Sam Gates of the Red Berets

It was five thirty in the morning when the alarm went off and Sam reached wearily over the ashtray to turn it off.  Christ he felt like crap this morning. Coughing he reached for his Marlboros and lit one. The acrid smoke hit the back of his throat and he coughed some more. Slowly he made his way through the first of the day, pausing to spit into a tissue. He didn’t remember going to bed last night and hoped he hadn’t done anything too stupid. In the front room he saw the empty crisp packets and cans of Stella. So that was where all his dole money had gone. It had been years since he left the paratroop regiment, the shrapnel in his knee still spoke to him of the weather. Here in his tiny little flat there was not much glory anymore.

When the kettle boiled, he made man coffee. It was as strong as an ox and as dark as the night. He sat on his step outside to smell the sea air and smoke some more. A pint or so later he was ready to face the world. There was a job going at Sainsbury’s for security and today he had an interview. Showered, shaved, suited and booted he now set off, wondering what sort of weak chinned school leaver was waiting to condescend him. Monitors are only dangerous to sanity he thought, no IEDs in Cardiff, well not yet at least. He wondered if he could cope with the inevitable bleep as the barcodes scanned the sheep through the tills, how long could he stay before he lost it? Strange, how it had all come to this. If only he had kept quiet.  Para Gates had gone beyond and when he came back he was changed.

Here in this plain part of the universe, he was an unemployed ex-soldier scrimping to make ends meet. When he had the money he slept with Stella and with Becks, otherwise it was Special Brew. These kept his world intact and helped him cope with the Double in him, his other self.  As he pulled into the car park, it was already busy, all buggies, died hair and fake tan. Round the back he found the entrance and reported in.

“You are a little early Mr Gates, please take a seat.   Please can we see your passport so that we can satisfy the UK Border agency requirements…..”

He handed his passport over and wondered about garrotting that boy, thinking to himself as the lad turned; “Pull up your trousers and get a haircut!!”

He looked at the date on his watch, today is a full moon and that meant much to him. He would go later to Nash Point to soak in the sea and the sound of the Atlantic, and the Irish Sea. At this time of year and at midweek it will be empty.

As he sat there listening to that clock click its fingers of eternity, the smell of the place filled his nostrils. Not one ounce of hope here, no excitement only day after day. The carpet was a little tatty and frayed at the edges. The youth had disappeared behind some screen and he could hear the strident early morning gossip from the office beyond. He didn’t care who had been on the X Factor or who had been un-friend-ed on Facebook™.  Soon he knew he had been forgotten and he started to drift.

First he felt that hint of incense on the air and then clear clean mountain air. Next, sinking into himself he began;

“gate, gate, para gate, para samgate… gate, gate, para gate, para samgate, Bodhi svaha”

A little off the main causeway to the stars in the land of Buddhi he saw the Temple steps cut into the mountain side. They were waiting for him. Now dressed in his robes and with his vajra and bell he began the procession up the hillside. They gathered in their hundreds. In file they climbed the stairway and poured into the Temple courtyard. Chanting purification he led them on. In the courtyard he paused until they all were there. Together they looked south to the snow capped Himalaya resplendent in the dazzling morning sun. When they were ready the doors to the outer chamber opened and they filed in. Some sat on mats where they belonged, few stood still. And then he moved to the white febrile door carved intricate and ivory. He opened the door and there on the dais sat Kumara and the three Buddhas. 

He brought his palms together and inclined his head in a bow. He touched his thumbs to his ajna, his mouth and his heart, Bodhi, mind and Spirit. He moved into that august place, others following him. Some took their places in the seats on the right and the left. He went forward to stand before. There in his white, white robes, he showered in the pillar of light. 

“Sit now where you belong, oh blessed one…”

The service continued all around him and when the time was right he began again, as was his custom.

“gate, gate, para gate, para samgate… gate, gate, para gate, para samgate, Bodhi svaha”

Soon the white room, his in that ineffable place, set aside from the main Temple complex, began to take shape. It was in a quiet part just to the side of the main rose garden. Soon he was in his foyer next to the marble wash basin. He washed his hands and walked past his little armoury into his room. It was just as he had remembered it, his piano, the flowers and his sleeping quarters. The windows at the end letting the light warm the tiled floor. He must dress now. His tunic white fitted snug over his mail and the blood red cross brilliant on his chest. From the cabinet he took his sword and scabbard, belting them on; he picked up his spear and held it left. Now he was ready.

