New video ‘UFO’ by Robert Garnham
Last night I watched a documentary about alien abductions. It was a terrible programme and it really did waste one hour of my life. However, it did remind me of the occasions in which I have seen weird objects in the sky which I’ve not been able to explain.
I am a logical person with an interest in science and aviation. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved aircraft and flying, and I grew up near Heathrow Airport. Because of this, I’d spend a lot of time looking at the planes flying over our house. I knew all the airlines and the different types of aircraft and could distinguish between, for example, the Boeing 747-200 and the Boeing 747-300.
In the late 1980s, my father and I both observed two bright lights in the sky to the west of our house. It was night time and the bright lights were stationery in the sky. They were brighter than the surrounding stars and perfectly parallel with each other. We observed these lights for a few minutes, and then, quick as a flash, they moved to a slightly different part of the sky, still to the west. Naturally, my scientific mind is eager to determine what these might have been. Geostationary satellites is my best guess, for they appeared to be a very long way up in the upper atmosphere. I’m sure that other people must have seen these, too.
The second weird thing I saw must have been also in the late 1980s. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was on the school playing field at break time, at the middle school I was attending. As normal I was doing a bit of plane spotting, when I saw an object floating directly above. It was metallic and reflected the sun from its sides, and triangular, slowly turning, so that the sun on its sides seemed to pulse. I watched it for quite a while, thinking, hmm, I bet they’ve got a good view from up there, and what a beautiful day to be flying, then thought no more of it. It was only when I grew up did I ponder in exactly what it might have been. My best and most boring guess is that it was some kind of helium filled balloon. But where would it have come from? It looked very solid.
The third thing that I saw already has a name and a catalogue of witness accounts. During a ferocious thunderstorm, again in suburban Surrey, a ball of lightning moved very slowly past my bedroom window. I remember it very distinctly, the way that the shadow of my window frame very slowly moved across the room, the way that my drawn curtains lit up with the light from the glowing ball very visible the other side of them. Indeed, this seems to run in our family, as my mother believes that she also saw ball lighting when she was a young adult, actually penetrating the walls of the room she was in at the time and passing right through as if it were a ghost.
And the last thing I saw was the weirdest. In the early 2000s I caught the passenger ferry from Torquay to Brixham across Torbay, again on a very clear, sunny day, only to see what can only be described as a thin sliver of metallic ribbon curling and floating through the sky across the bay, in a westerly direction. It seemed to curl and bend over itself as it moved and there were no obvious signs of propulsion, yet it was very clearly moving. My scientific mind pondered on what it could possibly have been, eventually settling on a Swarm Of Bees or some such insect, but it really did have solidity.
So these are the odd things I’ve seen during my life. I’m open minded as to what they might have been. I’m aware that some might assign them as being of alien origin, though I’m conscious that it might be almost impossible for anything to travel across the vast distances of space. I have never believed in aliens, or at least, in extra terrestrial entities.
Another one from the archives. 2008, to be exact.
The fact that the whole of humanity had lived for this did not trouble him in the slightest. All of thought and philosophy, all of art, everything, including warfare and religion, had gone in to the construction of this one place, this hallowed, magnificent building where he would remain, living a life of idyllic bounty in an environment of absolute perfection. It wasn’t luck, nor was it heaven : it was the result of every virtuous thought there had ever been, and he, as the most perfect human who had ever existed, had been allowed to reside within its walls.
The whole place was spotlessly white, and painted so as to appear almost clinical in the equatorial sun. Yet there was a rosy hue which permeated everything, and a smell of jasmine which lifted into the air much like the smell of a summer garden after the rain. The corridors were decorated with classical statues, finely sculpted evocations of masculine beauty and workmanship which, bathed either in the sun or in the shadows which, thrown down by the angles of the building, hide within them the joy which comes from beholding without malice the achievements of a master. The floor is tiled, pleasantly. In the centre of the building there is a courtyard garden where soft fountains sprinkle water which, in the sun, cast rainbows and prisms of light, while the foliage is home to such wondrous birds of paradise as to mesmerise the casual viewer. Cushions and seats are provided, that the scene may be contemplated from whichever angle suits him best. Through two doors at the southern end of the courtyard is the library, an old, oak affair with a running balcony and a sliding ladder on wheels, where the greatest works of literature may be read or studied. In the centre of the library are desks with brass lamps and a leather armchair angled at such a degree as to facilitate unforced comprehension. There is an art gallery further on, and a small museum. The whole place is perfect.
