Ancient manuscripts arrive intact

June 26, 2002

Crumbly Greek Myths in the mailbox

Superhuge thanks to Rob Skedgell from London, England, who very kindly sent us two incredibly ancient volumes of The Greek Myths by Robert Graves (awesome author of I, Claudius). These were printed in 1962 and the ravages of time have not entirely spared them. In fact they are distinctly crumbly.

Rob writes: “I hope you find the enclosed of some use. Both volumes are falling apart quite badly, but they could probably withstand another read-through before they crumble to dust. I’m fairly sure that all pages are accounted for, but they have been lurking in a dark corner since I replaced them with a non-disintegrating hardback copy. If I hadn’t found your site, I could have been forced to do the unthinkable and bin them.”

Rob also pointed out that RHEA’s entry in the Holy Database is a little misleading. However, that’s all set to change with the New Revised Edition, coming soon! Meanwhile, we’re reading The Greek Myths with diligent care, with brush and pan standing by to collect the dust.

A big Godchecker thanks goes out to Rob for his kind attention.


Douglas Adams: fishing in Celtic mythology

June 21, 2002

Gods, the Universe and Everyt’ing

The new book by Hitch-Hiker’s Guide author Douglas Adams is out – and we have a rather fabulous review of it on our sister site.

The Salmon of Doubt is the last – and possibly the strangest – book by Douglas Adams. It contains many musings on Life, the Universe and Everyt’ing, and has several features of particular interest to dedicated God checkers. (See how THOR the God of Thunder copes with those newfangled telephones! Learn how to make an artificial deity!)

The title Salmon Of Doubt is never explained in the book. But a nagging suspicion led our Godchecker-In-Chief to undertake some research. And after a lot of red herrings he came upon the SALMON OF KNOWLEDGE…

The Salmon of Knowledge revealed

FINTAN – In Celtic mythology, one of the Salmon Of Knowledge. Where did it get its knowledge? From pootling around in a Holy Well of Inspiration which stood on a hill next to an amazing old hazel tree. The hazel branches dangled over the well and occasionally Hazel Nuts of Knowledge would plop down into the water. Naturally, being immersed in magic water, FINTAN became the wisest fish in the world.

He wasn’t wise enough to avoid being caught though. Due to a fracas involving NECHTAN, BOANN and the Holy Well God, FINTAN found himself being whooshed out into the River Boyne where he was caught by a very ancient druid named FINEGAS. What bait, fly or line was used is a piscatorial secret known only to those who go fishing for souls. FINEGAS, who’d been trying to get his hands on the famous salmon for years, was delighted. Whoever ate the salmon would gain all the knowledge in the universe. This was definitely catch of the day.

Unexpected guest at fish supper

But fate is not to be messed with. Who should come along but FINN McCOOL, the cool young leader of the Fenians and prospective candidate for King of Ireland? “I come seeking wisdom,” he said. FINEGAS was inclined to be grouchy: “Sorry, I’m just about to cook my dinner. Come back tomorrow.” But the eager FINN persuaded him to sit back and relax while he tried his hand at being celebrity chef for the evening. “Okay okay,” said FINEGAS, “but don’t you dare nibble my salmon.”

The poached salmon was sizzling nicely on the spit, but young FINN, like all inexperienced cooks, couldn’t help prodding it. Ouch! He burnt his thumb on a hot fin. Sucking the scorched digit, he felt a strange feeling of wisdom come over him. FINEGAS sighed. As a venerable druid he knew it was no good fighting against fate. “Go on son, you have the half-burnt raw fish garnished with stinging nettles. I’m not hungry any more.”

So FINN McCOOL stuffed his face with the Salmon of Knowledge and became the wisest King that Ireland had ever known. And FINEGAS never ate fish again.

Oxford Blue: Godchecker goes to university

June 10, 2002

One man’s quest for a reasonably-priced tome

In his quest for knowledge and wisdom, Chas, our Godchecker-in-Chief, has been to Oxford. Here is his report:

The dreaming spires must be sulking. The old Oxford buildings are of course magnificent, but nothing added after the 19th Century is of any merit at all. The scruffy high streets are full of tatty tail-end outlets with their plastic logos. McDonalds, Kwik-Print, Boots, Barclays, Woolworths and the like. Nothing with any character or individuality. The grandeur is sadly lacking.

I prowled with the camera. Most of the college gates were closed to visitors, so it was very much an outside prowl. And not much use without a zoom lens. I got a crick in the neck from gazing upwards to avoid all the scruffy plastic. I should have taken binoculars.

Ah… Oxford, home of Oxfam, the famous charity store chain. There must be a charity store here. Well, apart from a slicked-up one with mostly new stuff, I tracked down the Oxfam Bookshop. Old paperbacks from £3. Then first editions. First editions in a charity shop? Prices to make one shudder. All labelled and catalogued like a library. Two haughty old dears looked on with stern disapproval. They were probably ex-chief librarians. Drop a book and they might charge you for breaking the silence.

The case of the Missing Culture

There must be decent book stores in Oxford. But I couldn’t find them. Waterstones, yes. WH Smith, yes. Secondhand books? Forget it. Just a solitary antiquarian bookseller with price tags beyond the reach of sanity. And mostly ecclesiastical tomes. The prices turn one white with fright.

But surely there are happy undergraduates, full of cheer and chatter? Wrong again. Pale, thin and scruffy. All the girls have stringy hair, pimples and clothes that you’d be happy to store your waste paper in. There is little integration with the male students who are weedy, scruffy and talk in hushed-over cultivated voices. They don’t bustle. More a bemused drift.

Do they drink in the pubs? Well, not on a Tuesday lunchtime. It seems nobody does. Even the (few) historic pubs were scruffy, run-down and hardly functioning. From an old pub guide I chose a backstreet annexe called The Turl. It was empty. Utterly. In a little courtyard outside an old couple twittered in tones of scholarly correctness. I sat outside with half a pint and started twittering myself.

“So I returned with exactly what I took: A camera, a bag, and a map.”

Ah yes.. the map. Before the trip I found a rather good map in an old guide book pinpointing all the historic buildings. Had it scanned and blown up to A3 size. Around 3:30 I started to wend my uncertain way back to the coach, which was due to leave at 4:00. Not sure of the direction, I opened up the map and a great gust of wind whipped it away down the street.

I hurtled after it shouting “Stop it! Stop it!” to startled passers-by. They looked at me with open mouths, totally ignoring the poster-sized sheet of paper whistling past them. One woman found it wrapped around her legs, leapt back in alarm, stamped all over it and ran off with a cry. So off it went again.

Dear oh me, I can’t run much faster at this speed. Just within reach… no. A final flip and it goes under the front wheels of a moving bus. I gave up. But the wind didn’t, and with a final flourish it whisked the map back into the air. With a frenzied one-handed leap I caught it. Gasping more than somewhat, I turned back to see a line of people all looking over their shoulders, walking away from me as fast as they could.

Why is it I can never travel anywhere without some crisis involving an assault course?