8 August 2003

The summer steaming by. Several very hot days.

For some years now, I’ve subscribed to a newsgroup on evolutionary psychology which used to send me an occasional flurry of emails, almost always inspired by an argument between creationists and evolutionists. It’s been largely dormant for a long while now, but I do still get book reviews stemming from ‘Human Nature Review’, which is an active and very interesting web site and magazine. These books are plum on target for me, and have led me to buy books in the past. At the moment, for example, I am waiting delivery for ‘Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society’ by a scientist called David Sloan Wilson which I was led to by a review of another of Wilson’s books. Just now, I’ve read an article by Samir Okasha a lecturer in philosophy at York University (who, likewise, I’ve never heard of) on selection theory. I’m astonished to read that in the last few years there has been a debate raging about the biological level at which evolution acts; no longer is Dawkins Selfish Gene sacrosanct. It seems that evolutionists are now understanding that evolution must work at many different levels all at the same time. Isn’t it amazing how someone like Dawkins can become so successful on the back of being wrong.

I’ve always a bug in my system about Dawkins. I saw him lecture five years ago. This is what I said in my diary at the time: ‘Dawkins was a real failure. He simply confirmed all my prejudices about him. During the question session, I asked him if, scientifically speaking, he was still happy with the selfish gene theory and whether he was happy with the way the term had entered the common currency. He didn’t give me much of an answer. He said yes, he did feel the selfish gene theory held up, it didn’t explain everything, but nevertheless it was still a good explanation. He didn’t answer the second part of my question.’

Okasha’s review starts by stating: ‘The complex of problems falling under the ‘levels of selection’ rubric includes an intriguing mix of empirical, conceptual and philosophical issues. Roughly speaking, the key question concerns the level of the biological hierarchy at which natural selection occurs. Does selection act on organisms, genes, groups, colonies, demes, species, or some combination of these? Evolutionary biologists and philosophers of biology have devoted considerable attention to this question over the last forty years, so much so that in some quarters the debate is now regarded as stale. Despite this perception, recent years have in fact seen interesting and important new work on the levels of selection, some of which has significantly re-defined the terms of the traditional debate. This paper aims to introduce the reader to these new developments.’

And, his review concludes as follows: ‘It may seem surprising that the levels of selection debate is still live today, given that it traces right back to Darwin. The reason lies partly in the difficulty of resolving the relevant empirical issues, and partly in the fact that the levels of selection question, like so much in evolutionary biology, involves a mixture of empirical and conceptual issues (cf. Sterelny and Griffiths (1999); and conceptual issues are generally much harder to resolve definitively than empirical issues, where they admit of definitive resolution at all. I hope that the foregoing survey, incomplete though it is, conveys some sense of the direction in which the debate is currently moving.’

I don’t know whether I’m not writing any diary entries this summer because I’ve nothing to write about, or because I’ve been so wrapped up in proof reading Kip Fenn. I say proof reading, but it’s been a lot more than that, especially with the latter chapters which had not been read over or lightly corrected even once. It was tedious work, akin to the proof-reading and production days on the EC Inform newsletters. I found it hard to concentrate for very long, and was filling up the day with trips to the garden, daytime TV, newspapers (not that I wasn’t doing this during the previous six months of writing as well).

I had thought this stage would be easier and more relaxed than the writing stage; but I came to realise that so often in a chapter I would need to be rewriting or rewording a phrase or sentence or paragraph but that my head was never in writing mode - if I can put it like that. To take an easy example, if I was needing to rewrite a small bit of dialogue, I couldn’t simply find it there and then, in the moment. It required a kind of mental energy to get there, into the place, where I could be that person to write that dialogue.

