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In Greig Street in Inverness, less than a stone’s throw from the River Ness, in Inverness is a double fronted shop. The front is painted black and along the tops of the windows and the alcove for the door is a panel with the words "The Flat Earth" in bold white lettering.
At first, I thought "The Flat Earth" was a new age café where all the tea and coffee would be ethically sourced through fair trade deals, the food and its ingredients would be locally sourced wherever possible and the menu might not even offer any meat products. How wrong could I be on first impressions or I seriously need to get my eyes tested soon?
When I got closer to the windows where I thought there were menus the sheets of paper stuck on the inside were positing the theory that the earth is round. There was a two page document titled "The Flat Earth (50 Questions)." It was typed in block capitals and sectioned into different headings including:
- Water Always Finds its Level
- Where is all the Curvature?
- Why no allowance for curvature?
- No evidence for gravity?
- Do you still believe space is real?
Within each of the categories there were five to ten questions. Under the section on gravity the pages asked:
- What is this mysterious force that holds oceans at bay yet fails to restrain a butterfly?
- Is it not concerning that evolution, relativity and gravity are still referred to as "theories"?
As I was reading the material in the window I became aware of a rather large man in his fifties holding a power drill at his head height. He was dressed smart casually and would have fitted instantly to any respectable commercial business in an office.
"What do you think then?" he asked me.
"I’m still reading through your material," I replied.
"You’re welcome to come in for a coffee and have a chat," he said.
"It’s getting a bit late and I have to be back to the hotel for dinner. Let me take some of your papers away so I can have a look at them then tomorrow perhaps I could drop in," I answered. "What time are you open as I am interested."
As much as I was tempted to accept the immediate invitation I really did need some time to assimilate my own thoughts before sitting down with Flat Earth Man With Power Drill. So, my use of the excuse of having to be back for dinner as an excuse was true but as it was just gone five thirty and I was not eating with my wife until seven I have to admit that I did stretch the timeframe just a bit in order to make a clean break.
"I actually don’t have any opening times…….I open whenever I can…." he answered.
"Random hours, that’s not a problem as I will be back and forth past here tomorrow so if you’re open I will drop in," I replied.
"Random, random, I like that. I open random hours. See you tomorrow then," he said as he disappeared through the door still holding the power drill at head height like a small weapon.
In amongst the fifty questions there is "Did Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin behave like conquering heroes returned from mankind’s greatest achievement or like nervous and deceptive men feeling the pressure?"
They probably did have a sense of high achievement from their mission but combine the fact that they were all probably exhausted from their efforts, highly trained technical astronauts, and feeling the full force of gravity, then I don’t think anyone would be jumping up and down in great excitement.
As well as the pages containing fifty or so questions there was a poster showing a blue sky criss crossed with vapour trails from jets. The white trails crossed and were caught in the photograph looking like the Saltire of Scotland. White lettering against the blue sky declared "These are not con trails—the planes are spraying you—your silence is consent." Underneath was a sheet headed "Chem trails/Geo-engineering." The main claim on this page is that vapour trails are lingering longer, changing the texture of the sky and blocking the sun. All this, the document believes, is part of a secret plot to spray the earth but no where does it state what exactly is being sprayed. Not quite sure what we are meant to be sprayed with as that was not mentioned.
Back in the hotel room I read through the documents I was given and did some research on the internet into flat earth believers. From that I drew up about ten questions which I wrote out on some paper. The questions were not designed to destroy any of his beliefs but were designed to keep a conversation going over the promised cup of coffee, ethical or otherwise.
I contacted my friend in Aberdeen and told him about "The Flat Earth." His reply was derived from the oldest joke in the world.
"They’re a bit strange there, you know, remote and isolated, just a bit strange."
The next morning I went past The Flat Earth early on my way out to Carnarc Point. I didn’t expect the shop to be open and this expectation was fulfilled. On the way back from Carnarc Point about an hour later The Flat Earth was still closed. About mid-morning I used the Grieg Street footbridge to get into the centre of Inverness and still the shop front was all closed up. I passed the shop at least six more times at "random" times up until about seven in the evening and still The Flat Earth was closed with its metal shutter securely fastened over the front door.
Maybe, just maybe Flat Earth Man With Power Drill had developed a premonition that if we did meet up the next day I would question him about his theories and didn’t want to be questioned in such a way. Or maybe, just maybe he set off for a long walk to prove that his flat earth theory was correct and was going to return with a selfie of him at the edge of the earth. The only problem is that once there he may have overbalanced and, whoops, fallen in to the abyss beyond the edge?