The Shell Collection – Unearthed After Decades

Under my bed, unseen by all but a few eyes for decades, is my shell collection.  Even I almost forgot it existed.  Dozens upon dozens of shells of land snails, freshwater snails, sea shells, all gathered when I was a kid, some quite rare, some no larger than grains of sand. They are completely chaotic and out of order, largely unlabelled and packed in … well!  I used to make paper polyhedra, and I guess they were quite good recycled into boxes here. Inside them is package after package, some shells inside emptied vitamin capsules, some just wrapped in tissue. It is just about the most eccentric thing I have seen in a long time!


It seems an ignominious fate to be boxed up and forgotten down there in the dust. I really need to get in there and sort this out – get them into order, and repackage them so they are easier to actually look at.  I would also love to image them all and make a gallery, but to do that I’d need a digital microscope, I am sure.

However, I am actually not going to open this stashed land snail shell collection any further just yet. I am going to wait until I have thought it through and decided what to do with them to keep them safe.

What I did find was two microsnail specimens that had been separated and stuck on decades-old blu-tack for some reason. Here they are popped on the scanner with a new pound coin and the resolution turned up to the maximum.


This is the kind of thing I was playing with when I was a kid – hours and hours or years of work hunting these things down in various places around the country. And you know … opening them up now feels really really weird. Quite emotional.

I will hopefully get some much better images of these in the future.





Published in: on May 29, 2017 at 9:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Rambling on Basalgette in the London Night


Bazalgette . . . on a bridge . . . under a bridge . . .

Can’t effing sleep! Honestly my body clock doesn’t know which way it is going these days – late, early, nocturnal, occasionally even normal! And hey – here’s my blog, my almost ignored blog, the perfect place to moan into the void in the not-so-small hours! What the heck do I do now? Carry on lying here? Go out on some loopy bike ride around London to greet the dawn? See if any shops are still open somewhere and buy something weird?

Funny thing – I love being outside, especially riding old Basalgette (my bike) through the quiet streets. The nice thing about cycling is that you become transient and removed from the world you pass through – you flit by and are gone, with little involvement with people. I seem to be becoming increasingly allergic to physicality these days. The more time passes, the stranger and more alien human interaction seems. It’s not that I don’t like people – quite the reverse. I LOVE people. But meeting people in the flesh, actually talking to people, it all feels like some weird performance I am supposed to be involved in – and quite simply and literally it sometimes feels as though I have forgotten how to do it. Forgotten how to talk . . .

If I ever knew.

In the face of that, isolation is very seductive. But if so, then why am I living here? And I suppose loving it in some weird way? If there’s one place where it is impossible to ever be alone, it is here in London. Oh you can be lonely, it’s probably the easiest place in the country to be lonely – but never alone, the strange paradox of the city. Even as I spin through the streets at 4AM there is always something . . . .

Some figure hunching their way onwards, presumably with some mysterious destination in mind that you will never know.

The homeless huddled in corners – a lot more of them now, no surprise. they leave you feeling almost guilty that the world has not yet destroyed you, only them.

The occasional police who you strut past almost proudly (“look, I’m not committing a crime, isn’t that nice!”). Is it possible to strut on a bike? It is on Basalgette!

The drunks who, temporarily changing the rules of how the world functions, excitedly drag you into some brief clash of interaction, leaving you staring after them almost puzzled.

Some girl crying in the distance and every bone aches to ride over and offer help but then a million news and opinion articles and blog posts hammers a massive ‘fuck you’ as a reward for ever breaching that isolation straight between your eyes and you very quickly take the other road – then spend the rest of the night feeling sick with spiritual pollution and confusion.

The street poet who catches you during some pause and spouts words at you that on these night streets resonate as strong as any book, so you empty your wallet of change.

The shop-keepers of the little all-night stores that sell everything from European sausages to exhausted fruit via every kind of junk food you can imagine. Usually they just glower at you no matter what you say – but just occasionally you run into something else and exchange a small smile.

The drug-addled, probably the least dangerous people of all, glancing at you vaguely and analysing what universe you happen to reside in.

