Third Study Session

Shore Patrol - King Juba's men

"I was speaking figuratively, Petalmost. Figuratively speaking there is also this widespread assertion that alien visitors from outer space visited Tenerife donkeys' years ago. There are witnesses to this alien presence but no concrete evidence has come forth. So, it wasn't just Manfred's flight of fancy. It's like Josef's dad said: 'We are all made from the same clay - mud and sticks!'

"In any case I don't think God will punish us for holding Him to account. He may give a wise nod and say 'OK children. Take it from there.' You know, these seven islands are some of the few places around Africa where there are no fearsome wild animals. Aliens would have loved it for their picnics, though I believe many centuries ago there were some very large lizards and some very large dogs. We don't have enough material for a proper survey and there's going to be a lot of guesswork, but we ought to get down to it. Damn it, we live here! Forget the skin - let's brown the brain!

Some scientific circles claim Atlantis as a source for the Guanche race, but this claim is to me largely nonsense for, according to ancient writings, Atlanteans enjoyed a civilized society, they had social organisation, a written language, sophisticated weapons.

"Where is the beginning, Sweet Prince?"

"Well, for our start point we have the account of Pliny the Elder about King Juba 2nd and his army around the first century AD making a visit to the Islands. Juba was a vassal king under Roman rule. Lots of other adventurers visited the Islands but only a few of them settled here: Phoenicians, Genoese, Arab and Berber and let us not forget the ancient Iberian race that colonized most of Europe, and from these ancient people the Black and the Arab nations arose. What is puzzling is how these Guanche people managed to keep their prehistoric culture alive and kicking right into the Middle Ages."

"Well, my good man, they couldn't have remained entirely prehistoric with all these visitors coming and going. There must have been trade-offs along the line. But you have already said the principal Guanche genes came from the Berber or Iberian race who migrated here when the Sahara turned into desert around 6000 BC. Just imagine! There was a river running through it, water-birds quacking, animals drinking at the waters edge - and crocodiles!"

"Of all God's creatures I hate crocodiles the most!"

"Is God coming into this, Sweet Pea? According to Tony, Manfred's alien visitors are Angels of the Lord."

Aliens or Angels, their physical existence is unproven, therefore a double bind gets tossed in here. The Guanche nation on the other hand is as real as sliced bread, they did not even have the war bow and no metals even to make arrow-heads, no written language, no books, no artisan skills, no ship-builders, not even the potter's wheel. They had their gods and certain rules of behaviour, a verbal tradition and sod-all else. They appear to be a relict group of Berber people from North-west Africa. A book called A Cure for Serpents by Alberto Denti Di Pirajno, a doctor who worked extensively in Berber country, quotes an Arab historian of the thirteenth century who affirms that the Berbers came from Palestine where their king Goliath was killed by David. The Arab invasions of the seventh and eighth centuries BC broke the domination of the Berbers, who were driven southward into the Sahara and the fortified mountain villages. They spoke Arabic in public but within their own culture and within their own homes they preserved their own tongue. A relict portion of the Berber culture landed here among the seven islands of Canaria.

Our reference material is too brief for even tentative conclusions so we are going to get a long way in a very long time. Until defeated by the Spanish these people led a complex, god-driven lifestyle; a trained social-worker would not have stood a cat-in-hell's chance of predicting their future; yet here comes Father Espinosa and a few other catholic priests to convert the simple Guanche into Christians not exactly at the drop of a hat, but it was social change driven by intense conflict. Any existing broadly-held consensus in society will continue indefinitely unless there are sufficiently bitter groups in conflict within it, for, among the nine kings of Tenerife there were some who united with the Spanish and others who did not and the previously broadly-held consensus between the nine kings over tribal rights deteriorated into impasse requiring the dominance of a conqueror, for let us not forget, there was almost a hundred years of bitter fighting to hold off the Spanish invaders of Tenerife - before Christianity entered the arena offering a more comforting religion and the only catalyst capable of bringing change to an exhausted people. What worthwhile alternative could there be when newly-found Christian salvation was lying in Heaven just above the clouds?

