This work is not intended to be a biography of anyone, nor does it offer itself as a piece of research or criticism. In the sense that it is a collection of stories, it is a fiction and inasmuch as the stories are united in a narrative, it is a novel. In the sense that it is a set of arranged ideas, it is an extended essay. I have not taken the route of the researcher but have worked with whatever came to hand – documents and things already in my possession or on the internet, people whom I have met fortuitously and conversations with friends. The people presented herein all lived or live, but I am only partially sure that they in fact did or said the things which I report. I have tried to be accurate and truthful, but my memory is unreliable and most of the texts from which I have worked are themselves the productions of other memories. The opinions I express are my own. If any portion of it offends anyone, I ask for forgiveness and indulgence, as it is not my intention to tarnish any reputation or cause dissent or disagreement.
In early February of 2004 I received an unsolicited email, as I often did then, advertising the discrete provision of means to enlarge or engorge the virile member or otherwise enhance sexual experience. My internet service provider is at pains to prevent this kind of potentially embarrassing mail from arriving, and to this end they use software which attempts to distinguish between legitimate email and spam, as such advertisements are called. The creators and dispatchers of the spam, on the other hand, are keen to circumvent such detection, so a fast-evolving feedback system has developed. At first, keywords such as ‘Viagra’ or ‘enlargement’ were sufficient to distinguish spam, but we soon had V*agr* and pneis enralegnemt slipping by the vigilant electronic gatekeepers. After a while, the spams stopped coming, and I concluded that upgrades and so on had become smart enough to make the distinction that I make with the flick of an eye at my email inbox. The next wave of spam, which lasted a few months, and of which the February spam is an example, fooled the software again. It had made a logical leap. Along with discrete exhortations to buy the dodgy products they offer, they slipped through the gate by including blocks of English words seemingly selected at random. While the accompanying advertisements are only by turns irritating, amusing or pathetic, the blocks of words had, for me, a compelling fascination. They are literate words, unusual words jumbled together with familiar ones and no matter how I stare at these blocks of pseudo-prose which have somehow arisen from the Babel of commercial deceit I cannot imagine the procedures that produced them. They appear neither to be entirely random, nor to be butchered and remade from existing prose. I decided to use one particular such ‘text’ as the framework for this writing because, as I had found no rational thread which would lead me into the maze of memory, it seemed to me that by its random quality I might be impelled into the realm of the unexpected – precisely the place where I wanted to be. This has turned out to be the case and that email advertisement reaching out to the sexual yearnings of early twenty-first century computer users has found an unintended use. Here is the ‘text’ which it included:
intricacy inelegant hummock polka destroy derelict guest pliny consensus predisposition bloc forgot beating modern ground myopic cumulus pint cannery cowpea earthen note avocation matthews dalhousie carve nod pollux reedy parade explanatory nil heritage fortieth footman hacienda augustine silt arcadia sienna counterfeit pfizer bipolar meaty admixture dip cestus beaten confucius bramble desolate configuration colloquia defend algae connoisseur electrode climb fumigate carbohydratedeadline meredith runty coaxial cinematic cummings covenant cartography dwindle actual finance hicks funny asbestos assam hostelry trypanosome mission mayhem galloway langley grovel claudius capsule hovel crt puncture congolese inflate eminent conservatory prefect emblematic abbreviate bake clap amalgam diddle dubitable jamestown regulus dutch domineer budapest laissez come cayenne scarves bake idiotic cowbell frill controlled hofmann borate concordant duncan decouple quartet flashy burlesque erotica depreciate floe foam monsoon counsellor fluorescent module birth ifni effaceable foggy hone concave colorimeter pea blemish land florida alkaline graceful extendible benediction clandestine ladylike cardiology fatal discriminable authoritarian impolitic compact buddhist goblet judson priori pine expenditure osteoporosis evocate chide carol grandfather install inscribe dropout amoebae ghostly giddy negotiable dogma opposite event claim midnight additional artefact microscopic note cranium permian counterexample publication extant letterhead heavenward
Acknowledgements & Thanks
My thanks go to: Julia Martin for everything, everyone who read bits or endured my obsessive conversation while I was writing, Hugh Hodge for printing at a crucial phase, Andreé Bosch for conversations & the loan of Claire Nevill’s White River Remembered, Albie Sachs for an interview and conversations, Jeremy Fogg at NELM for transcribing sections of Jack Cope’s diary, Mike Dickman for a picture of Dalhousie, Duncan Miller and David Morris for conversations, Gus Ferguson for pharmacological advice, Chris Wildman and Michael Toye for lending me sound equipment, David Lane for permission to quote from Faqir Chand, and my own ancestors who kept images and texts, and told stories.
