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111 Brent Geese Aloft

November 13, 2013

How many aleveens had she in tool? I can’t rightly rede you that. Close only knows. Some say she had three figures to fill and confined herself to a hundred eleven, wan bywan bywan, making meanacuminamoyas

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (201.27-30).

There are more of them every day I see them. A couple of weeks ago I saw about a dozen on the water. Another day, I counted forty-six… then fifty-five. Today the tide was right out and there were many, many more gathered on the mudflats of Tipner Lake. A few started walking towards the stranded, clinker-built boat which has become something of a landmark here. A few more followed them, until virtually the whole flock started filing towards the boat.

Low Tide at Tipner. Picture from here.

Low Tide at Tipner. Picture from here.

There were at least 108 there – I’ll round it up to 111… As I walked over to have a closer look, I must have startled them, for the whole flock took flight, disappearing over the rooftops of Twyford Avenue. Only the dozen or so who decided not to join ‘the long march’ could be seen pacing about on the mud in the far distance.

Brent Geese on Farlington Marshes, picture from here

Brent Geese on Farlington Marshes. Picture from here

According to this site, the geese regularly seen in the Solent area

are the sub-species called Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Branta bernicla bernicla. They breed on the Taimyr Peninsula in Northern Siberia, and spend the winter on the east and south coasts of England, and other sites in north-western Europe. The total (world) population is about 300,000 geese, and about 100,000 come to the UK, with 30,000 ish coming to the Solent harbours and coast. Up to 6,500 geese use Langstone Harbour, and about 2,700 use Portsmouth Harbour (Source : BTO in Brent Goose Strategy). The first arrivals for the winter are mainly in mid September, although this date is becoming earlier as the population increases. Geese have proved to be adaptable and are able to feed on a wide range of plants. In Autumn they eat algae and eelgrasses in the shallow waters of the harbours. As these sources become depleted, they move on to grass pastures, winter wheat and other crops. In Spring, most geese migrate north by the end of March.

On the way to who knows where?

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Why 111? In the context of James Joyce’s novel, Finnegans Wake, the number has a talismanic significance (best explored in depth elsewhere). Suffice to say, there are connections with the Irish festival of the dead, Samhain, coinciding with Hallowe’en and All Saints’ Day (1/11 – 1st November), in which the boundaries between this world and the otherworld are more permeable. Then there’s the gematric connection with the ‘fiery goosemother’ ALP, the numerical value of her letters in the Hebrew alphabet (aleph, lamed, etc.) amounting to 111, the number of her offspring: ‘Olaph lamm et, all that pack? We won’t have room in the kirkeyaard’ (201.30-31). In this way, Joyce also identifies ALP with the Major Arcana of the Tarot, each card of which – 22 in all – is identified with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet: ‘But it’s quite on the cards she’ll shed more and merrier, twills and trills, sparefours and spoilfives, nordsihkes and sudsevers and ayes and neins to a litter’ (201.36-202.2).

Sifting through the litter of old papers the other week, I found a scribbled note of something I’d culled off the internet years ago:

CAIRN T LOUGHCREW – EQUINOX SUNRISE – CAIRN T RESONATES AT A STANDING WAVE OF BETWEEN 110 & 112 Hz – THIS EXACT AUDIO FREQUENCY RANGE, AND NO OTHER, HAS A MARKED AND UNMISTAKABLE EFFECT ON THE HUMAN BRAIN, IN PARTIC THE PRE-FRONTAL CORTEX & THE TEMPORAL LOBES – 111Hz – ALP > FREQUENCY OF CELL REGENERATION.

Well, I’d obviously read around Paul Devereux’s research on sonic archaeology and his theories about chanting in chambered tombs, but the site I scribbled those notes from must have been associated with the late Brian Barritt, whose obituary can be found here. I was obviously very taken with the coincidence between the generative matrix of ALP in Finnegans Wake and ‘the frequency of cell regeneration’, 111Hz…

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