Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Mystic Detective(21)

It was cold, so cold that the usual gauntlet of smokers sat out on stools in the doorway of Fuel had vanished. Inside it was steamy hot and George was serving behind the counter and freely offered to bring over Paul's cappuccino to his table.
- Things are looking up, muttered Paul under his breath as George came over
- Whaat?
- Oh nothing
Paul smiled but George looked back at him blankly. It was obviously too early, if ever for such a conversation.

Paul remembered how last night his daughter had been singing in her school choir at the carol service. Paul didn't stick out like the sore thumb he expected to but conversation with his fellow parents was a bit stilted despite mulled wine and hot mince pies.

However, singing carols usually lifted his spirits - especially when he could hit the right key and more or less the right note. He could feel the music inside him in his guts which was fairly usual but also in his chest, unusual. Being given a lighted candle added to the mood and then a reading from the start of the gospel of St John set him off over the edge into weeping and a deep sense of inter connectedness with everything and an understanding of a truer meaning of being born again of the spirit and not of the flesh. Time to be uniquely himself in a wondrous created universe while his time lasted.

A very young baby cried out and brought Paul back into the present, into Fuel, in a good way. Apple came into Fuel at that moment
- Hi App
- N'mystic
Paul raised a quizzical eyebrow having already succumbed to Apple's monosyllabic form of communication - maybe this was parallel to texting or perhaps a consequence of too much of it.
Apple shrugged his shoulders in response to Paul's unspoken question
_ Nothing? queried Paul.
Apple almost imperceptibly shock his head and loped off.

Monday, 20 December 2010

My ancestors travel with me

My ancestors travel with me

As the buildings collapse
Into rubble
Part of my history
Part of me
So much of my past is vanishing
Like water through my fingers
And I can't hang on to it.

You move into
Ever widening life
Not knowing
You carry some of my past
As my ancestors travel with me.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Boss meets Q again

The Boss, perhaps my alter ego, once more consults Q my imaginary spiritual director
- Hi Q
- Hi Boss, long time no see
- True…
- So what bring you here at this festive time?
- I’m still struggling with death… and life
- Right
- It feels as if my sense of my mortality is dropping lower inside me, inside my consciousness, affecting me on deeper and deeper levels…
- Hmmm
- Sometimes I feel a bit flat, even depressed with it… like what is the point?
- What is the point?
- Yes! But I don’t want to turn and face the wall… and I can live more in the moment knowing that my future is finite in physical terms at least…
- Hmm
- A lot of what I do, a lot of what I spend my time doing is pretty futile when faced with death… Only the quality of human contact and of my contact with creation seems to matter. I feel that if there is any immortality then it is in that.
- In that quality of contact?
- Yes. Everything else will fade away for sure. I don’t especially want to leave money and stuff behind me as I die, well just a bit for my family - I certainly want to travel lighter now - … I just want to be remembered with fondness … I guess that is where I have come to. It doesn’t answer the big questions but it gives me a place to live from for now.
- Hmm
- Q this has been absolutely brilliant!
- But I have hardly said a word
- Exactly you have not got in the way of the unfolding that I needed to have happen and couldn’t seem to do on my own. So thanks.
Q nodded in appreciation of the Boss’s words and they descended into a deep silence in which as ever everything made sense to the Boss, even the tears of gratitude that ran down his face.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Rush Hour choir performs

Last night the Rush Hour choir at the University which I joined in October had its end of term concert (first gig!)and we performed 5 songs and 3 carols (with audience participation) in front of about 40 family and friends and colleagues. No big deal you might say and I was surprisingly calm and in a slightly altered performance state of mind. Nathan joined the choir for the first time and sang in a rich deep voice and somehow my voice straightened against his and my whole body seemed involved. Like I was singing with all my heart at least some of the time. My grandfather West sang in the church choir and in the pub, and my wife said she was thinking of my mum and how pleased she would have been. I am made up about this thinking about it now. Regular followers of my blog will know of my pain and struggle around music. I feel like I have arrived at last. It is not the end of something, more of a beginning. I can now get on with being part of this choir and seeing where my singing can take me. Oh Boy.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Mystic detective(20)

Paul was restless he couldn’t settle to anything. His breakfast at Fuel that morning was not settling well inside him, he felt distinctly queasy. A frosty bike ride to visit Frankie had not improved his spirits like it usually did and neither did his time with his friend. Frankie had at least improved from his suicidal state to something resembling his ordinary state of misery. So perhaps Paul was feeling redundant now that Frankie no longer needed him and his own troubles crowded in. His evening of food and dancing and the subsequent night with Martha had been sweet. But their farewells had a bitter undercurrent unexpressed in words but communicated in the look she gave him – anguish? imploring? needing? – whatever it was he did not want to see it and certainly not speak of it.
Of course his vicar friend Keith would probably refer to this experience as ‘Your time on the cross’ or ‘Your dark night of the soul’. ‘Yeah thanks Keith… for nothing’ thought Paul, ‘Bloody clever, I don’t think’. Actually this was not the way his friend Keith would respond to whatever was up with Paul and Paul knew that. He was just angry.
After 30 years of relative quietness the students were revolting again, marching in their thousands against the proposed tripling of university fees and cuts in education spending. There was something about the quality of their anger which spoke to something in Paul. He knew that this good be a dangerous impulse, that he needed his cold analytic wits about him to tackle OM but it was a hotter anger that he felt. He was ready fro a fight. He was ready to fight for Percy, Abdullah, Frankie, Claudia and above all for himself.
Justice was a harsh mistress never truly satisfied always demanding more. Sometimes Paul wanted to turn his back on her and run away, hide, or play but again and again she called him back to her and he could not resist. He was the mystic detective after all and his trip to California could not longer be put off. ‘California here I come’ so online to book his flight and Santa Barbara hotel.

Paul was dreaming of Abdullah, moving through a hot sandy Turkish landscape. Abdullah was desperate to contact him but every time they nearly got to meet Abdullah was whisked away by some strange force. At first this not quite meeting almost seemed like fun, a kind of weird sort of dance but then it got more and more serious, more and more darker and at the last time of nearly meeting their fingertips brushed, there was a look of real terror on Abdullah’s face and pain surged up Paul’s arms causing him to cry and wake up yelling out Abdullah’s name.
The phone was ringing
- Paul?
- Whaa
- Paul it’s Mickey
- Yeah
- Yeah. I’ve just had a call from Kings Cross, yer mate Abdullah
- Whaat? (Paul came wide awake)
- He’s been beaten up, expertly, cracked ribs, broken, nose, broken cheekbone, lots of bruises.
- Oh fuck
- Yeah, he’ll live but he is mess
- Shit … I’m off to California the day after tomorrow but I can stop off in London and visit him first… what hospital?
- King’s Cross, near the station. I’ll fax through the Santa Barbara details
- And Paul?
- Yes?
- Take care
- I will you know me.
Paul was calm now. He had a job to do. Too many people were suffering, time to bring things to a head.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

There is a whole world there for me

Piano lesson with Rebbecca last night and recognising that I respond to the music I play bar by bar sometimes note by note. By learning to play a piece slowly note by note I catch hold of the feelings in the music. And Rebbecca validates the feelings that this particular piece is said to be whatever. This is in the music and its in me and I never really knew it could be like this. Classic music audience are so still but I guess for some of them it is all going on inside. The right kind of music has always moved me to dance or the right lyrics to feelings. But this is a bit different. For example I have always thought Greensleeves was a bit naif but when I play it it moves me immensely. A real sadness/melancholia and a bit of hopefulness, it tells me something about the human condition. I feel like a new secret world is there and Rebbecca tells me about playing in an orchestra with tears streaming down her face in response to the music she is playing. There is a whole world there for me that I have been mostly shut out of for so long. I could have been there earlier in my life but I am truly glad to be there how

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Mystic detective(119)

Paul was tired. His head was hurting and he didn’t have the satisfactory explanations that it hurt because someone had hit him or that he had a hangover from drinking too much. No, it was just hurting. He couldn’t thinks straight about OM; he was still worried about Frankie and Claudia; he wasn’t sure how to proceed with rescuing Percy and his daughter Catherine was away on a school trip to Brittany.
Time to see Martha again. Paul was never quiet sure where he was with Martha or how to describe her. Lover sounds a bit naïf, significant other even worse and he was not that sure how ‘significant’ she was to him or he to her. At the times when he thought they might really get together, maybe even move in together she seemed not that bothered and vice versa. It was no longer an apparent tension between them – they weren’t an ‘item’ and they weren’t ‘just good friends’. When they met up they didn’t always end up in bed together but sometimes they did. It was convenient, comfortable, a bit like a marriage without passing through the getting married bit and without the living together bit. It suited them both – for now.
- Hi Martha
- Hi mystic
- Fancy a drink?
- And how
- Lead Station or?
- Lead’ll do
The Lead Station was a bar cum restaurant in the increasingly fashionable Beech Road n the increasing fashionable Chorlton. In recent years Chorlton had suffered that familiar blight of a relatively cheap mixed neighbourhood – think Irish, student, bohemian, alternative, organic, young professionals –t hat becomes so fashionable and popular that he kind of people who made it so interesting can no longer afford to move or live there.
Martha was nursing a Corona at the bar when Paul arrived. They shared a brief kiss.
- Hi mystic
- Hi Martha, you early or
- Yeah, you know me.
Martha was always, always early and Paul usually about punctual.
- Nother drink?
- Na, I’m ready to eat
Paul signalled the barman for a Corona and then made their way into the restaurant area
- How are you Paul, you look bushed
- If not only (They both laughed) I am… and I’m worried about Frankie
- Me too, he’s still off work thank goodness…. That Claudia is a minx
- You reckon? (Paul was surprised at Martha’s unusual forthright judgement of Claudia but there again she did work for Frankie was very fond of him and protective of him in the way that secretary’s can often be)
- I reckon… Frankie was fine until she turned up
- Yes but-
- No buts… He was level headed enough
- Frankie… level headed?
- - OK maybe not (They both laughed) but after he split up with his wife and came out things did get better for him
- True
- And now…
- And now?
- And now we must all do what we can
- Sure
They both paused to drink a slug of their Coronas.
- Anyway what’s with you?
- With me?
- Yes you
There was another brief pause whilst their waiter took their food order.
- Well I guess it is all getting a bit much fro me… Clients is one thing, friends another… With clients I have a professional role and can look after myself… but Frankie and Claudia …well it does me in
- Hmm
- Yeah
- I heard you were there for 36 hours at his bedside
- Yes
- Perhaps you better come to mine tonight?
- Yes I’d like that
They clinked their beer bottles to acknowledge this agreement.