He, too, is perfect. He has led a life of virtuous study and concern for his fellow man. In all of his relationships and dealings with other people he has been the most trustworthy and honest character, and yet he has been careful not to appear as too pious or pompous. He has never felt the need to bury himself within a certain political or religious organisation – (he sees, quite rightly, that to do so is to cede control of his character to a pre-conceived set of ideals or beliefs) – nor has he ever been overtly charitable – (for he is not one of those who prefers, rather than doing good, to be seen as doing good). He has always dressed smartly, and yet not too smart. He has never associated himself with one particular economic group, or racial group, or artistic group, or political convention. He has never felt malice towards anyone, and he tries all the time to see both sides of an argument before speaking his mind on any subject. He has never wanted to hurt anyone. In such a way he, too, is the ideal of perfection, the culmination of humanity.
He feels no guilt at living in the house, nor does he feel any guilt at having felt no guilt. At the same time he is conscious that guilt might have been a factor in his residing there. He wanders from room to room and fills himself with the ideals of perfection with which he has been identified. The food is perfect and it is textured just so, that he might relish each mouth-full without indulging. The temperature is well-maintained and there is hardly any noise at all save for the fountain, the birds in the courtyard, perhaps some soft jazz which emanates, at night, from somewhere ethereal. He has never felt happier.
It is especially gratifying to realise that the human race has existed just for this. So many philosophies and movements in both art and design have culminated in the perfect existence. Psychologists have toiled for centuries in the hope of discovering the most perfect, well-balanced way of spending one’s time. Artists have toiled, writers have written, in order only that the libraries and galleries of the house remain stocked with the finest of their achievements. And when he becomes bored of the house, there are sandy beaches and coves in which to wander, tropical islands, luscious, dense forests in which to wander. Nor is he alone. There are people nearby, friendly individuals, learned types, amiable fellows, beautiful men and women with whom he might converse or even fall in love with, people who care for him and want the best for him. Some nights he throws parties and entertains them, and they all drink and eat and they are very merry indeed, and they dance in the moonlight, under the stars, to the soft jazz or to whatever music might suit the occasion. Everything – it bears repeating – everything is perfect.
One day he went for a walk along one of the wings of the house. He stopped for a while to admire a classical statue, and he could hardly see the marks left by the sculptor on the marble from which it was cast. Likewise, the paintings in the gallery seemed hardly touched by human hands, even though they were signed and catalogued. How wonderful the human race could be, he thought to himself. And the house itself – each angle was carefully considered that the play of light and shadow be worked in unison with something else, some mental approximation of fine living. He walked slowly. He walked, taking in the atmosphere. He could feel time itself stretching, becoming null and void. That afternoon he would sit and write haiku, he decided, and then he might call some friends and they would come round, and they would eat spaghetti Bolognese. At the end of the corridor he sat for a while on a stone bench and he closed his eyes, allowing the sun to stream in through his eyelids. It was warm, it was beautiful, it reminded him of something distant. Perfect, he said to himself. Absolutely perfect.
Very faintly, he heard a soft, stifled belch.
The house keeps on shivering.
I’ve called for a builder in order that he might assess the problem, and he recommends a doctor. The doctor didn’t know what to do himself, although he prescribed some pills because of a nasty rash in the kitchen near the microwave, and he also wondered why there was a patch of stubble in the hall.
‘Do you ever shave the floors?’, he asked, somewhat accusingly.
‘Of course not!’, I laughed. ‘Why would I do such a thing?’
