not being opened again. The speed of the queue halved and we could only stand in frustration as the time for our train came and went - we'd missed it! I remonstrated with the ticket seller when we finally reached the window. We received no explanation and no apology, just the couldn't care less "stuff you" attitude which seems to pervade this green and pleasant land, with no sense of customer care or loyalty. It turned out there were no more trains going via our preferred route (Peterborough) and we had to take a train back changing at Finsbury Park instead, adding about an hour onto the journey and at an extortionate extra cost for extra distance travelled on the unwanted detour.

During a recent summer of madness I took part in an annual 46 mile walking event around Cambridgeshire. After about 15 miles I decided to call into a convenience store on route to buy some refreshments. On reaching the counter, the shop assistant, a middle aged woman, was stood gossiping with her friend stood next to her, indifferent to me - a customer - one of the people who pays her wages and keeps the shop afloat so she can have a job. She glanced at the refreshments, rang it up on the till, and told me the cost, no please, no acknowledgement of my valued custom. I gave her the money - she was just stood there with one hand held outspread for me to place the cash into, but not looking at me, just gossiping to her sidekick. I placed the cash in her hand. She quickly counted it (no "thank you") placed it into the till, and then thrust her hand under my nose again with no explanation and carried on chatting. I protested that I had paid her, and she said I still owed 10 pence (no manners, no "please"). I quickly, thrust the coin into her hand, grabbed my stuff and stomped out of the store - fuming. I wanted to scream at her, poke my fingers in her eyes and trash the joint for good measure.

A similar thing happened in another shop the other day, and many times before.

At our local corner shop, taken over by Tesco some years ago, the staff have little regard for the customers. This is partly because they have installed a couple of automated payment points, so you very often walk in at night and find no one behind the check-out. One evening I went in with my eldest son. There was a long queue of people and the auto check-outs were not working properly. Even so, the staff paid no attention to the customers at all, and continued stacking shelves and disappearing and re-appearing from the store room. In the end my son could stand it no longer and shouted loudly remonstrating his frustration. Suddenly, a very surprised looking shop assistant pitched up and some semblance of service was resumed. It probably died again after we left the store.

A few days ago I went to a Co-op auto bank to get some cash. I went through all the procedure, feeding my card in, inputting my PIN etc, and then instead of issuing me with the cash it just spat my card back out at me. I wanted to buy a newspaper anyway, so I went into the store. At the counter I told the shop assistant what had happened. She made no comment - it was as if I had said nothing. I then said to her "Well, aren't you going to say anything? - Haven't you any advice you could give me?" I mistakenly thought she might have cared. She didn't. All I got was the usual lame response you get at all establishments where this sort of thing happens -  "you will have to contact the bank". Well in this case, the bank was the Co-op and I was in the Co-op! I suggested to her that stores which have auto banks gain advantage by offering this service and it was not good enough to just fob you off with "you'll have to contact the bank" every time there is a problem. She looked at me kind of gone out - I knew I was wasting my breath.

I walked back onto the littered pavement, strewn with dog ends, shut myself into my car and drove down the street so frequently infested with yobs late at night , and travelled the final sorry mile to work with all the other wage slaves.

"This country"! as my hero Alan Partridge once so famously remarked.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Edge of forever

I have come to the conclusion that the Universe is infinite. My reasoning is that outside of spacetime there is an absence of absolutely everything, including empty space itself. Clearly, this is very difficult to get your head around, a bit like infinity.

It would seem to me that assuming the above to be the case, there can be no boundary or edge to the universe as you have to have something to have a boundary with, and as there is nothing, there is therefore no boundary. However, for the universe to be truly infinite in every sense of the word, then it's geometry has to be open whereby an object travelling through space and not in an orbital trajectory would never return to the start position, or cross it's previous path. The Universe may be curved , but not necessarily curved back upon itself, in other words closed.

If we take the view that the universe is infinite, then it is no surprise that life exists and I am here to write this. In an infinite universe there are infinite possibilities. The fact that life has arisen here means that it is not only likely, but a certainty that it has arisen an infinite number of times in an infinite number of places.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Running Right.

