Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Next one up!

Well, it's there! And now we're into PART TWO of LIFTING THE WORLD. Go here.

By the way: following difficulties in picking up chapters in the right order - one, late-starting reader commented on this, privately - Granny has put the chapters as links on the sidebar. If you want to start over, reread, pick up on some past aspect of the story - my God who would bother - but you never know - you can just click on the chapter numbers, in order. It was a bit of a job. She was forced into Blogger's new layout system, which needed learning - she learned slowly- and which though easier in certain respects, not least it will alphabetize links automatically, doesn't let you shift them round any way you like: when you try to put Chapter One before Chapter Three, for instance, it obstinately persists in setting the latest input on top. She got round this, but laboriously, and with much cursing.

And now for something completely different; at least for her. Sitting on her desk is a nicely labelled Telefonica box full of the means to instal Broadband. AT LONG LAST. Meaning she won't have to hang around twiddling her thumbs while dial-up does it's very slow thing. And that there will be no arguments when either she or Beloved wishes to be online and the other is agitating to use the phone. Telefonica were booked to come yesterday to effect this miracle. Guess what? They didn't. It may be they had problems getting here as some workmen without warning or by your leave let alone diversion instructions have just dug a large trench at the business end of Granny's dead-end road: meaning you have to go long ways round on not very car friendly - and certainly not mapped - dirt roads to get here. It may be just that Telefonica is being Telefonica. Anyone caught in its clutches - there is no alternative - Granny understands at long last the virtue of BT having rivals back on her other island - will know exactly what she means. When they do finally turn up the likely is that they will take one look at her MAC and run, screaming; WE CAN'T PUT OUR DISK INTO THAT. etc.

Anyway; the first thing is to get them here. Granny is off to ring Madrid, expecting the usual long session with the nasty music they use to keep you occupied while on hold. Wish her luck.

UPDATE. Granny takes it all back, dear Telefonica. Ringing them was, as ever, the hassle bit. Especially as she was forced to transfer to a technical section where they only speak Spanish, and though she can manage a fair amount of things on the phone in Spanish, more or less, provided the person on the other end slows down, computer technicalities are another matter. Turns out...you're supposed to install it yourself; the text message merely referred to the arrival of the equipment. They will install it for you; but you have to pay.

At this point Granny looks in the box. There are a lot of evil looking objects and a hefty instruction book. She looks in the book. Where to start amid the sections 1 and 9, the sections 1.1 or 9.7? Ad infinitum.And oh yes it's all about Windows. Granny has a MAC. No mention of that, despite assurances it can be used. She rings technico again and asks for help. They proceed to offer it. Granny gives up and asks for them to send a man. 'TELL HIM IT'S A MAC', she says. They promise such a man within 48 hours. Actually he rings an hour later. They must pay well - she'll see the result on her Telefonica bill in due course. OH DEAR. Never mind; man turns up. He has a stud under his lower lip and a very new-looking and efficient laptop. 'Did they tell you it's a MAC?' she asks. He looks dismayed. 'Noone has MACs on this island,' he says. 'But I've got one,' she says.

Granny shows him the location section on a MAC. He looks slightly more reassured and connects up. Naturally - it's a MAC - nothing happens; no connection. Man looks more dismayed; indicates it will never work - because - you've said it - it's a MAC. Man makes a phone call - phone contact obviously tells him he's wrong and explains what to do. TWO MINUTES LATER GRANNY AND BELOVED HAVE BROADBAND. After four whole years. Whoopee. Means Granny can get on to YOU TUBE and it will work, instead of stuttering to a halt after a few frames or bars. Meantime she's just happy doing lesser things; a bit like Pooh - or was it Piglet? - with his useful pot for putting things into which he keeps putting in - and taking out - his burst balloon. She goes for this blog with photographs which used to take hours to come up; she goes to that one; she tries one video clip on the BBC. She tries another. IT ALL WORKS. 'Look, Beloved, look what I can do,' she cries. 'Look at this.'

