288. RIP the Viper

We always had to dig deep on the final hill, which became progressively steeper until about 40 yards away from the pub. When you arrived, panting with exertion, almost unable to get off the bike, there was usually an unoccupied bench outside to flop down at. In minutes, you would be drinking from a pint of Brewers Gold or Oscar Wilde, looking at the surrounding woods, feeling the sun and the breeze, thanking the universe for being alive.

Such was my anticipation last Friday, September 11. A noted day for disasters. Hadn’t tackled the hill for a couple of years. So it was good to get to the top in one piece, aged 63. Wheezing like a dog, but cleanly, as The Viper came into sight. It seemed quiet for a Friday lunchtime. No cars parked in the adjacent space across the road. And no voices drifting through the warm air. Intuition whispered a terrible message. ‘Ah fuck, surely not?’

It stood there. Stark and still. Doors closed. No seats or benches. Weeds littering the grounds where I had marvelled at the sheer pleasure of drinking beer with friends.

Behind me, Martin groaned at the miserable view. We peered in through dirty curtains at deserted rooms. No sign of life. Mooted the idea of breaking in and seeing if we could find a couple of leftover bottles from the local Crouch Vale Brewery.

Back in Blog 227, I logged the demise of another country pub (the Three Elms, near Mashbury), and the wider decline of rural pub numbers. It isn’t an unexpected trend, as people stay within drink-driving limits and buy their alcohol from supermarkets. Unless you are serving food good enough to draw repeat visits, or have loyal, thirsty locals, running a country pub has become a slow ticket to extinction.

But the Viper! Shit. It was iconic, as if a space craft had blasted a clearing in the woods at Mill Green, Fryerning (about 7 miles southwest of Chelmsford) and planted the most perfect pub. A literal oasis.

MILL GREEN PUB WALK (30/6/17) - YouTube

I remembered listening to the landlady talking outside a few summers back, as she watered her roses. It had been a brilliant summer’s evening, but there were only half a dozen punters spread around the lawn. My impression was that she wore a brave face.

Not sure when she called it a day. A bit of rooting around on the Internet showed it had closed by the end of 2019, due to a “quarrel with the pub owner”. Maybe she couldn’t pay the rent.

All I can do is pay tribute with memories. I remember jumping in a taxi with Maureen and our friends Jono and Gina almost 20 years ago, so that we could drink ourselves happy in the lovely snug public bar. We did just that. Must have shoved many twenties and tens into their till. The conversations were free, happy, absurd and probably pornographic. The same taxi took us home hours later. A 14-mile round trip. The felicitations never let up.

THE VIPER, Ingatestone - Restaurant Reviews, Photos & Phone Number -  Tripadvisor

For Jono and I, it was a deep sacrament to cycle there and neck a few ales. The route outwards was uphill for significant stretches, hard work, but often tempered by the sight of deer in the fields and woods, and sometimes bats flying above us at night, amid the never-diminishing anticipation. Just the first sight of the place was enough to get you high, as your lungs heaved and puffed from the climb. Conversations were a release of the imagination, a dive into the surreal and the impossible, a brew of lust and laughter. We confided our fears and dreams, and it felt like no other time. As well as Jono, I also went there regularly with brother Neil, and a couple of old friends, Tony and Steve (see Blog 10).

The Viper was where I drank my first single malt. On a December evening. A warm habit to acquire. Tony fell into a ditch on the way home, jumped back on the bike and pedalled on as if nothing had happened. Neil and I turned up on our bikes one midweek evening in 2018 to find a beer festival getting underway. I enjoyed a cinnamon-flavoured ale. Maureen remembers the shade of the surrounding woods on hot days.

The Viper, Mill Green - Wikipedia

Even when time was called, the experience was not over. Because what goes up slow can come down very fast. In the dark, Viper Hill, as I think of it, was a reckless thrill. With a few pints inside, the initial descent felt great, the gathering acceleration and wind whistling past your ears. Halfway down, lit sparsely, the road quickly bends right, enough that you need to be in the middle or already braking if nearer the edge. Nobody ever came off, but I nearly shat myself a few times, with the distraction of Jono’s rebel yells breaking concentration yet adding to the madness as you somehow surged forward into the darkness at speeds of at least 30 miles an hour. Into a dip, up a small rise and then another swift, curving descent before the route levelled out.

Magical and legendary.

And so Martin and I re-enacted it on Friday. After lunch at the nearby Cricketers pub, now unhindered by any competition, we came back to Viper Hill. Plenty of daylight, but that bend hasn’t softened. My tyres strayed worryingly close to the undergrowth beside the road, pumping a surge of adrenalin that made the next few hundred yards pass as if I were 19 again.

It’s a dry life without a bit of risk. I’ll miss the Viper.

287.Guided by numbers

images

This is a long blog. Driven by world events. The figures I used are from the Worldometer website, which collates the official Covid-19 data from each country. It may not be precisely accurate, but is the most comprehensive global guide available. It can be found at: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

When I was a kid, maybe 9 or 10, I started collecting sports statistics. It was my own nerdy world, where dark ink applied to white paper brought untold happiness. For cricket, I used primary school maths to work out batting and bowling averages in the English county championship; and kept these in a logbook, for easy guidance to who were the best players.

Similarly, for soccer, I added every goal that each First Division footballer scored to a running tally, so that I knew the leading scorers by my own work.  I recorded the attendances at games, and knew which clubs drew the biggest crowds. It was quiet, delightful self-sufficiency.

In my mid-20s, when I got into horse racing, and betting, the statistics available to punters were my headiest drug. I would get each daily fix using the times that horses ran, the distance and weights carried, the prize money and so on. Ingesting these statistics allowed me to form my own ideas about how races would pan out, rather than listening to tipsters and other ‘experts’.  Again, I kept logbooks of races, and how my bets worked out.

It brought no overall riches. However, it did help me to see more clearly that data and numbers underpin our physical world. When I became a journalist, I had developed the mindset to see that headlines required corroboration. What I have learned, almost three decades down the road, is to take nearly all news with an initial pinch of salt. Even if it is told frequently and loudly, facts need to bear out the narrative. Otherwise news swiftly becomes toilet paper.

toilet paper

One standout example from the current coronavirus situation is the “state of disaster” recently declared in Australia, by the state of Victoria and the city of Melbourne, after 671 new Covid-19 infections were recorded in a single day. Disasters are clearly awful. A “disaster”, for me, would be the recent explosion in Beirut that killed over 220 Lebanese and left over 200,000 homeless or living in homes with no windows or doors. A health “disaster” might be the 1918-20 Spanish Flu, which may have killed up to 50 million people.

Numbers are important. At the time of the “disaster” announcement in Victoria, the whole of Australia, comprising 25 million people, had experienced 247 deaths linked to Covid-19. The median age of those deaths was over 80 years old. Terribly sad and tragic for those involved and their families and friends, but in terms of fatalities, roughly 1 in every 100,000 Aussies, mostly people who had existing morbidities, had died from the virus. The real, encouraging and good news (that you didn’t hear or read) was that  99,999 in every 100,000 Aussies had survived.

And I’m still hunting high and low for the “disaster”. Where is it? What was it based on? It cannot be the 671 “cases” of infection, because they are based on the notoriously unreliable PCR tests, which produce huge numbers of false positives for Sars-Cov-2.

I looked on the Australian government’s Department of Health website. It said the following: “The reliability of COVID-19 tests is uncertain due to the limited evidence base.”

If you also take into account that a huge majority of “cases” are asymptomatic, then an infection “case” count for Sars-Cov-2 is bordering on meaningless. The “disaster” is toilet paper news. Deceptive, alarmist rubbish. With no focus on hospitalisations or fatalities, the whole thing is nothing but sleight of hand.

Even accepting that virus transmission in Victoria may have risen, the state’s most vulnerable – its unhealthier and its elders – could surely be isolated for their own protection. A common sense measure so that normal life would go on. But no. Based on a test that their own government has acknowledged as potentially unreliable, the state’s entire 6.3 million inhabitants, nearly 5 million in the city, are now forced to follow ‘lockdown’ and curfew restrictions.

And forced is no exaggeration. Victoria state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, said 500 military personnel would be deployed to enforce the self-isolation orders, with fines of nearly A$5,000 (£2,700), for those breaching the rules. Repeat offenders would face a fine of up to A$20,000, he said. In Melbourne, a group of birthday partygoers were slapped with an eye-watering fine of $26,000 (£14,360) after multiple KFC purchases triggered phone calls to police.

aussie police

I’m giving you numbers. But pictures can also tell amazing stories. There were some extraordinary shots from Melbourne of police smashing a car window and pulling a woman out, to make her comply with the lockdown restrictions. The astonishing thing was how Australian media actively defended the powers-that-be, by describing the police as somehow pushed into this aggressive behaviour, with absolutely no choice. All I could see was men in uniforms, the rampant righteous, treating a potentially innocent person like an animal. Law enforcers acting like thugs, while newsreaders talked about the woman as if she was a criminal. And I wondered. Was 1930s Germany like that?

And all this on account of a virus that, yes, is certainly more contagious than the norm, but no, poses no serious threat to most humans on the evidence to date.

Back in late April, while mainstream journalists were parroting the British government message that Covid-19 is the most serious crisis we have ever encountered, the true state of play was spelled out by Chris Witty, the Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government, in a televised speech. From the horse’s mouth, it is worth repeating.

“The great majority of people will not die from this and I’ll just repeat something I said right at the beginning because I think it’s worth reinforcing: Most people, a significant proportion of people, will not get this virus at all, at any point of the epidemic which is going to go on for a long period of time.

Of those who do, some of them will get the virus without even knowing it, they will have the virus with no symptoms at all, asymptomatic carriage, and we know that happens. Of those who get symptoms, the great majority, probably 80%, will have a mild or moderate disease. Might be bad enough for them to have to go to bed for a few days, not bad enough for them to have to go to the doctor. An unfortunate minority will have to go as far as hospital, but the majority of those will just need oxygen and will then leave hospital. And then a minority of those will end up having to go to severe end critical care and some of those sadly will die. But that’s a minority, it’s 1% or possibly even less than 1% overall. And even in the highest risk group this is significantly less than 20%, ie. the great majority of people, even the very highest groups, if they catch this virus, will not die. And I really wanted to make that point really clearly.”

chris witty

A public figure telling a simple truth about Covid-19.  Treasure that rare moment.

But I doubt that anyone paid much attention, given the unrelenting propaganda blitz that had already overwhelmed many Brits with deep primal fear. By the end of April, most of us were reeling, punch-drunk, from a wall-to-wall messaging flood about the “pandemic”. Hospitals were set to be over-run with patients and our struggling medical infrastructure was going to collapse under their weight. And locking down society was the only way to prevent this calamity, regardless of how much damage it did to livelihoods. News reports, ads, public service announcements, talk shows, newspaper articles and press conferences imploring us to ‘stay at home’, ‘flatten the curve’, ‘protect the NHS’, ‘save lives’, ‘wash your hands’, ‘stay alert’ and get the ‘R number’ below 1.

I believe most of us became so emotionally invested in the apparent urgency that we lost the ability to think critically. I tried to take the most sensible parts of the media blitz on board, as my father is 92, with weak lungs. My brother Neil and I decided that we would be the only people that he saw while the virus was at its most contagious. Five months on, we still shield him and social distance, to limit any chance that we transmit the virus.

Back to the numbers. What do they say? The global statistic as of 18 August was that 783, 430 humans have died around the world as a result of Covid-19, against a global population of 7.8 billion. That’s a global death rate of around one in 10,000. Pretty good odds, I would say. 99.99% of humans have not been killed by Covid-19. And so much better odds if you are relatively young, with no existing health problems. A Canadian scientific team has estimated the individual Covid-19 death rate for people under 65 as 6 per million, or 1 in 166,666: about the same as the annual chance of motor vehicle accident death. (Do you fret much about that risk?)

car crash

In the UK, as of 18 August, the total coronavirus death figure was 41,381, according to Public Health England. (It had been over 5,000 higher, until the Department of Health announced that thousands of people who may have recovered from the virus before they died were still counted in the headline number. Easy mistake to make).

For me, the standout statistic is that, by mid-July, only 1,388 of these deaths had been officially attributed purely to Covid-19, where the victim had no other illness or morbidity.

Just 1,388.

Numeric comparisons are useful tools for putting things in context. Let’s dive back now to 2017/18, when there were an estimated 50,100 excess winter deaths in England and Wales from a nasty flu season. Over 50,000, more than the equivalent Covid-19 numbers. Yet no lockdown or masks or job losses were needed for us to come out on the other side. The vulnerable were advised to isolate, and the rest of us got on with it. There were no school closures nor sinister talk of ‘bio-security’. No stopping the UK economy, despite the greater number of excess deaths in 17/18. If ever I felt rough, as I acquired natural immunity, then I know that I would have taken heavy doses of garlic and ginger, lemon and vitamins, and topped this up with fresh air, sunlight and good nutrition. The common sense response.

Has something happened in the two years since 2018? What new knowledge did I miss?

What became of the accepted, traditional idea that immunity builds naturally across social groups, as the virus recedes from lack of hosts, leading to a safer environment for all? The miracle of the human immune system that has evolved over hundreds of centuries by taking in pathogens and building antibodies. Why is that now insufficient? Someone? Please?

immune system 

Back to the present, where, in New Zealand, plans were announced in mid-August (because of four new Covid-19 “cases”, not deaths) to take people who are infected with Covid-19 into “quarantine camps”. PM Jacinda Ardern was very clear. She said that “you either get your tests done and make sure you’re cleared or we will keep you in a facility longer.” To combat bubonic plague, that strategy might be warranted. But hardly apt (in my opinion) for a flu-like virus that mainly targets the old and sick, in a country that had not had a reported death since May. Due to a test that has recorded ‘positive’ on a papaya fruit.

To these eyes, both Australia and New Zealand have started to show dangerous signs of being prepared to strip people of their freedom, privacy and autonomy, for no good reason. A woman in Australia has just been imprisoned for 6 months for avoiding a 14-day quarantine period. Can that be anything but tyranny?

Not many people have the guts to resist coercion. France had a population of 41.7 million in 1939. I just found an estimate that only half a million of these offered resistance during the subsequent Nazi occupation. Resistance does require bravery. It is far easier to be told what you can wear, where you can go, when you can go there, and who you can touch, than it is to disobey. Feel free to disagree.

Another big trend as the Germans occupied Europe was “ratting out” disobedient neighbours to Hitler’s men. We have been getting pretty good at that in the UK, especially in Greater Manchester, where restrictions on socialising in indoor spaces have been increased, despite the UK mortality rate dipping below seasonal averages for the last two months. On one weekend in the first half of August, 1,106 Covid regulation breaches were phoned in to Manchester police, 25% more than the previous weekend. 540 of the calls involved reports of other people’s house gatherings and parties.

ratting

Whether you like it or not, I’m simply pointing out trends. Here is a potentially huge one. Tedros Adhanom, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said explicitly that we will not be going back to the ‘old normal’. Is Ted by some miracle clairvoyant? If not, then when did the WHO acquire any legitimate power over how ordinary lives should proceed?

The WHO accepts huge donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Could that be a clue?

This ‘new normal’ seems to involve a flood of ludicrous medical suggestions, each designed to make people increasingly fearful of their neighbours, family, human contact, and the very air that they breathe. A doctor (Amir Khan) appeared quite recently on the UK’s ‘Good Morning Britain’ TV programme, suggesting that men should take a contraceptive pill filled with oestrogen, on the grounds that this will boost the male immune system. Dr Deborah Birx, Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has suggested people in high-risk areas or multi-generational homes should consider wearing a mask at home.

The Guardian – that once-great bastion of liberty and free speech – ran an article entitled “You’re wearing a mask – now consider a face shield and goggles”. (Hmmm..The Guardian takes money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its ‘global development’ website). This echoed comments by the diminutive Dr Anthony Fauci, of the seemingly all-powerful WHO, which has U-turned on its April pronouncement that face masks were unnecessary. Fauci now claims that “perfect” virus protection would involve wearing visors or goggles over your eyes.

In May, Qatar announced a penalty of up to 3 years’ imprisonment for not wearing face masks in public. Not to be outdone, researchers at Harvard University said in June that to prevent transmitting COVID-19 from one person to another, sexual partners should be wearing a face mask while interlocked. I don’t think they meant gimp masks.

The study also advised against kissing. I guess the authors simply forgot that humans have evolved over millions of years to be social creatures, seeking intimate human companionship in our lives. Easy mistake. It suggested partners shower before and after doing the filthy, disgusting deed, and clean everything, the whole horrible mess, with alcohol wipes or soap.

hazmat sex

If you filmed this tepid, highly sanitised sex, it could be labelled as actual fear porn, to match the metaphorical stuff pumped out by our alarmist media. Which, for the record, includes stories claiming that cats can get Covid-19, and that they should now stay inside. Or the warning from string-puller Bill Gates himself, who is reported to have said that singing, laughing and even talking can spread Covid-19. Wouldn’t it be great if Bill stopped talking, once and for all? I would be so happy.

Even if you ignore this drivel, from people who should know better, the existing regulations in Britain seem designed to confuse and baffle. Masks are now mandatory in shops for customers, but not staff. In restaurants, it is the other way around. In the Manchester lockdown, you were prohibited from entering your lover’s home for sex; but could lawfully get it on in a hotel. Standing in a graduation line is a “safety hazard,” but lining up at huge stores is not. If masks are so critical, why were they not mandated immediately upon lockdown, rather than when infectiousness had subsided?

And why are national journalists rolling over so tamely, not tearing apart this utter crock of shit? A key job of the media is to hold power to account. The same goes for the political opposition, in this case Labour, which bends over tamely and pulls apart its cheeks for each new Tory government move.

Why are questions not asked about Japan? Despite the population of 126 million – 38 million people of these stacked together in Tokyo – there has been no lockdown. Yet Covid-19 has claimed just 1,088 Japanese victims. Does that not warrant huge press coverage, to see how another country is coping brilliantly? Could we not learn something? Or from Sweden, where life has continued uninterrupted, despite significant deaths linked to Covid-19.

One reason for the piss-poor national journalism is probably that the UK government has become one of the leading advertisers in newspapers. Nobody rubs up their advertisers the wrong way. So mainstream journalists let things go, failing to underline and highlight that we are being led up a garden path towards a creeping totalitarianism due to a virus that has as much chance of killing most of us as a car crash.

brave journalism

As medical martial law gradually seeps in, one outstanding exception to the press cowardice might be journalist Peter Hitchens, who seems to enjoy sticking his head over the parapet and pulling apart official hubris. Hitchens called face masks a “a soggy cloth muzzle, a face-nappy that turns its wearer from a normal human into a mumbling, mouthless submissive.”

I like the boldness of that. But, as a left-leaning voter, it is galling that the bravest journalist in Britain writes for the right-wing Daily Mail. Elsewhere in the private sector, YouTube now forbids content that contradicts the line taken by the WHO or local health authorities. Forget freedom of speech. Forget counter-opinion and evidence. Or even discussion and debate. The Nazis were happy to forget all of those. Remember them?