Simple proof reading would be much easier. Almost every paragraph stopped me, and demanded some kind of rewriting, demanded that I get my head back into the psychological or geographical or political or factual or whatever place which was being written about. Thus, when I was correcting on page, I would invariably avoid working new phrases etc. to put in, and leave a squiggle down the side, indicating a rewrite. When I came to do the corrections on screen, I would often arrive at a squiggle, have a momentary think about why the squiggle was there, and then leave the computer to do some weeding in the garden. Half the time, the sentence or paragraph rewrites were required because my language was clunky or I was trying to cram too much into a sentence, or I was trying to express something mildly difficult and wasn’t succeeding. And, thus, often it would take a long time to find a better form of words, and I’m sure that sometimes I didn’t succeed - and this will become apparent on my next read through (which I’m sooooo looking forward).

Also, at the end of this correction procedure, I used the computer’s search facility to try and reduce the verbal weeds in the text, and this was really tedious too. Throughout the book I had overused words and phrases like: I know, I think, I found, perhaps, at least, of course, sometimes. I made a list of 30 of them, and a grid with a column for each chapter, and I went through rigorously weeding them out, or replacing them with better phrases. But I have another list of 20 possible word-weeds, which I’m planning on checking today before I print out the second draft.

In addition, I’ve spent some time trying to deal with the many notes that I made during the first draft stage, general points and more specific ones (for example, wanting a mention of the Zakat concept earlier in the book than chapter 6; and wanting another mention of the author Julia Derwent). I did try to deal with these when I was proof reading and correcting the chapters, but I found this too difficult and complicated, so I left many of them to the end, and have been dealing with them separately. I’ve also changed a fair few names (for silly reasons). I changed Hilary to Harriet because I was worried about having two of Kip’s partners named after very high-profile people (Hilary Clinton and Princess Diana); I changed Jonathan to Alan (because I didn’t want the book’s most important environmentalist to be named after Britain’s most famous environmentalist Jonathan Porrit); I changed Harold to Horace (because I personally had a close gay friend called Harold, although there is no connection between the two, not in looks, character or actions, and I never once associated the two - and when I did I decided to change Harold’s name); and I changed Dee to Jay (much to Adam’s annoyance, because Diana and her sisters are all called the four Dees somewhere in the book, and this seemed an unnecessary confusion).

I should report (to myself - ha ha) a disturbing moment on the porch with Adam and Barbara on Adam’s birthday (Monday). We had been sitting around trying to decide what to do, and Adam said he wanted me to read some Kip Fenn. I didn’t want to, but he was insistent (perhaps because usually I have given him a birthday story and am keen to read it out loud - not so this year, I’ll come back to this too). After a while, I thought it might be a good idea to read a bit out loud, especially since B hasn’t read any of it. I thought it would sound good. I chose the beginning of chapter 10, because I thought it might hold B’s interest. But, it was so hard to read out loud; and I didn’t feel like that what I was reading was any good, or that Adam or Barbara were being drawn in at all. I had planned to read several pages but I stopped after one. It made me feel very depressed. I’ve always liked reading my writing out to Adam and Barbara, and I couldn’t understand why this wasn’t working. The only possible reason - it seemed to me, still does - is that the writing is banal, turgid. Following this episode, I came up with the alternative name for Kip Fenn - ‘White Elephant’. Of course, I can’t stop now; I can’t not try and sell it - but that little episode on the porch has tempered my artificial dreams for the book.

Have I confessed this before? My imagination does project towards Kip Fenn being published, towards being interviewed by reviewers, towards people I know and have known seeing that I’ve made good as an author, towards seeing the book in bookshop windows - but I have no idea of what the cover might look like. I catch myself in these dreams now and then, and I worry about them for a second or two; but then I realise they are toy dreams, play dreams, fantasies such as one might see in a TV drama, they are not real dreams, if that makes any sense. I mean I am not projecting forward towards what I believe will happen, only to what might happen in a fantasy world. I don’t dwell on these dreams at all. In fact, I knock them on the head as soon as I’m conscious of them. But, I tell myself, there is no need to worry - as Adam does - that I might be heading for a disappointment. Right now, I have so few expectations for my life that I could click my fingers and disappear and not fear missing out on anything (except some good times with Adam, which, in any case, will be few and far between from now on).