Yes but, half a mo', under their own gods there must have been a spiritual haven for Guanche warriors. In my admittedly scanty reference material little if anything is mentioned directly about Canarian spirituality, yet there must have been a Valhalla-type heaven for fallen warriors that maybe did not offer the same comforts as Christianity with its forgiveness of sins. And what about women who died, were they not permitted a heavenly repose? There was Majec Supreme God and Creator, there was Acaharman the good god of Luck and Benevolence, there was Gueyota who lived inside El Teide and appeared to humans in the shape of a great demon dog and who, according to Josef's father, loved music and became tame at the sound of it; there was a mother-goddess named Chaxiraxi who carried the world and was later to be transmuted as the Virgin of Candelaria when Christianity arrived. There was Guardamene, high priest of the Guanche Church who directed the Kankus (priests) and the Maquados (priestesses) who cared especially for the cult to the Mother-Goddess, and a host of domestic minor gods who protected civil ceremonies like baptism, weddings and public traditions and honour to the spirits of the dead. So, it appears there was a spiritual world and an executive class of priests guarding their social and religious life. Without a written language or books it is difficult to visualize how a verbal tradition could sustain itself through the centuries before the Spanish arrived.

An additional source from Father Espinosa (1580 - 90) is Antonio de Viana in 1604 who speaks of a peculiar race of men who enjoyed the delights of this favoured island whose ancestors came, no doubt, from the neighbouring West African coast and from the same ancient Iberian race who lived there before that coast was overrun by Arab and Negro blood, an ancient race which once covered all of western Europe. Another early Spanish writer says of the Guanches: "They were that same Iberian race - a people tall, fair and strong; a people of many virtues and of few vices. They were virtuous, honest and brave, and the finest qualities of humanity were found united in them; to wit, magnanimity, skill, courage, athletic powers, strength of soul and of body, pride of character, nobleness of demeanor, a smiling physiognomy, an intelligent mind, and patriotic devotedness."

Isabella la Catolica with Guanche prisoners

OK, these were qualities which greatly impressed Queen Isabella 1st of Castile, a queen devoted to justice, who ruled that all Guanches who became Christian were not to be taken as slaves but to be given their freedom.

The conquest of Tenerife by the Spanish decimated the noble Guanche nation: pestilence formerly unknown and diseases brought in by mainland settlers diminished their culture and the Guanche became a mixed race. Even Father Espinosa in his time spoke of Guanche customs: "This is what I have been able to learn and comprehend with much difficulty and work because the old Guanches are so shy and intimidated that if they do know them they do not wish to say, thinking that to divulge them is detrimental to their nation." And many years after the conquest there were groups of Guanche people who continued to follow the old customs. He speaks of Candelaria where, many years after the conquest, there are Guanche people who continue to follow the old customs and at Guimar where some remaining Guanche people are living who are few in number because they are already mixed.

These old customs dwindled yet persisted until the end of the nineteenth century. With their spears and clubs these strangely primitive people who, though not Atlantean, held a primitive sophistication akin to mainland Berber tribal life, held off the invading Spanish for nigh on a hundred years. Commitment and the formalities of family and society held the Guanche people together and they continued to unite as any tribal society would unite. There was no death penalty among the Tenerife Guanches although social rules were strict. There must have been a society beyond death, something to be anticipated. So, what on earth held this primitive society together if it was not faith in a perfect future beyond death? For in the absence of science there was only faith.

String Game

And what did the children learn? A certain cohesion, a holding together of social norms supported by simple games: For the boys games with ball and stick, stilts where the highest stride increased boyish stature, foot races, straying out of bounds onto the beach where dangers lay, a crowding of gangs, a teasing of girls, helping fathers with herding of plentiful goats, though sheep were fewer in number, preparation for manhood, making of weapons and stern punishments for misbehaviour: For girls sewing and stitching, string games, domestic maintenance, food preparation, a teasing of boys, playing with dolls of many kinds, all within a mutuality of social compliance. Boys could escape by joining the mainland army of the local king under Rome, girls could marry away from tribal constraints and into something more adventurous, an army major, or maybe a naval captain or even a black Nubian prince.

