Of connection, reflection and complexion

What another post so soon? What’s happened to the over-worked, over-tired and over-wrought author of last month’s whinge? I hear you ask.

Well, this particular ramble comes to you largely courtesy of HM Revenue and Customs.

I’d set aside the whole of Sunday 22nd January to file my 2009/10 tax return online – an extremely responsible  whole eight days before the ‘you’re late, you’re late, for a very important date – after which we will fine you £100 – do not past go’ deadline.

But alas, I logged on only to learn that all the HMRC website would actually allow me to do that Sabbath was enter into proximity talks – accept my name, address and NI number in return for the promise of a PIN – to be sent to me by snail mail within seven days – to activate my account.

Are they over-run, I wondered, by sad wretches falling over each other in their haste to file spoof tax returns? Do groups of imposters gather together each January just for the thrill of typing in ‘DODD – KENNETH’ <return>?

‘After a while I tired of smuggling and decided to hit the department where it really hurts,’ commented Mr. H Marks…

And so I considered fashioning models of bureaucrats, ready for the day my PIN arrived, but finding myself all out of Plasticine, decided to settle for some creative recounting instead…

Of looking back at angles…

Overhanging the mantelpiece, held in suspense by a rusting chain, is an utterly utilitarian wooden-framed mirror.

I suspect it dates from the 1930s – the era when the fireplace was installed -and I know that it pre-dates me, for in days when I was even shorter, I had to tip-on-toe at the opposite side of the room just to glance my nose in it…

Just as well, perhaps, given that the only household mirror which was accessible to infants was a source of recurrent nightmares throughout my early childhood. Forget lions and witches – the root of my horror was my own reflection in the wardrobe mirror – in which I would dream-watch, night after night, as the flesh of my face first split, then liquefied and then peeled away from my skull, sloughing monstrous around my feet. Perhaps I spent too much time watching my painter and decorator dad using Nitromors… or perhaps just inhaled too deeply.

The horrors of the front room mirror – once I reached a height to balance on the grate and peep into it close-up – were comparatively minor, confined to infrequent but still earth-shattering adolescent spots and arguments about the quantity of eye make-up donned for the latest disco. Punk came as a bit of a shock to west Wales, and comparisons with pandas and polecats were probably inevitable.

These days, however – finally of a stature at which my reflection is hard to avoid – the dark rings round my eyes won’t wipe off and barely a month pogo-s by without some new furrow frowning back. It’s not the mirror’s surface which has changed – it’s mine – I have gone from being groovy to simply being grooved, and contemplate making my skincare regime one of the occasional wipe-over with Windolene…

It was the parlour mirror then, set at Goldilocks height, which saw most of my growing – at first reflecting the upper half of my ballet practice and then miming along as I sang and danced my way through the pop pap of the early seventies. And soon afterwards, it became the portal for my first dabblings with the occult…

Now in my book, mouthing midnight, candle-lit rhymes whilst eating an apple in the hope of glimpsing your true love’s reflection is hardly the first step towards necromancy. Mum was obviously less sure though, and issued dark warnings about ‘not looking too long into a mirror because you never know what you’ll see looking back…’ ‘But I didn’t see anyone,’ I offered in defence… provoking my brother to suggest – unkindly – that perhaps my future soul-mate would be even shorter than me.

Obviously encouraged though that his little sister was at last showing signs of leaving childhood behind, it was he who demonstrated to me how a mirror – held parallel to another – creates an infinity of reflection – and boy did I spend subsequent hours lost in that fascinating tunnel, straining my eyes to try to glimpse eternity.

Thirty years on, I’m still secretly convinced that there’s something odd about mirrors – something slightly sinister.  I know that in theory, light hitting them at various angles and then bouncing back off at an equal but opposite angle explains how they seem to see ‘around corners’. Intuitively though, I feel they should only be able to see what’s slap bang in front of them – and the fact that they see more disturbs me. Mind you it’s probably also pretty disturbing that I think of mirrors as ‘seeing’ at all. I blame Alice.

