Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

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This little titbit is another one of those “I keep hearing this in completely unrelated forums, so I feel like I should make mention of it” news items. In this case, it is the Loch Ness Monster. It started with Dave showing me photos from his trip to Scotland, and his trip to Loch Ness. Unfortunately, he didn’t get a shot of the famous Nessie, but it put the creature in my head. Then my step-daughter was telling me how the Loch Ness monster is actually a dinosaur. My gentle assertion that the correct phrasing was more along the lines of “could be a plesiosaur if it actually existed” were met with the scorn it deserved. Finally, from two different sources, the final being Kevin Smith’s Smodcast, I hear that in America, the education department is funding a text book for schools that states that the Loch Ness Monster is real, is probably a plesiosaur (dammit, foiled by a 7 year old again), and its existence proves that evolution is false.

Socrates would have a field day with the logic involved in that one!

From here, I have a real Sliding Doors blog moment. Or a Trousers of Time scenario. Or a Community dice roll.

Depending on where I go from here could mean the difference between being picked up by a major newspaper or wallowing forever in obscurity. Or ending up evil, or with only one arm. Here are the options:

  •  Trouser leg one: from here, I go on to talk about education and the teacher stereotypes that are prevalent in the media, compared to those that are prevalent in my ten years of teaching.
  • Trouser leg two: from here, I go on to talk about all of the weird and wonderful things in this world, which ones I believe in and which ones are absolute rubbish.
  • Trouser leg three (I’m Jake the Peg, diddle-iddle-iddle um) – there is NO leg three. Although I’m going to do a blog soon on being a sudden parent, in order to stay within the realms of the Finding Damo universe.

Shooting myself in the foot – career-wise – I’m going to go with spooks and the unexplained.

We love Ghost Kitty

Girls With Slingshots – another great web comic

The other night, I had a dream that my brother was only a child – say about ten years old. He had a red parka on with the hood up and I couldn’t see his face. He was autistic. He was playing in the playground and fell over. I ran over to help him up and to hug him better and he pushed me away because he didn’t like being touched. It broke my heart. I woke up sobbing and it took me a good five minutes before I could wake up enough to realise it was just a dream, calm down and go back to sleep. I’m not sure what Shereen thought. She was very sympathetic. When we were talking about it the next morning, I said that if we found out she was pregnant any time soon I’d be highly nervous following that dream.

We are still largely ignorant of the universe we live in. There are thousands of strange and unsettling occurrences that – well, that occur – every day. Some people say that they can explain it, WITH SCIENCE! but they often just ignore the element that isn’t explained.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if Shereen had been pregnant and a doctor had told me that the baby would be born autistic. Because I’d dreamt it. I might have been surprised if they doctor had told me that the baby was made out of strawberry icecream, and I’ve dreamt that as well. But I’m quite happy to believe that I had a prescient dream.

I mean seriously, who wouldn’t be? It means that I’m a super hero! I can see the future! The day that I stop dreaming is the day I can tell the Prime Minister that the world is about to end! If I ever dreamed of tattslotto numbers I’d be set for life!
Of course, that’s rubbish. I seem to get déjà vu more than the average person. I remember dreaming it and then it comes true. Or I just live an incredibly boring life where I do the same thing over and over again, and have shocking short term memory. But I’m not dreaming true dreams, and don’t place a lot of credence in the words of other people who say that they do.

But I believe it’s possible. I just haven’t done it yet.

True dreaming. Out of body experiences. Aliens, ghosts and poltergeists, clairvoyants, past lives, the yeti and the panther living in the Rushworth forest. I’m quite happy to believe in all of these things. They aren’t outside the realm of possibility. They’re as plausible as God, heaven, guardian angels and the like, and some people get quite upset when you laugh at those beliefs.

OK, ghosts. That I can give a little more personal experience about. I have two personal ghost stories and one that I’m going to butcher because I can’t remember it properly. I think it comes from one of Shay’s friends, so Shay, if you remember the conversation, feel free to weigh in via the comments.

Ghost story no. 1:

I was living at the Terraces in Bendigo. Every Tuesday, I’d walk over the hill in the dark to where Mark lived to watch Star Trek: TNG. And then I’d walk back much later at night over the same hill. At the top of the hill one night I noticed a pure white cat sitting in front of a car wheel. As Death says: CATS. I LIKE CATS. So I watched it. It watched me. As I walked past the car, it should have passed beyond my line of sight behind the wheel – it was just sitting there looking at me. To my shock, I realised that I could still see the cat, through the wheel of the car. Now it was slightly transparent, but it was still there.

I kept walking. I never saw it again. It could have been a trick of the eyes, but that’s my story.

