Amusing encounter…

When exiting a pub in Keswick (Lake District) at the weekend, I walked headlong into a blind man and his Alsatian guide dog who were heading into the pub. He laughed and apologised, then told me, “Sorry, I’m following the dog; he never misses a pub!”


Welcome to Mental Indigestion….

Not sure how you’ve arrived here? I set up a DNS forward from my old ‘time to waste’ blog. You will find all the content from that blog in this blog. In fact, there is very little difference, other than that the name and domain of my blog now match.

I have every intention of up-scaling my coverage of science, which will be in bite-sized pieces to help prevent mental indigestion. So if anyone is suffering with brain biliousness and needs an intellectual Alka-Seltzer, then you’ve come to the right place.


Oh those bishops…

Today in the Guardian the religious affairs correspondent reported, with what I hope is apparent irony, yet another absurd statement issued by a subset of the Catholic church. It seems that at the recent Conference of Catholic Bishops in the USA have issued a warning to healthcare workers and chaplains about the dangers of reiki, an alternative Japanese therapy, describing it as lacking scientific credibility and that it could expose people to malevolent forces.

The church’s guidelines apparently state:

A Catholic who puts his or her trust in reiki would be operating in the realms of superstition, the no man’s land that is neither faith nor science. Superstition corrupts one’s worship of God by turning one’s religious feeling and practice in a false direction.

The Catholic church, apparently having no sense of irony, but demonstrating apt use of semantics, clearly feels superstition is a dirt word.

All I can say is that when the Catholic bishops truly understand why they cannot accept any other superstition, they will understand why I don’t accept theirs.

Short stories…


I AM in the process of preparing to move my files to my new Macbook, once it arrives, but stumbled upon some old prose I prepared for a creative writing class; I never attended more than one session in the end and thus have not found found a style of writing I like. I chose to write an excerpt of a potential fantasy novel, but couldn’t really get in the mood. I have every intention of writing a work of contemporary fantasy at some point in my life, but at the moment I’d rather focus on science writing. Anyway, because I was amused by the rather kitch style of it, and because I could barely remember writing it, I’ve decided to post it.

Creative writing class No. 2

A fresh mountain breeze caught the rich scent of wetted soil, carrying it high into the forest canopy where a child slept. The girl, a small, wiry, and feral slip of a thing had taken refuge under the eaves of the old Oak before the bruised sky delivered its promise of rain. She’d spent the day sitting on the sun-baked, hollow-sounding earth of the hillside below, ignoring the pleas of the over-dry, and now crushed, grass, despite the actions of relentless pin sharp blades poking through the rough material of her clothing. Other thoughts filled the girls mind; thoughts unbidden and unwanted. A rumble had stirred her to reality and she’d climbed up the knarled and forgotten tree to take shelter.

The breeze was warm, despite the lateness of the day; it was early summer and the ground was drying rapidly. Small motes floating on the air gently tickled at the girls face; she sneezed and abruptly fell from her rest atop the branches and hit the matted undergrowth beneath with a resounding thump. Startled birds and animals fled the intrusion, a clattering of hooves, panicked cries and flapping wings. The girl rolled onto her side, attempting to recover her wind whilst trying to remember where she was. She curled up into a sitting position, hugging her knees; the world had returned to her all too suddenly, bringing with it memories of events she’d been running from. Her peaceful haven had once again been taken from her. It was time to move on.

The sun had long since set by the time she’d escaped the mountain forest and descended into the open planes, but the night fell slowly in these lands, the light lingering whilst shadows grew longer and longer until they merged. From her earlier viewpoint she’d imagined that she would have enough time to reach home by nightfall, a trek across fields to a tree bounded river that lead from the mountains to the brackish water of the fens, her home; she was one of the few who could be out at night, capable of resisting the taunts of fell creatures that wrapped themselves in darkness. Still, she always preferred to be in a familiar surrounding come the dusk, in the barrow that her family had claimed several centuries earlier, days she remembered well, despite her youthful appearance.

The first cry of a Haldan Crow signalled that darkness was upon her, it had overtaken her as she walked, too buried in thoughts to notice. Haldan Crows were a minor pest, but insignificant to the girl; she had sufficient talent to ward herself against them. But they heralded greater, darker beings, beings who could challenge her, even someone of her race who were of these lands and as old as any creature roaming the old world. She hurried, and using some of her talent to fashion a shroud from the mist rising above the cooling river, vanished into the night.

Watching from a distance, from beneath the knarled Oak where the small girl had taken rest, a woman stood. She’d watched the child fall from the tree and had been bemused at the sight; a Knowling girl being caught off guard, vulnerable and clumsy; she never thought to see such a thing.

Continue reading “Short stories…”


I used to subscribe to the excellent periodical NewStatesman, but seeing as I can read it for free at uni, I stopped my subscription. Since then I have received a regular stream of mail shots bearing offerings of cheap re-subscription deals. I usually file them in the bin without reading, but the most recent one caught my attention for their slack grammar [sic]:

With the global banking system in its worst state for decades, with its effects now hitting the real world…the newly elected US President Obama having to cope with massive voter expectations…ongoing conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan plus horrific scenes in Africa…not to mention food and energy price hikes, global warming and the increasing energy demands of China and the other emerging powers…

Call me fastidious, but what’s with all the ellipses? I know they’re trying to give it an off-the-tongue/live news feed feel, but it’s not necessary; it’s not like they’re quoting from actual articles, thus it’s just a slack way of constructing an information rich paragraph without bothering to punctuate.