He made his way into the complex. In the corridors he met Cederic his aide and batman. They embraced and hugged. Cederic’s face still bore the marks of many a campaign and so many times had they stood back to back. Cederic too wore the rosy cross and sword. Today they would meet again, the council of nine.

At that table seven were already sat with Noh at the head, our very own Gandalf the White. No one knows His name but His magnificence speaks enough, whiter than white with eyes that sparkle like nebulae. Now all seated the meeting begins.

When they were done and roles assigned it began. Down the chiselled stone corridors he and Cederic went to the antechamber door, carved of darkest wood with the crossed sword and spear emboldened out of it. The door opens and ahead is the simple altar clothed in white and crossed in red.  Before it he and Cederic halted again clasping palms together, thence to touch Bodhi, mind and Spirit. Genuflecting each drew out his sword and lay them on the floor before the altar, there to prostrate. Replacing swords in scabbards they move forward into the first hall. Together they draw and raise swords skywards. The blue flame of the One Power is virulent in the partial darkness shimmering along the length of the blades and dancing like serpents.

“Fey-da-yin! Fey-da-yin! Fey-da-yin!”

He calls into the darkness and slowly robed and hooded in grey, figures emerge out of the darkness, called to fulfil an aeonial oath.

“Fey-da-yin! Fey-da-yin! Fey-da-yin!”

The figures now congregate and as he stabs the air a host of swords join theirs to create a spark fantastic which illuminates the cavern. They come from all the bands, scattered across the universe. They come to the call of Fey-da-yin.

Collected now behind him they file into the next chamber, huge and vaulted with stall seats all around its circle circumference. Each of the grey joins his fellows and soon this room too is filled. Their numbers now are much, much larger and the place is filled with murmur and greetings.  Cederic is now seated.

He lays down the spear, touches hands together as before and prostrates. He stands holding the spear in his left hand and he cries out again:

“Fey-da-yin! Fey-da-yin! Fey-da-yin!”

The spear head now diamond bright with utter radiance illuminates the many. All around blades are drawn and raised and voices join;

“Fey-da-yin! Fey-da-yin! Fey-da-yin!”

Now we are ready.

In procession they march into the vast, vast Temple proper. At the front are the seven sitting behind the altar. He and Cederic take stage in front of the altar and before the crowd. On that marble slab lies only a single yellow rose still fresh with the morning dew.

Noh stands and approaches the altar, he turns and hands the spear to Noh’s open palms. He bows and turns on his heels to join Cederic. Together they stand side by side. As one they draw and raise The Swords of Power they show them to the crowd and call out into the cavernous expanse;

“Atl’aman, Atl’aman, Atl’aman!!”

They parade The Swords a while and then re-sheath them. Cederic takes his seat on the side of the stage. He turns to the altar and bowing receives the Spear from Noh. He turns and raises The Spear of Destiny aloft, a point of brilliance, blue-white diamonds sparkle from it and he again calls;

“Atl’aman, Atl’aman, Atl’aman!!”

walking around the stage as he does so.

When the time is right Cederic joins him and alone the two of them file out that place the way they had come. The hush envelopes them and only their steps can be heard resounding. Now they are in the corridor and alone together.

“Mr Gates, Mr Sam Gates?” he hears a voice calling. He opens his eyes.

“Mr Gates?”

“Yes, that is me..”

“I am sorry but Mr Jones, the manager, has told me that the interviews today are cancelled. We are not taking on any more staff. It’s the recession you see. Here is your passport and thank you for coming…”

He steps outside that chamber and into the fresh morning air. He lights a Marlboro and inhales. Oh well, at least he can go to Nash Point this afternoon and after that, buy some Special Brew to help him sleep and numb him for the evening’s telly.

Nansen Cuts the Cat in Two

Nansen saw the monks of the eastern and western halls fighting over a cat. He seized the cat and told the monks: “If any of you say a good word, you can save the cat.”

No one answered. So Nansen boldly cut the cat in two pieces.

That evening Joshu returned and Nansen told him about this. Joshu removed his sandals and, placing them on his head, walked out.

Nansen said: “If you had been there, you could have saved the cat.”

    Mumon’s comment: Why did Joshu put his sandals on his head? If anyone answers this question, he will understand exactly how Nansen enforced the edict. If not, he should watch his own head.

Had Joshu been there,

He would have enforced the edict oppositely.

Joshu snatches the sword

And Nansen begs for his life.



Surreal Juxtaposition

The whole Leuven trip was weird.

By this stage I had been out of academia for seven years. I was making around £15k a year doing “A” level Chemistry and Physics teaching specialising on those with learning difficulties like ADHD, Asperger’s and Dyslexia. It was weird. I had no problems with the ADHD students because I could always mange to keep their interest and use their own mental agility as a teaching aid for them.