Reading more about the physics hasn’t helped much either…

Light hits us, apparently, at 186,000 miles per second – which is kind of scary in itself – and when it hits us, it has to go somewhere. Some will be absorbed – comparatively more if our clothes are dark or have a matt finish to them – and some will reflect off – comparatively more if we are wearing light, shiny clothes or sporting our bacofoil thought-protection helmets. Little passes through, unless we are particularly transparent characters.

The light bouncing back off us does so a bit haphazardly – our surfaces being a tad chaotic- and goes off in all directions, producing ‘diffuse reflection’. And some of it will eventually hit any mirror which is sat there watching us…

When it hits the mirror, it does three things. Firstly it starts being called an incident ray by physicists. Then it (mostly) passes through the front, transparent surface of the glass and keeps on going until it hits the layer of metal stuck – or painted – on the rear surface of the glass. When it does so, it bounces back off at the opposite angle to the one it arrived at, and becomes known as a reflective ray. And when these reflective rays reach our eyes, our brains interpret them.

This, at least, is what most accounts tell us. Then some bright spark beams at us on Horizon, telling us that when observed close up – as close up as it’s possible to get -light doesn’t travel in a predictable way at all… or actually that it sometimes does – and it sometimes doesn’t – depending on whether or not you’re watching it…

Of slits and bits…

This was discovered by studying photons – the building blips of light – in the Double Slit experiment – hopefully but unrewardingly Googled in the wee small hours by thousands of men since…

The experiment fires photons – a bit like bullets being fired from a gun – at a flat surface with two vertical slits cut through it. When only one slit is open, the photons behave predictably, passing through it in a nice orderly manner and creating a predictable, understandable, single, vertical stripe on a second flat surface set at some distance beyond the first.

When both slits are open, you might then be forgiven for expecting two vertical stripes of light to appear on the second flat surface… that the photons arrive at the slits, pass through one or the other and then arrive at their destination sorted and organised in stripes echoing the slits. But what happens in reality is that a series of dark and light stripes appear across the far surface…Why? asked the scientists… in chorus.

Well, it’s widely accepted now that although the photons start off as individual particles – and reach their destination as particles, in between, they behave as waves – somehow managing to go through both slits – and creating what is known as an ‘interference pattern’ of light and dark stripes on the far side. In fact whilst actually on their travels, they seem to stop being single particles at all, and behave as if they can pass through both slits at once.

You may, at this point, want to go fetch yourself a nice, comforting cup of tea, for what’s coming next is even weirder…

The really mind blowing bit – for me – is that when scientists tried to unpack this effect by carefully monitoring either one or both slits as single photons passed through – they stopped behaving in this wavy way. They only ever passed through one or the other, producing two nice, tidy strips of light – almost as if they knew they were under observation and had to behave themselves – then ‘woooo hooo… they’ve gone out… let’s party…’

One explanation – which fans of Schroedinger’s cat will be able to relate to – is that whilst no-one is actually watching them, there is a range of places that the – not drowning but waving – photons might be – here, there – or somewhere else completely – creating a ‘probability wave’; they are more likely to be in some places than others – for example in the light areas of the resultant interference pattern – and less likely to be in the darker areas, but until observed, they can be in all these possible places and thus pass through both slits. It’s only the observation – the actual act of monitoring them – which ‘collapses’ the probability wave and sets their position in stone.

And it’s not just photons that behave in this way – electrons and even atoms do too – indeed extrapolation on this theme has led some to surmise that only our observation of the world gives it substance – don’t blink!  Others have suggested that the universe may only actually be here (or appear to be here) because of some external presence looking on. Suddenly ‘Jesus is watching you’ becomes a tad more comforting…

The hot cup of tea, meanwhile, was immortalised by Douglas Adams in the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as the power source needed to sip-start the infinite improbability drive – the means by which the spaceship Heart of Gold travelled. If a subatomic particle is likely to be in a particular place, theorised Adams, but there is also a small possibility of it being far, far away from its point of origin – e.g. on a distant planet – in sufficiently improbable circumstances, collections of particles could, conceivably, materialise incredible distances away – but presumably only as long as no-one was watching…

Anyway, to return to the call of mirrors, due to photons needing to leave us, hit, the mirror, bounce back to our eyes and then be processed by our brains into an image, what we see in a mirror is not us as we are now, but us as we were a na-nana-nana-nasecond ago. Jumping around very fast in an attempt to catch our reflections napping is, however, unlikely to succeed.