As if the above lunacy were not enough, a grimmer reality is the dismantling of people’s incomes across the planet. In India, there were a massive 122 million job losses officially reported in April from the lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. It is difficult to get my head around the impact of that huge figure.

In the European Union, the effects of lockdown were enough to trigger the biggest drop ever recorded in its employment figures in the second quarter of 2020. In the US, GDP dropped a record 32.9% during the same period, marking what economists called the greatest collapse in American history. British GDP declined by more than 20% in the second quarter, the worst economic hit from the coronavirus in Europe. All of this to combat a flu-like virus that mainly targets the old and sick. Disproportionate hardly seems a strong enough word.

The social consequences of this will almost certainly dwarf the medical impacts of Covid-19. UK government officials have already suggested that deaths due to lockdown, rather than coronavirus, could exceed 200,000, as a result of stress, alcohol, drugs, unemployment, poverty, domestic abuse, lack of medical care for other conditions, starvation, isolation and suicide. Economists in Britain have said the true underlying picture of the jobs market is much worse than official data indicates.

economy smashed

We had a clue ourselves last week. I said a big ‘thank you’ to the universe when our lad Rory managed to land a part-time job at Home Bargains store in Chelmsford. He was told that there had been over 200 applicants for the part-time job. In July, Mick Dore, who manages the Alexandra pub in Wimbledon, south-west London, said that 484 people sent in CVs for two £9-an-hour jobs at the pub. He would usually have expected around 12 replies.

Dropping the numbers for a minute, I think we’ve been gaslit. Sold a puppy. Our arms invisibly twisted, while we all tried to do the right thing, out of essential decency and the goodness of our hearts. So many of us worked at home, social distanced, Zoomed, TikTokked, volunteered, exercised, clapped key workers and watched Netflix: all to try and “save lives”. Hundreds of thousands of cancer patients have had operations put on hold. Children’s education has been inexplicably shelved. Hand on heart, I can say that nearly everybody I know has suffered from mental health problems at one stage or another during this period. All to “combat” a flu-like virus that kills 1 in 10,000.

How can that make sense or ring true? What have I missed? I’m genuinely open to a reasoned explanation.

An early clue, to me, that the health risks were less than we were being told, came from two of the key architects of the UK lockdown, Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, and Dominic Cummings, the Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister. Both flouted their own rules. That behaviour indicated (to me) that the lockdown might not be about health or safety. That it might, just might be a cover for bringing in much greater state control, while people became too isolated and demoralised to pay attention. Another huge clue had occurred earlier on March 19, hidden in plain sight, when Public Health England downgraded COVID-19 from its former status as a High Consequence Infectious Disease (HCID). The downgrade was announced several days before the British lockdown came into play.

Virtually every country in Europe is now reporting average, or below average mortality. On a personal level, I don’t know anyone who has died of the virus. Neither do most people I have spoken to over the past five months. Whereas, in a “pandemic”, you would imagine everyone would know someone that had died of Covid. Although I do know someone who has lost two acquaintances that had ‘death by Covid-19’ printed on their death certificates. Wrongly, having died of other causes.

Tellingly, the Nightingale hospitals, built quickly with the capacity to treat almost 10 000 Covid-19 cases, have been mothballed. To balance that, I know of people that have been very sick, for protracted periods. But again, that happens in any flu season.

Has anybody else noticed that, as Covid-19 fatalities have tailed off, the number of “cases” continues to be used as the stick to beat us with – probably until mortality rates from colds and flu begin their inevitable seasonal rise as winter approaches, and we can all be scared shitless again by new Covid headline numbers. Tell me I’m wrong. I hope I am.

Without becoming too conspiratorial, it is worth at least noting certain indicators that our situation may have been orchestrated behind the scenes. The World Bank staged a pandemic simulation in Washington DC in October 2019 to prepare for a major health crisis that was “only a matter of time”. You can check the details and participants at https://www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/event201/.  It may also be worth checking the ‘Lockstep’ section of the white paper formulated by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2010. It starts on page 18 in the document at https://www.nommeraadio.ee/meedia/pdf/RRS/Rockefeller%20Foundation.pdf

Judge for yourself.

rockefeller foundation

One question begging to be asked is who will decide the terms on which lockdown finally ends. We all want our old lives back, but what if they have been stolen from under our noses? Traded in, without a fuss, for the illusion of “safe” new lives. Traded in for years of vaccines, surveillance, temperature checks and tracking controls, where obsessive attention to matters of health could come to dominate every aspect of life.

I really hope not. But, just as the Nazis crowed that they were waging a war against the “subhuman races”, the WHO and its government followers already appear to be set against anyone who “endangers the public health” or is a “risk to others”. The language is starting to feel semi-religious.

One zealot in the US has put forward a possible flavour of the future. Parker Crutchfield, Associate Professor of Medical Ethics, Humanities and Law at Western Michigan University, reckons that people who refuse to follow the medical guidance are “defectors” who need to be “morally enhanced”. Crutchfield has suggested medication to make people more “empathetic” and “co-operative”. This medication should be compulsory and/or administered secretly via the water supply, he believes. I can’t see a single argument of his that is not dystopian.

It feels like there are big choices coming up for some of us, as the talk of a ‘second wave’ ramps up. Those choices might feel like plucking up the courage to leave an abusive relationship. For sure is that while people keep complying with the swelling body of new rules, the government mandates are likely to become ever more intrusive, more authoritarian, and harder to roll back.

Here is a big question: is there any point at which you and I are going to stop doing what the government tells us to do? When might we say no? How far down the line? Will it be face masks in shops, or maybe further along, when the government decides that you now need to wear a face mask, gloves and goggles, not only in public spaces, but in your own home as well? Or if the government decides that you now need an “immunity passport”, or a microchip in your arm, in order to access public spaces? Look at Nazi history and you will see a series of freedom snatches, increment by increment. Tell me I’m wrong.

Thankfully, I do see signs of people brave enough to question the official narratives. There was a demonstration in Berlin on August 1 against the coronavirus restrictions. The numbers were interesting. The BBC (which receives money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) reported a turnout of 20,000. Alternative German media said the figure may have been over a million. What an interesting disparity in those figures.

berlin demo

Just as encouragingly, a group of 640 medical professionals, centred in Germany, Austria and Spain, has formed a group to challenge the Covid-19 narrative. 640 is a hefty number. They compare the Covid-19 risk to normal flu, and stress that there is no need for undue anxiety. They will all risk dismissal from their profession for challenging the WHO stance. YouTube has already taken down their video “for violating community guidelines”.

Again, in my opinion, our current obedience and our conformity will help construct a dreadful new reality – for us, our children and our grandchildren – unless this type of momentum keeps building. While millions of people across the West are being thrown out of work as their “furlough” periods end, the economic route among government and the biggest corporations will clearly be more ‘contracts for the boys’. Look at how the UK government brazenly handed out PPE contracts worth £155 million to its cronies, for equipment that may turn out to be useless. There is the future. Right there. While many people kid themselves that things will soon be back to normal.

Some of the world’s richest individuals, who hang out at the World Economic Forum (WEF), have quietly announced the so-called “Great Reset”. Handed down from on high, this marvellous plan – although with few firm details – is supposedly designed to beat Covid-19 and address climate change. Like the WHO, the WEF hasn’t bothered to consult anyone down here in the trenches. You can only hope that the plan includes generous Universal Basic Income (UBI) for everybody that lacks employment.

For the time being, for hundreds of millions of workers and small businesses across the world, the likelihood is a slide into an abyss of unemployment, bankruptcy, repossession, hunger, homelessness and premature deaths. 7,000 Marks & Spencer job cuts in Britain were announced on 19 August. That could be the tip of the iceberg. Management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company has estimated that 7.6 million UK jobs are at risk when the furlough schemes end in a couple of months, with nearly half of these in occupations earning less than £10 per hour.

I haven’t even talked about vaccines, because it should be clear to anyone with an enquiring mind that producing a safe vaccine takes over a decade of research. The current ‘operation warp speed’ to develop a wonder vaccine, urged on by Billy Boy Gates, can guarantee only a shed load of money for the pharmaceutical manufacturers, who will be indemnified against any potential legal action from recipients if things go pear-shaped. Good luck to anyone who wants that vaccine. I do mean that genuinely.

One element that bubbles away without much discussion is that we all die. Dad will die of something, eventually. It is sad but it’s not ‘tough shit’. Death isn’t a glitch. It happens to everyone. Whether we go of Covid-19, pneumonia, a heart attack, liver disease, diabetes, dementia or murder, we shuffle off this mortal coil. It is the most natural and predictable thing in life.

Good public discourse would include this reality. That life has always been crammed with risk, and chance. But the WHO and many government officials, backed by media, seem to envisage people living in permanent “bubbles”. A life with minimal friction and tone. Infantile existence where people can no longer make and act upon their own risk assessments.

I’m massively grateful to have enjoyed some kind, good, common sense company since the end of March. It has helped in getting through the weirdness. My wife has a sharp brain, my journalist friend Martin sees objectively through the media fog, and my next-door neighbour Dean provides me with more wisdom over the garden fence than any health “expert” or Member of Parliament.

Sometimes I try and imagine a saner world where Covid-19 had been treated as a straightforward flu-like virus. Clearly it would still be a terribly sad time for the deceased and their loved ones. Lots of people would get very sick. We might hear about it regularly, along with all the other news. But no hyperbole, no hysteria, no lockdown, no mandated masks. No controlled economic demolition. No bio-security. No interfering with educating children whose risk of Covid-19 fatality is almost zero. Obviously plenty of social distancing involving the vulnerable, so that they were shielded and isolated. As happens in Sweden. As has happened with my dad, whose vulnerability has rightly kept me at a distance from all but a few close others for almost five months.

But no “disaster”, because attention would have been paid to the numbers, which show quite clearly that most of us are safe, and able to get on with our lives.

That makes more sense to me than tearing apart our old world over what is, for a big majority, a car crash risk. It’s just my opinion, but I reckon the numbers offer strong support.

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PS.  On August 26, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) updated its site with a co-morbidities section, where it admitted that only about 6% of the reported deaths by Covid in the US in 2020 were due to Covid alone, in the category of “died from the virus and no other causes.” The other 94% of deaths included an average of 2.6 other causes. This reduced the death-by-Covid-only number in the US from 185,000 to about 11,000 over an 8-month period. In the same period, about 30,000 people died in car wrecks.

But to hell with it…..let’s keep locking down the planet, destroying economies and untold numbers of lives in the process.

286. Cognitive dissonance

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Sometimes silence is best. To can it. Totally zip it. Just shut up. Look and listen. Let it all sink in slowly.

Know that you don’t know.

Otherwise you may talk shit; say things that make little sense a few weeks later. Especially when the information flow is so relentless, but with twists and turns that curve back on themselves.

Being quiet, amid endless clamour, means you can pick out nuggets.

Three images – real and undeniable – sum up the mental damage wrought by COVID-19.

I pulled the car into Oxford services 12 days ago, returning from Gloucestershire. Needing a leak, the nearby public toilets were found to be sparklingly clean, with all facilities spaced out by at least two metres. A haven of sanitisation. No charge. Then back to the car, shutting the eyes for a 20-minute meditation. I opened them to witness a fit-looking young lad, maybe aged 25, looking around furtively before pissing against the side of his vehicle. There were three police cars parked in a huddle about 120 yards away.

I can only imagine that he was desperate to avoid the public loos, and a possible interface with the virus. Or might he have an elderly relative who requires shielding? Why else risk being arrested and fined for public indecency?

There is freely available information clearly specifying that the number of people in their mid-20s impacted by the coronavirus is smaller than negligible, especially if their health is robust. But that information is generally buried beneath the never-ending fear memes.

Much more amusing has been a new trend at Premiership soccer grounds. As the football has returned, to spectator-free grounds, TV screens show players slipping back easily into intimate habits of grabbing and hanging onto each other like wrestlers; and celebrating goals with big group hugs. All very natural for team animals, engaging in contact sport. Shouting and breathing over one another.

The novelty comes several times during the game, when masked men spray the corner flags with sanitiser. When first seeing this lunacy I fell about laughing, helplessly.

Am I alone in perceiving massive absurdity, if not complete cognitive dissonance? Coaches and managers wearing masks mix freely with their unmasked players during the breaks.

The third image was a picture of two neighbouring houses in Leicester, encountered today when browsing online. A new lockdown has been declared in the city, without any evidence of new hospitalisations or a rise in critical care. One of the two households was under medical martial law, while the residents in the other, but a yard away, are free to go about their business.

It made me think of another anomaly. How the UK government insisted that we must stay at home, to ‘save lives’, because the virus was so, so dangerous. So terribly infectious and deadly. But then suddenly it wasn’t, if you wanted to protest on the streets against racial injustice. How very odd.

Worry is in the air. I have seen solo cyclists out in the countryside, miles from anything or anyone, wearing face masks. Several younger people in my extended family have run into mental health problems. Reliable anchors have gone. I have felt deep agitations that are difficult to pinpoint. Like we inhabit a bad sci-fi film or a dream with no exits. As if the map of agreed reality is changing, old carpets pulled from under feet.

But my inner journalist takes notes. Speaking on CNN on 25 June, multi-billionaire Bill Gates was unequivocal. Paraphrased, he said that if 80% of the world does not take the wonder vaccine, when it finally appears, then there can be no return to holidays, sport and travel.

Well thanks for the heads up. It’s good of you Bill. By the way, what are your qualifications in medicine or politics? Ah yes, zero. Not a single credential.

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And yet the words of this unqualified man indicated that he either wields huge political and medical influence, or is privy to discussions at a top table, such that he can somehow place his finger on the future pulse of humanity. Do any of us get a say in this? Do I get a choice, or has an unelected CEO of Planet Health Inc. already decided for me?

Others are less polite about Gates. In mid-May, Sara Cunial, the MP for Rome, denounced Gates as a “vaccine criminal” and urged the Italian President to hand him over to the International Criminal Court. Both she and Robert F. Kennedy Junior have referred to a Gates-led polio immunisation campaign in India, which local doctors have reportedly blamed for a paralysis epidemic that impacted around 490,000 Indian children beyond expected rates, between 2000 and 2017. Nearly half a million kids. Maybe it is worth doing some research on that story of benign intervention. Proper research, not steered by Google algorithms.

What is beyond doubt is that Gates has leveraged his mega-fortune from Microsoft into a structure of powerful global connections, often through the ‘philanthropic’ use of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to shape policy.  This has funnelled money into the World Health Organization (WHO), in which it is now the largest shareholder. Significant money has also been extended, among many other British institutions, to Imperial College London. What an amazing coincidence that the advice in March that the UK should ‘lock down’ emanated from Imperial College.

Inevitably, there are various speculative theories concerning the coming COVID-19 vaccines. One knocking around says that your RNA will be modified, changing you at a genomic level. Being no scientist, I can offer no insights. Another says the vaccines may contain micro tracking mechanisms, that could help control humanity as a collective. Again, pass.

But I do possess what one young man in a white lab coat termed in a recent documentary as “vaccine hesitancy”. For one thing, it is standard medical practice that vaccines need to be thoroughly tested, over a period of years. Good luck to anyone who wants into that first muddle of guinea pigs, participating in clearly rushed vaccine trials.

But there is something else. In his past, Gates spent time in the company of a certain Jeffrey Epstein. The same Epstein who trafficked humans for money and sex. That JE who was inserted deeply into a predatory class of humans up to their rotten necks in a mire of crime, technocracy and eugenics.

I wonder how our history will read 100 years from now. Perhaps it will say: “There was this horrible pandemic until Saint Bill arrived with his vaccines.” History tends to be written by the victors.

For me, it is galling to think that, if you live in Sweden, everyday life has proceeded apace. Yes, the level of COVID-linked deaths in Sweden has been significant, albeit less than the UK, but economic lifelines were left in place to mitigate the fatalities. No ‘lockdown’. No house arrest.

In Belarus, President Alexander Grigoryevich was loudly derided by bleating Western journalists and ‘progressives’ for eschewing a lockdown and claiming that vodka would keep the virus at bay. They even carried on playing football, lawd love ’em.

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Disaster? Hardly. So far, just 400 or so COVID-associated deaths are officially recorded in Belarus. That works out at 43 fatalities per million inhabitants, compared to the current 647 per million in the UK. (And 399 in the US, 607 in Spain, 576 in Italy)

I’ll down a big shot of vodka to that, because saving lives is the most important criterion. Looks like the “strongman president” may have more common sense in his drinking arm than the combined brains of Gates, Fauci and Dominic Cummings.

Here in Britain, one of the most disturbing aspects of the lockdown has been the tens of thousands of old people slung out of hospitals into care homes. Essentially left to die through neglect. Some observers have bluntly called this as manslaughter.

Then there is the unimaginable collateral damage. Cancer patients and those with other morbidities have been denied essential treatments. Seaside town trade has been essentially destroyed, pubs and restaurants destroyed, retail therapy destroyed. Small businesses are gasping for financial oxygen. Large businesses have begun to lay off staff as the ‘furlough’ period ends. Job prospects are receding. Student schedules are still gutted.

A lot of people that I know say that this carnage is OK, a price ‘worth paying’ to ‘protect Britain’s NHS’. Really? Most of those who have told me this are financially secure, with decent pensions in place.

Because there are so many more questions than answers, I’ve tried to stick to facts.

Here is one worth considering. In the second half of March, several days before the British lockdown was announced, Public Health England downgraded COVID-19 from its former status as a High Consequence Infectious Disease (HCID). Yep, downgraded it. You can check it for yourself.

Another is that marriages can again take place in Britain, as from tomorrow, 4 July. Under new government rules for weddings, fathers cannot walk their daughter arm-in-arm down the aisle. Brides and grooms will have to wash hands before and after exchanging rings. And spoken responses during the service should ‘not be in a raised voice’. Perish the thought. And any singing and playing of instruments that are blown into should be avoided, among other rules.

While pubs open, and everyone stumbles into each other, pissed as parrots.

Is this not utter barking lobotomised March hare madness? Or is it just me? It could be.

Your answers are acceptable only on a ‘deep cleaned’ postcard.

 

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P.S. Joining the dots isn’t easy, given the spew of media information. But there are clues out there.

The US death total from COVID-19 is officially around 132,000, the highest in the world.

Perhaps a little light was cast on that number on April 8 by Senator Scott Jensen, who told Fox News that “if it’s a straightforward, garden-variety pneumonia that a person is admitted to the hospital for – if they’re Medicare – typically, the diagnosis-related group lump sum payment would be $5,000.”

Jensen continued: “But if it’s COVID-19 pneumonia, then it’s $13,000, and if that COVID-19 pneumonia patient ends up on a ventilator, it goes up to $39,000.