Viva Telefonica, she cries. When the bill comes she may cry for different reasons. But that's quite another matter. Oh - and the evil looking objects which came with the main router? They are all still sitting in the box. She thinks she won't get anyone along to explain what they're for. She has all she needs; putting addresses in; taking them out. And all at the - relative - speed of light. WHAT FUN.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sound and fury

Granny did go to the carnival on Saturday and got lots of pictures. She won't lumber you with those until after the local version is over, in 10 days time. But she can tell you she has discovered the origins of carnival - thanks Wikipedia ; a mediaeval Italian pre-Lent festival, 'Carne-vale', meaning, literally, goodbye meat. Well, that bit's obvious, isn't it; almost banal. How couldn't she/you guess?

Meantime, just to keep you happy she'll put up this picture of .. Granny and Beloved, suitably attired?..

Well no, actually... But it gives you the general idea.

She is going to blather on now about something entirely different.

Years ago when she was involved in these things she read a book by a very famous English anthropologist, Mary Douglas. Called Purity And Danger it was about taboos, not just around food, Kosher, Halal rules, etc, etc but various other kinds - spatial, object related, relationships, etc etc. Famous anthropologist came up with the view - this is stating it VERY VERY roughly, famous anthropologist didn't/doesn't do simple -that on a structural level it all related to human need to order their lives within the chaos, uncertainty around them. If you define what it acceptable to you - generally or individually - you feel safe enough to carry on your existance in an orderly way: meaning you know, literally, who and where you are. Whereas anything outside, offending this, this makes you feel uneasy. As someone not herself fond of rules of any kind, as someone far from orderly in her own domestic arrangements, the anthropologist claimed to reach such an understanding when asked to have a bath in a room half of which was taken up with gardening tools and related clutter; a combination that offended all her sense of what a room in which you wash yourself should be like.

Granny has recently recognised such outrage in herself. Largely it relates to the distinction between human and animal towards which her Beloved is a little, shall we say, insouciant. It cannot just be that as a professional biologist he considers that humans are animals; sharing well over 90% of their DNA with goats say - or with chickens come to that. It's more complicated than that. It's about what he considers acceptable; and she definitely does not.

Outrage started simmering, just a bit, when she found two of the saucepans she had been looking for, both the size for what she was planning to cook, exactly where in her view they shouldn't be; one, lurking in the chicken run, the other in the goats' pen. And when, shortly after, she encountered the best and expensive cast-iron casserole full of a disgusting mixture designated as 'chicken food' and simmering on the kitchen stove, her own temperature began rising still higher; beyond simmering, towards boiling point. Not long after, she went to have a shower, digging out a clean towel and a clean t-shirt en route. At least she thought they were clean - certainly they'd been through the washing-machine; unfortunately they'd been through it alongside Beloved's cheese cloths. Bubble bubble bubble went her internal saucepan, boiling over totally when she found one of the straw bands her Beloved uses to enclose his cheeses and pattern -very prettily - their outsides nestling on the washing line, too close, much too close, actually touching one of her very best white duvet covers being prepared for next week's paying guest. Though the paying guest is coming to be instructed on local natural history, Granny does not think this should include forced exposure to the smell of the product from one of the local - not even wild - animals.

By this time the outrage to her sense of good order was clobbered, catapulted, hurtling way beyond her own particularly boundaries. She washed the duvet-cover; again. And there was a great deal of noise, not just a boiling noise, lots and lots of other noises, all of them loud. And every single one of them made by her.

There are now a new set of pots. And very definitely a new set of rules and taboos. None of the pristine pots nor any of the best pottery bowls will be used for animal foods or products. The animals will make do with the handleless ones, most with their non-stick qualities worn off by Beloved's tendency to put something on to cook and then forget about it, they will make do with the chipped or commonplace bowls. None of these evil mixtures before or after cooking will stay in the kitchen - the bloody flies are coming back and how those little black devils LOVE them. They will reside in the dairy-cum toolshed out the back, which has nice wire meshes protecting the developing cheeses from contamination. Oh and any kind of cloth relating to either cheese or animals will be washed SEPARATELY. Granny does not care to go around smelling of sour milk and nor she suspects do her guests.