Before heading off to Martha’s place they decided to go dancing at battleship Potemkin a new nitespot that had opened up in the student area of Withington. It had massive photos of Russian sailors and ships plastered on its walls and did a regular 80s retro night on Wednesdays. Paul loved to dance to the music of his childhood and adolescence – Pet Shops Boys, OMD, Culture Club etc. Dancing for Paul was sometimes akin to a mystical experience, even without drugs or alcohol. He wasn’t always good to watch, indeed at first he would be dancing out his tensions but later as his body relaxed his dancing became more fluid and graceful. He would then feel like he could dance all night without effort which he sometimes did. Many was the time that eh had danced until a club had closed at 2, 4 or 6 am.
It was not easy to be Paul’s dance partner but Martha was used to him and music had a somewhat similar meaning to her, if less intense. And dancing was part of what they did together. And they sparked each other’s energy and movements. After such dancing it was natural to end up in bed together. Indeed this was how their relationship had begun.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Mystic detective (18)

Mickey was waiting for Paul in Fuel, nursing a coffee and a black eye. Not a recent one, it was a lovely shade of yellow and purple. So presumably he had not had a run in with Samantha who was serving behind the counter that day. Unlike most of the Fuel staff Samantha was well spoken and pleasant without much obvious attitude. However, Paul had witnessed her dealing very effectively with a rather overly familiar male visitor.
- Hi Mickey, been in the wars?
- No, not a domestic, just some drunken idiot at Piccadilly gardens last Saturday night. And I wasn’t even on duty at the time!
Samantha brought Paul’s cappuccino and veggie breakfast over and served him with a smile. Her smile lit up her face and made Paul feel good inside. Mickey waited until she left
- She smiled!
- Must be my charm and charisma!
- Charisma my arse!
They laughed and Paul began eating with relish.
- So mystic what can I do for you?
- What’s the word on the street about OM?
- Thieving load of buggers – pardon my French –worse than Man U and that’s saying something
- Any evidence?
- Nothing that will stand up just yet
- Ah so you are after them
Mickey glanced around the room checking whether they could possibly be overheard,
- We do have them under surveillance
- Oh
- Yeah for immigration fraud for starters
- I don’t want to queer your pitch but I have a client to find whose gone missing
- OK but keep me posted and stay out of harm’s way
- I am thinking of visiting them in California
- OM in California? (Paul nodded) If you do go speak to me again before you do and I’ll put you in touch with our opposite numbers – FBI – over there in Santa Barbara.

Soon after Mickey left Apple Mac came into Fuel. Apple Mac – real name Thomas Macintyre was probably the geekiest of the cyber regulars who hang out at Fuel – hence his nickname. He was tall and pretty thin and pretty too in a rather rough and ready way. He was wearing his habitual uniform of black jeans, black T shirt and a black leather jacket all of which had seen better days. He had black curly rather lank hair and black Buddy Holly style glasses although he wouldn’t have known it.
Paul had texted Apple to dig out what eh could find on OM by ‘fair means and foul’ and had arranged to meet him at Fuel that morning
- Hi Apple
- N’ Paul
- What have you got for me?
Apple passed over some printed sheets – a mixture of web pages and plain text.
- Headlines?
Paul noticed once again how with Apple his own conversation style became rather brief and monosyllabic and he wondered if Apple had this same effect on everyone he encountered.
- They are a scam (Paul nodded). They move people around… take a cut from their earnings… they supply their false documents… keep a hold on them permanently
- Anything else?
- Money laundering…. Maybe drug dealing… but small scale mostly Chinese
- Drugs or people?
- Both
- Spying?
- Anything for money
- Whose behind them?
- Not sure
- Guess?
- Triads… mafia
- Thanks
- Be very careful… website had a cyber lock and booby traps… it would be hard not to be detected
- You weren’t?
Apple shrugged his shoulders contemptuously.
- Of course… What do I owe you?
- The usual… plus
- Plus?
- Full veggie breakfast.
Paul smiled and signalled over to Samantha. Apple was already keying into his notepad. Paul paid Samantha, smiled and left.
Apple’s information matched Mickey’s and more and it fitted Paul’s growing sense of what OM was about. There were still too many unanswered questions and Paul was not that sure he wanted to get hat involved. Frankie was on the mend, Claudia was safe in rehab for the moment and only Percy Hampton, the husband of his client, remained in OM’s clutches.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Mystic detective(17)

It was snowing, a rare sight in the centre of Manchester. It was coming down heavily and sticking. It meant business or rather chaos for business, schools, everyday life. Paul loved the snow, for not only did it give him chance to have a snowball fight with Catherine and a chance to relive his childhood but also he kind of enjoyed the dislocation it caused. Neighbours actually spoke to one another, helped one another, pushed each other’s cars and shopped for the old people. Strangers spoke to one another on the streets. Paul fantasised about the government creating such a crisis once in a while merely to foster community spirit, cohesion and development.
Now that Frankie was out of danger Paul was determined to get to the bottom of mystery that was OM and in so doing hopefully find out the whereabouts of the missing person Percy Hampton. But first he had to call on Claudia. Claudia was in rehab.
It was rather a drab looking large detached house from the outside, set back from the main road in a not quite fashionable part of South Manchester. The garden lawn was rather bald and forlorn but inside the house was warm and cheerful run by young cheerful staff. Claudia’s bedsit room on the first floor was neat if rather bare.
Claudia sat huddled, in an old armchair, in an almost foetal position with her hands clasped around her knees. She looked tired and drawn, thinner than Paul remembered and her hair seemed lifeless and certainly in need of a wash. The left hand lens of her glasses was cracked. She asked Paul for a fag but he shook his head
- Don’t smoke
- Oh
There was a pause.
- How’s Frankie?
- Not so bad
- He wont let me visit him
- I know
- I know I messed him about… OM and stuff…but I do love him, I do care for him
- Yeah?
- Yes. He’s such a good man
Claudia began sobbing. Paul felt a bit awkward and made no move and said no words to comfort her.
- I’ve stopped
- Yeah
- Yeah, ever since Frankie… (She swallowed hard) … ever since (Paul nodded) It’s been hell… but I deserved it
- What will you do?
- Stay here fro a while… they are great … don’t know after that… might go back to college… want to stay around here… want to make up with Frankie
- Give him time
- Yeah, well I‘ve got plenty of that
There was a pause.
- Can you tell me anything about OM?
Claudia tensed up,
- What do you want to know?
- How do they do it?
- How?
- Yes how?
- Drugs…. Chinese herbs… They kind of make you hypnotised (Paul nodded)… that’s the secret of Level One.
- So what for?
- Oh money… it’s all a big scam
- Is that all?
- Well there’s a rumour that they sell secrets tot eh yanks or the Chinese or both but who knows… who knows what happens on the other levels.
- Hmm
- What will you do?
Paul was reluctant to reveal his plans to Claudia
- Not sure yet
- Oh
- I need to head off…. You got everything you need?
- Sure, I’m a survivor, believe it or not
- So’s Frankie, it’s all that Welsh and Italian blood
- Mine as well!
- Of course
Paul put a twenty pound note on the bed side table
- Just in case… say it’s money for background information on OM
- Thanks
Paul nodded.
- Give my love to Frankie
- Will do
Paul left, breathed a sigh of relief was it? And set of for Fuel for a late brunch and hoping to meet Mickey.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Mystic detective(16)

Paul stared out of the window. He stars were out and the planet Jupiter was bright in the Eastern sky on an early wintry evening. As a boy Paul had been keen on Astronomy, had wanted to become an Astronomer when he grew up, curiously not an Astronaut but an Astronomer. Life was simpler as a boy, days seemed endless and school holidays lasted a lifetime. His father had taught him to spot the stars, to find his way across the night sky, to feel a sense of awe at such wondrous creation and Paul felt it to this day. It was one brief area in which he and his dad had been able to meet.
But these memories of his childhood and of his dad made it even harder to accept the bruised body of his good friend Frankie that lay before him. Despite the best efforts of Keith the vicar Frankie had reached rock bottom and had thrown himself under a train. It was an awful way to go ‘Why Frankie why?’
Claudia was beside herself with grief and her doctor had given her a large dose of tranquillisers to calm her down and she sat staring at the wall, out of the window, anything to avoid looking at Frankie’s body.
Frankie was not in fact dead, or at least not yet. He was in a coma and on life support, tubes everywhere and fresh bruises from where the tubes had been inserted alongside the slightly older bruises from his encounter with the train. The next 48 hours would be critical. Either he turned a corner and became the long hard slog back to some kind of health or…
If prayers could work he would certainly pull through. His maternal Welsh chapel goers were on his case and were his paternal Italian catholic relatives. And Keith’s prayer group were already on the case too.
Paul felt useless sat at his friend’s bedside, holding his hand, being with him, not praying as such or certainly not actively but deeply being with him. He could do no other. Time past as did endless cups of rather tasteless hospital canteen or machine coffee. Night came and went. Paul was determined to see his vigil through – one way or another.
It was early morning 36 hours on, with Paul half asleep in a light doze, when Frankie’s eyes flickered and opened.
- Paul
- Paul
- Oh Frankie….why?
- Why
- Why?
- All too much… all too much … feel like hell … really sorry
Frankie groaned and closed his eyes. Paul wept.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Mystic detective (15)

[With thanks to Patrick and Josie]

