CHAPTER ONE – ADVISORY NOTICE
The film industry has to categorise the genre and age suitability of a film. Action films, dramas, film noir or horror may all contain profanity, drugs, nudity, violence, sexual content, flashing images, and mature themes. In the UK, the British Board of Film Classification helps parents, carers and other viewers make informed choices about what they watch by adding a brief description, as well as, an age suitability rating. Furthermore, when a programme or film is being aired on television, presenters inform viewers of the content type prior to playing the programme.
This book has no rating.
Not because I can’t be bothered to offer advice, thereby, allowing you to make an informed decision prior to reading. It has no rating because currently, none of the available classifications can contain it.
Instead, at my behest, I implore you to read and take heed of the following warning. This is not a flippant gesture but a cautionary note, that if you continue to read, your perception of the world is most likely to change.
The world you think you know does not exist in the way you think it does.
So, with this in mind, please, only continue reading if you are prepared to have your perceptions of reality challenged.
It’s your choice. You can turn the page and join me on an adventure that will allow you to make an informed choice about the true nature of reality…
You can simply put this book down.
CHAPTER TWO – REUNITED
Will and Tom, both studied atomic, molecular and optical physics at St. Andrews University in Fife. It was Scotland’s first university, founded over 700 years ago, making it the third-oldest university in the English-speaking world. Known for its phenomenal academic reputation, the rankings of the physics and astronomy departments are the second highest in the UK, with only Cambridge ahead of this sterling institution.
Stepping back in time, and looking at the history and early teachings of the university, we find that cathedral clerics ruled the roost. In retrospect, the irony of a church university teaching cutting edge science would make Galileo and Copernicus roll in their graves, dancing the dance of a thousand smiles. A church university accepting the ‘age of enlightenment’ teaching, that the world isn’t flat and pushing boundaries to find out where, why, what and when. Apparently, they are even concomitant about Adam, Eve and Noah now.
The university and city are so steeped in Christian history that the very name of the city comes from Christ's first disciple, whose relics were once kept at the cathedral, and who in death, did very well for himself.
Jesus’s mate became the patron saint of Scotland, Russia, and Greece. Think about this…on social media, he would have had over 150 million followers. It is true what they say…it is all about the people, you know!
As a city, St. Andrews is a unique jewel in Scotland’s crown. It’s immersed in history and has the oldest Scottish Christian burial ground, dating back to the 5th century. The cathedral itself was the largest church to be built in Scotland and became a hot spot for pilgrims, to such an extent that by the 1200s, the town struggled to cope with the influx of European newcomers. The cathedral itself was an elaborate masterpiece. It was shaped like a crucifix and measured 119 metres by 50 metres across the transepts, and soared high into the sky. Taking almost 150 years to complete, this gothic treasure, was a monumental piece of art, showcasing medieval craftsmanship at its best.
Entering the cathedral from the west led you through an immense and magnificent pair of ornate wooden doors, housed in an ogival stone arch, which tapered into the building and had numerous detailed stone carvings. Then there was the narthex, which was the first congregating point and had three majestic vaulted roofs and six huge arched stained-glass windows covering three of the walls.
Moving from narthex to nave had you passing through a robust carved wooden frame surrounded by decorative panelling, which covered the entire eastern wall.
Then as soon as you crossed the threshold, you felt the cool air and immensity of the internal structure which created a palpable aura of eminence. The vaulted ceilings, immense arched stained-glass windows, the stone floors and gothic columns rising from floor to ceiling. The sheer height of the ceiling, which was three stories, complete with gallery and clerestory with its delicate viewing arches so as not to eclipse the lower arcade.
It was a magnificent and awe-inspiring piece of work and yet the cathedral was only one part. The whole complex of the priory was surrounded by walls that were six meters high and at one point, some two metres thick, incorporating 16 towers and many gateways.
On the grounds of the priory were a host of domestic structures, including a tythe barn, a mill, and guest houses. Not to mention the cloister, the chapter house, and the refectory. All built to the same magnificence as the cathedral with fabulous gothic architecture and stained-glass windows set in ogival and lancet arches.
A shame really that such a stunningly beautiful building, said to capture the very soul of God himself is now in ruins.
But how could this be? I hear you think.
Well…a sermon of such convincing passion was preached at a rival church, and those good folks at the protestant church picked up their pitch forks and golf clubs and knocked the merry hell out of that fine building dedicated to the God they all believed in.
The congregation was so aroused by the sermon that they destroyed almost all of the internal fixtures and fittings. Further attacks took place a few days later and within a week, all the friars had been violently and forcibly evicted.
In effect, the priory then became a sort of builders' merchants, whereby it was stripped of its raw materials which were used for the subsequent development of the town. Well, they do say, ‘that God will provide’.
Fortunately, the university was unscathed and continued to impart the various knowledge of the ages, enlightening students from past to present. Furthermore, St. Andrews has enough clout that despite the lack of a functional cathedral, and a mere 20,000 population in term time, it still has the status of a city. And a small but fine city it is.