Even some maddie who is desperately trying to convey that one vital message, over and over again, to a world that really and genuinely isn’t listening. And again, do you say ‘I hear you’ or do you take the other road? There’s a lot of other roads in London. In that respect, the city seems infinite.

Ah well – I doubt many can be bothered to read this crap – so here’s another picture of the night time London instead.


Published in: on March 13, 2014 at 4:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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10 Weird Things About Me – On Request.

I have seen this on a few blogs. And when I mentioned it to certain friend of mine it became apparent that I wasn’t going to be let off the challenge either. Still, when you get right down to it – what could be more fun than trumpeting your own strangeness? It’s a sort of advertising after all. In fact – I hereby extend the challenge onwards to everyone else I know. See if you can outdo this bit of shameless weird-propaganda! Do it!! Now!!!!

01 – Collector’s Instinct.

Yes yes – my collector’s instinct is VERY pronounced. I am not happy unless I have filled MORE than every inch of available space with things I love. I personally suspect that it is a result of not having a ‘life’ – but hey, a shelf full of books and thundereggs makes an ok substitute for a girlfriend . . . at least until I go home to Neptune and find one . . . *sigh*

Have I just revealed a few more weird things about me?

02 – Microsnail Collecting

Just that. I am a conchologist with a special interest in land dwelling species and a special special interest in the microsnails. These aint the sort that eat your lettuce or your hostas – so please, no cracks about your garden, ok? You might have some in your garden, but if these ate lettuce, they could eat for a year and you wouldn’t notice. These are only just big enough to be distinguished as snails with the naked eye – as opposed to, say, sand grains. Maybe that’s why I like them so much. These tiny things, with such delicacy in their structure – and most people would live their lives without ever knowing they exist. To them, snails are only those big cute round things that live behind their shed. Ach!!

How I find them . . . well, that’s another story!

03 – Rearing Giant Silkmoths

I used to do that, until they began to distress me. It was the adults that were the problem. The Caterpillars were great things to rear. They are simple creatures, who want nothing more out of life that to be surrounded by food. But when they hatch out into adult moths, they turn into something else. I had some Indian Moon Moths once. The caterpillars were huge – fat prickly green things – so large that you could quite clearly hear them eating in the night – munch munch munch. But the huge adult moths had something else on their mind. Sex. In fact – it was the only thing on their minds. They don’t eat and they only live for a week or so, so their entire adult lives are devoted to this one thing (sort of like a few people I know really). They attract their mates using smell. The only problem was that for some reason, all I got in my hatching were females. They spent their brief lives sitting on my curtains hopefully calling for a mate – and there was none. Their smell couldn’t quite reach to India, apparently. That seemed so sad . . . I never reared moths again. Or any pets, come to that. They’re better off among their own kind.

04 – No School

How’s this for weird – I never went to school. Well – ok, I did briefly, but I managed to escape after only a few years and before the worst damage was done. It left me to learn my way at home – which largely failed miserably and/but left me the strange hyper-creative social and worldly outcast that I am. The result is predictable: I am unable to fit in to anything – get on with anyone – and even less mesh with the world enough to have a real career of any kind. And, you know – I wouldn’t trade that for anything! I regard school as . . . well, ok, it aint the worst evil in the world. But it’s defiantly up there in the top dozen. It’s the great corruptor that takes innocent people and ruins them to fit into a ruined world. It’s the megaphone and control rod of a culture where free-thinking and non-conformity are still out on the fringes and where we all bow to the lowest common denominator. It’s a civilization-creating machine. And that alone makes it dangerous. I count myself lucky that I avoided it – even though the result has made my life very difficult and endlessly painful and brought me near to suicide on several occasions. It may be that the things that are really important to me will not do me many actual favours in life (aside from keeping me sane perhaps) – but I would rather that than be broken on the wheel of civilization . . .

Remember that next time a big issue seller calls to you plaintively.

05 – Down with Absolutes and Beliefs – Up with the Contrariwise

Question everything!

Why should I?

You tell me. I kind of like these twisted, self-contradicting philosophies. Never say never is another good one. They seem to sum up the tangled web of the reality of the human condition far better than any direct ideas, laws, creeds or defined behaviour patterns can. Humanity loves absolutes. Throughout history it has built its entire civilization, its ideas, its beliefs and its codes of law based on them.

