Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Friday, 13 January 2017
Now, where to begin? The most common - and most irritating - response to an opening line like that is, why don't you begin at the beginning? as if it were that simple. Not many things go in straight lines between birth and death.
Ok, I will just paint in the background with a broad brush to give you a slightly greater chance of glimpsing the nightmare world inside my head, but don't blame me if you have a job finding your way out.
An Irish priest is staying with his friend, the abbot, in a large, ancient and semi-commercial Cistercian monastery. He has been working for some time on the concept of perpetual motion using kinetic energy, and has made a prototype machine in the shape of a sphericon, powered by the movement of steel ball-bearings within internal chambers with gravitationally operated valves which open to allow the balls to run to the opposite, lower chamber, the valve of which is open too, but quickly closes as the sphericon lurches upward - a bit like a mercury switch. The shape of the sphericon means that the object moves both side to side and roughly in a straight line. It has a tendency to go off at tangents, depending on the terrain - like me.
In the middle of the night, he makes his way to the vast, circular Chapter House of the medieval monastery, because the floor area - although somewhat uneven - is large enough to test the sphericon for the maximum possible time it might take the thing to run out of momentum without bumping into furniture.
He places the little plastic object somewhere near the centre of the huge room and sets it off with a gentle push, then makes his way to the edge of the Chapter House to take up position on one of the bench seats which run around the whole circumference. He is hoping it will be a long night.
The low light, the late hour and the rhythmical clicking noise that the sphericon makes as it wobbles around have a soporific effect on the elderly priest, and he nods off to sleep within ten minutes.
When he awakes, the sphericon is still moving and clicking, but he notices that he is not alone in the room. On the far side, he sees a monk seated on the bench, his face and head covered by his cowl. The only exposed parts of the monk are his hands and feet, both of which are almost inhumanly large.
The priest clears his throat and begins to speak to the monk, apologising for not noticing him enter and - not knowing the time - expressing his hope that he was not interrupting any imminent meeting. He does not recognise the man, despite numerous visits to the monastery in the past.
Unnervingly, the monk ignores these nicities and begins a softly spoken, tangled account involving the accidental death of children. The priest begins to fear for both his safety and the sanity of the man, and so attempts to change the subject by asking him what his prime duties at the monastery are.
The hooded monk says that he is in charge of the gift shop, and begins to list all the items sold to the visiting public there, one by one. He does not stop until he has named every single item, but as he speaks he rises to his feet and walks over to the sphericon, watching it move around as he lists the entire stock.
The priest catches a few glimpses of the monk's face under the hood, and his features are grotesque. His enormous nose curves droopingly downwards, almost touching his equally grotesque chin, which rises sharply upwards to meet it. He looks like Mr Punch.
The monk resumes his rant on the vulnerability of children, equating the sphericon to a baby which the preist has brought into the world - a baby which is small, delicate and vulnerable - and as he does, he raises one great foot over it.
To the priest's horror, the monk brings his foot crashing down on the sphericon, sending bits of plastic and ball-bearings spinning and rolling across the huge stone floor.
The priest awakes with a start, realising that it was the cessation of clicks that woke him. The sphericon has stopped moving.