Category Archives: Science

10 Orbits of the Sun – new short story.


Here’s a pretty short short story that I’ve been working on recently. I’d be interested in anyone’s thoughts. Good or bad. But mainly good.

(Sorry about all the photos – it’s the art director in me.)

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10 ORBITS OF THE SUN.

By David Milligan-Croft.

Something changes inside of you when you have a child. Obviously, things change inside of a woman, quite literally. But I’m talking about changing from a man’s point of view – philosophically.

Up until my late thirties, I never wanted kids. Why would I? They’d be a burden. I had a fabulous career, a few great friends, a fantastic salary and a tidy crash pad overlooking the lazy river.

Then, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I got all broody. And I just wanted a baby. Specifically, a baby girl. I don’t know why I wanted a girl. Perhaps I found the thought of a rambunctious boy quite off-putting.

It stands to reason that I had to find a suitable mother first, which took a little longer than I had hoped. Anyhow, I got my wish. And I was the proud father of little Tallulah. When I said that something changes inside of you, I meant that something changes chemically. Nothing else, nor anyone else, matters quite so much in the world. Every cell in your body is geared toward protecting this little being. It’s a love that’s hard to describe. You would do anything for your charge. Yes, even kill for them. Die for them. It’s quite primeval on one level. Yet deeply spiritual on another.

Sure, not all parents feel this way. And I’m not trying to say that I’m unique in feeling like this. Plenty of parents are doting and plenty are neglectful.

I watched my little girl flourish and blossom. She was a happy kid. Loved to read. Loved to write her own stories. She’d make little 8-page books and fill them with fairytales and drawings. She loved to ride her bike and occasionally we’d go to Ed’s farm and she’d ride Ruby, the chestnut brown mare. She didn’t care much for video games or TV either.

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I remember one time, when we were going for a drive in the desert in my old jalopy, she said: “Daddy, how far is it around the sun?”

“What? The Earth’s orbit?” I’d said.

“Yes.”

“About 585 million miles, give or take a couple of hundred thousand. Depends on the time of year.” I turned the volume down on the car stereo so I could hear my inquisitive daughter better.

“Why does it depend on the time of year?” she said, turning the volume back up again so she could hear the brashy pop song that was playing.

“Not hundred percent. Something to do with the ellipse of our orbit,” I tried to draw an ellipse in the dust on the dashboard. “And the tilt of the Earth’s axis.” Astronomy isn’t my strong point and I got the impression that Tallulah guessed I was busking a little.

Tallulah looked out of the passenger window from behind her sunglasses at the scorched desert dotted with parched brush and spindly shrubs.

I stole a glance at the side of her pensive face, her golden hair was tantalising her cheeks. “Why d’you ask?”

“By my next birthday, I will have travelled 5.8 billion miles around the sun. Pretty amazing, huh?”

I pursed my lips. “When you look at it like that, kiddo, it is pretty amazing.”

“And that’s not including all the miles we’ve done down here on Earth,” she said wistfully.

I didn’t know how many miles we’d clocked up, and, in the great scheme of things, it probably wouldn’t affect Tallulah’s ‘orbital total’ very much. But it was still a significant amount for mere Earth dwellers.

I don’t know why this memory of my daughter springs to the forefront of my mind. Perhaps it is because it’s to do with heavenly bodies. The very fact that she came up with this concept amazed me. She could often be very abstract in her thinking. While other kids were ogling the shapes in clouds, Tallulah was busy calculating how far she’d travelled in the universe. I always imagined her growing up to be a great writer one day. Or maybe even a scientist.

Tallulah didn’t make it into double figures before she was taken from me. It was that God damned bike I’d bought for her ninth birthday. She was cycling home from school when a truck cut her up at some traffic lights. The driver said he didn’t see her coming up on the inside.

I’d always been uncomfortable with her riding to and from school. Not because she was a careless rider but because of careless drivers. However, her friends all did it, so she wanted to do it too. I guess I should have been a stronger father.