Being the supreme athlete that I am and very conscious that 2012 is just around the corner, I thought I'd better get myself a new pair of running shoes. I have been running, on and off, since I was at school, and that was so long ago even my memories of that time are in sepia!

To date, I have not exactly put much investment into the area of running shoes. I guess I've always seen such items as little more than up-market plimsolls, and so I've never exactly lashed out more than about £40 (or less) for such items. Well, the last pair I bought must be about 4 years old. However, given that time seems to rush by much more quickly when you get to my age, it was probably more like 5 or 6 years ago when I bought them. To say they were in need of  replacing would be an understatement. They were visibly rotting on top and coming apart at the seams. The soles were very worn and the inside was characterised by the dried sweat of innumerable miles of running.

Of late, it has been suggested to me that I am becoming a bit of an embarrassment when competing in running events. Of course this revelation was quite a shock to me, but then, when I thought about it I decided there might be something in this. I have been wearing, for example, just about any old tee shirt which found its way to the top of the pile. Given that I'd never paid more than 3 or 4 pounds Stirling for a tee shirt in my life, I found it hard to accept that I should start spending upwards of £15 plus for a running vest. I have to say, that I was rather shown up by my eldest son in the last event we ran in together. He wore a really smart blue Nike top and if I am honest, I did look rather like someone dressed in the attire of a destitute disposition. Anyway, as it was my birthday recently, I was given a couple of proper posh running vests, all swish with very flowy material. I have to say, I am now a convert to paying extra for quality. Running in the vests is a joy, they seem to breath, with the feeling of the air flowing around my chest. Also, they do not get heavy with sweat! No doubt they will also last longer, though I do have a tendency to keep wearing clothes until way past their "use-by" date.

Today, we headed into Cambridge where I was determined to get myself a pair of decent running shoes. Now, for a long time it has been recommended to me that I should visit "Advanced Performance". The name appeals to me because, as stated I am an advanced athlete, if only with respect to my age! I suppose one thing which has been putting me off was the idea I might have to spend more than £40! Even so, feeling enlightened by the experience of my wonderful new running vests, I decided to throw caution to the winds.

Advanced Performance is different to any other sports shop I have ever visited. It is different because you get personal attention from a sports expert who is genuinely interested that you, the customer, get the best possible product available to suit your needs. This is achieved by being invited to try out various running shoes and running with them out on a tread mill. Your feet are being videoed as you run and it is then a matter of reviewing the action to see how your gait is out of true from the ideal. After repeating the process several times, you then end up with a pair of trainers which best compliment and correct your running style to achieve the best performance. In the end I had a choice of three pairs of shoes to choose from, all with similar characteristics. The final decision is based upon comfort (it should not be upon price) and looks, or any brand preference you might harbour. To make my decision I was invited to leave the store and run up and down the road. I liked the Nike shoes the best, so that's the pair I bought. They cost me a lot more than £40, but I will know it is worth it when I will no doubt burn up the opposition in my future races and bring home the medals!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Right or Wrong?

An argument many religious people put forward is that to have a proper sense of morals you need faith in God. Well, it is my contention that this is a load of rubbish as you can have all the faith you like in something that does not exist, but it won't make a blind bit of difference! God does not exist. Its just a very dangerous figment of the deluded imagination.

Anyway, before drifting too far off at a tangent, I guess I'd better set myself on course again.

In the Book of Genesis we find Adam and Eve, the first Man and Woman roaming the Garden of Eden blissfully ignorant of the difference between right and wrong and also blissfully ignorant of the evil trap which this so called kind and loving God had set for them. God had planted a tree in the garden, the fruit of which, once eaten would reveal the difference between right and wrong, good and evil if you will. So we find Eve suddenly being "tempted" and encouraged by a "talking snake" - yeah right - to eat of the fruit of the tree - which after a bit of conversation with the snake, she does. She also gives the fruit to Adam and suddenly they become morally aware. They are then ejected from the Garden of Eden, and Eve punished by the pain of child bearing and the poor old snake has to crawl around on his belly. Of course, as the snake is actually a snake, he doesn't exactly see this as much of a punishment!

