Summary of Volume 1 of my Dissertation on ‘The Great Work’.
Iolest (author of The Great Work)
Gender: Female. Ethnicity: unknown. Her existence is traceable back before the pan-galactic expansion of humankind, therefore, Old Galaxy. She refers to herself as ‘Personal and Business Assistant to Rak Strez’. She is very tidy by nature and likes her environment tidy too – she notes, “If I sleep in his bed, I don’t mess up my room”.
Rak Strez ( an associate of her early years)
Gender : Male. Ethnicity: unknown, presumed similar to Iolest. Only scraps of his writings remain. As a ‘Futures Investor’, he manipulates the good and bad luck surrounding business transactions to influence his personal wealth. He is not very successful. Iolest remarks he, “lacks focus”. He values her tidiness and that she maintains their business records “So scrupulously exact, that there isn’t a scrap of useful data left in them.” (his words.)
Following a serious loss of face amongst his colleagues, Rak Strez and Iolest obtained a space cruiser and departed for deep space.
After an uncertain pseudo-period, they arrived at a globular cluster consisting of a few thousand suns surrounding a black hole. To maximise the wealth associated with the massive energy gradient, several stars had been nudged into dangerous orbits round the black hole. The vast wealth, and implicit risks, attracted Rak Strez’s avarice.
Unfortunately, his role in the ‘bad luck’ that cause tens of stellar systems to slide over the gravitational line to destruction in the crushing maw of the black hole, was, of necessity, public. The hideous death of billions of sentients and the bankruptcy of half the galaxy left Rak Strez immensely wealthy. He and Iolest decided to retire. He remarks that he “left it to Iolest to tidy up behind them”. From her writings we know that, after a set of devious moves, they filed a claim on an uncharted star system and employed terraformers to constructed a planet to Iolest’s specification.
The planet was sterile. All local flora and fauna, synthesized on demand, was either beautiful or cuddly and could be put away tidily when not required. Here, they built a pleasure palace.
Rak Strez proposed a life of idleness and debauchery. Iolest poked her finger into his midriff fat and remarked the she trusted that she was still the sole beneficiary of his will.
Shortly, Rak Strez returned and proposed a natural, healthy life as woodcutter with a wife and family. Iolest demurred. The supplier of the low gravity gym had offered an introductory price on six menomorphs. ‘Guaranteed 100% functional. Medically confirmed sterile, Settings range from ‘Courtly Attentive’ to ‘Macho Demanding’. Each can be packed, tidily, in a storage case when not required’. However, there was the will, so she didn’t mention this to Rak Strez.
She seems to have enjoyed the rustic life – but soon her pregnancy began to intrude into the frolics. First ensuring that the, deviously copied, encryption keys worked in all his strong boxes, Iolest, bought him another wife, and retired to the pleasure palace. Further wives were added as required. But, the rural retreat had its attractions, there were many repeats in the cycle, Iolest, herself, contributed five children.
Then, possibly due to a computer glitch, Rak Strez managed to fell his first tree and was killed in the process.
Iolest withdrew his will, tidied it up, and obtained probate without problems. She convinced the the other wives that their continued standard of living depended on her. She bought a six-pack of the newest model menomorphs – complete with random argumentativeness for even greater realism – then she began The Great Work.
If you guessed, from the above, that the gout has me in pain, immobile and totally frustrated – you’re right!
I thought this went well with the rabbits, though.
Herberta de Man
11 April 1917 – 28 September 2014
Born, Herberta Algar, in London in 1917 – Can anyone imagine it? The BBC didn’t start public television broadcasts until 1936. She was nineteen before there was even any television, never mind Internet!
Her grandmother was disabled, her father didn’t survive WWI and her mother died when she was eleven. Her elder sister had moved away from home by then, so she and her brother were sent to different orphanages, she rarely saw him after that.
After the struggle to survive at home with a terminally ill parent, Auntie remembered her time in the orphanage with a mixture of pleasure and satisfaction. She went to school, for the first time and, from her remarks, she obviously did well. Not only did they teach her to read and write, but she was taught to clean, to iron and to make beds and “All sorts of useful things, not just that other stuff.” as she would tell us when we could get her to talk about her childhood. Useful things they were too! When she had to leave the orphanage she was able to find work as a chambermaid in a large London hotel.
Then came WWII, she went to work in a machine shop. This started the chain of events that led to hiding under the kitchen table to ‘escape’ the bombs, and her marriage to Uncle Pete. After the war, they moved out of London to one of the new towns, then being built to house those made homeless by bomb and fire. I think this was probably the happiest time for her.
Today’s picture is bluebells. Do you remember, Auntie, Uncle Pete planted them near the back door so you could see them through the kitchen window?
You know how it is. Things happen, and then other things happen. And you wonder why the other things have happened, because we weren’t really used to the things that had happened before yet – they hardly had a chance to settle in, and for us to find out that they weren’t quite as good as things were in the olden days – but we could probably cope. And then these other things come along and, I mean, you really don’t know where you’re up to with it all, do you? It’s been like that for a few weeks now and to be honest – we could use a break.