Paul was having a bad night. He couldn’t sleep. He was worried about his friend Frankie, Claudia’s heroin addiction and what the hell to do about OM? To cap it all, his daughter Catherine was staying with him overnight and needed to be up in good time fro a school trip early the next morning. Paul heard his daughter get up and enter the bathroom woke up as usual by her travelling alarm clock. He stared myopically at his beside digital radio alarm which was a blur of numbers to him. He got up and met coming out of the bathroom which shocked her and caused her to flinch away from his gaze,
- It’s Ok sweetheart
She smiled in reply and went back into her bedroom and firmly closed the door. Paul made his way downstairs dog (or was it cat?) tired. His kitchen clock read ten past six, so just the right time for a brew and to pout an orange juice for Catherine and to prepare her fruity breakfast of diced pear and Greek yoghurt.
He sat down and yawned and glanced again at the kitchen clock. Oh hell, it was not morning at all but twenty to two - the middle of the bloody night, not ten past six but half past one. Back to bed lying flat out unable to sleep, not worth trying, too tired to do anything but to let his mind wander, maybe musing on Van Morrison’s Hymns to the silence which starts out about a relationship that’s being missed but ends up like a mystical love song to the divine, a vocal version of Rumi’s poetry.
Questions came to Paul unbidden. How did Claudia first become an addict? Who first turned her on? Who supplies her and how does she pay for it or rather in what currency? What was OM’s role if any in her addiction? And as sure as hell it was playing a part.
And Frankie? His old mate, well out of his depth and heading for a breakdown. (‘I can’t bear Frankie to lose it like Marie did. Who can help Frankie? I can’t. Let me talk to Keith the gay vicar about him.’) Keith – the Reverend Keith Poulson, was a one-ff. he was a passionately committed Church of England Christian, inspired by the life of Christ and the life of the Early Christian church, with a wicked sense of humour and delightfully camp manner which only barely masked a truly compassionate and loving soul. Keith’s church was in a poor beat up part of South Manchester. Somehow Keith’s own very brokenness/not fitting in made him a magnet for worried souls who needed to talk and listen to one another without judgement – ‘let he who is without sin let him cast the first stone’ was a popular line of Christ’s never very far from Keith’s lips. And it worked, it wasn’t orthodox and it regular almost gave the Bishop a heart attack on hearing even a watered down version of Keith’s ministry. Needless to say Keith’s congregation loved him to bits. Yes Keith might well work wonders if anyone could with Frankie.
[And where did Paul meet Keith? Well it was a strange book launch at Manchester Cathedral but that’s another story – Murder at the cathedral?]
Meanwhile Paul had fallen asleep again just before dawn and his radio alarm clock was sounding and the curiously grating voice of John Humphreys was speak from the Radio and invading his dreams. His bedside clock radio was saying ten past six for real this time as Paul checked it out with his glasses on.

Friday, 26 November 2010


Reading the reports of the inquest into the 7/7 bombings moves me to tears today, yet again. The ordinary heroism of ordinary people. It's beautiful. I am deeply touched by people doing their very best. Like my student Valda who has just passed her doctorate after some struggle and much persistence and yes some skilled back up by me and Clare, and her colleagues and mates.

These days I cry really easily, more so than ever. I think it stems from the death of my dad so soon after the death of my sister back in 2001 and 2002. I am not the same. And it is curious that the death of my mum was easy in comparison back in 1992. So I have never got over these more recent deaths and it keeps me in touch with the preciousness of life and how my own days on this planet in this body are time limited and almost certainly more than half over.

Between the ages of 13 and 18 I was on antibiotics every day - penicillin. I hardly ever cried in that time and I put it down then to the medication drying em up as it where. I don't know if that is the Truth. I remember when I was 22 in my flat in Clapton in London one Saturday morning listening to John and Yoko singing 'War is over if you want it'. I wept for the first time in a while. Touched and moved. Well from then on weeping came naturally to me again. That was pre therapy days when I was a computer programmer in the Royal London Hospital bless its cotton socks.

I suspect some of my readiness to tears is age related. John Braine in his final 2 novels wrote in a very mellow way and talked about weeping more easily. But it feels good to me, I am a better man for it and I am aware that it can have a powerful impact on people. So be it.

Good well good people

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


I did some singing with my piano teacher Rebecca last night to help prepare me for the Rush Hour choir end of term concert on Monday 13th December. Although I am in the bass section of the choir we have to sing some notes at middle C and even above which is a challenge for me.

Rebecca complemented me on my singing vocie. I went silent and welled up. I trust her judgement as she is very willing to tell me where I am going wrong in singing or piano playing. So a trained musician tells me I have a good singing voice. I am crying as I write this.

I have always loved music, it has meant much to me but ever since my primary school music teacher told me to mime rather than sing I have thought a) I can't sing in tune, which is true sometimes but with Rebecca's help it is getting a whole lot better b) my singing voice was crap.

So maybe, just maybe, I do belong in the Rush Hour Choir and maybe they are not scretly wishing I would leave.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Mystic Detective (14)

[Creative writing. Magic visit to the Paperplanes creative writing class last Saturday at Fuel Cafe where to my surprise the Mystic, Frankie and Claudia all turned up. I feel a bit cruel how the plot around Claudia has developed,. This was an unexpected twist for me!]

As he turned the corner Paul felt uneasy. Was he being followed or not? It was twilight time, sundown, that time of day when solids turned into shadows and shadows melted away. There definitely was somebody behind him. Paul suddenly swung round to face him. Before he could grab hold of and grapple with him he realised it was Frankie.
- Fuck it Frankie what are you doing following me? you gave me such a fright. And I very nearly slugged you!
- Sorry mystic … but I just needed to see you.
- Let’s find a bar
The Blue Lagoon was nearby. It tried too hard to be hip as did most of its clientele who seemed to be living in some kind of retro 30s time warp. The dim lighting hid the rather shabby quality of the decor and the piano. But there was a singer worth listening to doing a slow version of Summertime in a more than half decent way which unfortunately did not apply to her clothing which needed at least another half yard of fabric. The pianist like the piano had seen better times and probably remembered some of them but Summertime at a slow pace was not beyond his wit to play.
- OK Frankie what gives? said Paul as they nursed bottles of Corona with their obligatory slices of limes stuffed in the bottle necks. Frankie was silent as he took a big swallow of his beer and looked downwards not able to met Paul’s eye. Paul waited for something was clearly bothering Frankie
- - I… er… fuck it Claudia’s driving me mental
- Hm
- Mental!.... She wants me to adopt her!
- Wow… why?
- Why?
- Yes why?
- Fuck knows.
Frankie began weeping. ‘Oh Fuck’ said Paul under his breathe. In a rather angry gesture Frankie rubbed a hand across his eyes to wipe away his tears. Paul waited, quiet and still.
- Ah, silly bitch, said Frankie shaking his head,
- Why doesn’t she leave me alone?
Some money had disappeared from Frankie’s wallet. Forty pounds, not a huge sum, but Frankie, whilst being natural generous with his money, always knew how much money he was carrying on him, how much money was left in his current account. Since he noticed the money had disappeared following his last meeting with Claudia then he had to challenge her despite his reluctance. Then met once more in Christie’s Bistro at the university since Frankie hoped that this rather neutral and semi public arena would keep a lid on Claudia rather volatile nature of late. Claudia looked rather tired and worn and for her rather surprisingly grubby.
- Claudia?
- Hi Frankie, (a soft and thin voice lacking what was it, lacking confidence, unsure of itself.)
- Claudia? Why?
- I had to, (she didn’t even try to deny it)
- Why didn’t you ask me first?
- Because, (pause)
- Because what? (Frankie was getting angry)
- Because I was desperate (Oh Fuck she about to cry, I don’t buy it, I wont!)
- That’s not enough! Why! (really angry now)
- Because… because…
She swallowed hard and rolled up her sleeve and showed him the marks in her arm left by the needles.
- Oh, he gasped.
He was horrified but he drew her close and she clung to him briefly weeping but then pulled away from him. Frankie took a deep breath and asked
- How long has this been going on?
- Since… since last summer.
- Why… I want the truth this time
- Ahm… I can’t tell you (said in a rush as she gathered her things together and fled the bistro.
- Claudia, Claudia, called Frankie as he stood up but made no attempt to follow her. There was no reply, no reaction - apart from some curious glances from people sitting at nearby tables with not enough to do but to take a ghoulish interest in other people’s lives. Or so Frankie thought as he too gathered up his things and left.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Response to Josey

I can only build on what I know to be true and I may be mistaken and people I love and trust can help me understand my truth. I can only build my own personal 'theology' on what I experience as true. I'm not always right but other people's answers are no substitute for finding my own. I find my own truth a bit flimsly at times as it does not always immediately answer some of the big questions. It is more that my truth operates outside of them in the eternal now if you like. I hope this makes sense! The word mystic sits with me here.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Do not adjust your mind - reality is at fault

Do Not Adjust your mind –reality is at fault

Paul remembered the time he had visited Marie in hospital
Hospitals scared him,
psychiatric wards even more so.
But he had to visit her
- she was in there because of him or so he thought.
It was a modern hospital
just outside the city centre
and opposite the university.

It was clearly not a quiet place
or refuge
or asylum
but then neither were the old Victorian ones
out of town, out of mind asylums.
There was a distinct smell of cheap disinfectant in the air
masking another familiar hospital smell
- disease, fear and sweat - all three blended together.

The staff in the unit wore everyday clothes
This was a bit confusing at first for Paul
until he saw the state of the patients.
They each in their own way had a lost air about them –
if not why would they be there after all?

Marie was no exception,
in a tiny room,
(but at least she had a room of her own)
with just a hospital bed
and a small cupboard and not much else.
She was lying facing the wall,
dressed in old faded hospital pyjamas.

- Hi
She grunted in acknowledgement
- How are you? (Stupid question!)
- Ok (but the shrug of her shoulders told a different story)
- you need anything?
- No.... well some clothes... I guess
- Sure

There was a silence.
- Dywant to get a drink somewhere?
She shrugged.
- OK, OK
Paul offered her the flowers he had brought.
She looked at them
but didn't take them off him or say anything.
A tear slowly trickled down her face.
- Oh Fuck!

Paul went off
in search of a member of staff,
at least to do something.
He found one
who was very kind
and rather young
but of no real use to him.
Yes she was going to get better.
Yes she was on medication, anti depressants.
Yes she would eventually see a psychiatrist - probably next month.
No ECT was not being considered.

Well no she didn't get better
and yes eventually ECT was used
and it did succeed in pulling her back into a kind of reality.
But her lost look remained.
And there was no way back for Paul and her.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Still waiting for equality

I was recently asked if I was willing to be the external examiner to a MA in Integrative Psychotherapy run at the London School of Theology and validated by Middlesex University. I was interested but visited the website and was troubled by the word 'evangelical'. So I asked the course organiser about the course and the college's view on homosexuality telling her I was committed to gay and lesbian equality.

The course tutors' response was fairly liberal but the college's official viewpoint was shocking. I quote in part rom their official viewpoint:

"2. We value contemporary tools of scholarship which help us to understand God's written word but must never use them to try to make scripture say what it plainly does not say.

3. In that connection we do not accept that scripture can be made to say that homosexual practice is a God-approved way of living. The variety of scriptural texts, each of which individually requires carefully nuanced interpretation, from different ages, cultures and parts of scripture, collectively and unitedly express God's disapproval of homosexual practice. Recent attempts to revise our reading of these texts often involve special pleading or sleight of hand.

4. Even if that were not so, homosexual practice is incompatible with the plain teaching of scripture that God's will is the physical expression of human sexuality should be limited to a lifelong, monogamous relationship between husband and wife."