It’s kind of a shame that they don’t exist, isn’t it . . .

I freely admit that I am a bloody minded and highly annoying person to discuss things with – since one belief I flirt with is that I don’t believe anything. No right and wrong, black and white. No absolutes. Accept nothing as direct truth. But of course – am I sure I believe that? Maybe I am not sure I believe it, meaning there are things I do believe in, in which case, how can I believe in nothing as I believe I should.

Believe me, this aint easy. It’s not lazy or somehow renegade. Not an excuse for behaving badly. But truely thinking for yourself – in some rarified world devoid of all preconceptions – must be so pure and fine and nice and etc. Outside of the protective cage of dictated moral codes and ideas, your brain would start fluttering like a bird suddenly released after years in a cage. It’s probably scary because suddenly you are away from those absolutes. Those blacks and whites. And you realise that you have to start making decisions and judgments yourself. And also discover that maybe sometimes, you just cant. Shouldnt. A glorious eden of thought. Do you believe that’s impossible? Sorry – impossible is an absolute, so impossible itself is impossible! The problem is, when you set out with the belief of thinking for yourself, all too often you end up trying to think for everyone.

One day I’ll figure all this out!

06 – Strange Food – Fantasy and Reality

I suppose I could have eaten those moths though . . .

People’s attitude to food bewilders me. There is so much out there that is edible, yet people eat so little – are even shocked by it, sadly enough. Whether it is eating guniepigs in Peru or Cats in china – poisonous puffer fish in Japan or honeypot ants in Australia . . . I dream of trying them all! And why not? Humans surround themselves with their strange morals but you don’t have to go far to find how hollow they are. Humans have this tendency to preach disgust at the ‘barbaric’ act of eating a cat while cheerfully tucking into a nice steak. Cringe in horror at the thought of chomping a spider while shovelling down a nice prawn salad. Nope – I don’t understand it either.

And think about this: A walk through a seafood market in china might make most British hair stand on end. But in all probability we catch all that stuff anyway – or whatever its equivalent is in our waters. The difference is that here it is all just slung back dead after they have picked out the handful of prawns that they can actually sell to us useless pathetic cretins. So who comes out tops then I wonder?

Bring ’em on, say I! I want to experience them, before I die.

07 – I Respect Anime

Credo in animaris japonicus. Nyuuu?? What can one say about anime? Well ok – it aint THAT weird to like anime. Lots of people do – with varying degrees of embarrassment. It can be an alarmingly simple and formulaic art form sometimes – very much of the ‘establishment’. But the thing itself is weird to us western chumps and for one very simple reason. The Japanese seem to have very little concept of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art. The west can be hideously snobbish in its art. And somehow the art plays along with that. Dumb art is dumb art – beneath the attention of the serious-minded. And there is a huge distinction between the serious works and what is ‘just for fun’. Japanese anime just invites you in to a whole world where this snobbishness and distinction is just . . . not there. It all rubs together in one great equality-filled heap – the arty stuff not afraid to have fun and the silly stuff not afraid to take itself seriously in a strange way. And serious things can be said simply and daft stuff with unimaginable challenging complexity.

And all of it is very relaxed and accepting about what it is.

All this is more than can be said for ANY art form in the west. Trying to find an equivalent in western writing would be like having Samuel Becket writing mills and boon books while The Beano delves into Clive Barker style exploration of death and Hercule Poriot attends high-school and finds extraterrestrial romance. Oh and I must not forget The Lord of the Rings by Playboy!

Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it, critic-san!

08 – I Dream of Flying Underwater but Refuse to Learn to Drive

I have a submarine, you know. I do. Really! A small one. It looks like a small, stubby winged plane, but this is a plane for flying underwater. You can just squeeze two people into it and you have to lie on your front to drive it. It cant go very deep – but so what? I have had fun with that submarine. Every night, I get in it and slide into the sea. I have helped Croatian girls illegally enter this country. I have attached limpet mines to Chinese warships. I have snuk into the Thames and spooked drunken Londoners. I have weathered storms in the north sea safe on the seabed and buzzed oil rigs . . . it’s great. Everyone should have a submarine. Better than cars any day!

Who would want to drive?

