Philosophy: March 2004 Archives
The beauty of a good cup of tea was best described by a man I knew for only seconds: I was at a rugby competition somewhere deep in the mountains of Yorkshire. It was an awful day. The rain fell with an anger and kept trying to shift as much as turf as it could with every drop. I was dressed sensibly in my beige chinos, a blue club T-shirt and a pair of flip-flops (it was the last time that I ever trusted the local radio weather service that warned you should wear industrial strength sunblock). I looked awful thanks to a cheaply dyed T-shirt which was now close on white around the neck, deep blue at the mid-rift while my beige Chinos were now turned a good colour of midnight-blue. I actually wasn't that cold - or at least I had lost the feelings in my arms, fingers, legs and toes - but the blue dye gave me the look of a man who had just stepped out of the freezer. I needed something warm inside me so I found the only food outlet which was in the middle of the eight fields.
"A'right cock!" was the greeting issued by a stout young woman who had her hair so tightly pulled behind her head it gave her a permanent grin. I asked for something warm and wet. She was about to run through the extensive menu of a beef stock soup or tea when a man next me stepped up to the bar. "Give the boy a cup of the brown stuff. Let it be stewed for a bit. You just want a splash of milk to take away the sharpness of the bag. And no sugar... there is a something pure about the unsweetened leaf. And serve him a large cup that's full to a finger tip of the top. It will give you a feeling that you thought only a sporting success or a good night with a good woman would make you feel. It will make you look on life in a different way... and it will give you some colour to your toes. Make that two love."
I had never thought about the simple cuppa like that. After explaining to the woman behind the counter that we wanted tea with milk and not Bovril and milk, the mystery man handed me what looked like the equivalent of the Holy Grail of polystyrene mugs: a good brown cuppa. I was about to ask his name, after staring into the dark brown mystic liquid, but he was gone. I sipped the hot liquid and felt a wave of pleasure and warmth seep through my body. The power of tea left me feeling like I was in an oasis of warmth and comfort on the dark, damp and bloody cold fields of Yorkshire.
I spent the rest of the day next to the caravan of comfort. I managed to make myself a foot bath which was about five inches deep. Hilda, the woman behind the counter, poured hot water into my pond and kept me warm for hours. Tea had broken down barriers and saved my toes from frost-bite... it is truly a wonderful thing.
I used to share a flat with a man who was more or less a fool. He played a jester at a local stately home ran by the National Trust. His job was basically this: act like a man who is possibly mentally unstable, wear a tight lycra body suit with a three peaked hat and jump from table to table in the Old Medieval Hall. In short he scared the children and was a worry to the adults who were made to feel uncomfortable by his presence. He was warned a number of times for his recklessness and his misinterpretation of a jesters job. He was told repeatedly that a jester was to be funny and not menacing, but he continued as he felt fit. And worst of all, he used to bring his work home.
Coming home and finding this jester prancing about the settee in his work uniform was an all time low. What was more grating is that he just wouldn't be quiet. No matter what I was watching on the television or what I was reading he would wander in with that bloody stick with bells on it and shake it, then go into a long diatribe about his job. He was never wrong and was always right. He once thrilled me for five hours with his theory on 'relativity': this to him was the way in which we were all brothers and sisters as we all came from one set of parents many years ago.
Correcting a fool is never the best idea. Chastising a fool is a difficult thing to do as it makes you look like a fool. Never try to better a fool as you start to look more foolish than the fool. Never submit to a fool as they think they have some sort of advantage over you and force more foolishness on you. As much as you want to kick a fool it's best not to as they seem to enjoy getting a good kicking. I have found that if you make the fool feel that he is loosing his mind is a sure fire winner. This can be achieved by some simple subtle difference made to the flat such as changing the locks, pretending that you have never met the man when he knocks on the door, change the side that his bedroom opened on and even rent his room out to someone completely different (preferably someone who doesn't suffer fools at all... particularly fools who he thinks are breaking into his room).
I am not the first and I certainly won't be the last to have sat beneath an apple tree and noted that there is a force that drives a loose apple to the ground. I am not trying to jump on the coat tails of another great mind, but simply seeking to make an addition to the theory.
We understand that gravity keeps us attached to this earth, but I want to establish a new theory of selective gravity. I have studied this at length and have wanted to submit a paper to the relevant scientific magazine (perhaps the Sunday Times supplement). My interest in this area was sparked when I watched Joey Pilkington leap into the air and, it seemed, remained there for longer than was humanly possible. Joey himself has dined out on this story more than once.
It was a late Sunday afternoon, when everything goes slowly anyway, that Joey Pilkington, Raymon Ferrer (a Lancastrian Mexican) and I were playing skipping stones along the Liverpool-Leeds Canal. Raymon was in the middle of telling us about a time his father tried to rob the mail-train with a six-shooter and a horse. He told us how his father had chased along side a train for over a mile until the platform of St Helens Central scared the old mining nag and he veered off into the oncoming cargo trains coming from the Manchester ship canal. His father and Nelly the Nag pulled up just in time to prevent blood loss. Raymon's father, Wilbur, was a Lancastrian with great lineage made up of blood, sweat and coal. Wilbur met Maria when he went to Mexico to fight in a war that he was told would earn him enough money to buy him a house. He didn't find a war, he didn't earn himself a house, but he returned to Lancashire with a wife who stopped traffic she was so beautiful. She loved Wilbur and was prepared to wait for the three months that he spent in jail for attempted robbery of an empty decommissioned mail train.
Raymon had just finished his story when Joey fell into the canal. Instead of plunging deep into the dark water of the industrial thorough-fair, he seemed to just rest on the surface - defying gravity. As he lay, just an inch in the water, he looked back at me and Raymon with a look of astonishment. His feet remained on the side of the canal so we pulled him up and sat on the edge of the water looking at the spot where the miracle happened. The thick grass verge was ample seating for we three amigos as we regained our composure and considered how lucky Joey had been. While we sat there Norbert Hoon was passing on his regular hour stroll looking for someone to annoy. Although we didn't want to talk to him, we were still amazed by what had happened just a half hour before and told him about Joey's miracle. Norbert was enthralled by our tale and asked which spot the miracle took place. He became so obsessed with the story that it became a unnerving, but this was a regular character trait for Norbert. When we showed him the spot (you could still see where Joey's feet dug into the canal side) he began to roll his shoulders and widen his eyes. He started telling us that the story was wasted on Joey and that it needed some-one of his charisma to make the story travel. Basically, he wanted to be talked about as the man who defined gravity. He pushed us aside as we protested that we couldn't be sure it would work again. In a flash he was in mid-air like a gymnast. His back bent like a 'U', his arms out like wings and a look of confidence in his eyes. When he sank with out a trace into the black water none of us were moved to follow him in. Neither were the two policeman on the other side of the canal.
Since that day I have oftened wondered about selective gravity. If there is a scientist out there who would be interested in helping me study this miracle then please get in touch. My theory is this: gravity lets arseholes fall.