Monday, 31 March 2014


Second part...


6am. Why is it whenever I arrive in a new European city, it’s always 6am? Amsterdam the first time. Amsterdam the second time (though the second time is a few years ahead of me at this point). Today it’s Madrid, having taken a night bus from Almeria. Nina is low on sleep, low on blood sugar, short on patience. We need to find somewhere to stay and get some sleep, but we don’t have any change for the phone to ring places and ask. I run back down to the Puerta del Sol to buy a copy of the Independent, a day old, overpriced  European edition that has half as much content as the home grown version.

That summer, Tim Roth was the face of H&M. We saw posters plastered with his face everywhere we went, in Manchester, in the papers, on the Paris underground. Nina went into full rant mode every time one materialised in front of her. Travelling on the Madrid underground we were spared the sight of him. “Thank fuck.” she exclaimed as we swiftly approached the city centre. Coming out of the subway at Puerta del Sol, I turned around and collapsed with laughter as Nina’s face fell. There, a hundred foot long by fifty high, Tim Roth’s face looking down on to the plaza from an enormous H&M advertising canvas. Her mood didn’t improve any.

After three or four phones calls in mangled Spanish, we finally find a cheap enough place right on the corner of the Puerta del Sol. Six stories up in a residential block, with no windows to the outside world, just a sash window to the corridor that I guess anyone could be looking in through if they stood on a chair (well we’d have given them a good show at least). The room, the only free room, has twin beds, a common theme ever since we arrived in Spain, having hitchhiked all the way from Lancashire.

We wake late in the afternoon, sallying out into the afternoon to take in the sights, drink tea and coffee in the cafes along the way there and share the first of who knows how many McRib meals. We lived on those things when we were in Madrid, two or three a day. We ate so many that McDonalds retired the combo in our honour.

It was the end of a three week journey from Blackburn to Northampton to London to Folkestone to Dover to Calais to Rotterdam to Paris to Nimes to Barcelona to Almeria to Madrid. Only Liverpool Airport remained on our itinerary. It was the most enjoyable journey I’ve yet taken with anyone. We spent no more than minutes out of each other’s company in all that time and yet failed to get on each other’s nerves, except during early morning arrivals in new cities. Paris we got dropped off in the arrivals lounge of Charles de Gaulle Airport at 4am and had to wait two hours to catch the RER into the centre of town. There we stayed in a Formula1 hotel in a rough part of Paris where the drug dealers tried to sell you shit in the lobby and where someone was stabbed in their room on our floor. We saw him lying face down on the bed inside his room. Nina was convinced he was dead, but I swear I saw his feet moving. The sheets were awash with blood however and we argued the toss about it for the remainder of our journey. The next day we moved out and got into a hostel in a better part of town.

Madrid is a blur, I can’t really remember what we did in what order, but we managed to fit a lot in. We drank in Hemingway’s favourite bar, ate tapas in tapas restaurants, went to Madrid’s premier rock club where no one danced. We went to Reina Sofia gallery, where we saw Guernica and Dali’s Great Masturbator. We got lost trying to find the gallery and ended up walking down a back alley which should have been called Dog Shit Alley, because you couldn’t walk ten yards without having to step over some deposit. It knocked Nina sick.

Our final night in the hotel, Nina got all dolled up to go out to the club, then took a tumble on the stairs down to the elevator in the hotel, collapsing and falling down three or four steps in comic slow motion. She bounded up in high speed and insisted we carry on, even though a lump the size of an egg was forming on the side of her shin. Lots of vodka took the pain away.

That was the zenith of the brief time that we were together. The death throes of our relationship took longer than the relationship itself. We spent our last night in Madrid sleeping rough in the airport, having failed to blag a cheap flight home. We ended up on an Easyjet flight, but it didn’t leave until the following evening. As always, I could sleep anywhere, but Nina spent another disturbed night on the metal airport seats. “I just want someone to put a sign on it that says ‘bed’.” she said. “Then I’d be fine.”

She had a mortal fear of flying and it took half a bottle of vodka just to get her on the plane. Even then she freaked out as we were taxiing to the runway, shouting that she wanted to get off, that it was her ‘human right’ to be let off the plane. I somehow managed to calm her down and once we were in the air she was fine, staring out of the darkened window at all the lights below for much of the three hour return flight.

