A Flock of Clockwork Birds

Nothing deep this week – just a simple story, which happens to be true…

‘Flock of singing bird mechanisms, job lot’ said the advert.  And it had me – a bird in the hand…

I called the vendor, who – it transpired – lived less than a mile from my cottage.

“Yes,” he said. “Brass and steel.  Clockwork.  They have tiny bellows and a little brass whistle.  When you wind the key, the bird warbles and twists around.  My father had them, long ago.  Mother found them when she was turning out – asked me to find a home for them.  The sort of thing popular with Victorians, in little gilt cages, you know?  Could you use them?”

“Yes,” I said, not daring to pause for breath.

“How?” I wondered.

I could afford the price.  It seemed most reasonable for such treasures.  Real clockwork mechanisms – they are disappearing from our world like smoke.  No batteries.  No USB connectors.  Just brass and steel, cog and cam, key and spring.  I have loved clockwork, automatons and all such things ever since, as a toddler, I ripped my cardboard musical box apart to find where the sounds came from, and sat entranced as I watched the shining beauty of its mechanical perfection.

With no plan in mind, I simply knew I had to have the flock.  Perhaps the birds would sing to me and tell me how to bring them back to life.

At three o’clock I was led to the vendor’s garage.  A faded, mouse-gnawed, cardboard box was pulled out for my inspection.  Twelve little packages, each wrapped in yellowing tissue paper lay there.  He unwrapped one and placed the dainty mechanism in the palm of my hand.  Springs and cams glinted slightly in the dim light.

“Needs a key,” he said.  A second box was brought out, filled with hundreds of tiny folded waxed paper envelopes.  Why did he have that many?  He pulled one open.  I glimpsed fragments of wire and brass and plastic inside, and a shining brass key.

“Turns this way,” he said. “Counter-clockwise.  Left-handed.”

Like me.

He screwed the key into the mechanism and turned.  Nothing.  He twisted the device around, searching his memory, muttering to himself, “Must need oiling.  Not been touched in years.  How do they start?”

Then his hand knocked the fly wheel.  It began to turn.  A few slow revolutions, then it spun as smoothly as it ever had.  The bellows moved up and down like some tiny creature’s beating heart, and the warbling began.   On and on it trilled and I watched and listened, thanking the inexplicable impulse that had nudged me into answering his advert.

Next a box of birds (“All hand painted, you know.”) was passed to me for inspection.  Two hundred?  Maybe three?  Some in shades of blue, some gold.  I must have gasped at the quantity.

“Oh, you’ll be amazed when you see how many you’ve got here,” he told me.

Sure enough, as he lifted box after box, I saw an endless mass of the clockwork devices.  Enough for every key and every bird.

“No idea why my father had them,” he said.  “Obviously he was planning to do something with them and they got forgotten.  Just been stuck in an attic ever since.  You sure you can find a use for them?”

“Definitely,” I said, wondering how and when and what.

I’d happily have paid his price for the original twelve, but here I am with dirty, dusty box after dirty, dusty box of the tiny wonders, now stashed in my coal-store and waiting, waiting not so much longer now, maybe, to be released – to sing and twirl and entertain as they always intended to.

Someone out there is looking for truth

What a unique quest this person is embarking on.  What huge questions are forming in his (I think it’s a him, but it could be a her) mind.  This young searcher is in for quite a journey.

Perhaps a few musings will help.

English: Double-slit experiment Deutsch: Doppe...

English: Double-slit experiment Deutsch: Doppelspaltexperiment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Number 1:  If you’re not already familiar with it, watch Dr Quantum’s nice easy explanation of the famous double slit experiment.  Those are electrons he’s talking about.  Not just some weird geeky stuff in science labs, but the stuff inside the atoms that YOU are made of.

The important thing to notice is that those electrons are potential – they could fetch up behaving in various ways until (this is the important bit) they are observed.

Once they are looked at, the potential collapses into one single outcome.  Their path becomes fixed.

So it is with life.

