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The fifteen years old boy in my novel in progress was born with a spina bifida condition and an exceptional brain and an exceptional mother who is educating him at home. He has used the net extensively to research and has learned, out of the company of other children to think differently than others. He might have read these words, as written down by Wm Shakespeare in the play called Hamlet ...

  What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable!

In composing the pages of this autobiography I have often thought, yes, what a marvellous piece of bio-mechanical engineering I am - and you are - and are we all! What an even more marvellous mystery lies behind all of us that propels our individual and group actions through each and every millisecond of our lives here on planet earth!

I suppose the lucky ones are they who would dispute that previous paragraph because for them human bio-mechanics are of but secondary interest. We are what we are, such folk would argue, and no underlying mystery exists because all is either explained by my Godhead or not explained by It / Him. We are not to bother about it.

Me, I suppose through my years I’ve gone like most of us through the usual arc of thinking on such things; beginning with dear father which art in heaven hallowed be thy name … etc, which morphes into natural scepticism - there’s only what’s here and when you’re dead there’s nothing else. After that, this is not as good as I had hoped so what’s it all about? Is this really all? This cannot be all!  I have not yet reached the final ‘please God help me! but at the age of 81 my personal conclusions are that there is indeed something mysterious that goes by the title of a human soul and that there is no reason for this not to survive the body corporate. That being so - hey! there is a hereafter, after all; this life must therefore be its hereunder. The logical conclusion, for yours truly, is that the transition from the hereunder to the hereafter  - aka death - will surely be the very most powerful of my - or any of our adventures. Beautiful dreaming!

At any rate it has become clear to me that although the species of animal of which I am one is a marvel amongst creatures great and small, it is at the same time deeply flawed. We have consistently sought to damage as well as to create. Nothing has been safe from our depredations. How consistently we have tried to hurt our fellow man (and woman to a much lesser extent), and our fellow man has sought to hurt us. Not only that, but we as a species have, either consciously or carelessly extended our destructive force to other life forms here on earth. We even seek unconsciously to destroy the host planet itself. I cannot think of a single way in which the air, the sea and the main substance of this planet is anything other than damaged now compared with how it was on the day I was born. I take no pleasure in saying this, but in truth if we were, all of us, to disappear overnight all other forms of life on earth would heave one almighty sigh of relief.
In writing this accidental autobiography (I say 'accidental' for in answering my youngest son's question about my early life I had no idea that an autobiography would be the outcome) I have tried to stick to straight reportage, albeit couched in the most careful language at my command. I have for the most part avoided the temptation to comment on things in general or the world at large. I have left such things, as I have left that which I see as our saving grace until now.

Our saving grace, it seems to me, is this ... you and I are a part of the one, so-privileged species that has it in its power to create things beautiful as well as things ugly, to recognise such creation for what it is and to find within it a proper and personal raison d'etre. Most importantly we have it in our power to amend our own behaviour so as to accentuate the beautiful and eliminate the ugly. Will we ever learn so to do? If we do then we shall have created Milton's Paradise. If we do not then we shall be no more.

Science (aka insatiable curiosity) is what ratchets up the degree of difficulty on the road to redemption. I posit that, even if we could find through our science the answers to each and every question thrown up by our combined intelligence and imagination, we would know not one billionth of what there is to know. So perhaps we should wise up, learn to live well with the blessings already given, bloody well stop trying to become our own God of a security and comfort ('wealth') greater than that 'belonging' to our neighbour. Perhaps we should listen to the music, i.e. the beautiful creations, some of it musical, of those who have preceded us. Each generation produces beauty in many, many forms even though it may seem in diminishing scale as time unrolls.

I look out of the window. There I see the jagged skyline of ancient Torridian mountains (today against a powder blue sky for a welcome change!). It uplifts me as does Brahms symphony number four that’s playing on the radio right now or the sight of that ragged V’s of barnacle geese that overflew me a few moments ago or the snatch of Shakespeare at the head of this postscript. I  might shock you by saying what I think makes it difficult or perhaps even impossible for the vast majority of us to access this saving grace in these modern times ... pick any part or all or none of the following ...
  • science because science feeds our curiosity and falsely claims that nothing exists until 'proven'
  • the media because it is most often better for the soul and the wellbeing simply not to know
  • mechanical transport: travel that has often become a pointless end in itself rather than a means to a useful end
  • money because it does not actually exist and can do nothing to nourish, then satisfy the soul
  • the advertising of consumer goods because it is designed to create needs that are not needed 
  • inheritance and other non-earned gains because something for nothing is always destructive, never creative
I cannot think any of us will ever really be able to get behind the screens listed just above then truly smell the flowers. I hope so but do not think so. We have constructed too many obstacles of too severe a difficulty in the ways in which we have chosen to live our lives. But as I turn over to this last page of my own life at least I can imagine how it would be, once given enough of individual vision and enough determination to actually realise it ... for …
I can have Jamie Case succeed where all of us in real life fail:

The novel, A Kind Of Harmony.
by Bryan Islip
to be published early 2016 or thereafter

This demi-paradise: how beautiful you are ...

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First of the many - Me and Billy McGhee (alias Dee Islip)

First of the many - Me and Billy McGhee (alias Dee Islip)
Photograph courtesy of Colin Robertson

How it all started...

Our packaging business was based in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. On the 11th of September 2001, in a hotel bar, I watched the fall of the twin towers.

Three days later I met my wife, Dee, at Heathrow. We made out way north to a long planned holiday in the north west Highlands of Scotland.

By the end of that holiday our decisions were all made; we would close up our Middle East operations. I would come home to Winchester and in due course we would move up to Wester-Ross.

All my life I had played around with painting pictures and with writing verse and fiction. Now I would do this for our living, and in a place where you only had to lift your eyes to lift your mind.

In September 2002 we moved north; we had come home.

What you see here and at Pictures and Poems is some of the result thus far.

'Come on along o' me, for the best is yet to be.'