I find this shocking and offensive. It both offends my own religious beliefs but also I think it is incompatible with counselling ethics. Needless to say i have declined their invitation:

'In the light of the official LST view on homosexuality I can't in all conscience be your external examiner. As a Quaker I am committed to equality for LGT people and likewise as a BACP Fellow.'

Friday, 15 October 2010

If not (poem)

On the wall in my mother-in-law's bathroom is a copy of Kipling's IF. I have often puzzled over it and played around with it. Redaing aloud everys econd word of each line etc. Last week David the Cake maker at work (He did my legendary 60th birthday cake) asked me how I was. I found myself misquoting If in reply and that set me off!


IF you can lose your head when all about you
Are keeping theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can doubt yourself when all men trust you,
But make allowance for their trusting too;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of frantic pace,
Yours is not the Earth and nothing that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a fool, my son!

I WANDER'D lonely as a clown
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden caterpillars;

In Chorlton did Kubla Khan
A stately organic cafe decree:
Where Mersey, the sacred river, ran
Through sewage measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

Shall I compare thee to a winter's day?
Thou art more cold and more grumpy.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And winter's lease hath all too long a date.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Chorlton's gardens green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On Chorlton's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded beer?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic cafes?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Mystic Detective(13)

Frankie was suffering. He sat there with his head in his hands, his body slumped over. For a usual snappy dresser he was a mess. His hair was lank and greasy clearly needing a wash, his shirt was crumpled and his tie was at half mast. He was a picture of misery. Paul waited patiently for his friend to speak again. Frankie groaned and looked up at Paul with a wild beseeching look in his eyes that hit Paul in the bottom of his stomach
- I’m losing it…. Big time
- Oh Frankie!
- Yes, the business with Claudia and those bastards in OM is doing me in
- Tell me what happened
- Oh, (groaned Frankie as if the effort to speak, indeed the effort to think was too much for him) get me a coffee … or something stronger
- Let’s stick to an Americano.
Paul signalled to a waiter who came across and took his order
- Why not start at the beginning?
- Well you know how I gave OM one thousand pounds
- Oh you did in the end?
- Yes… and how Claudia wanted me to do their Level Two
- No
- Yes, Level Two
- And you did it?
- Yes (Frankie swallowed) I wish I hadn’t
- What happened?
- What happened? (Paul nodded) .. . ahm… Well that’s it. I know they used a drug on me for what they call memory enhancing but actually I have gaps in my memory. I-I-I remember going to the their centre with Claudia and taking part in a welcome meeting – welcome my arse! that was a laugh (said with bitterness)
- And?
- And then it gets hazy, a jumble of memories for the next few days…. I think I had sex with someone and I laughed a lot and the whole world seemed to laugh with me event he video camera man-
- Whaat?
- Eh… yes video camera man oh shit… and then I remember laughing and crying and crying and laughing and disappearing into a dark hole and emerging into white light… and then… and then… gradually coming back to some kind of normality but I feel so sad and blue… everything is pointless…Ah…
- What does Claudia say?
- Claudia?
- Yes Claudia
Frankie shook his head as if trying to get back into the conversation.
- Oh… er Claudia… well she is already doing Level Three and apparently she was my Level Two partner or Leveller as they are called though usually you don’t act as Leveller with members of your own family… where was I? …. Oh yeah Claudia says I had a particularly difficult Level two experience and that she had to work hard to get me through it but it came alright in the end.
- Yeah?
- No! I am not alright, am I? (Paul nodded his agreement) and at some point in those three days I signed an agreement to give OM another five thousand
- Five Thousand?
- Yes five thousand, that means I am now in for six thousand in total and they are asking me to round it up to then thousand
- Bloody hell
- Bloody hell yes. And I feel like hell too
Frankie looked so thoroughly miserable and a tear ran down his face
- And Claudia?
- Oh she’s alright, she’s their bright eyed babe. I’ve seen through her. I don’t care whether she is my daughter or not. I’m finished with her
Frankie began sobbing which contrasted with his angry words. Paul reached out and touched his friend’s arm causing Frankie to flinch before relaxing and receiving Paul’s touch.
- Is there anywhere you could go?
- I don’t know….Rome maybe, my cousin’s there…. It would be great to get away and there is no OM centre there. The Italians have too much sense!
- Why not got his weekend? Why not go today?
- Well I’ve a few meetings, a few tutorials but…
- But they can wait and they will be all the better for you having a break
- Paul you are dead right. I’ll make the arrangements right now.

Paul was pleased with his friend’s decision but still very concerned about the state Frankie was in. But maybe a break in Rome would at least serve as a kind of convalescence for the bad drug induced experience Frankie had clearly gone through with OM.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Getting out of the human condition

Getting out of the human condition

For me there is a huge philosophical and spiritual question
To do with truth and meaning
I can never…..
Let me try
I can never transcend being human
I can never step outside of being human
The universe to me is spiritual
I experience that
I have times of experiencing an inter-connectedness
That I regard as spiritual

I cannot not have had that experience
But there’s a sense in which
Perhaps I could
But it feels like I can’t
That I can’t stand somewhere
Outside of being a human spiritual being

And so everything I do
I’m in
And I can’t get out

(I got interviewed by Kim Etherington some time ago and she turned some of my words in stanzas and published them in her On Becoming a reflexive Researcher book. So I decided to draw out these stanzas sutibaly edited as poems. here is one of them)

On being blisssed out

Until a couple of years ago I used to attend a weekly yoga class run by Ananda Marga. It was gentle yoga with a lot of resting between postures and it ended with a meditation. I would come out 'blissed out'. This was different to my Quaker blissed out state - more of that later. I liked the Hindu inspired teachings that were part of the class and the various teachers over the years mostly young white and European were gentle souls. Then things got a bit evangelical for my taste and so I stopped going. But I miss it - the yoga and the blissed out state so I am thinking of going again.

I have always been blissed out from time to time at least since I was a teenager if not earlier. Maybe a briefish dabble with hash helped - it used to bliss me out even on small doses and then it didn't. But getting involved with spiritual healing, meditation and Reichian therapy (an energy based form of psychotherapy) in my late twenties early thirties led to more regular blissedoutness. But I never came to rest quite within a spiritual/religion home.

Then 20 years ago I stumbled across Quakers and felt I had come one. The blissed outness seem part of things and I loved their archaic language and their egalitarianism - I am convinced I was in the English Civil War in a past life and of course Quakers stared in that period - 1652. Many of the people who were Levellers in the 1640s became Quakers in the 1650s.

But I have a problem. I find it hard to talk about my blissed outness to my fellow Quakers. This problem of mine reduces my intimacy with my fellow Quakers. It's like I can't switch out of my blissed outness into ordinary' conversations over tea afterwards. No-one seems to talk about what we have just done together int eh silence of the Meeting. I am also rather lacking in some social skills (we teach what we need to learn!) and I struggle in social situations with people I don't know that well. So after 15 years of attending Manchester Quaker Meetings I still feel on the edge. |Even I've been an Elder and am in my 7th year as Quaker Chaplain so in theory I should be in the thick of things.

Back to the blissed out thing. I guess I became a Quaker because this was a great way of honoring and developing my blissed outness even if we don't really have much apparent Quaker language for it. Unlike say Wilber who offers an all signing all dancing model of human spiritual development. So I was culturally ready for a quaint old fashioned language egalitarian group that was inclusive and which struggled with the word 'Christian' and it also helped me resolve some of my issues around sin.

But I struggle on a human level with this being a Quaker.

OK back to blissed out. Ananda Marga blissed out is different to Quaker blissed out for me. It's calmer perhaps because it is after and during yoga. I come out of the classes often feeling lit up. Quaker blissed out seems different. Maybe it is partially because after the Quaker silence there is usually lots of notices which pulls me back into being cerebral. It is as if I/we can't say 'that was stunning'. Or 'that was stunning for me how was it for you?' I know, I know, people who were not stunned might feel excluded. But not being able to acknowledge I feel stunned is excluding me. OK so I am going to have break that taboo.

Basically I am a mystic as some of you know hence this blissed outness. OK then what is being a mystic? Let's leave that one for another post!

Thanks for your listening to this!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

At the cathedral last night

Last night I spoke for 5 minutes in Manchester cathedral - my first and probably only time I will speak there. It was at the book launch of my friend Terry Biddington, the Anglican chaplain to the Universities, whose new book 'Risk Shaped Discipleship' is just out. Follow this link to Amazon for more details:
If you can cope with the Christian language and the references to the Bible you will find this book of great relevance to your spiritual life.

There are some extraordinary people like Terry in the Christian Churches who hold to a different view of the religious life and who claim a different understanding of Christianity.

I also met a good vicar I know a little bit last night. He is doing tremendous work with ordinary people in his parish. He intends to have a civil partnership do in the near future but he is wondering how to tell his bishop! Gay people in the Christian church and Lesbians and women as a whole have my profound respect and love as they struggle for real equality. Despite the oppression and nonsense they get they hold to their vision and their faith. Of course with a more inclusive church their light would shine even brighter. And sometimes the pressures get to them.

As we sat together in the pub afterwards and I felt such a connectedness I somehow belonged among these people even though I can only visit a Christian church once in a blue moon and then mostly to support my mother-in-law.

I know us spiritual and religious people should do it better, our light should shine more brightly we should be examples. AND we are all too human. The same is true of counsellors - surely we should understand human interactions and groups and so our organisations should be so healthy. They are not!

But it is worth searching for a better place inside. It's worth facing one's shadow and demons and reclaiming the energy for a different usage. And when I love people like these friends of mine last night it feels good and I am a better man for it.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Mystic detective (12)

‘Don’t give all your Northern pain’ sang Neil Tenant through Paul’s headphones on the train to London. London had been the magic metropolis of his childhood and a place for teenage delights later. But no older but probably no wiser London was more like a down at heel eccentric but still lively aunt. ‘I’m getting too old for this caper. No I’m getting to healthy to want to live this way’.

Paul was in London for a meeting with Abdul who insisted that he had some hot information on OM and must, must see Paul right away. Abdul was in London for a few days prior to an extended visit to India – ‘sort of spiritual sabbatical’ and he had information he did not want to put in an email or speak on Skype or over the phone about – ‘call me paranoid if you like’.

They had agreed to meet up at Euston Station and then walk to a nearby coffee shop. This way it would be easy to tell if they were being followed. Abdul had a cautious edge to him and kept looking back and stopping to look in shop windows.