This is a literary and not a scholarly work and does not require a bibliography. I would nevertheless like to acknowledge such sources as I could find.
My mother Lesley Cope’s 1955 diary and the hand-made book Pictures from the Galleries have provided a substantial portion of this work, as have my father Jack Cope’s 1955 diary and his book Comrade Bill, and my great-grandmother Frances Stocker’s Staffordshire farm manuscript and pastoral drawing.
Claire Nevill’s White River Remembered has been useful in recalling a certain ambience. Doris Lessing’s Under My Skin and Pauline Podbrey’s White Girl in search of the Party have provided interesting glimpses into my parents’ youth. Jane Carruthers’ History of the Kruger National Park has proved illuminating.
Stephen Rose’s book The Making of Memory: From Molecules to Mind has given me glimpses into how some scientists understand memory. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s, Phenomenology of Perception has provided a view more in sympathy with my experience. Richard Rhodes’ The making of the Atomic Bomb included an exciting biography of Leo Szilard.
I have drawn in part on David Lane’s history of the Radhasoami succession. I have quoted the following books from Radha Soami Satsang Beas: Glimpses of the Great Master and Tulsi Sahib: Saint of Hathras (both no author) and Sar Bachan by Seth Shiv Dayal Singh, translated by Sewa Singh and Julian Johnson.
I used The Words of the Buddha, from Peter Pauper Press (no editor), for quotations from Nagasena.
I have scanned small sections from the 1961 Oxford Atlas, an excerpt from a picture of the Memento Mori ring in Diana Scarsbrick’s Rings: Symbols of Wealth and Power and a Tarot card from the A.E. Waite pack designed by Pamela Coleman Smith. I scanned a page of Tricycle: A Buddhist Journal for the Buddhist advertisements and an ancient Marvel comic for the image of Doctor Strange.
The internet comes readily to hand and has been a fertile source of information and images. It offers a range of translations of Plato, which I have consulted, in particular translations of the Phaedrus. Jacques Derrida’s article Plato’s Pharmacy has been both useful and interesting on this topic. Translations of Pliny are numerous on the web. Where I used longer quotations I have chosen those of Cynthia Damon, an American scholar. I have paraphrased a translation from Cicero’s De Oratore found in Frances Yates’ The Art of Memory. There is much information and misinformation on the internet regarding Lord Dalhousie, and I have browsed through most of it.
I found the picture of Szilard, Poussin’s Et in Arcadia Ego, , stromatolites, illustrations of the Roman cestus, a picture of Dalhousie, the image of the Regulus Missile, images of van der Graaff generator, a picture of George Meredith, one of Jim Reeves, the SACS badge, a comic book cover of the type my brother favoured and a camembert cheese package, all on the internet, along with the before & after images of Germanicus’ statue and a coin showing the emperor Claudius. The list of extinct and endangered species is from The Red List.
The reader who searches the internet using these terms as keywords will find the images and many similar ones, along with Roman elephant stories, information on St Regulus (very confused) and on the Regulus Missile (very orderly), reports on the oldest bacterium and the Permian extinction. Information on Dimecron is not readily available, but some is also there, as is information on Jules Duboscq.