Archive for the ‘Weird’ category

Going Under

September 3, 2007


This post arrives quite late in the day. There are a number of reasons for this, none of which I’ll go into now. Why don’t I just get on with it?

You’ll remember me talking a bit about going to see a stage hypnotist? You’ll also remember (possibly) that I never actually described the show, much to your undoubted frustration. Perhaps I’ll do that bit as a preface to the main meat of this post.

I thought this was a really interesting show. The guy started out with nine volunteers, who were duly hypnotised, and persuaded to do sundry wacky things. As things progressed, a couple of folk were asked to sit down again, presumably because they weren’t ‘getting into it’.

At one point, it was suggested that the volunteers try to hug as many of the audience as possible. A nice idea, I thought, which could superimpose a lovely little ‘feelgood’ layer onto the general bufoonery. I barely expected that, mid-hug with Your Humble Author, one volunteer would perceive herself to be stuck fast.

It was another one of those ‘competing social pressure’ moments. You see, when the hug was initiated, I did the appropriate thing and returned the gesture. But now it appeared that this poor girl was sprawled over yours truly against her better judgement, and I wondered what I should do. Should I just keep on a-hugging? Or just drop my hands back to my sides? A huggee (me) doesn’t want to appear like they are enjoying themselves long after the hugger (them) has ceased to do so, for risk  of appearing like some variety of pervert. Then again, neither does one wish to betray the sense that they are repulsed by physical human contact in general. It’s a poser.

Once the show was over, and gamely clutching my newly-won hypnotherapy weight-loss CD, we ventured outside, exchanged our respective opinions, and parted. But, at that moment, I vowed to return to The Old Scots Club and undergo The Process for myself.

And so, a few days later, and accompanied by my trusty documentarian Colin Eye, I once again took up my seat. This time, I sat in an aisle seat near the front, so that I could hop up onto the stage at a moment’s notice, without the indignity of actually running in public. I noticed a greater-than-average number of unspeakably posh people in the audience, the type for whom I would assume public indignity to be their bread and butter.

When the cry for volunteers went up, I was instantly in a seat centre-stage. It would almost qualify as teleportation, so swift was my transference from one chair to the other. I signed the little slip of paper which absolved the hypnotist of any responsibility in the event of my death (yes, it actually said it) and we were underway. And all the while, the Great Eye was ever watchful.

(Since drafting this post, it has come to my attention that Eye’s got a blog. Check it out here).

He did the normal relaxation procedures, introduced a bit of suggestion, and then came and tapped each person on the head, upon which they were encouraged to ‘go to sleep’, slumped convincingly on the person next to them. My right ear ended up on the (now horizontal) back of my neighbour. I remember thinking that her pulse was going like the clappers.

Before waking us up, we were given a post-hypnotic suggestion to become stuck in our respective positions. Eyes open, wide awake, and it was so. Except it wasn’t really. At least one volunteer pointed this out to the hypnotist, who quickly ejected them from the stage. As for me, I knew I wasn’t really stuck, but didn’t see any point in proving otherwise, so didn’t try to move. I looked at my arm lying on the chair, and felt pretty sure I could move it if I wanted to, but chose not to.

It wasn’t long before the pool of volunteers was whittled down. Soon, there were but four of on the stage. The other three were all girls, each of whom I remember vividly. At some point in the proceedings, it dawned on me that to stand up and say ‘actually, this isn’t really working for me’ would be far more embarrassing than whatever the hypnotist had in mind for me to do. And therein lies the active ingredient, I think. A context is provided in which you can behave more outrageously than normal, but in which people will not think you are an idiot. What people will object to, though, is people not getting ‘stuck in’. They’ve paid for their tickets after, and wish to be entertained.

Prior to the show, I was formulating a strategy with Eye. We said that I should have a secret signal to communicate that I was just playing along. Then we started talking about other things and forgot about it. It was only after I was stood next to him during the show, my right arm inconveniently stuck in the air, that it occurred to me to tip him a wink. But then, I thought, I’d spoil the show for anyone who happened to catch me. So I didn’t.

When the inevitable ‘show-stopper’ came around, it was with a feeling of tired resignation that I munched the onion, pretending it was an apple. Actually, I quite like onions. So much so that, when the true identity of the vegetable was revealed and I was invited to spit it out, I could only confess (a tad sheepishly) that I’d swallowed it. I gave a little pat of the tummy and an ‘mmm’ noise, which was the best I could think of in the circumstances.