My point is this: This "original sin" committed in the Garden of Eden has been passed down through the generations together with its consequences. This can only mean that we are all aware of right and wrong, good or evil whether or not we have faith in God. Also, you only have to look at the jaw droppingly evil atrocities committed in the name of this awful non-existent God down the ages right up to the present day, to realise that where people of faith are concerned, so called morals and knowledge of good and evil is so distorted and corrupted, that any normal person of common sense must realise that its actually religion, faith - call it what you will - which makes people commit evil in the most cold blooded and callous ways imaginable. Yes I know there are any number of atheists who commit evil deeds but at least they don't do it in the name of this so called loving, but actually thoroughly evil God. You don't have to have faith to be morally aware. If you have no faith your sense of morality is almost certainly in far better shape than any "Man of God".

One final thought, your friendly local Church is at the pink and fluffy edge of a much darker and evil system. Don't fall foul of it. Don't be deluded.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Time for change?

I note at this time of the General Election there is a lot of talk that it is time for a change. Thats what the prevailing mood was in 1997, and look where it got us!!! This is all well and good provided the change is a change for the better, and not just more of the same - or worse.

However, being a person who looks, sees, and observes, I have noticed that while people may well be of this state of mind, its often a different story when the change is something being asked of them, and not someone else. Nothing stays the same for ever. Systems change, Organizations change. Governments change. Companies change. The rules change. Technologies change and the way we have to do things change.

If we are going to move forward and progress in life, in society, and as individuals, then we all have to accept change.

For many people, particularly those set in their ways, change demanded of them comes hard, and difficult to accept. However, for those who embrace it, life is much better and holds out new and unexpected possibilities.

However, at this point I wish to make a "health warning", and it is this: change for the sake of change is negative, counterproductive and often demoralizing. Change which is deliberately brought about should only be for constructive reasons, and anything else is destructive.

Ultimately, change comes to all of us whether we like it or not. Its just a fact of life - embrace it and move on.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Much ado about nothing

Well, golly gosh whats happened to me? I haven't posted for ages and I seem to be suffering from a severe dose of "blogger's block". I just haven't thought of anything worth writing about; just totally blank!

I have a request: will "Anonymous" please stop sending me spurious comments. They ain't gonna get published - no way.

So, what has been happening in my fun packed life of late? Not a lot. For the last couple of days I've been walking around like the "Elephant Man" with half my face swollen and bloated due to an abscess. It started as a slight pain in the gum above my right canine. It finished with me nearly climbing up the wall at 2.00 in the morning! Finally, I found myself in the dentist chair for root canal treatment, after a course of antibiotics. The injection to "numb me up a bit" was incredibly painful, I squirmed like I haven't squirmed before. It felt like a red hot needle going straight into my bone. The trouble was, that I couldn't detect any numbing effect and told the dentist so before he started drilling. Even so, drill he did, and did, and did.........

Everything seemed to be OK until he started poking and scraping around inside the drilled out cavity; he hit a nerve and I nearly jumped out of the chair. He decided this was a good time to stop digging it any deeper. I did not disagree. Even so, he had to get the poison out so he squeezed my gums - hard - and it hurt like hell. I knew the poison was coming out because I could smell and taste it! I asked if I could rinse my mouth out. What I swilled out into the bowl was not pretty, some of it black. Finally he filled up the cavity and made me another appointment to come back next week. I paid £60, a fraction of the final price for the treatment. Even so, its better than losing the tooth.

I have got the running bug again. I used to go running with a club but could not, in the end, find the free evenings to keep attending the week-night training sessions. Even so, I now train at the gym and out on the road with my eldest son who has also got the bug. We are a bit inspired by Eddie Izard's "Sports Relief" multi-marathon effort. We are not planning to match it though! Training at the moment is for the Cambridge Festival of Running 10k event in April. Last year I ran it in 52 minutes. This year I aim to finish it in less than 50 minutes. At the moment I am on track to do so.