Jensen said he doesn’t think physicians are “gaming the system” so much as other “players”, such as hospital administrators, who he said may pressure physicians to cite all diagnoses, including “probable” COVID-19, on discharge papers or death certificates to get the higher Medicare allocation allowed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act

285. Yesh consciousness

 

OUT OF ESSEX – CHAPTER 45

 

The revolution will not be televised

Gil Scott-Heron

 

 

God drained her shot glass, still haunted by the wrecked, homeless Londoner. Elijah and Enoch had looked rough around the edges, but nothing compared to Arthur.

Sitting opposite, Satan felt equally grim. He had just ‘grilled’ an incomer from Europe’s largest crime syndicate. The confession sickened him. ‘Hunting parties’ organised for Europe’s elites. Kidnapped children pursued and killed for pleasure in private woodland.

God drizzled more water on the sauna rocks. On Earth, astrologers said the intensity in the heavenly patterns was unparalleled for some 12,500 years, indicating a simple choice. An evolutionary human leap, or utter destruction.

As the steam rose, God’s mind drifted to a recent UN report, indicating that the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people had exceeded 50 million for the first time since World War II.

Still viewing from the wings, Maggie wondered if karma itself was being tested.

 

***

 

From the end of May 2014, investment managers observed tiny wobbles on their charts. None could decipher the minute quivers. Three days after Arthur’s mid-April visit to The Place, one of the top hedge fund performers, Pete Grice, had walked away from his partnership, without notice.

His peers assumed he had foreseen a major market calamity. Pete was known in finance circles for summarising investment strategies. Pete was your man, if you wanted the pros and cons of merger-arbitrage offerings, or deep value and special situation investments.

Pete could hardly believe his actions, nor could his peers fathom his explanation. “If it’s not good for everyone, it’s no good at all!” he would say, quoting Ubuntu philosophy.

His wife, Susan, quit her bank PR job just one day after bumping into the benevolent ninja squad in Canary Wharf. The night before her resignation, Susan and her friend Celinda got off their trollies. Four bottles of delicious Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas Terres Brûlées 2008 were downed at a Limehouse restaurant before she fell happily into a taxi.

The driver reckoned he had earlier squeezed “four weirdos”, including a giant, into his vehicle. “Took ‘em up to Tottenham. The big bastard shook my hand, gave me a right bleedin’ tingle!”

The tiniest trickle of similar resignations caught Maggie’s eye. The micro-trend included Southend’s police force.  During the first three days after he had stopped and questioned Yesh, Sid, Mahatma and Dawn, the unassuming PC Ray Wilkins felt unaccountably drawn to tell colleagues they should downplay the battle against criminals. The real enemy, he said, was free markets. Then he walked. As did a group of forensic experts in London, who were deeply networked into police, intelligence and military circles.

A small handful of London taxi drivers began to tip their customers.

Susan and Pete Grice had – inadvertently – set a medicine ball rolling. Susan’s drinking companion, Celinda, worked at the London Stock Exchange for only five more days. Her great love was buying properties. She began to fill her houses with people who lacked shelter. By mid-June, she had created a website to match the dizzying numbers of British homeless with homeowners that no longer saw their second, third and fourth homes as quite so necessary. The site, ‘My Round, Your Ground’, emphasised that no fees or rent were involved.

Her husband, Dave, was a veteran metals broker. Dave’s hero was the US hedge fund veteran John Paulson, who achieved notoriety after making US$3.7 billion in 2007 by short-selling subprime mortgages. Within a week, Dave had left the game, and was bending friends’ ears that Paulson’s actions had indirectly assisted in putting thousands of families onto America’s streets. His best friends came to agree; and soon convinced other mates. So it went.

Was common decency taking over? Certainly not on the private Mediterranean island where George holidayed. He read, unmoved, of Greek parents that had sold or given away their children because they could not afford to feed them.

Back in the UK though, ripples joined ripples, forming small waves of change. Something entirely new was bedding in. Seeded through thoughts that occurred as people awoke each morning. What can I do today for others? How can I live more truthfully, more excellently? An erasure was taking place, a deletion of delusion, Jesus later told God.

Instead of regurgitating claptrap that banks had “privatised returns and socialised risks”, some financial analysts started to authentically describe the financial sector, with words like piracy, theft and criminality. Usually just before they quit.

In Forest Gate, a woman with her possessions in a trolley began a stunningly successful campaign. Fag jutting, Celia Marley managed to persuade the Diocese of Chelmsford, whose jurisdiction stretched into East London, that its churches and other properties should be used to house and feed struggling humans.

A rough mathematics was at work. A rule of thumb became clear, eventually, that if one awoke into the new mindfulness, it took anywhere between 2 hours and two weeks to reappraise one’s life. After this incubation, all physical or verbal contact with work colleagues, friends and family was viral, triggering further reappraisals.

Whether people talked about the weather, the price of fish, or the logical impossibility of philanthropic financiers, Yesh consciousness flowed. Each recipient became too preoccupied with the well-being of fellow humans to worry about their next pay packet. Things would work out.

 

***

Was there a tipping point, where momentum became unstoppable? Scientists had found that when 10% of a population holds an unshakable belief, this can often become the majority view.

The movement for change piggy-backed and naturally accelerated on truths emerging from Jimmy Savile’s industrial-scale abuse of British children. Among these, the fortunes Savile received for procuring minors for paedophile rings, able to operate through the political and business establishment, the public services and the police. Witnesses claiming they were warned off by Special Branch officers and out-of-control security services were almost too numerous to count

The grim reality was described in early July 2014 by former health minister Lord Warner. Powerful people had targeted childrens’ homes to serve as a “supply line” for paedophiles, he said. Now files and dossiers naming Establishment figures were somehow ‘missing’. The animals were cornered, desperate.

The social contract had long been broken.  To harm an innocent child in any way was inexcusable. To seek to cover up child rape, torture and, in some cases, murder, was beyond comprehension. Yet child murderers, abusers and torturers were walking around in Parliament.

With no fuss or violence, a widening group of British citizens began to withdraw consent to be governed, as various chairs for an enquiry were discussed. They looked their inept politicians up and down, shrugged, and said: “You have no power over us anymore.”

Like training wheels quietly coming off a bike, this was the first breach of the control system. Bearing no name, no label that could be vilified.

Maggie watched in a daze, as knowledge of paedophilia within her cabinet became widespread. Her heart ached harder as her eyes opened. People began to look again at former PM Ted Heath, his love of yachting, and the many children that ‘disappeared’ from the Haut de la Garenne boys home in the Channel Islands. Journalists found new evidence indicating that the unexplained death in 1999 of journalist Jill Dando was directly linked to knowledge of Savile’s crimes.

UK citizens realised in ever more powerful numbers that little in their history had happened by accident. The role of the so-called ‘intelligence services’ in the death of David Kelly – a British weapons inspector who refused to justify the invasion of Iraq – was just a start. People looked back askance as new details emerged on secret service chicaneries behind the Dunblane massacre; and MI6’s collaboration with CIA and Mossad gangsters in establishing a secret prison in Diego Garcia for rendition and torture.

While rear views were important, living in the moment was critical. Pete Grice found several mind-blowing meditations, found himself feeling part of something far bigger than himself. “You have to transcend this world to escape its judgements,” smiled an onlooking Buddha.

Imperceptibly, time itself began to change. Susan Grice invested some of hers in looking after three vulnerable citizens in Hampstead. Pete gave his Rolexes away. Then his paintings. Turned five of his six British properties into communal centres for the homeless. “The number of things any sane person needs is small,” he told his wife. “We need to sleep and relax more; and quit buying stuff.”

Gandhi observed with fascination. He surmised that “the gaps in between the old rewards and goals have expanded”. The little Indian saw a clearly turning tide as a steadily expanding stream of valets, butlers, maids, cooks, footmen and the whole shebang of once-loyal domestic servants jumped ship. Bankers faced the ghastly prospect of cleaning their own houses. Lords, viscounts and baronesses had to shop and cook for themselves; learn to use their lawn mowers and make their beds. Royals had to walk their dogs themselves, as the next breach of the control system bedded down.

God was overjoyed. “The crapocracy cannot counter this, because it cannot understand it,” she bellowed, calculating that nearly one million Brits had noiselessly re-claimed their sovereignty by midsumer 2014. “No riots, no law-breaking, no excuse for London mayor Boris Johnson to wheel out his silly water cannons,” grinned Satan. “People are living from the heart,” Jesus reassured his mum, who was beginning to believe in the future.

The sublime nature of the new transmitted itself through a reproduction number (R) that bubbled under official radar.

Not all Britons were infected: millions continued to read newspapers as if they told the truth. But for others, enlightenment compelled them to stay in posts that served their communities. Utility workers recognised the need to maintain water, sewage and energy services: but working less hours, and teaching their skill-sets to local volunteers that lacked employment, so that workloads were shared. Farmers and those who processed food had never felt so useful; hospitals, supermarkets, postal and refuse collection services cheerfully carried on working. Firemen continued to save lives. These and other sectors transformed themselves into the hubs of an economy that honoured life, while delivering essentials.

Carers were fully valued, whereas employment figures fell steadily in the sales and insurance sectors. Guards walked from G4S and SERCO detention centres. Resignations at their MI5 and MI6 offices astounded the clans, whose waking thoughts remained dominated by ideas of control, performance and profit.

A rising desperation at their fading empires was often visible among the most degenerate. In late June, Pope Francis showed his hand when he described as “dangerous” the temptation to believe that one can have “a personal, direct, immediate relationship with Jesus Christ without communion with and the mediation of the church.”

God bent over double with laughter. “Too late boy”, she roared. “People are shredding the notion of leaders.”

Iceland continued to jail financiers, while lower banking orders scampered from poorly paid servitude.

 

***

Steve Landais ran into a puzzle one afternoon. Standing alone, sober, at the counters of his local bank branch, to pay in Dawn’s coins, he noted two security mirrors. The nearest showed the empty customer hall. Looking across the room to a second mirror, he saw a queue of seven or eight people.

 

***

By the time that remaining staff at Britain’s Serious Fraud Office opened a mid-July probe into widespread banking collusions in foreign exchange markets, money’s days appeared to be numbered. Many now believed that it had been maliciously introduced as a tool of enslavement and division, rather than through trade and barter, as Disney historians contended. As if two worlds were superimposed upon one another. This belief, above all else, was humanity’s key ticket out of the matrix.

Social observers compared the rapidly changing perceptions of money to the ‘morphic resonance’ displayed in the 1950s by the UK’s blue tit population. About a million birds had learned how to peck through aluminium seals on milk bottles, via a discovered knowledge that passed rapidly through the whole species. Now, money still circulating continued to be used as units of exchange. But barter burgeoned.

Some sages, several with large spliffs, said that time itself might be warping. That if capitalism faded, so would its in-built idea of how time works. That lunar cycles and sunrises might become new chronological punctuation marks.

Reality kept mutating. Electricity sector workers dreamed up a structure where gas, water and food, in addition to a weekly cash consideration, comprised their remuneration. Other industries followed; drew closer to each other; founded ever-wider bartering pools that allowed the cash component to shrink further, and usage of local goods and services to increase.

The finance world suffered further whittlings. Loans were shunned as people saw through the sleight of hand; saw they had been in abusive relationships with not just banks, but governments and corporations.

In casting off their slumbers, many Brits walked joyfully away from their ‘debts’, including credit card outstandings estimated to average £4,500. Others showed their friends and family how to repay ‘debts’ to banks by drawing up their own promissory notes. Students disowned ‘debts’ which represented years of power and control for the providers. Hordes of mortgage payers ceased further amortisations.

Jesus sensed when the control system’s third breach kicked in. He hailed a tacit agreement by nearly one third of the UK population to cease using electronic money as the death knell for banks. “Get in there!” he shouted. “We have just witnessed the end of psychological winter for planet Earth,” he told a meeting of the Firm.

Not all were swayed. Facing shrinking staffing levels, many senior hedge fund managers pronounced that sterling’s crash was long overdue, making the UK a potentially dangerous base. Few mourned their departure to offshore centres dotted around Europe, where they would scavenge and ‘scalp’ for profits.

Luckily for the clans, people in the emerging world resisted the notion of vengeance. “Sarah, if the American people had ever known the truth about what we Bushes have done to this nation, we would be chased down in the streets and lynched,” said George Bush Senior, in a December 1992 interview. 22 years later, forgiveness helped save the planet.

Education survived: teachers had good hearts. But emerging curricula became more humane, jettisoning the aim of preparing children for an obedient 9 to 5 existence that generally enriched somebody else. This dovetailed neatly with a decline in the left brain-driven administration, archiving, book- and record-keeping that had propped up global institutions. Accountancy became clearly perceived for the drudgery it had always been.

While there was no discarding of reading, writing and simple mathematics, spiritual self-sufficiency was actively encouraged. One of the first things that revitalised British teachers came to teach their youngest pupils was Ian Dury’s wisdom from 1977:

What a jolly bad show,

If all you ever do is business you don’t like

 

Inevitably, Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy flourished. Right-brain openness began to balance the planning mind. This facilitated children’s natural interests in music, art and nature. Meditation and tai chi were taught alongside sport and self-defence. Practical skills – plumbing, building, gardening, cooking and woodwork – were pursued by many teenagers, to complement IT and computer skills that still underpinned society.

By their mid-teens, kids would naturally engage in classroom debate over drugs, sex and the nature of death, as an interest in ideas resurrected itself. One question took a far greater precedence: How can I best express myself in this life?

As timeworn notions of examination and grading faded, ideas of hierarchy become risible in the new world. No head teachers were required, no managing directors or chief executives needed in the flat organisations that emerged. “All were created to be neither a slave nor a master,” said Jesus, punching the air in celebration. Social divisions based on privilege, class and wealth were crumbling. It had always pissed off Micky Gaze that Eton schoolboys could get to run Britain without ever growing up.

National media withered on the vine. Local news assumed its natural precedence as the general nature of television channels and daily newspapers was identified: a diet of fear-porn and social programming, dreamed up and sponsored by the wealthy thugs behind the old world’s problems. The awakening to the BBC’s role in facilitating Savile’s misdemeanours and its censoring and twisting of endless news items meant it was soon an ex-service. Yet some Britons continued to read The Sun newspaper, whose headlines had included sublime gems of insight such as ‘Werewolf seized in Southend’ and ‘There are no virgins in Essex’.

In that august county, Dan was assembling his imaginative novel, which began with Maggie’s death. He would often be caught singing the 1966 hit, Paperback Writer. But his priority was helping Southchurch Park find its communal feet again. The park’s farming effort re-intensified.

Oceans could not contain Yesh consciousness, which some later described as a reverse zombie apocalypse. In the US, the flimsy mistruths about 9/11 were among the historical distortions that received the harshest scrutiny, including JFK’s death and the darkness surrounding the Federal Reserve.

Kennedy had spoken candidly to the American public of “a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy”. Osama Bin Laden, who had freely owned up to terrorist acts in Yemen, had said a “government within a government within the United States” was responsible for 9/11. Without any need for a civil rights movement, the Fed, the CIA, and TSA disappeared, among other odious old world institutions. With them went the artifice of domestic ‘terrorism’, hatched primarily to ensure the population traded its freedoms for ‘security’.

Satan was chuffed, almost to tears. “Scumbaggery seem to be coming to a welcome end”, he noted. Others hazarded that a Gnostic sensibility was returning.

Investigations burrowed into US history, shining light upon a murky 1871 Act that turned the US into a corporation obliged to repay bankers its sizeable revolutionary war debt. It became more widely known that in 1933, when Franklin D Roosevelt talked of his ‘New Deal’, the US quietly entered bankruptcy. And that the IRS held a Puerto Rico base, from where money was transferred to the Philippines, and then onwards to who knows where.

In Canada, citizens made public statistics and letters proving that over 50,000 First Nation children were deliberately wiped out by church and state from 1900-1996 to get rid of the “Indian problem”.

Structures that had bound humanity tightly loosened. Eastern Europe, Germany and Italy shrank their dependence upon Russian natural gas, finding local, renewable energy solutions. Regional and local sourcing of all needs became almost standard, rendering most long-distance shipping unnecessary.

Globally, ‘flocks’ drifted away from sheepish proclivities in churches, mosques and synagogues, many switching to yoga and meditation. God, Jesus, Buddha, even Satan, heard far fewer chants praising their names, as new generations of so-called ‘indigo children’ helped their parents plug into more unorganised, older ways of thinking. Sid noted that two new chakras were emerging in humans. An emerald coloured heart chakra, able to directly receive and give love. Beneath their feet, a brown earth chakra, providing a grounding as human bodies were radiating at higher frequencies.

In parts of Japan, the press gag on Fukushima disappeared, allowing a more national discussion of the huge radiation problem. A plan was drawn up to entomb the plant in hundreds of yards of concrete, using robots. This would stop contaminated water pouring into the Pacific. Buddha focused his efforts on cleansing that ocean. Healers from around the world inaugurated Japanese clinics complementing traditional cancer treatments.

New governments in Israel and Palestine ceased hostilities, eventually, as war’s futility stood stark. Some French politicians, in their last days of power, admitted collusion with British secret services in the murder of Diana Spencer. In Australia, it emerged that various corporations, masquerading as a Canberra-based government, were registered in Washington DC. In Holland, the control of police and politicians by the “Octopus” crime syndicate came to light.

Soon, a  number of armed forces disbanded willingly, in the absence of threats. Army engineers were at the heart of massive informal programmes to teach homeless and jobless humans to renovate homes or build their own properties. To express the creativity surging through him, former soldier Alex trained to be a tattooist. Bus driver Jess taught an astral sex course.

George took refuge in Switzerland, always more impervious to change than elsewhere. The country’s links to the Vatican were always clear in the square flags. In the Swiss Guard, the noble ‘Defenders of the Church’s Freedom’. In truth, neither George nor other clan members that had bloated themselves on armaments, banking, narcotics and privatisation understood the birthing new world, lacking the corruptions of taxation and other centralised nonsenses. Without servants, without victims, power waning, the crime families struggled to function as before.

 

***

Towards the end of the decade, Butler-Sloss day entered a new UK public holiday calendar. Named after one of the judges deemed unsuitable to chair Britain’s child abuse investigations, it reminded countless Britons of when they began to reclaim individual sovereign power. It became an occasion for people to dress in suits, ridiculing the daft uniforms of yesteryear.

The dogma and deceit of party politics seemed from another time. God and Satan would howl with mirth as they watched MPs and Lords with the most resistant DNA turn up hopefully in Britain’s Parliament, only to find their underlings vanished. No canteen, no bar, no clean toilets, no researchers, no security, no cameras, no gophers.

An alternative national body had pieced itself together in the borough of Hinckley and Bosworth, in Leicestershire, where Ordnance Survey had calculated the exact centre of England. A field at Lindley Hall Farm, in Fenny Drayton. Although the land continued to be used for crops, around 100 individuals met for the first time in March 2015. They represented each of the new administrative areas (‘hundreds’) formed to override old boundaries of influence. They gathered around a monument made from a railway sleeper.

