If it wasn't so serious...
...I'd laugh

Archaeology
Medication
Praise to the Random Chance
Fond the Memory
CV
Obsnopolii
Ode to Tithing
Email Observation
After All
Pigeon
Statement of Fundamental Belief
MacKinnon's Cave

Looking back over the years - and through my endless files of notes and articles I've put together - one of the things a researcher into the 'Mind of Lee Smith' might conclude is that, when something goes wrong, I don't take it too seriously.
That's not strictly true. I do take it seriously - it's just that I tend to see the funny side of it, too. Usually in hindsight. But sometimes I find that a response to something erroneous or wrong is best given with tons of irony and extrapolations of the person's position so that the foundations of the madness can be seen.
People don't understand that, of course. For them, matters are always so serious, they can't laugh - sometimes can't even see the funny side of it. Especially when the article hits home a few salient points.
Bummer.
You'd think I'd be repentant about it, wouldn't you?
Having now gone through many of my old files, I decided to put together a web page that brings together some of my sillier stuff (as well as a couple of not-that-serious-but-certainly-tongue-in-cheek pieces) and introduce them so that the reader might see just how silly I can be.
The problem for me of which to include was mainly due to the fact that I tend to write articles and poems as a response to a situation in which only a few share so, therefore, only a few will actually understand the meaning. This collection, therefore, is extremely selective.

Archaeology

Intro - Posted on a christian chat site for the sheer hell of it with no explanation or warning that I wasn't being serious. There's probably people propagating this as truth in some denomination or other.

Not many people realise that the world's first ice cream parlour was discovered in the excavations that Kathleen Kenyon undertook at the ancient mound of Jericho.
Although she was unable to make a positive identification at the time, recent re-evaluation of her work has shown conclusively that about twenty feet below the contemporary ground surface was located a dairy, sited there because of the coolness of being in bedrock, not subject to the warming rays of the sun.
Here it was, then, that the dairy milk of the surrounding plains was brought to be processed into a chilled cream product that would have resembled and tasted much like our modern day vanilla ice cream.
Although it would be going too far to think of the proprietors of the establishment offering choc ices and cones to the marching Israelites as they encircled the city on their seven day circuit, it is, nevertheless, right to understand that there were some recreational food outlets in the ancient city.
Kathleen Kenyon originally thought the large presses discovered were for the crushing of the olive crop to produce oil, but conclusive proof was finally found that they were employed in Ice Cream production when ceramic pottery containers with inscriptions were translated and shown to bear the name of the owners, the famous 'Walls of Jericho'.

Medication

Intro - Believe it or not, I wrote this piece of doggerel at work. It was a stressful day - that's all I can say.

Surrounded by a recalcitrant menagerie of exiles,
I float aimlessly on a sea of apathy -
Always seeing the coast loom large
But never able to paddle ashore.

Multi-coloured trees bend the sunset-burst beyond,
Screaming vibrant noise, beckoning me onward
Until, at last, I realise that, all too soon,
The effects of the medication will wear off.

Praise to the Random Chance

Intro - Friends of ours - evangelists who wrote contemporary satire in order to convey the Gospel - mentioned to us about putting a 'Darr-win' at the end of one of their liturgical pieces instead of the 'A-men' to point towards the fact that what was contained therein owed more to humanism than God.
I then had the idea of writing a satire of a well-known hymn (well-known to us, that is) and making it Evolutioncentric (is that a word?), singing it totally straight and allowing the audience to get from it what they would. Of course, knowing some congregations, they may have adopted it as a serious piece.
Sung to the tune of ĎPraise to the Lord, the Almightyí Songs of hymns and Fellowship Integrated Music edition of Songs of Fellowship books 1-3 and Hymns of Fellowship - Number 452. By Joachim Neander Tr Catherine Winkworth. Tune Stralsund Gesangbuch.

Praise to the Ran-dom Chance
That brought us from sim-ple com-pounds.
For out of no-thing and
for no-one is ev-ry-thing a-round.
Phil-os-o-phy
Facts ev-er so scan-ti-ly
Praise to the great Evolution.

Praise to E-ter-nal Luck
From Big Bang we have ar-rived here.
Born from Prim-ev-al soup
From dirt weíve come, weíll re-turn there.
The Spe-cies tree
Hu-man-ist The-ol-o-gy
(weíre) Accidents of Evolution.

Praise to the Cos-mic Fate
Des-ti-ny is our own ma-king.
No mo-rals here (no fear)
Your wel-fare I am for-sa-king
Fit-test sur-vive
Weak-est are sim-ply to die
My in-t'rests Iíll be pro-mo-ting.

Fond the Memory

Intro - Written for the nurses on the Hospital Ward where I had nine days recovering from Deep Vein Thrombosis that almost became terminal. They all knew that these sorts of things were happening - I just made the events a tad more silly and left the poem lying around the day before I was discharged. They didn't take too long to guess who'd written it.

Iíll never forget six oí clock in the morn
When the blood pressure tests cause that bleeping,
Or the swish of the curtains at three in the morning
When I thought that the world was still sleeping.

And my mind will be scarred remembering Poirot
Announcing, ĎZee transgressor eezeÖí -
Only to hear his next words sound like,
ĎMake sure you take your tablets now, please.í

Volumes of students appear round my bed
Asking me questions inane,
Like, ĎTell me if pressing this bruise on your leg
Causes you very much pain.í

The temperature outside is twenty below
So the window is opened at nine,
And there it must stay for six hours or more -
But itís always kept closed if itís fine

Fond will my memory be of the peas
That, rather than soft, are so crunchy,
And the raspberry crumble served as dessert
Thatís all very mushy, not munchy.

I will probably need to go see a shrink
Because of this deep mental strain.
Iím sure Iíll be let out physically well
But may go home rather insane.

CV

Intro - I applied for a job with a christian organisation who insisted that I prove my spiritual worth before they could consider my application. I decided to send them this CV (with the introduction) instead of my own to try and get them to think about what they were actually asking me to do.
Needless to say, I didn't get the job.
Needless to say, after how they'd responded, I wouldn't've wanted it.

I emailed you yesterday saying that I was not going to submit a CV and that both my teaching and testimony on my web site were good examples of who I was and what I believed.
However, I was talking to a friend this morning who became extremely excited at the prospect of the teaching opportunity with yourselves and he asked me to forward you a copy of his CV for your consideration.
As he's not on the Internet, I've agreed that he can use my email address for any reply you wish to send him.
Finally, my friend's enthusiasm for such a post far outweighs mine and, if I'm honest, I feel that he would be a better person to employ than myself. Even though you may feel him unqualified, I believe that itís vitally necessary you understand the position from which heís had me send this to you and the relevancy of it to your consideration of who you appoint to the position of Teacher in your organisation.

Name: Yeshua Bar Yosef

Address: The Nazarene Carpenterís Shop
High Street
Nazareth
Israel

Age: 28

Date of birth: 6BC - though ĎBCí has not yet been invented. Jews of my era aren't wont to keep precise days of birth so I can give you no more than this. There may be some record in my town of birth but, unfortunately, I don't have any reason to visit Bethlehem in the next week or so.