At the weekend I did my annual pilgrimage to "Focus on Imaging", the annual photography trade show at the NEC. Years ago it was called "Photography at Work", then they changed the name and the venue. The NEC is now it's regular home. Anyway, this year I saw a demonstration of Panasonic's 3D TV. This employed the shutter glasses system and I have to say it was really impressive. Although they weren't saying when it was going to appear in the likes of "John Lewis", but my suspicion is it'll be sometime in June - watch this space! I don't suppose I'll buy one though, as I've already said in a previous posting that I am waiting for glasses - free 3D TV before I buy one. Anyway, I haven't had my current set for very long, and I'm certainly not putting it on the scrap heap yet.

One thing I did at the NEC which was different for me, was I bought myself a new camera. Of late, my photography exploits have pretty much gone into reverse, and I was also feeling that my current equipment is getting a bit long in the tooth. So, having given due consideration to buying a Lumix G2 - which was on show, but not on sale at the show, I opted to buy the Canon EOS 550D. It was on sale at a price which was too good to miss, so I just had to have it! Its got 18 Mega Pixels, live-view and 1080P HD video recording, including a socket for an external microphone. All I need now is to get out and take some masterpieces. I will, from time to time, publish some of the results on this blog.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Keep on Running

Today was a special day in that I felt really alive for the first time in weeks. I went for a run around Cambridge with my eldest son and we covered a distance of 12.1 km. This was good because we are training for a 10km road race in April.

So far I have been training at the gym and over the past 3 weeks I have been stepping up the treadmill distance by 1km a week starting at 5km. For those with a maths (math if you are American) degree, you will quickly pick up on the fact that my last session amounted to 7km, with a little extra for the cool down. I went for a run in the freezing wastelands over the New Year break and was shocked at how unfit I seemed to be despite going regularly to the gym. However, after about a kilometre I found my pace and my breath and got into a rhythm and continued for a little over another 4 kilometres.

And so it was that I found myself running along the river Cam just after midday today. For about the first kilometre I was puffing away like a Victorian steam engine heading for the knackers’ yard! My son, however, had a good plan, and that was every couple of kilometres walking a couple of hundred yards. Now this is not cheating. After all, we were in training and it wasn’t a race. The only thing which mattered was getting back and having a good run in between.

It wasn‘t really until today that I appreciated as well what a great place Cambridge is. Of course, with living so close to the place I come here quite a lot shopping, and even had the odd walk taking photographs in the dying golden rays of the late afternoon sun in Autumn, but running around the place as I did today I saw it in a different light. Running along by the river, there were lots of university students out rowing with their mainly female coxes shouting the directions to them. There were barges moored and lots of other people out running as well as ourselves. It was all very picturesque and I plan to walk some of the route taking photos, as it is full of character and very photogenic.

I didn’t spot anyone as old as me though, they were all young, lithe, fit things. This is good as far as I am concerned. Age is no barrier when it comes to running. I have a friend who is 72 this year and still runs the London Marathon including a lot of other races besides. The oldest marathon runner I am aware of is a 98 year old Sikh. Most people can’t even walk at that age, let alone run marathons! There is hope for us all! I was wondering how long I will go on running for myself as since I hit the big six-o I suddenly felt a lot older. However, its all in the mind and the reality is I am actually very fit in terms of most people my age and a lot of the people I know, so I’ve no plans of easing up for many years.

Running is one of the best ways I know of keeping fit. You burn up more calories at a greater rate than in most other forms of exercise, and its great for keeping the cardio vascular system in good order. Its also very exhilarating. Once the adrenalin kicks in you really can find yourself on a high! Running through the centre of Cambridge past all the heavily wrapped up shoppers felt really good. It was also good to be amongst so many shops and not spending any money!

