Friday, 29 June 2012

Testament of Dr. John Dee to John Gwynne 1568

This Letter third and last I minde to make,
At your request for very vertues sake;
Your written panges, and methods set aside,
From that I byd, looke that you never slide.
Cut that in Three, which Nature hath made One,
Then strengthen hyt, even by it self alone,
Wherewith then Cutte the poudred Sonne in twayne,
By length of tyme, and heale the woonde againe.
The self same Sunne twys yet more, ye must wounde,
Still with new Knives, of the same kinde, and grounde;
Our Monas trewe thus use by natures Law,
Both binde and lewse, only with rype and rawe,
And ay thanke God who only is our Guyde,
All is ynugh, no more then at this Tyde.

Skim reading.

This month has been rather an odd one for me.  I have been writing a fair amount on here, viz. The Sermons of the Refuter blog whereas by contrast, I feel rather guilty to admit, I haven't managed to put together an article of any scope for my less personal, more pseudo academic blog Echoes from the Gnosis.  In fact I feel rather guilty, because after having started to write a few paragraphs/pages for Echoes a few articles,  after a few paragraphs, midway through I have just saved the document and not returned to it as writer's block (damn it!) would seem to strike me down midway through.  Despite having various sources, notes, plans, ideas, quotations in front of me, I seem to lose inspiration and just stop, dead in my tracks.  So articles are forthcoming, all is not lost; I just need my enthusiasm to return to the fore once again.  To my dear dear readers who follow both, please accept my sincere and humble apologies for such an empty June.  rest assured, I have a plentiful variety of themes and subjects that I am toying with approaching and sharing my thoughts but for now I feel in a state of abject numbness mentally.

My SAD seems to have subsided to a large degree.  This is mainly due to the improvement in the weather as today has proved to be bright, balmy and blue skied.  Part of me wants to leap into one of my books once again and read something thought provoking, or to increase my knowledge upon something.  But I feel withdrawn and still unfocussed which may or may not be due to a lack of good sleep over the last couple of weeks.  Even my dreams seem to rather tepid in nature which is most unusual for me, and from the little I can recall, they seem rather short lived whilst they are taking place and, by consequence, even shorter lived in my memory.

So in terms of reading material I have been reading short articles, and slim paperback books.  These have included a few of Jung's articles in Aspects of the Masculine, published by Routledge, as well as G.R.S. Mead's Apollonius of Tyana, Morton Smith's The Secret Gospel, E.M. Tillyard's The Elizabethan World Picture (for the umpteenth time) and Roger Sherman Loomis' The Develpment of Arthurian Romance.  All of them short, succinct books and entertaining reading and a suitable way to feel one is skim reading yet not. And one has finished reading something with q sense of accomplishment, moreso than one would feel from having read, say, Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer.

I have had a few strange little coincidences take place.  I considered writing a pair of book reviews, this time on something fictional, of Hilary Mantel's superb Wolf Hall and the sequel, which Bring Up the Bodies.  Yet by coincidence, I read mention of Bring Up the Bodies in another blog so I abandoned the idea, plus, as I have stated above, perhaps I am not in the best mood for reading (or writing) anything of considerable length at the moment.  After this, I did consider and toyed with the notion of writing a few poems once again, to take my mind off what was going on and well, to allow myself to be creative once again, and maybe to publish one of them on here.  However I started to doodle some ideas and out of my thoughts, a couple of handfuls of lines came to mind.  I have not published them here for they will seem an act of plagiarism.   And that simply is not the intention nor the case.  Either my subconscious was remembering the words or, for some unbeknownst reason,  my thought process resembled rather uncannily that of Edmund Spenser, as numerous motifs and ideas found in his Prothalamion were echoed in my attempts at writing poetry, even the reference to the weather, and the fragility of my mind at the moment.