Ghost story no. 2:

I’d just broken up with Cath, back when she was still Cath. We were civil, outwardly friendly, but there was still a bit of stress there in the relationship. She was flatting with Dave in Middleborough Road, a brilliant house that we almost destroyed in the time we lived there. Those two stayed in the same place for another… year? after I left. I was back for a visit and stayed out in the lounge. During the night I woke up and stared into the face and torso of an old man staring back at me out of the roof. I felt the thrill of fear but he wasn’t threatening. He seemed more evaluative. He was trying to get a measure of me. When I sat up, he faded.

I told Cath about him the next day and she said “Mmm. I know him. He looks after me at night. He’s very protective.” To top that off, I emailed a clairvoyant who dealt with ghosts and spirits. She emailed back saying “Oh yes, that’s the man who used to own the place. He’s looking after Cath and he has always been a little bit curious about you. He never quite trusted you in your relationship with her. He isn’t threatening, just curious. He watches you on the loo, cos he liked to read there too.”

Quite apart from being freaked out by the fact that a ghost is watching me on the loo, I hadn’t told her most of that information, so it was an impressive feat of either ghost whispering or making stuff up.

Ghost story no. 3:

This one is absolutely freaky. But it was ages ago, and I’m not sure if I can tell it properly. It happened to a friend of a friend of mine… But the friend experienced a number of the ghostly symptoms, so I give it a lot more credence. OK, let’s see what I can get out.

This girl’s boyfriend lived in a flat. He experienced a number of elements of a haunting – The lights would turn on and off by themselves. The taps would turn on when he left the room. There was a cold patch in the lounge, directly under the fan. He loved it. A haunted flat. And then, somehow, he found out what had happened. The guy who’d been there beforehand had committed suicide after his girlfriend had died (I’m making up the reason, but he committed suicide). After he found out, the spirit started to get angry. Objects would move around the room. My friend’s friend (the girlfriend) was hit with a glass one day when she visited. And then the guy had a dream where he died, hanging from the fan like the man who’d died in the flat. It wasn’t fun any more.

He started to look for a new place. He started to get angry very quickly. He withdrew, argued with his girlfriend. One morning, his girlfriend came over and he didn’t answer the door or his phone. You know where this is going. He was hanging from the fan, attached by his belt around his neck.

I can’t explain that one. I have another friend whose ghostly companion follows her from house to house. There are hundreds of stories out there. You can’t explain them all. Oh, you could say they’re lying, deluded, psychotic or mad. There are atmospheric anomalies and magnetic disturbances and the like.

But for now, I’ll keep an open mind.

Remember Alfie Dog and my stories. Apparently they’re selling well. Thank you to everybody who as supported me.


Every Sparrow that Falls – Chapter Nine

Flip was not very far from the computer repository. It only took a second to propel herself through the air, exciting molecules and bouncing off them, traveling just under the speed of sound. She reached the basement area just as the second shot scorched the ground where the human had just been lying. The communication team were all speaking rapidly to the computers.

‘Stop firing! This human is a friend.’

‘This contravenes the non-violence treaty which dates back to-’

‘Speak to us. I command you. Respond. We are your superiors.’

‘-and the sub-paragraph, which states-’

‘We need you to translate, not destroy!’

‘-you, being the party in question-’

‘Be quiet!’ Flip said, transmitting over the public frequency with an override signature. The team were silent. There was a loud THUNK, a whine, and a third beam that missed the human by virtue of his random motion. Flip sent a quick query to the computer system. The communication was refused. The computers were obviously going to plead ignorance until they’d killed the visitor. The animosity between human and machine went far back, but the non-corporeal beings did not make for good targets. She’d been a fool to think the machines were ever under their control.

‘This is ridiculous,’ she said. ‘If the machines kill the visitor, there will be reprisals from the orbiting ship.’ The computer powered up its weapon for a fourth shot, but the human had managed to get out of the line of fire. He was safe for now, but Flip knew the laser was only the first of the computer’s deadly tools. Somewhere, deep in storage, two glowing red eyes would be winking into life.

‘Suggestions?’ she asked, not really expecting anything useful. She was not proved wrong.

‘We should start negotiations with the computer. Using logic, it will surely listen to reason.’

‘Shut them all down. The computers are obsolete. We do not need them.’

‘Let them have him? It is an unnecessary conflict in which we involve ourselves.’

Flip ignored them. The human was talking into a communicator, asking for help. She needed to get in contact with him. The computers weren’t going to help. With time, the communication team could probably decipher the correct frequencies to be heard at the human’s audible range, but that would take too long.

‘Rider?’ one of them prompted, looking for a response. She dismissed him with an impatient signal. And then her focus was drawn back to him.

‘What was that?’ she asked.

‘I simply asked, Rider, what we should do,’ he said.