Many years later I went back to Madrid. I found the door to our hotel and sat writing in the Starbucks at the corner of the Purta del Sol, as it was the only place where I could get a half decent cup of tea. I went back to the Reina Sofia and greeted Guernica like an old friend. This time though, I paid a visit to the Prado to see Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights and Goya’s Second of May 1808, Third of May 1808 and his black paintings. Another woman was on my mind, waiting for me back home. Instead of drinking in Hemingway’s favourite bar I would sit in internet café’s talking to her on IM while listening to BBC radio on iPlayer. I took the train to Gibraltar and back, went on a day trip to Morocco, flew out of Madrid Airport and on to Milan, Florence and Rome. You get more done on your own, but it’s much more fun to experience the journey with someone you love, even if that love lasts only a day. It’s quality not quantity that counts.

Get it done.


Went completely off the boil over the weekend, so to make up and catch up, here's the first part of a travelling trilogy:


We went to Amsterdam by the scenic route. My cousin was studying music in Totnes, Devon at the time. She’d won a free trip for two to Amsterdam and knowing that I was planning on going backpacking anyway, invited me to be her plus one. I was in the north west, so the first stage was to take the train from Preston, a six hour journey.

I arrived in the mid afternoon and had a night to kill before the twenty three hour coach journey to Amsterdam via London, Dover and Calais. We spent that summer evening taking a trip out to Teignmouth, where Keats wrote much his epic poem, Endymion:

A thing of beauty is a joy forever,
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness, but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams; and health, and quiet breathing.

A fine place to spend a last evening in England, nestled there on the east coast of the Devon peninsular between Exmouth to the north and Torquay and Paignton to the south, wandering down to the beach the shape of a crescent moon, flanked by the River Teign to the west and the English Channel to the east. We ate fish and chips at a fish and chip restaurant and skimmed stones and gazed in awe at the orange, pink and red sunset that set the gathering clouds ablaze and burnt them black. I still have pictures of that sunset that were developed in Bruges with the rest of the roll of film.

We arrived back late at Helen’s student digs, a train having caught fire during the evening and delayed all the other trains. We traipsed back from the train station gone midnight, walking between flower boxes that filled our senses with aromas rarely noticed in the daylight. I tried to sleep, but it was a fitful slumber, filled with strange dreams and constant wakings to check my watch.

The first leg of our journey was to leave just after nine. We got to the coach stop well in time. The driver took our belongs to pack beneath the coach and asked where we were going. “Amsterdam.” I blurted out, not thinking. We may have been going to the Netherlands but the driver was only going as far as London.

It was four or five hours to London, with various stops along the way, but the time flew by as we chatted and read and listened to music and had a picnic along the way. London seemed to come all too soon. We had three hours to kill before the evening journey out to Dover. We stashed our rucksacks in left luggage and went on the tube to Camden Town. Helen, being the hippie she is, wanted to visit the market and other shops around groovy Camden Locks. We sat out by the canal and got talking with a group of lads who shared a joint with us and told us to check out the Bluebird when we got to Amsterdam.

We ate dinner from fast food stalls in the market on picnic benches, then caught the tube back to the coach station. Left luggage couldn’t find where they’d left my luggage and not having long before our coach was leaving, I had to climb under the hatch and hunt down my rucksack. By the time I had convinced staff that it really was my bag by giving them a detailed rundown of what was in it, we were at the back of the queue for the Amsterdam coach and had to sit in the only seats left, up at the front of the coach like the uncoolest kids in class.

London drifted past the window in perfect filmic cliché, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the MI6 building, before we turned right and headed down the coast. Dover came hard upon and before long we were rolling into the belly of a P&O Ferry and I, who at 27 was about to leave mainland Britain for the first time, excitedly jumped up and down up on deck as the mooring ropes were released from the dock with a plop into the water and pulled up the sides of the ship. We watched until the White Cliffs had shrunk away on to the horizon. Then we went and had a drink or two at the bar.

