30 July 2010

Macrocosm & microcosm...

Duncan's horses ate each other. In Julius Caesar's Rome, Casca  met a lion and heard tell of a "hundred ghastly women" who, giddied with fear, swore they had spotted "men all in fire walk up and down the streets".  Above the marketplace, sat a noisesome bird from out the night, unblinking even in the unfamiliar noontide sunlight. In Shakespeare's depiction of ages of prophecy and portent, the earth itself takes an interest in the death of kings and men of state, marking their melancholy fate through manifestations of disordered nature. In our own unprophetic age, save for a few of the pious, few spot macrocosmic expressions of microcosmic tumult and change. We are alone, with our thoughts, amid dumb and uninterested existence, without divine messengers or signs. Even so, shorn of preternatural interventions, life's connections are endlessly fascinating. Think of the vast webwork of possibilities daily seized and not-seized, opportunities opened and closed in succession, life's countless unintended and unanticipated consequences, mounting and gathering and leaning on one another. We often like to make confident predictions about the results a certain course of conduct will generate, but obviously and unavoidably neglect other, almost boundless, potentialities made possible by the act and deed. Just as Shakespeare gives the world a voice, so too in our own smaller places, the wide world's deeds find reflection and set in motion strange earthly events, tragedies, accidents.

Yesterday, Pater Peat Worrier alerted me to this salutary case in point. On August 24th 2009, an incident occurred involving one William Preston of Hotel Ceilidh-Donia and a 25-year old American tourist, Samuel Hogue, who was staying at the establishment. The pair seem to have been having a chat in a friendly way in the Hotel bar late that evening, I dare say over a dram or two too many. Their talk turned to current affairs, which at that time was dominated by coverage of the release of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, MacAskill's decision being announced  just a few days before on the 20th of August 2009. This seems to have been a point of significant disagreement between Hogue and Preston. Quoth the Scotsman's coverage, demure starring of sweary words replaced:

Mr Hogue said al-Megrahi should never have been released but Mr Preston said he spoke of an incident where an American warship had shot down an Iranian passenger jet and that nothing happened to the captain. The hotelier said Mr Hogue had then inferred the Scots were "yellow bellied bastards" He said he told Mr Hogue: "No more fucking drink for you. Give me your fucking glass."

Here matters seem to have got confused. Glass flew. Injuries were sustained on both sides. Mr Hogue alleged that Mr Preston had deliberately clattered him over the head with the object. Preston denied this, claiming an accidental collision between his glass and Hogue's. The assault charge was tried over three days in Edinburgh's Sheriff Court. After deliberating, on Wednesday the jury found Mr Preston not guilty of  assault. However, the Hotelier did plead guilty to a subsequent breach of the peace in Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary, after the incident. The Sheriff, Mhairi Stephen, told Preston: 

"The jury acquits you of the serious charge of assault but the evidence supports your guilty plea to the charge of breach of the peace which is a serious charge given the nature of your disorderly conduct. The elephant in the corner is not Mr al-Megrahi but alcohol as is so often in these courts."

Well, only up to a point, My Lady. While being liquored-up undoubtedly played a powerful part in the events described, don't let's overlook the strange and interesting way our lives become impregnated with the affairs of the world, people and places beyond our ken in space and time flood into our lives, and carry us on their eddies and currents.


  1. hmmm. "yellow bellied bastards" is a curiously precise inference, if it was an inference.

  2. The same thought crossed my mind, Ratzo. I imagine it might have made more sense in the context of Mr Preston's evidence. As it stands reported, it reads like an absurd sentence you might find in pulpy, demi-profound literature:

    "Bending Jane's eyebrow like a flexible caterpillar, the slight, fleeting incline that creased her face suggested all the depths of her existential longing for a strawberry jam doughnut, a decaffeinated skinny mocha latte and a well-thumbed copy of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu."

  3. I'll take it from your reaction that I shouldn't give up the old day job immediately and embark on a new occupation as a bold new writer in the bunk fiction genre, Ratzo? Alternatively, maybe I've achieved something of an apotheosis too soon. Distilled essence of bunk.