There are warnings of high winds here this week. She is not so solipsistic as to assume for one moment that she has generated them- she does after all have to admit -in her nicer, not to say quieter, moments - that Beloved's home-made ricotta cheese is DELICIOUS. But still, you never know.


Friday, February 23, 2007

One of those days

One irritation about being a granny is you can't put it all down to PMT. You can't put it down to anything -- except YOU.

Beloved has gone off to pursue his love affair with the bank. (You and I, darlings, do it all via telephone and the internet these days; not Beloved. And don't imagine he's having an affair with the teller, nothing like that; a faithful man, Beloved, luckily for Granny. More like an affair with the hushed space, the counters, the officials trying to speak English, the pieces of paper with figures on, the signing rituals. etc etc etc. Each to his own. Each to his own.)

Granny meanwhile sits at her desk feeling blue, unloved, unread, etc etc and guilty about feeling this way; think, she might live in Baghdad. And if you want to know about that, Riverbend has posted again lately, go here. After which you will know exactly what Granny's melancholy is worth: or rather isn't. It adds to her melancholy for sure, as did Blair, yesterday, denying - yet again - all responsibility for the havoc in Iraq, as did a documentary on Channel 4 last night about Iranian pilgrims to Karbala, which makes quite clear the total gulf between Bush/Blair and them. And to Bush/Blair add all of us, helpless adherents of their total ignorance and idiocy. (For yet another mind-blowing example of that go here.)

As for the documentary; on the one side - the Iranian - Shiite pilgrims - all awaiting the return of Hussain. (No, not Saddam, darlings. Sheik Hussain.) On the other - Bush's - conflagration in the Middle East, global warming, all our fears, presage what his lot want; the Second Coming. APOCALYPSE either way. The one comfort being that most of us know bloody well that once we're dead - of thirst, bomb, whatever - we're DEAD. No illusions about after-lives of paradisical or hellish varieties. Well that's a relief isn't it? Though we'd prefer, most of us - Granny certainly would prefer - for our children and grandchildren to have long peaceful productive lives, wouldn't we? Who'd choose the Messiah over that option? Too many is the problem. IS THE PROBLEM.

Better to think about birds. Granny likes birds. No, she wouldn't go halfway round the world to see a rare one; she's quite happy enough on a fine afternoon like the one yesterday to go down to the salt-flats with the tide coming in, and to watch birds she knows well doing their thing; flirting with earth, air, water, bobbing, diving, flying, pecking about, feeding in the different ways dictated by the different shapes of their beaks. While Beautiful Wimp, who is not the least interested in birds leaps about on the tide-line trying to catch fish. His optimism is boundless almost as beautiful as he is. Maybe there's a lesson for a gloomy Granny there. She hopes so.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More chapters; oh and a begging bowl

Well they're up. Usual place. You can go to the beginning via the archive links.

And this: Dina Rabinovitch has written this piece in the Guardian, and is trying to raise money for a cancer unit. You can also go directly to the appeal page, here.

It's a good cause; with my family history don't I know it. She also writes a good blog which you can find in my links.

Good giving. xx

Monday, February 19, 2007

Fun and Games

Granny has had a friend staying, Beloved has a stinking cold - not passed on to her YET - and despite her new office she hasn't had either time to write yet, and not much in the way of inspiration either. Maybe peace and quiet isn't the answer. Or maybe lots more of it is. Let's wait and see.

