Out of the Room, and Into a Bookshop

Robin Ince's Horizons Tour Diary

Cutting corners through buildings on the cusp of brutalism, I come across a Jack Rabbit in a flowerbed that is currently growing wood chip.

We look at each other for a while, sized up, he departs off towards the river. 

Walking through the park, I spy a small worm on the tarmac. I bend down to examine it, but it is dry and fragile to the touch, too late for my Francis of Assisi act, it will complete its function in the food chain instead (not with me, I didn’t eat it, I meant a bird would come down or similar). 

Interspecies empathy is an interesting thing. Is it mature or nurture that makes some people ambivalent to an earthworm or ladybird’s life, while others will be overwhelmed by a desire to help? I have always been a soft touch on such matters, though I am fortunately not one of those animal lovers that focuses their love so wholeheartedly in other species so that they can compensate for their sociopathic hatred of human beings. 

I am popping into Vivid Print to thank them for putting together my parcel of treats for my slightly longer than planned stopover in Edmonton. Unsurprisingly, they are both delightful people and we talk of politics, Canadian, British and American. I was interested to hear that the Canadian national flag has now been sullied by the vitriol of the right and it seems they have a similar battle to the battle many English people have with the Union Jack (I say English, not British because I think the Union Jack feels of more importance to England than Scotland and Wales, though you may tell me I’m wrong). It was the discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 indigenous children who had attended residential schools, schools whose aim was to assimilate indigenous children, assimilation meaning erasing their culture. There have been many more unmarked graves found. 

These discoveries have created an existential shock across the nation, that collision with an identity that does not seem to fit with the presumed national identity. This is, of course, why Britain does so much to avoid looking at much of its recent history, whether in South Africa, India or Kenya. 

James Baldwin once described the history of the United States as the history of its treatment of black people and until this was truly out in the open and faced head on then it was not acknowledging its reality. Perhaps this is the same of Britain and its’ colonialism and all that came with it.

James Baldwin. Photo by Allan Warren

I walked on to The Wee Book Inn. Though I had shopped in the city centre branch, I had not been to this even larger branch on 82nd Avenue. I walked straight into their Pride month display and was drawn to a copy of the novel Cruising, which inspired the Al Pacino movie of the same name.

I was only really here to say thank you for the Leonard Cohen book, but now I was here….

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I looked into the glass cabinets where the treasures are kept and saw Patricia S Warrick’s Mind in Motion, a study of the best work of Philip K Dick. I hoped that on examination it would be one of those inscrutable, joyless, academic books as it was not cheap. Sadly, this was not the case and now it is mine. The manager was a true bibliophile. Like me, she loves the history inside books, the marked pages, the notes, the stamps. I think I babbled too much, but I haven’t talked books for a few days. I also took with me Kim Stanley Robinson’s Down and Out in the Year 2000, the previous reader’s bookmark was a postcard of Renoir’s Girl in a Straw Hat. I knew nothing of Margaret Atwood’s Survival, a book she wrote 40 years ago about Canadian literature at a time when people though that such an idea was rather silly.

“The raucous though unlikely success of Survival caused me to morph overnight from a lady poet with peculiar hair to the Wicked Witch of the North, accused of evil communism or bourgeois capitalist sycophancy, though others greeted me as the long awaited forger of the uncreated conscience of CanLit. I did not think I was either…”

From the Pride shelf I take PoMoSexuals: Challenging Assumptions about Gender and Sexuality and one more from the glass cabinet, They Became What They Beheld by Edmund Carpenter, with photographs by Ken Heyman.

“‘Oh what a beautiful baby!’

‘That’s nothing’, said the mother, ‘you should see his photograph’”

I am off tomorrow, elating my room before the yellow wallpaper has encouraged my psychosis.

I have bags containing snacks, biscuits, vitamin drinks and beer.

Fearing they would go to waste. Wandering by the riverside, I saw what looked to me like a small encampment. I decide to collect up the provisions and just pop them onto what looks like the path to the tents and fire. My critical mind homunculi are all babbling.


“They will be furious that it is more vitamin drinks than beer”


“Why didn’t you give mouth to mouth to that worm, you bastard”

It is a pointless conversation and I let them keep talking as I walk with them back to my room.   

Questions in Seattle included –

Which of Katie Mack’s potential ways for the universe to end is your favourite?

What is the first step physicists are taking to attempt to resolve the mysterious discrepancy in the expansion of the universe recently discovered by Hubble, since it will require new physics?

Are you familiar with Nassim Haramein’s Unified Fields Theory, and what do you make of it?

What’s your favourite science joke? (I went with the one about Heisenberg being pulled over by highway patrol)

Listen to the Horizons tour podcast, Taking the Universe Around the World HERE

Robin Ince is a multi-award winning comedian, writer and broadcaster.  As well as spending decades as one the UK’s most respected stand-ups, Robin is perhaps best known for co-hosting The Infinite Monkey Cage radio show with Brian Cox.  For his work on projects like Cosmic Shambles he was made an Honorary Doctor of Science by Royal Holloway, University of London. His latest book, The Importance of Being Interested is out now.

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The Cosmic Shambles Network relies on your support on pledges via Patreon so we can continue to provide great, new, exciting, and most importantly, independent content without the need for third party ads.