A Formula of Thoughts


“A stitch in time saves nine is a formula one. A bad handyman is a handyman without his own tools is a formula two. Elephants never remember the same thing twice is a formula three. Every person has their own pecking order of these formulae, all different, some subconscious, created from a single over-arching formula that encompasses all such sub-formulae – but sometimes a sub-formula comes out into the open in the form of a ‘formula one’ proverb or saying like a stitch in time saves nine. This process is in many ways a template for how language itself is learnt and then used, i.e. a deep transformational structure followed by a looser structure that in turn becomes a public expression quite different from the deep structure that generated it….”


The speaker paused to pick up a glass of water from the table where his notes for his lecture were piled worryingly high. Judging by the depth of the remaining pages left unturned, he must have effectively only just started and Susan fidgeted in her seat, while rolling her eyes at her boy friend sitting next to her. The title of the lecture – THE SUB-FORMULAE OF AESTHETICS – should have warned them that it would be tough going, but you needed to attend at least 80% of lectures – unless you could obtain a Doctor’s certificate to justify a lower %.


A bad lecture heard is a good lecture spent. Susan laughed to herself as these words entered her mind unbidden. Thoughts thought were generally sillier than thoughts expressed. More words again invaded her mind as she tried to struggle against having more unbidden thoughts and, consequently, she turned her attention back to the lecturer who had already resumed his speech after a sip of water. She had thus missed some of his words – or they had avoided her flypaper thoughts to which they should have stuck.


“…and so we reach the point of defining the single over-arching formula from which all our thoughts and sayings derive…”

At that point the lecture hall’s fire alarm fluttered into full brazen alert from a chirruping start that had now been happening for what seemed longer than it actually was. On most occasions that this had happened in the past, it had been a drill … But suddenly smoke was rising from the lecturer’s pile of notes, upon which he threw the remains of the water in his glass. A no smoking policy in all parts of the University did not apply to his own study- office, it would seem, where the smouldering dog-end had first hidden itself among his papers just at the point where he had written: “A trigger-happy alarm is better than no alarm at all.”


And the students – Susan and her boy friend included – scuttled towards all possible exit points in the hall with no due attention to the official fire exits. A minor fire is a major one in the making, she thought, as she and her boy friend and seven others climbed over a ‘no exit’ barrier into the Vice Chancellor’s private sunken garden.


“They were never seen again, having become a formula of thoughts that flowers often embraced. A chain of nine daisies joined together by imaginary stitches.”

One thought on “A Formula of Thoughts

  1. To Never Become What They’re Not

    They received top billing in the early 1960s but thereafter slipped gradually into obscurity, quite the opposite career path to that of, say, the Beatles. They came from nowhere in the Harold Macmillan era and, after some continuing success, had gone back into the same nowhere by the time Edward Heath was prime minister…

    So it’s not surprising now in 2013 that you have never heard of them. Not even any hits on Google. You may even wonder if this group called FORMULA ONE had existed at all. Google is now full of references to Michael Schumaker, Nigel Mansell, Jenson Button and Keke Rosberg when you put those words in such search engines, outgunning any possible restart from the pit of the past by Juan, Rog, Stingo & Claude who once made up FORMULA ONE, reaching No. 1 in the charts on an insignificant week during a printers strike, itself now forgotten as an industrial dispute because of the lack of printed newspapers to report it. What was more, neither the hit or strike seemed worthy enough to reach the BBC news – or was it because there coincided a freak storm effectively wiping all those old-fashioned sound and vision tapes …. which meant even the freak storm has now been forgotten, too?

    Back then, before Jenson Button was born, Claude stared at Stingo as the latter started darning his mother’s stockings on a wooden mushroom. Every cloud has its aberration as well as its silver lining. FORMULA ONE’s biggest hit was a cover of an Elvis Presley song, as it happened.

    “The storm that was forgotten” as it later came to be called already sat low in the sky above the semi-detached house where Stingo and Claude sat in the living-room. Juan and Rog were already in the loft setting up the equipment for the group’s rehearsal, so those two couldn’t see the impending climactic cataclysm. Not sure anyone saw it coming.

    Or going.

    Memory is a peculiar thing, because it is now doubtful if FORMULA ONE were together that day for rehearsal, in any event. The storm, they say, created more mental than physical havoc. Roofs torn off were far and few between but the many brains loosened in the head can now only be seen in hindsight by those same brains. Unit Four Plus Two … minus the Nine O’Clock News.

    Stingo’s mum now does her own darning; a stitch in time saves nine, she often says, staring at the empty spaces in the family photo album. And the empty record rack … and the crippled gramophone with one blunted needle.

    You need two needles to knit things, she said to herself, while yawning. A tire change coming on the next lap, a lap where noodles of something that might once have been unspooled wool spilled down her front into the pit of her stomach. A chequered flag, a chequered life. A search engine without hits, an empty space where nothing can now be writ. Round in circles till the red bull gives out. A body with a wooden heart that’s made its final drumbeat. A bing without a bong.

    She wept as she heard those same ghostly drumbeats from the attic, those thumps beyond the dynamic reach of even the biggest sub-woofer. Left unrecorded. Unrecorded eventually by what’s here writ. Cyber storm forgotten long before it strikes.

    Button’s push comes to shove, as even metal hearts shunt shut.

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