Our young truth searcher is doing as we all do during adolescence – minutely observing every aspect of his being, thinking and doing; noting the behaviour and responses of everyone around him and searching the media, the neighbourhood and his own imagination for answers to the questions that haunt him.

“Which box do I fit in?  How should I be classified?  Am I autistic/ gay/ attractive/ overweight/ addicted…?”

Would he listen if I suggested he was all and none of these things?  He has limitless potential (well, within certain genetic parameters, obviously – he can’t choose to grow wings or a third leg) but as he observes, all that potential collapses down to become a yes or no answer.  His electrons enter this slit or that, rather than neither or both.


The young truth seeker I have in mind is specifically wondering whether he is on the autistic spectrum.  There are so many others – young people, parents and teachers asking that question.

There are, as he’s discovered, tests and questionnaires designed to observe the potential and categorise.  A precise diagnosis can be obtained.  Once he has it, he will have a clear list of his strengths and weaknesses.  To be honest, the diagnosis will most probably highlight the perceived weaknesses – the ways in which he can expect to differ from the neurotypical population.

Once he has his label, he will start to function within the box society has provided.  A kindly expert will confirm all his innermost doubts and fears about his socialisation skills, his obsessions and single-mindedness.  Perhaps he will feel somewhat comforted by this.  Perhaps he’ll feel limited and imprisoned.  Or both.

All is potential until the choice is made.

Your choices are like cart ruts on a muddy track.  The more you select that particular route, the deeper the ruts become, and the harder it is to vary your path and head in a different direction.  Certainly they make it easier to travel, but they limit you.  Before long, it will take a huge effort to climb out of your rut and negotiate a new direction.



Avatars (Photo credit: Phillie Casablanca)

Number 2:  You chose your avatar.  We all did.  In advance of commencing this particular attempt at playing The Game of life, we picked our character.  Some vaster aspect of ourselves, which we’ve almost forgotten in our intense concentration on the game we’re playing, selected the start location, the gene pool (parents), the prevailing zeitgeist and sundry other aspects that would make this little character scuttling around the planet into YOU.

If you selected a genetic predisposition for Aspergers, you did it because that was a potential you wished to explore.  Think of it like building a character for your favourite role player game on your console, and selecting a particular weapon or strength which will enable you to excel at particular challenges.

Sure, it’s easy for me to say.  I’m neurotypical.  I don’t do battle every second of my life with a sensory overload that would flatten a tank.  I don’t have to avoid eye-contact because I can see so much of you when I look into your eyes that I’m completely overwhelmed.  I don’t need ear plugs, sleep masks, alcohol or medication to calm my senses enough to make life almost bearable.  I don’t over-analyse every experience and consider the inherent dangers and pitfalls to the point that I’m holed up in my room, terrified to venture out.

I know.

Just remember, though, you chose this.

I’m not being callous here – nothing could be further from the truth.  You chose it because you are an amazing being.  You’re up for this.  You have chosen a very different way of experiencing life.  You can delve deeper into it than I ever will.  You will find truths that I can only dream of.


Number 3:  There is a growing number of you, and you are working – alone and collectively – at discovering multi-dimensional aspects of life, while somehow cramming yourselves into a 3D human body.

I believe – and I’ve been pondering this for many years – that you are working to find ways of communicating this to the rest of us, and helping humanity to expand.  The language you choose will depend on the strengths and potential you allow yourself.  Perhaps you will write, make films, use mathematics or telepathy.  All these and more are at your disposal.

Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNZVV4Ciccg&feature=player_embedded and you’ll begin to see what I mean.


My book coverNumber 4:  I wrote a book about this.  It might help.  It explores all the ideas here and then some, and I wrote it for you, young truth-seeker.  It only contains my truth, of course, which may be completely different to yours, but nonetheless, you may want to explore it.

Click on the book cover if you do.



I wish you success on your quest and I look forward to reading or watching your journey as it unfolds.

Accept Aspergers – or any other label that serves you – but never accept the limitations it tries to place on you.

By all means consult those experts, but NEVER let them collapse your potential.

It’s limitless, and so are you.