Meantime the year turns as ever. On Saturday, she, friend and Beloved went out to dinner with Mr and Mrs Jonah; at the table next to them was a whole party of people looking very peculiar; men in drag, wigs, feather boas and all, and women got up to look like men in drag; a new one on Granny. Anyone in Spain will know what this is about: Carnival is here again. And don't men on this island just LOVE wearing drag? Not only is there a carnival queen, and a baby queen and a dog cat camel and donkey queen (work out for yourselves where she is exaggerating, just a bit) there is also a DRAG QUEEN; the saucy bitch. And between now and the final end to the festival you are liable at any time and anywhere to run over men in wigs and frocks -and possible inebriation -lurching across the road. In Granny's innocent view -and even more innocent experience -she thought foolish jollities enjoyed before the arrival of Lent were not only mainly of the pancake cooking and eating kind but that they began and ended on Shrove Tuesday; that thereafter all is supposed to be sackcloth, ashes and boiled cod till the mournfulness of Good Friday is well and truly over. Not so here. The carnival procession up in her own dear Municipio is not scheduled till March 10th. Though much smaller and shorter than the ones in the main town it will have the usual contingents of citizens of the third age dressed up in costumes which might have been designed for performances of Merry England pageants, of prancing devils - a local, probably pagan, variation probably dating from the days of the Guanches, the early inhabitants of the island - of shivering kids in fairy outfits, of would-be Brazilian lookalikes heavily choreographed and decidedly under-clad on their nether regions and over-clad up top - plumes - feathers - huge wire, spangled and tinseled creations over-balancing on their heads; oh and plaster versions of old shoes, castles, pirate ships, etc etc, which sit behind people's houses all year round waiting to be brought out, touched up, decorated, attached to trucks and filled with a variety of clowns, angels, devils, what you will, all shouting, calling, singing and waving beer cans to the music thumped out by pumped up sound systems. Not much in the way of boiled cod there. But plenty of noise. And plenty of alcohol. All night.

Who says Catholics don't have a lot more fun than Protestants?

There are the odd spoilsports around of course. Franco banned carnival altogether. And the more sober residents of Santa Cruz on Tenerife have this year contrived to have had a banning order placed on street celebrations - which are of course the point - because they were fed up with the twenty-four hour racket. Though it looks as though the local ayuntamiento and the overall Canarian government may get this rescinded on the behalf of tradition and the enjoyment of absolutely everyone else. Back on Granny's other island of course, people like Cromwell did for such things altogether, long ago. Is it the survival of Catholicism she wonders that had led Catholic countries to preserve their local traditions and festivities the way they have? No self-consciousness here, like revivals of Maypole Dancing in England. No playing to the tourists. This is for the people. AND HOW.

And yes, Granny will probably slope off to watch one or other of these. Beloved won't; you've seen one, you've seen them all, he says. He has a point. But Granny sneakingly likes them, just the same. They remind her of the village Gala of her childhood, around 1949, where she and her twin sister featured as Tweedledum and Tweedledee. And WON FIRST PRIZE!! But no, she will not be dressing-up, this time. THE VERY IDEA. ( It was, you see, so very long ago and in another country; and, besides, the wench - the other wench - is dead.)


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Checking in

Well. She's back. And sitting in her VERY OWN OFFICE. First the chickens were given a home, then the bantams, then the donkey - except the donkey turned into two goats - then the dairy necessitated by the arrival of the goats. Then the vegetables got their garden. And then - at long last - Granny, and Granny's need for accommodation arrived at the top of the list. (Maybe best not to ask Beloved or his willing assistant, Mr Handsome from Blackburn, what their priorities were; not Virginia Woolf's, not every woman's right to a Room of Her Own evidently. But at this moment she's not complaining, no she is not. ) She has an office; with bookshelves, a rug on the floor, a lamp, a heater - which in the interests of global warming she will TRY not to use - a desk, this time looking out of the window just like her previous less private desk in the kitchen - her laptop, her telephone connection, two speakers so that she can play her kind of music as loudly as she likes (presently the Carter Family) without upsetting anyone else - and, above all, a DOOR SHE CAN SHUT. Heaven.

So now she will have to produce a baby; this post you could say IS her first baby. Though probably not enough. On this warmer island it is, after all, the season for nesting and giving birth. Only this morning she saw a kestrel doing the winged equivalent of legging it across her land with a lizard dangling from its beak, destined obviously for its hungry young. It is warmish - though not as warm as yesterday -and after a period of heavy rain while she was away, the green has come up on her land at last, wild marigolds are flowering, more flowers she hope will follow. And today Beloved arrives home from London. Good.

