If things can go wrong, do they?

Today I am surrounded by men in hard hats. It is to rub in just how inactive I am these days.I have been told by the neurologist to “take care” – that infamous phrase that has haunted me for three months now – I must take a stick with me if I go anywhere where I might slip, trip or fall, I must not repeatedly bend down or stretch up, I must sleep at least once during the day and for eight hours every night and so on.Added to this fun was my visit to the dentist yesterday. Apparently one of my back teeth caused my face to swell up a few weeks ago. The tooth had a hair-line crack then but now it has split in two right down to the end of the roots and had to come out.It is now in a small packet in my jeans pocket so that I can turn people’s stomachs with its goriness and demonstrate just why I had so much toothache recently. Maybe too, that tooth fairy might take pity on me and, like she did to those British bankers, slip me a bonus of the odd £10 million. The dentist told me, inevitably, that after the extraction I should “take care” and not do any strenuous exercise for a couple of days.So here I am, taking care and watching the workmen from my front and back windows.Today is the 60th. anniversary of Murphy’s Law – the scientifically nearly proven rule that if something could go wrong, it will go wrong. So I worry about those workmen.The two cutting down the vegetation on the man made fortification behind me have a vicious looking bush cutter and they are tied together by a length of rope. Nothing Murphy’s Law could influence there, for sure.At the front of the house, my near neighbours at the police station are having a face lift. Three burly scaffolders are climbing up ladders and scrambling across the roof. Mr. Murphy, please let them be.It is Friday 13th. of course, so this alignment of the Murphy’s pessimistic rule and the supposedly most unlucky day in the calendar is bad news for men in hard hats and, I suppose, for anyone being told to “take care.”So far, so good. Fingers crossed and all that.I read in the newspaper today that some clever scientists have been able to extract DNA from some fossilized remains of our possible ancestors, Neanderthal Man. This has happened at the same time as all party-loving scientists are celebrating the 200th. anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, the man who wrote quite a long book about how we, and all the other members of the animal kingdom, evolved into the perfect specimens we are today.So this possible evolutionary link back to Neanderthal Man and Woman, is of great significance if you are at all interested in how we evolved from small, thick set, hairy creatures into Mr and Mrs. David and Victoria Beckham.Well, so far, the DNA seems to prove that the Neanderthals were capable of complex thought, language and art. This is based on what the DNA tells us about the workings of their brains.Moving quickly on from a cheap jibe about the Beckhams, I thought about the complexities of those brains and how they may have evolved into our’s. Then, inevitably, I thought about my own brain now partially damaged by that haemorrhage in the left temporal lobe.Luckily, as I have told you before, I am left-handed so the damage has been limited because in left-handers most of the language, complex thought and art functions of the brain are located in the right temporal lobe.Scientists are claiming these functions as some of the most important characteristics that make us human beings – Homo Sapiens. I was made to feel, if I have not done so many times since my haemorrhage, that I am exceedingly lucky to have retained at least my limited abilities in these three areas.Maybe it was a disproof of Murphy’s Law because my illness could have gone so wrong for me if I had been one of the right-handed majority.Even so, we shouldn’t dismiss the chances of Murphy’s Law. Yesterday an American civilian satelite collided with an obsolete Russian military satelite high up in space above Siberia. Apparently the chances of such an occurence were, according to some other clever scientists, “millions or billions to one.” That, my friends, is Murphy’s Law.So we should be very careful, to use a well-worn phrase, when we listen to the plans of the Sri Lankan government who yesterday asked Britain for financial support in setting up five “welfare villages” for the civilian refugees from what looks like the final stages of the civil war with the Tamil Tigers who want a separate state within Sri Lanka itself.These “welfare villages” will be “secured” by the Sri Lankan army and will become the enforced home for up to 250,000 civilians who are currently caught in the cross fire between the combatants. Let’s drop the euphemism shall we – these places will be concentration camps. We have seen them before and, no doubt, we will see them again. Nothing could possibly go wrong when large numbers of civilians from an enemy area are concentrated together at a time when a government is planning on rooting out all supporters of that wild-eyed rebel leader, Velupillai Prabakharan. Sometimes Murphy’s Law is not a joke.The good news is that those men in hard hats have finished their work, opened their sandwich boxes and poured out their coffees. Hard luck Mr. Murphy.


  1. Anatole,

    You are such a nosey person – always wanting to know what the neighbours are up to.

    Our hill, or bracht as it is called for some mysterious linguistic reason, might even have been older than the 11th. century – in fact it probably was.

    Where I live we have a Norman castle which overlooks the town from a similar high vantage point. I might post a picture one day.

    Our bracht was the second defensive position and was enclosed within the same wall that surrounded the castle.

    Archeologists think it had a wooden keep on its summit and would have been a part of the castle’s garrison.

    There is a theory that it is even older than that – it could have been an Iron Age fortification.

    Whichever is right, they are pretty certain that it was originally a much smaller natural hill which was increased by 2/3rds to be used a military vantage point.

    I have been up there (illegally – woops) and you can see for miles in all directions.

    In the 18th. Century, there was a tea or coffee pavilion at the top and it was used by fashionable folk who liked doing things like climbing a short hill and feeling that they had conquered a mountain.

    Nowadays it is derelict but owned by the Sussex Archeological Society who keep it in trim.It gives all us lucky neighbours a piece of open countryside right in the middle of town.

    It also protects my small courtyard garden from the wind and weather making it very hot and sheltered in the summer but quite dark in winter. A good place for growing roses, clematis, climbing fuchsias and passion flowers.

    I am very lucky living here, I think.

  2. Gee, and I’m humbled to have a 19th-century country chapel across the road. You are lucky indeed.

    As an ill-traveled Euro-American I’m always astonished to discover that there were actually people on the planet doing things prior to say the landing on Plymouth Rock. Wow.

  3. Were they doing things, our ancestors? I know we have the archaeological remains and the documentation and I am really interested in history but…..I also believe that the real reality is in our heads and in the here and now.

    Maybe we are the only people, us living now, nothing else is profoundly in our reality…the rest is a beautiful story, an adornment to our experience.

  4. Isn’t Murphy’s Law related to all those monkeys on typewriters producing Shakespeare – eventually everything will happpen. We only recall it when it is significant – rather like coincidence.

    Murphy’s Law is ideal for pessimists isn’t it? Can we have a positive version – not a Panglossian “this is the best of all possible worlds” but a “things turn out right in the end”. Maybe it is the triumph of hope over experience – but is that such a bad thing?

  5. I am totally with you on that one Claudio….I am a glass half full man and hope I will remain so.

    I remain also, I suppose, I suppose one of those people who lives in that utopian moment in time between hope and disappointment.

    I am beginning to believe though that those disappointments may never happen.

  6. I don’t think I’m so much a ‘glass half full’ person as ‘there’s plenty more in the bottle’ and ‘there’s another bottle in the fridge’.

    I like the idea of being less convinced about the disappointments – disappointment is a reaction rather than a fact. Some people seem to go through life collecting disappointment – I know that ‘making the best of a bad job’ may mean that you might lower your standards (temporarily at least), but isn’t that better than a lifetime wallowing in disappointment?

  7. I love the idea of that bottle in the fridge…and all the other ones at the distillery too.

    I don’t think I lower my standards though to avoid disappointment, I am more the kinda of person who fights off an inside feeling that disappointment is inevitable but, maybe this time it might never happen.

    It is, I guess, a kind of foolish optimism. I can get over disappointment quite well too luckily. Hope springs back pretty quickly for me.

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