following is copied directly from the first notes of the case which
I made early in the month of April, 2005, scribbled on various fragments
of card and paper which I now have before me.
It was the ?th of April, a Saturday, when, at work in one of those public
houses found in the west coast towns of Scotland, I was greeted by two
strangers, who had walked in upon the otherwise empty bar. The balmy
sun shone, partly obscuring the Arborian scenery of Pinewood Studios,
in the Dino De Laurentiis production of Flash Gordon, being shown on
Channel Four of British terrestrial television. It was a film I was
well immersed in from a young age, from the very first Christmas Eve
viewing I remember as half a dream, half a waking memory, of glass towers
smashing and Brian May's chords cleanly ringing into zero gravity. Back
in the present of the occasion, Richie Havens was singing on the barroom
stereo (the television sound being turned low).
Of the two strangers who had entered, one wore a beret straight and
backwards concealing what looked like being a bald or short-shaved head.
The other was hatless and of a noticeably swarthy facial appearance:
somewhat rough but of the kind and gentle disposition and expression.
They ordered coffees (black) and were seated. From looks and accents
and dress I guessed they were of one of the Germanic nations. It turns
out they were Norse, in the true sense.
They revealed their occupations, necessarily, for the pursuit of their
intention. They were (they claimed) journalists, seeking interviews
with some main names in the then current local land buy-out story -
a Mister McA(...), local butcher, and a Mister - they had forgotten
- MacR(...), I suggested. They concurred that he was their man. The
swarthy one (I never once asked names, or was told), gave appreciation
of the music and the bar. They enquired about accommodation in the town.
I turned off the television set. Other regular faces came in, less interesting
from regularity perhaps, but less interesting anyway. The Norwegian
pair read their Scottish paper. In time they left, with a sketched map
of the route to Mister MacR(...)'s house which I had done for them while
the bar had been otherwise empty still. I hadn't asked to see any journalistic
Through the evening, I presently mused that I should have offered up
the names of persons C and D, and perhaps also E. Time passed by and
the well-past-equinox spring evening eventually darkened. People came
and went in the barroom. Towards eleven o'clock, while discussing the
scope of philosophy in broken French and English with a lorry driver,
F., and his holidaying friend, both Bretons, the two Norsemen reappeared,
ordering lager beers. Compared to that of the Frenchmen and to my French,
their English was impeccable. For some reason, Frenchman F., in conversation
with a local landlady pausing at the bar, seemed at first to believe
the two Norwegians to be French also. I cannot account account for this,
and now put it down absently to some aberration of reality, too lazy
to guess a real psychological or aetiological cause.
Journalism, F. argued, was something other than truth. The swarthy one
took F. to reckon them (and all journalists) to be communists. F.'s
opinion of journalism was much the same as of philosophy, it seemed:
In his hand signals, philosophy (and language, I might add) were a parabolic
curve fading swiftly away from the true straight line of reality, something
it could never hope to catch. He perhaps thought the same of the pen
of the journalists. The swarthy one showed interest in my mention of
Wittgenstein. Nous voiyons l'universe seulement a les mots, donc, avec
les mots, nous pouvons comprendre ca universe, I tried to tell F. He
was having none of it. Happy to have the opportunity, I passed on details
of persons C and D, but E had her identity withheld.
The night drew to a close. The four foreigners left with everyone else.
A Norwegian coin, which the bereted one had shown me earlier among his
pocket change, remained on the bar. I put it in my pocket after some
examination: a central hole; krone written on it. On driving home, I
retired to my washroom with my ongoing reading of Borges' Labyrinths.
It was the story of the Zahir: Borges, narrating from a descent into
near-God madness, has been given a coin in a bar.
The coin , with strange markings on it, lingers in his mind, soon consuming
it. It is a 'Zahir'. I read on. A Philip Meadows-Taylor writes of the
Zahir objects that one who has touched a (or the) Zahir will soon touch
the rose; will soon touch God. My ears prick up at this man's name.
It must, I suppose, be a true man rather than a fiction. I know of another
Meadows-Taylor. It is surely too unusual a double barrel for coincidence
to have conjured it from Borges' always accurate imagination. The man
in question happens to have featured earlier that evening, in the barroom
on the soundtrack of the motion picture, alongside the aforementioned
Brian May; the man whose kettle drums accompany Flash Gordon's descent
into deathly sleep in Mingo City, and accompany the space capsule's
descent (ascent?) into the Mungo Vortex;
Roger Meadows-Taylor, of rock group Queen. Back in the washroom, I finish
my reading, and the coin falls from my pocket. I study it more. Three
crowns, and with them three number fives. Also, the word Norge'. (I
don't think of 'Borge' until later.)
I consider that Krone must mean Crown. I consider the hole in the coin,
and think of a halo, and of a crown of rose thorns. I feel glad that
the three numbers are not one higher. I consider that between the rose
and the crown is madness. I consider that five is the number of Man.
And if Man is five, then the devil is six. And if the devil is six,
then God is seven. I consider the capsule blasting through observatory
glass into space.
Note: Perhaps if all loose ends were tied up, a tale would in truth
be as vast as the universe...