Ah London. For once Beloved spent long enough there for Granny to show him London is not all bad. She took him to the Tate to see the Hogarth exhibition; to the cinema to see The Last King of Scotland; to the theatre to see the History Boys. Beloved Painter Friend arrived and they went out for a very good dinner. Between-whiles Beloved cooked. How he cooked; inspired by the wealth of foods available from the stalls and shops of every ethnicity in Shepherd's Bush Market but not available on the smaller island: filo pastry for example. The week was FILO PASTRY WEEK. Some creations using it were more successful than others. Of the red mullet wrapped in it fed to Beloved Son the night he came to dinner, Beloved Son said, tactfully, and only to Granny, that it wasn't Beloved's very best meal (in this case, the filo pastry did come out somewhat soggy.) On the other hand the parcels made of all kinds of things, mixtures of different kinds of cheese, spinach etc etc were delicious.

Beloved, though, is not the tidiest of cooks. And the London kitchen is too small for Granny to be in there too, clearing up after him. She had to wait till after the meal; she washed the kitchen floor as many times in one week as she would wash it in a month, living by herself. Clearing up not only the kitchen but the whole flat for the new flatmate due to move in as soon as Beloved leaves meant clearing up round not only Beloved but Beloved Painter Friend; both tended to retreat to other rooms when Granny's cleaning frenzy got too lively - for them - and they were tired of having to move their feet or bodies out of the way of the broom, vacuum cleaner, duster wielded by the none too enthusiastic Granny.... who was removing too the heavy evidence of visiting grandchildren - or surrogate grandchildren. Not that she objects to THAT. Back here she misses all of them and their parents too. It's the penalty of living in a nicer climate, so far away. But there you go. You can't have everything; her cliche for today. She is happy to be here, yes. But as always just a little sad.

It was cold outside in London sometimes. Yeah. Not like here.

Oh and this; Granny is now blogging for Expatica as well as for herself. (Old friends shouldn't be surprised in posts on that site to recognise some of the material. Granny like all writers - and composers too - believes in being economical with her material; self-plagiarising in other words, when it's useful.) If you go here you will find her in this new guise.

And chapters Nine and Ten of Lifting the World are up. For those click here. To start from the beginning click here. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Sorry everyone; sorry sorry sorry......Granny has been entertaining Beloved Painter Friend, grandchildren - and of course her beloved - back in London. And Beloved has been cooking - another story. What with that and having to compete with Beloved and the BPF for use of the laptop, she has not been keeping up with this, either. Or with any of her blogging friends. And no, she is not going to write much now to make up for it. She is on her own on her island- Beloved does not arrive home till tomorrow. It is an unusually warm evening for this time of the year, almost windless. She has been swimming and then wandering round on the salt flats seeing what birds were there, and, in particular, talking to the one and only remaining spoonbill, which was sunning itself by the look of it, while her dog chased fish. (Vainly.) And she is about to take a glass of the single malt acquired in Gatwick on her way home and - taking her cue from the spoonbill - sit outside in the sunset with a book, enjoying it. Why not? Don't anyone DARE complain. Cheers - till tomorrow; she promises to be back then.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It's up!

Chapters Seven and Eight of Lifting the World are up here. Over to you. To start from the beginning go here

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Fairy Story Part Two

Professor Good Doctor arrived at this work a few days later to find he could not get into his office. It had been bolted with a big bolt and locked with a big key. 'You have been suspended from your job as director', Dr Princess told him. 'We are going to have a big enquiry into the misdeeds we've uncovered. You have had no consideration for your patients. Your wicked ways have put their lives at risk. Where is the young researcher you used as your tool to carry out your wrong doing? We want to put him in prison.'

The researcher came from another country. His father was ill. Professor Good Doctor had given him leave to go home to see him. 'Ah,' said his accusers. 'That proves your guilt. You have sent him away so he cannot confess to us that you were responsible for this wickedness. We are going to demand he is sent back to your island, so we can question him about what you have done.'