First time in a foreign country and yet now I had to cross two countries just to get to my ultimate destination, though I would see plenty of Belgium and France in the next few weeks. After the adrenalin rush of not being in Britain wore off, I realised that the continent was just the same, with its rain and road signs and I pretty much slept the rest of the way until morning. I vaguely remember that we stopped at a service station in the middle of the night, somewhere on the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. I wondered around in a zombiefied daze, grabbing automatically at drink and food that I didn’t really want and hoping that they would accept Guilders, as that was all the currency I had.

It was half five in the morning by the time we reached Amsterdam. We stopped at some random location outside of the main part of the city, where the driver extorted an extra two Guilders from the passengers to take them all the way to Amsterdam Central. Our hostel was not far from the station, near the Red Light District. Helen’s university had made the reservations and given Helen cash to pay for our beds. We arrived a little before six, where the only person on duty was the night attendant who could find no record of us in their books. He got us to hang around for the manager, who arrived around seven, a rude Dutch man who said we had no reservations, he no spare beds, and kicked us out onto the street.

We were in trouble. It was Saturday morning in Amsterdam at the height of the tourist season, so we had no chance of finding another hostel at this late stage. Our only hope was that Helen had brought a tent with her, planning to do a bit of backpacking of her own after we parted company. The night attendant, a pleasant guy from Sheffield, told us there was a campsite north beyond the train station. There was a free ferry which took you over the water and then a bit of a walk up to the campsite.

It’s a good job the Dutch are such notorious multilinguists, because the instructions we were given were vague and once over the water we had to keep stopping every five minutes to get new directions from sleepy locals. Eventually though, we found the campsite, paid bargain prices, spending the rest of the hostel money on food, booze and pot, and at little after eight in the morning, in the pouring rain, we pitched our tent, climbed in our sleeping bags and got a few hours precious rest.

The alarm was set for twelve, but upon sounding we engaged in a brief, barely understandable negotiation to get a couple more hours shut eye and both went back to sleep until 2 in the afternoon. I needed it. For the last two nights, I’d merely been going through the motions.

The showers were an adventure. You hear lots said and written about the toilets in French campsites, but less about the showers in Dutch campsites. There’s a metal disc where the tap should be and to get the shower to work you seemingly have to place your fingers in an equidistant circle around the disc. I have small hands and can’t manage it. I found a faulty shower instead and manage to wash myself beneath a dribble of water. It’s a bit like that cheap washing up power that you buy as a student that doesn’t quite wash your clothes, more just gets rid of the smell.

Having been to the Netherlands on many subsequent occasions, I can state with confidence that nowhere in Europe, including the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, will you find a better example of what is commonly called the Full English Breakfast than here. They did a great one at the campsite, even at three in the afternoon. We fill in postcards to put in the on-camp post box, leave some stuff in their safe, then catch the bus back into town. Helen wants to do some busking, so I leave her on a bridge near Waterlooplein, then end up wondering around the market nearby. She’s made next to nothing by the time I come back, so packs up her guitar and we end up wandering back through the market and coming out, by pure accident, right next to the Bluebird café. We explore a bit more of the centre of town, then double back to the Bluebird. I get my first taste of a Dutch coffee shop.

We meant to pop in for an hour or two. But there’s an enormous leather sofa in the Bluebird, and once people leave and we upgrade from the chairs flanking the tables around the arc of the sofa to the sofa itself, it’s virtually impossible to get up again. We’re there for five hours, smoking increasingly strong skunk. It’s one of those nights were not a lot happens, not a lot is said, but you’re happy to just exist in the moment. It was a long time getting here, but finally I have arrived where I want to be.

We leave at midnight and stumble our way back in the dark to the ferry behind the station and up the same residential streets to the campsite. Camp fires are burning in the darkness. Stoned faces seek answers in flame. We have a last smoke and go to bed. Not a bad way to spend your first day abroad.

Get it done.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

I Don’t Know

I do know...;)

I Don’t Know

We live in a world of quite staggering diversity. Just to look out of our own front door is to witness a planet resplendent in its range of cultural and ecological heterogeneity. So why is it every time I turn on the TV, there’s some ideological fuckwit trying to impose some form of flawed fundamentalism upon the world entire?  If it isn’t Christian or Islamic fundamentalism, it’s capitalism or American style ‘democracy’ (which roughly equates to oligarchy, if not outright despotism).