It is two weeks that Adam has been living at Barbara’s house now, even though she’s not there during the day. I told Adam at the beginning of the summer holidays that he should find something concrete and active to do over the summer holidays, have some programme, make some effort, or else get a job. A couple of weeks later, before he went to the Isle of White, I gave him a sterner warning that he needed to sort out how he planned to spend the summer, because I would not put up with him moping around the house, doing nothing but reading and watching television (apart from his harmonica). There were a couple of weeks which he then spent here at Russet House, doing nothing. I tried to talk to him about getting a job, I tried to talk to him about his plans or projects. All he ever wanted to do was argue. He never wanted to go swimming (to the pool or the river), he never asked to do anything with me (except once to go for a short walk on the common). He never went into Godalming or Guildford to go to the library, or to bookshops. He refused to seriously look for a job, or take on any kind of sustained project or task. So, I told him to go and live at Barbara’s house in Guildford.

At the very least, this means that I’m not having a go at him 50 times a day, which is very counter-productive. And, he doesn’t want to do anything with me any longer (I mean the episode at the swimming pool in Portugal was a real eye-opener). He prefers to do nothing, to stay in his room, than to go swimming with me.

13 August 2003

The Hutton Enquiry is under way into the circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly. It’s already clear - as it was after the House of Commons select committee report - that the BBC is far from guiltless, and that the journalist Andrew Gilligan went too far in promoting the original story fed to them by Kelly. In giving evidence himself, Gilligan has admitted - rather weaselly - that on the live ‘Today’ broadcast he used words he was no longer comfortable with. An email from the ‘Today’ programme editor has shown that he was concerned about Gilligan’s reporting (but not sufficiently to control him). Evidence from another journalist in contact with David Kelly has shown how a more surreptitious use of Kelly’s information could have been made. . .

I stopped writing to myself at this point, and wrote a third letter to the ‘Today’ programme. Here are the three letters in the order I wrote them.

Subject: John Humphrys; Date: Sat, Jun 28, 2003, 9:09 am
‘Dear Editor, What a disgraceful interview. John Humphrys was defending the BBC, not interviewing Ben Bradshaw. He sounded ridiculous and failed to acknowledge the points on which Bradshaw was right and he was wrong - evident to all listeners.
If the BBC wants to defend itself on the Campbell charges, it should not be using a Today programme presenter, but setting up a debate between another BBC representative and the government spokesman. Anyone who has been in a domestic argument can recognise how Humphrys’ emotional floundering was a defence against an inadequate argument. This is not the first unprofessional interview on this subject I’ve heard on the Today programme during the last week.
The BBC should acknowledge it did make a mistake, and thus clear the way to get back to the real issues. The BBC has always been considered arrogant, now is a good time to start learning how to say sorry (if politicians can do it, why not the BBC - I mean surely, surely, the BBC can’t always always always be right!).’