The selection process was based on ability to tell the truth. Only just 18, Genevieve Landais was chosen unanimously for the south-east Essex hundred. This assembled at Southchurch Park, on just a handful of necessary occasions. Genevieve told it like it was, from her heart, reminding some of Dennis Skinner.

Based on her inability to dissemble, she won a ballot to be England’s national leader. Jesus, Buddha and Gandhi smiled again at her conception, ‘beyond time’, in the waft of primeval ooze. An Essex triumph.

The new national body was little more than token. Very local and utterly flat forms of government – based on recurrent referenda – became an entrenched model across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Significantly, the Midlands monument was located a few miles from where the 1485 Battle of Bosworth marked the end of the Plantagenet dynasty.

The British monarchy – whose real Saxe-Gotha-Coburg surname became common knowledge – tucked itself away on a quiet estate, and yielded others to the public good. An older Royal Family member spent his days in a converted golf buggy, on which a machine gun was mounted. Contentedly, he would rifle trees and undergrowth with round after round, ejaculating with joy whenever a rabbit or stray deer was blown to pieces.

The demise of monarchic power and influence in the new world was accompanied by the complete jettisoning of the biased, twisted legal system that had evolved over thousands of years alongside money systems and supposedly “royal” bloodlines that stretched back to early Sumerian days.

Inextricably linked to the moneyed political class, the profession had enriched itself even as its practitioners shamelessly watched the introductions of internment without trial, secret trials, injunctions against the free press and the steady extermination of free legal aid.

The perceived role of the very apex of the British legal profession in expediting child abuse cover ups was a last straw for many, who saw these echelons as complicit in the highly ritualistic rape and murder of children.

There was no need for legal reform: few were the quarrels unable to be settled amicably. If anything, people were inclined to find too generously in favour of the other.

Genevieve summed it up succinctly: “No need to win – no need for lawyers.”

The odd dispute or two went to a grouping of neighbours or peer businesses, sparking up keen Socratic-style dialogues, and a relatively quick and fair outcome. Notions of property rights disappeared, swiftly followed by estate agents and landlords. As the rule of imposed law ceased to apply, anarchy – the realm of Natural Law and freedom – spread its inherent fairness.

The police force disbanded itself. A much smaller group of “helpers”, as they became known, attended various events to direct crowds, and help in local emergencies. Violence and theft were soon looked back upon as an abhorrence, a mental illness.

Across the south-east Essex hundred, the former focus on eradicating crime was replaced with a new target: eliminating all plastic.

 

***

The last milestone breach of the control system came on Exxon Day, as it was later tagged. Howard had returned to Wales to heal his collarbone. Living with his aunt in Newport, he began to work shifts in an Esso petrol station on the Chepstow Road in spring 2015.

At first hand, he witnessed the chaos of the barter system. An initial preference for cash in the till had dwindled as the accounting side of all businesses lost importance. The forecourt and inside of the garage shop was heaped with a litany of petrol payments. Food, electrical and gardening equipment, clothing, bikes, beds and koi carp were among the items exchanged for fuel. A horse was tethered by the pumps.

Howard would recite the story every year back at Southchurch Park, during his habitual return visit on Butler-Sloss day.

“Was it a stroke of bloody genius? Buggered if I know, boyo. It were a stifling May morning, there were a bloody great queue, and I needed a crap. A lorry driver reckoned he was paying with umpteen tins of catfood, his U2 CDs, and a bunch of cheap sandals he’d got for mending his neighbour’s vibrator.”

So what did you say Howard?” roared the circle of old friends, in unison. “What did you say?”

They sat happily in Little Venice, around the statues erected in memory of Dave Dawson, Satan and Gandhi.

“Dunno if I should tell you,” he grinned. Looking through the open café door, he saw the British banknotes of yore plastered across the walls. The building was listed now. They launched into the chant.

 

“Now tell, o tell – the words that changed the world!”

Please tell, do tell, how joy and light unfurled.”

 

Claire and Alex looked on, flanking their first child, the rainbow-haired Daphne. Arthur’s eyes were welling up. He had not envisaged finding a home again, let alone being useful. Having learned the community’s history, he gave guided tours for visitors. For those who lingered, he told of the evening he was taken to Heaven for a sleepover.

Ed Fawkes led the ritualistic call and response.

 

Was it karma, was it luck?

What said you to man with truck?”

 

Mary loved this nonsense. Dan captured it faithfully on camera, remembering with goose pimples his fear as the tsunami waters climbed the Leigh hillside. Howard called back:

 

“I made it clear, I made it plain,

That things in me were under strain.”

 

Ed pulled himself up to his full six foot three, trying not to laugh. Alex had tattooed WTC7 on both Ed’s forearms. His book on 9/11 was hailed as the definitive study.

 

Tell us now what you did say.

To make that truckman drive away.”

 

Howard narrowed his eyes, recalled the sweaty driver. Theatrically, he swung a pointed finger across the faces in the circle.

 

“Don’t pay for petrol from that pump.

Just take the fuel; I need a dump.”

 

He had told the rest of the queue to do the same, and to pass the message on. Morphic resonance did the rest. Within a week, a hefty chunk of Britain was kicking itself at how simple the society could have been all along.

Inevitably, other countries began to follow suit.

“It was all in place: every last service,” Arthur told tourists. His smile was infectious. “So why not provide everything for free? No money, no barter, no countertrade.”

Farmers continued to provide food to butchers, markets and factories. When the farmer needed new wellies, he or she took the right size from their nearest shop. When the tractor broke, a mechanic repaired it. The mechanic walked into the local supermarket, shop or market and took enough food to feed upon. Electricity, water, gas and telephone/Internet services flowed freely to homes and businesses, sent by workers who walked into local stores and took enough to feed, dress and recreate.

One provided one’s contribution to maintain the wider society, taking only what was necessary in return.

Premiership footballers and musicians played for free, in front of crowds which continued to admire and adore their skills, travelling to venues on free public transport. Actors, comedians and writers still plied their trades, hoping for encouraging feedback. Gambling vanished; the mafia disappeared; prostitution transformed itself within a much wider morphing of social interaction.

People still drank alcohol, in bars and clubs staffed by those who enjoyed the atmosphere. Youths naturally experimented by drinking more than the recommended amounts. Sex remained the great pleasure, but came to incorporate a greater spiritual component.

Howard’s peristaltic brainwave hammered the final nail into a society that had been hierarchical, egotistical, fearful and consumption-driven. The rot was replaced by an honourable and equitable ethos: a determination not to compete for resources, or to abrogate the rights of another. “You allright with that?” became the social watchword. Houses, the great economic prize of the neoliberal era, eventually became like fresh air. Available wherever one required.

Inevitably there were hiccups and insufficiencies. Of course. In response, people found ways to fill gaps and adapt. Yesh consciousness was the underpinning. It always asked: ‘What can I do for others today?’

 

***

Still waiting, Maggie watched Mike Burper on the screens. He was standing next to Satan as they witnessed Southend light up on Exxon Day 2020. Solar power had already been overtaken by Nikola Tesla’s so-called ‘zero-point’ energy technologies, one of which cleaned local water supplies through ionisation.

Southend’s ceremonial illumination marked it as one of many British towns and cities being remade in the image of Jacques Fresco’s Venus project. This had viewed war, poverty, hunger, debt, and unnecessary human suffering not only as avoidable, but as totally unacceptable. As with Tesla’s innovations, Fresco’s ideas found no traction until 2014 turned the world on its head.

“So Mike, here’s a question,” said Satan. They had just necked some delicious locally-brewed craft beer in the Railway Hotel, waiting for the May sunshine to die before making the short stroll to High Thames Street.

“How excellent is it to reside in an environment where work still exists, but the main aim of daily life is to improve personal knowledge, enjoy hobbies, or solve problems that improve everyone’s standard of living?”

Mike was off to see Spurs play West Ham the next day, at the Olympic Stadium, with his grandkids. His contentment was unassailable these days. “Do you happen to mean somewhere that would allow you to change naturally into a more spiritual being?” he replied.Somewhere you could find real happiness by creating and maintaining non-aggressive relationships, and where most forms of mental illness had died natural deaths?”

In bed, Sheena loved to tease him about his growing view that the animal kingdom was equal in importance to humanity; and should be treated like brothers and sisters. He had read that morning, with some wonder, about shamanistic cultures. The onset of ultrafast mobile networks would allow him to listen to a shaman in Brazil, interactively, as he later walked home to Southchurch. This shaman taught that souls lived lives simultaneously, so that healing in one life healed other, concurrent incarnations.

Mike thought back to his lunch that day. “And I’m guessing you mean an environment where GMO crops are banned, and where is so much turmeric, garlic, ginger and other fresh herbs packed into cuisine that it has led to a monstrous decline in cancer?” he asked. “A way of living with a totally organic permaculture, including vertical farming in dedicated tall buildings, where sunlight is optimised, and crops can be grown all year round, without pesticides?”

They both looked up at the surrounding skyline, testament to the freedom and abundance produced by planting seeds. The soaring buildings had cemented the local connection between food production and consumption, providing tasks aplenty for construction workers.

A unifying spirit ran through everything. Millions of people went barefoot, including Sally, the Abbot at the Leigh Buddhist Centre. She had taught Mike to meditate and tune into space between thoughts. Sally told him that chanting would help his brain act as a synchronised whole, allowing him to couple with the underlying field of intelligence. “It wants the very best for you Mike,” she smiled.

She suggested he should train as a healer. His peripheral vision had broadened, his body was strong, and he lived permanently in the present. He savoured input from all his senses, while time had slowed so much that he felt like he was seeing the magic and wonder of life as a child, but without the negative emotions of his childhood.

As Mike had walked along the Thorpe Bay coastline that morning, the thought occurred: “I remember, this happened to me before.” He had the insight that people are always born where they need to be, based upon their soul journeys. And that these journeys eventually collapse polarities.

He turned to see Sal smiling. The Devil never let Mike forget that he was there only by the grace of Maggie. Satan’s green eyes danced with joy whenever he recalled more karma: the kick to Mike’s face, administered by the dark mercenary, on the very field where Burper once booted his soccer opponents.

However you viewed him, Satan was brilliantly stimulating company. But Mike wondered. Was his companion feeling empty, as the flow of incomers to his lowest dungeons had tailed off?

“You nailed it Sal. It is fantastically fucking good to be alive here. Remind me again of the alternative.”

“Cognitive dissonance,” said Satan. “A world where the modern Mafia were the same people who ran the Catholic Church and the Italian government. A world where the Western nations most heavily invested in the ‘war on terror’ were also the countries most heavily involved in global arms trading. A world where British intelligence paid al-Qaeda in 1996 to fund an assassination plot against Libya’s leader, who had brought his people a standard of living unknown elsewhere in Africa. A world where the Muslim Brotherhood won Egypt’s first-ever democratic elections, and was then declared a terrorist organisation despite its tradition of non-violence. A world where Iraq was reduced from having a best-in-the-region educational system, and the finest free health care in the Middle East, to becoming a twilight death zone after the US-led invasion. A world where President Obama’s defence secretary, Charles Hagel, unwittingly argued a decade later that “you cannot go around the world and violate the sovereignty of nations by force, coercion or intimidation”. While his country helped tear apart Libya, Yemen and Syria.

Mike grimaced. “How did we live in that world?”

Sal frowned. “Strictly speaking you didn’t. You lived here in the UK, where it was forbidden by Parliament to even discuss the fact that the Queen kept her wealth a secret, and the Royal Family was exempt from Freedom of Information requests. A society where a few rich parasites lauded by society and media leeched from a mass of heavily indebted minimum wage worker-serfs. One where, if an ordinary man robbed a bank, he went to prison; but if a banker robbed an ordinary man, he got a bonus.” Mike smiled at that.

“A country where a family lost their home every 11 minutes; and whose government spied on its own citizens, forced terminally ill people to work and used public money to take the EU to court to save bankers’ bonuses, operating on behalf of a transnational elite that owed loyalty to no country. A society which contained nine of the top ten poorest regions in Northern Europe, where hundreds of thousands of people could no longer afford to feed themselves.”

“A world of shite,” said Mike.

“A world where as long as there was money there was insufficiency. Totally insane”, said Sal.

The Bank of England had recently been demolished in front of cheering crowds and replaced with a playground, alongside a cemetery for ATOS and Bedroom Tax victims. Like Flanders memorials, it was a permanent reminder that none of this should never happen again. Even more than Southend, London had changed beyond recognition, as the financial buildings had given way to benevolence: myriad forms of greenery and creativity.

 

***

They strolled south to look out over Southend’s rebuilt pier. Mike couldn’t stop himself asking. “How do you stay busy these days?”

A flicker crossed Satan’s face. “It might spoil your day if I told you.”

Mike felt his stomach spin mildly, while Sal searched for the right words.

“There is a second world Mike.”

“What you talking about? You been drinking all day?”

“A world where 80% of humans still live on less than $10/day. Where the bottom third live on an average $1.25/day. Where 30,000 a day die of malnutrition and starvation.”

“Mate stop fucking around. That’s all done with.”

“A world where 17 investment companies that control $50 trillion of wealth are all invested in each other. Where corporations bigger than countries hang out at Davos. Where about 300 people control global policy-making. Where injections of miracle money from central banks are incessantly pounded down the cess-holes of bond and stock markets.”

“Where? That nightmare world has gone.”

“Parallel.”

“What, shit, like an old Earth?”

Satan nodded.

“No…How?”

“Lots of humans didn’t want to change. They clung to the familiar. They stayed put in space and time.”

“Fuck. Are you serious?”

“I’m always serious.”

“Is it still mad?”

“Judge for yourself Mike. In Britain, emergency food parcel handouts are sky-rocketing. The wider world has freak weather events, from blazing forests in the Amazon and bushfires across Australia to Storm Dennis, which flooded much of the UK a few months ago. America has a president called Donald Trump, with orange hair and all the gross subtlety of a rhino. Britain’s leader is Boris Johnson.”

“Get the fuck out of it. That floppy-haired Eton cunt? He’s a trickster. A lord of misrule.”

“Debt levels are as insane as ever. Governments owe $58 trillion. Throw in company and personal debt, and you’re looking at well over $250 trillion globally. The average US citizen owes $50k in debt.”

“Shit. Will I be able to stay here, in this world?”

“Yes. Don’t worry. You helped create it with your thoughts and actions.”

“Fuck. Sal, I’m shocked. Sick to the core that people got left behind.”

“It was and is their choice. They refused to tap into their power. Desisted from critical thinking. If you thought things were bad six years ago, you would hate it now. The general public has developed Stockholm Syndrome.”

“Hang on, I’ve learned about that. Don’t hostages or victims of abuse bond with their abusers?”

“Most humans on planet Earth have fallen even harder for their captors.”

“What’s going on then?”

“I’ll stick to Britain, your backyard. In 2016, the population marginally voted to leave the European Union, probably based on being shafted, ignored, abused and generally ground into the shit by years of austerity. Having kidded themselves that they stuck it up the elite, they kept voting Tory. They are now unable to live their lives in any way without being told how and what to do.”

“Why? Is there a new event, or crisis?”

“The Firm is still looking. We can’t be sure.”

“Just tell me.”

“It’s still early days Mike. A virus named COVID-19 has spread across the old globe. It belongs to the common cold family. Sadly, it seems to kill the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Lethality rate might be around 0.2%, maximum, for the infected. If you’ve got a functioning immune system, you’ll almost certainly fend it off.”

“Sounds like one of those nasty flu years, maybe a bit worse.”

“That’s exactly the right comparison. Until now, the world would address that by protecting the vulnerable, respectfully mourning the dead then going about its business. But not this time.”

“So what’s different?”

“Many countries are being locked down, with constitutional rights suspended, under medical martial law. Britain is especially weird. The government told everyone to stay home in late March, three days after Public Health England declassified Covid-19 as not being a High Consequence Infectious Disease due to the low mortality rate.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“People around much of the globe have been instructed to ‘social distance’. In the UK, by staying two metres apart. Kids are being brainwashed with ‘isolation boxes’ chalked out in pre-school playgrounds, yet government advisors are flouting the ban. In parts of France, you need permission papers to walk to the local store. Small and large businesses are collapsing everywhere in the West. A coming economic depression is inevitable. Looks like it will be blamed on this virus, rather than on the lockdown that really caused it.”

Sal explained that media narrative was as twisted as ever. “They churn out this looney idea – astoundingly illogical and unscientific – that only vaccination can save the world from something that is more or less harmless to the majority. And that deeper surveillance technology is necessary.”

The drinking sessions through the night in Southchurch had taught Mike that Sal would talk forever if you kept quiet. Across the Thames, he watched the play of the sinking sun, lighting up remnants of the old port and power station on the Isle of Grain. Part of the old world. Almost Dickensian now.

“It seems that I may be pulled out of retirement,” said Sal. “God is banging on about a ‘Health Mafia’, based in and around the World Health Organisation, which uses huge sums of money to sway governments and government influencers towards a vaccine solution.”

“Do you have any individuals lined up in your sights? For visits?”

Satan’s pupils were dilating. “Same policy as always Mike. Follow the money trail. To the financiers, the pharmaceutical companies, but above all to the nerd, the multi-billionaire who wants to vaccinate all of the old world.”

He paused. “But we might have it wrong. It really might be that he is an altruist. Or that COVID-19 is a true apocalypse, a final death knell for that old world, thrown out wisely by Mother Nature herself, sick of the unbalanced, ecologically unsound set of arrangements that are still unspooling at horrifying speed.”

“So you’re going back in? To find out for yourself?”

“You might say that the Devil makes work for idle hands. I may even discover that certain powers-that-be are using the virus as a cover to mask a new financial collapse.”

 

***

In the new world, Dawn Landais still washed screens at Kent Elms, but electric cars produced less grime. For a hobby, she became the drummer for Parklife.

She would sometimes recall her words to Genevieve when her daughter was still young. “Nothing’s worthwhile if you can’t be kind. But don’t be soft. When you know something, get the details clear, and never back down. Never.”

 

***

The simple touch of an ascended master had engendeded thought patterns able to reconfigure the genetic code, and bring spiritual maturity to human DNA. In its old setting, this was still being bombarded and assaulted by the ferocious increase in computer processing power, which had multiplied by an average 100-fold every 10 years; and 1 million-fold each 30 years.

It dawned on Maggie that this acceleration had allowed capitalism to become pernicious, before Yesh stepped in. The ability of people across the world to earn enough to live had itself become a “market inefficiency” that computers began to eradicate. Perhaps worse, information technology had also made it possible for people sitting thousands of miles away to execute other humans using screens and military drones.

Now with two worlds to keep an eye on, God often wondered if she had created or just thrown dice.

Maggie watched and waited, anxious for another spin on the karmic roundabout.

 

 

EPILOGUE

 

Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions.

Edgar Cayce

 

The horrible chaos was fading, mercifully. Too quickly? Torn between the now, the morning, and……the future?

