It’s gone quiet in the kitchen. The Coal Tits have fledged and we feel a bit bereft. Is bereft something you can qualify like this? Can you be very bereft?
We noted that there had been a lot of scrabbling about above the cooker yesterday. We could clearly hear sounds of a walking struggle, nails on metal, back and forth along the length of the flue. We worried that there might be a vertical element, a black hole, to the extractor system that we haven’t used for two months because of the birds’ nest. We surmised that the space in the flue was the ideal training and exercise facility for the hatchlings. We had talked about the 16 to 20 days estimates from internet sources for Coal Tit fledging times but didn’t know when the eggs were laid let alone hatched.
The absence of the birds’ jargon seemed all the more poignant while I was making sourdough bread. I lift ‘jargon’ from Chaucer in its earlier connotation of birdsong. And I use poignant here to express regret, aware that its archaic meaning was pungent, like the sourdough I was folding every 45 minutes.
Two archaic words and a new one, petem. Or more properly Petem, a word invented yesterday by our neighbour during a discussion on sourdough. I had baked two loaves, one of which we shared next door. I explained the provenance of the sourdough starter and promised to share some starter too. She had recently remembered to fetch a starter left too long in the hot-press and having had to throw it out, was interested to have another go. Are we all secret sourdough bakers?
I told her the Ezra story I wrote up in April and bliss earlier in May. And she coined ‘Petem’ in honour of the ‘sourdough starter that was 8 years old … started from the fermentation of Kilmullen Farm apple juice left over from a wedding’. Long live Petem!
La Black Hole
Curiosity dropped my grand-aunt La into a black hole. She was relatively unharmed, not so much torn apart into an atomic haze as needing a cast and a sling after breaking an arm in the course of her adventure. She had become so warped in her thinking, and she was dense enough that she had burrowed her way into the fabric of space-time itself.
Like many great adventures, this one commenced at a door. The door was effectively the event horizon for the black hole. Once an event horizon is passed, there is no escape from the draw of the black hole. There was no warning of such risk; no one was supposed to be this close and alone.
There was no stream of particles radiating from the door but something attracted her attention. She opened the door and stared into the black abyss. Light was not escaping from the abyss. Nothingness was all she could or could not see.
She advanced like time. Her curiosity pulled her towards a singularity of which humankind had yet no concept. And as she advanced, there was no way back. The door at the event horizon had closed behind her.
There was no light. Suddenly she wanted to be somewhere else. Perhaps in two places at once. To this day, nobody knows what lurks inside a black hole. La would have known nothing about the paradoxes and conflicts among the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics.
And at the age of 58, she was sailing into the core of the black hole. Her journey was very short in physical distance but it seemed to last an eternity in her mind. It certainly lasted long in the retelling; years and now, generations. La’s journey took place between the first Sputnik orbit and Kennedy’s promise to outshine it by landing on the moon.
She landed on earth or more precisely the wooden boards of the ground floor.
My father and his business partner had been filming a Christmas advertising campaign for a major cigarette manufacturer. The first challenge was that their studio was just a few rooms in a 19th century mews attached to a garage. They decided to combine a Christmas tree motif with a carousel and as dedicated as they were to their art, they went full scale. There would be no model trees or fake cigarettes for the primary audience who would be in cinemas. This was the era of monochrome 405 line televisions and this Christmas special advert would also be broadcast to the few homes that had such devices.
They thought the viewers needed a virtual walk around the gifts much as you could in a shop. Real cigarette packets needed to be seen on a real tree and the tree needed to rotate since the camera and lights would have to be static. So they cut a very big circular aperture in the ceiling so that the tree could both protrude up into the first floor and be seen by cameras mounted there.
And they painted the entirety of the the two rooms matt black. As befits a black hole, it had two existences for it was both an aperture in the ceiling and simultaneously, a big black hole in a floor.
They completed the filming project very successfully and returned the studio to bare walls and floors. The walls were still very black pending the requirements for the next project.
Things would have been different had Auntie La had delayed her surprise visit to a favourite nephew by a few days or if she approached the studio from the ground floor.
While the principles of invitation etiquette were violated, the laws of physics were obeyed and the impact of gravity was enough to break her arm. As the joke starts, it’s not the fall that hurts. Fortunately, her symmetry suffered a temporary disturbance. Perhaps she’s still floating inside a black hole somewhere in the multiverse, in a dimension where she never landed.