Subject: David Kelly; Date: Mon, Jul 21, 2003, 7:58 am
‘Dear Editor, Further to my email of 28 June, I wonder if Mr Humphrys remembers his disgraceful interview with Ben Bradshaw. This is why people everywhere - including ordinary people like me - are deeply concerned about the way the BBC has handled this affair. It is not that a mistake was made, or that the BBC should not investigate whatever it wishes to, it is the arrogance with which the BBC goes about its business (as illustrated so well by John Humphrys in his interview with Ben Bradshaw).
Ben Bradshaw, I recall, questioned whether the BBC had one or more than one source for the original story about which Alistair Campbell had complained - since this seemed to be changing. It was made clear that BBC guidelines for important stories require two sources where the sources are not on the record. Having taken on the BBC’s case in this interview, Humphrys failed to answer this point. He even suggested that he himself had received information which backed up Gilligan’s story. (I don’t hear him saying this any more.) And now it seems that there was only one source. So, please explain to me and your other listeners why the government should take any responsibility for David Kelly’s suicide, when it was David Kelly who decided to leak material to the press, and the BBC who decided to run that material without properly checking it (in various ways). Surely, the government - whatever the right of going to war - was right to defend itself against major unjustifiable claims. I, for one, would certainly not want a government that continually kow-towed to the media.
And now Humphrys - still clinging on to the BBC’s arrogance - tries this morning to confuse Peter Mandelson (or more likely the listeners) by making parallels between the one source on information about Iraqi weapons, and the one source for the BBC story - as if the one source in the first instance would justify the one source in the second. Who’s he trying to kid.
Finally, if the BBC has any friends in this affair, it is only because they opposed the government’s stance on the war, not because they think the BBC has acted well in this instance. (Clare Short, for example, was completely confused and incoherent in her interview. She kept saying the two matters - David Kelly, and the decision to go to war - should be kept separate, and yet she was the one trying to tie them back up together. Why didn’t Humphrys use his normal forceful manner to keep her to the one story, rather than allowing her to rant on spitefully at the government - I mean she was in the government when it went to war.) I still say it is time for the BBC to put its hands up, admit a serious mistake (much more serious now than at the beginning - given David Kelly’s death), and move on.’

Subject: David Kelly; Date: Wed, Aug 13, 2003, 8:47 am
‘Dear Editor, When are the BBC and the Today programme going to put up their hands and say sorry. Although the Hutton enquiry is looking at wider issues now, the actual Kelly affair began when Alistair Campbell complained about Gilligan’s report. The BBC and the Today Programme in particular strenuously supported the Gilligan line (Humphrys interview with Ben Bradshaw, for example, about which I wrote to you before) even though Gilligan only had one source. Now it’s become clear that Gilligan was at fault more or less exactly as Campbell complained (I don’t think Campbell complained about Susan Watts report or any other reports did he). No one was ever trying to deny that the BBC had a right to examine and report on the issue. So, correct me if I’m wrong: if the BBC and Gilligan had admitted as much as it has now admitted but done so soon after Campbell’s complaint, the argument over Gilligan’s interpretation of Kelly’s information would not have continued and escalated, and - dare I suggest it - Kelly might not have killed himself. (And please don’t try blaming someone else for having named Kelly: it was Kelly who decided to talk to journalists in secret, it was journalists who used him and his information. Why should the informant or the journalists expect it as a right not to be found out or exposed. I find this side-line of the story utterly bizarre.)’

15 August 2003

The heat wave has passed, but there is still no rain, and the sun continues to shine. This is the best August weather-wise I can recall. I move the water sprinkler around during the day, to water the shrubs and lawns. I am in this nether world of trying to tidy up Kip Fenn, which I find so tiring and tedious, and being unable to do anything else useful. I am watching a lot of television. Last summer, it was ‘Ally McBeal’ every day (when there was no international football or cricket) and this year it’s ‘Cheers’. It’s an American comedy series I’ve never watched, but it’s well written, and, as with any of these series, one can become friendly with the characters, and it’s like meeting up with them again every day (for higher class conversation that one would get normally with friends). I’m watching the South Africa-England test match today. Hussein silenced his critics yesterday with a century, but was out this morning; all eyes are now on Ed Smith, who’s making his debut. As I write he’s just been caught by Boucher (bowled Kallis) for 64. England are struggling at 340 odd for five. To demonstrate any kind of equality with the South Africans we need to score a big total on this first innings, as South Africa did when they batted first the two tests gone by. I also watch bits of ‘Countdown’ in the afternoons; and I’ve taken in a fair few films in the last couple of weeks: ‘Billy Elliot’, ‘Instinct’, ‘Fish and Elephant’, ‘Le Diner de Cons’, ‘Edtv’. All of them were worth watching for one reason or another, and all of them were very different. ‘Billy Elliot’ was a beautiful study of pre-adolescence, and the conflicts within a family created by financial and psychological hardships. ‘Instinct’, with Anthony Hopkins and Donald Sutherland never in the same scene, was fun, although definitely flawed (why does Hopkins go mad on arriving in the US because of some noises?), and psychologically crude. ‘Fish and Elephant’, a Chinese film about a lesbian, was slowly and painfully wrought, with all the characters like zombies half the time, but, nevertheless effective and touching. ‘Le Diner de Cons’ is a french film based on a play, which rarely rises above being a film of a play. But it is funny, and well-crafted, although the premise is a bit hackneyed (an apparently foolish man undoes an apparently sophisticated man), and the title is a complete misnomer because the characters never get to the dinner of fools. ‘Edtv’ was the most interesting. It’s similar to ‘The Truman Show’, although different because the star of the show is aware of the cameras and a large part of the movie’s content is about the feedback cycles between the star and his friends and how their appearances on TV affects their lives. I thought it well done, and insightful.