Academic Qualifications: None. There were no schools where I lived and was brought up even though my father trained me in the ways of carpentry and showed me how to mend and repair just about any tool which is used in these parts. I regularly attended the local synagogue on Saturdays with my family and obtained a basic learning in those things which had been handed down to the nation from Moses through the elders.

Religious Qualifications: None. Iíve studied under no rabbis and have not, at this point, felt the need to do so. There were always offers of positions from those who my parents knew, but there was always work to be done in the carpenterís shop and the family needed supporting especially once my father died.

Miraculous Qualifications: None. To this point, God has not used me in a miraculous manner throughout my past twenty-eight year life. There were many events which surrounded my birth which others have related and which my mother holds in her heart that they might be fulfilled sometime in my future but, to date, Iím not aware that Iíve healed anyone, delivered anyone of demonic influence, raised the dead or cleansed any lepers.

Denominational Affiliation: None. I'm neither a Sadducee, a Pharisee nor an Essene - the three most respected denominations amongst the people of God. I have a relation whoís been living rather an ascetic life in the wilderness of Judea these past couple of decades but even he seems to be an independent and doesnít consider himself as affiliated to any particular sect or denomination.

Relevant Experience: None. I once had a discussion with some religious leaders in the theological centre of the capital, but that was over fifteen years ago and Iíve tended to stay away from such places except at the three compulsory annual festivals.

Please explain briefly why you feel suited to this position:
I would ask that you lay to one side my lack of relevant experience to this religious post and consider simply that Iíve lived all my life doing what I felt God wanted me to do in every moment of everyday.
Even though I donít have the qualifications which you might be looking for, I can assure you that I feel well able to bring to the workplace something of God Himself and that I will be equipped from above for whatever task that will present itself to me - even though most of those situations will be totally unique and new.
Although I know that I don't have any qualifications which would warrant being given such a post as youíre advertising, I would draw your attention to my desire and willingness to do this work.

Obsnopolii

Persecaria
Breather
Popsicle
Granted awareness
Tickled Trout
Whirlpools
Futtock
Perhaps distressed tigers
Sunbathing frivolously
Or not.

Ode to Tithing

Intro - I posted this on a christian site and a couple of people responded by saying that they liked it. The majority didn't make any comment whatsoever but I'm sure that, from that time onwards, I was a marked man (see my 'Statement of Fundamental Belief' further below that was taken seriously).
The problem with pointing out problems within the Church is that believers think you're being negative, critical, judgmental. But we have to judge ourselves that we might not have to be judged by Jesus. We should never hide under a stone but be open and honest when things go wrong whether within our fellowship or within others.

I love to hear them speak on tithing,
They get the congregation writhing.
The leaders tells us 'Give much more',
They need it for the new church floor.

A double tithe is still too small,
I want to give my house, my all.
Twenty per cent, I can't afford,
But more I'll get back from the Lord.

A treble tithe is such a blessing.
Quadruple tithe? Let's not start messing
Cos the more you give the more you get,
Though I ain't seen it come back yet.

Gladly mortgage my house will I
And go in rags til the day I die.
It's just a sign that faith I lack
If nothing from God gets given back.

Take it! Take it! Have it all!
My children don't need food at all.
They can live on clean, fresh air,
Because it's for the church I care.

Three long years, it's been a test
But - you know? - I'm giving my best.
I've signed all that I earn away,
Cos I do what the leaders say.

A bigger building - we got the coffers!
It only cost eight billion dollars.
It's true - I wanted food to eat,
I wanted vegetables and meat.

I wanted milk and cans of beer,
But such desires are sin, I fear.
It's best to leave yourself so poor
That you stretch your faith some more.

The Social worker took my kids
My wife is living in the skids.
The house was taken, I didn't repay.
The car went, too, the other day.

The moral of this ode is clear
And that's to pray to God with fear.
Ask Him what He wants from you
And listen not to man-made rules.

Email Observation

Intro - I wrote this after receiving a couple of emails from two different people that I was aghast at.

Things I have learned recently:
When people write to me and ask me for my opinion on something, what they actually mean is that they want me to agree with their point of view or to change my own opinions to adopt theirs. They only want to hear my opinion when it agrees with theirs.
When people write to me and ask me whether I'd be willing to discuss a subject, what they actually mean is that they want to try and convert me to believe whatever their erroneous pet theory is and they will not listen to sound reasoning or be concerned with historical accuracy.

After All

Intro - I posted this, a great many years after it was written, on a christian site and it was immediately deleted by the administrators because it was deemed to be 'pro-evolution'. Yes, honestly. The problem with many believers is that they don't have any idea about irony and stating the negative in order to show the intrinsic insanity of the incorrect proposition.
I decided to leave the site because of the deletion and had my account closed. The problem was not that it had been deleted but that no apology was forthcoming from those in leadership after they'd seen their error (which, sadly, is often the case), they never told me their objections but simply deleted it and I had to ask round to find out what the problem was and, thirdly, because they had shown themselves unable to comprehend something that was pro-Creation.

So, we came from apes.
Thatís very reassuring.
Itís good to know that Iím a blob of random protoplasm
that fortuitously coagulated
into an entity thatís now
Ďmeí.

My birth was an accident of evolution,
and there I was thinking all along
That my parents had planned
for my inception into this world.

Yes, very reassuring.

I feel so secure knowing that,
at the final breath,
my life will simply cease to exist
and Iíll return to be accessible to those life forms
soon to follow.

While Iím here itís survival of the fittest,
put down who I can cos itís only part of natureís way,
part of that random design that came about by chance.

And so I can do as I please.
Steal from you?
Yeah, sure.
Iím only supporting the survival of my line.
Stab you in the back if I choose?
Itís survival of the fittest.
Help you when youíre down?
Ha! Donít be crazy, Iíd rather rejoice:
Thatís one less mouth to feed.

So, stuff you, my friend.

After all,
we came from apes.

Pigeon

Intro - based on my real life experience. I've never been able to find a place for this in any series of my writings so, as I want to 'get it out into the world', I've put it here.

Chimneys are good places to be - advantageous, even.
Choosing a good vantage point to see the old lady put the crumbs on the ground, to see when that old bird-catcher of a tom is let out for its morning prowl and to watch the approach of the hawks and kestrels when cover should be quickly acquired.
But there's the creature comforts, too.
Get yourself a chimney that has a glowing fire beneath in the dead of winter and you can be guaranteed that your claws won't be frost-bitten - your plumage may turn a little blacker from all the soot but, hey, a good dose of smoke never hurt anyone, did it?
No, wait, scratch that last observation.
I remember a preacher once speaking to a sparse congregation while I was roosting high above on the wooden beams of the joists and coming out with those immortal words 'If the good Lord had meant for men and women to smoke cigarettes, he would've given them each a pair of lungs'.
I'm sure that there must've been some different sentence that he'd had written down in his notes on the lectern but, to be honest, I preferred what I heard.
It's a good place to meet up with fellow pigeons, too - a chimney, I mean, not a church building. Although the latter can serve for this use as well.
I'd been perched on a ridge tile and had decided to get a better eye on the gardens - naturally, the chimney was only a few short flaps away and it sat proud of where I was now resting so, off I jumped.
But the next thing I remember was that, instead of landing on the side of those old chimney pots, there was a sudden gust of a south-westerly wind and everything went black.
Very black.