Maggie found herself sobbing. Karate and whisky and a place. How could….? Which place? South of the church? Saturn? Impossible. Old Father Thames? Mary and Morgan. Who was dumping?

Denis was absent. His leg always trailed across the bed. Dare she open her eyes? She peeked through one. Royal blue wallpaper, fleur de lis. Her dressing table, her jewellery. She sat up, wiping wet cheeks. She needed toast. And coffee, to ease her constipation. She pulled on her dressing gown, checked on the twins across the landing. Both asleep. Yesh they were.

A peek out across Kent. Dawn. Dawn? Tiptoeing down the stairs. A beige envelope on the doormat. She picked it up, grateful for the solidity.

Lamberhurst……this was her reality. She filled the kettle, sat at the formica table. Last night’s sherry bottle left out. She changed her mind. She wanted…….yes, tea. In her new Prince Albert set. Comforting patterns on the bone china. Two slices of white in the toaster. Denis’ scotch on the shelf. Reassuring.

She did not normally dream. Settled, she poured. Buttered the toast. One word neatly adorned the envelope. Margaret. Using a clean knife, she opened the letter. The paper inside was slightly scented, expensive.

 

Dearest M

I very much enjoyed our get together last month. You are one of the few politicians who speak their mind without fear of retribution. It makes for rather good company.

I think we agreed it has been quite a memorable year for the country, if not a good one. The morale boost from Mr Ramsey’s boys cannot be over-stated for the working man. However, you and I know full well that football solves nothing. Sterling is weak. PM Wilson, as I stressed, will be forced to devalue next year.

Your speech at the Conservative conference two weeks ago created a good impression, not least your insight that lower taxes serve as an incentive to work hard. You are beginning to catch eyes and ears that matter. It is no secret that some influential people are in fulsome agreement with your views on the distortions caused by price controls.

Margaret, big changes are coming. It is no exaggeration to say Britain’s moribund practices are in desperate need of radical overhaul, or that private capital must hugely expand its current role. Old shackles must be cast adrift, creating losers as well as winners. Such is life’s perpetual tempest.

I think you are fully aware that a Shadow Cabinet role awaits. Please think in terms of higher rungs. A decision has already been made, within the highest circles.

You will, in the medium- to long-term future, run the Conservative Party. All being well, you will take the honour of becoming our first female Prime Minister. That is, I realise, a lot to take in. Nonetheless I suspect you will not be totally shocked.

The challenges will be considerable, but preparation time abounds. The key point to remember, always, is that my friends and I will back you firmly, during the toughest moments.

For now, pre-emptive congratulations. I know your father will be so proud.

Shall we meet for our next talk on 10 November?  

 

Yours, as ever

 

VR

28/10/66

 

 

THE END

284. Racing to nowhere

OUT OF ESSEX – CHAPTER 44

 

Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be.

Jane Austen

 

 

 

Joseph Conrad had compared his fictional character Marlow to “a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus flower.” The real Buddha sat in Canary Wharf, the heart of London’s new financial hub, observing suited humans scurrying from their karma. Postponing it, racing to nowhere, for hundreds of thousands of lives. Anchored in the temporary dot of the five-sense world, chasing money, not flowing in the stream of the Tao.

In this moment, which was all one ever had, he had no concerns.

Whether or not Jesus had a plan, all was well. Sid continued to hold the siddhi in place, halving the height of himself, Gandhi, Dawn and Yesh within the visual field of any outside observer. He observed the crosses and triangular shapes filling the sky over central London, as strange planes emitted trails. Deep inside was where such observation began. An unbeknown process to the scurrying ones.

Walking the last mile, passing Tower Hamlets College, Dawn had asked him for practical spiritual advice. “I want something to remember you by, Sid,” she said. Students chatted in the spring sunshine. He replied that if she were serious, she needed a master. “A true master will destroy your peace.” That puzzled her. “A master will help you expose your whole being to yourself. That guarantees a revolution of the inner kingdom.”

“I haven’t got time for all that. How about something simple?”

“Kiss people on their third eye,” said Sid. He gently placed his lips just below the centre of her forehead. “It will bring them compassion, and help their pineal gland decalcify.” He explained that the pineal gland – sometimes called the third eye – sat within the pranic tube, sometimes known as the Middle Vein. This stretched from the crown to the perineum. It allowed sacred energy and light to flow within a body.

“That’s lovely Sid, I like that”. He explained more. “In its calcified state, the pineal gland is a crystal throne for the ball of light that is you. When finally opened, the crown chakra bursts, and the white light of truth floods your head.” The Bible was hardly Buddha’s territory, but he quoted Matthew 6:22. “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light”.

As Dawn chatted with the woman in red clothes, Sid could see their auras combine in the soft evening sunshine. It was a propitious time. Following the appearance of the astrological Grand Cross, he had called a powerful sound emanation from the Buddhic realms into play. Sound codes of new creation were flowing. He observed that Jesus had stood up.

 

***

 

“That’s him,” said Dawn to Susan, who felt very comfortable, despite the Christian leanings of her new companion, and the group’s odd garb. “That’s who?” said Susan. Dawn pointed to the Arabic-looking guy in football kit. Sitting the furthest away of the four, he was twice the height of his friends. He noticed her looking. Susan could not hear Dawn anymore.

The man walked to Dawn, and bent down, winking at Susan. He slowly removed Dawn’s pouch, unzipped it with his gentle hands, extracting the squeegees and water bottles. Susan touched his sleeve, felt her hand somehow move much higher, as he tipped the pouch’s contents. About 50 gold bars littered the marble seat, several falling to the concrete.

Without a plan, he had laid first bricks in his mother’s new house on four separate occasions this day. Each, alone, enough to build the new edifice on Earth. Through his own trust in touch, and Mary Magdalene’s teachings on contagion.

He announced it was time to go. Sid cleaned the square, sprucing and dusting the unwholesomeness with a flick of his mind. Yesh watched Dawn hug the woman in red, kiss her above her eyebrows.

 

***

 

God twigged, and Buddha got it. Satan and Gandhi were still looking for a shining, defining moment. Maggie was feeling like Alice in Wonderland. She needed to talk with God about her future.

George giggled when he finally discovered the Prince of Peace was tipping out snack bars. Up at high windowsills, fingers had tightened on triggers when Jesus made his move. At ground level, immobilisation darts were still ready.

Immediately after the group moved out of sight the area was cordoned, and the bars rushed away for forensic analysis. George sneered. “Chocolate covered biscuits! Is that the best your boy can do?” He stared at the ceiling, casually flipping God the middle digit.

All along, he now saw, there had not existed the sliver of an opportunity, not the ghost of a bloody chance, for Jesus and his companions to change a single thing. The wacky-looking gang were being followed, every move monitored. But they had shot their bolt. Jesus had no clue just how deeply programmed humans had become since his last visit.

After any British child was born, they had three years at most with their parents before a timetable kicked in. Then countless exams, depleting their creativity, building the programming, producing competition where winners told the system exactly what it wanted to hear. Subsequently they would specialise, absorbing more rules about what was acceptable. Exposure to the clans’ one-over-another economies buttressed these messages.

Any slipping through the enforcement net encountered peer groups that derided failure to accept the programming. How beautiful was this ‘crab bucket’? People brainwashed to fight tooth and nail to protect a system that imprisoned them. Those who pointed out the madness were labelled insane.

Jesus had clearly seen the tragi-comedy for himself, tipping out their meagre rations in frustration.

 

***

 

In Leigh, Sally had the entire ashram engaged in remote viewing.

Sid’s instructions were that he would send pictures if ever he went missing. Stan picked up the first transmission, of four travellers on a long road, encapsulated in a large bubble. Jess got the next, an image of three very high, very close towers, with a capstone on the second. They all recognised Canary Wharf. Pound, euro and dollar signs were swirling darkly around and towards the towers.

Two other group members received transmissions, later that evening. The first appeared to be a black woman shaking hands with an archbishop, fag poking sideways from her mouth. The Buddha’s final message showed a map of Great Britain, with a monument jutting out, somewhere in the Midlands.

They never saw Sid again.

 

***

 

Gandhi asked Jesus where they were heading. He was hoping they would insert themselves into the City’s Square Mile by nightfall, readying for action the next day.

“Food and drink. Sunset by the river, in celebration” said Jesus.

The travellers walked west, beneath the elevated DLR station at Westferry. New housing along Limehouse Causeway covered up old docks. Mahatma knew it was here that the East India Company, which administered the early British Empire in India, had been headquartered. It had eventually controlled large areas of his country with private armies.

By a pub, on the roadside, a blanketed figure sat forlornly. Nothing stirred his gaze. Coins rested in a cap. Drawing alongside, Jesus sat beside him. The man’s eyes sank back in a grimed face. The pub sign said: The Grapes. Dawn pulled out a gold bar. Passed it to Yesh, who asked the man for his story, peeling back shiny paper.

The man slowly looked up. “Been homeless for six months now.” His voice was local, but expressionless. “Worked all me life, until the factory over in Canning Town closed down. Then me old mum died. I relied on her.”

People walked by.

“Didn’t know how to fill in forms without mum. Squatted in her place, just down the road, for nine months til other people moved in.” Jesus gave him the gold bar. The man said he had been forced to use food banks. “Council said I’d made meself intentionally homeless, stopped me benefits cos I had no address. The DWP don’t do crisis loans anymore, so you can’t get no extra money for food when your benefits run out.”

Dawn wanted to hug him while he nibbled.

“I’m out on me feet. Told the Council I was in danger of diabetic coma cos I been starvin. Been up the ‘ospital for me heart. Priest down the food bank said a prayer for me. Council don’t care. Say, yeah, I’m in priority need but they don’t house me. I don’t drink, never done drugs. The system just wants me gone, quietly.”

Jesus placed his arm around the man. “Dunno how much longer I can go on like this. Maybe mum was right. As a kid, she’d tell me that them that ask don’t get, and them that don’t ask don’t want. Either way, you couldn’t have nothin’.”

Yesh spoke: “Come with us, to break bread and slake thirst.”

A weak light came through his eyes. “They won’t serve me in there when I want a sandwich”. He slowly waved his thumb, pointing behind him. “They reckon I stink.”

Gandhi was beside himself. “This is why after World War Two the British people said their thanks to Mr Churchill but decided to vote in a Labour government. To build a new nation. One where a reasonable wage could be earned, and the sick, weak and destitute would be taken care of.”

Jesus helped the man up. Arthur, as he introduced himself, said if they ate outside, at the next pub, down by Limehouse Ship Lock, “me smell won’t be so bad for the other punters”. He struggled to walk, so Sid and Dawn supported him, the former ceasing his silent mantra. “Gordon Bennett, you’re bloody huge mate,” Arthur croaked to Jesus.

The Narrow, as the pub was named, had a comfortable outside seating area, with a view across to Rotherhithe housing estate. All used the loos, except Jesus, who found a table overlooking the water. The breeze would take Arthur’s fumes downwind. Dawn disliked the price of the fish and chips they were ordering, eight quid more than The Grapes, where she’d scanned the outside menu. She fretted when Yesh ordered a bottle of Chassagne Montrachet, Bernard Moreau, priced £65. But it tasted lovely, chilled and rich. She could feel the staff scrutiny; saw Gandhi spoiling for an argument if anyone questioned their use of this ‘gastro-pub’. Wondered how they would pay.

A few others sat outside: a lesbian couple in black leather; two guys in their fifties talking animatedly on high seats next to the Thames Path; and two younger men trying to impress a female companion. Everyone looked discreetly at Jesus.

Drinking fresh orange juice, Arthur found a tiny smile. He demolished a dish of olives and bread. Talked of a friend who had suffered with mental illness and psychosis. “DWP forced him into a job he couldn’t cope with. Lost his benefits for 6 months.” Another acquaintance, he said, did part-time voluntary work in a MIND shop, before his job seekers allowance was stopped for eight weeks, for signing a letter one day late.

Gandhi chipped in with a well-publicised case. Mark Wood, a highly vulnerable man in Oxfordshire, had benefits cut after being wrongly assessed by ATOS as fit for work. Age 24, he had starved to death, weighing 5 stone 8 lbs.

They watched the river, awaiting food.

The two males by the Thames Path talked animatedly. “It was my own fault, but those fuckers encouraged me every step,” said the baldest. “It got to the stage where my credit repayments alone were £2,500 a month. My total monthly income was something like two grand. Thought about killing myself, but my wife and kids wouldn’t have got the insurance.”

Police boats passed along the otherwise deserted river.

Dawn went inside, reappearing with a woollen blanket for Mahatma, who was shivering. He kissed her forehead. She went away, returning with a wet, warm flannel for Arthur to wash his face, and a towel. He was trying to process what was happening.

Food arrived. Gandhi preferred the side salad, offering the fish to Arthur, who was eating like a ravenous animal. “What are you lot – the four bloody horsemen? Why you helping me? It’s bloody marvellous, but who are you?”

Dawn said she tried to help everyone. She sipped her wine. Jesus requested they look across the river to its far grey bank, below twinkling domestic lights. He turned to Dawn and asked her to describe what she saw. “Smelly old mud,” she laughed.

“Or perhaps primeval ooze, washed from the creeks of Benfleet?”

He grinned, then asked if Arthur had listened to Goa trance. Dawn looked sad for the first time. “Where are you guys headed? It’ll soon be time for me to go.” She picked at her last few chips.

“Ourselves also,” smiled Jesus. “We head north, to an inn entitled ‘The Bricklayers’, in Haringey.” Seeing Gandhi’s confusion, Yesh explained he had always wanted to see White Hart Lane for himself. A brief view of the Tottenham Hotspur ground from outside, then the pub, where six flicks of the light switch activated a portal in the toilets.

For the next five minutes Gandhi used every last ounce of his formidable persuasive powers to attempt a change of plan. He argued that the City of London’s plutocratic mafia needed “cleansing”. He proceeded to detail chicanery that had stolen and cheated its way to land, property and riches beyond avarice for eight centuries.

He stood, to advance his arguments, holding his blanket tightly to his shoulders. “The City of London’s history goes back to before the Magna Carta. It has always stood apart from the rest of the country, intermarrying with royalty, but retaining its independence. Its roots encompass the Knights Templar Church, and the Inns of Courts, which still have no charter to rein them in.”

Belly full, Arthur began to listen. The Indian man certainly had an education. The mention of a church triggered memories in the Londoner of his favourite nursery rhyme. Thinking back to the words, he began to hum the tune.

 

Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement’s.

 

Sid smiled at how Arthur had tapped into his subconscious. Other drinkers listened in silence, some wondering if they were watching amateur drama as Gandhi attested passionately that the individuals controlling the City of London were “ruthlessly sociopathic”. He said their DNA was so twisted that they would like nothing better than to organise the world into a large medieval plantation.

The key structure, and the most unfathomable, he said, was what some termed as the Crown Temple Syndicate that quietly steered the City of London Corporation. “Nobody knows its real name for sure.” He said this was linked to the Vatican – and the Mafia – though a masonic lodge in Italy. “Some call that the P2 lodge.” Gandhi said a fixed split of ill-gotten profits existed between the two city-states. Jesus recalled Karen Hudes making similar statements.

 

You owe me five farthings, say the bells of St. Martin’s.

Gandhi recommenced. “The Crown was never the monarch. It is the City of London inner circle, this cartel of banking families which hides its true power, and rules by proxy,” he said. “The same degenerates that unconstitutionally created the US Federal Reserve,” he jeered. “These wrongdoers also control the world’s oil, and profit from its arms and drugs trades.”

Were they listening to conjecture? Gandhi was adamant an unelected authority was operating far beyond the pale of democracy to maintain and protect the interests of the most powerful. He called them “insidious hoarders”. He quoted Clement Attlee: “Over and over again we have seen that there is in this country another power than that which has its seat at Westminster.”

 

When will you pay me? say the bells of Old Bailey.

 

Jesus listened, never taking his eyes from Mahatma as he described the hoarders’ influence over US policy through the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission. “This is where world wars originate,” he said. He cited Britain’s obscure Privy Council system, and its influence over the Treasury Board, Select Committees, and key Civil Service appointments. He said agents of the Crown who sat on the Privy Council were unelected, and unaccountable.

 

When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch.

 

Gandhi traced back, highlighting that ‘special rights’ accorded to the City in the twelfth century were reaffirmed in the 1690 Statute of William and Mary.  He talked of the Bank of England, which, from the arrival of William of Orange and the Amsterdam banks, had been allowed to create money out of thin air at interest for the profit of secret shareholders, whose anonymity was still enshrined in British law. “That side of the wrongdoers’ lineage goes back beyond Amsterdam: to Venice, Rome and ultimately Babylon,” he said.

 

When will that be? Say the bells of Stepney.

He noted the Remembrancer in the House of Commons, ensuring City rights and privileges were protected. He alleged the money scam even stretched to include ownership of the birth certificates of people yet unborn, which had been surrendered as surety for further borrowing, so that national debt interest repayments were in effect guaranteed by human chattels. “The City has never shown anything but contempt for the common person. One of London’s Mayors killed Wat Tyler during the Peasants Revolt. Should children not be taught all of this in schools, when dealing with the great, wonderful City of London?”

 

I do not know, says the great bell of Bow.

He talked of the Square Mile’s central role within a web of tax havens, capturing and filtering dirty cash from dictators, and the arms and drugs industries. “No government has dared challenge its power”, he added. “New Labour had its chance, but instead it fell to its knees, unzipping the bankers, and receiving a festering member in its throat, and rancid sperm in its stomach.” He told how Tony Blair had persuaded the party to replace its pledge to abolish the City of London Corporation with a promise merely to “reform” it.

 

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

Chip chop, chip chop, the last man’s dead

 

***

 

In Heaven, Maggie loudly applauded Arthur. “I am beginning to understand the meaning of hidden in plain sight,” she told God, animatedly. “Every British child learns that nursery rhyme at a young age.”

 

***

 

Jesus stepped in. “Our work here is done,” he said, confidently. “Let us depart quietly, thinking of words from Socrates: ‘The secret of change is not to focus your energy on fighting the old, but on building the new’.” Immensely frustrated, Gandhi deferred.

Plates were cleared. Jesus asked Dawn to empty the pouch one last time. Out tumbled the squeegees, water bottles, a few remaining gold bars. Best of all, a wad of £20 notes. The bill was settled, leaving £200 on the table. Jesus gave £40 to Dawn to get home, and the rest to Arthur, who frowned.

“Stay at a comfortable hotel, Arthur, then board a train to Southend tomorrow. Our friends at Southchurch Park will care for you.”

“I don’t want to be on my own again. Please stay with me.”

Yesh’s eyes filled with compassion. “Would this suit? Come with us now to northeast London. Then onto the Place. My mother welcomes humility. A sleepover, then down to Essex tomorrow, through the Leigh portal.”

Arthur’s eyes welled with gratitude. Jesus neglected to say that only two individuals had made the same journey while alive. Arthur’s worthiness entitled him a place beside Elijah and Enoch.

