No time for dithering

Chimera of Arezzo at the National Archaeological Museum of Florence

There is everything and nothing about which to write. The glory of a quenched Spring, finger-tapping impatience with Lock-down’s end, gloomful dread of looming titanic Depression, the cheerful hum amid birds’ conversations.

Is it just me or have you also reached the summit of indecision and know the next step you take can determine everything which follows?

In another life, I knew a person who seemed to have stopped living for fear of living. This perpetually seemed a crushing waste of their humanity: potential, kindness, hope, their glee in existential fizz.

And Lo: this spectre of threat appears to have raised its heads to glare threateningly at me.

It has been known that when demons have ambitions to pursue me, I stop, turn and with preposterous volume wail BOO. Without fail, they turn and flee. Well, I’m saying Boo to this latest chimera in order that genial intention which follows in its wake can glide up at a social distance and personally suggest a dialogue.

Madeleine Baird Materials is OPEN for business: fortifying mental and emotional well-being, both of which ventilate self-raising flourishing.

Part Three: Sentience


This is a moment for yodelling ‘At Last‘.

In its Action Plan, the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill commits to:

  • Recognize animal sentience – the capacity of animals to have feelings, including pain and suffering
  • End the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter and taking “further steps” to limit foie gras trade
  • Bring in “more effective powers” to tackle livestock worrying as part of its Kept Animals Bill
  • Stop people keeping primates as pets, improving standards in zoos and “cracking down” on puppy smuggling

We’ve written endlessly on this – that it’s potty to deny animals sentience. If you have had a pet, wandered in nature or watched even one social media clip of a dog/cat/bird/horse/otter/grizzly bear/dolphin/panda/ elephant/orangutan reacting to or initiating some self-entertainment, then it is impossible … just impossible … to refute conscious decision-making, delight-bringing, care-demonstrating capacity of all living creatures.

That we don’t speak their language has persuaded those of our species who traditionally determine such matters that animals lack consciousness. [Odd though: that they understand and react to ours.]

To be clear, we find Consciousness synonymous with Life. Consciousness IS life.

That means feeling joy, pain, loss, scepticism, hunger, cold, confusion, irritability, revenge, love [that’ll do; Ed] are states of awareness experienced by ALL breathing creatures. And it’s going to be validated in law.

At last. #whyzittakensolong ?

Part Two: Necessity in naming


Hermaphrodite lobsters appear as 1 in 50 million. Thare split-colour displays the condition of gynandromorphy; in this case, the blue side’s female, the brown male. Aren’t thay magnificent?


© J_P_M

Since rising in emphasis to inculcate cultural priorities, we’ve been thinking on normative solutions to Gender.

Cards on the table: provided none is harmed as a result, once grown we think every child born has the right to love and be loved; we think every child born has the right to express their truth.

In light of which, do we not owe it to one another to listen to what each says about themselves and accommodate those wishes accordingly? Gender fluidity, for those who experience it, is an all-consuming demand.

Well, in that case, grammar needs robust refreshing. Personal pronouns in current declension just won’t do. So we start the debate which we hope others will embrace, dissect, ventilate, broaden. Here’s an opening suggestion:

  • I, you, he, she, thay
  • Me, you, him, her, thane
  • Mine, yours, his, hers, thine/thare
  • S/he, wo/man, Mr, Mis, mrs … though that’d be wierd

An essential property of human life is our humanity. The huffing, puffing and eye-rolling which accompanies the utterances of many who find this trivial might be calmed by reflecting on what it means to be acknowledged for our true selves.

Name: to a large extent, our name IS our identity: it captures who and what we are. Spelling it correctly is part of honouring that. Thus mis-spelling a name demonstrates a lack of respect for that person: if the meaning of a term is its reference, then it must be carefully and correctly applied as a rigid designator : just as, for example, understanding thare [non-binary] gender for who thay are.

There is both freedom and tyranny in such refreshed approach to how we greet the world. Empathy is a real help in supporting efforts to navigate through: I don’t suppose anyone intends harm yet being careless with others’ feeling impacts as a dreadful blow. For many, sense of self supervenes on how one’s treated: being diminished by tactlessness is an empirical universal, alas.

Sensitivity to others deepens one’s own river of humanity, allowing it to flow ever more freely. Although at first we found this enlarged way of understanding our many-peopled-world difficult, there is something utterly splendid in the necessity of correctly naming others: that opening oneself out as walls come tumbling down.

Post hoc ergo prompter hoc


A wonderful thing has happened. Law and Justice have co-incided to the shattering relief of the innocent.

In 1999 Post Office, as we must call it, installed flawed computer software from Fujitsu called Horizon. It made sub-postmasters & -mistresses appear to be defrauding the company through false accounting. Many were prosecuted and jailed. More had their lives stripped of dignity. All will carry the damage for life. On Friday, the Appeal of 39 (from 335) found their convictions to be “an affront to the public conscience” and overturned them. It was professional negligence on an obliterating scale.