To quote Spenser, rather than my comparatively mediocre doodlings:-

Calm was the day, and through the trembling air
Sweet breathing Zephyrus did softly play,
A gentle spirit, that lightly did delay
Hot Titan's beams, which then did glister fair;
When I whose sullen care,
Through discontent of my long fruitless stay
In prince's court, and expectation vain
Of idle hopes, which still do fly away
Like empty shadows, did afflict my brain,
Walked forth to ease my pain  

Friday, 22 June 2012

Cold Milky Tea

This morning, I don't know why, but I gulped down half a mug of milky tea which had been sitting there since the night before.  This practise is, to say the least, unusual for me inasmuch as I don't tend to drink tea (cold or otherwise) very much.  Indeed, I never drink tea (except for the occasional lemon and ginger tea) on my own, it is a purely social ritual which I engage in whilst in the company of others.  I don't even particularly like tea, yet if I am in company, I will make/drink it and enjoy it whilst making conversation, lighthearted, serious, intellectual, trivial, whichever and whatever.  In terms of coffee, and by that I mean real, proper coffee, I can quite happily and willingly make that in my own company and sip and enjoy two to three cups.  The coffee can come from my trusted Nespresso machine to make espressos (or should that be espressi?), percolated coffee, or simply adding 3-4 heaped tablespoons to a cafetière.  As long as the coffee is fresh, ideally ground beans, and not the ghastly instant variety I am certainly content and satisfied.  So imagine the double surprise of my drinking cold tea this morning, doubly disgusting all in one mouthful.

To digress, and drawing once again from Jung, "There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection.  To round itself out, life calls not for perfection but for completeness; and this 'thorn in the flesh' is needed, the suffering of defects without which there is no progress and no ascent."  Fortunately for me, being a perfectionist has never been one of my traits, good or bad, I find that I prefer things to be right rather than perfect.  To that end, I find myself disagreeing with the philosophy and attitude espoused by the Cathars and by the Gnostics, of achieving perfectionism.  It simply is not possible in this world without making errors, mistakes, even perpetrating wrong and committing sin; that is the nature of free will and of being human.  It appears to me that life, for the most part, is nothing more than an endless series of optical illusions and trompe l'oiel.  It is not always possible to determine what and who is real, and by extension, what are who is false, or merely an illusion.  To cite experience as being an important and determining factor, this too is open to speculation, interpretation and debate.  As all conspiracy theorists will tell you, if a lie is told enough times, enough people will believe it and it will become gospel, even if the factual reality is not the case at all.  One can be lead down a pathway of deception, embellished so extensively along the way that ultimately one will forget the source and the untruth will become accepted as true.  Essentially it becomes an accepted reductio ad absurdum/verum (delete where applicable).

In order to live life, and to find true direction, it seems better to use a compass, and not a map; for maps are continually changing and can subconsciously shape, or worse still, deprive one of their destiny.  Life ultimately is a journey, a voyage, and it is up to us as individuals to decide whether or not we shape choose to shape it in a way that is fascinating, to others as much as to ourselves (and tell a story as epic as that of John Mandeville), or is one that is filled with banality, a lack of dissatisfaction, disillusionment, disappointment, and only punctuated with an occasional bright spot to elevate the spirits.  Though Mandeville's work has been largely denounced as being fictional, contrived and inconsistent, it is clear that there are indeed elements of truth told therein.  These nuggets in between some of the farfetched imagery does suggest that Mandeville did indeed visit these places and only populated his story with elaboration to make it yet more interesting to his intended, educated audience. Travel writer Giles Milton explored the 'world' as described by Mandeville in his The Riddle and the Knight, and uncovered more veracity in his stories than had previously been accorded to the fourteenth century writer.

Some of the extraordinary creatures as described by John Mandeville.

Ultimately I feel that a world shaped by allegory, by symbolism and blurred by optical illusion are employed, is all the better to understand it, by appealing to one's unconscious and subconscious.  This outlook is infinitely more fascinating than one which is purely constrained to logical, rationalist thought and conscious.  It allows one to think, rather than simply be told what to think.  In these times, the growth of science and understanding has largely diminished the strength and power of magic, where astrology is no longer considered a science, etc.  Other than through (generally) subversive propaganda machines employed by governments or their agencies, which dictates the consensus of opinion by the hoi polloi unable to form opinions for themselves, the individual believes himself capable of choosing what to think.  Despite this 'choice', it appears that the individual would still seem prefer to hear the truth in black and white rather than interpret, contemplate, and make up his or her own mind.  Fact over interpretation will always win out, despite contemplation being inordinately more intriguing for the truly enquiring mind. 

