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Sunday, 13 July 2014

Bouncing around

You know when you're trying hard not to mention something and it gets stuck in your head, and you're sure it's going to pop out of your mouth sooner or later and land you in big trouble? 

I mean like in Bridget Jones, where she's introducing her colleague Mr Fitzherbert at the book launch, and her inner voice keeps insisting it's "Mr Titspervert".

Well the first few minutes of lunch with my son and his girlfriend are similar, except the phrase I'm trying not to mention, as I told you yesterday, is "the postmodern philosophers Deleuze and Guattari". 

Now I know you're thinking that doesn't trip off the tongue, so how hard can it be not to say? But that's where you're wrong pal and displaying, if you don't mind my saying so, some ignorance of the workings of the human brain.

Because science has shown that consciousness lags well behind what we say and do. So a conversation moves too fast for conscious brains to edit and filter. We're on autopilot and the sensation of control is an illusion to make us feel we're not being bounced around the surface of reality, like a ball on a tame dolphin's nose. 

So what comes out of my mouth often ambushes me and lunch in the Alba Café is a struggle at first, which I survive only by shoving dry bread in my mouth, while the words "the postmodern philosophers Deleuze and Guattari" echo around my head like a loud shout of "bum" in a cave. (You must have done.)

But eventually it settles down and I start to enjoy myself. The move to Scotland has gone smoothly for Linda, and the two of them seem to be getting on well, working as a team and making things happen around the flat. Which is cool, I think, for an artist and a musician.

My son has always danced to an individual drumbeat, but he seems to have formed a great combo with a young woman who has her own unique rhythms. Sources of friction seem few, but once we've ordered plentiful portions of toasties, egg rolls, tea and coffee, Linda does mention one.

"For a beginner he is annoyingly good with a bow," she tells me. "Everyone thinks fingering is the hard part with cello and violin, because there are no frets. But that's just muscle memory. Ninety percent of what makes the music is in the bowing. 

"Normally it takes people ages to master. They're all rigid and they make an awful noise. But after I explained it, Dug got it right away."

"Why was that annoying," I ask.

She laughs. "Because I spent years being shouted at, desperately trying to get it right, then he just picks up the bow and has a better grip than me."

"Isn't it interesting that you've decided to move your arm before you're aware of it?" Dug says. "You can't affect the now with your conscious mind. But I think you can build it up, moment by moment, like turning a supertanker. So you do have free will."

"Not according to Gilles Deleuze," Linda says and my heart sinks. "He sees society as an organism in which we're all just components, with no free will or even identity."

I feel a bunch of words headed for the vocal cords and realise it's time for drastic action. "Don't you agree that rhythm is the heart of all music?" I ask her. "And the drummer the most important member of any band?"

"No," she says and without missing a beat makes one of the most patronising remarks I've ever heard, then laughs in surprise. 

"Without melody, my dear, there is no music."

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