And so, when all was said and done, I considered the fact-finding mission an interesting success. I suspect that I was not as ‘into it’ as some of the others, although the hypnotist (if he realised) never let on. I obligingly (and quite literally) danced to his tune for a little while, and then went home. I am left with a feeling that social pressure, rather than some bizarrely altered state of concsiousness is probably at the root of it.

Although, I’d be happy to have another go, just to be sure…

The Inconstant Gardener

August 17, 2007

In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him (Genesis 41:8)


I had a strange dream last night.

Before we go much further with it, I should probably point out that I do not usually attach significant import to the feverish nocturnal activities of my brain. This one, however, was a spur to action.

I was in the dining room, with the curtains closed. Evidently, I had been there for some time. I was keeping the curtains shut for a reason, namely that I didn’t want to see what was outside in the garden. But part of me knew that, eventually, I would have to look.

Very gingerly, I nudged a small chink in the curtains, and saw that the garden had become rather overgrown. And not the sort of overgrown that arises from omitting the weekly once-over with the lawnmower. There was a mythical, grotesque abundance of greenery. Now, I usually adore greenery, and have often been known to deliberately cultivate weeds if I find them aesthetically agreeable. There was nothing pleasant about these, though. They were mouldy and fetid, and had grown to the height of the house.

Plant dreams are not a usual component of my somnial repertoire (usually they’re about fish) and as I made my way to work this morning, there could be no doubt of what the dream portended. It made me realise, like a bolt out of the blue, that I had left the Monologues untended for weeks, and that they were in danger of developing into some horrid spammy armpit in my absence. This, I realised, would not do.

Fret not. Your gardener is returned. Think of this post as a necessary lap with a Flymo and a pair of secateurs, and then we’ll be back in business. There is some catching up to do.

What are the Chances?

June 8, 2007


And those bizarre, one-in-a-million coincidences that seem impossible to explain are going to happen somewhere, to someone. Occasionally they’ll happen to you.

Derren Brown, Tricks of the Mind

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

I’m not just talking about my wife, I’m talking about my life! I can’t seem to get that through to you! I’m not just talking about one person, I’m talking about everybody! I’m talking about form, I’m talking about content, I’m talking about inter-relationships! I’m talking about God, the devil, hell, heaven! Do you understand, Finally?

Harding, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest


I anticipate that this post may be slightly longer than the average, so please bear with me. I’m not sure whether a point will become apparent as I write. At present, the point seems to hang slightly beyond the reach of my fumbling articulation. However, if it all ends up in a chaotic mess, then, well, maybe that’s important in itself.

Recently, I’ve been reading Tricks of the Mind by bearded mentalist Derren Brown. I’ve just finished it. It’s a fascinating, not to mention challenging, read. I was reading it on the bus home from work on Monday, and he was talking about the nature of coincidence. His thesis, essentially, is that coincidences are really just those chance events which stick in the memory and are ascribed greater significance than other chance events.

 This struck a chord with me: earlier that day, two (and only two) new patients had been referred to me, from separate sources. A quick perusal of their respective addresses revealed that they were next-door neighbours. This sort of thing tends to make one look twice. On one level, it seems remarkable. But of course, it isn’t any less likely than any other two addresses appearing on the respective referral forms. It’s just that the latter scenario would never make it into a blog post.

You see, stuff is happening all the time. Most of it is unremarkable. That which happens to be remarkable is remembered at the expense of that which isn’t. Therefore, we over-estimate the frequency of the remarkable, forgetting that nothing, like something, happens everywhere. As I sat there on the bus, I started thinking about whether Derren Brown had the right idea.

As I write, I seem to recall putting together a post on this very subject. What caused me to put finger to keyboard in that instance? The fact that every single one of my patients turned up that day, the first ‘full house’ in over a year. It hasn’t happened again since, until today. What a coincidence.

Anyway, I hopped off the bus at Lothian Road and made my way down to the Exchange to catch the next one. And as I was on my way, a cursory pat of my various pockets revealed that I was walletless. After a repeated check of all possible pockets, pouches and orifices, I realised that it might still be on the bus from which I had recently alighted.

I took a moment to set my face into the expression of steely determination which seems to benefit the sprinter, and took off. I eventually caught up with it at the Mound. I was very pleased with myself. I staggered on board, taking a moment to explain my predicament to the driver via the medium of flailing hand gestures and assorted panting. Truth be told, I rather expected that having managed to catch the bus again, the wallet would still be on it. It’s quite hard to explain, but I almost felt like having negotiated half the length of Princes Street, it was only right that it should be there. That I was somehow entitled to find it, and that this was the way it would all work out. Naturally, it wasn’t there.

