O what a tangled web…

Saturday May 1, 2021

O what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive.
Sir Walter Scott

I am a hopeless liar. As a child, after some misdemeanour, I remember working out water-tight alibis. They were obviously so implausible, that my parents ended up laughing, and did not get round to the punishment. This subject has arisen out of the varied Future Learn courses I have done and the by-roads they have led me down.

Current: History of the Detective story (start) Forensic Psychology (finish). Forensics in Anthropology and Archaeology and many allied subjects. I am sure everybody here has seen Poirot, Miss Marple, Midsomer murders, Morse, Frost, The Spiral, Inspector Montalbano. At some time, forensics will turn up, white suits, blue/white police tape etc. We think of the murder weapon, DNA, how it was done, whodunit. But the forensic part of the courses has now got me hooked on quite serious scientific programmes.

The course on Anthropology and Archaeology was way over my head, but the science! They could, with a fair degree of accuracy, determine age and sex of the victim: modern murder, Neolithic man, identify people from recent natural disasters, or from mass graves after genocide. On French TV, another programme was trying to find out what diseases Marat and Robespierre (from the Terror in the French Revolution) were suffering from, from scraps of tissue put under the microscope. A famous case is the madness of King George, who was, in fact, suffering from a then unknown physical malady. All this is underlined by having been shown intricate maps from my geologist son, who drilled up to 2 kms through the earth (or under the sea) then analysed the results with powerful computers.

When my husband had macular degeneration in his second eye, they had an expensive injection which could seal the haemorrhage. He would have a regular check up, and the marvellous surgeon would show me the results – the eye ball scan, massively enlarged – the bleeding showed up like a marsh on a local walking map. After the injection, the healed scar looked like a string of pearls. I felt really honoured to have these specialists (geologist and eye surgeon) explaining, in simple (for them) language.

The Forensic psychology turns on new ways of interviewing witnesses. The problem which Oli mentions, facial blindness, is fairly rare, but makes it impossible for some people to recognise close friends, even less be witness at an accident/crime scene. We were given an exercise to describe a well know face. Nearly everybody made a mess of it. People I know I’d describe male or female, hair colour/cut, scars, if they wore ear-rings – but shape of face, nose, ears – no way. Every time there is an election I think of cartoonists – and what bit of their ‘victim’ they will exaggerate (think of Spitting Images, seriously cruel).

Anyway, that is my ‘tangled web’, tangents everywhere – Covid has certainly driven me into odd pursuits. Have you gone for the esoteric/bizarre subjects? Are you a good liar/witness?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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