I am in David’s office and he is talking to me. I can see a roughly half-sized representation of his head on the wall, mounted like an animal trophy head. It looks exactly like David’s head but is furry. As David speaks so the head apparently speaks also, as David moves his real head, so the trophy head moves in exactly the same way. I am amazed by this gimmick, and ask to try it. Afterwards (I don’t see or experience any representation of myself as a trophy head, the dream appears to have skipped that bit) I pull out of my ear a small contraption. I am surprised, though, when, as I pull it out, a longish cord is drawn out of the inside of my head. If this is not repugnant, then seeing David put the same contraption and cord back into his own ear and head is! I wake up.

Although I’m watching TV, and indisciplinedly proof-reading my book, I am also quite fit. I’ve been running every day now - more or less - for three weeks (about two-thirds of a mile), and I’ve been taking a skinny dip in the river in the evenings before doing my extended yoga session (I’ve added a few standing exercises to my traditional sitting/lying ones). The sun slants through a gap in the trees so that even at 7pm, I can be swimming and doing my exercises in the sun. It’s such a beautiful spot. As I cycle back slowly I feel really good, calm and centred. Sometimes I sing: ‘Zippadee doo dah, zippadee day, zippadee doo dah, zippadee day, zippadee doo dah, zippadee day, everything’s going my away’; or my old favourite: ‘When you’re feeling sad and lonely, do you get down on your knees and say thank you for the good times but please don’t let me die tomorrow or do you say to yourself I’m a lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky man.’

With this hot and sticky weather, though, I’ve been caught out on two or three occasions, in that there have been other people at the swimming spot even at 6:30pm. Mostly, I’ll swim in my shorts and return home to do the yoga (I don’t really like doing it with other people around, although I will continue if people arrive while I’m at it, as a policeman and dogs did the other day).

I’ve come to an understanding about my own health which I never had before. I’ve realised that my heart, which after all is just another muscle, is wasting. Perhaps wasting is too strong a term, but it’s become weaker over recent years because no demands are made on it. This is why I get out of breath when I run across a station platform to catch a train, why I get so badly out of breath if I try to jog, why my hands and toes get cold so easily in the winter, and why, when I do jog, certain muscles in my body give up, causing mini-strains. When I started running in the winter, to try to restore my knee, it was not my knee joint that gave way, but my calf muscles. I couldn’t understand it at the time. And, more recently, I’ve had a problem with a muscle in my right ankle. These sharp pains, I believe, are caused - as are the more common stitches - by the heart and lungs being unable to pump sufficient oxygen to the muscle cells, and thus they become damaged by extra demands being placed on them by the action of running. Even now, after three weeks of running, I need to pump my lungs, I mean I need to make effort to breathe faster, to pant, than I would do without making the conscious effort. In this way, I’ve managed to avoid getting the short-term damage to the muscles. At the same time, I’ve realised what I need to do is to improve the performance of my heart, so that it works more efficiently. At the moment, for example, I would be incapable of jogging for an extended period - several miles say - because a muscle would give out very quickly.