There were no dangerous wild animals on shore, but swimming was dangerous with huge fish that bite and jellies that sting - and beware the slave hunters who steal children for, as Julius the Centurion warned "Yes, my lad, you can tell a slave ship dead easy. They are huge, three banks of oars and they stink to Olympus and back! If you spot one off-shore get the kids off the beach and go and tell your dad, sharpish!"

Strangers on the Shore

But one thing is certain; there was no lingering trepidation about what roles the sexes had to follow. Without understanding the language of genes, tasks in the old regime were gender-specific, which clearly divided the sexes. Simplistic Guanche children with their toys and dolls had no inkling of their fate although the genes knew and could push them, hopefully, in the right direction.

The present day gives a hollow gesture of dismissal to this old regime, for now Tenerife is a playground for the gangs, fraudsters on the run; we have wives chasing delinquent husbands and we have bankrupts, all sheltering under complex extradition law, and yet, in front of these low-profile delinquents, we have our steady holiday people who come for the sheer delight of sea, sand and sunshine, visitors whom we welcome with joy year after year and even relish the odd complaint that sticks in its quaintness because there is no milk jug in the apartment, no newspapers and even the odd horror spot - that dreadful family who came in a mobile home - a Macwester fifty-two foot yacht sheltering in Los Cristianos harbour for repair - we gave them an apartment and they expected day-to-day hotel service; and that slimy couple who, because we did not offer a discount, tried to steal two superb travelling rugs that belonged to the Fox family; and our poor Mrs 'Mouthpiece' who came for a month for three years on the trot looking for her husband in hiding - and we never did find out; and that sex-happy free-loving family best kept shtum about in case the ghost of social work responded and pointed an accusing finger at me. So few in number, these difficult visitors merely serve as bad examples and are unable to diminish our joy in welcoming our beloved people year by year.

A substantial part of the charm of present-day Tenerife lies in its largely unrecorded history. One of the seven islands lying just over the horizon from Morocco, its presence could not have remained uncharted despite the maps and charts of antiquity showing land-areas as islands surrounded by endless seas wherein lay dragons and monsters to deter all but the most adventurous spirits from venturing beyond the sight of land. Not sufficiently remote from the coast of Morocco to indulge fantasy or prevent common-sense from breaking in, we tend to forget that this romantic semi-secret island had over the centuries its share of visitors.

In primitive times the island was well-known to sea-going people; a free call to ships needing water and stores; to ships needing repairs to masts and spars; an adventurous playground to pirates and privateers; a good call for slave ships intent on stealing children; a regular stopping place to smarten ship before docking in mainland ports. These island people also had to cope with their island used as a refuge for criminals on the run; army deserters; escaped slaves and the rag-tag and bob-tail of North-African society under Roman law and then to stand against Spain with its armour and firearms and trained infantry. There was no death penalty in Tenerife and the nine kings had either to reconcile these invaders as servants to local families or meet violence with violence. So what drove the Guanche onward? Was life in a tribal society with the slaughter of their own and of Spanish soldiery sufficiently worthwhile? Throughout the world people are basically the same, the differences between us are not nearly so surprising as the similarities!

Something cock-eyed somewhere!

Next in this inelegant saga we will go to the adult life among the Menceys or Kings of Tenerife for there were nine of them almost like a junta who administered justice independently yet shared between them the best grazing lands for their flocks -

But now there are noises off: Callers... and Petalmost is making welcoming sounds. It is Mighty Maeve and -- yes, Maggie who describes herself with a giggle as Tony's laywoman "I just lay the law down!"

Now, we have a potem perch to swing on: There are familiar sounds of coffee being prepared. This is going to be a long social chat: "Hi Maeve, Hi Maggie!"

"Oh yes, I always arrive first. I like to make things nice for Tony. It's hard for him to leave the office behind. Oh, and did you know he met two of the mob lads in their bar who got two women and a pair of boys out of Mrs Hammond's flat."

