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Posts Tagged ‘gremlins’

Daft days

Thursday, January 5th, 2006
Jorge Luis Borges, 1899-1986

Jorge Luis Borges, 1899-1986

“Let us admit what all idealists admit – the hallucinatory nature of the world. Let us do what no idealist has done – let us search for unrealities that confirm that nature. I believe we shall find them in the antinomies of Kant and in the dialectic of Zeno … ‘The greatest wizard (Novalis writes memorably) would be the one who bewitched himself to the point of accepting his own phantasmagorias as autonomous apparitions. Wouldn’t that be our case.’ I surmise it is so. We (that indivisible divinity that operates in us) have dreamed the world. We have dreamed it as enduring, mysterious, visible, omnipresent in space and stable in time; but we have consented to tenuous and eternal intervals of illogicalness in its architecture that we might know it is false.”
Jorge Luis Borges, Other Inquisitions

After writing the previous entry, this lovely quote from Borges (above) came to mind. It was also very timely in view of a few “tenuous and eternal intervals of illogicalness” in the architecture of our reality that were making themselves felt, and the fact that it all coincided with what in Scotland used to be called the “Daft Days” around Christmas and New Year when the established order would traditionally be turned on its head for a succession of riotous celebrations.

My daughter has been “losing” some things in her room, some of which turned up again today. All of us have been through the third degree as she was convinced it had to be one of us, but nobody goes into her room because we’ve simply no reason to, and nobody had.

Just how many of us, I wonder, have seemingly misplaced items we were convinced we left in a certain place, only to find them turning up somewhere else in the vicinity some time later when it’s quite impossible for them to have done so by any “ordinary” means? A generation ago country people would have just smiled and muttered something about the “wee folk”, but these days we’re inclined to put it down to personal mental aberrations, or family members playing tricks and telling lies about it, etc. But sometimes none of those explanations quite fit. Of course it would be nice and comforting if there were a simple and obvious explanation, but sometimes there isn’t.


When I moved house just over a year ago, I spent a few days going back to our old house to clean up for the new owners. One afternoon I was finishing up for the day when I noticed the mud and shoe-rubber marks on the wall by the front door where the shoe rack had been. I decided to clean that off before I left and fetched the scouring cream from the bathroom, squeezed some out onto a damp sponge, and made pretty quick work of it. I wiped off the wall, washed out the sponge and cloth, left the scouring cream by the kitchen sink, and left. The next day I came back to carry on. The scouring cream was just where I left it by the sink. Except it wasn’t scouring cream. It was washing-up liquid. Same brand, same container, very similar label, but washing-up liquid – clear translucent washing-up liquid, not white creamy scouring cream. Also a broom I’d left in the hall wasn’t there any more. My first thought was that my ex-partner had been in, though his post was still there which seemed a bit strange if he had. I phoned him. He hadn’t been near the place. Nobody else had a key.

I searched the house all over (pretty easy: it was empty) and no scouring cream came to light. For a brief moment I doubted my sanity and wondered if I could possibly have used washing up liquid on the wall (even though I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing so because it wouldn’t have removed those rubber marks, and even though I’d known it was scouring cream from squeezing it out on the sponge), but running a finger over the wall I found scouring cream residue that I hadn’t completely wiped away.

The next day I brought some more scouring cream from my new house along with some other cleaning materials in a bucket and left it in the kitchen while I cleaned up elsewhere. When I came back into the room about an hour later it had disappeared, though this time it wasn’t replaced by anything. The dustpan and brush that I’d left on the kitchen floor had also vanished. I looked all around the area I’d left it, but nothing. By this time I was quite incredulous and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I walked into the centre of the house and called out to whatever mischief-makers were within earshot could I please have my dustpan and brush, broom and scouring cream back.

I went off to do something else then came back into the kitchen. There was the dustpan and brush, just where I’d left it before. I went out into the hall and there was the broom, just where it had been 2 days earlier. No scouring cream. But later, when I went back to my new house, there was the scouring cream under the bathroom sink where it belonged. The washing-up liquid never changed back into scouring cream though. I still have it. Just in case one day …

The way all this happened left me no option but to conclude (short of diagnosing myself barking mad, which you’re at liberty to do of course!) that “reality” is not quite what we take it to be.

There’d been other instances while we lived in that house, like the time we’d all gone out with the children and their grandparents on a chilly April day to a local indoor adventure playground and my coat had gone missing from the pile by our table. When we got home it was hanging up on its usual peg. Going out on a chilly April day in Scotland without a coat is not an option. It’s just something I’d never do. Ever. And I knew I’d taken it off and put it in the pile with everyone else’s. But on that occasion, since nobody else could remember whether I’d been wearing it or not, there didn’t seem any choice but to succumb to the logic implied by the coat on the peg.

Wee folk

It seemed like all the shenanigans with the cleaning materials happened just as we were leaving to tell me that I hadn’t been mistaken after all. And since talking about it to other people, it’s amazing how many have come out with similar incidences, equally or even more improbable and unexplainable. Whether it’s mischievous “gremlins” or wee folk, or cracks in reality’s façade, who knows? All I know is that all is not as it seems. And I do like its sense of humour.

(For more thoughts on Borges’ assertions, see the essay Holed in One.)

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smeddum.net - Blog: Confessions of a Serial Prover. Weblog on homeopathy, health and related subjects by homeopathic practitioner Wendy Howard