Dawn insisted that Essex called. “I can be at Fenchurch Street in 30 minutes, back at Leigh station in another 30. Might get Steve to pick me up, and a quick drink at the Billet.” Sid chuckled at the cyclicality of all things.

Dawn asked Gandhi for a favour. “I can see banking sucks, literally, but I want to start explaining that clearly to people. Can you sum it up in a way my poor brain can remember?”

“My dear Dawn.” The scar on his thigh peeked through the blanket. “Let us think of three crimes, existing in parallel. The first is usury. Instead of providing the world with efficient units of exchange, banks strip assets away from the least economically capable borrowers via interest.” He looked to be past his disappointment. “Credit does not decay and return to the soil, like all nature. It grows forever, due to interest.”

Darkness coagulated around The Narrow. A couple were videoing the ridiculously tall man.

“Of course, governments with independence and courage would stop this fraud,” Gandhi continued. “They would cease paying debts and print their own, interest-free money for their citizens, who they are supposed to represent. But they are in the grip of the powers which issue the money.” His arm swept upriver, where bright lights hid gloomier buildings.

Part two of the criminality, he said, had manifested during recent decades, as deregulation opened suicidal levels of risk-taking by banks chasing more profit. “Hence you have the toilet paper trading I described, and the liabilities that can never be fully addressed without a horrendous series of insolvencies.”

If this was not enough, part three of the equation involved banks rigging numerous markets and cheating their customers in various ways. “Hundreds of thousands of pounds can be made in an afternoon by colluding to manipulate foreign exchange rates.”

Gandhi summed it all up as “wealth extraction, irresponsible greed and deceit”, conjecturing that the two likeliest outcomes of banking were both extreme: the collapse of major western currencies, accompanied by war, or a complete forgiveness of all debt. Dawn thought the second option sounded OK. Mahatma gave a small bow.

“Any last advice?” she asked Jesus. “When your cup fills, stop pouring,” he advocated. “Be kind, tell your truth; and meet all problems with love.”

Sid offered his suggestion. “Think of karma as a game of snakes and ladders.”

Dawn beamed, recalling one of her favourite childhood games. “So if I do well in this life, I get to climb the ladders? That’s hard these days. Less ladders around.”

Sid smiled. “To climb both in this life and in subsequent lives. But the ladders rarely represent financial gain. You came here with nothing and will leave that way.”

She thought aloud. “The snakes must be temptation. Fall for the serpents, and you undo the good work.”

She hugged them each for some time.

“It’s been emotional,” she laughed, before bounding away, orange top receding like a Dutch footballer entering the tunnel. She headed north to Limehouse DLR station, then west, along the A13, known as the Commercial Road.

A lad no older than 12 came flying past on a small bike, tuned rapturously into his earplug, oblivious to the traffic. Her legs ached, but it was in her heart now. The feel of paradise.

283. Rip in time

Time, he’s waiting in the wings
He speaks of senseless things
His script is you and me, boy

Time, he flexes like a whore
Falls wanking to the floor
His trick is you and me, boy

David Bowie

 

It has been interesting to witness how a far greater online life is promoted as the necessary future, during this era of Covid-19 lockdowns. I haven’t the faintest whether I’ve been spending more time online, because my whole concept of time has withered over the past two months. Blogging has been one casualty. Why bother when you can sit in the sunshine, like a plant, absorbing the heat. And letting your soul catch up with the huge mental and material changes twisting our world around.

Most scientists will argue that there is no time without space. Time and space. Never one without the other. But space has also changed. I have been going out of my way to veer clear of others when outside in public, because I hate the thought of distressing anyone fearful of the virus. Without that former proximity, connection and warmth fade. Boundaries change. And time changes.

Because Maureen has lost her nannying job, her daily schedule has disappeared. Our sleep patterns have followed suit. I’m sleeping deeper, sometimes over staggered periods. More delicious afternoon kips. Rhythms and patterns have gone, victims to my emerging Rip Van Winkle. Perhaps they were too frantic. Our lad Rory, back from university, has lost all sense of time, playing his online games deep into the night.

Meanwhile our garden routine has been neglected. Meditation is often forgotten. I’ve discovered that I work most sharply in the middle of the night. In the day, I often can’t be arsed.

The idea of watching TV – with its schedules and insane advertisements – seems ludicrous. Why would you? What for? A different matter when it comes to films and drama series, which stand outside time.

All of which is to say that I intend to finish rewriting the last two chapters of my novel Out of Essex, very soon. Hopefully in the next seven days, for the odd few who might be interested.

index

 

282. Selling England by the pound

 

OUT OF ESSEXCHAPTER 43

 

 

In a human sacrifice to deity there might be at least a mistaken and terrible beauty; in the rites of the moneychangers, where greed, laziness, and envy were assumed to move all men’s acts, even the terrible became banal.

Ursula Le Guin

 

 

The tiring quartet turned south onto the A114, bisecting the green expanse of Wanstead Flats. Dominating the south-western skyline, London’s tallest buildings jutted up from Canary Wharf and the City’s eastern domain.

Gandhi saw a horizon of pomp and arrogance. Once asked by a journalist for his view of western civilisation, the Indian sage was reputed to have replied: “I think it would be a good idea”. A century or more on, he gave not a hoot that London was the world’s largest financial centre, generating the biggest city GDP in Europe. “God help them,” he said, told that people were paying an average of nearly £1.5 million for houses in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in west London.

Where Wanstead flats ended, and the Borough of Newham began, it was clear that the City’s wealth was no panacea for ordinary Londoners. In some streets everything looked like the back of something else. Satellite dishes hung limply. Rubbish was strewn carelessly. Shops had little regard to their appearance. The pavement was peppered with weary individuals. Outside Forest Gate station a street cleaner shuffled a broom, head down.

Outside a shop named ‘Herbal Island’, an elderly black lady in a sun hat and glasses was fiercely guarding a trolley. Cigarette protruding, she punched the air and shouted “Jesus Christ” as they neared. Yesh smiled, bowed and touched her outstretched arm. Her hacking laugh followed them for 100 yards, past two 99 pence shops.

The odd-looking travellers turned west onto the Stratford road, briefly glimpsing a tall mosque. Asian women looked from a balcony at a dishevelled white man, carrying a chair on his back. This, Gandhi mulled, was the Britain that its middle class preferred to ignore, as they kept things running for the soft-spoken psychopaths sitting behind the scenes.

During the historic negotiations to free India, Mahatma had glimpsed the unfeeling mentality polluting the City’s most opulent rooms, where the money system rested and recreated. The mild-mannered monsters who gave orders to Churchill invested effort in maintaining their public image of decency. Yet clues were left: correspondence unintended for his eye; words overheard. Inadvertent hints that these men would, without qualm, hunt an animal, bugger a child, privatise a cancer ward or profit from wholesale killing of other humans.

Inbred, conceited and cold, that cruelty had founded the British Empire, the greatest resources grab ever seen.

The City’s pirates were quite something, he mulled. They would unabashedly wear poppies while selling weapons to the world’s worst thugs, before selling more to western armies, to blast the initial buyers out of existence. Of 28 countries on the Foreign Office’s list “of concern”, 23 had deals to buy arms from the UK, Dan Fawkes had told him.

In their conversations in Southend, Dan insisted that the paedophile Savile had regularly rubbed shoulders with what he called the UK’s ‘shadow government’. Mahatma thought again about Satan’s December meeting with the white-haired man, in the City’s dark heart.

Jesus was urging them onwards towards Canary Wharf. Several miles back, Dawn had asked the Son of God to heal her blisters at a large roundabout opposite Redbridge tube station. Something like electricity had flowed from his hands. “I love you Yesh”, she had bubbled.

Gandhi pondered on her “ladders” idea, as he observed the faces in this part of Newham. A couple of miles ahead, they would encounter the so-called ‘world-class’ industry, serving the interests of a few. Unaccountable, predatory and oligarchic in nature, the financial sector had accumulated a power which no politician could control. Now it squeezed, via complex share ownership, on the entire global economy, remorselessly extracting marrow. Dawn told of the glares she received at supermarkets when she insisted on using manned tills. “When they ask me to use the self-service tills I turn around and tell them straight: I want to keep people in jobs.”

The powerful tribes which built the City skyline had also manufactured the ticking time-bomb beneath Britain: a national debt long past any conventional redemption, due to interest payable. Profits from this swindle were constantly reinvested in media to persuade the workforce that all was well. Gandhi recalled a banner held up in 2011 by the Occupy protesters at St Pauls Cathedral: “What would Jesus do?” it asked. They were about to find out.

 

***

 

They emerged from Stratford, heading for the Bow roundabout and flyover amid ranks of fluorescently-clad workmen drilling into concrete.

Jesus could see sky to the south-west engulfed by darkness. As they cut through graffitied streets, into Poplar, the blackness intensified. Swirling and folding its unseen algorithms into the high Canary Wharf towers, visible only to those who had eyes to see.

Mahatma began to recall words from 1899, when he was a 30-year-old, working in South Africa. Words from Marlow, Joseph Conrad’s independently-minded character, as he shared a boat with four companions, off the Essex marshes. “The air was dark above Gravesend,” wrote Conrad, “and further back still, seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless” over London. In his epic tale, ‘Heart of Darkness’, Conrad had taken less than 100 pages to forever nail the theft and degradation spawned by the “monstrous city” and rival European empires.

Depicting the Golden Hind, returning with “round flanks full of treasure”, Conrad was unambiguous. “The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it”.

When the benevolent ninja squad finally slumped onto a long marble seat, in a modern square encompassing Canary Wharf tube station, suited hordes were pouring from tall buildings. Gandhi’s instincts flipped back to Marlow’s description of trading company officials, “with no learning or intelligence, who ……originated nothing, could only keep the routine going.”

The light which Mahatma had shone within the darkness of normal human existence, during his last life, found no connection here. No link with the advertisers’ dreams flashing through minds, nor the sheen escaping from garments, or the dull reflections from briefcases.

Canary Wharf, he decided, was a gleaming outpost in the new empire of the mind, a lustrous tribute to the digital economy that sat over quays and inlets of older barbarisms.

 

***

 

The Glenlivet which God kept for emergencies had proved irresistible, as screens showed her lad nearing the City. The 18-year old malt was classic Speyside: smooth and nicely sherried on the finish. She was flanked by Satan and Maggie. “Do you think it’s maybe a little too watery boss?” asked the Devil, after his second sip. God replied that it was a benchmark malt. “And Sal, it’s great to have you back. Looks as if you’ve caught the sun.”

Satan had cried with relief to be home. After deep indulgences with Morgana, he had pulled up a chair next to God as the four walking companions had made the southwards turn away from the A12, before Whipps Cross roundabout. His eye zoomed in on Canary Wharf, perceiving the three prongs. The trident, in which the Citi and HSBC towers flanked the larger building topped by a pyramid.

Maggie drank quickly, and without appreciation. Her pride was stung at being excluded from what might be the Firm’s finest hour, or possibly its curtain call. God’s advice that souls went through infinite learning curves offered little consolation. But she kept watching. She would see this through.

 

***

 

As they observed the square’s human traffic, Dawn realised her companion was talking to himself. “What is a good citizen? If you are not prepared to stand up for those who are less able than you then you are not a good citizen,” Gandhi muttered, despairingly. “Good citizens are kind, they help, they are dedicated to service; good citizens complain about wrongdoing, good citizens come together and show solidarity to their fellow citizens, to the poor and abandoned.”

He told her that in India he once undertook a 240-mile trek to protest a tax on salt. “For what cause have we walked 40 miles today? Certainly not for these people around us.”

Nearby, a well-dressed, older Japanese man entertained a pasty-faced white girl on his lap. It astonished Dawn how many men bestriding the square were fat. Others looked ridiculously arrogant. Most seemed relieved that another day was over. Wasted but over.

Gandhi remembered how Judas sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. Around $500 in modern money. He spoke again: “People who think it acceptable to make money from money, or to sell faulty financial products on an epic scale, without thought to the consequences for others. These people, most certainly, cannot be good citizens.”

She agreed, had often thought that bankers did nothing, made nothing; that their market was no more than a bunch of numbers, independent of physical reality. Her husband sometimes sang lines from Steve Tilston, a folk singer:

 

Behind their hedge, they don’t plant wheat,

They don’t cut corn, they don’t pick tea,

They don’t dig coal, they don’t forge steel.

They just push numbers all about,

They push too far we bail them out,

Keep their fingers firm on fortune’s wheel.

 

Gandhi was recorded as the inventor of ‘satyagraha’ – insistence on truth. He turned to Dawn, touching her arm gently. “The lack of insight in these people that you see – it makes them pushovers to persuade that their industry has only a cold. How shocked they would be to know it is already suffering a stage four cancer,” he told her. The Indian sank back into himself. Not really knowing what he was on about, she stayed silent, marvelling at how good her feet felt.

 

***

 

George ran extensive weapons checks on the four. Ballistic and imaging devices showed them to be clean. By the time they sat opposite the tube station, his live stream was incorporating alternating images from thousands of scanning devices. His dilemma was existential. Curiosity grinding against the compulsion to eradicate. “What is the threat?” he had asked the clans’ super-computer. “Unknowable”, it bleeped.

He had two hundred police and army operatives in and around the square, many in adjoining establishments: the Slug and Lettuce, All Bar One, Carluccio’s and Smollensky’s. Outside the Cat and Canary, several hundred yards away, off Wren Landing, another hundred darkly uniformed men blocked views of the North Dock.

George considered Gandhi’s capabilities. Assuaging pain, spreading love, making men brothers. Was he planning to lead a fast? His impression was of a subservient role in the group. He knew about the Buddha’s tricks, his siddhis. But these were always benevolent. The woman was a complete nobody. So what the bloody hell was Jesus up to? What made him think he would improve upon his previous effort?

And what would Eric have done, if he were still around?

 

***

 

Dawn liked the green hooded shape of the grass and trees wrapping the back of the tube station. She pulled out more gold bars, handed them around. Jesus and Buddha munched contentedly, watching the throng. Sid observed several males around the square acting more like policeman than financiers.

Gandhi was still talking, likening the derivatives market to a gigantic warehouse stuffed with explosives. Conrad’s words continued to be apt: “A grass shed full of calico, cotton prints, beads, and I don’t know what else, burst into a blaze so suddenly that you would have thought the earth had opened to let an avenging fire consume all that trash.”

He told Dawn how he used every spare evening at Southchurch to research the financial systems which so enraged God. Finally, she said: “I’m sure God understands, but can you try and explain it to me?” She wanted to try out one of the bicycles with Barclays logos, which were lined up in front of them, awaiting riders.

The reincarnated sage pursed his lips, stroking his moustache. “In essence, it is all loo-roll, Dawn. Endless toilet paper. Banks can churn it out endlessly because here in the UK, between 1988 and 2008, British politicians were persuaded to outsource critical aspects of banking regulation and supervision to the private sector, which allowed financiers to write their own rules.”

Dawn knew she would carry on cleaning windscreens, keeping life simple.

Gandhi fumed aloud. “Hence George Soros was able to profit by £1 billion on ‘Black Wednesday’, 16 September 1992, by selling sterling he did not own. Hence all of the collateralised and asset-backed debt obligations, the structured investment vehicles, and all the other derivative pulp and foolish betting that pole-axed the banking system in 2007 and 2008.”

His indignation was deepening. “At one stage, $400 trillion worth or more of paper scams froze up and would not sell or trade on the world markets, which, you will recall, ground to a halt through lack of liquidity. That number, that preposterous sum, was equivalent to the planet’s entire GDP for 11 years.” Dawn looked up at a building, where moving headlines told of severe US weather, and rising tensions in Ukraine.

Gandhi continued: “Eventually the financial U-bend was unblocked, letting out a disgusting belch, but only after governments stepped in, foolishly, to socialise some of the risks.”

“Do you mean they bailed them out?”

The wiry Indian nodded. “Even though this paper means nothing and was backed by nothing. Now six years later, today’s derivatives market is estimated at around 1.8 quadrillion dollars, $600 trillion more than in 2007, despite the globally collapsing physical production economy. The market is a runaway train that has to go faster in order not to crash.”

“OK, so will this speeding loo-roll come off the rails, sooner or later?” she asked, blissfully unaware of her mixed metaphors. Dawn saw no panic in faces heading towards shops, bars, restaurants and stations in the vicinity. A red DLR train was slowly exiting the elevated Heron Quays station visible across water.

“Probably only a super-computer with access to all of the endless data could answer that,” replied Gandhi. “It can never be written off, for sure, only refinanced, re-hypothecated and otherwise added to.”

Dawn remembered another of Steve’s sayings. “Capitalists always say that capitalism is the best system. There’s nothing profound about this – it’s like a bully saying that bullying people is best.”

 

***

 

Yeshua took little interest in economic numbers and financial statistics. He understood, simply, that financial systems drained resources from and destroyed the lives of millions.

He surveyed the square again. Hurrying people were using small electronic devices. Missing the beautiful place inside themselves, in favour of nothing.

Yesh looked across the Middle Dock, past the bicycles, at a bulky building sporting the JP Morgan name, next to a smaller, wider building carrying the Morgan Stanley moniker. Awnings flapped over restaurant tables behind them.

Some 48 years before the birth of Jesus, another JC, Julius Caesar, had taken on the financiers. By reducing the worst excesses of Rome’s loan sharking, minting public coins and establishing massive public works programmes.

77 years after Caesar was assassinated, Jesus kicked over the tables in the Jerusalem temple, where only the half-shekel was accepted for temple tax remittances. The money changers had cornered the market in the coins. They exploited that monopoly to extract wealth, totally violating the sanctity of God’s house.

He said to them: “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’, but you make it a den of robbers.”

Days later the Pharisees called for Jesus to be put to death. They talked using holy words. But acted differently when challenged. So what were they, those who walked not their talk?

 

***

 

Susan Grice was walking around the block to clear her head. Later that evening, the same road that circled Canary Wharf’s financial district would be closed to cars for a charity cycle race. Kerbside barriers were being assembled. She wanted to get drunk with her best friend, Celinda. A hangover might even help tomorrow’s task: to nominate her bank for awards.

Awards!! For doing what any half-competent fool could do, getting very well paid, yet without helping society. A journalist she knew, Dan Fawkes, reckoned you might as well laud grass for growing. Or praise people for not being shot in peacetime. She liked Dan’s cynicism.

Susan contrasted him with Pete, her husband. A hedge fund manager, his annoying habits included talking about art as if he knew much more than the price of the Hirst and Warhol paintings on their walls.

She let herself wander down steps to Reuters Plaza. Food vendors were selling ‘empire dogs’, organic chickpeas, and Indian street food, competing with restaurants opposite. She sat by quite an odd group, probably tourists.

“You OK love?” said a tiny woman next to her. A pretty face, empathic yet somehow pugnacious. Susan scowled. “Since you asked, I’m fed up with my job and my husband.” Dawn looked at the nicely matching red jacket, skirt and shoes. “Well it’s sometimes easier to talk to a stranger. I’m Dawn.”