And it is also of course not ‘us’ we see there at all, but a mirror image of ourselves which, unless we have an unusually symmetrical face, is likely to be quite different to how others see us. The easiest way to perceive this is to grab someone you know well and ask them to look into a mirror whilst you do so too. Facial movement – e.g. speaking – makes the difference even more apparent. I first became aware of quite how profound the metamorphosis can be when I accidentally caught sight of my mother in a mirror and was immediately convinced she had suffered a stroke, so changed her face seemed around the vertical midline.

And if we look carefully, we can actually see not-ourselves – or not someone else – twice

For as well as the main reflection produced by the light hitting the metal at the back of the glass, a certain amount of reflection happens when the light hits the glass’ front surface, producing a spectral, second image which you can see quite clearly if you look at your extended fingers in front of a dark background. Being generated closer to you, the ghost image is slightly bigger than the other, creating an ‘aura’ effect.

You can also have fun, incidentally, trying to work out why you’re mirrored the right way up in the convex back of a spoon but upside-down in its bowl – go see if you don’t believe me – or trying to touch the reflection of your own fingertip in the mirror… Careful not to break it though… for we all know the consequences of doing so.

Of roots and routes…

Where do they stem from though? Well, ask Google and it will tell you – repeatedly – that the ‘seven years’ bad luck’ superstition has its roots in Roman times. Mirrors, we are told, were thought to reflect the soul… breaking one damaged both glass and geist, and as it took seven years for the body to regenerate, one would not be free of the dire consequences for that period. Medicus Quisnam was presumably a long, drawn out TV series in those days…

None of the repeated references quote a source though, and so I will be forced to (almost) ignore them. Citation needed, as Wikipedia would put it…

Besides, it feels instinctively wrong to me. The earliest mirrors were made almost exclusively from polished metal or stone. Fragile glass mirrors were only just starting out life in 1st Century Rome and their ownership would have been anything but widespread. How likely is it that the (10? 100? 1000?) owners would gather together and devise such a complex superstition about a new invention?

In fact the first recorded reference to breaking a mirror being unlucky at all dates from 1777 – just a year or two after the decline of the Roman Empire – but at a time when the ownership – and thus breakage – of mirrors would have been a little less unusual amongst the shattering classes.

In those early days however there was no mention of the seven year hitch… ‘The Breaking a Looking Glass is accounted a very unlucky accident. Mirrors were formerly used by Magicians in their superstitious and diabiolical Operations; and there was an antient Kind of Divination by the Looking Glass. Hence it should seem the present popular notion’ says John Brand in his Popular antiquities of Great Britain. Faiths and Folklore: Including the Whole of Mr. Bourne’s Antiquitates Vulgares.

 

‘Ah but,’ I hear you say – ‘he includes it – in 1777 – in a book of antiquities’ well yes he does, and oh that he had referenced his source. I can’t of course prove that it doesn’t date back to ancient Rome – I just ask you to consider the likelihood of it so doing, given the evidence available to us.

 

Between 1777 and 1850, a seven year stretch of misfortune might seem like Community Service compared to the alternatives: ‘a mortality in the family’ (Grose, 1787), ‘lose his best friend’ (Ibid), ‘“The curse has come upon me” cried the lady of Shallott’ (Tennyson 1832) – and her in that nice white frock too…

It’s not until 1851 that Sternberg records in The Dialogue and Folklore of Northamptonshire’ that ‘The breakage portends death or bad luck, limited according to some, for seven years’. Limited for seven years? I think I’ll settle for Mau Mau…