When we finished we were on a high and feeling that we could have run a lot further - maybe next time. Following a wonderful shower (all showers are wonderful when you are covered in cold sweat), we went to a restaurant and I had my favourite health food - burger and chips - lovely! I also had a pint of Murphy’s but I wasn’t bitter.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Another life?

I've just finished reading a book by Liz Hodgkinson called "Reincarnation - The Evidence". It was published in 1989, though I suppose that's pretty irrelevant.

It was given to me for free, so I didn't have to suffer the pain of spending any money.

Now, if you've been following this blog you will know that I am an atheist. Even so, I've always had a feeling that I have lived before - just a feeling mind, and that proves nothing. Anyway, I had high hopes for this book that it might be quite revelatory, but it wasn't. Much of the book was about what different religions believe about reincarnation. That is no evidence at all. Just because someone believes something does not make it true. She looks at hypnotic regression and there are some interesting cases there. However, she admits that there are so many problems with this that it is somewhat doubtful that people really are seeing into a previous life. More tantalizing is the evidence provided by young children who talk about a previous life. Many of these cases are from the Far East where belief in reincarnation is much more prevalent than in the west, and so is much more readily accepted.

She claims that a belief in reincarnation can explain many things in life, like why, for instance some people are born into very rich families while others live their lives in squalor. Why some people are hugely talented and others not .... etc ....etc. This is to do with Karma, a kind of cause and effect whereby the way we live one life affects the next. Personally I think this is highly unlikely, although I suppose its a nice idea. The trouble is she kind of spoils it for me by suggesting at the end that souls are eternal in that they have always existed and are therefore immortal. The trouble with this is that it is very close to trying to believe in God, and to me that is just not tenable. She suggests that humans have always existed and that we have always been this way, distinct from the animals. That really spoiled it even more for me as it completely ignores all our discoveries in evolution, both biological and cosmological. I came to the conclusion that while she obviously gets a lot of comfort from her own belief in evolution, she loads it down with so much spiritual baggage that I just couldn't swallow it.

Speaking for myself, I am not completely averse to the idea of reincarnation, but I would take a more objective approach to the idea. Given that there was a time just over 60 years ago when I did not exist, there will in the future be another time when I again return to the same state. As I came out of that state and am here now, then why not again in the future? Of course, there has to be a soul or spirit which passes from one body to another for "me" to exist again. This is getting into the supernatural though, and I am very cautious as to how far I can take this. As I am a convinced believer in science and evolution, I try not to sway too far away into the supernatural. I cannot conceive of an eternal soul because the universe is a finite age. I can only surmise that if we do have a soul it appeared at some point during our evolution, and I would guess that would most likely have been when we became conscious and self-aware. It could be that once a soul has come into existence it might have an indefinite life span, but what happens when there is no more humanity, or no more habitable universe??? Maybe it time expires.... One final thought, and that is if we (for the most part) don't remember our previous lives then is it meaningful to believe in such a thing? I guess the "Karma" idea is a way of trying to bring meaning into the concept, otherwise, the belief while bringing some kind of comfort in that death is not the end, fails to completely satisfy our desire for immortality because if you have no knowledge of the previous life, then in what sense can you say you have lived it??

Answers on a postcard please to...............

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Days of old

I was musing on what life used to be like when I was growing up as a child in the 1950s. Gosh, that makes me sooooooo old. Today we seem to have everything. HD flat panel TV (3D on the cusp), central heating as standard, cars which do not rust, the Internet, satnav.....etc....etc. We take everything so much for granted, iPods, iPhones, clean air, cheap air travel.............the list goes on.

I once read that in a technological society, it takes around 50 years to transform itself beyond recognition. Really? Well, I thought it a good idea to remember back to what it used to be like and when I think about it, yes - we really are very different to the way we were. Here are some of the things I remember:-

We lived in a semi with no inside loo. To relieve yourself at night we had pee pots which we emptied in the morning. The loo itself was a small vertical shed across the yard opposite the kitchen door. My parents never spent money on such luxury items as bog paper - that was just for the rich posh people, not us council tenants! No, my lot was to walk around with a permanent imprint from the Daily Mirror (which cost 2 pence at the time in the old currency) across my sorry buttocks. This was how we recycled our newspapers, folded behind the down pipe. You didn't spend too long sat on the bog in the depths of winter lest your arse got frozen to the seat and you got frost bitten in an embarrassing place!