Nonetheless, it is important to be able to differentiate between that which is allegory (a term in itself derived from the Greek ἀλληγορία meaning 'veiled language') and that which is simply untrue, and intentional deception.  To elaborate further, what is myth, and what is history?  Why are people's beliefs, even in this day and age, shaped by the need to believe in something incredible, and irrational, when all else around needs to be explained? What irrational instinct within us, where all around is rational, makes the majority of us not want to question such primal impulses when we seek the answers to so much else?  Is it fear, or merely fear of disappointment that prevents us from taking that step further and forward?

There is little desire anymore for subtlety, for use of semiotics, metaphors, or allegorical devices.  Despite the advances made in science, the picture remains incomplete and generally, once one question is answered and resolved, a host of others are opened up, provoking yet further questions, rather than the simple acceptance of what had been previously,  accepted tacitly or otherwise, as being fact.  And what of paradox?   Should Polonius' observation of "though this be madness, yet there is method in't" be dismissed?  And in modern culture, the opening scene of David Lynch's Blue Velvet (which, unbelievably, is now over 25 years old) which opens with a picturesque vision of Americana complete with white picket fences, blue skies and a saccharine song playing but ends with the peace being shattered by a heart attack, and seeing what lies beneath of the idyll as the camera prowls into the grasses, ultimately exposing the bugs, mites and parasites below.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Humanist intellect

Currently I am reading "The Great Humanists: An introduction" by Jonathan Arnold.  In this excellent work Arnold discusses the lives in brief summaries of the lives, mindsets, and writings of fifteen of these humanist thinkers.  The crux of the book itself, not including index, appendices and bibliography only spans some 240 pages.  However to Arnold's credit, thus far, the work doesn't appear to have short changed the reader despite the apparent brevity of the work.  It covers a significant amount of ground, detailing the reader of these individuals in a informed, and highly readable, manner.  Arnold himself is Chaplain and Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford and seems to have immersed himself in his passion of the Renaissance.  A man after my own heart.  Not only has he written this splendid book, but has performed and sung with such choral groups as The Tallis Scholars, The Hilliard Ensemble and the Sixteen, with whom he was part of the ensemble for some fourteen years.  So not only have I read his writings, but it seem apparent that I have also heard him sing.

Reading through Arnold's book, I find myself relating to the mind set of the Humanists discussed therein.  In reading his words, one finds oneself almost wishing that the Studia Humanitatis was still encouraged and embraced by the educational system now, as it might well encourage a better standard of learning and appreciation for values by the majority of youth today.  This method of study would encourage thought, ideas, common sense and decency.   These attributes which seem to be in a state of sorry decline in this day and age where a standard of education and learning seems to be continually waning, yet somehow high grades, success and achievement would appear to be on the increase.  This in an era where it is acceptable to communicate and write exam papers via text speak and allowed language to regress into a pseudo literate code of numbers, and words to convey ideas.

In terms of examinations to test the scope of knowledge of the youth today, and rewarding them with a supposedly extraordinary sense of achievement has come to exist where the less intelligent/knowledge are being rewarded.  Another example of a society where it is acceptable to be rewarded for failure.  Perhaps in comparison to the extreme mediocrity of their less applied peers they are seen as more "switched on" and "bright", but it gives such individuals a truly misguided sense in what permits them to refer to themselves as being intelligent.  Unfortunately, intelligence and the quantifying thereof, is such a grey area that it is almost impossible to define; which is endlessly frustrating when one defines or categorizes oneself as being intelligent and to others, the contrary is all too apparant and it seems quite evident that they are not.  For what it's worth, and to me, to classify oneself as intelligent - and certainly in comparison to others (within my peer group of friends and contacts), the following factors are important. Otherwise, to my mind, the whole (subjective) notion of intelligence is redundant.

i/   Good responses from the point of view of truth or fact
ii/  An ability to carry out abstract thinking
iii/ Adjustment to different situations and environment accordingly.
iv/ Capacity for knowledge, and its application

However such apparent "stupidity" can be hopefully turned around and lead towards something beneficial.  It requires no art to become stupid: the whole art lies in exacting wisdom from stupidity.   Having been once told that one is judged by the company which one keeps, I worry for my own value and self worth.  I find it difficult to find, for the most part, like minded friends with whom I can share thoughts, ideas, opinions.  That is not to say that my life is completely devoid of them, and I do appreciate those friends I do have for their enthusiasm, their friendship, their ideas and conversation.  Sometimes I confess however that except in exceptional circumstances and company, do I feel comfortably enthused and that my brain is alive, engaged, and 'switched on' on a higher plain or different level than the mundane norm.  It is a sensation I feel I lack too frequently in my life, and having experienced such intellectual 'stimulation', I am fully aware of what I am missing.  But what to do and how does one meet such people?  It just seems so very rare, rare, rare.