It is an extremely long walk from the Lothian Road to where I live. You’ll remember the day I lost my bus card, and the consternation it caused? This time, I didn’t have the luxury of paying with money instead. All my cards, money and a little bit of my soul were in the wallet, see? 

Anyway, I began to trudge home. Knowing how long it was going to take, and imagining the usurper of my wallet was already making extravagant purchases on Amazon with my debit card, I thought: ‘wouldn’t it be excellent to find a pound on the ground, with which I could get a bus home?’. I prayed that I would find one, but find one I did not. It seems you just can’t get a coincidence when you really need one.

An hour-and-a-half later, I was home. Once I cancelled all my cards (enlisting the help of Mrs H whenever I was told I ‘didn’t have the authority’), I made a mental list of everything that would need to be sorted out if the wallet didn’t materialise. While I was doing so, Mrs H told me that she’d received a text from Arnold Clark (our mechanic of choice) reminding her that the car was due a service. Apparently, the text arrived as she was driving past that very branch of Arnold Clark on the way home from work.

Anyway, the next day, I got an email from the bank. Someone had handed the wallet in. I phoned the receptionist at the bank, who said that I could pop in to collect it at my convenience. So I did. And when I got there, I was greeted by a familiar face. The receptionist and I, it turned out, share the same bus back from work every day.

Now, all this is very strange. At the same time as I am pondering the nature of ‘coincidences’, they seem to be happening all the time. Is it just because I’m looking out for and remembering them? And if there really has been an increase in ‘coincidences’ (conjunctions of events that seem meaningful to me) what does that mean? Of all the people thinking these sort of thoughts, at least one of us is likely to perceive an increase in these ‘coincidences’ at the same time. Perhaps that’s what’s happened to me.

Or is Someone trying to tell me something?


April 13, 2007

Did your workplace seem a little deserted today? It may be that a proportion of your colleagues were suffering from a dose of paraskavedekatriaphobia, a specific phobia of Friday the 13th. Look it up on The Phobia List (which is quite diverting in its own right, actually).

A handful of worthy fellows once decided to do some analyses of various data in order to see whether we really should be concerned about this particular convergence of day and date. I’ve just finished reading the very interesting (well, quite interesting) article in which they set out their various findings. The most amusing thing is that this article, far from being gleaned from the depths of the Fortean Times or Sunday Sport, came directly from the austere pages of the British Medical Journal. The next time you’re leafing through, you might care to take a peek at:

Scanlon, J. (1993). Is Friday the 13th bad for your health? British Medical Journal, 307, 1584-1586.

Their findings suggest that between July 1990 and July 1992 there were consistently fewer cars on the Southern section of the M25 on each Friday the 13th relative to those counted on the Fridays beforehand. Given this slight reduction in traffic volume, it is strage that the number of hospital admissions due to road accidents was significantly higher on each Friday 13th than on the preceding Fridays, based on data collected in the South Thames region over a similar period.

What are the possible explanations? Is it a statistical fluke? Does anxiety about Friday 13th affect our driving? Is there some other factor that increases the accident rate without having anything to do with Friday 13th? Or is Friday the 13th just an unlucky day?

Questions, questions. But happily, not the kind over which to lose sleep.

Nighty night.

What It’s Like To Bee a Dog

February 19, 2007


Those of you who use the internet regularly will know that, when online, one is only a few errant clicks away from some pretty bizarre bits and pieces. The internet, it seems, really has something for everyone. No matter how unorthodox your preference, you are sure to be able to find others who share it.

This is just a shortie today, and my thanks go to Jamie for providing the inspiration.

You see, he sent me an interesting link a while ago. He has probably forgotten, but it remains forever etched on my memory.

He directed me to a site on which one can view photographs of dogs. Nothing too strange about that, you may say – after all, there are undoubtedly masses of canine enthusiasts that like nothing better than to see man’s best friend depicted. But this site was rather special, in that every portrayed pooch was dressed up as a bee.

Now. When one thinks of the sheer number of people using the internet, it is probably quite likely that one or two, by mere coincidence, will have chosen to dress their dog as a stinging insect. Those one or two might find this sort of website a suitable forum through which to swap pictures of the happy occasion. But a cursory glance tells me that there are loads of people doing this.

Can anyone tell me why on earth someone would want to disguise their dog as a bee? Is there something special about bees that make them the costume of choice for dogs? Or are there other sites portraying dogs in all manner of other costumes (beetles, maybe)? It’s altogether quite baffling.

Those wishing to see those beedogs in full should click here, by the way.