Thursday, November 30, 2017

Flight lines...

It all started out so predictably.

Waiting around for the boarding announcement.

Queueing for boarding by rows.

Showing identity and smartphone with flash-code.

Falling over my sodding suitcase on wheels.

At last, I was walking down the ramp towards the stationary Airbus 320 destination Corsica.

On entering the plane, it was apparent that this was no ordinary flight.

Indeed, this was a very particular flight.

I did notice that the air hostesses and stewards were peculiarly attired.

Regulation uniform had been hidden beneath crudely drawn, hurriedly personalised t shirts.

While their greeting on board was pretty customary, it was clear that their minds just weren't  on the job.

Something bigger than uniform, function and role was visibly bursting out - attachment, nostalgia, thrill, warmth, every day  human emotion.

On sitting down in our under-sized seats, on attaching our seatbelts we were introduced into a pop-up theatre of humanity.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, this flight is a very special occasion for our friend and colleague Poppy (we shall call her remembrance)...after 20 years of loyal service she is giving up her job as an air hostess to change her life."

At the end of the announcement quasi-spontaneous (rather forced) applause broke out around the aircraft.

"Hurrah for Poppy."

The air-safety instructions delivered mechanically beneath a silly t shirt, gaudy head-antenna and glitter were an event too exceptional for me not to note.

I took a photo of the steward's performance.

The steward in the steward immediately came towards me, stood over me and demanded that I delete the offending photo.

"Taking photos is against the rules." he said sternly.

I couldn't not agree with him on a number of levels.

First: I was unable to ask permission before hand. He could quite rightly find that a rude imposition.

Second: I was treating him as an object. (actually it was the strange juxtaposition of discourses which fascinated me).

Third: He had no means of knowing whether I might, not only steal his image, but spread it on social media.

Fourth: The celebration for Poppy, the applause, the silly t shirts may not have been officially sanctionned. Any photo of their transgression might have resulted in punnishment for the perpetrators of the celebrations for Poppy's farewell flight.

I deleted the offending photo...sheepishly.

What I didn't mention to the steward was that I hadn't taken one photo....I had taken two.

During the flight, I felt a moral dilemna: I wondered whether I should confess to the man, ask forgiveness (again) and explain what I wanted to do with the photo, ask for assent, or delete it before his eyes, thank him, and wish him well.

There was at no moment any untransactional dialogue between him and I.

During the flight, it was all steward-speak:

"Would you like savoury or sweet snack?"

"No we don't have any tonic water."

"Thank you."

"Bye bye."

He was much too taken up with his "hen-flight" celebrations to be bothered to speak to me when I stepped off the plane.

I decided to keep the photo.

On leaving the plane, there were the air-crew, champagne in hand,  taking selfies of each other in their glitter glasses, and t shirts with red hearts on them.

Was the fancy dress for Poppy or for the passengers?

I struggle to untie the ethics.

  • As passengers, we had no choice but to accept the Poppy theatre.
  • As passengers, we were a captive audience to the aircrew's celebration.
  • As passengers, we were expected to participate more as a back-drop - as  extras to their party, than invitees.

We were being reduced to the role of audience on reality TV.

On arriving the airport, I went to seek a means of escape.

My connecting flight being in a few hours, I walked up and down trailing my baggage, looking for a bus, taxi, pavement (sidewalk).

I was confronted by transport desert.

Et merde.

I resigned myself to a long stay in the airport.

No transport, rubbish souvenir shop, low battery.

It's extraordinary how electric sockets become oasis in transport desert.

I found the shortest charging cable known to modern man or woman or wilerbeast in a combination safe on a wall.

Who invented that beauty?


No movable chairs. None. Only fixed chairs. Only fixed metal uncomfortable chairs.

A woman helpfully suggested that I might leave my phone in the safe to charge.

She didn't understand my plight.

I wanted to use the bloody phone to release my soul purgatory not lock it up in a box.

I sat uncomfortably, at an angle on my suitcase, my back suffering, my head throbbing at their fucking security messages which were every ten minutes.

"Your suitcase will be taken away and destroyed if left unattended."

I couldn't leave the suitcase unattended cos it was the thing I was sitting on.

As the time ticked by the onslaught of their loudspeakers drove me progressively madder.

Thank God for "Hyperspektiv" app which is a means of expressing dynamic paranoia like no other.

Hyperspektiv, PicPlayPost,  iMovie,  hours of sitting in alienating airport, bored, Audiocopy, Dynamite...BOOM!!!!!

I noted today in the Guardian that the prisoners of Guantanamo have an art exhibition going on in New York.

The article was entitled:


Well fuck yes.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Who buys the ferryman?

Everything was going to plan.

The suitcase was ready, the washbag packed, the papers checked, the boarding card downloaded.

I stepped across the thresh-hold and was hit by a gust of cold air.

The low-slung black-cab drew up, the boot opened...

I stepped down to sit on the leather seats and almost found myself sliding off onto the floor.

It was a new car.

The driver glanced back, checked the final instructions:

"Go to the end of the street, turn hard right, cross the main road, and then continue up there."

After passing the lights halting the absent dawn traffic we arrived in front of the gates.

We waited.
We waited.
We waited.

No colleague.

Telephone call.

"I am still in bed. I am really sorry. What do I do?"