Take a look at the universe at large, from the astronomical to the atomic and find me one law, one force or system which can be applied to all. Gravity has little effect at the quantum level, neither does the strong force hold any sway very far from the atomic nucleus. In many ways the world around us is remarkably simple and yet with just a few fundamental forces and laws we have all this.

For a long time I have believed that the purpose of the universe and everything in it is to be as diverse as possible. Even a cursory glance at the natural world seems to bear this out. And so I can hold no truck with religious or political fascists that wish to impose their narrow, blinkered view on us all. The natural order of the universe is like that of the amoeba, the fertilised egg;  to sub-divide time and time again. This force is such that it is only arrested (but not halted) by invasion of our personal space and threatened with death if we dare not believe what we’re told. Our homes are bombarded with ads for Coke and Gap, cause left to our own devices, most of us would chose the commodities which suit our lifestyle, not what is ‘fashionable’. Fashion is the biggest con a charlatan has ever convinced the people of. It is another word for mental slavery.

As Doug Stanhope points out, the only reason anyone follows any form of religion is that it’s shoved into our brains whilst they’re still soft. If we’d never heard of Christianity or Islam or Judaism and found the Bible or Koran in a second hand shop, we wouldn’t believe them for an instant. Diversity is our true nature. The greatest challenge in life is to consider the world at large and stake out of own plot in it. Pre-constructed ideologies are self-defeating and delusional. Remember the golden rule:  if something seems too easy, it usually is. Which is precisely the reason why all religions (as all other forms of ideological fundamentalism) are flawed. They present us with answers for which we have fought no battles. A free lunch, essentially, but as everyone knows, there is no such thing. I’m instantly suspicious of anyone who finds religion late in life. They have recognised that something is lacking in their life, but before setting out on a journey of self discovery, they fall at the first hurdle and embrace the pre-constructed in a soul destroying display of intellectual lethargy. Tell me what to think and then I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

If geneticists are to be believed, race has ceased to be relevant. The human brain is now so sophisticated and evolved, that essentially we are each a unique sub-species. This gives me enormous pleasure to know as it gives credence to the theory of Eponymism. Physically we each have more in common with any other 'race' than we do as individuals. Mentally I am more divergent from my brother than I am physically from a member of a Papuan tribe. Truly we are unique and the sooner we realise this and stop trying to create seven billion clones with the same fears and hypocrisies as ourselves, the happier we will be. And in return, all our ancient superstitions and ideologies will finally be seen for what they are. Distractions.

The hardest three words in the English language, and yet the most rewarding, are I don’t know.

Get it done.

Friday, 28 March 2014


Stuff and nonsense...


A miracle is merely the mundane viewed from a subjective angle.  What you see is a mirage, an after image.  The past romanticised.  The future stretching off into the distance.  Yet no matter how high your feet float above the ground you’ll never see beyond the horizon.  A vanishing point has no escape velocity.

Immortality comes all too seldom.  An hour here, a few weeks there.  A reminder of Godhead is always worth the hangover.  A glimpse of an ambition of old. The clouds part, the darkness lifts and an all encompassing vision of evolution’s ultimate destination is revealed.  You flame haired angel you.  You sapphired eyed goddess.  You’ll get a crick in your neck if you stare at the sky too long.  Weigh anchor and take your place amongst the stars.  Eden is the fantasy of a child.  Heaven the shallowest pool the unconscious mind has ever paddled in.  Eternal life means never breathing.  And who wants to stay still forever?  A meteoric demise is infinitely greater than forever kneeling before an almighty failure.

Grace is granted, given free of charge to those who know how to ask correctly.  Long is the road, but great are the rewards.  We who burn in the night offer warmth to the ones who yearn to exist.  Inchoate infants.  Gods in gestation.  Self is the only foundation you require.  History begins at conception.  Lines on a map are tramlines for the dead.  Arbitrary boundaries are there to be transgressed. 

Smash the mirror, break the glass.  Why serve as valet to someone else’s cultural baggage?  One man’s bunting inevitably serves as rag to shine another’s floor.  Change is inevitable.  Immutable is the procession.  Laughter is the roller coaster’s only natural predator.  Tears are always in the right place. Make like Henry Miller and spit in his face.  Calmly step into the wilderness and embrace the chill.