Mirror-associated superstitions with even shorter recorded pedigrees counsel variously: that mirrors should be covered when a death occurs, lest the soul become trapped therein (1786 – Gough – Sepulchral Monuments II), that babies should not be allowed to look in a mirror before the age of one (1851 – Sternberg -Ibid), that it is unlucky for a bride to see herself fully dressed for her wedding in a mirror (1861 – Notes & Queries 2nd Series Volume XII), that mirrors in sick rooms should be covered (1888 – Folklore journal), against looking in a mirror after dark lest a strange face peer over your shoulder (1899 – Newcastle Weekly Chronicle and 1978 – Jude’s Mum), that mirrors should be covered during thunderstorms (1900 – Notes & Queries 9th Series, Volume VII) and that two people looking into a mirror at the same time will surely quarrel (1923 – gathered orally – Ruishdon, Somerset) – not much contentment for hairdressers then…

Earlier written sources however concentrate on the use of mirrors for divination and prophecy – a window on other times and far-away places: ‘For we know in part, and we prophesy in part… For now we see through a glass, darkly’ (1 Corinthians 13: 9, 12), ‘This mirrour eek, that I have in myn hond,  Hath swich a myght, that men may in it see Whan ther shal fallen any adversitee’ (1390 – Chaucer – The Squire’s Tale), ‘Others are so framed, as therein one may see what others doo in places far distant… There be glasses also, wherein one man may see another man’s image, and not his owne’ (1584 – Scot – Discoverie of Witchcraft XIII).

One Mris Bodnam, of Fisherton Anger (a poor woman who taught children to reade) was tryed for a witch at Salisbury… and executed… Evidence against her was that she did tell fortunes, and shewed people visions in a glasse, and that a maid saw the devill with her’ (1686 – Aubrey – Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme), ‘a very proud Maid… who running to the looking glass to view herself , as soon as ever she came home from hearing a sermon upon a Sabbath-Day, she though with her self that she saw the Devil…’ (1691 – Athenian Mercury 4 July)

This switch in the common beliefs recorded – changing from ‘factual’ accounts of a magical world inhabited by witches, daemons and spirits to collections of quaint and often moralistic ‘folk’ notions gathered together by antiquarians – mirrors, in turn, the changing intellectual atmosphere of the 18th Century, when rationalism, enlightenment and science began to challenge superstition.

You didn’t of course have to have a mirror to reflect upon the meanings of reflections – water, wine, sherry, oil, ink, glass, crystal, metal, polished stone – even a fingernail coated with dark oil – have been used to seek out visions past and future, In fact all you need is something shiny and either translucent or dark – there’s no use scrying over spilled milk…

Of beryl and peril…

Etymologically, ‘scry’ is thought to be rooted in the Latin describere – to describe. It travelled from there – via the old French descrier – to become descry – to see or discern – around 1300. The actual word ‘scry’ first appeared in print in the 1520s.

Two polished stones particularly favoured for scrying were black, opaque obsidian and light, translucent beryl.

John Aubrey – the antiquarian who gave his name to the Aubrey Holes at Stonehenge – devoted a whole section of his ‘Miscellanies upon Various Subjects’ (1696) to ‘Visions in a Beryl or Crystal’: Forgive me that in quoting some extracts from it below I have actually removed most of his (very many) references to his sources in the interests of readability – the complete text is available online  for anyone wishing to delve deeper.

Beryl is a kind of Crystal that hath a weal tincture of red; it is one of the twelve stones mentioned in the Revelation. I have heard that spectacles were first made of this stone, which is the reason that the Germans do call a spectacle-glass (or pair of spectacles) a Brill…

 

The Prophets had their seers, viz. young youths who were to behold those visions…
The magicians now use a crystal sphere, or mineral pearl for this purpose, which is inspected by a boy, or sometimes by the querent himself. There are certain formulas of prayer to be used, before they make the inspection, which they term a call…

 …A consecrated Beryl… which I saw… came first from Norfolk; a minister had it there, and a call was to be used with it. Afterwards a miller had it, and both did work great cures with it, (if curable) and in the Beryl they did see, either the receipt in writing, or else the herb… Afterwards this Beryl came into some-body’s hand in London, who did tell strange things by it; insomuch that at last he was questioned for it, and it was taken away by authority….