Behind her, the man stood up, slowly. She examined him. Complex minds were harder to Ride. Even the apes had a natural shielding caused by their sense of self.

‘It might be possible,’ she mused, ‘He has sustained a severe injury. That will take his focus away.’

‘What was that,’ asked the inquisitive team member.

‘I am a Rider. I will Ride,’ Flip said.

And then the air around them was filled with radiation and her consciousness began to disintegrate under the onslaught. To save herself, she dived straight into the mind of the visitor. There was no time for finesse, no gentle invasion. She slammed through his natural defences and hid within an unused portion of his brain.

Temporarily safe from the radiation (although with time, even his mass would not be enough to shield her) she rapidly spread out to establish contact with the speech centres of his brain. This was an instinctual act. It also required a great deal of empathy, which is why it was not possible for just anybody to do it. Flip knew what he should be thinking and looked for those patterns. When she recognised them, she could start to manipulate them. It wasn’t always immediate. This time she was lucky.

She found him. He was about to make a run for the door. Without the limited shielding provided by their underground shelter, Flip would be lost. She increased the sensitivity of his pain receptors, to stop him from rejecting her as soon as she made her presence known, stopped his legs from taking that first, fatal step and made contact.

‘Wait!’ she told him. ‘You must stop! Make it stop!’

Catching up – Every Sparrow that Falls

The rant was for two weeks ago. Today’s is for last week. I’ll post again on Wednesday and then feel like I’m back on track.

I wanted to share a short, completely unedited piece with you. This blog is all about unedited pieces. I think, I write, I post, I put up with the consequences.

I’ve put together a writing group at my school. At my last school, I had a tight-knit group of writers that were growing and getting involved in the process of writing. By the time I’d left, I’d seen four of my students published in one form or another and one Golden Pen member had won a grant which sent us all to a writers’ retreat for the weekend.

I’m still working with this new bunch. Every fortnight I give them a writing topic. This year, I’ve started with building characters and building worlds. We had to create a world, establish the rules, and then write a story set in that world. Here’s my brainstorm:

Ghost in the Machine:

This world is our own, far into the future. Humanity has evolved beyond the need for a physical form. We created artificial intelligence, downloaded our minds into the AI, and then realised that we didn’t even need the machines themselves. We could function as minds.

No longer truly human, as there is something in the body that gives us our emotions, fears and drives, we are now pure intellect. Nobody dies, but nobody gives birth either. For many generations, new people were created, programmed from the algorithms of two different people, creating a new individual. Some of these people still exist, although the amalgamations weren’t always successful – we don’t emulate nature very well.

Others were created from famous entities from films and TV. These were even harder to control, as they weren’t even fully-formed personalities. The personality traits the grafters could find were inserted into a base personality template. This meant that often the specific behaviours of a star would conflict with the personality type. This is what happens when you let a corporation take over your country.

The world has returned to its natural state. There is still evidence that humanity existed – there are old buildings, now covered with grasses and being crumbled by trees.

And there are still working machines. Older versions of AI exist here. The unevolved. The ancient. The sometimes bitter.

Animals are prolific. Many species thought to be extinct have reappeared. The whales are having a field day. Some specialists have learned to ride along with animal consciousnesses. They can feel the animal’s emotions and to a certain extent, guide them in their choices.

Travel to the stars is possible, but highly dangerous. The radiation in space can disrupt human thought waves, dispersing the consciousness throughout the eternity of space.

Once I had that, I thought the concept of the Rider was a good place to start. It got across some of the basic concepts, gave a hint of what was to come, and allowed me to play with sensation, which I enjoy doing. Here’s the story. Enjoy:

Every sparrow that falls.

flying sparrowFlip spun through the clouds, delighted in feeling the wind beneath her feathers, the thrill of touching the delicate currents of air to change direction. She dipped lower until she could see the treetops below her. Delving into the control centres of her temporary vehicle, she coaxed the sparrow towards the ruins of the city. She focused the tiny but sharp sparrow eyes on a thin trail of smoke rising from between two crumbling city blocks.

Flip felt the sparrow’s heart beat even faster than its regular thrum. She stifled a flow of adrenalin caused by the proximity to the city with its multitude of predators and potential ambush sites. Calm yourself, little sparrow, she told it. All will be well when we reach the smoke. She was still feeling anxious, an unusual sensation for someone who could normally feel no emotion at all. This was the rush of being a Rider – melding her consciousness with that of one of the physical creatures of the country.

Ah, I miss this, she thought, as she guided the sparrow closer to the unusual sign of activity. Immortality was all well and good, but sensation, that was something else entirely!

The sparrow was becoming increasingly nervous. Flip could no longer stem the adrenaline caused by the tiny bird’s fear. She felt herself succumbing to it herself. Be brave, little one, she thought. A little closer. I need to see what this is.