Although I had thought during my volleyball years that the sport was good exercise (it was), it wasn’t sufficient to keep my heart muscle from slowly diminishing. The action was all in spurts, and occasionally I did get pulled muscles, and I realise now that this was not from bad movement but from over-exertion, from my heart not getting enough oxygen to the muscle; and that I could have avoided this by deeper more deliberate breathing. What I don’t know, is how much my diet is affecting my heart; whether my arteries are getting blocked up rather than my heart getting weaker, and that because they are more constricted, the heart needs to work harder to get the circulation working. I suppose I could get professional advice.

18 August 2003

This morning’s ‘Guardian’ carries an article by Roy Greenslade on the newspapers’ reactions to the BBC-Campbell dispute and the Hutton enquiry. He focuses on the fact that the ‘Mail’ and the ‘Mirror’ are ‘fingering’ Blair’s government as the villain of the Kelly affair, while the ‘Sun and the ‘Times’ (the Murdoch papers) are against the BBC. I like Roy Greenslade. He is intelligent and thoughtful, and has an excellent understanding of the way the newsprint media operate. His articles are always worth reading. But I mention this one because I want to blow my own trumpet (to myself - is this wanking or enjoying one’s own music?). In the middle of the article, Greenslade writes this (in respect of an opinion piece by Janet Daley in the ‘Telegraph’): ‘That gets to the heart of the matter (and certainly asks a more pertinent question than the Telegraph leader writer did). After all, if the BBC had broadcast a clarification early on, then Campbell wouldn’t have gone ballistic in public, there wouldn’t have been a hunt for the source, Kelly wouldn’t have been forced to undergo questioning, he might still be alive and there wouldn’t be a Hutton enquiry with something like 20 senior lawyers earning a fortune from the dispute, which in the fullness of time, will be seen as a minor matter.’ This is almost word-for-word the analysis (barring the last point) I made in my emails to the ‘Today’ programme last week.

21 August 2003

Mum rang at nine this morning, and kept me talking until 10, and then B rang and kept me talking until 10:30. With Mum, we got to talking about Sasha. In confessional mode, she said she wished had realised or understood how unhappy he was in Hoddesdon, and that, as a refugee, he felt completely isolated out of London. (She and Sasha fought a lot over this issue. Sasha left her once - leaving me to pick up the pieces - and eventually they moved back into London.) She also gave me some details about Sasha’s background - which I’m now recording here, because I’m not sure I’ve ever set them down before.

Sasha’s mother, Valla (?) or Mutti as I knew her, married Litzinski, a Russian who had emigrated to Berlin after the revolution, when she was very young, 20 or so. She may have already been pregnant. And Litzinski may have already been married. A year or so after Sasha was born, Litzinski (who may or may not have been an engineer) left Valla; and Sasha was given to the care of Valla’s mother, who I knew as Mummi. It was Mummi (and her husband ‘Uncle Fieja’, owner of a sausage factory) who brought Sasha up. Valla remarried a man called Ernest and went to live in the Congo. My mother says she once asked Uncle Fieja about Litzinski, and he said one should not talk ill of the dead, but there was nothing good to say about him. He was already in his 30s when he married Valla and may have already had two children, Sasha’s step-siblings.

Adam has phoned in his results, he says he got seven As: two English, maths, two science, history, b for geography, c for psychology, c for French, d for graphics (not sure about drama, RE). But the debate rages on about what A-levels he will decide to do. Unfortunately (to my way of thinking) his results have undermined what I believe he should do; his A in science may encourage him to do a science A level. This combined with maths would bias his A-level studies and university entrance possibilities to the sciences and away from the arts.