09 – Bare Feet in the Snow – In the Street

Sadly that is a thing of the past. My rebel outdoors days are fading. I no longer go out without shoes (well – I no longer go out much with shoes either). I have fond memories of tramping round college barefoot – I once got thrown out of the local restaurant for it (I never did work out why bare feet should be against some sort of resturant code . . . ).

I cannot survive in shoes for too long. Shoes are depressing things that we wear to protect ourselves from our own mess! When I was in Slovenia, the fight I had to go through to prevent polite people giving me slippers to wear indoors – they were horrified! To them it was the sort of pathetic state of affairs like being in bed but not having any covers. The sort of situation that should be remedied by a friendly gift, bless them . . . But I loved it. And I fought. And the good people of Slovenia gave me very odd looks.

More fond memories, of the snow this time – a foot deep and minus 23 degrees (this wasn’t England!). I kid you not. That is hardcore barefoot weather. Ok, it was only to the woodshed each evening – but it was enough to get me a reputation for some reason . . .

10 – I am Not Going to Become a Terrorist or Activist.

I consider this highly weird of me. It’s easy to explain why people become terrorists. And even easier why people become activists. It’s a fairly predictable reaction to a world that really does its level best to make people very angry indeed. It makes me angry too – and you note I certainly don’t include THAT among my weird traits. Like so many others, when I read the steady stream of news items detailing the next dumb thing that has happened – the next pointless law introduced – the next example of humanity’s closed minded and thoughtless, unempathetic attitudes – well, perhaps I DO yearn to do something about it. To jump up and down and shout till my face goes purple and my spittle starts flying across the room. To banish humanity to its proper place – a pest that needs to be exterminated like the stupid vermin that it is. Not for any political reason – simply because it is true. Simply because humanity urgently needs a kick up the backside.

Unfortunately I have argued myself rather beyond the point of believing i can do anything about it – even in some sort of fantasy world wher ei could actually do things (like my dear character Richard Jarvis). Terrorism has largely failed to realise that it is a pointless exercise and even activism only seems to work if you tell people what they want to hear. The world – well, the western world – has progressed beyond the stage when one can influence them in any way. The evils of the world are usually no longer concentrated in a few people tor entities hat could conceivably be removed/sacked/exiled/blown up/have their minds changed. Instead, we have a system – a decentralised network of culture and ideas – and the reason that decentralised networks are so popular online is because they are impossible to take out! The modern malaise is something far beyond leadership or the government or authority figures. Who can really blame authority? They don’t seem to have any power to change things, even if they wanted to. Perhaps this is a network that consists of the ideas and outlooks of every soul living here. We really have achieved a sort of democracy – a world governed by the supremacy of the most ordinary. Resistance is futile – resistance is futile –
And how can you talk to that? How can you influence that and attempt to make any changes for the better? Instead, this whole business has become a play of slow-moving fashions that rarely do anything revolutionary or radical. If you want to go against that fashion – if you happen to think there is more wrong with the world than the obvious things like the certain types of discrimination or mess it is fashionable to complain about and ignore, then you will quickly find out how unbending and set the world is. That’s how i see it anyway. It’s very gloomy.

Q: So what can you do?

A: I haven’t a friggin’ clue!!

Published in: on August 6, 2010 at 1:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Big Red Hearts . . .

Suppose we all wore our hearts on our sleeves?

I mean literally.  Suppose we all had a cute little red heart somewhere – floating overhead like something in a cartoon – that increased or decreased in size depending on how you felt about the people with you at the time.  A precise visual indicator.

No hiding then!

No more love-lorn timids unable to tell anyone how they feel.  Everyone would know – and everyone would just have to get used to it.

No more lying relationships based on artificial guilt or fear of the alternative.  You could never again pretend that you loved someone just to keep a dead flame alive.

No more paranoid people afraid everyone around them wants to get into their pants – they also would have to get used to it.

No hiding any more . . .

You could nurture the other’s heart like a pot-plant and see it flourish!  Not like a ghost and see it hide.  Not like a riddle that has to be solved.

It would be the end of civilization as we know it.

And wouldn’t that be just great?

Published in: on August 6, 2010 at 12:47 pm  Leave a Comment