Forgive me, dear readers, today I feel disappointed and disillusioned with myself, my current life and environment.  Perhaps herein lies a masked cry for help, as with the rest of this 'blog' where I find myself opening up yet not revealing a great deal.  Hence the need for me to, once again, escape into other worlds, times, minds, and thought patterns outside of the one I find myself trapped in.  I feel bereft of an ability to reveal my personality too much, for fear of it being misunderstood, and worse still, to find myself being rebuked for being just that, myself.

In the early seventeenth century, the writer and poet Abraham Cowley wrote a poem called The Wish.  Certainly I find that the opening words echo and convey the yearning and sense of longing I have, deep within my heart, my spirit, my soul.

Well then; I now do plainly see,
This busie world and I shall ne'er agree;
The very Honey of all earthly joy
Does of all meats the soonest cloy,
And they (methinks) deserve my pity,
Who for it can endure the stings,
The Crowd, and Buz and Murmurings
Of this great Hive, the City

Ah yet, ere I decend to th'grave
May I a small House, and large Garden have!
And a few Friends, and many Books, both true
Both wise, and both delightful too!

The Allegro

Haste thee nymph, and bring with thee,Jest and youthful Jollity,
Quips and Cranks, and wanton Wiles,
Nods, and Becks, and Wreathed Smiles,
Hung as such on Hebe's cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek

Today, my SAD feels rather more pronounced.  Yesterday felt like a return to summer and I enjoyed a reasonably long walk back home, covering nearly 7 miles on foot, though at times I did mutter to myself that I wish I had my bicycle with me as I would probably have got home in a third of the time.  But, no matter, I walked along, looking at people, timing my journey by the maps that claim that such and such is five or fifteen minutes away.  Most of what I saw wasn't entirely inspiring to be honest, yet I can proudly say that I managed to cross a bridge across the river which I didn't enjoy much but I was damned if I was going to take a bus ride for three stops and then carry on à pied to my final destination.  If I was to get a bus, well I would take one that took me home.  However, I was steely in my determination as I strode southwards and eventually made it after just over two hours.  Along the way I picked a beautiful red rose from a rose bush, a deep yet bright colour.  And later on, I picked a similarly beautiful white rose.  Neither of them were scented (it only seems those coloured with insipid pastel colours are imbued with a scent) but they do and did look lovely.  Upon my return I relaxed, attempted to read, and ended up falling asleep for about an hour on the sofa.  A combination of the toll of only four hours the night before and the long walk home.

The title today is taken from the poem by Milton, a pretty ode to the goddess Mirth, and later set to music by Handel.  The Allegro of the title refers to a happy man, obviously from the Italian word for "happy" as an adjective rather than as a noun.  Nonetheless I have chosen this to reflect some of the bittersweet irony I feel, not least given the weather yesterday; the shortest day of the year yet at the same time the brightest one it feels we have experienced in some given time this summer.  The weather this year is truly nonsensical, and it feels like after a relatively glorious spring (which seems so, so long ago) that summer has been bypassed.  Friends are suffering from colds (in June!), the weather is so changeable, and the sky is dull, and weather dull and muggy for the most part.  The quote above is an attempt to tempt Fate, and to let the sun burst through the clouds once again, and at least me feel some hint of being an allegro once more.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

35 Questions

Following on from having seen other friends conducting self interviews on  their blogs, I have decided to carry out a similar exercise here, albeit in a slightly abbreviated form.  Despite the fact that I enjoy discovering information, facts, etc - sometimes it is equally fascinating, in an occasional flourish of egocentricity, to engage in some introspection and answer some questions about oneself, whether posed by others or not.  One question has provoked me to respond in discuss an aspect of myself in more depth so that may well be the next topic or the one following on here.  Anyway here we go:-