Get it done.


Thursday, 27 March 2014

A Remembrance

Stuff and that:

A Remembrance
I have a particular time and place in mind: Graham Road, Churchill Estate, Helensburgh, Scotland, 1985. I can see my room on the third floor of the weird naval house we lived in. I had a built in cupboard in my room that I put my TV and Spectrum 48k+ in and play Dambusters and pretend I was flying over Germany. I also remember having a machine that I don’t remember any other person on Earth having, but which my dad bought me, called an Aquarius. It only had two games, one of which was a version of Tron. I remember you plugged the cartridges into the machine itself. I rewired the plug one day and turned it on and it blew me to other side of the room. Or did I magnify the distance I was thrown for comic effect.

I remember Martin who lived opposite me on the opposite site of the back green where we lived and who I was best friends with until he moved to Yorkshire and went to public school. There was a little gang of us for a while, all playing Star Wars characters and building bases in the woods that ran ‘round one side of the estate. And there was a copse in the middle of the estate too, a kind of wooded valley where we used to ride our bikes down. My mum, I remember, wouldn’t let me have a bike (they were dangerous I was told), but someone’s dad gave me a kids bike, much too small for me but I learnt to ride on it. There was a tarmac sports field on the estate and I can remember being there on my own and making a ramp and riding it and the bike carrying on and me falling off it and landing on my coccyx and lying there in agony for some time.

Eventually my parents bought me a second hand dark green Striker, with the brake on the back wheel that worked by pedalling backwards and I never looked back.

I remember having abridged talking book versions of the first two Indiana Jones films that were voiced by a different actor. I became obsessed with Harrison Ford that year after seeing The Temple of Doom and having virtually an entire wall covered in pictures of him. I’d hum the Indiana Jones theme all the time and my mates hated me for it.

I was also the smelliest, filthiest child you’d ever known at that age. And a pathological liar, but I’ve always lived in my own world and was always making up stories to make myself more interesting. It was a trait that continued throughout my childhood. But yes, I would sit in puddles or wade or the stream in the woods. I was an odd child. My mum was a Cub Scout leader and when we used to go on Cub weekends I would disturb everyone else, exposing myself from the top bunk. Don’t ask me why, like I said I was weird. In the end my school (John Logie Baird) sent me to a child psychologist and found that I was completely normal, just hyperactive. Maybe I was acting out for always being moved around. That’s a guess, I have nothing to back that statement up. I went through stages like this. Later I went away on Scout camping trips and would always get homesick and cry. Maybe that’s why I’m still living in this house, traumatic childhood memories. That was when I always got my first exposure to porn. My mates Mark and Stephen, their mum and dad had a collection of hardcore Dutch porn magazines and we used to fish them out and have a look, though I don’t think I was sexually mature yet, happened late for me as far as I remember. At scout camp I was in the same tent as the son as Akela and he had some very hard core mags, I remember one image of a women taking on six or seven men at once.

What else do I remember? Well as this is more a remembrance of Graham Place than 1985, I remember watching Live Aid in my bedroom and becoming aware of Queen cause my dad got drunk one night and was listening to Greatest Hits, singing drunkenly to it and finding the record next day and playing it and being blown away. Was probably the first record I ever loved, although I remember buying (or being bought) my first two albums then, either Police or Adam and the Ants, I forget which came first. I also began to read at that late age, but it was mainly choose your own adventure books. I had been bought Indiana Jones ones, but Stephen said they were rubbish and lent me City of Thieves, which I read that night and probably lost first time around and then cheated from there on in, but I was hooked and spent every penny I had on getting new books in the set (I’ve always been a collector and a completist). He also lent me a copy of The Hobbit which was the first book I’d read all the way through except for A Hundred and One Dalmatians, which I had read in Plymouth.

We had a box room with tea chests in it that we used to move with (it happened so often that they got kept, despite the splinters). And of course there was Boomer, our mongrel dog that I confess I wound up quite a lot and was quite badly behaved. He slept in the kitchen on a old sofa that he proceeded to rip apart. He had eight names that me and my brother used to be able to rattle off at will, Boomer Arnold Pooch Pongo Fred Benji Something Maher. My brother will remember I’m sure. A nut of a dog that tried to hump the leg of everyone he met. We should have had him spayed I guess, but it wasn’t as prevalent a procedure then as it is now.