A few months ago I started learning how to make ebooks. I’d hardly found out how to do it, when the people who do these things, changed everything. Luckily, I’d advanced to the point where I was reasonably sure where square one was, so I was able to find my way back there.
When you’re focusing on something, it’s hard to keep an eye on the weather at the same time, so you dig yourself a nice comfortable hole and you begin to feel a sense of accomplishment, a feeling that when it comes to digging holes, you have the expertise. Then it starts to rain. Before you know it, that hole that you put so much effort into has become just another puddle. Then you find out, these days, everyone is digging their holes upwards.
If you want inspirational, then you can’t beat social media. How we continue to bumble along as we do, awash with such powerful messages, must be a testament to humanity’s ability to ignore good advice.
Just say we took even a fraction of the good advice that we have access to. Wouldn’t we be such unbelievably powerful and efficient individuals? The other side of the coin is, of course, what would happen if we took even a fraction of the good advice, that we so confidently offer to all and sundry, ourselves?
There are people out there who do all this stuff. They regularly take all their lemons and make lemonade. They constantly start journeys of a thousand miles with that first small step. They welcome change with open arms. Every single thought they think is positively positive, and never would they think of taking any action that didn’t stretch them to their extreme extremity.
Luckily, for the rest of us, they are the exceptions that prove the rule. So there’s no need to panic. It’s fine for us to just sit here, bemused by all the hullabaloo, shaking our heads and wondering, just where do they get the energy?
Talking of the exceptional, the hedge in today’s photo is a good seven feet (two and a bit metres) tall, and sticking out the top of it we have – a thistle. Surely, there must be an inspirational message here, somewhere.
Our days are becoming quite autumn-like. We still have gloriously warm and sunny times, and we try our best to schedule setting out on our daily dawdle to coincide with these – but they are becoming harder to synchronise to. The alternative is a cool, clammy mist, not overly unpleasant, but not that pleasant either. In the mist, our horizon shrinks to a few miles, our mountain vista is replaced by a few fields and hedges and the sun is replaced by a lighter patch of grey in the sky.
The rooks have started their autumn dance, large groups of them wheeling, diving and calling while, every so often, a small guerrilla band break away to harass the buzzards. They have moved their rookery from the woods near the railway crossing, half a mile away, to the woods behind our house. During the nesting and chick-rearing of early Spring this past year, we could hear the racket they made, even at this distance. Having them as near neighbours this coming Spring will be, shall we say – interesting.
Today’s picture represents another feature of autumn. Although it has fluffy seed heads, this is not a thistle. You might think we could identify it by its leaf shape, but the leaves are dried and withered and are now identifiable only as dead leaves. The flowers too, other than that they were yellow, hold no clues.
At this time of year, nature ticks very few boxes on the questionnaire.
Towards the end of the 1980s, it became obvious that the digital age was looming. The more forward looking were quick to grasp the immense opportunities that this would present, and so they began a careful campaign to position themselves, in order to maximise these opportunities to their own advantage.
A far-sighted group at Palo Alto, realising that an era of increased leisure was in the offing, decided that entertainment would be key. This, in turn, led to the concept of ‘playfulness’. Initially, it was thought that tapping or patting would be the way technology could be expected to develop. Further investigation, however, raised doubts as to whether the general populace would be ready to accept such advanced concepts without extensive re-education. This initial setback was not allowed to halt the progress towards the new world order, and in one of those serendipitous, out of the box, breakthroughs that are only later recognised as significant, the concept of ‘playfulness’ suggested a possible alternative. This, first stage plan, led to the development of the computer mouse.
While this has become a staple, it must be remembered that it was only ever envisaged as an educational stop-gap. It is heartening to see progress in the original master plan. The mouse is, at last, giving way to the tapping and patting that was that first, central vision.
Fluffy cats, of course, invented the Internet to show off how cute and playful they were. This guy, spotted, dozing in the sun under the hedge, is obviously on his day off. You can’t be brilliantly visionary 24/7, now can you?
You need to be thinking the right kind of thoughts, that’s what I think.
Life is full of hedges. Mostly, they are very nice hedges, neat and green – and we are quite happy to have them around. Now and then, we get to feel a little hemmed in, but generally they give us a sense of security – they keep the cold, hard world away.
There are times when we want security badly and we surround ourselves with extra hedges. After a while, we find that the things that go bump in the night manage to get comfortable, and stop bumping around. However, we do have these nice hedges that took us ages to build, and who knows? The things might start bumping again one day. We come to love our hedges, and we depend on knowing that they are there. We forget why we made them. Our horizons are sufficient, and bounded by the comforting green of our hedges.
Then one day you find a hole in the hedge.
You could be thinking really irritated thoughts – about how hard you worked to make that hedge solid and secure. How lucky it is that you found the hole, and can get it blocked up before, well, before – something, you know.
Or, you might be thinking quite different thoughts, you might stick your head through the hole, and breathe the air from outside.