“Susan. You and your friends – are you here for the first time?”

“Yep, all of us. Do you live in London?”

“Over in Hampstead, but I’m from Colchester originally.”

“Fellow Essex girl then,” said Dawn. “I’m from Southend. Will you leave him? Have you got kids?”

“Two. I can’t work out if he’s a good husband, or even a good person. He earns shed loads of money, but thinks mainly about earning more.”

“It’s only my opinion, Susan, but maybe you need to talk to Jesus.”

Susan groaned inside at how the most surprising people defaulted to religion to address their problems. It was within everybody’s power to work things out for themselves, with a bit of common sense and positivity. “He’s here with us now,” Dawn added.

 

***

 

Shoehorned into this conversation, via umpteen listening devices, George noted the lack of any wider interest in the quartet.

He reassured himself. His clans had won hearts and minds long ago. The scene in the East London plaza said it all. Hordes devoting their lives to paper carrying the faces of their slavers. They were patriotic and they voted. Their children took on the student debt that would shackle their later lives. All were lost without the gadgets and screens on which the Establishment’s tacit message was repeated remorselessly: “We are cute, cuddly, and you can buy things from us, so go back to sleep.”

A mass change in awareness that they were all being conned, culled and reaped would need more than a few oddballs congregating in a financial district. “We control everything”, he told himself again. Not arrogance, just reality. Shown by the trust that people still placed in banks to protect their money, despite new structures preventing large cash withdrawals. Soon, G20 officials would quietly decide that bank deposits were to be legally considered as investments in that bank, paving the way for ‘bail-ins’

Other matters required his attention. His media were working overtime to scare Scots about independence. Another idea was a sharp increase in parking and speeding fines, to keep money rolling in. Could he tax food banks? To distract the herd, maybe a cringe-worthy challenge where they tipped buckets of water over each other.

US clans were hastening legislation that would make indefinite citizen detention a lawful reality. Guantanamo Bay was a mere starting point. Other priorities included selling more armaments and munitions to Boko Haram in Nigeria, and to Al-Qaeda in Mali, where the gold was there for the taking. Also arming both sides of the Sudanese and Syrian conflicts.

Fresh mayhem would strike Ukraine, where Nazi elements were being inserted into the political power structure. George smiled quietly at the knowledge that a new global bogeyman, entitled ISIS, was being funded by the Saudis and Qatar, and trained by the CIA. To reinforce the stereotyping, Hollywood had a film in the works, ‘American Sniper’.

How hugely satisfying if Jesus had to report back that they were facing a done deal, a slam dunk. Let God find another bloody planet to save.

281. Shit or bust

 

OUT OF ESSEX – CHAPTER 42

 

 

The stakes they play for in politics are paper and money. The chips they play with are your life.

Molly Ivins

 

 

Dawn described the sun’s descent in a pink western sky, over a deserted world at the foot of a remote hill. “There was nothing much there – a church and a railway bridge. Steve turned off the radio. Everything was open, no fences; no sound but the birds and crickets. What I remember most is the greenery surrounding that church, St Margaret’s church. It was like nature pumped all its sap into that one spot. Not just trees and shrubs but cowslips, brambles, nettles: everything fit to burst. We strolled round the graveyard and the church, which must have been built back near Norman times.”

She paused, aware her past had superimposed itself over a Basildon retail park. “Listen we were young, OK? There was nobody around, it was getting dark, and Steve started whispering what he was going to do to me. I loved all that.”

Three faces etched with concentration. “So, look Yesh, there’s no polite way of putting this.” She stared boldly at her companions. “Sid, Mahatma, no offence meant but Steve gave me a seeing to I’ll never forget. We went at each other like savages, doors open to let in the breeze.”

As she told of Steve “staying hard” through three ejaculations, Gandhi recalled early marriage years, and the unremittent nature of sexual desire, which a part of him wanted desperately to overcome, even as a teenager. “Were you worried about being seen?” he asked, sunlight bouncing from his bifocals.

“Steve reckoned we’d hear any cars coming, or see the lights. I was more worried about a local farmer strolling past, but we got so far in I stopped caring.”

“Three lovings,” said Jesus, whistling softly. “Lordy, lordy.”

“He had weeks of it stored up,” said Dawn, sipping her water. “His parents made us self-conscious about doing it in the house. But the really odd thing, as I lay on the back seat enjoying those ‘lovings’, was the stuff going through my head.”

Buddha thought of Ian Dury’s lyrics to ‘Billericay Dickie’, envisaging the quiet Essex lane, and possible testimony from ‘Joyce and Vicky’. It was a wholesome story, a positive offset to human suffering. Jesus, for his part, mulled that desire disappears only when experience has accumulated.

Dawn shifted to get more comfortable. “I was howling with pleasure, crying to the night, yet I remember something else. It was like I could hear fields whispering all the way down to the Thames, as the creeks got wider and the mud got thicker. Part of me felt there were Viking longboats creeping quietly down the river. Or other invaders from further back. And two words kept repeating inside my head.”

Gandhi took a guess. “Universal joy.”

“No. Primeval ooze. I never used words like that. What’s ‘primeval ooze’ when it’s at home?”

Jesus asked another question. “With Steve and yourself, do your body shapes differ?”

“Well course they bloody differ! He’s a bloke, and I’m not!”

“Prurience aside, gender aside, relate those shapes.”

“He’s long and thin, I’m shorter, curvier.” She watched Jesus envision it, and quietly acknowledge something. “And there was something else, which was so weird.” She had their full attention. “No trains went past. We were next to the Fenchurch Street line. We rocked that car getting on for two hours, on and off, but not a single train crossed that bridge.”

Jesus showed no surprise. “When a man and a woman truly combine, in the presence of the spirit of God, they move beyond time,” he said. Dawn found a bin for their wrappers before they set off. They passed a series of lay-bys, and another garden centre, digesting her story.

Jesus recalled Mary Magdalene’s teachings. Beyond the duality of hills and valleys, beyond the two of sex, lay an entrance. To the one of the Kingdom. The great secret, given to his disciples, was to join male and female energy within oneself. The feeling of orgasm was then as an inner energy that peaked and left a light that grew brighter. Unless a human attained that inner unity – free, perfect and independent – misery and joy forever battled one another.

To his left, Dawn was pointing to giant capital letters set back on a hill. BASILDON. An Essex version of the well-known HOLLYWOOD sign. Descending to the Fortune of War roundabout, she enquired why Jesus had asked about Pound Lane. “You asked of our plan in London – and I saw parallels,” came the reply.

She thought briefly. “I get it Yesh,” she smiled. “We had a good feeling, and we followed it, nothing mapped out.”

“And beauty was the result. The beauty of the union, and the impossible loveliness of your first child, Genevieve.”

Well of course he knew, he was Jesus. No drivers looked up, though, while filling their cars at an Esso garage adjoining the road. It hit Dawn that every gallon pumped lined the pockets of banks and traders. The sky had clouded. She said: “I find myself expecting big, grand stuff to happen today, on your second coming. Have to remind myself that everything begins small.”

They passed the turn for Dunton, the research centre for Ford Motor Company. Dawn’s legs and back ached. At the Wax n Shine Brentwood valeting centre, they rested on a grassy knoll, where her pained calves and sacroiliac received Gandhi’s skills. He said their journey was nearly half complete, working her lower leg muscles with bony fingers. Buddha’s hands sorted her shoulders. Jesus massaged her scalp. Every touch revived her.

Dawn kept asking questions. “Are they pulling up the ladders in London?” she enquired, breaking out into laughter at three uncomprehending faces. “It’s something Steve says. Imagine an ark for humans, people scrambling up the sides to escape the rising tides. At some stage the skipper knows enough’s enough, and they pull up the ladders. The people below left defenceless and stranded. Is that what London’s become, with its mental property prices and its silly bonuses? An ark for the rich, floating out of reach for ordinary people?”

It was unknowable. Sid mentioned instead that a Brentwood Buddhist branch had opened a community centre in one of Essex’s highest places. “Sea levels will rise. The centre is seen as a safe haven in that eventuality.” She stood up, leading them west, wishing for straighter answers. Buddha observed Timmermans Nursery float by on their left, reinforcing his idea that Essex dwellers must love their gardens.

“Here’s another question,” said Dawn, tying her fleece around her waist, as the sun re-emerged. “How come we’ve been kidded that certain people can ‘own’ water? How come it’s not available, everywhere, maybe in return for a very small fee each month? Instead, taps run, toilets flush, shareholders make money, and poor people struggle to pay or go further into debt. That’s a ladder being pulled up. If I’d ever got hold of that Maggie Thatcher I’d have torn a strip off her. She started all this privatisation crap.”

Each word pierced Maggie’s soul as she listened in. Dawn thought aloud again. “About 19 out of every 20 people you meet have been conditioned, over decades, to accept these things as ‘normal’ or ‘just the way things are’. People were bribed and programmed to swallow privatisation. Now you see them slowly accepting that they have next to no freedom or privacy; that their homes can be drilled under without permission; that machines will take their jobs; and it’s OK for the rich to get richer. Nobody can make me go along with any of that.”

Dawn asked whether any of them had seen a film called ‘Never Let Me Go’, about a group of clones created for their body parts. “Their role was…what’s that word? Yeah, to acquiesce, to acquiesce in their own exploitation.”

 

***

 

On their right loomed the A127’s ‘Halfway House’, a formerly well-known pub landmark. It had devolved into an anonymous-looking travel lodge. Seeing more signs for Brentwood, Gandhi announced that some historians believed this was where England’s ‘peasants revolt’ began in 1381, linked to non-payment of the Poll Tax.

Dawn talked about her life. “I wasn’t interested in school. Never wanted to be anything anyone suggested: secretary, teacher, shop assistant, or whatever. I preferred being me. But I loved kids, and worked as an assistant in pre-school nurseries. Sold ice cream after that. Had my own van, earned enough in the summers to get through the winters. Dad always backed me, mum wasn’t so keen, reckoned I should try and ‘get on’. There were always plenty of blokes chasing me, but none had any imagination. Then I met Steve, who told me straight off he wanted to be a professional gambler. ‘Rather a free man than a well-paid slave’, he used to say. He was as nutty as a fruitcake. Didn’t fit in anywhere. I loved that in him, and his kindness. We’ve brought up the kids together, juggling jobs. My last one was in a call centre, before the windscreens called.”

Two green, red and white Eddie Stobart lorries rattled past together, like motorised twins. “Here’s my answer to it all,” said Dawn. She began reciting well-known verse.

 

“Rise like lions after slumber, in unfathomable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew, that in sleep have fallen on you
Ye are many, they are few.”

 

Gandhi joined in the last couple of lines, written in 1819 by Percy Shelley, after the British army attacked English workers during a peaceful demonstration for the reform of Parliament. “That’s the only poem I know. Come on Mahatma,” said Dawn, “you rescued India from the British ruling class. What can we do?”

“Above all, sweep away the completely rigged financial system,” said Gandhi. “Sovereigns would then print their own money, as much as is needed for everything. No more stinting, shivering or starving. No more housebound disabled people in Basildon or anywhere else.”

“More big-sounding ideas”. She wiped her brow. “What did Southchurch Park teach you?”

“The jury is still out – external forces disrupted the experiment,” said the little Indian.

They were traversing the road’s most rural section. Dawn passed her water bottle around, relating Steve’s idea that every human on the planet should receive an unconditional basic income. “If everyone feels financially secure, then human creativity speeds up, and further transforms the planet, he reckons.” She let out a sneeze. Sid whipped out a paper handkerchief.

“Thanks very much darling.”

Buddha had listened keenly. “Steve’s system would edge this planet into a higher dimension, maybe even the fifth realm,” he said. He returned to his unspoken observations, witnessing that another often-overlooked plant, the bugle, was almost ready to flower in the hedgerows. Its pale green, purplish leaves were pretty, paving the way for a purplish-blue flower that would emerge at the end of April, providing good nectar for humanity’s six legged friends.

They neared a farm, big barns looming. Dawn said many of their friends had half-killed themselves to rise through the City’s ranks. “People we know now own barns like these as second or even third homes.”

“While many have no homes,” said Gandhi.

“It’s more difficult now to talk to some of them,” said Dawn. “They seem to look at everything they see, even essential services, as fodder for bloody investors and shareholders. No consideration for those at the bottom. Like I say, the ladders are being pulled up.”

Buddha estimated she had led 7,235 past lives, learning most essential lessons. They had reached the M25. As with several previous interchanges, they had to walk up to a roundabout. Jesus beheld the traffic streaming below. Dawn was astute, he saw, in seeking a simple, comprehensible solution to Britain’s woes.

A sign announced they were in Havering. Dawn had walked over 18 miles, without preparation, in about five and a half hours. The group stopped. Comforting hands soothed her again. Jesus looked at the veiled sun, announced it was not yet noon. Unable to resist another McVities Gold Bar, she reached in her pouch, starting to frown, then smile, before exploding into a belly laugh. “You rascal Yesh, you bloody rascal,” she roared. She freed the pouch from her waist and tipped it out, tears of joy welling. She counted out two squeegees, sixteen Gold Bars and a full water bottle. The high five with Jesus stayed long in her memory.

Munching, she asked Yesh what he thought of the church. “Might as well ask while I’ve got you. Does it do any good?”

“Organise a religion and the spirit dies,” he replied, gazing up at a flight of swallows migrating northwards. “Dawn, understand that any religion should be directed only to remembering the void inside of you. When you attain that clarity, self-knowledge flows from your clear mind. When you transform, the world starts changing.”

He told her about the Gospel of Thomas, discovered in 1945 among a collection of books called the Nag Hammadi Library, a name taken from a nearby town in Upper Egypt. He told her the teachings in this gospel went against all vested interests, and invalidated many given truths. “These were my best teachings. Find the interpretation of those words within, and you shall not taste of death.”

He told her of the Fifth Saying: “If you pray, you will be condemned. And if you give alms, you will do evil to your spirits.” They moved off again. Signs pointed to Upminster and Cranham.

“So, you’re saying going to church is misguided?” She was puzzled.

“I am not against prayer, fasting and giving. I am against false faces. Without the ritual, without donations, how would churches exist? I say live through your being, not your acts. Acts have made the Vatican rich beyond comprehension. Yet each incumbent in the Holy Seat refuses to use that power to reform humanity.”

Jesus paused. Dawn saw his eyes dim. “Remember, always, that Jorge Bergoglio declared that he was “protecting” children in his church from rape by criminalising its reporting. Remember always the Papal Knighthood awarded to James Savile. Imagine God’s rage. The real is found in the depths of your being. Let not intermediaries corrupt.”

Gandhi listened with reverence. Sid was deriving profound enjoyment from everything. A road just crossed bore the name Wingletye Lane. Had Billericay Dickie paid a visit? They were entering the city’s furthest outskirts. Greenery giving way to houses, motels, petrol stations. Dawn could see a major landmark, a roundabout and flyover where the A12 from Chelmsford and East Anglia joined the Arterial.

“Gallows Corner”, she announced, pointing ahead. Gandhi wondered who had hung there.

 

***

 

George took the call at 11.45. The morning had been taken up with eviscerating the Southchurch Park story. Within half a minute, a range of camera angles showed him the southern pavement of the long road’s mid-sections.

He ordered two small drones into the Essex air. It gave mobile vision, and a more aggressive option. Arterial Road drivers saw an Arabian-looking six foot male walking with three dwarves. Sid had maintained strong concentration to sustain the visual warp, which halved their heights to any observer at ground level. But cameras far above the ground were beaming accurate images to George, who immediately sent the stream to Rome. “Signor, it is your jurisdiction, your call,” said Vito’s icy voice. “But our Jesuit friends can only rewrite so much history.”

A return of Jesus was about the only factor the clans’ super-computer could not calculate. George nonetheless felt comfortable. Pondering on what treasures might sit in the tall Arab’s pineal gland, he suspected the group was running an optical alteration programme. There was time to shape a strategy; also the ability to kill the four in seconds. As the group passed without event through Romford’s northern suburbs, he congratulated himself that the disclosure of drone strike victims had dropped quietly from a Senate bill in Washington, after Frank had applied pressure.

He wondered at the woman’s identity. Face recognition technology indicated she lived in a Southend council house, and washed cars for a living. There had to be more. Teams were working on it. Over the next two hours, as the walkers made their way along the Eastern Avenue, he appraised the stakes.

His intrigue nagged. What did the swarthy freak propose? George knew the habits and proclivities of the populace thoroughly. They were every bit as battered by financial and other worries as had long been planned. What sway could Christ’s passion hold over debt-ridden 21st century Britain? His sense was that the ripples of this visit would be innocuous at best. If not, they had enough subtle and unsubtle weaponry to dispatch the four to Kingdom Come.

And that would be that. Game over. Wars in the Middle East and mainly contrived terrorist shocks would pave the way for more draconian laws; while less employment would be the grim reality as automation accelerated. Global trade deals would be implemented, overriding pesky sovereign laws. If necessary, a virus could be mobilised, introducing medical martial law to strengthen the clans’ control. Always more war, to maintain the human sacrifices. Probably a focus on attacking countries with state-run central banks or where Islamic finance thrived. Eventually, down the line, a two-tier population: slaves packed together in high rise buildings, and large swathes of land freed up for the clans to recreate and grow their crops. Already their technology was light years ahead of the contraptions used by the masses. He wanted his various descendants to travel the universe. To live forever, if the technology allowed.

In bed, George was once asked how the clans had engineered such an unapparent power structure. “By barraging the populace with fear, and capping the collective imagination,” he whispered. Tweaking the woman’s nipple, sensing the mark 6 Cialis could muster one last spurt, he explained that the events of 9/11 had proved beyond doubt the effectiveness of trauma-based mind control. “Education supports this, by engendering population-wide compliance. On a more general level, the biggest fear is created by the money system itself, which can never allow enough resources to circulate. Hidden in plain sight, it is our biggest lever.”

 

***

Out on the A127, Buddha tweaked the visual shield around his friends to take into account the higher buildings they were passing. From The Place, God and Maggie looked on. “This is this”, said God. “Shit or bust. Money or truth.”

 

***

Bob had not spoken for three minutes. Six cats waited, occasionally licking themselves. He was giving his feline friend Pastille’s comment his complete attention. “I’ve been here for thousands of years, and still don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “Is there any point to all this? And why is God so uptight?” Pastille was a simple soul.

The Creator’s nervousness had the whole Place in jitters. Groups of angels were meeting, huddling, whispering.

Bob concentrated. “She wants to stop a dishonourable way of living across Earth, wants it so hard, even while she insists on Free Will. On top of that, Jesus is making it up as he goes along. That just reminds God that this is completely out of her control.”

280. The Arterial Road

OUT OF ESSEX – CHAPTER 41

 

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters.
Ursula Le Guin

 

 

Where the Arterial Road from London ends, at Kent Elms Corner, the woman watched the skinny Asian guy embrace the men wearing Arsenal and Tottenham shirts.