They found a small brightly decorated but otherwise nondescript café – Kool and sat down with a cappuccino for Paul and an Americano for Abdul.
- So
- So mystic
- What have you got for me?
With a quick glance around Abdullah leaned forward and spoke
- This OM shit is even worse than thought
- Yeah?
- Yeah. They have got a dirty trick department and by the saints it is dirty. They target anyone they don’t like, anyone who speaks out against them so you be careful Paul. They’ll plant newspaper stories, arrange sexual set-ups for you in which you get videod in compromising situations. They’ll even get people to testify against you. They’ll use drugs (Paul nodded)… People have been beaten up. Documents they’ll forge them. Computers, phones, mobes, they’ll hack them. You name it they’ll do it
- Why?
- Why?
- Yes why?
- This is the key bit. OM is whatever their Guru decides it will be. OM serves its Master who is keen to build up his fortune and influence. He has 7 Roll Royce, one for each day of the week, one for each chakras – you know what the chakras are? (Paul nodded) – each one one colour of the rainbow, each colour linked to a different chakra.
- Apart from serving their Guru what else is OM about?
- One of its rackets is illegal immigrants, they are old hands at forging papers, changing people’s identities, moving people between their various centres. They are also heavily into the high end of the drug trade mostly coke. And they’ve got big connections in the Tory party and the police.
- This makes so much sense to me and pulls together a lot of what I already know…. But what are they really up to? What’s their ultimate aim?
- They are amoral, they hide behind their simplification of Hinduism. Their spirituality is a front – well I guess some of them truly believe it but not the leadership and certainly not their Guru
- And is there something big, something else going on?
- Yes, said Abdul who suddenly went quiet as a stranger entered the deserted café. He was white with denim jeans and jacket with next to no hair, deep set blue eyes, designer stubble and the body of a man who worked out, every day. Sensing his friend’s discomfort Paul said, ‘Let’s go.’
Abdullah nodded but first went to the bathroom.

Paul waited and watched while the stranger bought a coffee. A few minutes passed and Paul began to grow uneasy and decided to check out the toilets. They were empty apart from Abdul’s prayer cap lying on the ground. Paul frowned. Abdul would never leave his prayer cap behind and certainly not on the floor.

Outside the toilet was a door that led out on tot eh backstreets and it was ajar. Paul quietly slipped outside but there was no sign of his friend.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Mystic Detective (11)

Paul was meeting Abdul in a café on the Curry Mile in Rusholme. Almost every shop was a curry house or an Indian sweet shop or a shop selling gold bling or colourful saris. It was alive and pulsing with noise and sounds by late evening but this was 5 o’clock and it was quiet apart from a few ubiquitous students and people going about their lawful and unlawful business.

Abdul was a light skinned Gujarati, born in Mumbai in India. He had moved to Kenya with his teacher parents as 5 year old and the returned to India for his secondary education. He then moved to England for University in Manchester where he settled 20 years ago. He was one of Paul’s contacts within the ethnic Indian communities in Manchester. Abdul was also a Muslim and able to give details when he so wished about Islamic matters. They had met when Paul had helped Abdul find his teenage sister Jamila who had run away from home into the arms of a white criminal gang (See ‘The Mystic Detective goes West’). But Abdul was not merely a useful source of information, indeed few of Paul’s best contacts were just that. Abdul was a friend of Pauls.

Paul met Abdul in Jaffa, a halal café halfway up the curry mile. It was noting to look at with red leather imitation seats (rather reminiscent of 1960s Wimpey bar) and a large takeover counter at the far end with an open plan kitchen beyond. But the food was surprisingly good, otherwise why would Abdul choose to eat there and Paul noticed that he was the only white person among the dozen or people in the café. This was always a good sign, even if it still made Paul feel a bit uneasy, for an all white clientele would suggest a lack of real ethnicity and quality in the food offered.

This proved to be the case, the humus Paul ordered was almost sweet, sharp and fresh some of the best he tasted. Abdul had ordered a mixed grill – meat with salad – and he naturally sought to share his and Paul’s food. Paul struggled with this, his Greek friends including Sophia did the same but when Abdul picked up a chapatti and dipped it in Paul’s humus Paul winced inside.
- Oh mystic I had forgotten your English sensibilities, forgive me I should have ordered an extra plate of humus
- S’OK Abdul, I need to let go of my prissiness.
- Hmm, anyway why did you want to meet me apart from the joys of my delightful conversation and company?
- What do you know about OM?
- Bunch of arseholes! (Paul had forgotten Abdul’s rather colourful choice of language)
- That’s your carefully considered opinion?
- Look they prey on you white people’s love of yoga and love of our ancient and colourful Hindu spiritual traditions and stories. Your English Christianity is so lacking in colour it is no wonder that crap like OM flourish. You Brits have such poor taste. But you should try the real thing, check out the Sufis, read some Rumi.
Paul nodded, - I have and I love the glorious madness of Rumi’s spirituality. It speaks to my condition… but tell me more about OM
- OK many of their teachers are Indian from the South, Kerala, but the guru is white. White! A Hindu group with a white guru!
- What’s his name?
- Guru Ganesha
- Guru elephant (They both laugh)
- Yes, if you like, Ganesha of course is linked to the sacred sound OM, he is said to personify the sound OM and he is the remover of obstacles or sometimes he puts obstacles in the way of his detractors
- What’s his English name?
- Jonathan Walters
- Know anything about him?
- Very little apart from he was a criminal who saw the light via Yoga in prison.
- Hmm, I’ll have to dig around.

Later back home it took Paul a few phone calls and ten minutes on the internet to find out a fait bit about Jonathan Walters. After early school at a minor public school Walters went up to Oxford University to study classics where he got in with a heavy drinking and partying set and dropped out just before being expelled. Working in a merchant bank did not suit him and a scam involving some hyped but worthless shares led to a heavy fine and a 2 year prison sentence initially suspended. However, soon afterwards he was arrested after a violence affray and served 18 months during which time he took up yoga. What happened next was not that clear to Paul’s contacts and the internet but a trip to India, and possibly China happened and subsequently Om was founded.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Mystic Detective(10)

Paul met with Frankie at the University in one of the few cafes on campus that made a decent cup of coffee. It was a classic, cold, wet Mancunian Autumnal day.
- Hi Frankie
- Hi mystic (Frankie’s reply was untypically unenthusiastic)
- How do?
- Do OK ish
- Ish?
- Yeah… we… … this new found daughter of mine is giving me some grief
- Yeah?
- Yeah, she dragged me to a yoga class at the OM Centre
- Uh uh (Paul was as ever making minimal non committal noises to encourage his friend’s disclosures)
- - Yeah it wasn’t bad as yoga goes but the sales pitch at the end was rather evangelical and Claudia piling in as well was more than a bit much
- Hmm… so you want to stay in her good books
- You’re ahead of me as ever Paul. Yeah having just found Claudia and accepted her as my daughter, accepted her into my life I don’t want to lose her. So I am thinking of becoming one of the Thousand-
- Thousand?
- Yeah they want a thousand people to pledge a thousand pounds so that they raise a million fort heir new centre in Leeds
- Frankie! (Paul adopted a plaintive voice)
- I know, I know, but it’s cheap at the price if it keeps Claudia in my life
- But what if it is only the start of ever greater demands?
- I ‘ll deal with that as and when
- Why not give the thousand pounds direct to her as a gift?
- I thought of that but she said ‘no’ and that this way it attracts gift aid and it keeps things clear between us
- Hmm… I really don’t like the sound of all of this
Frankie shifted uncomfortably in his chair,
- I have my own doubts too but what’s a grand compared to gaining a daughter?
- Well a good week’s work for a start! … And it’s feeding an unhealthy habit of hers – this OM cult is bad news
- Cult?
- Cult, check out Wikipedia
- Wikipedia, said Frankie scornfully.
- You academics are such snobs…try the INFORM website instead
Paul went on to explain about Xavier, Percy and his encounter with the BNF fascist group
- Hmm, I can see why you are concerned (Paul was relieved) but I have already handed over the cheque and-
- Stop it then
- Too late and in any case it would look bad
- Listen, be very very careful Frankie and don’t, I repeat don’t go to any of their residential centres
- Hmm…. Why not?
- Why not? Well I just don’t trust them… and cults always use residential experiences to influence and win people over
- I have already promised Claudia that I would go this weekend
- Don’t!
- How can I back out?
- Make up any excuse, blame me if you like or work but don’t go!
- OK (Frankie sounded doubtful)
- I mean it Frankie, ring her now on your mobe.
Frankie agreed reluctantly
- Hi Claudia
- --
- Yeah, but listen I really can’t make York this weekend
- --
- Yes I know its is disappointing and I was looking forward to it
- --
- Yes I am really sorry but something has come up
- ---
- Yes at work. They’ve dumped a report on me at the last minute and it has to be in first thing Monday morning
- --
- Yes sweetheart but it is for the President and if I want to keep in the Dean’s good books-
- ---
- Yes, yes I know but yeah
- --
- Thank you for being so understanding… I’ll make it up to you
- --
- Yeah dinner at the Midland
- --
- Bye

Frankie breathed a sigh of relief
- OK?
- Yeah, I hated doing it but…
The issue with OM was clearly not over and not doubt Claudia would urge Frankie to attend the OM Centre in York on some other weekend but at least the problem was on old for the time being.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Mystic detective (9)

- Hey mystic
- Berni you old bugger!
- Less of the old
- But buggers OK? (They both laugh)
- Chacun a son gout
- French!
- French indeed is my latest beau!
- Tell me more!
- I will but first of all I have a message for you.
Paul was instantly alert for Berni was a high quality Geordie psychic who occasionally gave him valuable guidance.
- It goes like this (Berni began speaking in a very formal ritualised way) Beware of Frankie, beware of OM and above all watch your back
- Too late for that I got beaten up last week
- I’m not talking of the past
- Oh Fuck
- You’ll be OK, you’re a survivor
- Sure (At what cost?)
- I know it costs you
- Oh fuck talking to a psychic
- Yeah well mystic you take care
- Will do and you too
- Love you
Paul grunted. Bernie was a case, indeed she was an ex client of his (see ‘Mystic detective rides again’). She was sensitive and also flamboyant, very worldly but curiously shy and naïve and like a kid sometimes. And her predictions were always spot or at least as far as Paul was concerned.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Being my age

On my bike today and thinking about my age. Being 60 is different. Don’t mean being 60 rather than 59 is different just being around on this planet fro all of these years has changed me. For example my childhood ambition to play football for Aston Villa is now not going to be realised  and in fact was obvious to me in 1960 when I never made the Primary School football team. I would still like to achieve a long held ambition to have a novel published but this is unlikely although I am having fun developing my Mystic Detective writings. I also dream of being a more published poet and from time to time I send off poems to various magazines/competitions but it is mostly rejection. I am a very successful academic writer so that may have to do.
I am now better at living in the moment and enjoying the little things of life- coffee and a chat with a good friend; the bike ride to work; a laugh with my daughter; words of appreciation from my wife; seeing my students succeed in their studies; the stars at night; when it stops raining; the occasions victories of Aston Villa; listening to the Pets… There is a lot to be thankful for!
And this may be it, I don’t know, I’ll find out. I don’t know what is round the corner, all kind of challenges and hopefully delights. I know I can’t control the future- I can only be as ready as I can for what does happen.
I think I am optimistic, I certainly rather lucky in many ways, I have had some good breaks in my life and I have found outlets for what I had to give and share. I now this is not everybody’s story. But I guess this good fortune predisposes me towards an optimistic view of life, or at least glass half full. And then my moments of spiritual experience seem to top everything up.
I could of course have a good moan and I might (and have done) one day but this s me today right now.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Mystic Detective(8)

Paul was in Leeds – only an hour or so away from Manchester – but a very different culture. Not as cosmopolitan or as rich as Manchester and a different kind of meanness haunted its city streets. Both cities had known poverty (and still did) especially during Paul’s childhood in the 1980s when the destructive madness of Margaret Thatcher blighted a whole generation in the North.