"Try getting up and getting dressed." I offered helpfully...

All of this...this unexpected diversion, the emotion in the air, broke the scripted discourse.

Plan, phone, park, put bags in car, pointless pitiful...patter...paying...parting...(de)parture....

"It's cold, isn't it." "It's early, isn't it." "Can I have a receipt?"  "Thanks." "Have a nice flight." "Bye."

I and Charon (let's call him that) were brought together.

We spoke of how paying passengers abused their roles.

Who buys the ferryman?

"It's cold, turn up the heater. It's too hot now, turn down the heater. Change the music. I hate music."

They would do well to wonder who the driver is.

They would do well to wonder who the driver might be for their last flight.

They might seek more humility.

"People don't understand the work of a taxi driver." he said.

"We are like psychologists." he said.

"People open up to us."

"People tell us all sorts of things."

We spoke of constraint and separation, of birth, life, and death.

We spoke of the desire of the young to depart the home, the desire of parents to maintain control beyond the door.

"I fell out with my parents," he said.

"I found myself sleeping for nights in my car...alone."

We spoke of these liminal rides.

Who pays the ferryman?

I thanked him for the moment that we had spent together.

We shook hands warmly.

There was a feeling of mutual respect.

He disappeared into the night.

Meanwhile, my colleague had arrived.

We spoke on the phone.

Her baggage was oversized for the cabin.

She was terribly apologetic.

They wouldn't let her onto the plane.

"There are a number of ways of seeing it." I said.

"You are upset that you missed the flight."

"If this plane falls out of the sky, you will evoke divine intervention."

 I was caught between facile phrase and anxiety an instant.

Monday, November 13, 2017


I am up too early in the morning, juggling
in my head.

This is what researching complexity does to you  - you find yourself with two many balls spinning around in your brain.

Fuck it.

I dropped an F word.

I have diminished responsibility.


Some of those balls have been thrown into the air by others.

Stop it, stop it, bloody stop it.

There it is.

I dropped a B word.

It's your fault.

There are too many of them now.

All at once.


I dropped a D word.

I keep trying, but I need to practice more to keep it up.


Damn that Nietzshe.

What was it Sarah was saying the other day?

She had dream dialogues with a dead German philosopher.

Well as long as he left her to sleep and he didn't wake her up.

I am beyond dreaming.

I am regretfully awake.

At half past four in the morning.

I woke up to go and paste the juggling photo on a conference presentation.

That's what was keeping me up.

Up till midnight transcribing a conversation with a young teacher in a bar.

What was it that he said at the beginning of the dialogue?


Then the conversation went on for another fifty two minutes.


I have done eleven minutes of transcription.

It took me an hour.


So here I am.

I have all these bloody balls in my head.

Some of them are nodes on networks - people, stories, discourses, smartphones, classrooms.

Others are spread out over time.

Others you need a zoom lens to see and study.

I have turned into some sort of biologist with a microscope.

I have turned into some sort of naturalist in a hide listening to bird song, watching a fox, watching an owl, watching a boar eating acorns, watching me, watching me.

I keep my head low, I wear camouflage for fear that I will disturb the wildlife.

Is this my bloody hide?

It will get me skinned.

Touches of sense?

Touches of madness rather.

It was Waldrop that set it off.

Well he dropped a bloody ball.

Well have to blame somebody.

And muggins here picked it up.

And now it's spinning around in my head.

At dawn.



"The edge of chaos, the constantly shifting battle zone between stagnation and anarchy, the one place where a complex system can be spontaneous, adaptive and alive."
Mitchell Waldrop.

That's where I find myself at four forty eight in the morning.

At the edge of chaos.

I size it up.

I keep my eye on the ball.

I am clearly alive.

This is spontaneous.

I suppose this is some sort of  adaptive action.

I am alive.

But uncomfortably awake.

But, Mitchell did say "battle zone"... 


November 13th 2015.

Some die.

I am missing them.

I am missing them.

I am missing my friends out there.

In no particular order.

They keep popping up in my head.

Where's that juggling gif that I made?

There it is.

I thought it would come in some day.

It's a bit rough.

It will do.

Blimey, why did I choose those pictures?

I can't remember.

I am missing my friends out there.

In no particular order.

Terry, Kevin, Sarah, Wendy, Maha, Mia, Ken, Keith, Ron, Alan....uncle Tom Cobbley et al.

I could go on.

I'll be back.

Online....Offline, I have been juggling.


Concentrating on getting those balls up.

I have been juggling.

Stop throwing me bloody balls!

I already have too many.

I know they are juggling too.

My friends...that is.

I have been juggling.

But not here.

Not visibly.

I am juggling now.

On paper.

In my head.


I am looking forward to having more play time.

No. I am looking forward to less solitary games.

Too many balls in my head.

I have been quiet quite a while.

The conference presentation is almost ready.

I am almost ready.

Learning on the edge of chaos...

Trying to map a route with/through complexity ain't easy.

It ain't easy.

It won't go in straight lines.

There are too many curve balls to catch.

Sod it.

That's my limit.

There's those students to throw a few balls to.

They can juggle too.

For me, for them, for you.

We all drop off eventually.

I am hoping this will help me drop off.

For an hour and forty minutes.

What was it that Nietzsche was saying?