Hooting Yard: The Administration of Lighthouses

Today I am going to talk to you – at you – about wisps and clumps. Gaining an insight into wisps and clumps will not give you a complete understanding of the physical universe in all its matchless wonder, but it is a start. Indeed I can think of few subjects which prove a better introduction. Some might talk to you of toads or gazelles or coconut matting, perhaps, or of strange irrefragible lights in the maritime skies, but I stick to wisps and clumps, with occasional forays into bee world.

A Wisp

So, then, what is a wisp and what is a clump? We shall look at each in turn. A wisp might be made of smoke or some other fume, for there are countless fumes, gaseous and otherwise. One guaranteed way of seeing a wisp with your very own eyes is to stand next to a dying bonfire. If you go and stand there too early, while the bonfire is still blazing, perhaps with an effigy of Roman Catholic martyr Guy Fawkes engulfed in the flames, you will not be able to see any wisps, or much else, because the smoke will be billowing, making your eyes water, and if some scamp has placed any noxious substances on the bonfire, such as anything made of rubber or plastic, things will be even worse, and you may feel like choking, indeed you may even choke uncontrollably, and topple to the ground, helpless, helpless, helpless, as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were wont to sing, long ago, on the west coast of America. They say that David Crosby’s moustache is to be preserved as a national monument, but I digress.

Basically, what I am saying is: keep away from the bonfire while it is at its height. You want to go and stand next to it as the last embers are dying, for it is then that you will be able to see wisps of smoke. What are their characteristics, these wisps? They are light, delicate, and fugitive. You will see a wisp rising from the glowing ashes, and it will slink upon the breeze for a few moments, and then it will be gone. All that is solid melts into air, according to Marx and Engels in The Manifesto Of The Communist Party (1848), and this is certainly true of wisps, which are hardly solid in the first place.

  • Wisps and Clumps
  • The Administration of Lighthouses (The Dobson Memorial Lecture)
  • Cemetery Birds (The Lopwit)
  • Ukrainian Postage Stamp Bees (An exciting parlour game)

This episode was original broadcast on the 5th October 2005. A complete transcript of this episode can be found on Frank Key’s Hooting Yard Website.

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