Yes, I knew: "They're good at this: first time we ever used Ted and Fred was the first year we were here. They got a bunch of kids out of Basy's place. We call them Ted Bear and Fred Bear."

Lizzie nods: "They are always very polite - the boys I mean."

Going back to social-work time I can remember two cases of unwelcome guests who were thrown out, the first lot by the couple's younger relatives, and the second lot by the police. It was hard to repress a need for violence. I met one of the first lot later on Wanstead High Street, and he came out with the standard ploy wanting money for his bus fare to see his mum in Whipps Cross Hospital: he buried his mum almost two years ago. I just wanted him gone for he was fouling the streets of Wanstead. And secondly, a case of two dippers who had lodged uninvited in the home of an elderly deaf couple in Ilford, they even had the cheek to leave the wallet and purses they'd stolen inside the house. Too afraid to speak the elderly couple carried the young thugs for weeks until the police arrived and carted them off. Confronted by such blatant anti-social behaviour I felt a need for vengeance on these human parasites, feelings which haven't changed in the fullness of time. You can deny it all you want but we are driven by the need for retaliation and repair. We only have to go back a couple of hundred years to a time when children could be hanged for poaching, to a time when rapists would be dealt with by the viotim's family, when the ducking stool would be used for drowning witches. Contemporary society tries to repel this basic urge to repair personal loss and injury which we now call anger management. So we put it behind us and let the law deal with it.

"Poor Tony! He was shaking, one of them came up and gave him fifteen pounds in change. I mean, he didn't expect them to be honest. They were huge men. He was so stricken by their honesty it trumped his image of evil."

With Ted and Fred around there is no need for retaliation, for they get results. Maggie's face expresses doubt. "Why can't we get things done without violence!" Yet I beat up a client because he was disgusting. His daughter was made subject to a Guardianship Order when her Care Order expired. She couldn't understand why she was not allowed home, for the poor love thought it natural for a girl to have sex with her father. There really is a certain satisfaction in needful violence. I remember with a certain cold glee as the architects came out of their office opposite to watch a social-worker beating up a client. For managers in a risky business in a foreign country Ted and Fred perform an essential service.

Still on potem time: From Santa Cruz market Maeve has brought two legs of New Zealand lamb. Back home we would rarely buy New Zealand lamb, preferring English, but Canarian lamb is so tiny that out here New Zealand lamb takes on a major role. In a rare moment of playfulness she suggests: "Thanks to Captain Cook we have New Zealand lamb and good knitting wool. My group use either British wool or New Zealand wool. You can only knit Chinese wool with chop sticks!"

Ha-ha. Nice one Maeve! We knew about silkworms but not about the wool. Versatile lot, the Chinese! Maeve plays whist and cribbage. We know nothing of her card-playing people or her knitting group - but who uses hand-knitted wool these days? I can imagine her being a bit miffed not knowing that Lori's old mum had moved to a two bed-roomed apartment behind the Princesa Dacil hotel, her old home on the beach for almost thirty years being swiftly demolished. We joke about dear Maeve, the sort of woman who, arriving on board ship, would instantly know where everything is kept and, as the widow of a naval man, is bound to know about Captain Cook and the sheep.

From the office chair I admire the leg of lamb. It's hard to imagine that there were no sheep in New Zealand before Captain Cook arrived. Severely practical, our Maeve is not into myths legends or false claims, and I sometimes wonder what she thinks about the Newbie notion that's been with us during the last few months. Josef's dad said these Newbie creatures had long heads. In history we know that head-binding was not unknown in South America and it was done in ancient Egypt, possibly as a mark of superiority.

Many Guanche people wore sheepskin clothing. What sort of clothing did the Maori wear before Captain Cook brought sheep into New Zealand? I trot this out - not expecting any serious result - but a broadside from Maeve about woven New Zealand flax settles the matter.

Lizzie suggests it would be interesting to have an opposing argument.

