Somehow, a year has gone by since I last wrote anything. A couple of days ago I asked myself how this could have happened. No answers came to mind - just a niggling feeling that I'd better do something before total atrophy set in. So, here you go, folks - I'm back, with a raft, or box, or kitty-litter tray, of new stories, observations, and stupidities, for your pleasure and edification.
Not that 'dormantly' is the most precise word, either - in the past twelve months I've been to Indonesia and Europe, had a few excursions into the Australian hinterland, worked a fair bit on my musical projects, assiduously driven the Titanium Princess to utter distraction, corrected not a few psycho-jeezoids on the interwebs, read Tia twenty thousand books, cleaned the pool, and vacuumed the carpet. So, before I receive nasty complaints involving the use of words such as 'sluggard', let me tell you that I've been busier than a one-armed taxi driver with crabs.
Now, where was I?
We (the T.P. and I) hit the tarmac of Dublin airport courtesy of Ryan Air, a company that believes it is sound policy to pay a penny to piss in its aircraft. Ha, I thought - what are vomit-bags really there for, anyway?
A few bus-stops later, we were ensconced in a shabby little hostel just down the road from St Stephen's Green. Central Dublin was just turning on its lights for the night, so we strolled up to Sheehan's Hotel, through the doors, up the stairs, and into the arms of twenty-odd people with whom I'd become great friends, but whom I had never seen in the flesh until this day.
It's a strange feeling. I'd 'known' all of these people for a couple of years - we were veterans of daily conversations about all sorts of matters: science, religion, atheism, culture, music, chickens - and I'd become accustomed to their 'voices' - the ones that formed in my head each time I read an erudite post from Sharon, or Steve, or Alexandra, or Dr Z, or Tyler, or Decius, or Philip, or Ashley, or Titania, or Jonathan, or Clod, or any of them. They'd become, for me, a digital family. But here they all were - sitting around at tables, big draughts of Guinness tumbling into the mouths of those who weren't currently declaiming strenuously (and into some who were doing both).
At our entrance, they all fell silent and turned to us. "G'day, you godless bastards", I cried, and twenty pairs of arms were hugging me. It was, I must say, one of the most astounding moments of my life. And we were all together in Dublin - let us not forget that. We were here for a conference; we were here to discuss important matters of the intellect; we were here to sort out, to rationalise, the New Atheist Agenda. We had conveniently forgotten that we were in the presence of a far greater intelligence: the mind of Guinness.
I awoke (to use the term loosely) the next morning with the blurry realisation that I was due to deliver a presentation on 'Language and Religious Metaphor' at the conference centre in about ten minutes. This was not good - I was in the upstairs portion of a double bunk, into which I had apparently climbed a couple of hours before, and from which I could see no immediate method of climbing down. I considered just jumping for it, but was unsure of the protocols of the Irish public health service. Then I noticed the T.P's gentle snoring coming from directly below.
'Chris...' I mumbled, trying to wake her so that she could take over the bunk-extraction procedure. It was to no avail - she'd consumed about thirty pints herself, and was somewhere between sweet dreams and a full-blown coma, by the look on her face.
Eventually, we made it to the conference centre, terribly late. Dr Z kindly offered to speak first, so that I could assemble what was left of my wits, and his erudite lecture on the 'landscape' of Evolution spurred me to pull my finger out, get it together, and say something vaguely intelligent. Somehow I waded through my presentation, and received rather enthusiastic applause and comments at its conclusion. These people, I thought, are either remarkably kind and generous, or they're hanging out to get to the pub for lunch. It was lunch.
After some tasty victuals and a couple more pints of ambrosia, we returned the the conference centre, where our resident cosmologist, Oystein, gave a fascinating account of the evolution of fourteen billion years of Universe in just under an hour. Jeebus, it made us all thirsty, though. We repaired to Sheehan's, again.
And that, dear reader, is the extent of our conferencing, unless you call wandering the streets of Dublin at all hours of the night, singing songs, laughing our heads off, telling each other our life stories, and becoming the real friends we always knew we'd become, a 'conference'. I think it became a far better conference than we'd ever planned. We took a trip to Newgrange, marvelling at the ancient mounds, intricate rock carvings, and the extraordinary solar observatory; we wined and dined at restaurants selected for us by our Dublin host Tyler (and they were all Italian, and all fantastic); we walked the grounds of Trinity College, where so many of the great Irish poets and dramatists and novelists had laboured; and we became friends for life.
It's not a bad way to spend a week, don't you agree?
We departed for Wales. We had an appointment with another man I'd never met. His name was Bendi. Sweet non-Jesus, how will I ever do literary justice to that encounter? But I'll try. Next time.