So little to do, so much time to do it in - I knew how Willy Wonka must've felt. Even though he corrected himself on more than one occasion, for me it was more accurate than error.
That was the good thing about Saturdays - it was, er, enjoyable. So few deadlines to meet and you could pick and choose what to do when.
Which was why I was sat at the computer going through the email. Although nothing much caught my eye as the software retrieved and delivered each message into the inbox (and where on earth I had mistakenly subscribed to the weekly 'Meals on Wheels' newsletter, I can't even begin to imagine), something most definitely caught my ear - behind me. In the wall.
Yes, in the wall.
For some people, that might not seem to be an incredibly uncommon thing to occur but, to me, it represented an unusual event. Something as rare as an earthquake hitting these parts - although that's not all that unusual nowadays.
It was the type of sound that caught my attention - a kind of scraping of a wall with a feather duster. No, wait - while it was most certainly feathery, it sounded more solid than flimsy and it was definitely scraping down the length of the wall.
Then, nothing, except the faint whirring of the hard drive and the sound of Harry from 3rd Rock announcing 'Transmission incoming from the Big Giant Head' as the last email finished downloading into the computer.
Was I hearing things?
No, there it was again - this time, it had to be coming from the fireplace - the blocked off fireplace with a small two-inch gap at the bottom that allowed for ventilation.
Well, that's where the sound was coming from - it was evident that the cause must be present further up the flue and that the sound was finding it's way out into the room where the air coursed.
There was only one inevitable conclusion - a bird was in the chimney.
Probably a big one at that - a small one has the ability to fly upwards and out, or down through a small opening where they can see light and in to the room.
A big bird could do neither, of course - it was condemned to extinction by its own size.

Was it night?
If it was, that day had been incredibly short. The humans were putting the clocks forward that evening, it was true, but they hadn't yet learnt how to control the sun - nor would they ever.
Not only that, but night had come very quickly. I dismissed the possibility that the day was over when I stretched my wings and hit wall - and soot.
As my eyes grew accustomed to the light, I could make out the sky, way above me - and a small, almost grey, glow beneath that was barely adequate for a mouse to squeeze through.
As is generally the case, 'up' is the best option for a bird, but flapping the wings proved impossible, the soot choking my breath as the feathers dislodged the collection of decades.
This was going to be a tricky situation to get out of.

The old fireplace certainly didn't look original - but neither did it look all that temporary. The side panels were solid enough, probably cemented in and irremovable except with a sledgehammer and a lot of force, neither of which I possessed.
But the small grille that we used to stand flowers on moved - slightly, yes, but it did wobble when you pushed it. The problem was that it seemed to be securely held by two protrusions at the front that were embedded in the frame.
Resting on the metal grille was a ceramic cover, barely six inches square that blocked the hole - perhaps just enough room to get a bird through - the problem was how to remove it.
Resting on the top of the grille, it was obvious that it, too, had a protrusion at the top - probably an entire lip - that wedged it into the uppermost part of the frame.
The small, two inch hole below these was certainly too small to get anything other than a sparrow out of but it did give me the opportunity to see what was up there. Balancing a mirror at a forty-five degree angle, I shone a small hand torch that was consumed by the darkness and distance, then used a brighter lamp that cascaded almost pure white light upwards as far as the cavity allowed...

...Whoa! Light from below!
Was that possible?
It was only the smallest glow that illuminated the brick work beside me but it was certainly an interesting phenomenon.
Vanishing almost as quickly as it had appeared, I settled back to get some sleep, hearing some mumblings below shortly after the light ceased.

Dang! Blocked!
The hole seemed to have been put there only to allow the slightest of an air course - there really was no way anything could get out from that.
No, the only hope was if I could somehow remove the cover - at least I might be able to squeeze my hand through and grab at whatever was in there.
Yeah, right - remove the ceramic cover.
The metal fire surround held the grille firmly in place and the grille supported the cover that was held securely by the metal surround.
Something told me that this was perhaps not the best option - but it was the only one I had. If it was the only one, though, it didn't seem likely to succeed.

The first I knew that something wasn't right was when the floor moved six inches from me in a small gulley beneath the ledge on which I was perching.
There's something reassuring about a floor to a bird - while branches may wobble and snap and the air oppose your advance in flight without any warning, the ground represents security.
Immovable, solid and reliable.
If you have to feed on the ground, you know it won't try and buck you off. If anything's a friend, good old terra firma is.
That was what was so disconcerting about the movement - yes, there it was again. It distinctly moved upwards and back down again. Short of taking to the air, though, I was stuck, an observer of a phenomenon that I would rather have missed.

Looking again at the fireplace after a bowl of soup and bread, I reconsidered the two-inch opening at the very base of the fireplace. Not only did it become evident that the gap behind the ceramic cover and the rear wall was minimal, but there were metal rods that seemed to be securing it in place, slotted into some rear hole on the grille that was out of sight from the room.
The only other option, I decided, was to take a hammer and chisel and smash the cover into as many pieces as needed to make a hole for my hand to access.
Mmm...
...not really an option as there was no way I could guarantee that there would be a hole large enough to retrieve a bird.
Then, as if by a pre-ordained hand, a gust of wind blew across the top of the chimney, echoing down the flue to where I lay and causing a light breeze to blow against my left temple.
Now, that was strange.
Having the right side of my head resting on the floor meant that I would naturally have expected the breeze to descend through the aperture at the base and hit me in the eye - instead, it was coming from above.
That meant that there had to be a gap at the very top of the fireplace, something that I'd failed to notice for the past two hours.
I quickly shone the torch upwards and noticed what looked like soldering marks round the edge of the top plate. No, that didn't look like it was one piece with the metallic surround.
I pushed the plate to see if it would shift and was immediately covered with soot as a hundred years of muck was dislodged into the room. Boy, this plate was heavy - part cast iron and part rubble - but it moved upwards and that was my best option.
I pushed it up again, making sure that it was loose at all four contact points and then took the decision to forcibly remove it.

The ground subsided - and there was a human coughing.
Fumbling below, then a shaft of light disappeared upwards towards the entrance hole.

'Where are you?'
The chimney was clear for the first four or five feet I could see, the rest of the flue was obscured by an overhang but some dim glow of light met the beam from the torch.
'It must be stuck halfway up,' I thought. 'Grief, this is getting harder by the minute!'
The pile of debris, scattered as it was all over the carpet (in spite of the best intentions and the clearest of instructions from the wife, the compulsory dust sheet never seemed to be employed in situations that could be foreknown), needed removing. So, grabbing the hoover, I removed - as best I could - the soot and masonry.
Now, where was that bird?
Having looked once more in vain to locate the bird somewhere near the chimney, I realised that the immediate area to my right still needed to be explored. Flicking the light to the opposite side, I was immediately met by two very worried beady eyes and a beak...

'Hello,' cooed the pigeon, 'Mind if I come out?'

