The end of the world?

How do we know that the end of the world has not already occurred but we were too busy to notice?

I am forever taken by the fact that around me stuff happens. Lots of stuff. Lots and lots and lots of stuff. And by and large I don’t know anything about it until someone drops into the Admiral Storage Facility and tells me about it.

Since I started writing these little notes about my life at the Admiral Storage Facility, more and more people have dropped in, I am very pleased to say, and many of them have paused for a few words, sometimes even over a cup of coffee.  As a result I have been told more and more things about more and more stuff.

Now this is very helpful because it means that I am never short of a few words to say when a less loquacious person drops in and conversation lulls.

To give an example, I was told recently that at my local university they have a set of machines that measure events in the atmosphere. The sort of events that give us anything from red skies at night to the aurora which you can see if you are brave enough to face the freezing cold of northern Scandinavia.

And last week these machines gave readings that were apparently off the chart.

Now that might sound like a good thing, with the most wonderful red skies at night and that sort of thing. Indeed I was expecting my customers who store photographs with Admiral to be rushing over in the morning with a new collection of shots for us to hold for safe-keeping.

But it turns out it wasn’t such a good event after all. The spike in activity that the machinery spotted was so big that it wasn’t just a wonderful red sky, but rather a red sky to end all red skies. Literally.

The people who would have survived a red sky like that would have been members of the governing elite who had direct access to underground bunkers, equipped with enough food and drink (not to mention a few exercise machines) to keep them out of harm’s way for a couple of years.

After which they could creep out and start arguing about how to rebuild civilisation.

However, since you are reading this, the fact is that the doomsday predicted by the team at the university has not occurred.  And this in turn means either a) it did happen but not in the universe you inhabit, or b) it didn’t happen at all, and the university’s machine got it wrong.

Since then I have made enquiries and I am reliably informed that the latter is the most likely explanation – but this of course raises the issue, “what caused the ‘red alert’?” if I may call it that.

The magazine New Scientist finally came up with the answer telling us that the source of the disturbance that caused the red alert was “caused by university staff mowing the grass on a sit-on mower”.

But then I had pause for a further thought. The New Scientist report finished there, but it struck me, this is December. Who sits on a sit-on mower to cut grass in December?  Not many people largely because a) the grass doesn’t grow in December and b) the ground is often wet, which means something as heavy as a sit-on mower is liable to dig up the ground or create a certain amount of mud.

Of course, maybe the university has a mini-climate all of its own, but I doubt it; I have after all been to the university and indeed all over the city.

So there is only one explanation, and this takes us back to my earlier presumption. The multi-universe theory is true. There is one reality in which nothing happened, another in which a gigantic flare spun out from the sun and wiped out all overground life, and another in which it is summer all the year round in the university precincts, and the grass really does need mowing in December.

Although this sounds bizarre it might not be as fanciful as you might think, for on consulting Google on the issue I was directed to an article with the headline “Global elite prepare for imminent solar storm apocalypse: thousands flee to underground Antarctica bases”.  And yes I know the word should be “Antarctic” but the “a” is added in the article, so I have left it in as I like to be accurate about such items.

Of course, at this point the phrase “conspiracy theory” may come to mind, but on checking further I found that the Daily Express had just two years previously run the story “Apocalypse NOW: Killer solar superstorm could destroy Earth at ANY MOMENT, scientists warn.”

This started to worry me, until I read a little further in the Daily Express story and noted that it told me, “Ashley Dale, member of international task force SolarMAX set up to identify the risks of a solar storm, said, ‘Without power, people would struggle to fuel their cars at petrol stations, get money from cash dispensers or pay online’.”

And it struck me, in the event of the total collapse of civilisation I am not too sure that paying online would really be my biggest concern.  For myself I think not being burned alive and then subsequently being able to get food and water would be the issue of the day.

However there is good news in all this. There has been no solar flare or any geomagnetic activity on a scale not seen before.  I can say that for sure because you are reading this.  (If you are not, then I am talking to myself, but I feel sure that can’t be right.)

Thus I have the proof that all is well with the world, and can therefore wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year from all at Admiral, and be certain that we shall all get back together for more jolly chit chats in 2017.


For those who belong

“The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children’s games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up”*

Here’s a thought.  The one weapon that I have when trying to attract customers to the Admiral Storage Facility is language.

Yes, of course design and pictures can play a part, but design has far less ability to draw pictures in the brain and stimulate the mind than mere words.

Words can take us anywhere within a trice.  “A horse goes into a bar…” is obviously the start of a silly joke, but even so those six words create images – different images for each person in fact.  What sort of bar?  What sort of horse?  What era?  Who else was there?  Any other horses? Were the horses being ridden?  Only you can tell.

So I can use the phrase “The garage got flooded” and I don’t even have to tell you about what was stored in the garage or why I should have stored it with Admiral.  It was flooded, you assume I had something of value in there, and you can imagine the disaster.

Language is the way we communicate most of the time.  OK, I can show you pictures of the Admiral Storage Facility, but in essence the key point is that your stored items will be safe, secure, and dry.

The problem is that everyone wants to use pictures these days because it is easier to take a picture (often a very tedious and dull picture) with the mobile phone than it is to string a dozen words together.