She could, of course, examine the site without the aid of the bird; she could read information from the energy in the area and translate it into useful knowledge. But unlike some of the purebred, she and the other transfers still held great stock in sensual information. Even after a thousand years, the habits of a lifetime were hard to break.

Flip was actively fighting the sparrow’s desire to escape the city now. She felt a twinge of remorse, or the shadow of remorse, but she had to see what was causing the fire. Of course, fires happened naturally, but this did not look natural. She strained the sparrow’s vision, ignoring a desperate urge to check around her for danger.

Finally, the sparrow’s sense of preservation broke through Flip’s tenuous connection with its mind. The tiny bird cried out and broke free of her control, wrenching herself upwards and away. Flip tumbled free of the little form and found herself hovering in the city, back in her natural state.

Around her, the world pulsed with millions of forms of energy. She absorbed the radiant energy of the sun, still slightly dangerous to humans even in this state. She picked up the concussive beats of the sparrow’s wings as molecules of air were thrown about in the maelstrom of its flight. She considered the soundwaves from the impact of the hawk’s claws as it snatched the sparrow out of the air. And intellectually, she felt a twinge of guilt for the life that was taken due to her actions.

The “feeling” was fleeting. Flip’s attention was almost immediately drawn back to the fire below her. Something new had come to Earth. Something alive!

Imagine That.

A good imagination...

Shereen and I sat down with a financial planner last night and discussed getting life insurance. I’m growing up! But now that I’m worth more dead than alive, I’ve had to accept that I’ve just taken the first step towards accepting that I’m going to die. I mean really, why would you bet an insurance company that you were going to die if you knew you were going to lose?


But never fear, bloggy followers, I am not talking about death, save as a lead-in to a commentary on imagination.

I spent a few weeks as a child wide awake each night terrified that I was going to die. As an adult, I’ve always assumed that it was a normal stage of development. You start off and everything is part of you. And then you want someone to feed you and they don’t and you realise that they are an independent entity. And eventually you realise that if they can go away and not come back then you might end as well.

For me, that was compounded, I think, by an incredibly vivid imagination. At night, trying to think of what death would be like, I could feel the wood of the coffin on my skin. I would try and drag a breath from a space completely devoid of air. I couldn’t imagine being dead and at peace. I could only imagine dying and the fear and panic that went along with that.

I’ve never written about that before. But I’ve written about almost everything else. And I know that I’m not famous enough for people to care where I get my ideas, but I’m going to tell you anyway. It is an insight into my warped mind and where a simple idea can take me.

The most convoluted idea for a story ended up being a short story called Have your Lamington and eat it too. I was living in Seymour, walking home from the bakery, eating a sausage roll. Bits of pastry were flaking away and dropping to the ground. I watched ants take the flakes away – a tasty meal – and had an epiphany: it is incredibly difficult to eat every little bit of anything! Imagine, then, if you had to eat a magic lamington in order to gain a special power. Imagine if you had to eat ALL of it for the magic to work. And imagine that something really bad would happen to you if you didn’t eat it all. I watched the ants drag crumbs of sausage roll down beneath the earth and decided that some poor sod wild have an extremely unpleasant time getting hold of those last few crumbs.

Ted’s Souls came out of a conversation with Dave, where we tried to figure out what the appendix did. It seemed like as logical a storage place as any for the human soul.

Shoot for the Moon was an exercise in sense-writing to begin with. I wrote a scene with as much sensation in it as possible. It turned into a proper story because I wanted to explore a world where nearly everybody was a werewolf, because really, it wouldn’t be that bad – most of the time.

Dwarves in Space began as an image of a group of dwarves lighting fires in the hold of a spaceship to keep warm and ponderings on how a wizard would survive in an environment of pure technology.

And Finding Damo evolved from a desire to tell the story of some of the stupid things I’ve done along with the idea that there might be a junior Perry out there somewhere that I don’t know about.

I have a story that deals with what the heir to Prometheus would steal if we got another go at Break-and-Entering Olympus. A story that came out of a minor nervous attack over the thought that, on a train, you’d have nowhere to go if the passengers suddenly turned into homicidal maniacs (yes, I think about these things). A story based on the observation that when you kill a spider, the corpse doesn’t always stick around (and so, is it really dead? Or are spiders immortal?). And a story based around a song called Skin Deep. I never knew it was called Skin Deep as a kid. I just remember the line: Better watch out for the skundig. What the hell are skundig?? That was a year’s worth of peaceful sleep I’ll never get back, I tell ya!

Come to think of it, “Better watch out for the Skin Deep” also has incredibly creepy vibes.

Lots of stories in my head!

Anyway, there are thousands of stories in my head. I should stop talking about them and go and write some. And if you know anyone who wants to buy some, feel free to send them my way.

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