We love guddling new words. The Meaning of Liff was the formal accumulation of what millions of us lacked the energy or where-withal to do, namely compile a volume of words with illustrious, riotously fresh&frisky definitions. Written by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, it was published in 1983 as ‘a humorous dictionary of toponymy and etymology’.

Well, yesterday we were delivered of a new compound noun whose grave meaning, alas, is anything but joy-padded enginuity. Rather, it compasses

keeping silent when validating acknowledgement is professionally & empathically required

Protected by the Church and the Cabinet Office, there is a living (sic) embodiment of that description captured above whose compound noun (… or adverb, mebbie?) is


Let us all hope that in virtue of this, no such moral bankruptcy will suffocate others’ lives again.

Nick Wallis, journalist&broadcaster has done heroic work revealing this catastrophic episode, making an astounding contribution to national life through his series of radio programmes, The Great Post Office Trial. Dogged, fearless: remarkable investigative journalism.

☆ To be clear, emotional intelligence demands the courage to be straightforward with the world. Clarity of communication dissolves the need for hiding. When possessed of that resilience, all is brought into the light. Life and Liff : both easier as a result.

Nature abhors a Dyson


Vacuum cleaners gained the generic name Hoover after its inventor, James Spangler, gave one to his cousin. She was married to William Hoover who, in 1908, bought the patent and so materialized the nattily named Electric Suction Sweeper Company. The inventor received royalties and was employed as a supervisor until his death in 1915, only after which did the company change its name to Hoover. There’s something honorable in that: doing business the right way.

Do you find something of the toy cupboard about Dyson machines? While they are effective, how great is your immutable puzzlement they must all – whatever their function – be so violently noisy?

Deafeningly loud, they destroy mood and harmony in nano-seconds. One’s nature receives a battering from such annihilating volume.

Granted, men love noisy machines. (I’m not going to pretend that makes any sense to me. Mebbie it’s a chromosomal thing?) But women don’t and while fewer men participate fully in house-work, it seems odd to subject women to torturous punishment.

Sir James Dyson, self-confessed-patriot and tax expert, is in the news today. It has emerged he required assurances his people would not be burdened by having to pay extra tax here if they worked on making ventilators in March 2020 which were so desperately needed by the NHS amid the national emergency. Seemingly, he had genuine fears his company would derive no benefit until tax rules were fixed in his favour.

Private text messages between the title-proud First Lord of the Treasury and Noisy Toy man demonstrate the ease with which tax arrangements are settled.

However administered, an axiology or theory of value reflects one’s deepest principles. It’s interesting to us that erupting unnatural noise at the expense of users chimes with notions of mandating self-interest at the expense of national interest.

Part One: Heresy?

Image Thinking oneself into victory

You know when something niggles at the nook round the back of your mind caused by accumulation of non-urgent agenda items stored for further reflection? The moment arrives when some space-clearing is required and as things are quiet*, now seems the perfect time to think aloud and see where it leads.

Are you as muddled as us on the question of what Belief is and to what it refers?

Elite sportswo/men are taught visualization to ensure they see their victory: it’s a proven route to success. It bolsters self-belief and probably boosts release of endorphins (other helpful hormones are probably available). This kind of belief forces the body to comply with the heart’s desire and head’s ambition to win.

We’re comfortably familiar with the notion that pushing the body to perform in a certain way is part of the method of achieving goals. Harnessing will-power to function in unison with other means – training, eating the right food stuffs, drinking water, sleeping soundly, being kind, holding focus – powerfully wills the body to win. This is neither controversial nor buttock-clenchingly awkward for onlookers: indeed, it is expected.

Why then is belief in the body’s ability to fight illness considered heresy or the notion of a lunatic when exactly the same principles apply? Interviewed on Today, neuropsychopharmacologist, Professor David Nutt said in the context of treating depression …

“If you don’t believe in a treatment, as patient or doctor, it’s unlikely to work and that’s true of all medicine.”

Let’s consider complementary medicine.

Complementary medicine supports (complements) the body’s own efforts to heal itself.

When we’re permitted once more to shake hands, neurons send messages down nerves to lift the arm and extend the hand of friendship. When I want to recover from an illness, I command the immune system and spleen to go out to fight on my behalf: no?

What’s that you say? I do no such thing: that it happens is entirely beyond my control?

Well, under whose control is it? Does my body only do what it’s told by external technicians because they don’t believe I have any control over my body? How then do I shake a hand with no control over my body?

Today is Professor Nutt’s birthday. Three cheers for a scientist who speaks truth fearlessly.

* Owing to popular demand, The Materials is re-starting Voyage of Discovery: philosophical pacing through Nature to restore equilibrium, most usually taken up by C-Suite executives. Contact us to book one-to-one sessions reglue-ing pieces of mind.