Downing her bucket, she ran across to them. “I’m not trying to be funny,” she said. “But are you the Prince of Peace?”

She was looking up in astonishment at the incredibly tall one, with the Middle Eastern face. “OMG, you are. You’re him.” Jesus wiggled an eyebrow. Noted her dark hair and strong shoulders. Eyes dancing, she offered him a McVitie’s Gold biscuit bar. He desisted.

Comfortably agnostic, never a churchgoer, Dawn felt the twin burdens of family and money lifting away. “It feels like I’ve been waiting so long for you, without even knowing it,” she said. She turned to the others. “Sorry guys, that was rude. These keep me going all day. Can I tempt you?” They also refused. Passing drivers were rubber-necking.

She twisted excitedly back to Yeshua. “Will you be truthful with me?”

He couldn’t help chuckling. Soon he shook with delight, tears running from his eyes. He had to lay on the pavement, next to a crushed plastic carton. She was perplexed. “It was a straight question mate. Will you tell the truth?”

He, also, had waited for her. “What name should I call you by?” he finally asked, finding a recovery position.

“Dawn. Dawn Landais.”

“Dawn, all I have ever uttered is truth. Please ask whatever you will.”

“Ta very much. Well first up, what are you lot doing in Southend?” She looked at Gandhi, narrowing her eyes. “I’ve seen you in a film somewhere. And who’s your pal in the Gooners shirt?”

Jesus stood, ushering them to begin the journey west. “Jesus, Sid and Mahatma, all at your service Dawn. Headed to the City of Corruption. Would you care to accompany us? Those gold bars could prove useful as the day finds its shadows.” The ghost of an idea had arrived.

“Mahatma…..Gandhi?” Now she remembered Genevieve’s description of Southchurch Park’s best-known inhabitant. “And you’re all set to walk to London? What’s the big idea then? Overthrow the tyranny, and pull us all out the stew?”

She couldn’t get over Yeshua’s height. “One thing I will say is I’m glad you’re a bloody giant. No offence intended, but it’s how I’ve always seen you.” Her smile was contagious, topping an orange fleece and dark jeggings. “Let me phone the old man. I could do with a break.”

Steve failed to answer, so she left a voicemail. “Steve sweetie, can you pick up my buckets by the Elms lights when you’re awake? I’ve hooked up with Jesus and two of his pals. I know, it sounds mad. Just look after the kids and don’t go on Betfair. You promised. I’ll be back when I’m back. Love you, my only darling.”

They walked alongside a cycle path. Pleased to converse, Gandhi asked Dawn about her work. “I’ve been washing screens for about a year, from just before when Steve almost died in the Big Wave. He hid under a betting shop floor down the seafront till it was safe. Now I earn about a ton and twenty a day, all ours, no tax, no questions.” She talked rapidly, over the cascade of horns, as they passed a Big Yellow Storage warehouse. Gandhi politely pursued the gambit she had opened. “Why would you withhold taxes, Dawn? Does that not penalise other taxpayers?”

Dawn looked at Gandhi’s bare legs beneath his white wrap. Calf muscles gleamed as he walked. “My daughter told me you’ve been in Southchurch Park.” The Indian smiled, as he wondered. Her blue eyes twinkled. “As for tax, my lovely, why would I be mug enough when the super-rich don’t bother? Council tax is bad enough. Here’s another thing. Show me where it says anyone is ‘obliged’ by law to pay tax.” It was Genevieve’s theory, which Dawn now touted.

She turned to Jesus. “Now who was your dad? God or Joseph?” Indeed, he loved her. Speaking plainly had set her free. She tried again. “You got a nickname? Seems weird calling you Jesus.”

“Yesh.”

“Sounds like yes.” A neonatal transfer ambulance roared past, siren wailing. Two passing cars slowed, drivers’ heads locked at 90 degrees. “Cat got your tongue?” she asked Buddha, who was observing flora bordering the path. He spied the flower head of a pignut, whose real treasure was its underground root, or tuber, a palatable wild food. He saw that Dawn lived without bitterness, cleaning each slate as she proceeded.

“Mahatma”, said Dawn, risking the forename. “I’ve just remembered something I read. It said you used human shit to fertilise the fields at one of your, whatever you called them….retreats?”

Gandhi said nothing this time. Cyclists glided past as the day found its feet. He reconsidered the fresh use of violence against the Southchurch community. Ten or more residents had told him they were leaving, but he envisaged a larger exodus. Dan said he would be writing a book, to log everything.

 

***

On the opposite carriageway, coming into Southend, the first impression of one driver was that a benevolent ninja squad had materialised in Essex.

Police constable Ray Wilkins decided that words were needed. He turned right at the Elms, cut back via Eastwood Road and The Fairway, and brought his vehicle into the stuttering traffic flow of the A127’s London-bound carriageway. The swarthy male’s staggering height was an accident waiting to happen. Ray pulled into a lay-by two hundred yards past the group, unnerved to see that only the woman wore shoes.

Following instinct, Jesus asked Dawn if she shared his love of trance music. She talked about “Time” by Hans Zimmer. “I know it’s utterly mainstream: they used it as a film score. Does it count? It works every time. Sometimes I’ve listened to it back-to-back for a whole morning doing the windscreens, and I feel like I’ll take off and float up the Arterial Road.”

As they approached, Ray heard her talk of dancing in her youth at outdoor parties, in forests, at an abandoned monastery, and by a river. Song in her voice. The giant said something about Goa, and journeys to other dimensions. Ray got out and planted himself across their path. “Morning ladies and gentlemen. Would you mind informing me where you are headed?”

Jesus and Buddha smiled; Gandhi looked sour. “Officer please inform us if we are committing a crime. Otherwise we will bid you a wonderful day and go about our business.”

“No crime that I can see, but you should be aware that you’re attracting attention. Too many drivers are slowing down to look at your group. Somebody is going to crash soon.”

Gandhi spotted a sideways pass; took a step forward. “Officer if we are not permitted to walk alongside this road then kindly detail the laws involved. We would welcome such enlightenment. Otherwise, I repeat, we will happily continue.”

The Indian’s brow furrowed further than usual. “And officer, I do hope we are not witnessing a display of what we might term as ‘heightism’.” He glanced up at Jesus, some six and a half feet above his own head. “We have all heard, with hurt in our hearts, of the racism and sexism sprinkled within the British police force. One prays there is surely not a ‘tallist’ tendency at play among you and your esteemed colleagues?”

Jesus looked down at Ray Wilkins, who was poised to instigate a drugs search, for want of a better option. As they held each other’s gaze, the policeman felt himself involuntarily reach out and up, touching the giant’s hip. It calmed him. “I’ll say goodbye then, and safe journey,” said the copper.

They recommenced. “He is correct about the drivers,” said Buddha, tilting his head towards the wobbling traffic. “Let safety prevail today, for the good of all.” The Arsenal fan turned to face the dual carriageway as the police car pulled away. He positioned his hands, shut his eyes, and softly chanted four Sanskrit words, repeatedly. The traffic regained shape and pace.

“I won’t ask how you did that Sid,” said Dawn. “But I can tell you this – there is a desire for that sort of magic buried in everyone.”

 

***

In East London’s former docklands, in a high Canary Wharf conference room, change was knocking for another Essex girl. Across the sparkling river, Susan Grice saw sunshine light the roof of the O2 indoor arena.

Susan felt awkward, uneasy and out of place, like a character thrown into the end of a novel.

She needed to sign off a roundtable transcript which had circulated her bank for a whole month. The bank’s in-house PR team, its lawyers and its corporate governance specialists had waded in, cutting out asymmetrical words, citing potential liability, taking days to redact, reduce and finally squash the energy pulsing through parts of the debate.

Despite an accelerating headache, she read it through again. Antagonistic feelings towards her husband were exacerbating Susan’s mood. Pete had spent the previous evening in their Hampstead home yo-yoing between endless texting and researching emerging market bond yields.

It hit her that she would give almost anything to be with her daughter, back-packing in Thailand. She brought up the private Facebook message from two days ago:

Hello mummy!  Just a update, we’re in Krabi now at the Pak-Up hostel for 3 nights 🙂 its so ridiculously cheap here! Costs 3.50 a night and i just had a massive lunch for less than two pounds! We’re going to ko phi tomorrow where ‘the beach’ was filmed and then koh phangan for the full moon party on friday 🙂 We’re all sweating like mad and i’ve been bitten about a thousand times but i’m having a ball! speak to you sooooon love you lots xxxxx

 

***

For a time, the group walked in silence, passing a wood on their left. Dawn spoke first. “What other animal on this planet needs police?” The men saw that she thought aloud with ease.

“As a kid, I thought the British were all like my dad: strong-willed, standing up and taking no nonsense. Somewhere along the line we got too passive. Nobody can tell me what to do, not ever; not as long as I’m not causing harm or distress.” She spoke with composure, as she recalled Genevieve’s words.

Gandhi found the number of white vans odd. He picked out a key word.  “The notion of passivity is intriguing, is it not? The greatest force on earth is passive resistance, which India used in my last incarnation to ensure it stood equal to the UK, rather than as subject or pawn. Incidentally Dawn, the precise word you were seeking was ‘ashram’, not retreat.”

In sight of Rayleigh Weir interchange, Dawn tucked back a squeegee poking from her pouch. She asked Jesus “what went wrong last time?”

He considered. “The people did not want the bread of life,” said Yeshua. “They followed me in the desire for physical bread. Pearls of wisdom, which would have flooded their lives with creative power, fell on stony ground. Most lost interest when the miracles stopped – but authorities so feared that power they could not let it be further expressed.”

As they waited at traffic lights to cross Rayleigh Road, she spoke of Genevieve and Nigel. Gandhi’s ears pricked up at the first name, which brought a surge of discomfort as he recalled the girl’s libidinal nature.

“Trouble is, everyone has to feed in a dog-eat-dog system,” said Dawn. “People have sex, have kids; those tiny mouths need bread and other food. I’ll never forget the struggles we had bringing ours up.” She looked up at Jesus. “Come on luv, time to tell me. What you trying to do in London?”

Jesus’ long legs made him difficult to keep up with. “The crazy has been normalised. Why would humanity want anything less than its full entitlement?”

“You’re sounding like Russell Brand,” said Dawn. “Genuinely lovely guy, real eye candy that you’d want to tuck up tight to. Brilliant with words. But he don’t satisfy my need to hear exactly what has to be done, to make it all perfect again.”

Jesus felt the rising sun on his back, as they passed the Woodside Garden Centre. Compassion for all things had grown the light inside Dawn Landais.

Gandhi watched a battered strip of tyre flipped up by a lorry. “For change to happen, you must first become aware of the problem,” he said. He raised his skinny arm, pointing rather dramatically down the road, thought Dawn. “In the town of Basildon, ahead, over 120 disabled people have already received bailiff notices from councils after their disability allowances ceased. Local disability groups say their members are pawning televisions and jewellery, to pay bills. This is contemporary Great Britain.”

They passed a café for lorry drivers. Crossed a slip road down to Canvey and Chelmsford. Gandhi resumed. “If the number were just 12, or even two, it would still be excessive.”

Jesus had still to accustom himself to how smooth the highway was, how ineffably different to the dirt tracks of Palestine and Syria, save for the sprinkling of holes.

Dawn tried to talk but Gandhi wouldn’t shut up. “The troubles go beyond Britain. The G7 is a front for failed states controlled by global central bankers that cannot stop their habit of theft. Their entire philosophy was laid bare, when Greece and Cyprus were stripped and financially raped before the world’s eyes.”

Dawn didn’t know much about that. But she felt Gandhi’s heat.

“You have a billionaire club on this planet which want you off, after they have taken your assets. And how do media react? While people starve, in the 21st century, they run lists of the world’s richest people as if we should admire them.”

They were opposite the Alton Garden centre, on Basildon’s outskirts. “One happy aspect”, continued Gandhi, “is that some unwholesome players in this drama are facing their final years.” He named a list that had “neglected their chance to make a positive difference”, citing David Rockefeller, George Soros, Donald Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger, Rupert Murdoch, George Herbert Walker Bush and Jacob Rothschild.

Dawn was exasperated. “I don’t know very much about that lot, but I’d guess you’ll need gallons of disinfectant to kill the smell when they finally go. The shame on them, like you say, is they could have helped everyone on the planet. But then very rich and powerful people generally wouldn’t give you the steam off their piss. Me personally: I don’t see life’s point if you’re not helping others.”

She took a deep breath: “But you both ducked the question. What can we do about it? About them? Is a load of spunky kids camping outside St Pauls the best we can offer? Peoples’ backs are against the wall. How do we change it? I want answers.”

Sid and Mahatma looked at Jesus, who seemed indifferent to the question. They had reached the foot of a hill, where she noticed the ‘Pound Lane’ sign and let out a wicked laugh. “Now that brings back a major memory.” She smiled deeply. “The truth, though, is that most people are getting poorer. How can politicians sleep at night when people have to go to food banks?”

Gandhi noticed three cars in succession sporting UKIP stickers. “You ask for a remedy. I say outlaw interest paid to banks. The short- and long-term attritions of interest and compounded interest will eventually make paupers of all but the very rich. God alone knows how many millions end up destitute or dead because they or their governments have sold and pawned their last assets to repay interest-bearing debt.” The Indian looked across the dual carriageway at the Dick Turpin public house.

“Now you’re talking!” she exulted, also thinking of the famed highwayman. “I know all about debt. All we hear is how the banks can’t be touched, because it will damage growth and jobs in the City, yadda, yadda, yadda. Might even force banking ‘talent’ to flee the country, blah, blah, blah.” Dawn bared her teeth, showing several gaps. “Well good bloody riddance, I say.” She swayed as she walked, arms swinging to an invisible beat.

Gandhi intuited this woman would live to be 125. “Never forget that this ‘debt’ – which is destroying governments, businesses and individuals globally – is made up out of thin air,” he said. “From a young age, we are told that money does not grow on trees; and has to be earned through toil and sweat. Yet for banks it does indeed grow from nothing, inside a computer.”

Dawn could see he had a point. “And from this flimsy premise,” said Gandhi, “it rules and poisons everything, giving those who control money supply an unwarranted power, whose logical conclusion is to own the entire world.” He described how the UK was still borrowing tens of billions every year, without any obvious way to repay all the capital and interest. “Debts throttle all governments. Nobody knows what is to be done, so they penalise the poorest,” said Gandhi. Ahead, a sign indicated the A132 roundabout, leading to Basildon and Wickford. Drivers had lost interest in the group.

They walked down to a roundabout facing a large industrial estate, before continuing back up to the A127. “An associated problem is that poisons seep into the society, weakening morality,” continued Mahatma. “No longer does the majority ask: ‘What is the fair and just thing to do in any situation’. Instead the financial and legal ramifications must be figured out, so the entire population is expected to act increasingly like accountants, without souls. Parents want children to ditch their creativity, regurgitate second rate information in worthless exams and work in London’s big money machine. Sad and pathetic, because all money does is help one avoid oneself. Only meditation, looking at yourself, will reflect you.”

Dawn noticed Buddha nod. Jesus chipped in. “Seek for the treasure which fails not, which endures, where no moth comes near to devour, and no worm destroys.” The seventh saying from the Gospel of Thomas brought a segue from Buddha, who said that “the more things accumulate, the more life is wasted, because they have to be purchased at the cost of life.” Breeze ruffling his white wrap, Gandhi offered the notion that “outside things can, at the most, deceive others, not yourself.”

A sign said 31 miles to London. “You’re all nifty with your words, but I’ll ask again: What will we do up in your City of Corruption?” sighed Dawn.

They were approaching a retail park, signs for KFC, Homebase and Costa souring the skyline. Buddha reflected that the human drive for hard logic, for the boundaries and distinctions that science relentlessly chased, brought reality no nearer. You could reduce atoms to their tiniest components, but they still behaved unpredictably under microscopic observation. His religion, conversely, made boundaries disappear. The trees meet the sky; the sky drops into the trees. Why did Dawn imagine words and labels might chisel a profile for their pilgrimage?

Dawn needed the loo, so they sat on steep stone stairs by Costa, whose door she disappeared through. Away from the road, Sid relaxed his spell. “Bleedin’ weirdos” said a lorry driver strolling by. “More immigrants after our jobs and women.” Dawn returned with four glasses of water. “I’ve got a full bottle for later. The loo’s unisex, if you guys want it. Might be a bit cramped for you, Yesh.”

His long body covering many steps, Jesus asked Dawn to relate her Pound Lane memory. She suddenly looked hesitant. “It’s a bit tasty – not sure it’s suitable.”

Looking in, Maggie sensed this would be interesting. She had not been able to take her eyes from the screens.

“Does it involve love?” asked Jesus, who sensed something profoundly beautiful in her reference a couple of miles back. She smiled. “A bit more than love, my darling.” He gestured to proceed. “OK, between adults then. But first we’re all going to have a McVities Gold Bar. That leaves four for later on. No artificial colours or flavours.” They unwrapped and munched the bars, enjoying the caramel, white chocolate and crisp biscuit texture. Jesus reconsidered his earlier idea. It was a possibility.

Dawn set the scene: “It was late May, nearly 18 years ago. Steve’s parents were staying with us in Eastwood, getting on our nerves. I was climbing the bloody walls. Beautiful sunny evening, so we piled in the Escort and drove up the Arterial. Windows open, radio on. All the hedgerows and woods bustling with greenery. Didn’t have a plan, so we turned down Pound Lane on a whimsy. It took us into an old village, Bowers Gifford, where Steve’s aunty lived when he was a kid.”

Buddha loved the name. Like Tolleshunt D’Arcy and Stondon Massey, Bowers Gifford indicated the Essex history beneath the surface. The Gold Bar was delicious, assaulting his palate with temporary sweetness.

“Bowers Gifford always looked odd, like it didn’t belong to Basildon. It had these unpaved roads going nowhere, houses looking like homesteads. We drove to the other end of Pound Lane, turned right, found a pub called the Gun on the old A13. Theme nights and Mexican food. It didn’t feel cosy, so we wolfed the drinks, and Steve said he’d show me the oldest church he knew. He found a little road that went past a cemetery and across the new A13. After a quarter mile we were in a different world, heading down an old farm road towards the Thames, fields heaving with green barley shoots.”

“What colour was the car”, asked Jesus, listening intently.

“Red. A red Ford Escort, A-reg.” Three sets of male eyes met. “Did you say….A-reg?” asked Sid, intuiting a new prototype, an inception, the first in a series.

“Yeah….but believe me the car was no big deal. If you want to hear this, then listen up.”

279. My dad’s voice

This is a test to see if my podcasting skills are up to six-year old level. And to capture my dad’s voice for posterity. He’s increasingly struggling with Alzheimers. Not sure how much longer he can live on his own.  He talks of joining the navy, under-age, in 1944, and then his driving test in East London.

 

 

The sound is scratchy for the first 10 seconds.

Here’s a pic of my old man.

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