Hence Facebook.  Facebook loves pictures (preferably of cats and dogs) and doesn’t really like words too much.  Try advertising on Facebook and you will see what I mean when their regulations come along.

But the world should not be like this. Words can be fun. Writing can be fun. Writing because you like the feel of the words pouring out of you can be fun.

OK, some of the writing that we store at Admiral (particularly the legal stuff) isn’t fun, and of course we are happy to store pictures as well as writing, but my point is that we are moving into a world where writing is seen to be not something we do.

But we should all try writing more, in my opinion.  Writing humour, writing adverts, writing threatening letters, whatever takes your fancy.

Now if you really want to have some fun, go back, remove a word or three from anything you have written, and put in something else.  Suddenly everything changes direction.  Play games.  Take words at random from the dictionary.  No one will understand what you write, but then, I’ve lived with that for years and it hasn’t affected me.

Do anything you want, but for goodness sake do not give up on writing.  Writing should be as much a fun thing to do in your spare time as watching TV, going to the football match, playing tennis, listening to music or throwing stones into the sea.

Writing should be inventive and not pored over too much.  It should not be treated logically, pulled apart, or judged by the same criteria through which one might judge a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel or the ingredients list that is to be found on a tin of bake beans (“Contents: beans, baked”).

Writing should enter the mind of the reader and then be dissected, desiccated, and quite possibly drowned in a bottle of wine.

Writing allows us to indulge in frippery, and as such it should slap the reader around the face in order to grab attention (or at least give a tickle up the little finger) and then take the dear reader on a journey within the likes of which it really doesn’t matter if the reader falls asleep or not.

It was indeed with such thoughts in mind that I got on a Eurostar train and read the terms and conditions of their wi-fi service.  This told me that I agreed, at my own cost, to defend and protect the wi-fi service of Eurostar and all its offices, employees and directors, against any costs, damages and legal costs, resulting from any damage claims made through the use of the wi-fi service which may have violated the rights of any third party or any law.

So I chose not to use the wi-fi, since to do so would mean that if a man in Russia claimed that an email sent out via that wi-fi system by someone other than myself had caused him to drop a hammer on his toe, I would be guilty of aggression, and I would have to pay to defend the case and pay all costs.

That isn’t quite what I meant about using writing creatively, but I hope you see my point.

Or maybe not.

*G. K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

Admiral Self Storage Ltd
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125


Chuckling, in a knowing sort of way

If someone says “a screaming comes across the sky”, they’ve either been reading a big book or have remembered a list of clever opening first lines

I recently read an article that suggested that novel reading is in decline.  Although I also read another article that says that teenage reading is simultaneously growing and declining.

Perhaps the long and the short of it all is that reading is changing, just like everything else in the world, and we should just accept that change happens, and leave it at that.

I also read a commentary from a very serious American news source that said that the amount of supposedly factual material published on the internet which is palpably untrue is now greater than the amount of material that is obviously true.

But, of course, that story might not be right.

However, it is strange to think that the amount of reading might be going down in an era in which it is easier than ever to bring one’s writing to the world.  For whereas in the past one might have to persuade a publisher to take one’s work for a magazine or book, one can now write a blog, publish via Kindle, or indeed self-publish and sell on-line.

All of which made me think about the novels I’ve read.  I’ve no idea how many, but there are certainly quite a few.  And then I got to thinking about first lines of novels, lines like “A screaming comes across the sky,” from Gravity’s Rainbow.

I love that line, and I think of it today because aside from reading an article that says people are not reading books any more, I also just read a blog in which an American lady reviews someone else’s list of 100 best opening lines of novels and then makes her comment on each one.  In this list the “screaming” line quoted above comes third in the top 100.  The reviewer, however, was unimpressed.

Her objection was something to do with whether “screaming” is a noun or an omnipolitical juxtaposition or something – I sort of lost the will to live after a few words.

And from there my thought turned to the notion that:

a) the poor lady would never have the pleasure of reading the novel which many others have found to be one of the great works of the 20th century,

b) if reading novels is in decline then literary critics probably need to take a lot of the blame,

c)  the moment one learns English, complications set in.  Which is also the first line of a novel – in this case “Chromos” by Felipe Alfau. The book includes a whole range of characters who defy the wishes of the author in terms of what they do.  They then proceed to write their own stories, and start to take over each other’s roles.

Now for me Chromos is a book based on how life ought to be.  A book that tells us that we are free of the chains of the past and of our own situations, and so we can take on whatever role we feel like having.  (OK it doesn’t just say that, but it does say something like that along the way, and that’s the bit that appealed to me.)

Which is part of the point of literature.  Literature allows anything to happen.  Good innovative film-making, be it for TV or for the movies, can also do that, but literature has the benefit of allowing the reader to take the writing at his/her own speed.

So if we are giving up on reading, we are giving up on one of the prime ways of not only having a jolly good time, but also improving our own lives and making us think.

I myself have thought about writing a book called “Novel reading for beginners” but I suspect the sort of people I want to read the book wouldn’t read it because they don’t read books.

But still I would say, if you don’t have room for all your books, you don’t have to throw them away.  You can store them, and then in five years time open up the box and surprise yourself.  Or leave them for your children to discover, after you have passed on, exactly what sort of books you read.  And if they are shocked it won’t matter because you will be looking down from on high, chuckling in a knowing sort of way.

Admiral Document Storage
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125