Closing the curtains and the doors to the other rooms, I ran downstairs to get a dustsheet. Better late than never, I always think - besides, the presence of one in the room, even if there is mess on the floor, is evidence that I was well intentioned (even if only in hindsight).
But my realisation was that, if the bird should get out, it would bring a load more soot and dirt out onto the floor - and it would be easier to gather it up when it landed in the sheet rather than to be forced to hoover it up again.
It also made sense to grab a handful of Kath's bird food to try and entice it into the room, placed carefully on a large plate to avoid spillage (although why a couple of seeds would be any more damaging to the carpet than what had already been poured over it escaped the reason).

There was a sudden silence - now was my chance.
With one claw resting on top of the roosting ledge and the other a few inches below, I let gravity have its way and flapped out onto the now soot-covered floor to survey my surroundings.
This was certainly no nature reserve - it was just another prison, albeit bigger. But it gave me the impression that there was more opportunity here for escape. It was then that I heard human footsteps rushing towards me, although the visible presence was somewhat delayed.

Sat on the floor was a racing pigeon - obviously not the race winner - blinking its puzzlement. I pushed the plate of bird food along the carpet, trying to befriend it but, obviously spooked by its new surroundings, it took one look at the unfamiliar shape and took off, landing on the pelmet above the window from where it stared down.
Just then, the cavalry arrived - Kath back from the local shops.
Apart from having to explain the pile of soot that was now on the carpet (something that I felt would be easily accepted by the presence of the bird in the room and how, just as I'd gone to shake the dust cover outside - 'Look, dear! Here's the dustsheet I was using!' - the bird, with no concern for cleanliness, had exited into the room - they always say that pigeons are dirty birds. Couldn't it have waited one minute? What exactly was the rush? It'd been sitting in the chimney for the past two hours so would one extra minute be all that problematical?), I felt my afternoon would be fairly stress free.
After all, she was as much troubled by the presence of the doomed bird in the flue as I was.

I wasn't budging from my perch above him - no chance.
When the same round plate-thing was put in front of me, I decided to circle the room and land back on the pelmet, just to show the human that, if he continued to be daft, I had the potential to knock down just about every ornament he had by crashing in to them.
That stopped him.
He backed off and stared at me from the doorway.

'Where's the pond net?' Kath asked.
'In the usual place,' I answered.
Yes, that was the solution.
Placing the gauze over the bird's front end gave us just enough control to push the rest of it into the net and keep it there as we carefully got to the backdoor and released the bird into the open...

...freedom!

The following morning, as I sat at the computer checking the email, there was a louder-than-usual cooing sound from the fireplace. It was the first time I'd ever noticed that the call of the birds that sit on the chimney pot could be heard in the room.
Perhaps I'd dislodged something while I was making an opening for the pigeon to get out yesterday - or, perhaps, all the debris that had cascaded onto the carpeted floor had freed up a way for sound not to be absorbed but to permeate into the room...

...'Thank you!' cooed the pigeon as it hung it's beak over the chimney pot and gazed into the abyss of blackness that had had the potential to turn into its grave.
'Thank you, thank you, thank you...'

Statement of Fundamental Belief

Intro - I wrote this piece for a fellow believer at a Home Group we were attending. Both he and I have experienced some pretty dire 'christian' groups and I wanted to put down the sorts of weird and wonderful beliefs that these sorts of places were espousing by their actions.
That's one of the problems (and there are many) with Statements of Belief - we hide behind orthodoxy and a semblance of conformity to the Gospel but the truth of the matter is when you begin to see what takes place within the meetings and within the lives of those who profess the statement.
I've been in many a place where the Fundamental Beliefs have been necessary to believe in in order to stay part of the denomination, but they have been openly flouted because, quite obviously, they were never truly believed. I've also known or had the experience of many places where belief founded upon twistings of Scripture have also been prevalent.
In fact, I've experienced or known about most of those beliefs set out here.
Again, I threw this piece in on a christian site and got very hostile and venomous responses (although I never got round to sitting down and reading them fully as I only glanced at them before it was removed) from people who had affirmed a posting from another person the day before who had said we must never judge another believer.
It would have been nice for them to have asked 'Why?' rather than judge. Perhaps I need to add a paragraph about that particular belief? Oh my goodness, I've just reread the article - I think I already did.

We believe there is one true God, the eternal, self-existent 'I AM' who would cause us acute embarrassment if we were to listen to what He said. Anyone who speaks under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit must be ostracised and only those messages that agree with the leadership's agenda are allowed to be prophesied at the services.

We believe in the ABC of conversion, totally devoid of any involvement of the Holy Spirit in the entire process and that, once participated in, a person is saved regardless of any evidence thereof. We also believe that once ABCed, no person can lose the salvation they have received by the human process.

We believe in the power of positive confession and that, if we believe something strongly enough, it will happen regardless of whether it's the Will of God or not. We believe that, in prayer, God will happily get in line with whatever we want done because He doesn't have a mind of His own and wants to make His people happy at all times and in every way.

We believe that the Bible is inspired, infallible and can be used for reproof and correction by the leadership against each and every person below them but that it must never be used against them according to the Scripture that says that there's a bigger log in the congregation's eye than the splinter that's in the leadership's.

We believe that the leader is always right and cannot be questioned - we also believe that they were the ones who wrote this paragraph and probably the Bible as well so only they can interpret it properly.

We believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still relevant for today so long as they're controlled. To this end, we will appoint prophets (God has no right to appoint them - it's *our* church, not His) who will be careful not to rock the boat but to speak kind and soothing words to evil and good alike, assuring them that their deeds are acceptable before God (and we expect God to tow the party line on this one, too).

We believe that satan sends into God's Church people who look and smell funny and that these people must be refused entry into the congregation of the saints. Only those with specific discernment can recognise them and their word must never be questioned or else it will be obvious that the dissenter is in league with satan (and probably was never really saved in the first place).

We believe that having statues of angels about the house is much more important than living the life that God wants us to lead. Statues made of clay are much more likely to save and protect us than a personal and living relationship with the one true God. Besides, they're more tangible and only statues of false gods and goddesses are spoken against in the Bible.

We believe that the Holy Spirit only teaches those who attend Bible College and that nobody who studies the Bible outside of those institutions can be allowed to share their insights unless the teaching upholds the leaders' views (who have, of course, been to Bible College). If a person cannot afford to go to Bible College to become a leader, they lack the faith to believe in God's provision and can't be trusted.

We believe there is what is known as a Church Mafia, a secret society formed by those who oppose the Holy Spirit's movings and who plot to remove as much of Jesus from the fellowships as possible. Once a month, they meet in some dark and secluded spot after midnight and sing old traditional hymns backwards (they make more sense that way, anyway). These people must be opposed and a list currently exists to which more people's names are added as it becomes obvious that they're a part of this cult.

We believe that our denomination is the Way, contains all the Truth that is necessary to know and brings Life to all who attend our services. There is nothing worthwhile apart from us - we are the supreme believers who have been entrusted in these last days with the final and complete revelation of all that God wants His people to know.

MacKinnon's Cave

Intro - We visited MacKinnon's Cave sometime in the mid-nineties simply because it seemed intriguing and, dare I say it, a little bit of a challenge. A short time afterwards I thought the place would lend itself to a series of short articles that I submitted to the local weekly newspaper, the Oban Times, but which they declined to accept for publication.
These articles still seem to me like a good read so I have reproduced them here.