I row about this with B on the phone. She wants to know how I know that a good university English course would not be very keen on a student taking maths, chemistry and English A-levels. And, in questioning my judgement seems to imply that I’m following an agenda of my own for Adam in a selfish way.

30 August 2003

A review of a book called the ‘Ancestress Hypothesis: Visual Art as Adaptation’ by Kathryn Coe interests me. (A review, by Craig Palmer of the University of Colorado, appeared on the website ‘Science and Consciousness Review, from which I get the occasional group emails.) Building on the ideas of Lyle Steadman concerning the role of traditions (behaviour copied from ancestors) in human evolution, Palmer says, Coe makes the argument that visual art cannot be explained without realising the role of traditions in its manufacture, use, and meaning. Specifically, she argues that visual art has primarily been a female tradition, started by ancient ancestresses that influenced their descendants to be more cooperative with each other. Specifically Coe opposes the common view that art is always creative, and specifically Geoffrey Miller’s hypothesis that art is primarily a male tactic to attract mates that has evolved via sexual selection. Coe provides a plausible explanation for why Miller was mistaken about the nature of art. Coe argues that it is only in certain specific historical periods, such as ancient Greece and since the Renaissance, when traditions in general are being rejected, that creativity becomes a major aspect of visual art. It is during these types of periods, and only during these types of periods, where males use art as a form of competition to attract mates. Since these periods are the ones many Westerners are most familiar with, we make the mistake of assuming these periods are typical, when they are in fact quite atypical of the human production and use of art.

From this small amount of information (a review of a book), I can already see the truth of the matter (how can I be so arrogant?). I am with Coe almost 100% in her rejection of Miller’s ideas. That males have cottoned on to making themselves more attractive by becoming artists is undoubtedly a modern cultural development not the original source of man/woman’s artistic endeavour.

Palmer is upset by the book’s loss of structure in the second half, where Coe describes the more general implications of her ancestress hypothesis, and contrasts them with existing evolutionary thinking. This discussion focuses on the relationship between traditions and such concepts as selfishness, sacrifice, altruism, reproduction, and r and K reproductive strategies. The essence of Coe’s position seems to be that traditions, including art, have influenced humans to follow a more K reproductive strategy. Much of the confusion comes from Coe’s attempt throughout the book to describe this hypothesis in terms of humans becoming less ‘selfish’.

Wow! This so fits with my own Zoe Bergmann hypothesis (Kip Fenn) about societies maturing (which is why I’ve bothered to reproduce bits of Palmer’s review here).

Coe makes a convincing case, Palmer says, that kinship altruism, fundamental to human social behaviour given that it is found in perhaps every traditional society (which remains insufficiently explained by evolutionary psychology), is the result of traditions initiated by long dead ancestors (and ancestresses). Hence, evolutionary theories will need to incorporate traditions into their models if they are to account for this aspect of human behaviour. This also suggests the need for a more general inclusion of cultural anthropology in evolutionary explanations of behaviour, at least in the form of a study of traditions. This is an important point, Palmer says, because the evolutionary approach has seen the contribution of cultural anthropology diminish following the rise to prominence of evolutionary psychology.