I was at work when it happened. I don’t know, but around the time of the accident, I recall being overwhelmed by a sense of grief. Like somehow I’d had this telepathic connection with her or something. Sounds ludicrous, I know. Though, I didn’t put it down to anything bad having befallen my little girl at the time.

I got a phone call from my distraught wife about an hour later. It was hard to make out what she was actually trying to tell me through her hysterical sobs. When the penny finally dropped, I felt the world disappear from beneath my feet and I was suddenly floating in a black void. I was dizzy. I felt my insides twitch and heave and I vomited over a glass case containing antique pistols. I think the customers must have thought I was hungover as they stared at me disdainfully and left the shop.

I closed the store and rushed to the hospital. But it was too late. The truck had already crushed the precious life out of her. Had the driver been there when I found out I imagine I would have killed him. Not that I would do that now, having had time to reflect on the incident. I know it was an accident. He didn’t mean to kill her. But he should’ve taken more care. Particularly at that time of day, being near a school and all.

I have never known grief like it. I don’t believe in heaven and hell.

This was hell.

The depths of Christian hell could not provide me with such torment. I went over all of the things that I might possibly have done for Tallulah not to have been at that particular spot at that particular moment in time. Not buying her the bike was top of the list. Her taking gymnastics class on a Tuesday instead of violin on a Wednesday was another. There were an infinite amount of possibilities. Of variables that would have put her at a different point in the universe. And I didn’t take any of them.

As you can imagine, my wife was inconsolable too. But I had to put on a more stoic face for everyone else: the police, doctors, funeral directors, family, friends. I know people mean well by wanting to offer their condolences, but the last thing we wanted to do at that time was talk to anybody. Shout – yes. Scream – definitely. Why? Why, Tallulah? What had she ever done to anybody? To me, it was further proof that there is no god. How could an all-powerful, loving deity let a beautifully perfect little girl be killed in such a horrific way?

That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in some form of afterlife. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. Perhaps we’re reincarnated. Or, maybe we rise to a higher dimension. I once had the notion that the afterlife was an emotion rather than a place. Sort of like ecstasy or bliss. That one’s spirit melded back into the universe in a kind of eternal rapture. Most likely, there will be nothing. I don’t know. But it’s a chance I’m not prepared to take.

Of course, I haven’t discussed this with my wife. What would she say? She’d say I was being irrational. And I guess I was. No rational person decides to take their own life. She’d say I needed to see a doctor. That I was depressed. Not thinking straight. Get some pills. On the other hand, I could also see why my thinking was completely rational.

You know what I miss the most about Tallulah? It’s a sound. Specifically, a word. It’s a word I’ll never hear ever again: “Daddy!”

Like I said at the beginning – having a child changes you. You’d do anything to protect them. Why should my parental duties end in this life? Lots of religious people believe in heaven and hell. But they don’t think twice about giving up on their dead loved ones. If their faith was so resolute why wouldn’t they follow them to paradise?

Perhaps Tallulah and I will both spend eternity in black nothingness. In which case, it won’t matter a jot to either of us. But if there is something else, I’m certainly not going to let my beloved daughter wander the afterlife all by herself.

What kind of father would I be?

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Espe P.

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By the way, a few folk have asked me if these are photos of my kids. Just to reassure you – they’re not. When I’m working on a story I set up a Pinterest board for it. I put up pins of characters, locations, props etc to help me visualise my world. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a cheat to put them up on this post as I should let the story set the scene. However, like I said at the beginning – it’s the art director in me that can’t help putting some visuals in. Think of them as an extended front cover.

Addendum.

If you liked this story, why not read the whole collection, which is available on Amazon.

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Things for which I am grateful #365/365.


Some folks might think this is a bit of a cheat. I started with my kids and I’m going to finish with them. In my defence, I have two of the little rascals so I’m counting it as one post apiece.