"Tony questions the idea of a parallel universe" - Maggie puts in: - "In his view these visitations are from good angels."

"Are there any bad angels?"

Tony has talked about Mount Hermon and latitude 33 and its significance in the Christian world. But Tenerife is more than a click away from latitude 33 although it is relatively peaceful and not part of world conflicts. Maggie is now talking about fallen angels. This is a bit too close to the bone for Maeve who is now making serious departure movements with her leg of lamb. "Must buzz. Loads to do." On her way out she delivers a parting shot: "These angels could have stopped off in New Zealand where there are no dangerous wild animals and no huge dogs either! And there's Mount Cook on the South Island which is just as high as El Teide."

"You know, we should get the last remnant of the Hitler Youth in for this."

"He's back, with his Scottish lady friend."

"That should give it a high moral tone! Let's drag 'em in."

We do get these periods of madness when there's something serious afoot. But yes, we should get Manfred into this. In the meantime Maggie is chuntering on about bad angels. Tony says they dress to look like people.

Ted  & Fred

I remember when our bad angels first appeared at our door - "What's the problem, Chief?" said Ted. Fred had a parasol with a vicious spike on the end. Petal gulped, said "Ooh - Hi boys!" They were huge blokes.

Maggie chunters on: Heaven is full of angels good and bad; and we now have the solar system added on, looking at poor old Pluto too small to clear his orbital path but with enough carbon and amino acids floating around him to create life. And if all that stuff lying about can create life, it can also create God-like creatures. So we're back to square one. But this sort of stuff doesn't please Tony who insists that God is not a product of chemical bonding but came before anything else did. It's all purely speculative, of course, but Tony can live with it. His heaven exists at local level, just above the clouds.

For me the heavens opened with the ENSA concerts at Nottingham Albert Hall in 1943, my introduction to classical music and things that really mattered. Never ever before hearing music played in an open hall I was smitten by its resonance and vitality. I remember John Barbirolli glaring at the audience to be quiet before raising his baton, and the occasion when Eileen Joyce complimented Nottingham corporation for getting a decent piano at long last, and William Primrose the viola virtuoso whose music was right in the middle of the orchestral range yet reached me as a solo instrument. My secret door had cracked open.

The Secret Door

Now we are talking about the Depot Effect. Social-workers are supposed to know something about the Depot Effect. It starts with the family home - a place where ideas are stored, more practically where rubbish is stored, or ammunition, or a powder magazine - but Maggie's Depot Effect means church-going - a place where worship is stored. She is not disdainful about Tony's strong beliefs but rather stands her distance from ideological commitment. One wonders: how do they get on in their private moments?

"Tony hates the French demanding his passport, he remembers the first time he visited France which was then part of Greater Germany. There were only a few Frenchmen around the rest were captured Germans waiting in lines ready to be carted off. And he actually swore in those days."

A choking giggle from Petalmost thinking of Helicopters and I couldn't resist a slight mischief: "In the early Christian world what did they use in place of Helicopters?"

"In those days he was in the army. He'd seen the dreadful horrors of warfare, the awful stillness of stateless people who have lost family and possessions and just sit waiting for fate to deal them the final blow. That was when his world fell apart and he came to God."

"I should have known better. Sorry, Maggie."

"No sweat! It was the children he prayed for, I remember his words 'Their empty-eyed silence' - they were in camps with barbed wire. He said it was like being dropped into the pit of Hell. I think he's right, our focus should be on children almost exclusively. We need good schools that fulfill both academic and social potential in children, schools that instill high expectations of behaviour, to impress rather than depress the adult world. Pity and anger don't sit well together. One German prisoner tried to escape. Tony drew his pistol and shot at the man's foot. And when we occupied Germany, it was a German tennis champion who taught Tony how to play the game. He's much too old to play at county level but he needs to be reminded of the prisoner he shot at and the tennis player who taught him how to play. He knows he had the right to shoot escaping prisoners - but it still haunts him."