Introduction

I don't mind admitting that Iím scared of heights.
Or, should I say, I fear for my own safety when going down a precipice but am not overly anxious when ascending.
I've often found myself in situations where I've bounded up rocky crags with apparent gazelle-like sure-footedness, only to find that, when I've finally reached the top, the only way down is back the way Iíve come and have had to adopt the less graceful and certainly less macho crawl on all four limbs to reach the comparative safety of flat ground.
Mackinnonís cave was a bit like that. I was so determined to get there, inspired by Johnson and Boswellís excursion, that there were times when I forgot that my return along the one and only path would present me with more difficulties than I was experiencing in the ascent.
However, it wasnít all uphill to get there. Mackinnonís cave lies on the northern shoreline of the peninsula of Ardmeanach, near the rocks of Gribun on the island of Mull, and, as the starting point has to be way above near Balmeanach farm, the general trend of the conquest has to be down.
But that's not the whole story.
Where I currently live, any guide book would naturally be expected to give you well-trodden pathways and straight-forward directions that would provide you with a pleasant excursion that would certainly not be a danger to life and limb.
So, when I read statements like 'a coast of increasing drama', I picture a gravelled path that winds gently along the shoreline while the cliffs get steeper and the sea becomes rockier - I have no conception of that phrase meaning that the cliffs I have to walk on become more precipitous and that the rocks I have to use to jump over the raging sea become increasingly treacherous.
Similarly, the sentence 'Just before the cave there is a waterfall and then some large rocks washed by the tide at the mouth of the cave which have to be scrambled over or aroundí conjures up, in my mind at least, an idyllic setting where a cascading mountain stream falls serenely to the ground and where a handful of rocks no bigger than my own height have simply to be walked round.
In reality, though, the water has to be avoided as it showers the one most sensible path of approach to the cave and the boulders are twice my height, covered in slimy sea vegetation that prevents any sensible method of making headway at more than three feet an hour.
Even when theyíre finally 'conquered' (I can think of no better description), what Johnson described as 'large pebbles...spread over with smooth sand' are, in reality, large pebbles covered by squidgy and slippery seaweed to a depth of around six inches. Not only is progress a distinct unlikelihood but maintaining a vertical posture is more luck than judgment.
The upper parts of the walk are by no means simple, either. The path that leads down to the shoreline is a mud and bog trap - something that we've come to regard as being universal characteristics of the island - and, on numerous occasions, the only way forward is either to leap from muddy tuft to muddy tuft, or else to attempt to balance on stones that, although looking quite steady, wobble with precarious uncertainty when your full weight is put on them.
I think the safest part of the entire expedition (I chose that word carefully) was the car journey round single track hairpin bends that fall away to nothing immediately the tarmac ends - or does the tarmac end there because the ground has fallen away to nothing?
My admiration for Johnson and Boswell was greatly increased when I walked in their footsteps and realised that this couple were indeed pioneers with a courageous spirit that put me to shame, for they had footwear probably inferior to my own, almost certainly hadn't timed their arrival at the cave entrance to coincide with low tide as we had done (itís the only safe time to visit the cave, although the word Ďsafeí is somewhat of an anomaly), only had one small candle between the two of them with which to explore it (we had three torches) and they were about twice my age (if you added together the ages of the four of us, we would probably still have been younger in years than the two of them combined!).
But I'm glad I made it, even though my heart was in my mouth on numerous occasions and, at one point, I even wondered if the air-sea rescue helicopter would be able to winch me up to safety should I slip and fall on the slimy rocks, dashing my skull to pieces on the sharp protrusions.
However, what was the most amazing fact of the entire morning was that I never once fell over as everyone knows that my butt has a magnetic attraction to the earth.
The day previous weíd visited the island of lona and attempted to take a more direct route than the previous year to the Marble quarry on the south side of the island but, getting hopelessly lost, we split up and searched for the cutting machinery that would signal the finding of the correct cove.
So concerned was I with finding it quickly that I paid rather less attention to the conditions underfoot and, on two occasions, slipped on the top of water-logged ground.
The natural reaction is to try and prevent oneself from falling so, stretching out my arms behind me to cushion the fall, I embedded nine inches of each limb into the boggy soil. Not only was my once-worn white cotton shirt changed to a dark-brown cuffed and spotted top, but the seat of my jeans were so badly stained that, for the rest of the day, strangers didn't come too close in case it wasn't mud.
Perhaps those two falls actually prevented me from any serious accident the following day at the cave. After all, you're always more wary of potential dangers when youíve experienced them first-hand and theyíve got the better of you.
One of the greatest contrasts of the entire holiday was witnessed along the shoreline at Mackinnon's cave. On the one hand thereís the outstanding natural beauty and ruggedness of the area - the steep-sided cliffs, the tonnage of the sea boulders and the fallen rocks, the sea as it crashes against the obstacles that protrude out into the air and millions upon millions of pebbles each with a different colour, texture and luminosity.
And, on the other, the rubbish that's accumulated on the beach.
By 'rubbish' I don't mean empty bags of crisps or discarded Coke cans (even though there were a couple). Because most people who come here care for the countryside, thereís very little litter thatís directly attributable to those visitors. There was one item in particular that we did find that was certainly the result of a cave seeker, but it wasnít discarded, rather lost. However, as thatís the subject of a future article I decline to tell you precisely what it was until then.
No, the Ďrubbish' that I'm writing about is the flotsam, the articles of no particular value or worth that get discarded from ships at sea. Perhaps from a shipwreck, perhaps simply the result of a sailor accidentally (or deliberately) letting go of an item of the ship's furnishings.
Thereís even 'rubbish' of a non-maritime origin which comes not via the sea but directly over the edges of the steep-sided cliffs. Battered, destroyed or still usable, it depends on the type of product and the kind of material it dropped on.
Such a diversity of rubbish of all shapes and sizes that the Wombles would surely love to discover and recycle the entire collection and assortment of items that confront the visitor on all sides! Perhaps thatís why the only town on the island is called Tobermory?
Each piece of refuse has a story to tell, some circumstance or other that accounts for its presence here at Mackinnon's cave. In some strange or quite ordinary way, each object found itself deposited on this small stretch of coastline where eyes gaze upon the end result knowing nothing of the process.
And that's my reason for writing. Perhaps mundane these objects are, but each one can reveal to us interesting items of information if we would but stop and think...