This Beryl is a perfect sphere, the diameter of it I guess to be something more than an inch: it is set in a ring, or circle of silver resembling the meridian of a globe: the stem of it is about ten inches high, all gilt. At the four quarters of it are the names of four angels, viz. Uriel, Raphael, Michael, Gabriel….


 

 A clothier’s widow of Pembridge in Herefordshire, desired… one of the canons of the church to look over her husband’s writings after his decease: among other things he found a call for a crystal. The clothier had his cloths oftentimes stolen from his racks; and at last obtained this trick to discover the thieves. So when he lost his cloths, he went out about midnight with his crystal and call, and a little boy, or little maid with him (for they say it must be a pure virgin) to look in the crystal, to see the likeness of the person that committed the theft….’ CCTV has made life so much simpler…

Aubrey, incidentally, died of apoplexy – a condition that might cause us to reflect that he could have done with a pair of those rose-tinted German specs himself. Apoplexy in former times however described not the outrage we associate it with today, but a sudden loss of consciousness or internal haemorrhage, as might be associated with a stroke, aneurism or heart attack. Other deaths attributed to apoplexy include those of Charles II, Al Capone, Catherine the Great, Flaubert, Mendelssohn, Rousseau, Robert Louis Stevenson, Louisa M Alcott and Alois Hitler, father to little Addy – fifteen years too late.

Aubrey’s mention of a pure young boy or girl being employed to peer into the crystal is echoed in Hazlitt’s Dictionary of Faith and Folklore (1905), quoting Francis Grose’s account of a ‘Berryl’ needing to be used ‘by means of a speculator or seer, who, to have complete sight ought to be a pure virgin, a youth who had not known woman, or at least a person of irreproachable life, and purity of manners.’ Not much seeing in Swansea, then…

Of fire and Burns…

Grose in turn is quoting Lilly – i.e. William Lilly, the celebrated 17th Century Astrologer and as ‘Merlinus Anglicus’ – the English Merlin – author of bestselling almanacs. Trying to both run with the Royalists and hunt with the Roundheads, Lilly was no stranger to controversy – in 1645 he faced the Parliamentary Committee of Examinations having lent his support to army complaints about pay and conditions and in 1652 found himself behind bars for predicting that the people would overthrow the new Government. I tell myself, optimistically, that perhaps he was just 360 years out…

Then in October 1666, he ended up having to give evidence to a special Committee of the House of Commons trying to counter suspicion that he had been instrumental in starting the Great Fire of London.

For Lilly had, fourteen years previously, produced a work called ‘Monarchy or No Monarchy in England’ containing what he later described as a ‘hieroglyphic’ predicting the fire.

Having found, Sir, that the City of London should be sadly afflicted with a great plague, and not long after with an exorbitant fire, I framed these two hieroglyphics as represented in the book, which in effect have proved very true...’ he told the Committee. He denied however any foresight into when this would happen: asked if he had known in which year the fire would break out, he replied ‘I did not, or was desirous. Of that I made no scrutiny’.

In his autobiography he recalls ‘I was timerous of Committees being ever by some of them calumniated, upbraided, scorned and derided’ – and having once been called upon myself to give evidence to a Commons Select Committee, I empathise with his timerousness. Indeed just the setting of the Palace of Westminster is enough to inspire awe: although you know it’s a day for detailed discourse, not sound bites, you cannot help but feel the hand of history on your shoulder…

Presumably Lily though was innocent of basing predictions of imminent destruction on the plagiarised work of a postgraduate and the reminiscence of a taxi driver – ‘yeah – just 45 minutes to deploy them they said… and I said nah, I ain’t goin’ saath a’ the river this time of night…’: such a terrible, costly lesson in the importance of at least being sure of your sources, if not revealing them.