The recovery was slow. Manchester re-branded itself as a modern multi cultural post industrial city. Dirty deals were done with the money men and a boom of sorts resulted. Leeds with its lingering Yorkshire dourness was slower off the mark but a kind of prosperity seemed to arrive by the mid to late 1990s.

Paul was in Leeds for a meeting with an informant, Clive, a disillusioned ex member of OM who Frankie had tracked down via an ex student of his. They met in the bar at lunchtime at the Playhouse Theatre among luvvies and wrinkles. Clive was a youngish looking man dressed in a lurid T shirt (featuring the Clash of all bands!) and jeans despite the rather cold Autumnal weather. He was thin and tall with a pencil thin moustache and a goatee beard, looking rather like a hackneyed painter but without the acne.

- I understand you can help me with some information about OM
- It will cost you (was the reply as Clive, furtively looked round and leaned forward to speak softly to Paul)
- Fine, if its good
- How about one hundred quid upfront?
- Fifty for starters
- OK
Paul handed over 5 ten pound notes.
- What do you want to know?
- Well, a client of mine has a daughter who got caught up with OM and when she left they wouldn’t let her go, started stalking her, demanding money…
- Sounds typical
- What’s it all about, I don’t get it
- You need to understand the way they think
- Tell me
- Well. The self as we no it is an illusion. When you join OM then you lose your separateness and join the Overself, the OM Self. So everything you have is signed over to OM. Until you take this step you wont be happy. When you do you are guaranteed eternal bliss. OM will then take care of all of your material needs. They target well off unhappy people, loners, people with a spiritual itch.
- So what happens when you leave?
- Probably your client’s daughter had not done the final death of the self ceremony.
- Death of the self?
- Yes it’s a ritual practice in which the sanyasin fasts for 72 hours and then at dawn a special ceremony occurs in which they are given a new OM name and hand over all their worldly goods.
- Hmmm (Paul remembered the state his friend Xavier was in after his time at the OM Centre in York and his own visit their.)
- It sounds like she quit just before the ceremony and that they are trying to get her back. They are very good with IT stuff. They’ve hack into her email, Facebook, Myspace and Twitter accounts. Probably even her mobile phone.
- How do you stop them?
- They are very tenacious
- You might be able to pay them off but it would cost a packet. And they don’t like people quitting and telling what happened.
- You got contacts
- Yes but it will cost you (Paul assed over another 50 quid) and don’t tell them were you got the information. York is not their main centre. It is just their public face, it is their level one. It is at their level two centre that the real damage is done. That’s where the death of the self happens. Their level two centre is in California.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Mystic Detective(7)

Paul was early again for the meeting – it was how he liked it to be. It gave him time to ‘case the joint’ and on more than one occasion it meant he had avoided an unpleasant scene – including probably being beaten up.

This time there seemed to be no apparent cause for concern, no guys hanging out looking both over casual but suspiciously observant. However, that did not make it safe, merely dealt with the possible amateurs (and police) the professionals were an altogether different matter. If they were involved they would turn up with his contact and/or already be in place inside the building.

There were some hard men (and in one case a hard woman) and hard money around Manchester but usually, and thankfully, their world and Paul’s did not meet. This was apart from the rare occasions when they wanted him to do a job for them – and this was one of them – usually involving wives or girlfriends or daughters. Paul was happy, or rather not happy but willing to take on such legal jobs on condition that they stayed out of his affairs.

Sometimes he regretted this arrangement and today might prove to be one such time. He was meeting with Polish Jan, an East European man of possibly Polish origins, non-one was really sure. Jan had made his first fortune arranging ‘marriages’ between Poles fleeing their country in the 1907s and 80s. There were plenty of down at heels hippies and punks at that time eager to earn £100+ for a few minutes appearance in a registry office. Many of these characters had married more than once. Having made his first fortune this way Jan then turned to the more demanding but infinitely more profitable world of drug dealing.

Jan was a quiet speaking, well dressed and apparently gentle soul with sharp blue eyes, blond short hair, average height and the body of a man who worked out regularly at the gym. Although not that striking one first meeting he was clearly the Man – you only had to observe the way his two minders treated him and the response invoked in the bar staff.
- What do you want Jan, asked Paul after their drinks had been brought to them
- No time for small talk?
- No, this place gives me the creeps (This place being the bar at the Northern Hotel, which was notorious for its prostitutes, football players, WAGS and their hangers on.) lets cut to the chase
- My daughter is being stalked… I want you to deal with it.
- Stalked?
- Yes
- Why
- There’s a history (Paul nodded)
- Have you ever heard of OM?
- Yes
- You have?
- Yes
- Well you know then they are this meditation group and my daughter goes in for that kind of stuff (Jan spoke with a quiet venom)
- And?
- And they wanted her to join them and live at their centre in York but she’s not that dumb and felt there was something fishy about them. Now they wont let her go, they keep hassling her, or at least I think it’s them. It certainly was them one time and he’s got the bruises to prove it… Not very spiritual language when we hit him.
- But that’s not worked.
- No, it’s gone to mysterious phone calls, emails and stuff and it’s really getting Samantha down. I could get their place torched or thump a few of them but I am not sure that would work. Usually one beating is enough but in this case…
- You would like a softer approach
- I’m not that bothered how soft I just want it sorted
- Well my approach is never physical-
- I know that
- But I am willing to investigate, check this out.
- Good man
They shook hands and Jan and his sidekicks left. Paul was left wondering whether he had done the right thing.

Poem: Horrors of creation

Horrors of creation

I met you again
This time in a wheelchair
And I wonder why?

I am able to see you
Without disability
As you sit down and we talk

You tell me of the good
That comes out of facing illness
And I wonder at your calmness

And I feel the anger
And wonder againAt the marvels/
And the horrors of creation

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Mystic detective(7)

Paul remembered the time he had visited Marie in hospital. Hospitals scared him, psychiatric wards even more so. But he had to visit her - she was in there because of him or so he thought. It was a modern hospital just outside the city centre and opposite the university.

It was clearly not a quiet place or refuge or asylum but then neither were the old Victorian out of town, out of mind asylums. There was a distinct smell of cheap disinfectant in the air masking another familiar hospital smell - disease, fear and sweat - all three blended together.

The staff in the unit wore everyday clothes which was a bit confusing at first for Paul until he saw the state of the patients. They each in their own way had a lost air about them - if not why would they be there after all?

Marie was no exception, in a tiny room, (but at least she had a room of her own) with just a hospital bed and a small cupboard and much else. She was lying facing the wall, dressed in old faded hospital pyjamas.

- Hi
She grunted in acknowledgement
- How are you? (Stupid question!)
- Ok (but the shrug of her shoulders told a different story)
- you need anything?
- No.... well some clothes... I guess
- Sure
There was a silence.
- Dywant to get a drink somewhere?
She shrugged.
- OK, OK
Paul offered her the flowers he had brought. She looked at them but didn't take them off him or say anything. A tear slowly trickled down her face.
- Oh Fuck!

Paul went off in search of a member of staff, at least to do something. He found one who was very kind and rather young but of no real use to him. Yes she was going to get better. Yes she was on medication, anti depressants. Yes she would eventually see a psychiatrist - probably next month. No ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy) was not being considered.

Well no she didn't get better and yes eventually ECT was used and it did succeed in pulling her back into a kind of reality. But her lost look remained. And there was no way back for Paul and her.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Hey this stuff is turning into a blog entry

This was a comment I left on Josie's Earth, wind and Sky blog:

Hi Josie (and Kelly), my two pennyworth. I write when I have to, sometimes it means I have to stop my bike and capture a poem. Some stuff goes straight to blog (or Facebook if brief), some stays in my pink notebook, some ends up after a lot of reworking as 'academic' stuff but that is much less fun and I am going off that message! What I enjoy most is reading my stuff out freshly cooked at a monthly creative writing class where people laugh because of the humour inherent in my stuff and how I perform it. I perform some of my poems publically but have not yet done any stories but want to eventually. I guess my bottom line is I want my stuff to touch people. Hey this is turning into a blog entry oops.

Yeah I guess it is all about contact, a need to be heard and to be accepted. Hey ho!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Mystic detective in Spain

Paul was on holiday in Spain, in August! It was way too dry, it was way too hot and despite clinging to the shade like a mussel he was way too sun burnt. What on earth was he doing here? he kept asking himself and the answer was Catherine his teenage daughter. But why on earth had he agreed to come here? Probably guilt.

He still felt responsible for the bust up with Marie - Catherine's mum, his ex - but really the problem was his job. No that was not quite true, he was the problem.

The trouble with men is that they are not happy unless they have a mountain to climb, a sea to swim, or a battle to fight. There was something in the male psyche that caused most men to want to do daft dangerous things at least once in their lives.

And these daft dangerous things - like some of Paul's contracts - occasionally ended up with him being in a fight, including one time being shot sat (see 'mystic days').

So Catherine was the poor victim of her parents' folie a deux or rather not just a victim. Like most teenagers she had learnt early on to make the most of her parents' differences and like most daughters had her father well figured out.

Catherine was swimming in one of the three pools in the camp they were staying in and Paul was nursing a glass of rather cheap tasting sangria. He was sat under an imitation palm tree that at least afforded him some shade and a view of the pool, whilst he read yesterday's Guardian which at least gave him a nostalgic feel for his home town.