We had a tiny triangular shaped bathroom, the entrance door leading into the tiny kitchen. It was a true bathroom in that it only contained a bath and nothing else. We only bathed once a week and that was on a Friday night. We must have stank. Of course, you couldn't go wasting hot water (which was heated in a back boiler behind the fireplace), so we shared the bath water. If you were the first in then you were lucky, otherwise it was the other people's diluted dirt and a skin of scum the thickness of which depended upon how many had used it before you! To add a bit of heat you'd boil a kettle and pour some in. The kettle of course, was not electric but one you had to heat up on the gas hob which had to be lit using matches. An alternative to using the bathroom was to take your bath in the old grey tin tub in front of the fire in the living room. This was great if you didn't mind an audience. Only posh people had showers (or shower baths as we used to call them). The only time I got a shower was after games or PE at school. Also, we only washed our hair once a week. I can only think that greasy, lank hair must have been in vogue at the time. Mind you, if you used Brylcream, as many did, then it didn't really matter!

In 1955 my dad finally took the plunge and opened his wallet (letting out a whole load of moths) to buy our first TV set - on the "never-never" of course! This was a "Ferguson" 14" TV with one channel, the BBC. No HD like today, but lo-res 405 line black and white. I couldn't wait for my dad to get a telly as I was really excited about being able to watch the Popeye cartoons I kept hearing about from my posh well heeled classmates at infants school. When the great day arrived and "the man" delivered the set, we couldn't watch it straight away as there were no programmes on until "Childrens' Hour" at 5 o' clock. As we were one of the few families on our street who had such an opulent extravagance, we invited some of the neighbours' kids around to share in the wonder of it all. My dad flicked the switch for the grand switch on. We waited for the screen to light up......and waited.......and waited.......and waited. Nothing happened. The set was buggered as soon as we got it. Oh the let down! Oh the trauma! To say I was pissed off would be an under-statement. "The man" took the TV away and brought it back again about a week later. This time it worked, but we weren't taking any chances so this time the neighbourhood kids weren't invited, so I had a private viewing of Popeye. I really loved Popeye - especially the one on "Goon Island". Other programmes I remember were "War in the Air", "What's My Line?", and the "Quatermass" series. Now Quatermass was seen as a sci-fi horror series at the time, on at around 9.00pm and accompanied by a "This programme is unsuitable for children" warning. After much pleading, my parents let me stay up to see it. "Quatermass and the Pit" came on. It frightened the living crap out of me and gave me nightmares. Several years later I saw "Quatermass II" at the cinema. I was 15 posing as a 16 year old as it was an "X" rated film which meant you had to be 16 to see it. Whilst I enjoyed the film, I never really found it frightening. A cinema version of "Quaternmass and the Pit" was also released, and I never found that frightening either.

Before we had a TV we all used to huddle around the radio which was a large, classical wooden beast full of glowing valves which often blew and had to be changed. We listened to the Goon Show, Journey into Space, Take it From Here with Ron and Eff, The Star Gazers and Mike Sams Singers, not to mention Dick Barton and The Lost Planet. At weekends we sat down to dinner and listened to the Ted Ray show and the hilarious Round the Horn which REALLY was funny - oh how we laughed!

On the subject of radio, I had a crystal set which my dad made for me. Goodness knows how, that was a black art which I didn't question. I would lay in my bed at night with my heavy bakerlite headphones on twiddling my knob hoping to pick up some interesting radio station. In order to get a good reception and a strong signal, I kept increasing the length of the aerial which consisted of a thin wire which went from the set, out of my bedroom window, all the way down the garden and finished up at the top of a tree in the spinney behind the garden fence. To be honest, I think I probably got more enjoyment and interest from playing around with that crystal set than just about anything else.

