Thursday, 10 March 2011

Tycho Brahe

On Monday night I had a very strange experience. It had almost the quality of a vision. We had spent the weekend in Wales with my daughter and her family. On Monday morning we had left early to travel back by train, and I had stopped off in Edinburgh on the way home for a meeting. It had been a long day and, unusually, I had gone straight to sleep without reading.
  Sometime during the night I had a dream. I remember almost nothing about it now, except that two words surfaced. I didn’t know what they meant but I could see them very plainly, as if printed in bold capitals: TYCO BRAHE. I tried to understand them but couldn’t and so, since they had no obvious meaning for me, I began in the dream to imagine that they might make a good name for a fictional character, an Albanian perhaps or some other Eastern European. They remained with me for the rest of the night, very insistently it felt, almost as if someone was shouting them at me in my sleep. And they were there in my mind, perfectly clear and still perfectly inexplicable, when I woke up next morning.
  I mentioned it to Sarah as we were getting up. She suggested I google the words. I did, over breakfast, and almost fell off my chair when up came Tycho Brahe (correctly spelt with an ‘h’). A sixteenth century Danish nobleman, astronomer and alchemist, Brahe, it transpires, was a major figure in the development of science. Way ahead of his contemporaries in the accuracy of his astronomical observations, he was the first person to argue that the heavens were not perfectly fixed and immutable. He was also extremely wealthy and a wild character who had lost the bridge of his nose in a duel when he was young and wore a metal prosthesis throughout his life. He held lavish gatherings in his castle, kept a dwarf jester, whom he believed to be clairvoyant, beneath his dining table, and also a tame elk that was said to have drunk so much beer at a party one night that it fell down the castle stairs and died.
  As I read all this, a very dim bell began to ring. Brahe is just the kind of character that crops up on Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time. I checked and sure enough he’d been mentioned in the programme back in January 2008. Now another even dimmer bell was ringing. In 2007 I had researched medieval perpetual motion machines for my novel The Reckoning, and I thought it possible that his name might have come up then. But my notes are in a box in the attic and I didn’t have the energy to go rootling for them. Not that it would have made a great deal of difference, for even though I had now established that I probably had heard of him before, it was at the very least three years ago.
  So I’m left with the question, Why now? And why so insistent? I’ve looked for connections. My son-in-law is quite knowledgeable about esoterica, but Brahe definitely hadn’t been mentioned over the weekend. Perpetual motion … well, I suppose I could argue that my new granddaughter represents the genetic version of it. But even so, what then? Am I supposed to write about him? Am I meant to learn something from his life or his studies? Or has my sub-conscious simply bowled me a wide? What on earth, if anything, am I telling myself? Answers on a postcard, please …


Martin Lee said...

Because dream meaning can be so elliptical (as you've demonstrated) I wonder if there was anything hidden in the letters. So here are the main anagrams of Tyco Brahe. See if any of them take you anywhere:
Cab Theory
Beach Tyro
Beach Troy
Breach Toy
Broach Yet
Batch Yore
Cobra They
Carob They
Carboy The
Breath Coy
Bather Coy
Baht Coyer
Bath Coyer
Bay Hector
Roach Byte
Chart Obey
Yacht Robe
Yacht Bore
Cay Bother
Earthy Cob
Hearty Cob

Sara said...

Brahe was a visionary - and a loon.

One of my high school heroes if you must know (I didn't start out an engineer for nothing). He was a man with theories too big for his peers and he changed the world through the conviction of his ideas.

Any dream in which he calls to you must be a good sign of universal thought and wild imaginings. I'm immensely heartened by the idea.

JennieMacfie said...

How strange. There's a crater on the moon named after him - something I learned from a science fiction book I read as a child/teenager and which is thus unforgettable, unlike all the important information from last week/month/year...The workings of memory and the mind never cease to fascinate.

Bigbrandjohn said...

Think I may have put my finger on it or maybe you have put your foot on it. You have obviously been playing music recently and one of your fellow musicians had one of these.

Maybe I am distorting the story a bit !!

julian stubbs said...

I've had lunch and dinner many times at Brahe Hus castle and restaurant. It's midway between where I live in Stockholm and the south of Sweden - on lake V├Ąttern. It's named after the very same chap I believe and was his.

Jamie Jauncey said...

Martin - I like earthy cob, Tycho probably was one, though his eyes were on the heavens.

Sara - a loon indeed. Who else lets his elk get drunk on the first floor?

Jenny - yes I can see him hanging there in some dusty mental crevice, like a bat in a cave, waiting his moment ...

John - I'm sure he would have had a Les Paul and a pedalflanger if he was around now

Julian - if it's the one in the photo, dinner must've been a bit drafty.