Grose, meanwhile – another eventual victim of an apoplectic fit – seems to have found the Goldilocks ‘just right’ approach of balancing information with citation in his writings: ‘This work, which was executed with accuracy and elegance, soon became a favourite with the public at large, as well as with professed antiquaries, from the neatness of the embellishments, and the succinct manner in which he conveyed his informationcomments Chalmers of his ‘Antiquities of England and Wales’ in the General Biographical Dictionary of 1814.

It would seem that the quality of Grose’s verbal discourse matched that of his writing: ‘for these two months, I am intimately acquainted with him; and I have never seen a man of more original observation, anecdote and remark’ wrote Robert Burns in 1789, encountering Grose whilst he was collecting material for his follow-up work – the ‘Antiquities of Scotland’.

Burns’ esteem was to last – indeed outlast Grose himself – moving him to pen a song, ‘Ken ye ought o’ Captain Grose?’, a poem ‘On The Late Captain Grose’s Peregrinations Thro’ Scotland’and a humorous epigram:

On Captain Francis Grose

 

The Devil got notice that Grose was a-dying,
So whip! at the summons, old Satan came flying;
But when he approach’d where poor Francis lay moaning,
And saw each bed-post with the burthen a-groaning,
Astonish’d, confounded, cries Satan :- ‘ By God,
I’d want him ere take such a damnable load!’


 

And it was also thanks to Grose that we can today enjoy one of Burn’s best known poems – Tam o’ Shanter – Grose agreeing to include a drawing of Alloway Kirk in his second volume of the ‘Antiquities of Scotland’ if Burns provided a tale to go with it.

And quite a tale it is – a tale of a tail – detailing Tam’s successful escape from the grasp of a witches’ coven discovered dancing in the church – in spite of his inebriation and immoral thoughts connected to one of the leaping ladies’ ‘cutty sark’ – i.e. short underskirt – and the bits of her left revealed. In fact it rather puts the ‘im’ in morality tale – but then its author is Burns by name, smouldering by nature.

‘Among the many witch stories I have heard relating to Alloway Kirk, I distinctly remember only two or three…’ he writes to Grose…

 

‘The farmer stopping his horse to observe them a little, could plainly discern the faces of many old women of his acquaintance and neighbourhood. How the gentleman (the devil) was dressed, tradition does not say; but the ladies were all in their smocks; and one of them happening unluckily to have a smock which was considerably too short to answer all the purpose of that piece of dress, our farmer was so tickled that he involuntarily burst out, with a loud laugh, ‘Weel luppen, Maggy wi’ the short sark!’ and recollecting himself, instantly spurred his horse to the top of his speed.

I need not mention the universally known fact, that no diabolical power can pursue you beyond the middle of a running stream.


 

Lucky it was for the poor farmer that the river Doon was so near, for notwithstanding the speed of his horse, which was a good one, against he reached the middle of the arch of the bridge and consequently the middle of the stream, the pursuing, vengeful hags were so close at his heels, that one of them actually sprung to seize him: but it was too late; nothing was on her side of the stream but the horse’s tail, which immediately gave way to her infernal grip, as it blasted by a stroke of lightning; but the farmer was beyond her reach. However, the unsightly, tailless condition of the vigorous steed was to the last hours of the noble creature’s life, an awful warning to the Carrick farmers, not to stay too late in Ayr markets.’

picture of Cutty Sark figurehead from Wiki commons

Of picking and pictures…

I must, though, take issue with one of the subsequent poem’s couplets: ‘But pleasures are like poppies spread: You seize the flower, its bloom is shed’. Burns, it seems, had never come across a means of picking – and even transporting – poppies which enables the recipients to marvel not only at their fragility but also at their ‘pop’.

Freshly picked in fully swelled bud – preferably with a hint of petal peeping – the secret is to hold their severed stems in a flame – or boiling water – for thirty seconds or so… all the time apologising to them, of course.