June 2012

What three adjectives describe yourself?  Contemplative, Paradoxical, Inquisitive. (Some might interchange the word "Inquisitive" with "Eccentric" but that's not for me to say).
What is your greatest achievement?  In some ways, still to come.  For the moment, or if that moment doesn't arrive, I hope it's from being thought of as being a true, loyal and good friend.  I always feel the best way to tell a friend is one who appreciates you, is delighted to see you and spend time in your company discussing everything.  Also, for more intimate friends, those who's influence and interests rub off on you, and a little part of their soul becomes part of yours, being able to share and understand passions together.  I have several small achievements I am proud of, such as being interviewed by The Guardian about a documentary I made, but I can't think of a "greatest" at present.
What’s your favourite smell?  Incense burning in charcoal, dry vetiver, oak or yew smoke, spikenard, nutmeg, naptha, pine cones, and freshly ground coffee. All mixed together and inhaled slowly and leisurely as each note penetrates the nostrils.  I also like the smell of Dove soap on warm flesh (mine or someone else) or if I'm feeling opulent Bien-être by U - Douche gommant à la cannelle et au sucre, on me, after a long day.  By contrast I loathe the smell of sweet (and generally cheap) perfumes and aftershaves; as well as mimosa, haddock being cooked, and household bleach.
What is your favourite taste?  A salad of rocket leaves, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and fried haloumi cheese.  Or assorted, roasted, salted nuts.  Washed down with a glass of Pineau des Charentes or fresh zesty orange juice.

What’s your favourite piece of music? Almost impossible to answer.  I, myself, am not musical as I can't sing nor play an instrument (weak tendons in my fingers), but I love and appreciate music, and am unable to imagine being without it.  So, in response, possibly Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis.  Or Aleluya. Non vos relinquam orphanos by Léonin.