But the trouble was it was hard to spend time with Catherine without thinking about Marie and the more Paul and Catherine avoided talking about her the greater her presence was felt.

Paul's way of working had stretched Catherine beyond her breaking point. She snapped - had a breakdown - and when she was out of hospital she was a different woman and Paul a different man.

Their eventual separation had come as a relief to Paul. For now he could lead his life the way he wanted it - with his work and non work lives totally blurred together. But there was a price to pay for this indulgence.

One price he was happy to pay was not to have to commit to a new relationship with anyone. Although he had been spending time with Martha for several years now he refused to commit to her even though their relationship was going nowhere and either of them might call it a day soon.

Paul was consequently lonely but he had always been lonely even in the early heady days of his relationship with Marie. Marie had seemed so cool then, so right for him, they'd made a good pair - everyone said so and Catherine was just a happy accident - 'Well we meant to have kids sooner or later - didn't we?''Yeah sure,' was all a good modern man like Paul could reply. Notwithstanding a feeling inside of being trapped which he found hard to accept or fathom.

Marriage followed.

Paul's loneliness however had grown stronger after they married when it should have grown lighter or maybe even vanished. he took on some risky contracts to earn, in his eyes, the 'extra' money needed now that he was about to become a father.

These 'extra' jobs took him away from home increasingly often and although he did not 'play away' they did impact on his relationship with Marie. But it was when he was shot, albeit by accident and only in his right shoulder that Marie began to lose it or rather lose both him and it.

Looking now at Catherine happily swimming in the pool Paul felt that deep contentment he always felt in her company. Here was someone who he loved without apparent contradiction and who loved him equally in return.

Paul dozed off in the hot sun and dreamt that his friend Frankie was being pursued by X from the OM group and then Frankie was handing over a cheque for £10,000 which X lit a match to and smiled rather sinisterly and said 'that will never do' and Frankie began to look really really frightened and... Paul awoke with a start.

Had OM really got there teeth into Frankie? Had OM got some hold over him were they milking him dry. Is that what this dream was about? Or what?

Time to text Frankie later but first off a late Spanish tapas lunch with Catherine - chirozo, Spanish omelet, Paella and more cheap tasting sangria.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Spiritual musings

This came from an old email exchange last with my friend Terty Biddlington and I quiet like it:

"'A quote from my choir mistress that points to a use of the word spiritual:

"Yes, it's amazing how singing together engenders such good feeling. I think a combination of the physical (deep breathing which oxygenates and calms), the mental (brain busy concentrating on harmonies, so too absorbed to worry about life/ourselves) and the emotional (lovely bonding experience) and sometimes I think we can reach the spiritual, when we're singing a powerful song and there's so much good intent in the room, it does raise us all up."

I suppose I can't really separate out my experience of singing in this choir, of being at a Quaker Meeting, of some times receiving Holy Communion, of being in a prayer room at York or Durham Cathedral, or perish the thought at Callanish stone circle on the Hebrides or cycling home with my eyes on the stars in Orion. It's all spiritual for me and its all about feeling blessed, feeling Created and thankful and so I am led to praise my Creator and figure stuff out about that. I guess I am saying that my religion starts with experience that I can only describe as spiritual and then stumbling towards/groping for a context to make sense of it. For years (around 1971) all I had was Wordsworth's poetry to explain to myself what I was experiencing, then it was New Age ( around 1981) and finally Quakers (1990) and then I found that I could make my uneasy peace with Anglicanism."' (Although I keep thinking I should just quit the C of E over Gays, Lesbians and Woman).

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


Talking with Rebecca my piano teacher last night (yes we do manage to fit in some piano and voice work as well!) some things became clearer about this business of self-expression and making use of one’s talents. (I am also remembering here the writings and retreats of Francis Dewar who dealt with these issues in an interesting spiritual, if Christian - but big hearted Christian way). It is not a good thing to have unexpressed, and even worse, unexplored talents. Good education (and good parenting) for children and grownups should (!) be addressing this.

There has to be more ways of giving people the opportunity to explore without pressures what their range of talents are. What Rebecca made really clear to me was that expressing our talents at best involves our souls. Yes we need enough ego, and maybe the ego is the vehicle for our talents but unless our souls and spirits are involved it becomes empty and unsatisfying to all. If the soul is involved as it was last week when Rebecca played ‘Memories’ for me on the piano – it was like a concert for an audience of one(!) then the venue and the numbers do not matter.

I have always wanted my books and writings to reach more people. But that is largely my ego speaking. About once a month I get an email from someone who has got a lot out of something I have written, enough to take the time and the trouble to email me. That’s plenty!

So my life began to change in a good way when I began to work through my retirement list about 4 years ago starting with preparing for, and doing, my Lands End to John O’Groats bike ride. Then came the piano and, when I can fit it in again a choir and tennis, and the creative writings, blog and the poetry and the performing of the poetry. It is getting hard to fit all of this in with working full-time which is a great sign. And of course it is changing my full-time work for the better.

What I can truly say is that these last 4 years of checking out some retirement fantasies has been tremendously uplifting and healing. Some of it has merely involved following my nose. For for example I thought it might be taking up the saxophone until a 5 minute piano lesson from my daughter.

There is more work that needs to be done with young people on these matters but I don’t think that is my talent although I am open to finding out different. What I am thinking is that men of my age who felt that maybe their life is over could usefully have an opportunity to play with their unexpressed talents. I am not just thinking artistic because as the Pet Shop Boys tell us:

Every actor needs
an audience
Every action is
a performance
It all takes courage
You know it
Just crossing the street
well, it's almost heroic
You're so flamboyant

I guess you might think that this is OTT (Over The Top) but people can be truly delightful just walking down the street and our souls can be involved either as actor or audience. Indeed being an audience is a performance in its own right and takes its own talent.

For instance the Manky Poets audience greet every poem read out with enthusiastic applause. Can you imagine the impact that has on a first timer and her/his poetry? I have learnt over time to hear different notes in this applause, for example hoots of joy(?) or gasps of shock(?) when a strong emotional point is made. Once you realise that will be well received then you are empowered to take more risks. Can you imagine that? I risked 2 particular poems both rather long ('Bike Cycle' and 'Some of my Dad's War Stories') and I got some encouraging feedback afterwards.

So I try and make a point of thanking people who move me or delight me in some way and touch my life. So perhaps I am developing a talent for gratitude. I never really knew how full my glass was until closing time was close.

But maybe it is earlier than I think :)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Dreaming of you - poem

I have been dreaming of a strange but curiously familar woman/women in several dreams recently. here is a poem I wrote about it.

Dreaming of you

Dreaming of you
I feel complete
It’s a strange kind of intimacy
You visit me at night
In different guises
and disguises
But you are always the same underneath

I wake up
With you beside me
And I wonder
Am I dreaming
of you?
Are you dreaming
of me?
And what happens when we both wake up?

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Being moved

I have just begun to learn to play Memory from Cats. Andrew Lloyd Webber is not my favourite composer but this music is OK (My teacher gave me the right to veto it!) and it is a useful piece to practice some piano skills to. Last night my piano teacher Rebecca played it through for me. I was very moved by her playing, lifted up and got tearful. She has a real talent as a performer but has not performed in years.

I would die for such talent. Indeed with only a fraction of such talent I would be out there performing but that's me. Rebecca's extensive high powered training as a musician had a closing down or spoiling effect on her as a performer.

Part of me has always been shy almost reclusive but another part which seems to get bigger is, for want of another word, a performer. I love working with people around stuff that interests me and touches me and them. Thankfully I no longer feel drawn to being a therapist but I love facilitating people's doctorate study (how weird is that?). I love teaching mature students who are often eager and motivated to learn. I love speaking to 400 people for an hour at conferences and I love working all day with 20 people in a workshop on spirituality. And I love performing my poems usually as a Manky poet.

My career as an academic is probably on its way out as I have lost the urge and energy to keep holding the space that I believe needs to be held, the currents in my institution and in me are flowing away from this. I would need a lot of holding and support to carry this work on beyond the next year or so and frankly no-one apart from some of my students gives a damn and that is ok.

But I want to continue to touch people through my spoken and written words and of course through my silences. I want to continue to spark others to find their voices. And If I ever get to grow a musical talent inside me one hundredth that of Rebecca's I will be out their playing!

I was and still am a small town boy who 'jumped the tracks' by going to a Grammar School - thank God - and this and a student grant(!) got me easily out of the town I was born into which I could never go back to. I found people able to echo back to me who I was and so began the long slow, too slow perhaps finding my place in the world. I can never forgot that early gap between who I was and the place and family I was born into. Education has saved my life in a very real existential sense.

So? well find a way to be more of who you are and less of who you think you ought to be and that way some kind of fulfilment and happiness lies.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Meeting Q again

The Boss consults his spiritual director Q once more:

- Hi Q
- Hi Boss, what brings you here?
- Well Q, I have this feeling, this fear, that I might not ever reach retirement from work, almost a feeling of dread that my work here will go on forever, or at least until I drop, or perhaps even worse until I am incapacitated..
- Hmm… there is so much in what you are saying. I hear your fear… None of us knows when we will die or when we might become incapacitated… but you do have some choices however limited
- True and I have begun to work through my things to do when I retired list. The trouble is I have got too busy…
- Good problem!
- Too busy, so the only way forward is to semi retire!
- Sounds good
- I just get anxious that I’ll never escape work
- Would that be so bad?
- Well it would if it carries on like it is now
- Hmm
- And there is so much I think I want to do but I can’t truly know until I retire. It may all be an illusion…
- The word retire implies a retreat
- Retreat now there’s a thought…. Retirement as a withdrawal from my current work followed by a retreat and then who knows?
- That sounds better!
- It sure does – retirement -> Retreat -> new life

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A heart beat away -poem

A Heart beat Away

In California
Dreaming of you
Separated by thousands of miles
But closer than ever
A heart beat away

I carry you in side me
A heart beat away

Am I inside you?
A heart beat away

For I am missing bits of me
A heart beat away

The older I get the more scattered I feel
A heart beat away
One of these days the wind will come for me
A heart beat away