The professor was sent home while the enquiry was underway. Many clever and expensive lawyers took part in it. Professor Good Doctor was warned by some sympathetic people not to use his telephone or his email. 'Every single thing you say or write will be heard or read,' he was told. Mostly the Professor stayed in his own house. But every now and then he was called in to be questioned like a criminal, sometimes in his own office. After one such visit he was told. 'Some patient records are missing. We accuse you of stealing them. This is a criminal charge. If we follow it up, the police will be called in. You could be put in prison.'

He was warned that his passport would be taken away. He was not allowed to leave the island, not even to visit a patient in a country just across the sea from the island, not even to attend a conference of other doctors from all over the world at which he was suppose to deliver a speech.

All this time, meanwhile his name was headline news in every one of the island's newspapers, every single day. It was read out on the radio. it was shown on television. His face was known all over the island. He was recognised everywhere he went.

Two month went by. Professor Good Doctor was told that the report on his misdeeds was nearly ready. A week bef0re it was due he was called to the institute again.

'You will have to accept this report,' they said. 'If you accept it we will drop the criminal charges. You will be free to leave our island and to return to your own. If you don't accept it, you will have to stay here. You will be tried for theft. You might receive a prison sentence.'

What could poor Professor Good Doctor do? He had a wife. He had a child. What would happen to them if he was put in prison? The report came out; it was very long and very rude. He was convicted of having no consideration for patients, of putting their lives in danger, of all sorts of other things about which noone had told him. The island medical council struck him off their register of doctors. His name was in the papers, the television, the radio again. There he was for all to see; Professor Guilty , Professor not so Good Doctor. He accepted the report. He was allowed to book tickets back home to his own island. At midnight, a very few hours before he was due to fly away, there was a thunderous knocking at the door, 'Open up, police, ' and in they came, a posse of police in uniform. They searched the house from top to bottom, in front of the Professor's alarmed wife, his frightened little boy. They asked to see his computers and took them all away. Only now at last was was the Good Doctor free to fly away home to his own island. Back on the little Doctor Princess, the King's Beloved daughter, had won everything she wanted. Not only was her enemy disgraced; not so long after she was appointed Director of the medical institute in Professor Good Doctor's place.

She had won over the Professor Good Doctor; but only on her own island.

As I've said, Professor Good Doctor really was a very good doctor; known for his integrity, for the thoroughness and accuracy of his research, for his concern for and gentleness with his patients the wide world over. When he got back to his own island, far from throwing the Professor out of his old job, his employers stated: 'we have every confidence in Professor Good Doctor. We see no reason to remove him from his post.' Despite one or two nasty newspaper pieces planted by the King of the Island whose arm was long in such respects, the press on the big island left Professor Good Doctor alone. Meanwhile his colleagues, not just from his own institute, his own hospital, not just from his own island, but from the whole world rallied round him.

The small island medical council demanded the big island medical island looked at Professor Good Doctor's case and punished him for malpractice the way they had punished him, thereby ending Good Doctor's career for good. But after the medical council had looked at the report, at the evidence provided, they got advice from other important doctors close at hand and far afield; some of whom went so far as to state that the case was not even worth making; that there was nothing to suggest Professor Good Doctor had done anything seriously wrong. Admittedly it took the council nearly three years to gather all the evidence, a fact which did not help Professor Good Doctor's work. But at the end of that time they rejected the case against him.

Back on their island the King and his daughter Princess Doctor and the two important princes her brothers were furious. No, they would not let the case go. THEY WOULD NOT. Professor Good Doctor must not get away with his crimes they said. He must be made to suffer even more than he had done. They had spent a lot of island money on the case already. Now they spent a great deal more going for a Judicial Review against the big island medical council. This council had not investigated the case properly, they said. They had not taken all the evidence they should have done from the little island medical council, the council had not been given sufficient time to make their case.