A Beachful of Pebbles

What, do you suppose, would the Queen want with a billion billion billion billion billion billion billion pebbles (at a conservative estimate)?
This question went through my mind very recently when I was in the process of constructing a garden pond.
Whenever I do something, I like to plan it all out to the most minute detail before I begin. In fact, the planning process was the most important part of this project and, if you've never had the delights of a do-it-yourself effort, you haven't lived.
I thought it would be straight-forward - dig a hole, line it, throw some water in followed by plants and, voila, one instant pond.
But it just isn't that simple.
To take that first event, 'dig a hole', for instance.
How deep is it going to be dug? Too deep and it's unlikely that any plant will be able to survive, but too shallow and the whole thing could freeze solid in winter and kill everything off. And, if it should only have one depth, thereís the very restricting limitation of which plants can be used.
How steep should the sides be in order to prevent the soil from slipping? Can I dig deep and refill or should I dig only to the level I require to ensure that the pond floor is as solid as possible?
And this all before a spade even sees the light of day!
You can imagine just how difficult the total product is to achieve. Even more so when you realise that I wanted to install a wildlife pond - one that would harbour and encourage the development of wild animals and insects.
In this case, itís important to make the pond look as informal as possible (even though, because of my lack of paving ability, I had to decide to construct a rectangular one) with rocks sticking above the water level, a ramp for frogs to use when they exit the pool and for the birds and mammals to use to descend to the water's edge in order to drink. The ramp also must serve the useful purpose of allowing hedgehogs to escape - they seem to be a bit lemming-like in their allurement to water and jump in regardless of there being any easy way out.
So what has this got to do with a beachful of pebbles?
Just this - I needed pebbles. Not small ones, but large like cobble stones - and I only needed about ten.
Weíd already been to Scotland by the time I started planning to build the pond otherwise I wouldíve picked up a few near Mackinnon's cave at that time but, fortunately, my parents now live on the south coast, a couple of miles from the stony coastline thatís home to a billion billion billion...well, you get the picture.
My fatherís always very obliging if he can be so I rang him one evening and put in my request.
Unfortunately, he said, he couldn't get any.
But why?
Because the Queen owns the pebbles on a million beaches. She might not have put them there, she certainly hasn't arranged them so that they vary in colour from one to another and sheís probably never likely to want any number of tons of them delivered to her back door.
But, nevertheless, she owns them.
What then, do you suppose, the Queen would want with a billion billion billion billion billion billion billion pebbles?
It's an interesting question, isn't' it? For, with royalty seemingly wanting to cut spending in these times of economic restrictions, you would have thought that they would have started to sell them off to all and sundry, to your average man in the street who just happens to want ten fairly average looking pebbles for use in the construction of a garden pond.
At Mackinnonís cave I could have had millions - millions upon millions - but I could have also been faced with legal action if I'd taken so much as one. Even the innocent holiday maker, who upon seeing a pebble of interest secretes a stone in his bag or pocket, is liable to prosecution. If a court case ever arises Iíd love to hear the dialogue. I mean, how could they work out damages to the crown? Could it be assessed on the comparative degree of stress that the Queen suffered when she found out that one of her pebbles had been stolen?
Or would the individual stone be valued by a local jeweller and a fine be given in relation to the assessment? - 'I fine you 24 pence plus costsí.
And what of rearranging the shoreline? Are kids still allowed to play ducks and drakes at the waterís edge? After all, by skimming stones on the surface of the water, theyíre effectively removing the crown's possession from off its grounds - they are, in effect, stealing, even though they aren't benefiting from it.
No, the whole thing just gets too preposterous for words.
Still, I have to abide by the law so I refrain from stealing from the crown. Well, sort of. I must admit that if I see a pebble I like then I always put it in my pocket to take home - I enjoy keeping mementoes from different parts of the world where I've been.
I picked up a piece of sea-polished marble from the shore of St Columba's Bay on lona this holiday. I've still got it in the living room and, one day when I've finished with it, I think I'll parcel it up and address it to 'Her Majesty the Queen, c/o Buckingham Palace.
'Dear ma 'am, please find enclosed this piece of marble which I found on one of your beaches. I'm returning it herewith as I feel that, perhaps, you might inadvertently have dropped it...'

The Pedometer

How does a pedometer find its way onto a deserted beach in the middle of nowhere?
That might sound like a silly question, for it will seem obvious to most people that it had to have been dropped by previous visitors to the beach. But one thing I've learned over the years is never to assume the obvious.
Our back garden, for instance, provided us with a mystery when we first moved in. We inherited a lawn - perhaps I should say a 'field' as the size is enormous - that hadn't been cut for a number of weeks resulting in grass that was around three feet tall.
Fortunately we were able to borrow a strimmer and set about removing the harvest of grass. Around the middle of the garden we discovered two reptiles - both frogs. Nothing mind-blowing that - they get everywhere - and we put them under the hedge out of harm's way, writing their presence off as escapees from next door's pond.
It wasn't until recently, though, that we realised that none of our neighbours have a pond - or our neighbours' neighbours. So where did they come from? As I'm not very well acquainted with the life cycle of frogs, my puzzlement remains, but one day I will probably discover a rational explanation for their existence.
So, returning to our discovery, just how does a pedometer find its way onto a deserted beach in the middle of nowhere?
I decided to consider the options.
Could it have been washed up on the tide? I examined the article closely for tell tale signs of water but there was nothing. In fact, the place we found it was above the normal reach of the sea - dead and dry seaweed lay all around and the pebbles were partly overgrown with land grass.
Neither could it have been there very long. The previous night had been dry but the one before that weíd been wakened in the night by the violent storm that had passed over, hammering water onto the roof and giving everything a clean smell by early morning.
It didn't appear that this had been out in that - it was almost perfect, brand new and without a blemish of any kind.
Could it have fallen over the side of the cliff? This was easy to dismiss. As I've just written, the item was near perfect - if it had tumbled over the side of the rocks, it wouldn't have been in such a condition.
Could it have fallen off an animal other than a human? No, I haven't lost my struggle with reality, this was a real consideration. I mean, consider a poor farmer who sees his herd of sheep eating their way through tons of grass a day and yet not putting on any weight.
Isn't it just possible that he might think that the amount of energy that they're expending in walking in search of fresh pasture is equal to the amount that they're able to take in by grazing? And, therefore, in order to determine his theory he takes a sheep at random from the herd and straps a pedometer to it so that he can determine the amount of area covered.
Not a bad theory at all, except we found no sheep on the farmer's land that had a strap attached to them. Neither did the pedometer have anything other than the normal clip for attaching it to a pair of trousers.
No, it certainly looked like a human had dropped it except...
...except the mileage reading on the clock made no sense at all. It read 1.2 miles.
You see, Mackinnonís cave is at the far end of a cul-de-sac. After visiting it you have to return the way you came or else swim ten or twenty miles to the next landing place. Thereís only one route in and one route out - thereís no alternative path for wheelchairs (except straight over the edge - but then we found no broken frame anywhere).
And all visitors start from the same point. You have to leave your car in the only car park (I use that definition very loosely as a scrap of waste ground with a few pebbles thrown down in a vain attempt to make it level is hardly what I would define as a car park), and walk the same route both to and from the cave.
So why is 1.2 miles impossible? Because the entire walk constitutes a distance of around a mile, the point at which we found the pedometer couldnít have been more than O.7 of a mile even on the return trip. Where, then, could the extra half mile have come from?
Could the walker, intending to leave his pedometer there for the next visitor, have walked round in a circle for half a mile in order to bewilder them? Or could he have walked the extra distance before he started his walk? Or was the pedometer broken? This last possibility was proven incorrect, incidentally, as we've had occasion to test out its accuracy and have found it to be very reliable (even if it does have a tendency to fall off the user's belt - probably how it got lost in the first place).
That particular distance must remain a mystery as we found no satisfactory explanation.
Is there anything that can be said about the previous owner? Yes, most definitely.
The pedometer had been set for a stride length of 1.5 feet. That is to say, the distance between the front of one foot and the front of the other when walking at normal pace was about one and a half feet. Now, I'm about 6'5" tall and have a stride length of approximately 2.5 feet, therefore the person who had last used it could not have been any taller than 5'5" - either that or they were extremely infirm and couldn't manage anything more. This last consideration is unlikely to be the case as most people know that the path to Mackinnon's cave is a very difficult one.
They probably had blue eyes, too, were colour blind or male. The pedometer we found was a bright blue colour - very fetching. As the same product is available in different colours, a woman would, naturally, buy a product that matched her overall appearance unless, of course, she couldn't make out what the colour was or if she was a man - men don't worry too much about colour co-ordination.
I remember a time when I used to live with my parents when my father turned up on the doorstep one Saturday afternoon all excited at getting hold of a real 'steal' in the shops down the road.
For some reason they'd been selling off a whole mound of toilet paper very cheaply and he'd thought that my mother would have been delighted to receive an enormous supply that would last ages and save money.
However, our toilet and bathroom was predominantly pink and grey: pink toilet and bath suite, pink cabinet and towels, two or three pink walls: grey carpet, one grey wall and some stick-on grey covering over one of the sides of the mirror-faced wall-unit.
What colour was the toilet paper? Bright, fluorescent emerald green. Yuk! No wonder it was cheap!
We used to keep it in the cupboard out of sight of guests and only use it when we didn't have visitors staying. I think they've still got some left, too.
And, finally, the previous owner must have been rich. Why? Well, if I'd lost the pedometer I would most certainly have returned to the scene to retrieve it. These instruments cost somewhere in the region of £15 (even though they're made in China), a significant sum to anyone except the well-off.
No, if that had dropped off me I would have beachcombed the rest of the day to retrieve my loss. Even if I'd been on the last ferry back to the mainland and then suddenly remembered it, there would have been an enormous splash accompanied by frightful wails of 'Man overboard!' and a lone figure would have been spotted making like a distressed seal toward the shore.
All in all, then, itís simply amazing what information one can get from a simple piece of equipment like a pedometer.