I remember having mates that were into much cooler music to me and hearing about how Bon Scott had died chocking on his own vomit, which seemed the ultimate denouncement of alcohol to my young mind. Of course it was in fact John Bonham that died chocking on his own vomit, Bon Scott died of hyperthermia falling asleep drunk in his car. I can remember falling out with my Stephen and Mark and going to a friend’s house who was into The Jam and Style Council and AC/DC (The Highway to Hell cover is very strong in my mind). I used to watch Entertainment USA religiously, which was ironic as being 12 I was probably Jonathan King’s core demographic given his later imprisonment for sex with the under aged. I can remember seeing Iron Maiden being interviewed during the Powerslave slave tour of the USA. I hated Maiden at that point.

I also remember the day Challenger blew up, watching it at Stephen and Mark’s house, which I’m sure was live. The first launches certainly were live, because I remember it took days of delays before Columbia took off on its maiden flight and in the meantime I was bought a copy of the handbook from town, which is in the house somewhere I think.

The house in Graham Place isn’t there anymore. I have the street up on Google Maps street view and all there is a grassy knoll where our row of houses used to be. I can see the garages we used to play football with my dad against until someone shouted at us, and I can see the foot high wall at the opposite end where we would subsequently kick a ball around. Martin’s row is gone too and all that is left of that time is the long strip of grass between the rows where we would play football at the weekends and on holidays. All the other pebble dashed and white washed married quarters remain. I guess I could reminisce all night looking at this image, so much of it is clear, almost sends a shiver through just remembering minor details that I haven’t thought about for years, going to see Return of the Jedi, talking about when whichever film it was would be coming out on video, breaking our first video the day we got it by rewinding and fast forwarding a tape in it and being sent to bed early and waking up the next day to find Slave 1 sat there (it was my birthday) and watching Blade Runner as my birthday film (the crappy original with the voice over). And getting a shit load of Star Wars toys for Christmas, AT-AT, Scout Walker. I had a Jabba toy too, but probably later.  

I remember the day we moved away and spending so long waiting for my dad to finish with the navy landlord that the battery in the car went flat and we had to wait hours for a mechanic to come and give us a jump start.

The place seemed enormous when we were kids. We went back there on holiday in the mid 90s and it seemed tiny. Everything seems bigger when you’re young I guess. It was an interesting place to live and I still remember the place like it was yesterday.

Get it done.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


Today Neil De-Grasse Tyson's reboot of Cosmos and how it hilariously pisses off the creationists.


All things dull and ugly,
All creatures short and squat,
All things rude and nasty,
The Lord God made the lot.
Each little snake that poisons,
Each little wasp that stings,
He made their brutish venom.
He made their horrid wings.
                             Monty Python

Three episodes into his reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and Neil De-Grasse Tyson is really managing to upset the creationists. The creationists have offered their usual level of sneering, uninformed incredulity and the scientific community has been quick to defend De-Grasse Tyson, who has stated that he will not debate such deniers. Yet there is no need for the scientific community to defend evolutionary theory or any other theory which contradicts the Bible (which, let’s face it, is all of the them). There is no need to invite creationism on to our turf. We can easily debate and destroy their arguments on their own hallowed ground.

Science models the universe by simplifying it, then observing and extrapolating. All we need to do therefore is simplify this debate and then there is no debate. Why do creationists doubt the veracity of evolution? Because they think that the Bible is literally true and that the universe was created as told in the book of Genesis. And there we go, the debate has been simplified and we can now solve the problem: The Bible is not literally true, it is riddled with basic errors and the book of Genesis has more basic errors within it than you can shake a rosary at. It doesn’t even agree with itself.

So, for instance, the first book of Genesis says that God created all of the animals and then he created Adam and Eve. The second book of Genesis, however, says that God created Adam first, then created all of the animals, which Adam named in a day, and when Adam couldn’t find a suitable mate amongst all those animals (which I assume is why bestiality is legal in many states of the US), then God created Eve.