‘I just thought you might be one of those house- rights activists. They have such weird beliefs. Shaving a house, they often say, gives it some dignity’.
I pointed to the floor of the living room where we were both standing and I indicated that the carpet had not yet had a chance to grow, though the previous house- doctor had stipulated a month’s wait at least until the shag pile had developed. ‘Would I have willingly ordered carpet’, I asked, ‘If I were in the habit of shaving the floors? Now I understand that stubble on the floor might be the next big thing in interior decoration, although I’ve heard that it can be quite painful on the feet. But I can assure you that the house, in all purposes, is allowed to follow its own developmental path’.
‘Hmm’, the house-doctor said. He wrote out his prescription and he passed it to me. ‘I’ll look into this’, he said, ‘But I’m not promising anything’.
The house kept on shivering all through the night.
I wondered if it was anything to do with me. Bad luck seems to follow me around, or maybe it is that I take to heart anything that goes wrong in my life, that I take things so personally. I have, however, never been happy in my new home. There was a curious burping noise when I first moved in, which was revealed to be a build- up of installation gasses in the main bone structure, and a nasty lump had to be removed a few weeks later, under aesthetic, a process which meant that I had to stay with my parents until the house recovered. But now this constant shivering, which, eerily, occurs more often at night, seems to confirm that such matters are completely out of my control.
I go through the next few days with a grim determination that the problems of the house should not ruin my enjoyments of life. At work I am personable and polite and all conversations regarding the developments of my living space are answered with an airy grace, underscored by a ruthlessness in not inviting any of my colleagues home to view the place. I describe to them the exact colour of my carpet – when it finally grows – and they applaud me on the colour that I have chosen. ‘It is obvious’, I am told, ‘That you have a flair for decoration. Maybe you would like to work on our office, when the next budget comes through’. But I look around at the plain, glass and steel building, and the whole place gives me the creeps.
‘It just doesn’t seem alive’, I whisper. ‘How can one ever get a bond with an inanimate object? Who hasn’t fallen asleep at night lulled by the heartbeat of their own house? I’m sorry, but brick and mortar have nothing for me’.
I do not hear from the house-doctor for a while. Yet the shivering gets worse, a continual flexing and spasm evident in most of the inner walls. At last the rash on the kitchen wall clears up, although the house-doctor was correct, a path of stubble on the hallway floor would hint to me that a razor was being applied to it in a methodical fashion. One night on television I learned of a horrible disease affecting houses of a certain period, and a whole street in Basingstoke closed down and condemned, the houses coughing and spluttering, the walls braking out in cold sweats. The programme made me think and I wondered if my house, too, had caught such a disease, though it comes from a healthy stock and good breeding and is the result, I was informed at the time of its purchase, of a natural, free-range house-to- house courtship. The only problem I could see is that there was, in its heritage, a quarter bungalow, that its grandfather was a seaside shack by designation, and by their nature, single-storey houses have long been prone to infection.
One night the shivering became so bad that I could not sleep. The bed kept on moving with each involuntary shudder, and I found myself walking the neighbourhood. The night sky was clear and I could see the stars above, and even the Coca-cola moon shining bright with its red neon laser glow. I could see beauty in the world, and for the first time I wondered if this beauty came from nature. Could it be possible? I remembered the years of my youth when I once saw a squirrel, and as my mother hurried me away from it in case I caught its diseases, I was entranced that another creature could also exist on this planet without having been designed or tested for usefulness. I remembered how wonderful this squirrel had looked, how sure of itself it was, and how there were once trees and the squirrels had lived in the trees. Heavens, they had even eaten nuts and still survived without succumbing to some allergy! But the stars, despite everything, were still there.
I returned to my house. I could see it convulsing at the end of the driveway. As I reached out to open the front door, it seemed to shrink back from me. When I breathed out a sigh of relief in the hallway, the walls broke out with chicken flesh bumps, and I thought to myself, ‘It’s almost as if the house is repulsed by me . . . ‘ . It was only when I got to the kitchen that the moaning started.