  What would you like everyone to read to read? Why?  At risk of sounding contrived, I agree with the others upon whose blogs I was inspired to carry out this (self) questionnaire; a world where everyone could read rather than dictate what specifically they should read.
What website would you everyone to visit? Why?  A similar response to the one above, my knowledge of the Interweb is rather restricted and limited, so if I had to choose I would say Google, it has the potential to be the font of all knowledge.
What is your favourite sound?  Early morning birdsong; Tibetan horn; The call to prayer reverberating around the valleys in Cappadocia.
If you were an animal, what would you be?  A hedgehog with savvy who knows how to cross roads.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Read; Devise ideas and plans for various creative projects; Map adventure games from the 80's; Troll around bookshops; Meander aimlessly with seeming purpose and direction.
What do you like most/least about your job?  What I enjoy the most is the writing and researching, uncovering facts or data and presenting it in reports or briefings.  This applies to my work in policy as much as to my work as a writer.  I also enjoy the fact that hopefully the work I am undertaking is somehow making a difference and improving people's lives in some way or another.  I dislike the abyss of creativity and imagination I find at times in my work, and people not understanding my strengths, abilities as well as mundane approach by so many.  Lack of appreciation also can be damaging to the soul. 
What would Heaven be like if you were in charge?  To the east, like the valleys of Cappadocia, with fairy chimneys and stylite hermitages, and filled with troglodyte churches to be discovered.  To the south, like Xanadu complete with chasms with caves of ice as in Coleridge's Kubla Khan, to the west flowing plains of glorious flowing green sunkissed countryside, filled with hills, trees and abandoned ruins.  In the centre, a "pleasure dome", with a great library in the centre, much like that of Alexandria or mirroring something out of Borges' Library of Babel,  filled with books to grow and expand upon one's knowledge, above a museum filled with wondrous ornaments and paintings.  Surrounding this complex, comfortable bed chambers for sleeping, at peace, with feather filled duvets, and fluffed up pillows.  Inhabiting this pleasure dome would be dear friends as well as intelligent, charming, attractive and open minded, adventurous souls; happy to discuss, talk, and amuse.  All in a peaceful, tranquil, and stress free, environment.  In short, bliss.  
Borges' Library of Babel, as envisioned by Erik Desmazieres.
When and where are you happiest? In summertime, bright skies, sunshine, and in the countryside, away from city fumes and stress with a couple of books, some cold fresh juice, a packed salad for lunch with the opportunity to walk, explore, and relax under a tree.  In the past, I remember being happy standing naked at around midnight, under the star splashed sky, in a field a few kilometres outside Rennes-les-Bains, overlooking Rennes-le-Château, in 1998.  I doubt I could do that now thanks to Dan Brown and his pulp fiction best seller.  Also exploring the caves and churches in Cappadocia where it seemed no one else had been for many years.
Something you are never without.  One of my book/man bags with at least two books in it, together with my iPod, normally updated with music I feel will fit the mood of what I am reading and blot the world out, and which I (generally) never get around to listening to.  Also my silver necklace around my neck (quelle surprise!) and a Berber silver bracelet on my wrist.
 One of my (two) trusted book bags that accompanies me everywhere.
What is your most appealing habit?  Approachable, understanding, empathetic and incorporating those attributes into being gentle and well mannered.
And your least appealing habit?  Being unreliable at times, which has lead to my endeavoring to do my best, rather than make rash promises I fear I might break.  Or projecting external insecurity when inwardly confident.  Apparent and more often than not, evident exasperation at the stupidity of others. 
What trait do you most dislike in others?  Ignorance and stupidity, and the acceptance that it is somehow cool and acceptable to be that way.  Be that in speech, outlook on life or just a lack of general awareness and intellect.  The appearance and outlook of the modern youth who wear "hoodies" inside buses or hang around streets, looking miserable and threatening.  Also aggression, violence, and disregard for the beauty of nature, its plants, wildlife and natural forms.
What is your most treasured possession?  My books.  Closely followed by, if it had to be just one thing, either my Khodynka Cup of Sorrows, not rare but imbued with history and sentiment, or my Roman lamp, dating from the 2nd century AD.  On a purely sentimental side, it has to be Little Fro, for those who know me well, will know who and what he is.
A selection of "Cups of Sorrows" - I have just the one.
If you could have a supernatural power, what would it be? To be able to read other people's thoughts and minds.
What words or phrases do you overuse? "I don't know but..." and then give an opinion or the correct answer.  I do tend to call most people I am close to "Darling", "Dear", "Sweetheart" or "My love", and therefore punctuate the end of most sentences with one or another of those terms of endearment.  I was told I used to say "Wouldn't you say?" (or words of that ilk) at the end of most sentences.  My excuse was that at the time I spoke and thought a lot in French (I still do) and was translating the expressions "n'est-ce-pas?" and "non?" into English.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?  A prize winning ticket for the Euro-Millions, or a time machine.