Helicopters! I've run out of notepad! I prefer notepads that are turn the page rather than up and over. I can't get long statements. I get the gist but lose the garbage! Explain to Maggie I do most of my writing up last thing while it's still fresh. Lizzie puts her notes in too.

Our one and only nephew Mark Caplan attends Bancrofts School, an independent school at Woodford Green, close to Wanstead. Apart from the school's general excellence it was founded by the Drapers' Company in 17... erm...

"Lizzie, Petal - when was Bancrofts School founded: Seventeen-something or other?"

"Erm ...yes."

"Erm ... Well, quite. Your dad was in the drapery business."

"My dad was a tailor, I'll have you know! Just watch it, Sunshine!"

"Sorry, but there is a slight connection. This coffee's good!" - cunningly deflecting her indignation.

Well, of course it's good. Lizzie has pride. None of your instant rubbish here! Actually the instant is kept hidden in case of emergencies. Going back in history - a school like Bancrofts with a good reputation picks up new entrants who stiffen and maintain the school's reputation becoming components of this strong depot community.

Going back even further it is difficult to see how the myth of Guanche isolation can be supported. I mean, however strong their depot effect, the Canary Islands are far too close to the North-west coast of Africa to escape the slings and arrows of foreign invasion. And how an acquisitive empire like Rome would avoid turning the Canaries into a subject state is hard to understand. Beside which the depot effect wouldn't work here, for who would want to emulate an illiterate Guanche - a state to escape from, not to cling to! There must have been many Guanche boys wanting to become soldiers under King Juba of Mauritania.

A long finger points "Who's he?"

The Centurion

The crested helmet was a touch difficult but the figure of the Centurion is a good stern-faced figure, the boy in front of him wants to join the army. Good strong pencil-work kept simple. "That's Julius advising a Guanche boy."

A touch of explanation: "Well, King Juba's kingdom in Africa was a vassal state under Rome. He built his army on the Roman style and probably stiffened it with elements from the Roman army. When legions made camp they first established a perimeter, surrounded it with a ditch and a palisade with watch towers. But I assume King Juba's army came over here looking for deserters, not in legion strength but in Company strength, so the camp would be more modest. So large stones would establish a perimeter and each watchman had a pile of smaller stones to throw at animals and small boys who get too curious.


Petalmost fixes on this: "Were aliens visiting in those days I'll bet King Juba's men captured them and turned them into slaves! And what about Manfred's parallel universe people - I bet they wouldn't stand for it!"

Always doubtful about Manfred's proposal of a parallel universe, she sees it as a weird joke to stir things up a bit. "What do you call a disenchanted German?"

"A Sauerkraut!"

"Well, right! That's our Manfred! OK, shall we have a discussion group or a posh dinner party, precious man?"

"You need people for a posh dinner party, sweet maid!"

Yes, it might look a bit pretentious - a farewell dinner party! Mind you, times have changed; in the early days the most we could hold in D/4-3 was seven because we only had four dining chairs, two kitchen chairs, one bedroom chair and two canvas stools. Now we have a veranda table with four extra garden-type chairs. The only snag is that the tables side by side are not the same height, but we can now get eleven people and a folding stool for Mimi who loves to watch what's going on. But clearly our casually acquired clutch of colleagues would be driven out of comfort by a posh farewell do. So, we agree to keep it simple.

Who are we having then? Tony and Maggie, Harold and Claudia, Bob Gethin - though we've never understood why he and his wife have holidays separately, Manfred and maybe his Scottish lady, Joan and Barrie, the Booths (find someone to do Marjorie's hair), the brothers - Tom and Stephen Hamilton, and what about young Dennis Pearl - our Down-Under lad? - "Or is he back in New Zealand?"

All our best people are leaving: only Claudia has mentioned their forthcoming departure; and there's Joan and Barrie thinking of selling their home with its small bungalow at the end of the garden for their naturist visitors. Our only secure spot in this dissolution is Manfred - and how long will it be before he is called back to Germany? We must make light of impending disaster for right now we're still in potem time - "I mean- these Guanches lived in caves, like bears, bats and foxes, as if natural shelter was all they could find. No wonder the Spanish found them a primitive lot. Now Tenerife is littered with apartments. Maybe we could let to aliens!"