There is nothing more precious to me on this Earth than my two daughters. Anyone who has children will know that something changes inside of you – chemically, biologically – and nothing else seems to matter.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to every parent, and true, the pesky varmints do get on your nerves a lot of the time. And yes, they bicker constantly. And they manage to talk in a stream of consciousness James Joyce would be proud of. But, when all’s said and done, they don’t outweigh all the adorable moments. I simply couldn’t live without them.

It’s been an epic year of blogging. Thank you for sticking by me and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

Right, I’m going for a lie down.

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Here are my 365 things that I am grateful for:

1 My daughters

2 Water

3 Poetry

4 Baths

5-7 Notebooks, pens, pencils

8,9 Butterflies and moths

10, 11 Softball and baseball

12 Fresh coffee

13 Sound / masts

14 Indoor toilets

15 Stepping Hill Hospital

16 Birds of Paradise

17 Roget’s thesaurus

18 Mother Earth

19 Clingfilm dispenser

20, 21 Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy

22 Jorge Luis Borges

23 Classic cars

24 Curry

25 Tim Berners Lee

26 Charles Bukowski

27 Yorkshire

28 Shiraz

29 Food

30 Katell Keineg

31 Tao Te Ching

32 A roof over my head

33 Peat fires

34 Street art

35 Friends (as in – mates, not the T.V. show)

36 Wilfred Owen

37 The Penguin Café Orchestra

38 The fry-up

39 Wolves

40 W.B. Yeats

41, 42 Cherry blossom trees and haiku poetry

43 Bread

44 Boules

45 Maps

46 Refuse collectors

47 Candy Chang

48 Sparrows

49 The tomato

50 Studio Ghibli

51 Oliver Jeffers

52 Johannes Gutenberg

53 Tom Waites

54 The cello

55 Mothers’ day

56 The Phoenicians

57, 58 Bacon and brown sauce

59 Tulips

60 Fish and chips

61 Giselle

62 Airfix

63 Firefighters

64 Rain

65 Libraries

66 Raymond Carver

67 Toulouse-Lautrec

68 The Goldfinch

69 Wings of Desire

70 Silence

71 Elizabeth Barrett Browning

72-99 Ireland

100 Talking Heads

101 Sylvia Plath

102 Yorkshire Sculpture Park

103 My mum

104 Modigliani

105 Kurt Vonnegut

106-128 Electricity

129 The pop man

130-147 Comedians/comedy

148 Commando magazine

149 Pastry

150-156 Social media

157 David Bowie

158 Football

159 D-Day

160-194 France

195-230 Novels

231 Graphic Design

232 Viva! Roxy Music

233 – 274 Art

275 Betty Blue

276 Writing

277 Joy Division

278 – 287 Scotland

288 – 324 Italy

325 – 352 Photography

353 Leeds Utd

354 Love

355 Universe

356 Advertising

357 Pan’s Labyrinth

358 – 363 Democracy

364 Miscellaneous

365 My daughters II

If anyone wants to read any of the previous posts simply type the title into the search box on the right. (It’s underneath the ‘topic’ cloud.)

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Things for which I am grateful #364 – Miscellaneous.


When I first started doing Things for which I am grateful, one for each day of 2014, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it. Now, on the penultimate post, I have far too many. So rather than pick just one I’m going to give you a miscellaneous list of all the ones that didn’t make it – but could have quite easily. (Lucky you.)

The point I’m trying to make is that we are very lucky in the ‘west’. And, even though I gripe on about our Tory overlords, I feel very fortunate to live in England.

The sun. (The big orange ball of fire, not the newspaper.)

England. (So much history, beautiful scenery and towns.)

History. (I love history.)

Wind turbines. (I think they’re cool.)

Thai food.

Chinese food.

The industrial revolution.

The sea. (I love the sea. And would love to live by it once again.)

Manchester.

Leeds.

