At times like this it is sometimes very handy to know the future. Certain aspects of it anyway. All I am trying to find out is what the weather is going to be like over the next four days or so. Shouldn't be too difficult in this day and age. There are any number of up to the minute websites all too keen to tell me what the forecast is and if that's not enough, there's also an app for that. No bother at all.

Except that none of them agree with each other. They don't even agree with themselves from minute to minute and right now the little icon on the phone screen is blatantly contradicting what I can quite clearly hear rattling on the skylight above the bed. It's raining again. As has been the case for the entire history of humanity, it is still quicker and easier to stick your head out the window.

The big problem of course is that you can't stick your head out of the window into tomorrow.

Predicting the future has been an overriding obsession of the species ever since we first realised that there was one. When the first glimmerings of consciousness started ordering events into the two artificial categories of past and future, one of the first things they noticed was the imbalance. We knew all about the past more or less, whereas the future was a complete mystery.

As ever we were getting this back to front. It was the past because we had knowledge of it and the future because it was unknown. It was the way the mind worked. Linear time may very well be an illusion caused by the existence of memory and awareness and as such, predicting the future makes about as much sense as eating with your rectum.

Doesn't mean that people aren't going to try though. Predicting the future that is, not anal gastronomy. Besides, being able to work out what is going to happen next could bestow a tremendous advantage on any individuals who already possess it and so even the first faltering steps towards that goal will by definition already have been aggressively selected for by the powers of evolution. In fact the marvellous evolutionary tool that makes soothsayers out of all of us is probably already here.

Well yes. It's called consciousness. The very thing that makes us self aware and alert to the fact that there is a future.  Unfortunately this brings us brings us back to square one.

However, aside from creating it, consciousness itself does other interesting things with time according to some theories. When you decide to do something the actual doing it comes before you thought about it, before you think you made the decision. Then, upon seeing the results, the brain flips causality so that the knowledge of what has just been done becomes the intent to do it. It's hard to get a handle on this but our minds actually do reverse the perception of time - and technology has now got so good at telling what is going on in a human brain that this can be detected and your "decision"  known by someone looking at the screen of a complex neurological machine even before you are aware of it.

The implications of this are frightening, especially if the machines stop being read only. Suppose the intent itself can be planted? Someone else could do something with your body which you then think was your idea all along.

It is important that in the future polling booths have magnetic shielding.


Sometimes it is hard to think positive - as we are all frequently told to do - when you feel so awful. I am not talking about physically awful and am aware that by complaining about this whilst there are people in real physical pain and discomfort there is always the danger of coming across as a moaner.

But having a broken brain isn't really any fun either.

Sometimes it can make you feel like life is merely a case of keeping going out of sheer bloody-mindedness in the hope that perhaps a wonderful happy time is just around the corner. The problem comes when you realise that it has been just around the corner for twenty years or more. Is this is a disease or disability or is it just the way things are?


Someone with a bad leg spends their day limping as a matter of course and will be happy to take painkillers, use a stick or crutch and attend any number of physiotherapy clases in an attempt to make it better. Hell, they may even have an operation. And none of these attempts to make things better are frowned upon.

But when the faulty organ is the brain it means that things going wrong can affect the very self. The very identity and the centre of being. Other brains don't like to hear about that that. They don't take it seriously and any attempts to correct the issue are dismissed as nonsense.

"Pull yourself together!" the other brains say, "Stop feeling sorry for yourself and think positive!"

They fear the knowledge that the brain, the seat of their self, is just a spongy grey mass of synapses and tissue. They fear the fact that it's an organ and that it can potentially go wrong just like any other. They dismiss any evidence of it going wrong in others. They scoff at SSRIs, look down their nose at therapy and dismiss those taking time off sick with stress as skivers.

They fear death.

Well that's fair enough. We all do that. But living with the depressure in the head is worse. Death is a switching off, an absence whereas depression is a demijohn full of badness and anxiety. The worst thing about it is how unceasingly relentless it is. The bad feeling, the constant nervousness in the company of others. The lurking fear of becoming embarrassed about potential embarrassment that sparks off an emotional feedback loop and can end up driving you to hide in the toilet for ten minutes until everyone has forgotten you were there anyway.

Sometimes it's just too much to cope with but the weird thing is the unbearable moments do pass and allow you to sink back into the routine, somehow muddling through in one way or another until the next peak looms.

