Sunday, July 09, 2017

Rain, sun and lunch!


Each time I took a breath going upwards towards the school end of my local pool I noticed the sky.  At first it was a light lilac, then it went to a grubby bluey-grey and finally it took on the appearance of the sort of sky that they use as a backdrop for those dystopian, Armageddon-like total disaster movies that at least take your mind away from what the 45th POTUS might or might not be doing.  Then the first fat drops of rain began to fall.

It’s an odd experience swimming in the rain.  I am always amused by a shower of rain on the beach: there is instant evacuation as if the liquid that is falling (and in which of course they have been bathing) has suddenly taken on corrosive acidic properties and precautions must be taken.  Given where we live, fairly near a very large city and on the flight path of a busy airport, I would not be at all surprised to find out that our rain is anything but Ph. neutral - but generally all we worry about is getting wet.  Even when getting wet is something that we had been doing a few minutes previously.

But rain in an official swimming pool is different.  There is a different quality to drops of falling rain on skin to the splash of a passing swimmer.  And anyway, experiencing rain in a commercial swimming pool is a limited pleasure because Health and Safety regulations indicate that rain will affect the safety mixture in the water and consequently, as with our pool, the roof has to be closed.

As our Russian-doll roof structure began its slow progress enclosing the pool, we were able to go from outside and the rain, to inside and the gloom in a single length.  Luckily I had virtually finished my swim when the shower ended, and by that time the moveable structure had just aligned itself with the exit and so I was able to move seamlessly to my shower and my eventual cup of tea.

I dried off the water on my café chair with my towel and was quite happily imbibing in the threatening gloom when it started to rain again.  The cloud cover look as though it would quite easily be able to sustain  showers and downpours for the foreseeable future so I gave in to Nature and moved to a giant parasol (what irony!) protected table and sulked notes into my trusty jottings book.

But this is Spain.  A visit to the Birthday Girl in Terrassa and by the time we came back the sun was out and, even with odd clouds, all was well with the world and sunbathing was a possibility.

And that is what I love about living here: we do not have the sort of spiteful weather that cursed my life in the UK.  The sort of threatening clouds that I swam under in the morning could easily have accompanied my exercise for the next fortnight in Britain - but in Spain it is an isolated day when you do not get at least a sight of sunshine during it!  Yes, Spain, and Catalonia are not as green as Britain.  You have to go to a region like Galicia in the north west of the country for the lush greenness that Brits might recognize.  But I am content with a certain degree of aridity and the sight of the sun.


I was beset with a lingering malaise of indolence and so decided (because I can) not to go for my swim today.  I suppose the idea was that I had thought that preparing, going, swimming, changing and tea drinking took up such a disproportionate amount of my time, I wanted to get settled into some sort of academic activity without the distraction of swimming to act as displacement activity.  Needless to say such laudable motivations did not translate into actuality and what I actually did was have a cup of tea, do the Guardian quick crossword and read further information about the Antikythera mechanism.

I think that there are two approaches to the acquisition of knowledge not previously known: the first, is one of sheer delight in discovering new areas of understanding that were previously blank; the second is a deep sense of shame that one didn’t know about it previously.

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The Antikythera (I love the sound of the word anti-kith-ar-ee-ah, it is the sort of word you can roll around your mouth) Mechanism, falls securely into the second category.

An account of what the ancient shipwreck offered historians may be found here: and you can tell that I have been doing courses in the Open University because I did not give you a Wikipedia entry first!

This ancient shipwreck has been described as the most astonishing archaeological discovery of the twentieth century, or indeed of the twenty-first century - the discovery of what might truly be called the mechanism of the first computer ever discovered, dating from some two thousand years ago!

And I had never heard of it!

I am not saying that I am the datum point of common knowledge, but surely something this astonishing and revolutionary should have impinged on my rag-bag accretion of general knowledge at some time since its discover in the early 1900s?

With the discovery of early ‘technology’ I am always reminded of the invention of the first voice recorder.  The mechanism and the raw materials and the whole technology while put together for the first time in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, were actually available in Classical times!  A way of recording the voice could have been available during the time of Christ, and we could have heard the last words from the cross or the text of the sermon on the mount as they were spoken.  But the machine was not invented and we didn’t.

The sophistication of the Antikythera Mechanism was around over a millennium before its next iteration!

And I knew nothing about it!  What shame!

Guns, Germs and Steel 

It is at times like this that I am reminded of my first reading of Jared Diamond’s book, Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years, where a revolutionary world view disrupts conventional acceptance.  This book is constantly revelatory and, rather like one of my tutors in university, constantly says things that you should have thought previously!  The sort of things that are blindingly obvious as soon as they have been articulated, but you need their help to get there!  Diamond’s book (as indeed are the works of M Wynn Thomas  are wholeheartedly recommended.

And now I shall echo Osvald’s plea, “Mother give me the sun!” - though, I am glad to say in rather different circumstances, and I will only retire to a sun lounger rather than the murderous ministrations of a mother!

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