The Romans.

The Greeks.

South Africa.

Elvis Presley.

Schools.

Public transport.

Sri Lanka.

Australia.

Bali.

Hinduism.

Buddhism.

Taoism.

New Zealand.

Optometry. (I wouldn’t be able to see without my glasses.)

My ex-wife for having our children.

Evolution.

Monkeys. (I do love a monkey.)

My neighbours.

Garlic.

Penny sweet tray.

The Peak District.

Typography.

Architecture.

Sci-fi.

The dictionary.

Drawing.

Farmers.

Butchers.

Fishermen.

America.

Uilleann pipes.

Sub-atomic particles. (Where would we be without these little jaspers? Nowhere, that’s where.)

Martin Luther King Jr.

The BBC. (Kiddy-fiddlers aside, they’ve done some great stuff.)

The Guardian.

Snow.

Erik Satie.

The emergency services. (Police, fire, paramedics.)

So, as you can see, plenty for me to be grateful for. But the point is, not what I am grateful for – what do you have to be thankful for in your life?

Wonder what’s in store for the last one?

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The Universe – Things for which I am grateful #355/365


galaxy

Sometimes, I find it utterly extraordinary that any of us are here at all. How we have come to be in this chaotic universe is nothing short of miraculous. Imagining all of the things that had to take place over the past 14 billion years in order for us to exist are almost too enormous to comprehend.

Then, on other days, I just think we’re randomly floating around space on a giant ball of muck.

spiral-galaxy

I am in awe of our universe and the secrets hitherto unanswered. Who or what created it? Is there life after death? Are there parallel universes? Is there life on other planets?

amonite

What else I find mesmerising about the universe is how what is going on out there in space is mirrored down here on Earth – down to the microscopic level. Whether we’re looking at a spiral galaxy or the fractal patterns on a leaf.

plant

Scientists estimate that there are between 4.2 and 5.3 trillion habitable planets in the observable universe. It’s hard to fathom that we are the only planet to have evolved intelligent life. If that is the case, what a waste of a universe that would be. Mankind has hardly showered itself in glory this past brace of millennia.

river

tree

fractal

From macro to micro – The scale of the universe. (Click and slide.)

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This short film about the nature of space/time will blow your mind. If this is true then’s there’s no point us worrying about the future – it already exists.

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Perfection


To achieve perfection takes trial and error.

If others are involved in your task, they may see your experimentation as indecision.

Ignore that gnawing urge to placate them for an easier life, and press on with your goal.

Only then, will you hope to attain something that you can be 85 – 90% satisfied with.

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Gutenberg V Berners-Lee


If it wasn’t for Johannes Gutenberg I wouldn’t be writing this post. In fact, if it wasn’t for Tim Berners-Lee, I wouldn’t be writing it either.

So who’s Top Dog? Who’s the Big Kahuna? The Head Honcho?

Let’s have a look shall we?

Johannes Gutenberg invented the first movable wooden type printing press in 1436. (Progressing later to metal type.) Known imaginatively as: The Gutenberg Press.

Before I get a plethora of comments saying: Yeah, but the Chinese invented clay movable type 400 years earlier…

Yes they did. And the clue is in the word- “clay”.

Johannes Gutenberg inventor of the Gutenberg Press and the Gutenberg Bible

Johannes Gutenberg

Now what’s so special about that? I hear you coo.

Well, it meant that books could be massed produced cheaply. Which lead to mass literacy. Which lead to peasants like my forefathers having the opportunity to better themselves. (Which they never bothered their arses to do.)

The Gutenberg Press is one of the greatest inventions of the modern era. Producing a veritable revolution in the fostering, development and dissemination of the arts, sciences and religion. (Okay, maybe the last one wasn’t such a good idea.)

Books were no longer the sole domain of royalty, church and aristocracy.

The masses had the opportunity to learn. To have their own ideas. And to contribute ideas.