Travelling was always fun. Neither of my parents ever drove, so we walked, took buses or trains to get around. We sometimes used to go to Canvey Island on the Thames Estuary for holidays. It was only about 30 miles or so from where we lived, but to get there we had to take at least two buses and a steam train and a coach to get to "Fielders Holiday Camp" at Thorney Bay. It would be the best part of a days travelling at the time, but these days I can drive there from our old house in less than an hour. The "holiday camp" was an old converted army camp taken over and converted by Colonel Fielder, who ran the place with military precision, stood no nonsense and strutted the site with his walking cane. The barrack huts had been converted into chalets. There was one hut which was not a chalet, but a kitchen with a long row of gas cookers which ran off coin meters. The poor unfortunate wives spent much of their time toiling to get the meals in this hut while the rest of the family had fun. There were no toilets in the chalets, these were in the tin huts outside. Lovely. I sometimes return to the site to reminisce. Those were exciting times to me, and I loved the holidays on Canvey.

Shopping was a very different experience. There were no supermarkets. My Mum would walk to the shops every other day or so and visit a whole variety of stores to get the different items we needed for our daily survival. She would carry heavy shopping bags and eventually went up-market and bought a shopping carrier on wheels with pulling handle. We had a lot more snow in those days, so sometimes we would take our sled to the shops and pull all the groceries back on it. Shopping malls did not exist, well not in England anyway. As a teenager I had 2 shop jobs. The best one being in Sainsbury's which had not yet transmogrified into a self service store, let alone a superstore. I used to work on the bacon counter where I had a good view of Kate who I fancied like mad who worked on the counter opposite. We had purely mechanical tills - no electronics in sight. This meant that we had to do the adding up of customers' bills ourselves. We had a notepad and pencil to do this, though I became very proficient at doing it in my head - it was also a lot quicker than writing everything down, especially if you had a long queue which was the norm on a Saturday afternoon. One day a crabby woman bought a whole load of staff from my counter and challenged me on the total price I quoted after adding it all in my head. She insisted I add it all again in front of her using the pencil and pad. Of course, this was very amusing to all the other customers waiting in the queue. The result was my adding was perfect - even down to the last halfpenny; this was in the days of pounds, shillings and pence. She was rather miffed at failing to dis my adding and I was rather smug. Even so, if the manager spotted you not using the pad, you'd get a telling off. The pads were taken in at night and the manager would check them. If you were the slightest bit out on any of the sums, you'd be called to the office. Happy days! When I handed in my notice the manager was quite taken aback as it was apparent he had plans for me, but I went off and joined the RAF instead. When I look at what Sainsbury's has become, I sometimes wonder where I would have been now if I had stayed with them. Sometimes, I wish I had!!!

Back home my Mum would do the laundry washing the cloths in a copper which she would stir with a stick. Only posh people had washing machines. After much stirring and several rinses, she would ring the cloths through a mangle before hanging them out on the the washing line. We had no fridge in the early days, but my dad finally pushed the boat out and bought one when I was about 12 years old. This was all very exciting at the time, but the novelty soon wore off. I imagined we'd keep lots of ice cream in it, but having such a small ice-box that was not to be.

It was very common in those days for people to keep chickens. My dad bought into this trend and I remember him coming home with a cardboard box under his arm with lots of little holes in it. He placed it on the kitchen table and opened it to reveal a whole load of cute chicken chicks. He kept them in the house in a home made coup with a light bulb around which they would huddle to keep warm. Once they were "grown up" enough they were transferred to the chicken run in the garden he had constructed while they were growing up. I used to amuse myself by pulling their heads through the wire mesh. They didn't find this very amusing, and neither did my Dad when I opened the coup door one day and they all escaped! The neighbours had a wonderful time hunting them down all along the street. One of the chickens was victimised by the others who used to peck his head pulling out his feathers. We used to call him "Baldy". One day my dad put him out of his misery - and then we ate him! Along with my dad's extensive vegetable patch, this was our contribution to the "good life" - and life was good.