We lived in a small farmworkers’ cottage with no double glazing, no central heating, an oil fired Rayburn stove and log burner. The farmer had many sections of tree trunk and each day in winter I would get busy with the axe.   

I had not been up to London for over five years.

The job was for GaN growth, big business for blue LEDs. I had done Ph.D. vivas for people growing this material. I applied and was invited over for an interview. I was quite surprised.

IMEC is a place where new technology is trialed and developed. In many ways it represents state of the art. There is a general rule that it is good to be prepared for an interview. So, I read many of their research papers and about 20% of their patent portfolio, both granted and in process. I was expecting a least a few technical questions.

I had a very weird dream the night of arrival but more of that later.

We set out exploring housing around Leuven and it looked good. Things were cheaper over the language frontier into the French speaking part. Leuven is really nice; we could see ourselves living there. It is well worth a visit.

The interview was secret because it was for a post that was already occupied. They hid me away alone in a portacabin. I was to be interviewed by human resources, several vice-presidents, the CTO and a very big cheese.

The interview slots were 40mins each. The big cheese was 20mins late. If I had not have needed someone to swipe me through doors, I probably would have left the building. I was not a happy bunny. She proceeded to give me an overview of their management structure. {It felt like a bit of a pitch.} Which was bloody complex. I like simple well oiled structures not complex leviathans. I said that it looked complex. Bearing in mind that I have looked into organisational structures. And before I knew it the interview was over with no single question asked.

Next up was the extrovert CTO. He proceeded to drop names even some I knew. He just kept talking. Then he gave me a tour of the clean room complex with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of kit. He said that they were having trouble with the lasers on the ASML EUV kit. I said that I might be able to help them with that having designed an EUV source.

It was a surreal juxtaposition. One day talking about first order reaction kinetics to a teenager with a huge slobbering dog under my feet at a kitchen table, the next at the cutting edge of high technology. I don’t know if I was supposed to bullshit or not. We were not on the same wavelength or even spectrum.

Then the human resources lady came in. She was ace and asked all sorts of things.

I then had lunch with the CTO in the canteen where the incumbent did not have the pay grade to go.

After lunch I spoke with several vice-presidents, who were nice and was then escorted off the premises.

I could not believe that nobody had asked me any technical questions…Bizarre city, Belgium, planet earth?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Were they afraid? Or is it customary to appoint only on CV. Odd…very

I will write up the Leuven dolphin dream tomorrow because that takes the biscuit of weirdness.

The day we were due to catch the Eurostar back. We were walking around the ornate central square in Brussels and the HR lady called on my mobile. They were not going to offer me the job. Maybe telling a big cheese their organisation is complex is not a good idea even if it is way too complex.

I had the feeling that telephone calls had been made about me, behind the scenes.

I explained later to the HR lady that I was not neurotypical and that the 20 mins delay had almost had me walking out. I really was within inches of doing that.

Elvis has left the building…

Imhotep however has not…

Past Juxtaposition

Laser Induced Plasma in a Liquid

This was an undergraduate research project using opto-acoustic and optical monitoring.

The plasma was modelled as a black body emitter.

The instrument used here was commercialised via a semicondcutor equipment manufacturer in the UK and one was made for Tokyo Electron Limited in Japan on a cash grant from them.

I designed this EUV prototype machine for Powerlase.

One of my first few papers at the Royal Institution…

My first attempt at a book…

Pig-pen Juxtaposition

Do a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics, specialize in high resolution molecular spectrosopy they said…

Read papers on Quantum Optics…for fun…

Cear out around the pond…

Get really muddy and smell like the bottom of the pond…

Me half an hour ago…before shower…there is a tangka of Bakula on this old t-shirt.

Insanity Quotes

Bunch together a group of people deliberately chosen for strong religious feelings, and you have a practical guarantee of dark morbidities expressed in crime, perversion, and insanity.

H. P. Lovecraft

For me, insanity is super sanity. The normal is psychotic. Normal means lack of imagination, lack of creativity.

Jean Dubuffet

Human beings have speculated about the relationship between inspiration and insanity for centuries.

Patty Duke

I am told that the clinical definition of insanity is the tendency to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

Stephen F. Lynch

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage.

Ambrose Bierce

The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.

Bruce Feirstein

I guess the definition of a lunatic is a man surrounded by them.

Ezra Pound

My Father had a profound influence on me. He was a lunatic.

Spike Milligan

What frightens us most in a madman is his sane conversation.

Anatole France