So, if you’re reading this, (and you’re not a member of the royal family), you probably have Johannes Gutenberg to thank for enabling you to do so.

Gutenberg Press

Gutenberg Press

Next up, Sir Tim Berners-Lee father of the World Wide Web, upon which you are reading this post.

Tim Berners-Lee inventor of the world wide web

Tim Berners-Lee

As most of you probably know, TB-L invented the first internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing while at CERN in 1989.

And you’ll probably all agree, that the WWW is one of the single greatest inventions ever to be bestowed upon humankind.

early computer

A PC

If Gutenberg help spread mass literacy, then Berners-Lee has helped spread mass learning.

No longer are we bound by publishers as to what we can and cannot find out. Whether that be across the road at number 22, or across the world at, er… number 23.

Accessing hitherto inaccessible information. The sharing of information instantly. Communicating with people in real time that would otherwise take hours, days or weeks.

What Gutenberg did in 600 ish years, TB-L has achieved in 20.

It is mind-boggling to comprehend the effect the World Wide Web has had in empowering the everyday man, woman and child in their quest for knowledge.

Obviously, there had to be a few other people in the chain such as, Alan Turing – the father of Computer Science and John Atanasoff, the inventor of the first computer, before TB-L could begin to cognize WWW.

But, I doubt that any of these illustrious men would have achieved what they have, had it not been for Johannes Gutenberg.

Some may say the invention of language and writing are of far greater import than merely having the means in which to transcribe them. What good would a book be without words in which to put them?

Og: What’s that?
Ug: It’s a book.
Og: What’s in it?
Ug: Nothing.
Og: What use is that?
Ug: It’s a sketch book.
Beat.
Og: Hang on a minute, me auld hairy sabre-toothed tiger slayer, what are we doing ‘ere?
Ug: Er… I dunno. Chatting?
Og: Exactly! Chatting.
Og: Now, what if you write our, er… “chats” in your little sketch book?
Ug: Then it wouldn’t be a sketch book. It’d be a “chat” book.
Og: Maybe we could have some kind of “picture” for our words?
Ug: A pictogram?
Og: More of a… symbol really. You know, instead of you drawing a woolly mammoth we could have a “wooooord” for it instead. Coz, let’s face it, you can’t draw for shit. I’ve seen the mess you made of the cave.
Ug: You mean a consistent set of phoneme symbols arranged in an alphabet for the translation and dissemination of information?
Og: Yeah, that as well.

And lo, writing was invented.

I digress.

So… who wins between Gutenberg and Berners-Lee?

Berners-Lee may have driven humankind further, but it was Gutenberg who bought the petrol.

Which leads me to another life-changing invention – the lawnmower.

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Me, the thief.


Where do you get your ideas from?

I get asked this all the time in my job.

I usually reply that the ideas come from the information I am supplied with to do the job.

All you have to do is jizz it up a bit in your creative cocktail shaker and see what comes out.

Sometimes it tastes like piss.

Other times it tastes like a Mojito mixed by Mr Hemingway himself.

But there are a few other ingredients that go into the creative cocktail shaker that aren’t in the brief.

These are taken from all the stuff you soak up in your daily life: art; literature; music; ads; news; gossip; film; blogs; tabloids; soaps; comedy, et cetera, et cetera.

What turns your cocktail from being piss into ambrosia is what bits of your own inspiration you put in there.

I came across this quote on the Gutenberg Press II:

I read something similar by Picasso a few years back. But in the spirit of the quote – he probably pinched it from someone else in the first place.

Here are a few bits of graffiti that you may have seen before, but what I like about these are how they integrate their art with the environment, rather than the environment being purely a canvas.

Whilst out for a saunter with my two girls, the eldest, who’s 5, said: Daddy! That looks like a cup!

This is what she was looking at…

Kids get it.

It’s adults who unlearn it.

Inspiration lurks everywhere, if you want to be inspired.

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