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Boss meets with Q again

The Boss meets with Q his spiritual adviser
- Hi Q
- Hi Boss, long time no see
- Yes, well (the Boss squirms ion his chair) I’ve been busy…
- There’s no need to justify
- No… no but it’s true
- So what brings you here today?
- I have been wrestling with serious illness and death and what it means
- Hmm
- I have realised though it is hard to accept that I can’t do anything about death – it is inevitable - and I don’t believe in physical resurrection... maybe my soul or spirit continues but I think it’s Heaven or Hell split polarised like that. I am more inclined to Carl Jung’s idea that if there is an after life it is rather like this one…
- You sound pretty figured about all this
- Sound yes, thought out maybe, but it doesn’t feel that way at all. I am scared of death even though if it is the end I wont be there to be scared of it. I am scared of dying though it is inevitable, I am sacred of the pain of it and most of all I am scared of becoming older and frailer
- I here a lot of fear there
- Sure and I see friends of mine becoming frailer and I think what’s the point of that? Why can’t we all just die in our sleep?
- Good question
- And?
- Look it is clearly not what happens
- Yes I know that (the Boss begin to get grumpy)!
- Can you not accept that even increasing frailty could be purposeful?
- It’s hard especially when it involves me directly or indirectly
- True but you will just (‘just!’ interjected the Boss) you will just have to live with it
- OK…OK but that still doesn’t explain it
- I know, I guess we are asked to surrender to what it is
- Not that damn word ‘surrender’ again. I am sick of surrender
- What is is what is
- OK Q but you don’t have to be so smug and gnomic
- I think I would insulting your intelligence to suggest that karma might be being resolved
- And in any case if God is so compassionate and merciful why do any of us suffer?
- Death, frailty and now suffering!
- Yes Q
- I know it is a challenge to faith but the world is as it is and we have to find a way of best living with what it and raging against the inevitable is probably rather futile
- A bit of rage never hurt anyone!
- Makes a change from fear
- Rage, rage against the dying light!
- Why not… and afterwards?
- Peace

They fell into a deep silence. In its depth the questions and challenges fell away. The Boss became blissful fro no reason other than the experience of the silence. At last he had an answer to his nagging questions as they dissolved in the silence.

[As told to me this morning]

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

California and deep fried Mars bars

So the team of questers - me, Dori, David (Smith)and Megan who was co-opted - were on the case in Asilomar in California and surrounding towns (Monterrey, Carmel etc). The first view was that we should find something disgusting but also healthy to give it a Californian spin.

So we tried Kombucha which not only tastes a bit weird - think of the health drink Purdies but with a somewhat exaggerated and gingery taste, and it is fermented (or gone off!) tea but it has many horrid floating bits in it which they call 'buggers' (Yes I did point out that this word has other sexual meanings in English if not American) meaning of course 'boogies' (or to you snot). So it hits the spot(!) for looks and probably taste... Deep Fried Rating of 7.5 out of 10

David talked about Smoors which I did not find convincing until the final night of the conference when over an open fire Smoors were made. It goes like this: you get several marshmallows. Put them on a skewer and toast them over an open fire. Meanwhile get a Hershey bar or some similar chocolate put it on a cracker, add the hot soggy marshmallow and apply another cracker and squeeze them together. Eat the gooey mess. It has a somewhat similar overly sweet disgusting taste to a deep fired Mars bar if it does lacks the batter... Deep fried rating 8.5 out of 10.

You may think different or may have other 'deep fried moments' to tell us about!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

In search of a deep fried Mars bar

[A true story]

The quest was on. Before I knew it I had gathered around me a disparate group of Brits and Yanks all seeking the Holy Grail of a deep fried Mars bar. But this was genteel Edinburgh - not Glasgow the home of the deep fried Mars and even deep fried Pizzas.

So leaving the pub and our songs behind we set off. It was about 11.30 on a hot June evening. We passed 3 chip shops none of which could fulfil our quest. My companions were beginning to get mean and restless and doubted the veracity of my story. I even doubted whether Edinburgh could reach these culinary heights (or was it depth?) of Glasgow. But the 4th chip shop did. It even offered a variety of deep fried produce. Indeed, it seemed willing to deep fry almost anything - including Snickers!

So I ordered one and the six of us watched as the Mars bar was unwrapped and dipped into the batter and then carefully lowered into the hot fat. A few minutes later it was done. The golden coloured batter was lovely and crisp to the taste and the Mars bar was all gooey and molten. We all in turn took a bite. Some reckoned it was little hot chocolate sauce and quite pleasant. I found it a bit sickly frankly.

I wouldn't have missed our quest for the world. But I wouldn't do it again!

Monday, 31 May 2010

Old poem

Way back in 1973 I wrote a poem that was published in an duplicated poetry magazine called Vole. In 1987 in a house fire a lot of poetry and books were burnt but I saved some scorched poetry magazines. In 1995 I threw away all the poetry I had written along with some unpublishable novels etc. Then of course a few years ago I started writing poetry again and wished I hadn't burnt my stuff. Two weeks ago I remembered the scorched magazine and I performed the following poem yesterday (and 10 days ago at Manky poets)

Some P Poems

'Nothin's gonna change my world'
you did

Cliches are useless
I have lost you

I'll mail me through the post
For I am a poem
Je suis un objet poetic

It was early very early
And I walked the streets
Of Calais crying

No longer have I you
All I have is the experience

In no way can our love
Be wiped out
It is stronger than our memories
Longer than our lives
Nothing can stop it

To travel is to suffer
At times
To live is to suffer
I love to live
I live to love

Imagine me walking the streets of Calais
at 5 in the morning
Tears streaming my face
Imagine me asleep on the ferry
& awakening to find you
Not with me

Imagine you and me
Together again
Imagine love

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Poem, I still carried away

I still get carried away

Years ago
Walking in Alexander Park
I was captivated
By the blossom on a pear tree
And lifted out of my grief and depression
I was transported to another world
Of bliss and rapture
Where everything made sense
And no questions needed asking
Before they were answered
Coming back to normal life
I wept tears of gratitude

40 years later I still marvel
At those trees
And I still get carried away.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Mystic detective(5)

[creative writing]

Mystic detective(5) meets with Percy and Micky

Finally Paul and Percy meet face to face. Whatever expectations Paul had about Percy – and there were many - were confounded by that first meeting. There was areal dishevelled quality to Percy. It was not just that he needed a haircut badly (so did Paul for that matter) and a wardrobe makeover (ditto) – ‘my would the TV experts have a real field day with him’ thought Paul. It was also that this outer mess that was Percy was mirrored by something inner. Percy was a man who could hardly complete a sentence let alone hold a thought together.

This was in such sharp contract to Paul’s experience of Percy’s wife Brenda who was so neat and together despite her worries about Percy’s disappearance. Maybe opposites attract or maybe something had happened to Percy, something perhaps that involved OM? This was one occasion in which Paul’s laid back style of interviewing needed to change.

- So Percy – do you mind if I call you Percy-
- No… that is I mean… Yes please do
- So Percy in your own words tell me what happened
- What happened?
- Yes, how you came to leave Brenda…
- Leave Brenda… uhm…. I didn’t
- OK tell me about OM
- OM?
- Yes OM
- Well, I …er hmm… I started going to their classes cops I was stressed up about work and needed to relax and my GP suggested yoga or something…
- What happened?
- What happened?
- Yes what happened?
- Well, er… I started going to the early evening class on Thursdays…
- Yes?
- Yes and it felt good at first… definite improvement… more relaxed… and …uh what?
- The OM yoga classes felt good and?
- Oh yes they told me that I needed to do a retreat at their ashram…
- In York?
- Yes
- Why?
- Why?
- Yes why?
- Oh… er… yes they said that I would get even more benefit from a retreat. This seemed to make sense to me… at least at the time
- Did you tell Brenda about this?
- No…. they told me not to… said she would probably talk me out of it.
- Would she?
- Yes and I wished she had!
- What happened there?
- Oh… er .. hm.. yes… what?
- What happened there?
- (In a strange stilted voice lacking any affect) The OM Ashram seeks to promote world peace through inner harmony and prayer.
- Percy what’s happened?
- Whatdyermean?
- You just spoke to me in a strange voice
- Did I?
- Yes
- Oh
- You said ‘The OM Ashram seeks to promote world peace through inner harmony and prayer’
- Ye-es that…is… right
- Percy?
- Yes
- Percy what happened at the ashram?
- Hm… what happened at6 the ashram?
- Yes, what?
- It was calm and good
- Calm and good?
- Calm and good
- Why did you leave?
- I dunno, I wish I was still there.
Percy started weeping. Paul as usual felt awkward and this was something different
- Do you want to see Brenda?
- Yes… but I can’t (sobbing)
- Why ever not?
- They… they… wont let me (sobbing louder)
- Wont let you?
- Wont let me?
- Why ever not?
- Because… because they sky is blue it makes me cry
‘Oh fuck’ said Paul under his breath.
- But you do want to see Brenda?
- Yes
- OK leave it to me.

Percy was clearly in some hell of a state and needed care, although there was some risk in involving Brenda at this stage it made sense to Paul even if only to get the best possible help for Percy. Brenda would surely see to that. There was very little more that Paul could learn from Percy but that was not the end of the matter. There was still the question of what OM was up to, what OM had done to Paul himself and to Claudia and of course the vulnerable position that Paul’s friend Frankie was in. It was clearly time for Paul to speak to Micky Flynn.

Next morning in Fuel Micky joined Paul for a post breakfast Americano.
- On the QT we have had our eyes of OM for some time (Micky had this curious and old fashioned way of expressing himself)
- Oh yeah?
- Yeah but there is nothing we can p[in on them… their accounts are squeaky clean… but
- But?
- Well this is strictly between you and me (Paul nodded) God if it ever got out I was talking to you in this way I would be for the high jump…
- Strictly between me and thee
- Strictly… well a few people have needed mental health treatment following a stay at the ashram
- Really?
- Yes, but the OM people who include a medic or two have always argued that they attract a few punters who are in their words ‘volatile’ and so they can’t be held responsible…
- It begs a few questions
- It does indeed but they get everyone who stays there to sign a disclaimer
Paul nodded for he had signed such a form himself
- What about ‘donations’?
- Well they have had a few large ones including one from your client’s husband Percy.
- And?
- And well they argue that if satisfied customers want to donate to their OM Foundation what is wrong with that?
- Hmm… I’d like to see their balance sheet
- I thought you’d might but their latest accounts aren’t due for another 6 months and the previous year’s figures were not that striking
- Hmm so what do we need to do?
- Keep a watching brief. At least your client’s husband is well out of it
- True but I worry about Frankie and his alleged daughter who is well mixed up with them
- Keep me posted
- Will do

Micky left having raised more questions than answers even if he had supplied some useful background information. The next, indeed the only step, seemed to be via Frankie and Claudia but how best to handle it and what was the link between OM and the fascists? Time for a long bicycle ride trying not to think about things but letting the matter stew on the mind’s back burner if that was not a mangled metaphor!