The first book of Genesis also says that God made all of the animals out of water, but says he made them out of earth in the second book. First books says “I have given you all the seed bearing plants and herbs to use” (a favourite quote of the pro-cannabis lobby), but in the second he says, oh except for the fruit from the tree of life. Touch that and you’re in trouble.

Genesis also manages to state that the Moon is a great light (“God made two lights”) when it is in fact a reflector. It says that God created plants before he created the sun (though the second book of Genesis reverses the order) and that rain is caused because there is firmament which separates the water in the seas and oceans form the water that is in heaven and when God slides some kind of window across, then it rains. There was also no rain before Noah’s Flood. I mean, honestly.

Now, if you believe in God, then that’s your own affair and nothing to do with me. If, however, you believe that the Bible is revealed truth and the word of God, and you’ve read it, then you’re an idiot and there really no other word for you. Besides, if you’re convinced that the Bible is the word of God, why are you watching television? Have you not read the second commandment? “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” In other words, all images are sinful and as TV and film are a series of static images played in high speed, watching TV is like breaking the second commandment twenty five times a second.

Fundamentalist Christians are always trying to obfuscate and suggest that there is no evidence for evolution, yet the evidence for their own beliefs is non-existent. No serious archaeologist thinks that the story of Exodus ever actually happened. Two centuries of searching have failed to find a single shred of evidence that the Jews were ever in Egypt, let alone slaves there. Moreover, the Bible says that Moses freed six hundred thousand slaves from a total Egyptian population at that time of three to three and a half million people. That’s six hundred thousand men, by the way. Women, children and non-Jewish slaves bring the total closer to two million. Yet Egyptian civilisation shows no evidence of suffering any kind of collapse as a result of losing more than half its population on which the rest had been dependent as slaves for four hundred years (or four hundred and thirty years, depending on which bit of the Bible you read).

All indication is that the Israelites were a Canaanite tribe that had always lived in the land Canaan and made the Exodus story up in order to claim divine right to the land. It’s also, as with much of the Bible, as series of tall tales. In several places the Bible claims that such and such a thing numbered as many as the grains of sand on the shore, as with the Philistines, for instance. So, there were as many Philistines as humans beings that have lived during the whole of recorded time then? Yeah, right.

The problem for Fundamentalist Christians is that there is the Bible on one side, which tells one version of events, and on the other side there is geology, archaeology, Egyptology, astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, cosmogony, biology, chemistry, radio carbon dating, genetics, DNA sequencing, evolutionary theory, linguistics, and dozens of other scientific and humanities disciplines all on the other side telling a very different story, all of which agree with each other on many different aspects of the history of humanity and the universe at large. Likesay, the Bible can’t even agree with itself.

As for Cosmos itself, yes it’s very impressive. Maybe a little simplistic, but I’m used to this. As a former Astrophysics undergraduate, any program on physics is always more about the enjoyment of the adventure than about learning anything new. If you want to actually learn, go download physic lectures from Stanford, Oxford or MIT.

The effects for Cosmos are very well done and the stories that each episode has so far told is very much in the same narrative style as in the original Cosmos series. This is probably largely thanks to the involvement of Carl Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan, who wrote the series and co-wrote the original series with Sagan.

My only two criticisms of Cosmos are firstly the use of autocue, which always annoys me in modern presenter led documentaries, where they’re obviously reading off of an iPad. Perhaps I’m just spoilt, having been brought up on a diet of David Attenborough documentaries, who not only didn’t use an autocue but often didn’t even have a script. Attenborough knew what he wanted to say and he could pick up his thread a continent apart as if the director had said cut ten minutes earlier.

The other thing I want to complain about is the usual standard of appalling English accents used in the animated sequences. It’s like watching some cheap cable channel version of Sherlock Holmes, all set in the same parallel universe as the place where Scottish people talk like Scotty came from in Star Trek. You spent all that money on special effects but you couldn’t find one English actor to voice Isaac Newton?

Other than those two minor gripes though, Cosmos is exactly the kind of program of which we should be making more. I like Neil De-Grasse Tyson and one would hope that he will inspire a new generation of astronomers and astrophysicists in the same way that Brian Cox’s Wonders Of series have done in the UK. Just so long as De-Grasse Tyson doesn’t stand on top of a mountain going, “Isn’t science brilliant.” we’ll be ok. 

Get it done.