The way to avoid these peaks is to dose up on medication, remain in isolation and not have to deal with anyone. However, in today's society that's not practical or desirable. Whilst the pills can remove the worst of it they're like painkillers and whilst paracetamol and codeine would do a lot to remove the discomfort and pain of a broken ankle, in the long run it would be best to go and get it seen to in a fracture clinic.

Where is the fracture clinic of the mind? Perhaps all we need is to be taken to bits and then put back together again. It's probably all been caused by one of the pieces having been put in the wrong way during assembly. Of course if this magical clinic existed then there would always be the fear that you wouldn't be the same person afterwards but whilst that may very well be true it's not necessarily a bad thing. The important thing is continuity. As long as you can draw an unbroken thread of consciousness back to your earliest memories it doesn't matter if some parts are changed, replaced or removed.

Enough of the lurking anxiety. Refuse to accept this is simply who you are. Want to be better.

That's not too much to ask is it?

The smells of September always stir in me memories of going back to school for the Autumn term. It wasn't all bad; there were the occasional subjects I enjoyed. Well two subjects, English and Art. And fifty per cent of the time English was boring so it was more like one and a half subjects.


One problem with Art was that even though I liked it I wasn't exactly talented at it. Despite being one of the few good guys, the teacher kept expecting us to paint and I usually ended up making a mess. Drawing I enjoyed and could be quite good at. But we rarely did drawing. The other problem with Art was that they seemed to think it would be enough if we only did it once a fortnight. Never mind that we had History or French every bloody day. On the weeks we didn't do Art we did something much worse. Woodwork.

I still remember my first Woodwork lesson very clearly. We were ushered into the hallowed basement of the wood shop and gathered around as this rough voiced bloke who apparently was one of the teachers filled us in on (a) how dangerous the place was and (b) what the rules were. The main rule that he seemed to make the most fuss about and the one which has stuck with me ever since is the one that made the least sense.

1. No Whistling.

I still have absolutely no idea why he was so averse to whistling. The oddness of it struck me the moment I first heard this childish incomprehensible rule. I was only ten or eleven and even I knew it didn't make sense. Woodwork, it struck me, was one of the occupations where surely whistling while you work was required rather than forbidden. In my mind's eye I could just see the jolly carpenter whistling a happy tune as he sawed his way through a plank of wood. I bet Jesus's Dad had whistled.

And it's not as if it would have been that disturbing either. The wood shop was a noisy place, circular saws buzzing away, hand tools banging and rasping, the excited chatter of schoolboys and the traffic roaring past on the road just outside the basement windows. Even if it could have made itself heard over the top of this cacophony surely a merry melody whistled by a happy woodworker would have  provided a bit of light relief, a softer edge in this world of noise, sawdust and the ever present danger of somehow accidentally cutting your arm off with a power tool.

But no. No Whistling seemed to be rule number one, far more important apparently than Don't Lick the Circular Saw When It's Running which didn't even get a mention. Why did the Woodwork teacher hate whistling so much? Had he been bullied by a cheery postman as a child? Was he allergic to certain frequencies of sound? Would the sound of whistling drive him into a frenzy whereby he would pick up a bradawl and begin impaling as many boys' eyeballs as possible?

It was never explained. Back then you didn't ask questions. I never discovered what happened if you did whistle either. I once let out a whistle like sound whilst in there, but before I could get any further an adult voice growled dangerously behind me.

"You whistle my lad and God help you..."

God help me? What was going to happen? I was too scared to continue and find out, but the tone of his voice implied that if I did he wouldn't be responsible for his actions. That whistling in Woodwork was such a heinous crime that he was likely to become apoplectic with fury at the sound of it. Boys whispered to each other that the Woodwork teacher had once broken a boy's fingers by smashing a mallet down on them. Was that the punishment for whistling?

It was only years later as an adult that I realised why this bizarre rule was in place.

Because whistling was probably the most important of the carpenter's tools, the magic part, the whimsy amongst the danger. And the Woodwork teacher couldn't whistle. The woodwork teacher couldn't whistle and hated to be reminded of this inadequacy, hated to be reminded that even twelve year old boys were better than him.

This is probably why he ended up as a woodwork teacher than a carpenter. Without the ability to whistle he was only half a carpenter.

Only half a man.