memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for July, 2012

Insects Rule, OK


Ants rule the earth.

All the myrmecologists (ant-experts to you and me) say so. They tell us that if you add up the weights of all the ants in the world, they would weigh about the same as the total weight of all the humans in the world. When you consider that an individual ant is about one millionth the size of a human being – give or take a few hundred thousand – that’s a lot of ants (that’s a hell of a lot of ants; that’s a mind-bogglingly gynormous amount of ants; I surely take my hat off to all those ants; let’s hear it for the ants).


Many people cite this Associated Press article:

(what weirdo geeks work on these stats? I mean how can people actually know these things? Oh well, I suppose it takes all sorts …)

Scientists say that about 15 percentage of the Earth’s total biomass – the

combined weight of all living things – is composed of ants. Another 17

percentage is taken up by termites. The combined weight of all ants on

earth is more than the weight of all humans.

And now, about these termites


Note: Post illustrated by my kind painter-sister Octavia:

Wake up and smell the coffee

So the neuro-zone is going down the tubes.

So our politicos are a dangerous combination

Of corruption and incompetence and

Every day is a good day to bury bad news

So our country is just one long beach

Where we become drowsy

With too much sun

So we grab any excuse to down tools

And close the factory to celebrate

A football fest

Innumerable saint’s days

Municipal holidays

Political holidays

Traditional holidays

Long weekends

Mini-breaks …


But no, on second thoughts,

Better let sleeping dogs lie

And besides, it’s the weekend.

Man is what he eats

Fancy a BIG MAC anyone?

The ingredients of a Big Mac are (or should be):

Beef patties x2 – 100% pure beef patty.

No additives, fillers, binders, preservatives or flavour enhancers. Just pure forequarter and flank.

Big Mac Bun

Flour, water, sugar, sesame seeds, rapeseed oil, yeast, salt, soya flour.

Emulsifier: E472(e), mono- and di-acetytartaric acid esters, mono- and di-glyredids of fatty acids.

Preservative:  E282 calcium propionate.

Flour treatment agent: E300 ascorbic acid.

Big Mac Sauce

Water, vegetable oil, gerkins, sugar, vinegar, modified corn starch, egg yoke, spices, fructose, salt.

Stabiliser: E415 xanthan gum.

Preservative: E202 potassium sorbate. Spice extracts.

Processed Cheese Slice

Vegetarian cheddar, water, butter, milk proteins, natural cheese flavouring.

Emulsifying salts: E331 trisodium citrate, E450 dephotates, E452 polyphostates. Lactose, salt.

Preservative: E200 ascorbic acid.

Colour: E160(a) carotenes, E160(b) paprika.


100% shredded iceberg lettuce.

Dill Pickle Slices

Cucumber, vinegar.

Preservatives: E210 benzoid acid, E327 calcium lactate or E200 sorbic acid and E509 calcium chloride. Spices.

Dehydrated onions

100% dehydrated white onions.


According to today’s New York Times: The majority of hamburgers sold in the U.S. now contain fatty slaughterhouse trimmings from the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil, typically including most of the material from the outer surfaces of the carcass that contains “larger microbiological populations.”

On second thoughts, let’s just go down to the corner café and a bacon sandwich instead.

The King of the Rainy Country

The sea is not calm today

The horizontal slash grey

With foreboding.

The swaying sobbing trees

The lightning flashes

The soundless arc-lights

Of distant strife.

A flock of small birds

Wheel in agitation

Against the dark sky.

A gust of wind

The hiss of rain

And the storm is upon us.

I snuggle deeper into my warm bed

And rejoice.

I am The King of the Rainy Country

Je suis comme le roi d’un pays pluvieux.

I exult that I have survived,

So far I have survived

I have survived

The Lonely Swimmer

Starting the day with a swim is highly recommended.

So I enrolled at my local Municipal Baths.

These were modern, strategically located facilities with a 25-metre pool (half-Olympic size) and a circular shallow heated pool for children and for hydro-therapy for the physically-disadvantaged (such as I am now).