A deep, deep throated yawn. Which was most strange, because the house was not installed with a throat. I clung on to the furniture as the house swayed from side to side. Ohhhh, it said, ohhhh. It was as if there was an ache somewhere within it, and I thought about applying a paracetamol to its bloodstream, but then thought better because it would invalidate my warranty. Ohhhh, the house said. Ohhhh. The swaying got worse, as if the house were drunk, and I started to slide down a wall. Such a stench! Of stale sweat, and I could feel a clammy odour seep from the skirting boards. Then the heart beat started accelerating. No problem, I thought. Houses often suffer cardiac arrest. My Uncle’s house had three bypasses before it finally expired. But this was a pounding, a rushing of blood, and I could see veins underneath the wallpaper. The house was rocking from side to side, now, as if in the throes of some primeval dance. I wondered if its bungalow ancestry was coming to the fore, or the impetuosity of the maisonette. But this was worse, much worse. At last I fought my way back into the hallway to see something horrific, something so tremendously appalling that I have never set foot in such a house again.
A pair of arms had sprouted from the walls. The house-doctor told me later that in just two generations – and no doubt accelerated by the chemicals used to speed up the growing process – the houses had evolved, and grown inner arms by which they could amend themselves for maximum personal comfort. And what were these inner arms doing? They were shaving the floor, right where I had decided to grow my new carpet. Scrape, scrape, scrape. I ran into the night and I hid until morning in the shade of my garden shed, my only comfort coming from the red neon glare of the Coca-cola moon.
You can listen to an audio of this story here https://soundcloud.com/robertdgarnham/shivering-house
Sodding time travel doesn’t sodding work.
Earlier today I posted this message as a blog:
“I shall be having coffee in the coffee shop on the harbour in Brixham. I will be the one with the notebook.
But you already know that. “
The reasons for this weren’t that I’d lost my mind. In fact, it’s quite simple. It was a message to the future, to future generations who might be looking at my various writings and journals and trying to decide on a good moment to go back in time and meet up with me.
Indeed, going to the coffee shop this morning might have been the start of something big. An experiment combing poetry and literature with physics and science, logistics, perhaps even religion. Time travelers from future generations would come in, in their tens, perhaps hundreds, and I’d buy them all a decaf cappuccino and chat about life in general. And then perhaps they’d let me pop back with them a bit further and go disco dancing with Dorothy Parker. How fun it would be! So when I left for the coffee shop this morning down to the harbour in this strange little fishing town, I took a bag with me and an extra pair of pants, just in case.
And do you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. Nobody turned up. I even ordered an extra flapjack in case at least one person arrived, but there was nobody. The only other people in the coffee shop were Welsh holiday makers, and nobody was wearing bright space clothes or futuristic fashions. Unless the Welsh holiday makers were from the future, in which case it looks like flat caps are making a come back in the year 2525.
The only thing I can deduce from this is that in the future I become so well known that people don’t want to meddle in my time line to ensure that I really do stand over the world with my arms folded, omnipotent, wise and celebratory.
If there are any time travelers reading this, you mucked it all up. I will be lingering in the car park at work tomorrow for five minutes but I’m not holding my breath. And if you want a flapjack when you arrive, well, you can just bring your own.
While I was at the coffee shop, I wrote a poem.
In a rocky cove,
With a bonfire,
The surfers have one of their
All night sex driven drug fueled raves.
Mind if I just
Squeeze myself in here.
No joint, thanks,
But I wouldn’t say no
To a nice cup of tea.
Orange quivering light
And silhouetted dancing
On rock formation outcrops.
They fumble in the rucksacks
For PG Tips
And one of them confides to me
That he likes the way I think.
I retune their radio,
Blotting out their techno pump
And we listen to Bed At Bedtime.
He soft burr of Richard Wilson
Reading Graham Greene’s
Travels With My Aunt
Wisping out across the
Flat calm sea.