How would you like to be remembered?  I have (at least) two personas in me.  There is "Kris" and there is "Kit".  For the most part, my true (or oldest) friends know me as "Kris" (but by no means all) and the majority of work colleagues and business (but by no means all, again) contacts know me as "Kit".  Even now,  some people choose to know/remember me for the work I did some ten years and more ago when I created extras for DVDs and interviewed actors, directors and technicians.  Yes, it is wonderful to be remembered thus, however, people assume as a result that I should fit into some sort of cliché associated with those films.  That I should wear black t-shirts embellished with movie poster art on it, or SLAYER, or GOBLIN, or the like on it; or that I have strange tattoos and/or body piercings; or that I like gore and horror movies (admittedly I like thrillers, trashy or intelligent), and that I should listen to death/heavy metal.  Nothing could be further from the truth and people end up disappointed and disillusioned as a result of who I really am.  My look was never anywhere near the above, and have mostly moved on from cinema, and readjusted to different pursuits since then.  Others have seen different sides, such as work colleagues, but I just wish people would see and have a more balanced view of what makes me, well, me.  All different facets, not a compartmentalised self.   On a positive note I would like to be remembered as being kindly, genuine, knowledgeable, a good sincere and true friend, regardless of whether you know me as Kit or Kris, and under whichever persona; whether past, present or future.  In short: "a good natured, slightly enigmatic soul with a brain, a heart and a naughty side."
What music do you enjoy playing/listening to most?  I enjoy listening to choral music and chant.  But equally so, I do listen to Ella Fitzgerald, troubadour songs, Ravi Shankar, the dreaded genre of music branded "New Age", and assorted pop which include Bat for Lashes, Etienne Daho, Tori Amos, Annie Lennox, Dead Can Dance, Françoise Hardy, Florence and the Machine, Espers, and Rufus Wainwright.
What did you dream of being when you were younger? An Egyptologist/archaeologist, a photographer (much like Thomas the photographer in Blow Up), and yes, an alchemist.
David Hemmings, the photographer in "Blow Up", an influence and inspiration.
What were you like at school?  Stressed and mostly lonely, attributes which have segued into my adult life.  I made some ill informed decisions as to who I thought my friends were, and ultimately weren't, and that has impacted on my later ability to trust people and make friends in later life, as I still don't always trust my own judgment.  I was seen as being different, shy, and reasonably bright - again, perhaps I still am.  I certainly lacked inner (and outer) confidence, but thankfully that has mostly dissipated as I have increased in years and wisdom.  I certainly never really "fitted in", suffered from depression (which wasn't fully understood then), and was mostly glad when those years were finally over.
How do you cheer yourself up when you are feeling down? Read mediaeval and Renaissance poetry whilst listening to music, practice Yoga and Meditation, or to call friends, in certain cases to catch up with people I haven't spoken to in ages such as Catriona, Dagmar, Carlo, Sébastien.  It's always wonderful to so catch up no matter how much tempus has fugited.
Who has been the best teacher you have ever had?  Mme. Greenhalgh, a delightful petite Niçoise, who made me love the French language; she was inspiring, witty, supportive, friendly and encouraging, but 'old school' and not trying to 'hip' and 'cool' to be liked; everything a good teacher should be.  I hope she is still with us, as she would be in her seventies by now.  I think of her fondly even now.
Something that few people know about youHmmmm... whilst retaining discretion... I read very slowly (despite having an endless passion for books).  I suffer from terrible agoraphobia, especially when walking across bridges - over roads or rivers. I am hopeless with remembering numbers, although if they are dates, I am and can.
Akhenaten, Nefertiti,and the Aten: A time of so unsolved many enigmas
If you could go back in time, where would you go and why?  Fourteenth century BC Armana, to solve the co-regency question of Amenophis III-Akhenaten, to see what Akhenaten actually looked like and to gaze upon the beauty of Nefertiti, to discover the true identities of Smenkhkare and Ankhkheprure-Neferneferuaten, to discover the parentage of Tutankhamun, and to discover who is buried in KV55 and where all the other Armanan royals are buried.   Or to be in Alexandria in the first century when Simon Magus was there and to hear his thoughts and ideas, as well as to visit the wonderful library, and just to move in Gnostic circles, hearing the differing philosophies in circulation at the time.  Or simply to be a Renaissance prince, cherishing the ideals set out by Machiavelli, enjoying the arts, architecture, music and culture surrounding me, understanding allegory, enjoying the works of Ramon Llull, Dante, etc, etc.
What is your best learning memory from school?  I thoroughly enjoyed learning Latin, after the first term, when the Latin master finally chilled out (maybe after seeing the approach the student teacher had, and the positive reception it was greeted with by the boys).  The class had just seven of us.  But it was wonderful learning how to decline verbs, conjugate nouns, in such a rich and textured language, and at such an early age.
Are you a tidy desk or a messy desk and why?  I would say "Organised chaos", I am not O.C.D. by any stretch of the imagination, but I cannot abide things being messy and untidy either.  My desk is never clear; I have various objects on it, a pile or two of books, as well as papers, computer, lots of pens, pencils, and a pack or two of salt liquorice on it.  Plus normally a cafetiére and a coffee mug on it.
What’s your favourite thing to do when it rains?  If I am outside, to run under a big oak tree or the like and sit and watch.  If I am inside, I tend to become very introspective, and sit and watch the rain streak down the windows.  I can't abide people who stand aimlessly under shop awnings; waiting, waiting, waiting for it to pass, it seems like such a waste of time.  
A poem you know by heart  The Listeners by Walter de la Mare.   
What would you like to learn to do next?  Read and understand Anglo-Saxon English, or drive comfortably and competently.
What question would have liked me to ask you? After all these questions, are we any closer to knowing the real you?
What would have been your answer?  I don't know, get to know me and find out!