I first discovered what put the pop in poppy when confined to the horizontal by a slipped disc in Yorkshire. My mother – my glorious, imaginative, beautifully mad mother – decided she wanted to share her poppies with her daughter – by post. And days later, there I lay, 250 miles away, listening to them shed, one by one, their convex girdles, watching as the sun lit their slowly unfurling underskirts. Cutty ones at that…

It was also Burns, I discover, who first recorded the rite I indulged in in my teens – in notes to accompany his poem ‘Halloween’: ‘Take a candle and go alone to a looking-glass; eat an apple before it, and some traditions say you should comb your hair all the time; the face of your conjungal companion, to be, will be seen in the glass, as if peeping over your shoulder.—R. B.’

And his compatriots – so I recently learned – are responsible for giving the English language the word ‘smashing’ – not smashing as in what one might accidentally do to a mirror, but smashing as in ‘great’ or ‘wonderful’. It comes, so I am told, from ‘s math sin – pronounced ‘smashin’ – and meaning ‘that’s good’.

It was thanks to Scotland, too, that I recently got to grips with a now only new-ish camera. An all singing, all dancing SLR, it had sat in its case largely unused for two years whilst I wrinkled my nose at it. Theoretically more pixie-filled than fairyland – and offering me f-stops beyond my wildest dreams even in my favourite low-light conditions – the shots I took with it were almost invariably disappointing: grainy old things that frankly failed to impress.

Until one particularly dark northern morning when I decided that I’d better change the ISO – or equivalent of film ‘speed’ from my usual 100 to something a little faster – and discovered, in so doing, that since receipt I had been taking photographs with the ISO set to automatically adjust. No wonder I was being offered f-stops higher than I ever imagined possible – the camera was merely compensating for my demands on its focal depth by making its film equivalent run faster, faster, faster…

And I learned something else during my Scottish trip – not to be confused with the Scottish Trip where, every couple of years, the Welsh rugby team and quite a high proportion of the population venture to Edinburgh – some of them to Murrayfield but most of them simply to pubs, more interested in the water of life than the Water of Leith. I learned the beauty of lochs.

Lakes, on the whole, don’t do it for me – whatever their nationality. Take me to Bala and I want to catch the bus back. I adore the Lake District, but for its wind-blown peaks and outcrops, not its waters. And similarly, in Scotland, I’d previously viewed lochs largely as a slate-grey impediment to travel – a liquid-enforced long way round. Perhaps it’s due to my having spent most of my days in Pembrokeshire – a glorious jut into the Irish Sea, where ebbing and flowing light and tide sigh of infinite variety.

This Scottish trip though, a stillness not previously encountered there descended, turning lochs’ lapping monotony into vast reflective sheets, ready for imprinting by the majesty above. And I became Narcissus, transfixed.

May all your reflections becalm…

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~ by Jude on February 15, 2011.

2 Responses to “Of connection, reflection and complexion”

  1. ~smiles~
    Two posts in such a short span! I feel like I have had two feasts in a short month!
    ~laughing~
    I am still bemused as how you segued from taxes to mirrors, I have read this twice, and unless it was the said ” grooves in the face” caused by taxes? I can only assume!
    I love burns, so my heart did a merry dance at all the references, and did you know that if you walk up to a two-way mirror, you can in fact touch your reflection? ~scratches head~ now I am wondering how exactly that might work in all that bouncing, obviously the transparent layer has something to do with it all!
    The lochs are lovely, peaceful and sublime.
    A wonderful trip?
    Thank you as always for the foray!

  2. *smiles back*
    Thank you as always for reading… you’re always so kind…
    I have, I must admit, surprised myself by blogging again so soon – hence my feeling the need to explain my output before continuing my journey around the room, around the houses etc. Perhaps I should introduce a ‘challenge Jude’ element – inviting readers to nominate an utterly random subject to be somehow incorporated in my next blog?
    You can’t beat Burns for joie de vivre… My mother was given a volume by an admirer when young, with the corner of the page ‘My Luve’ turned down. In fact it still is today…
    And yes – that’s how to work out if a mirror IS actually watching you isn’t it – seeing if you can touch your reflection? I understand that extinguishing the lights on the mirrored side – or cupping your hands to the glass to block out light – will also sometimes reveal light and shapes on the other side… of the mirror that is *wink*

    Thank you again…

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