Of course, there’s also the golf courses, and it never surprises people that there are seven of them, including St. Andrews. The home of Golf. People are occasionally taken aback by the beach though. It’s a mile and a half of pure paradise. Think of the opening scene of Chariots of Fire. The longest shot in the film was those young men accompanied by the music of Vangelis, running barefooted along West Sands, which just happens to be the beach of St. Andrews.
The town centre…I know, I said it’s a city, but it’s a city that everyone calls a town and some call a university town…coming back, the town centre is vibrant. There are many unique shops and bars, jewellers, art shops, cafes, chocolatiers, and bakeries, couple this with its history, architecture, tourist footfall and the high student population and you have a city that’s vibrant and alive with its very own soul. Scents, noise, music, and people…
On first impressions, the architecture of the town seems grandiose but not imposing, yet it is more solid and dependable than grandiose. Most of the buildings are two or three stories high, further elevated by dormer windows and substantial chimney stacks. White sash windows, which incorporate glazing beads to create six or nine panes of glass per sash is the norm. Although the use of sandstone blocks gives a general air of similarity, most buildings are unique and include different roof heights, turrets, crenellations, stone window heads and cills. The roads are wide, adding to the town’s stature, and the town's planting is prolific - so many established trees, plants, and gardens, create pockets of veritable Edens. Then there are the views… over the town, coastal, inland…whichever way you look, you’ll find a postcard shot.
The one million visitors that St. Andrews attracts each year gives the place a sense of vibrancy. People tend to treat themselves to a haircut, and new clothes for a holiday, or at the very least take their best clothes with them. Consider this in conjunction with the shopper’s mindset when they’re choosing holiday clothes, and you get Hawaiian shirts, vivid primary colours, hats that only surface one week of the year, shorts and sandals being sported in December and a host of other fashion atrocities that add an audacious air of spiritedness to the peoples blasé carefree attitude.
The mood is accentuated by the holiday regime, which is moulded by not having to work, not having to cook and not being a slave to an alarm clock. So, there have always been some pretty loaded biorhythms going on in St. Andrews. On top of all this, you have the town’s history that seems to climb out of the cobbles and sandstone walls, pervading the air and creating a calming aura that is both wise and stoic, and yet relaxed and unruffled. It’s a town, where if you see a piece of litter blowing down the street, you’d naturally want to pick it up. There’s a commanding sense of reverence and respect, partly created by the town’s age and architecture, which is enforced through having quaint tea or book shops in such illustrious stone buildings.
The sense of the town’s respectability seeps into a person’s heart and soul, raising their honour and moral standings, guiding them to stand by the highbrow principles set by the good god-fearing folk of the past.
The effect of the town’s illustrious influence doesn’t work on all though, that is, notably, the toddlers, some teenagers, and the odd soul who is beyond redemption. But on the whole, it grabs a person’s sensibilities as soon as they are awake. Then, during the day, it is almost as though a person gets used to the pulchritude and the effect slowly wears off. Once the sun goes down and the natural lighting and shadows are replaced by incandescent and led luminosities, the beasts and party animals that have been bottled up begin to rise to the surface and look for adventure.
A change of clothes, a glass of wine and the dulcet sounds of distant talking, laughter and music melts away any of the remaining Victorian sensibilities. Yet the thawing is slow, and a bit hit and miss at first. A loud laugh at the beginning of the night is noticeable and somewhat out of place in time, but as the hands of the clock tick forward, the defrosting gathers pace and the social flux escalates.
The momentum of the bohemian spirit, liberated from the chains of respectability is palpable and flourishes by the hour, reaching its peak towards the end of the night.
Yet, come sunrise, and the festive energy dissolves, letting the town’s ghosts of respectability grip your soul once again.
It was here that Will and Tom spread their wings. Living at home and taking A-levels in city schools one minute, then thrown into all that St. Andrews had to offer the next. It only took a brief period of adjustment before they discovered the true paradise that St. Andrews was, finding love, culture, beauty and academic stimulation that was veracious and inspiring.
They felt truly alive.
But that was all seven years ago. The time spent at St. Andrews saw their friendship grow, yet inevitably they took different paths after their graduation. While, Will worked in nano research, which took him to South Korea and Taiwan amongst other places; Tom did various research projects until he took up lecturing at the University of Birmingham.
On the odd occasion, when they managed to meet up it was as though they’d never been apart and last time they met, Will fessed up to being bored with his research. It wasn’t that the nanoworld wasn’t exciting, in fact, both conceptually and theoretically it was mind-blowing with huge leaps being made every year. Yet working in the cutting-edge world of nanotechnology meant Groundhog Day for Will. Set up an experiment – run the experiment – collect the data – analyse the data – compare results to previous experiments – set up an experiment – run the experiment.
When Tom mentioned to Will, that Birmingham University had an open guest lecturer position in experimental solid-state physics, followed by the mention of Eritrean and Ethiopian restaurants, Syrian, Persian, Turkish, Greek, Afghanistan, Jamaican and Polish eateries…not to forget the world-famous Birmingham Balti and Chinese quarter.
And from here we pick up the story.
Tom and Will are reunited in Birmingham and so another chapter begins.