Three Dead Sheep

I don't like mowing our rear lawn at home.
No, thatís the wrong description, it gives you the wrong impression. I should say that I positively hate mowing our rear lawn.
To most this sentence will meet with a sense of surprise and bewilderment, for I would think that the average garden must be between thirty and sixty feet long and have lawn thatís flat and well-tended. To these people, the lawn is a delight, a source of well-being and pleasure as they gaze out on it from their kitchen or conservatory windows.
But I'm not talking average, here, I'm talking mega-big. More specifically, two hundred feet mega-big. The electric cable alone that I had to purchase in order for us to be able to hover-mow the far end ran into several tens of pounds.
And I'm not talking flat, either, I'm talking rollercoaster. So much so that within a very small square of seven by seven feet of lawn (the area that I marked out for my pond that I've mentioned in a previous article), the height difference between one end and the other was seven inches - not a gentle incline but an undulating one.
I'm sure that you must have seen magazines advertising the wonders of the Flymo on well-flattened grass, the operator not having broken into a mild sweat even though the entire lawn has been completed and the grass is bathed in brilliant sunshine.
But that's hardly the case with our rear garden. The entire event of trying to get the hover-mow to travel forward looks like an attempt to get a reluctant donkey to move from A to B, due to the undulating nature of the lawn. So much so that the ease with which a Flymo is supposed to hover over the ground has not yet been discovered by us and we were forced to rename it a Dragmo (until we recently raised the blade we were in the habit of calling it a Scrapemo, too).
So that got me to thinking. How could I possibly avoid having to do the garden every fortnight?
Then, while reading Mairi Macarthur's excellent book 'lona', it hit me that, perhaps, I could soum the land. That is, work out just how many sheep our lawn would sustain and rent it out to a local farmer for a fairly nominal charge so that he might increase the size of his herd.
However, upon sitting down and working out the area of land that I had at my disposal I realised that I couldn't practically achieve my target for the total surface area of our rear lawn was only able to support one half of a female sheep giving birth to a quarter of a lamb.
It was then that I remembered the beach area of Mackinnonís cave and the pasture land that we'd walked through that contained a flock of sheep scattered, grazing peacefully wherever we looked.
Just how can the farmer work out what quantity of sheep he should let out on the land when the numbers must increase in the spring with the amount of lambs that are born? I mean, if the land can sustain a hundred sheep, can it realistically sustain a hundred plus an additional hundred and twenty-five lambs? And how can you anticipate the number of lambs that are going to be born in any one season? And if the farmer gets it slightly wrong, does that mean that the sheep, in search of some better pasture, will take risks along the precipice-like cliffs of the sea-shore and, losing their footing, tumble over the edge to dash themselves into an early grave on the rocks and boulders below?
Yes, perhaps that's the answer. You see, we found three dead sheep - one was at the entrance of the cave itself (I presume that it wasn't a tourist).
Mackinnon's cave is, indeed, a strange area - but then most of the south-west area of Mull is. Here and there are wild flowers poking their heads from between rocks, growing on a small scrap of damp dirt that's found its way into a weather-worn crack. The petals, I seem to remember, were normally a pinky red and, though their scent wasn't discernible, the beauty of the specimen was.
Then there are the rock pools that harbour crabs and shells that eke out an existence, thinking, perhaps, that they're still part of the sea, not realising that theyíre stranded until the next high tide washes them back to the main reservoir of water.
Life thrives just about everywhere, but so does death - like the three dead sheep on the beach that bear witness to the harsh reality of the area.
Beautiful the coastline may be, but deadly it often is, too.
And so, in this extreme contrast between life and death, the sheep remind me to be careful.
One small slip, one ventured footstep too far, one sudden movement onto an untested surface, could mean my early demise or, at the very least, a severe loss to my well-being.
Mackinnonís cave certainly bears its own warnings.
But itís also resplendent with its own special beauty.
And, as for my lawn - well, it looks like Iíll just have to keep on mowing it.