Lawyers went back and forth from little island to big one. At last a judge wearing a large wig, wearing scarlet robes, processed into the High Court of the big island. In the court room stood waiting a crowd of lawyers; lawyers for the big island Medical council, lawyers representing Professor Good Doctor; many more lawyers for the little medical council, many more lawyers and officials from the little island, the court was quite filled up with people to amazement of the Judge, sitting on his high seat gazing down on them all. He looked as if he couldn't quite believe what he was seeing; or, when it came to it, what he was hearing.

He listened to the lawyers and their witnesses for two whole days. Then he sent them all away. Two weeks or so later, he issued his report. He could see nothing wrong with the big island's council decision he said - it took him nearly 50 pages, but that is the short and the long of what he had to say.

After nearly four years Professor Good Doctor was free of all charges, free to go back to doing what he does best.

And the King and the Princess and the little island? The King is used to getting his own way. The princess is used to getting her way. But they didn't get their way this time. On their little island certain complaints have even been made in certain quarters about the money spent pursuing Professor Good Doctor on behalf of the Princess. Dr Clever - and maybe beautiful - Princess is still director of her institute. But these days she is very short of international colleagues. Noone wants to fall foul of her or anyone else in the family of the king.

It's called beware clever princesses. Or anything else you like to name. But as I have said it is merely a fairy story. It's not one you need worry about in the slightest, unless that is you are doctor thinking of working on some other island than your own, in which case you had better sit down and read it carefully. For everyone else this can remain not only a mere fairy story but pure hokum to boot. It even - in some senses - for some people - ended happily ever after.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Fairy Story Part One

Granny has been to the Notting Hill Farmer's market on cloudless blue gold day. A very different market from her island one, and a good deal cooler, despite the sun. Nor on her island does she have to fight her way through to it via a large - very large - gang of well tanked-up New Zealanders waving beer cans and with sweat shirts labelled. 'Waitangi Day. Circle Line Pub crawl.' She can't quite see what the Circle Line has to do with Waitangi Day. But never mind that. This is London. Did she ever mention what a cosmopolitan city London is?

Let's move on; discreetly. She promised you a fairy tale of sorts some time back. And here at last it is. Sorry for the delay. She had her reasons.


This is, really, a fairy story; it is also, if you choose to believe it, a true story. Fairy stories are always true stories, in a way, and this one is no different. Are you sitting comfortably?....

Once upon a time there was an island, a long way away from a big one; somewhere far to the east you might say. But you can place it anywhere you like.

This was a very well-behaved, very clean and shiny island. The buildings were tall, many of them, the trains, boats and buses all ran on time. And the people were very well-behaved too. They had to be; if they were not out of bed sharp at seven every morning, if they did not shower four times a week, if they so much as failed to flush the lavatory after they'd used it, their king saw, their king punished them. People did behave badly of course sometimes. But they did so at their own peril. The king's eyes were everywhere. The king's courts did just what the king told them and worked very hard. If someone had done something really serious - what the king called really serious - they were even sometimes hung by the neck until they were dead. That was a very good way of making people behave properly.

The king had ruled on this island a long time. He was old. His son was the prime minister, now. Few dared try to be prime minister in his place. If anyone did dare try to put himself up for election, he would be found to have done something really bad - like only taking two showers a week or not flushing the lavatory - or worse still saying rude things about the King or his son or his wife or his daughter or his daughter-in-law; he'd be charged all his money for such serious misdeeds. Sometimes he'd be put in prison. So not too too many people put themselves up. Most people kept themselves to themselves and kept their mouths shut. When people in other countries, observing this, said to the King, accusingly, 'Your island is not a democracy,' he answered, 'no it is not a democracy. If I ruled a democracy my people wouldn't behave so well and they would not be so happy. My son is a very good Prime Minister. My family's way suits my people very well. Look at how well-behaved and tidy they all are. Why should they want a democracy?'