We love this


Riz Ahmed interviewed for The Late Show on his latest film #SoundofMetal. Sub-titles by @deaftcollective

Ah, man. We love it when thought and consideration is voiced, with kindness, about Listening.

We’ve been banging on about the sophisticated skill of Listening for …. EVER and continue to delight in hearing how others understand it.

It’s g-Lorious to be reminded we listen with skin, heart, the reception dish of our bodies, with our deepest gentleness and at the furthest folds of compassion.

Riz Ahmed’s new film #SoundofMetal requires him to submerge himself in an echoing void of empathic displacement and sense the world … his world … afresh when the character he portrays loses his hearing.

We listened to the discussion on @BBCFrontRow when he said ‘Attune the body to do the Listening for you‘ and ‘Holding space for someone else’s energy with your full attention‘ which captured so beautifully an essence of this absorbing skill.

This actor who holds himself with remarkable inner stillness learnt to sign for the role. A sign of our times?

Alas, we have not seen the film (no telly), Sound of Metal, directed by #DariusMarder is available on Amazon Prime.


NOTE: we’re having vexations galore with the evolutions of this site’s platform. Please bear with us during this phase of our learning: it’s gonna be a protracted process. To which end, visit the site itself if you wish to see it as it was intended. Higgledy piggledyness is so distressing.

Riding through the glen?


It’s a tough gig, appearing in front of a huge crowd just when the fire alarm’s gone off and attention is anywhere but in your direction. How, in such circumstances, does one make a mark?

A full, Covid-19-dominated-year-on from assuming the office of Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, the role has been revived by virtue of his infinitely courteous, constructive scepticism. Better briefed and more attentive to suasive dissection of detail, his is a positive contrast to the chaotic exhibition of hubris across the Despatch Boxes. 

Sir Keir Starmer, QC

While it seems unlikely <– the Rt. Hon. Sir Kier Starmer, QC has ever held ambitions of swash-buckling his way along Westminster’s endless corridors of power, perhaps you agree that there

appears to be something of –> the Errol Flynn about his energy and manner?

A top role for the Irish actor was Robin Hood … (Robin? Thieeevin  more like) … the notion of giving to the poor funded by the rich would seem more closely aligned with a politician’s nod to a just society. 

For our international readers, you know that the Leader of the Labour Party has been in post since Spring 2020. A former Director of Public Prosecutions [Sheriff of Nottingham?!] he entered Parliament in 2015 whence he represents Holborn & St Pancras: not quite a glen but compassing genial slices of Hampstead Heath, Regent’s Park along with all of Bloomsbury. Seems fertile hunting ground to re-balance social EQuity&EQuality&EQ. That’d make a mark.

Not 42: For two … ?


Caution: it’s not entirely clear whether what follows is a consequence of too much time slooshing about or arrives as crisp enquiry.

The last line of Heaney’s knockout poem Postscript often materializes when soft buffetings catch the mind or heart offguard, blowing it open.

Well, here’s a case in point which mebbie one of his friends, family or informed fans can help clarify. Is it possible Douglas Adams was being more romantic and less numeric when he discerned the Answer to be 42?

There are written accounts of how, haphazardly, this immutable solution dropped into him, thence onto the sheet of paper.

But was it, in fact, shorthand for – or a typo that should have read 4 2For Two?

As simply everything tastes better when it’s shared, one can clearly see For Two might answer the question at the centre of every Life, Universe and Thing.

We’d welcome your thoughts.

Here then, for its own sake of ‘glorious exultation’, is …


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

Seamus Heaney, 1998

Sturgeon unfilleted


Artus Wolffort c. 1620                                   Andrew: Scotland’s saintly Patron

When Nicola Sturgeon appeared before an enquiry of her fellow MSPs, Members of the Scottish Parliament grilled her as an Isle of Man kipper.

Did you watch any of the footage? We did and it seemed as evident as any evidence ever given that it was a straightforward account of facts – although without any kind of malign insinuation which can occasionally colour testimony when besieged by an attacking force.

We were puzzled Commentors suggested she was doomed. We listened with our eyes and ears and hearts and minds – not with a sense of touch as it was telly but we were touched by the patience exhibited. It yodelled to us that the First Minister, who testified for Eight hours without notes seemingly, relied on memory. Imagination lets us down as it fails to preserve order in the mind whereas memory allows for contiguous reflection and recollection to flow in an orderly manner.    

Appointed by Alex Salmond in 2013 and reappointed by Ms Sturgeon to the role of Advisor on Ministerial Code, one might think it plausible James Alexander, SC would be torn asunder by divided loyalties. Yet, Mr Alexander has found the First Minister innocent of breaching that very Ministerial Code with reference to allegations of sexual harassment by her predecessor.

The fishyness of this affair has been kept fresh and sweet-smelling by the very matter-of-fact approach the First Minister took, with no carping from the side-lines but patient attendance on due process.

When we published this a month or so ago, we had no real confidence of justice being done. We are simply thrilled to have been wrong.