I strolled down to Brighton on Wednesday. I’ve been meaning to go all summer, to swim, to look at the shops, to look at the people. But I was prompted to go by reading a review of a photographic exhibition at Brighton Museum. I set off before six, wanting an easy drive and the chance of getting a free parking place where I always used to park when visiting B in Tidy Street. I had the road to myself almost through to Pulborough, and made Brighton in one hour. I parked and then strolled through North Laine to the beach and then looked for a paper and a place to breakfast. I thought I would settle down in Food for Friends, but it didn’t open for breakfast (it used to be the best breakfast place in Brighton) and nor were there any signs saying when it would open. So I took a coffee and pan de chocolate at an Italian coffee place near Churchill Square. Then I looked around clothes and book stores, before checking out the cinema (I thought about coming back at 2:30 to see ‘Confidence’, but decided against) and heading again for the beach. I read the paper some more, swam for a while, and did my exercises. The exhibition was no disappointment (I found it much more interesting than the bigger (£10) exhibition I’d seen at the Tate some months ago). It was called ‘A Seaside Album’ and was put together by a man called Philippe Garner, who grew up in Brighton and has worked in the art market (he’s published books on Cecil Beaton, Sixties design) and curated photographic exhibitions in London, Paris and Tokyo. This one contains photographs from 1846 to 2000, many of them not published before. It’s a sort of combined tour of Brighton’s history and the history of photography (with daguerreotypes, calotypes, salt prints, albumen prints) managing just enough of both to do a good job. The earliest photographs are by William Constable, Calvert Richard Jones, Edward Fox, William Mason Junior and William Cornish Junior. There is a glorious study of Brighton fishermen by William Mason Junior and some beautiful seascapes, beachscapes and treescapes by Edward Fox. (In fact, Edward Fox seems to have the same kind of photographic eye as I do, but 150 years earlier!). William Henry Fox Talbot makes an appearance too with several portraits of the Royal Pavilion taken in 1846. The exhibition does skip quickly through 150 years of history but it’s an enjoyable romp. Philippe Garner adds a personal postscript to the exhibition (but it’s more of a prologue in the catalogue) with some of his own contemporary pictures of Brighton (which are remarkably like some of mine) and with two photographs of him and his girlfriend on a Brighton promenade in 1976, and his parents on a Brighton promenade in 1947. (This idea is similar in concept to the display in my bedroom, where I have a photograph of my parents in Brighton, probably taken on the day I was conceived, and another photo of a poster advertising dirty weekends in Brightons!). I sat in the Pavilion Gardens for a while, drinking tea and reading a book, and watching the people, then I walked back through North Laine, picking up a sandwich at Forfars, before returning to my car and driving to Elstead. If the sun had been out, I might have gone back to the beach, but it was cloudy, and not very warm.

The weather did finally break this week, and we had rain. For weeks, I’ve been having to water all the flowerbeds in the garden (even the rhododendrons were starting to wilt), which was a pain because the water pressure was so low here, and the sprinkler doesn’t reach very far.

The world athletics championships in Paris. Those damn Frenchies have won a couple of golds today, but Britain only seems to be able to manage a bronze medal or two. And England lost the fourth test against South Africa. New captain Vaughn made two crucial mistakes to my mind, upon which the fate of the match rested. Firstly, after nearly bowling them all out for less than 200 in the first innings, and suffering a determined fight back by Kirsten and the tailenders, Vaughn did not change his bowlers around enough, and, crucially, did not bring himself or Butcher on to bowl. And then, in England’s second innings, when Trescothick and Butcher were holding off the South African bowlers so well, and the umpires offered them the light, and they decided to accept it (even though they’d been hitting six an over off the last few overs), Vaughn should have signalled them from the dressing room to play on. They came back half an hour later, when the light had improved marginally, and were both out in a few overs.

Kip Fenn is finished, finished, finished. I’ve worked my way through a final proof read and the corrections. I’m sure I’ve made errors doing the corrections, but I can’t proof read it again. I’ve got to call it a day. I mean it’s a job for a copy editor now. If someone wants it, I might get motivated to clean it up more at a later stage, but I can’t do it now.

I sent off three letters to three agents (each with the prologue and the first two chapters) last week. I expected to get my first rejection this Friday, but all I got, on Thursday, was a letter of receipt. As the rejections come in, I’ll send out new letters to replace them, so that I always have three or four possibles out there in the world at one time. But it’s time to move on. Kip Fenn is the past.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life, and I must wind myself up for a new project.

September 2003

Paul K Lyons


Copyright © PiKLe PuBLiSHiNG

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