Timbers

I correspond with some strange people.
They probably feel the same way about me.
Just recently I was reading through a letter sent by the hand of an old friend when one short but succinct complaint made me smile outwardly - 'Why did God make slugs?'
It was merely a rhetorical question, a plea of exasperation from the heart of someone whoíd waged a valiant war against the slimy beasties and yet had failed - slug pellets and all. It certainly wasn't a serious complaint to the Almighty.
But the question stayed with me for a while until, upon replying, I wrote, ĎAh yes, "why did God make slugs?". Quite simple - to feed the frogs and hedgehogs. Obvious, isn't it?'
I was quite content with my answer until my wife read the letter (I always do this even though it's a humbling experience having all your typing errors pointed out to you). She pointed the sentence out to me and commented, 'But why didn't he make them eat grass instead?'
'Because otherwise there'd be a plague of slugs if no one ate them,' I replied. Again, the reply seemed ever so logical, a sensible answer to what, in my opinion, was an absurd question.
'But why didn't he make the hedgehogs and frogs eat grass and not have to create slugs?' The logic of your average woman (though my wife is far from average) never ceases to amaze me. Wouldn't it have just been simpler to accept my explanation and leave it at that?
Fortunately there was an even simpler answer.
'Oh come on,' I said, 'that's a silly question. Hedgehogs and frogs like slugs - they'd be bored stiff if they had to stick to eating grass all their lives.'
My wife didn't question me any further and I was glad - I was starting to get a little hot under the collar in case the next question was something like, 'Then why didn't He change what they found tasty and made slugs not in the least bit appetising?'
That was a question for which I wasn't sure I had the answer.
But questions are strange things, aren't they? From an off-the-cuff, purely rhetoric question that demands no answer, comes a whole thought process that tries to understand something that might not have a logical explanation.
It happened on the beach near Mackinnon's cave, too.
Having descended to the shoreline from the field above, my curiosity was immediately drawn to the scene that lay before me and I asked myself the question, 'How come there are numerous large timbers here, scattered as if two giants had been interrupted in the middle of a game of pick-up-sticks?'
Driftwood I had heard of, pieces of wood torn off old tea chests and the like, but not almost entire lengths of tree trunks, pitted with holes and gradually decaying.
Recourse to the guide book gave an explanation but one that I found myself questioning while the words were still ringing through my mind - 'There are some huge logs, part of a cargo which floated in the sea for some time and were the subject of a security warning to shipping before they came ashore.'
Why did the timbers get washed in to shore here and, seemingly, nowhere else? Why haven't they got washed back out to sea on a high tide? Why hasn't someone come and collected them for use in some d-i-y job or other?
Just as the most obvious answer to all the questions that Iíd found thrown at me regarding the slugs was Ďbecause it happened that way', so I found myself answering each question the same, without any idea of a better or more learned and informed reply.
They were washed up here, stayed here and no-one came to take them away from here primarily because that's how it happened and also because it didn't happen any other way.
I can't help thinking that I could do myself a lot of good if I accepted life in the same manner instead of getting rattled and reddened by events that are seemingly designed to flare my temper and unleash a barrage from my tongue.
Just why did the wheel fall off the car?
Because it happened that way - there, that gives me a peace and acceptance of the situation and I'm more able to cope with all the problems that the event has just deposited on my doorstep.
But should I think that itís the result of some fool mechanic who didn't inspect the nuts and bolts that hold the wheel on then I get unnecessarily heated, my stress in the situation increases and I begin to function in the same way as I've always done. You know the sort of thing? Kicking the tyre, kicking the car, getting angry that my foot is bruised because I kicked the tyre and the car and so on and so forth. One thing always seems to lead on to something else even worse.
I could really do myself more good and others less harm if I learnt to accept life's unforeseen tragedies with a bounce in my step and a spring in my stride and a 'Never mind, that's the way the cookie crumbles'.
As for Mackinnon 's cave - well, I just enjoyed the unusual coastline, the unique shapes that dominate the rocks on the water's edge.
No questions answered.
But certainly no pleasure lost.

Litter

Doesn't litter seem to get just about everywhere?
Mackinnonís cave was no exception, though it should be said that once it's either blown here or washed in from the sea, there's never anyone employed by local councils to come along the shore and remove it.
I found it hard to believe that anyone visiting the cave would have been responsible for the odd bits of rubbish that lie deposited here and there. The character of the sort of person who wanders onto this shore is, in my opinion, far higher than to participate in such degrading pursuits as the discarding of useless objects - an empty crisp bag, the ink bleached by the sun, lies sandwiched under numerous pebbles as if the sea is attempting to prevent it from spoiling the beautiful scenery.
A bottle-top, too, firmly jammed under the rock-overhang seems immovable.
And this - now this brings back memories - an empty ring-pull can. But not your ordinary can, this one is special.
I picked it up and eyed it over, looking at the age and uniqueness of the design.
This one was around in my youth, I can't remember seeing one like this for many, many years.
Why is it special?
Let me tell you about it...
When I was young, the Soft Drinks manufacturers came up with the novel idea of packaging their product in 'Ringpull' cans. It was a clever invention - then, for the first time, people were able to enjoy Coca-Cola or whatever, whether or not they were carrying a bottle-opener or can-piercer. It also meant that you didn't have to buy a large bottle that you couldn't possibly finish and that you would have had to have lugged round.
Of course, being a group of innovative youngsters (like most kids were), we found the new cans exciting for a different reason - the ring-pull on the top.
By detaching the flat strip from the ring, we had both an aerodynamically perfect projectile and its launching pad.
In case you've never had the experience of these, let me explain to you what we did.
The flat strip of metal was slotted into one of the two notches in the ring. Then, by bringing the ring back so that the flat strip acted like a spring and suddenly releasing it, the ring was launched into flight, spinning like a Frisbee as it flew sometimes thirty or forty feet.
Ring-pull championships were developed in the playground during breaks, though with adverse weather conditions they had to be abandoned, the ring barely flying a couple of feet before the wind threw it to the ground. We also used them as offensive weapons in the classroom (when the teacher wasn't looking), at bus stops and other various places.
Then there were the conservationists who started collecting them for recycling and there developed (almost overnight) a national shortage of readily available ammunition (commonly-known as 'rubbish').
I think that Blue Peter, a kids' program, had an appeal for them one year, too, for charity.
Of course, there were some negative aspects to the ring-pull - safety for one. I don't mean that people got hit in the eye by flying rings - as far as I know this never happened, even though there was always the possibility that it might.
But I once cut my heel on the flat strip of metal that was attached to the ring. Some uncaring soul, instead of firing the ring at someone and disposing of the launch-pad in the nearest bin, had thrown both parts onto the pavement where I was walking along barefoot. I needn't go into the details, I'm sure that you can imagine what happened.
Alas, the days of the ring-pull can were numbered! Soon they were to become an endangered species - now they're extinct. Was it because, I wonder, of conservation or safety? I don't know, but there certainly aren't any around today.
In their place there arose a new type of can that refuses to give up any of its parts - it's a real downer!
By moving the ring forward, the piece of metal that once came away is now pushed into the can and liquid (which, to me, is extremely unhygienic unlike the good old ring-pull - and far less exciting than a flying projectile). The ring has to be pushed back into its original position, leaving a hole in the top through which you're able to get at the soft drink.
But what's the use of it? What positive aspects are there to this new design? None, as far as I can see, only negatives.
For one, having a beard is a nightmare. I frequently find myself getting attached to the ring thatís now firmly anchored to the top. Facial hair gets trapped underneath and it brings tears to the eyes to wrench myself free. In the old days, this would never have happened, it was impossible. But now, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, drinking Coke involves the serious risk of having hair ripped off your face.
Progress? Ha!
And where has all the fun gone? Where are the 'Ring-pull' championships and the 'shoot-to-killí policies of young schoolboys? Where have the opportunities gone for the conservationists to feel that they're 'doing their bit' by collecting tons and tons of ring-pulls, or for Blue Peter to launch a bigger and better 'Ring-pull' appeal?
It seems to me that, sometimes, we take all the fun out of life in the name of 'progress' or 'safety' or some other such label that's a cover-up for the instigation of boredom.
My mind returned to the object in my hand.
A piece of rubbish, yes, but it still brought back the memories.
I tossed it aside and heard it clatter onto the stony beach, and walked off to catch up the others.

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