Now the King had three children altogether. His second child was another clever prince; he ran the telephone services on the island. His third child was a girl, a princess. In proper fairy tales term the princess should have been beautiful. Maybe she is, how should I know; I've never seen her. What I do know for is that she is clever; clever enough to be a doctor and pass medical exams; and, along with being clever, ambitious besides. She did very well in her profession; not something that should surprise us. And one day she went to the King her father and said; Daddy I want a medical institute for Christmas. I want lots of money to be spent on it. I want it to be the foremost medical institution of its kind in the world.

"Of course, my darling,' said the King. (The princess was his favourite child). 'Of course.' So then a lot of the island's money was spent on building and equipping an Institute for the King's daughter. When it was nearly ready to open, the princess went to her father the King again.

'Daddy, I want lots of research to be done at my institute. I want doctors to come from all over the world to run research projects. And I want a world-famous doctor to run my institute, and so encourage the clever researchers to come there.'

'Of course, my clever darling,' said the King. And he sent people here there everywhere, east south north and west to find one of the best-known doctors, specialising in the right kind of diseases for the Princess's Institute. And at last, on another but much bigger island, a long way west they found just the man they wanted. Professor Good Doctor was his name. 'I will come to your island for a few years,' Professor Good Doctor said, 'I will set your Institute running, I will devise research projects that will be respected all over the world. I'm sure we will work together very well,' he added very politely to the happy and clever Dr Princess. She was appointed as the Deputy Director of the Institute. That made her even happier.

At first all went well. Pictures were put in all the local papers. There was the sparkling new institute. There was the Good Doctor, its director, looking important and smiling broadly. There was the Princess, the deputy director, also looking important and also smiling broadly.

'What a good doctor,' said the people of the island. 'What a clever Princess. What a well-equipped Institute. What wonderful research projects. We will all be the better for it.' Pictures were taken of the people smiling too. Everyone was happy on the island, about the new institute, and its director, Professor Good doctor, and its deputy director Dr Clever Princess.

So things went on well enough for a while. Professor Good Doctor really was a good doctor and a clever scientist besides. He knew how to run a medical institute. He knew how research projects should be designed and carried-out. Unfortunately Dr Clever, maybe beautiful - but that's not known - Princess also thought she knew how to run an institute and set up research projects. Some of her ideas weren't the same as the Good Doctor's at all. Some of her ideas - he said - weren't very good ones. Or even if they were good ones, they might need adjusting a bit here and there.

Dr Clever Princess didn't like this one little bit. She was the King's daughter, his favourite daughter. She was used to having everything her own way. She complained to her best friend in the institute. Together they told everyone that Professor Good Doctor didn't like people from their island, that he thought people from his island knew better.

Dr Princess went back to see her father the King of the Island. 'You remember those toys you gave me?' she said. 'The medical institute and Professor Good Doctor? Well they don't understand they are my toys. The won't do what I tell them.'

'Oh dear oh dear, my darling,' said the King. 'That won't do at all. But remember that Professor Good Doctor is very famous. You can only punish him for not doing what's he told if you find he really has done something wrong. You will have to be patient.'

Dr Princess was patient; she was clever too. She took to spying on the Professor Good Doctor. She read his mail; she read his emails. She listened to his telephone conversations. Above all she studied his research projects. Medical research is a complicated business; it is easy to make mistakes, to get quite small matters a little wrong.

Professor Good Doctor was a very good and thorough researcher. Carefully as Doctor Princess looked, she couldn't find any mistakes for a long time. But then one day she discovered that a junior researcher had made a mistake in one project.He had changed some of the patients' doses of medicine very slightly - not an unusual practice. But this particular study had not been designed that way.

Doctor Princess rubbed her hands with glee when she discovered the mistake. "Now we can punish Professor Good Doctor for not doing what I tell him. Now we've got him,' she said.'

To be cont:


Oh and this; the other fairy story - of sorts. Episodes of Lifting the World will from now on go out every Wednesday morning. Be there. If you want.

Oh: and one more thing. For technical reasons, Granny is choosing to disable comments on this post and its sequel. All will be as normal after that.

Click Here