"Yes, but Tenerife was littered with caves, primitive yes, but caves are safe havens with only one entrance, safer than moat and drawbridge."

"I'll bet these Newbie people didn't live in caves."

Watchers on the Wall

"Dead right, Maggie. We didn't see them on the naturist beach either! We had our watchers though; they used to stand on the rocks that separated us from the normals and study all the bums and tits until that RAF flight sergeant organized a counter-stare dispersal group and that lady in the hat stood up and started photographing them, then they disappeared like lightening. What's Spanish for 'starers', Petalmost?"

"Erm - there isn't actually a word. There's Esta' mal visto fijar Mirada en la gente which means 'it's rude to stare at people'."

"We called them 'the watchers on the wall'. What is it that draws people to watch other people without clothes on? Is there some emotional force behind it? Remember that guy with binoculars?"

Counter Stare Group

"Maybe there's a secret door in the mind that some people are brave enough to enter. You find all the marvelous naughty and secret things you always wanted to enjoy. What do you reckon, Maggie?"

"Not really, just normal curiosity. Like the Crown Jewels: you stare but don't touch. Mind you, your secret door has a downside. Clothes show superiority. Naked people are in a vassal state. Tony believes angels on Tenerife try hard to look like us so as not to cause embarrassment."

"If they look like us, how do you recognize the buggers? I bet they don't stare!"

"What did they do before the Big Bang, Maggie?"

"They worked at experimental benches with His Nibs - the Chief Chemist - giving nods of approval as he walked up and down. When they had one ready for test they cleared the area, tickled the test piece and measured the rate of expansion. In the early nineteen eighties Alan Guth called it cosmic inflation and we grew up with it. So now we allow ourselves to believe our human race is the actual bees-knees of intelligent life whereas we may be just one losing group among many awaiting final extinction. Pity really, I would have enjoyed an introduction to a higher form of life."
(captured as truly as poss. But who the fuck is Alan Guth?}

Away from Tony and in her own voice Maggie is no longer the pious mouse, science and speculation have leaped into view; but now she finds her shopping list, rises to depart and Lizzie will accompany her to Mas a Menos.

Maggie in her view of tiny discarded humanity has put me in mind of King Lear: As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods / They kill us for their sport.

I mean, how cruelly doomed are we if some celestial scientist pulls the plug. I mean, we shall hear no further note of Beethoven, no more the voice of Shakespeare, no more Les Paul and Mary Ford in the gorgeous 'How High the Moon', or 'The Wichita Lineman', or Don McLean's 'Vincent' - the fabulous "Starry, Starry Night...", or Eric Coates' fantastic 'Dambusters March' ...things that fill me full of joy. What a waste! All gone at the press of a switch! As if they never existed and never will!

It takes time for a big potem with all the yin and yang of argument to disappear over the horizon. The normal domestic landscape will slowly re-appear -- and we come back to working level.

So, where was I?... Artist in Residence - as Petalmost would have it - scribbling about with this ridiculous art column. In the meantime I'll have another coffee and maybe feed the cat.

Cave dwellers in the Middle Ages! Doesn't make sense! Those ridiculous Guanche people lived in caves - they also buried their dead in caves. Somehow it doesn't make sense. Caves are spread randomly not grouped together like a community. So, with no focal point for gatherings, no housing committee and only walls to write on what on earth kept them together?

One expects cave-dwellers to be the most backward of humankind - but here they are in the front ranks of tribal societies with a cultural solidarity that kept the Spanish at bay for almost a century!

This enquiry is going nowhere. Somewhere we need to discard some of the Guanches' hallowed myths: they could not have developed their culture in isolation for they were too close to the north-west continent of Africa to survive as a mystical community. Though conversely and throughout history warning legends have sprung into place to mystify and discourage Guanche mainland adventure; one visualizes the culture where Guanche Mum raises a hand: 'Don't even think about going there or I'll tell your dad!'