I opted for the free regime three times a week during the dead middle-of-the-week morning and started to build it into my routine.

I must confess at this point that I am not a very good swimmer.

I was simply never taught how.

When I was at my Prep school the sadistic gym-teacher would herd us 9-year-old white and shivering boys, down to the deep-end of the pool where, one by one, we had to jump in … sauve qui peut … in a water-gulping splashing panic most of us managed make it to the side of the pool which we gripped, gasping for air.

(One poor little wretch, doubtless assuming that all was up with him, refused to move his limbs and sank like a stone to bottom of the pool, so that the gym-master had to spoil his fancy track-suit by diving in and fishing him out).

I never learned how to breathe correctly, for example, so I ended up with a limited repertoire of only two strokes – the breast-stroke and the back-stroke.

Nevertheless I read somewhere that swimming exercised more muscles of the body then any other sport.


So I would slowly churn (or ripple) my solitary furrow along the watery lane towards the future.

Sometimes there was a swimming class for a group of middle-aged women who used to cluster at one end of the pool and exercise the only part of their bodies that didn’t really need it – their mouths.

From time to time a white-skinned girl, a Municipal Goddess, with the wide shoulders and streamlined hips of the professional swimmer would dive in and cover 20 lengths of the pool in an unbelievably short time, cutting through the water efficiently with her lazy powerful strokes and her flashy racing turns.

Then she would unhurriedly climb of the pool and stalk gracefully from the hall (leaving us, the doggy-paddle brigade, feeling somewhat rueful and chastened).

Yes, there’s nothing better than a good swim to start the day.

Sweeting’s island

Captain Sweeting RN

Long since dead

Discovered an island

Whose people had existed

In harmony with nature,

Living in rhythm with the seasons,

Innocent and undisturbed,

Unpolluted with new ideas,

Uninfected with disease,

For ten thousand years.

Until Captain Sweeting arrived

In his little wooden warship.

Paused long enough to water,

Load the ship with fruit

And fresh vegetables,

Plant the Union Jack on a hill,

Update the admiralty charts

Before sailing away again

Into the great blue yonder.

Time enough for his men

To plant other seeds

In fecund wombs

Syphilis, plague and

The common cold.

I guess they were all OK

Before Captain Sweeting RN

Took care of them with his

Voyage of discovery.

The population of that island

Which had lain undisturbed

Since time immemorial

Was wiped out in a generation

And the rest is silence.


It Beggars Belief

A bowl of soup, a glass of wine

And thou beside me,

Ranting in the wilderness.

All the teachings of the Inspired Scriptures

Are dwarfed by the immensity

Of the star-crossed cosmos.

Pascal’s wager need not apply.

Our vile bodies are consumed by fire

Urns of ashes towards sundown.

We therefore commit his body to the deep

In the certain hope that the sea will

Render him up on the Day of Judgment.

No sudden Epiphany brought me to this point,

Only the calm acceptance

That it beggars belief.

It beggars belief that we are all born

With the in-built virus of corruption,

Weighed down by some primordial guilt.

It beggars belief that our world,

Our wondrous awful world

Should blight our brief lives.

As flies to wanton boys

So are we to the gods;

They kill us for their sport.



Quote of the day

Man is descended from a hairy, tailed quadruped, probably arboreal in its habits.

Charles Darwin


The Silent Ones


The time has come to consider the sometimes anonymous inmates of the Home.

The patients that one never sees because they are bed-ridden, isolated and never quit their rooms.


They are the silent ones and little sound reaches them from the outside world.

Everything is for done for them

(Existence in the Passive Voice).

They are washed and changed twice a day.

They are spoon-fed little bowls of soup or pap four times a day.

They are visited once or twice a week by their families but they are not edified nor are they stimulated.

They endure.

Oh, those lethargic and inert mountains,

Those skeletal ghostly wraiths with their sunken collapsed faces

Speechless in Gaza,

Now they’re on the last leg of the race,

Inching silently towards the finishing line,

They have run of steam and interest.


They are dying of old age.


We honour them.

An appalling shock


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