I see the blond hair going grey, note the rapid step, catch him outside Mas a Menos and nail him down for a quick rabbit. Obligingly he puts down his shopping, says he's got a meeting with his project supervisor which is something he always hates, for project supervisors have a habit of telling a researcher that money is running short. But we've agreed to a meeting: it's going to be one of Claudia's discussion groups - Bernardo's on and Harold, the Bee-Bees and Joan and Barrie and Claudia - so we've just got to fix a date, okay?
What kicked it off was that furniture-moving job we did for Basy years back, when we got the story of the Astutos who came "on the wind", curious creatures with long heads who seemed to fit the current depiction of alien visitors, a depiction that has persisted from earlier times of bug-eyed little green men up to modern story-telling of mystery and imagination. The price I paid for following the current trend was a silly drawing I did at the time. And so the UFO thing, still with us and crying out for debate, prompts Claudia to have a go at it. Alive in the imagination of Basy's Aunt Maya from times way back when the priests of the Spanish conquest gentled out the savagery of murder, rape and disgusting cruelty, supporting these conquered Guanche people by speaking with angels.
"Angels, my arse! They were just blokes with short haircuts."
We move from side to side with apologetic smiles - "disculpe, pasar favor" - to allow other shoppers to pass on the narrow pathway. To delay his departure we move to find a seat. He knocks out his pipe, decides not to refill it: "I think smoking will have disappeared three-hundred years from now and I understand your relief as an ex smoker; but that doesn't mean aliens don't exist three-hundred years from now," he chooses a banana.
"Fred, what I mean is The Church hadn't invented aliens way back in the fifteenth century and the church dismissed local gods as heathen images. But fair enough! Though it's possible these Astutos are us, from different parts, different from us like Chinese, people without beards are different."
"If they are us they came from a different time. How are you on the concept of a parallel universe?"
"Fred, as a simple social-worker I had enough trouble coping with this universe! We had aliens on the housing lists but no opposite numbers in my line of work. Do you really believe this stuff about a parallel universe?"
"Stretch your mind, dear chap. There was a time when the Earth was believed to be the centre of the universe. It took a few brave men to prove otherwise. Time is funny stuff. An alien population could have been here centuries ago."
"Hang about! How come I haven't seen any? And where's my doppelganger from outer space? We should have a joint meeting, propose an amendment to The Mental Health Act to include admission under Section twenty-five of dangerous doppelgangers."
"A parallel universe must be well ahead of us in development... If they were behind us there would be no problem... But if they can visit us ...then they must be well ahead of us... Do you see?" His careful exposition places me in the student category - "Ok, so I'm stupid'" with a gesture of compliance.
"I didn't mean to imply" - he adds hastily - "but it is a difficult concept to visualise: different from us... A much later us, that is. Maybe they were aiming for the twentieth century and hit the fifteenth by mistake. Who's to say? They saw country dancing and brutal religious intolerance. And just round the corner there is the slaughter of the Huguenots just waiting to happen with Hitler's Holocaust way out in the future... But, as I say, a difficult concept to visualise."
I got into enough trouble visualising Aliens the last time, but they were nice to children, and I don't really want to enter this space without some group support - either that or send it up! But Fred is serious so I'll go along with him and his shopping, for now he is refilling his pipe with one hand, holding his half-eaten banana in the other: "Well, Fred, I think they did well to miss the Twentieth Century. All these millions upon millions of people mistreated and slaughtered and it's still going on... and for what? Religion and politics, that's what!"
"We will answer, not in our time but theirs. History will have its say. For these people who may be three-hundred years ahead of us Time must be like changing the clocks. Look at the rise of neuroscience, it means that we know more about the human condition than ever before. We know that learning more about the human brain has changed what it means to be God's highest animal. Take Peter's Bridge across the Channel - it entails what you might call the by-catch of the human condition, you find it in reversed tidal effects, the increased number of stranded whales, sandbanks in previously deep water channels, bizarre weather, religious wars - the IRA will blow a hole in it - the damn thing will be a highway for the next Napoleon, or the next Hitler and, as is customary with new projects, it will cost a hell of a lot more than the simplistic first estimate because we just haven't thought it through! Simplistic - like building a castle in an age of nuclear fusion. And these new people arrive in the middle of obscene slaughter at the end of the fifteenth century and can't understand what is happening. Maybe they got off at the wrong stop! So, like frightened sheep they clamour around Father Espinosa who advises them to stand firm and do good works among the people. But is this unique charitable work accepted by the church? Mein Gott, nein! This is the Devil's work, his angels of darkness are lures for the innocents. Do you see? It is evil to be eliminated by the Holy Inquisition who are always on the look-out for new meat to chew."
"Quite right. So dear old Father Espinosa thinks it through very carefully and squirrels away all these shining happenings of heavenly miracles from human gaze in case the Holy Church find it and start screaming for a barbeque, you know, enough of Paganism and Anti-Christ so Let's Burn all the Heretics! But, damn it, he must have written it up! There are numerous books from the Instituto de Estudios Canarios including one he did on the appearance of the Holy Virgin in Candelaria in... whenever. And why three hundred years, Fred, mate?"
"Because I can just about visualise three hundred years - which is about the final chapter of human evolution. The appearance of the virgin at Candelaria was seen as a miracle because we all know about her; the appearance of the Aliens or Astutos was the devil's work, they were dark angels. The church in the fifteenth century had no knowledge of parallel space, only the mark of the beast and the inner space of this world"
"So, these guys had a conducted tour of their world's history, and got a fair old look at scenes of violence and slaughter - you reckon!"
"Quite possibly, with dear old Espinosa doing his best, acting as guide and mentor. I hope the Holy Fathers noted that. The servants of the church need a good word now and then."
"Of course, and sprinkled first with holy water in case they catch anything contagious."
"I know this is quite beside the point, Manfred mate - but how do you get holy water?"
"Boil the hell out of it!"
"English Christmas crackers are widely known for their wit, my friend! Actually, holy water is blessed by a priest and used for repelling evil. So you don't actually boil the hell out of it, you bless the hell out of it."
"That's better! Sophisticated and worldly-wise are we, yet we still believe in comforting myths and legends, critical thinking still has a long way to climb, Manfred mate. Right?"
"Easier to go back in time than go forward," I suggest, "the path is already well-trodden, so to speak! And how on earth do they get back into their own time?"
"Edit, copy, paste and save. Dead simple!" Often a touch on the wry side, he helps me along the computer learning curve. He picks up his shopping, "Now you must excuse me," and marches off to his meeting.
Our pet geologist is not made of stone, he has a sense of humour. I wanted to discuss parallel - it means equidistant lines, but those lines are not necessarily of the same length. Right! And three hundred years! Is there any science behind that, or is it sheer guesswork? One thing I am sure about: These Astutos could have arrived in paper bags, it certainly wasn't in metal containers driven by futile rockets!
Bob Gethin proposes a race of superior beings who dwelt amongst us for a while. They could have been the Celtic race or The Red-Haired Ones whom Tacitus speaks about as the most ancient and venerated people. Must read his stuff.
In the meantime we'll see Lori and arrange to see his old mum who must be well into her eighties by now and see Basy about her Aunt Maya.