The Guanches revelled in their isolation, mystery and romance, for these factors were also protective. Does it serve any practical use striving to bring logic and clarity to this island community? Legends about the huge dogs on shore that snarled at approaching visitors, for these dogs were guard dogs supreme having swum ashore from ships calling in for water and stores, for dogs on ships were not pets but guardians and the protective strain was carried from ship to shore.

Within recorded history the Canary islands were visited by a number of peoples including Numidians, Phoenicians and Carthaginians and, between the 1st and 4th centuries AD, there were numerous expeditions from the Roman province of North Africa... OK, so what about visitations from angels in disguise? Can I believe that angels would be daft enough to proclaim their natural appearance? Otherwise they could be stoned to death, burned as witches - or even kept as slaves ...No, that's nonsense, angels would have to discard their wings for the sake of appearances and no angel in his right mind would do that! I put it to Lizzie: "What the hell is their natural appearance, and did they have lady angels? And did they meet for dinner?"

"No good asking me, my good man! You should have asked Maggie."

"Dollychops! You're back already! Maggie is only here for two weeks so we probably won't see her again." Mimi flies to Dolly's side for something more appealing than cat food for wee Mimi loves sardine but only cooked.

"In Mas a Menos Maggie was saying how difficult it was to prevent starvation in Germany. Tony hated them at first for what Hitler had done to Europe, then he found German people were quite civilized, sensible and cultured. Another thing; Maggie quotes Hebrews somewhere that people may converse with angels unaware - which must mean that angels do not have wings for what can you do with wings when you're waiting in the check-out?"

Interesting point: I mean wings on birds are essentially forearms, for if they're not forearms they must be theatrical attachments worn for fashion accessories or ceremonial purposes, and if they are attachments angels would not be able to catch low balls or ride bicycles! - or knit cross-stitch. And do angels hand in their wings if His Nibs pulls the switch? There must be other worlds to conquer. I mean His Nibs may have pulled the switch many times already. I mean think about previous civilisations like the Coneheads of Peru. Maybe it was those people who built those massive stone walls with beautiful close-fitted joints before our present civilization were able to make the necessary tools to do the job. I'm speaking of an era long before the Incas appeared on the scene. I mean, Josef's dad spoke of mud and sticks and people with long heads like we find in Egypt.

Mud and sticks

"King Juba's army and the Roman army were very religious, they carried effigies of their favourite gods. Those who went by sea carried Neptune and Venus and Mithras, who carried tridents but had hardly any clothes and no wings! They had poor little Aphrodite, who had only a sea shell and no clothes at all!"

"Most of the ancient gods had no clothes, my good man! That's why we get stared at. They think we're gods!"

"Bollocks! The common people just like staring at bums and tits!"

"Well, maybe. But Aphrodite was Greek not Roman! Get your facts right, Oh Sweet Prince!"

Aphrodite hits the lip

"Funny woman! I'll smack your bottom if you're not careful!"

"You haven't smacked my bottom in ages, Sweet Pea!"

"Cheeky! I'll get round to you in a bit!"

"While you're thinking about it - oh sexy beast! - we are pursuing truth for its own sake. The ancient Greeks never got even close to an answer and they'd been smacking bottoms since the seventh century BC!"

Worth noting: maybe it was the climate. The climate in Greece and southern Italy was similar to Tenerife, so one could ask why the poor simple Guanches were not at the same level as Socrates or Plato? At a later period Plutarch around AD 100 described the islands as occupied by strange and curious people, and astronomers and mathematicians of the period unearthed the same anomalies as we are doing right now, and diving much deeper than I can get with absolutely no knowledge of higher mathematics to light my way. Well, they certainly knew about the cube root in the fourth century BC... pause for search, find Science In History or Scientific American possibly... There is a delicious truth hidden somewhere...

Alas, we have here a persistent potem. Time lies in our laps. Somewhere in the background our study session is impatiently waiting.

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Text & images © Alan Mann 2013