240. Stop The World

OUT OF ESSEX – Chapter 24

 

“Everyone, deep in their hearts, is waiting for the end of the world to come.”
Haruki Murakami

 

 

 

In Leigh-on-Sea, 12 adults looked at the mess of white lines criss-crossing the heavens. Siddharta had sat the group in the new centre’s garden. He told them to observe the firmament while he brought them each a glass of water.

The sky made her feel sick, said former bus driver Jess. Stan compared it to a five-year-old let loose with an Etch-a-Sketch. Sally said it was “a geometry lesson gone mad”.

After listening to his students, the Buddha insisted they inhabited a world of illusion. He called it Maya, explaining in his kindest voice. “Our thoughts, labels, beliefs and personal imaginings all interfere with our direct perception of what is.” What they were examining, he said, was a giant shield of reflective metals sprayed by planes. “Is it to counter global warming? Is it to bounce back the sun’s ultraviolet and infrared radiation? For sure is that people are getting sick with autoimmune disorders. They are absorbing the nano-particles. Too many people are experiencing chronic pain.”

Sid paused, observing learning speeds. Sally was lightning-fast. He told how both the CIA and the American Air Force had openly stated a goal of ‘owning’ the weather. “You may be looking at the largest science experiment in history, of which your similes and metaphors capture flavours. For us, the point of focus must be the exposure of human beings to strontium, aluminium and barium. We will be learning to purify air, food and liquids.”

Over the next two hours he taught out the techniques. The air purification involved the imagination of a three-bladed fan, and another new Sanskrit mantra. It was the second week at the centre. The first had mixed advanced meditation techniques with a crash course in how to dream lucidly. When Mary Fawkes arrived, to discuss the centre’s administration, he clapped his hands and told them to go enjoy the day. “Back by four please.”

 

***

Puppies off the leash, they crooned Happy, by Pharrell Williams, while walking up the hill to Leigh Broadway. They had clubbed remnants of their waning money for a visit to the cake and coffee shop, Stop the World. Sid encouraged singing. That, and the yellow and red robes, made locals stare.

“You just want to be around Sid,” said Sally, lustfully eyeing the New York vanilla cheesecake and moccacino brought by a white-topped waitress. “It’s like you take in his energy,” grinned Jess. Her café latte, with double espresso, sat next to billionaire shortbread finger. “Which kind of makes it easier when your mind gets blown yet again.” On the far wall, a French waiter in a poster heralded La Merveilleuse Journee.

They talked about the ‘chemtrails’ in the sky, adding to the waves of morning conversation rolling through the shop. Stan romped through raspberry Bakewell, with double Americano, dwelling on more of Sid’s advice. “If we wish to find a hero, we must start by taking responsibility for our own lives.” Stan had loved James Bond as a kid. War epics, cowboy films. Goodies and baddies.

There was no predicting Sid’s teaching. He had jumped from heroes to a new astrological era, the 2,160-year Age of Aquarius. “Some astrologers believe this began on 21 December last year, which would place our little community in frontier territory.” The sole constant in his instructions were lotus flowers littering the meditations. Sid promised that their pineal glands – or third eyes – were opening. All Jess could think about was last night’s dreamtime tryst.

“I totally stopped dreaming when I was unemployed. With the debt collectors knocking.” She looked up at the ceiling’s odd tapestry of fans and electric pipes. “Last night I took control of the dream, like Sid taught, by looking at my hands before falling asleep. When my fingers started disappearing, I knew was dreaming.”

Joyful that his kidney problems were a thing of the past, Stan stared at the mahogany counter, counting cups. Several times he had achieved lucidity, only to be woken by his excitement.

Jess had controlled hers. “I went into my old neighbour’s house. He’s well handsome. I walked right through his front door, his shut front door.” Her pupils were dilating. “Up a staircase, then down a hall. Knew I’d find him. After trying rooms on my left, he was on the right. Under a white sheet, I could see the shape of his body. I walked over, sat on the bed, and started stroking his dark hair. He woke up, staring, like he knew me. Then pulled back the sheet, and invited me in. Oh my God. I can tell you now it felt amazingly like the real thing, almost as real as sitting here, but somehow it was……I mean, did I have actual sex?”

Sally saw danger. “Are you leaving yourself unprotected Jess. Astral sex, or whatever you had. It could be any rapist or abuser in another dimension waiting to take advantage. Maybe attaching onto you on the way back to our realm.” Jess admitted she had told Sid early that morning. “He was cool. Said there was nothing to fear, because I was created by God’s mind. Am always loved. And can do nothing wrong.” Sally guessed Sid quietly threw a nightly ring of protection around their dreams.

The Buddha had told them that a mastered dream could produce outcomes beyond anything they had ever imagined. “You can enter the minds of others. You can go back to examine history. Even without mastery, you can reveal the future in immense detail, from multiple angles. Dreaming and prophecy once walked hand in hand.”

 

***

 

Very early on, Sid made it clear that the training was designed to forge “spiritual warriors” who would help balance the world’s acidity. “Every human passes through material worlds to glean lessons. However, some have very distinct missions.”

At four o’clock, he seated them in a circle. “In the days and weeks ahead, we will be learning healing, to help cancer patients and others. And clairaudience, where messages begin to flow down from your higher self and your spiritual ‘team’”. Stan asked what that was. “All of your spirit guides; loved ones who have passed; angels. You may even hear mumblings from God herself.”

“There’s something else, isn’t there?” said Sally. Sid broke into a broad grin. He had been waiting for her to ask. He strode to the shrine at the end of the room, to light incense, and then candles to counter the dying light.

“Buddhist practices target an inner awakening; and helping others. But we do have other work ahead in connection with the external world.” He reached in his pocket, finding a remote control. He manipulated the buttons. A screen lit the wall opposite the shrine. A series of images followed, consisting mainly of old men. Then various geographic locations. Stan recognised London, Rome and Washington DC, maybe Jerusalem. But not the slightly medieval-looking city on a broad river. “That is Basel,” announced Sid, playfully tousling Stan’s hair. “In Switzerland.” Sid sipped from a mug of tea. “Sally, what do you take from these pictures?”

Her instincts went back to Elysium. “That there is probably some kind of separation going on, steered by these people? They think they are the best qualified to run the world, which is becoming, maybe……..a sort of two-tier globality?”

“A big notion”, smiled Sid. “Jess, did those images make any sense?” Since Sid had treated her back pains, Jess had learned to relax deeply. “Two things came to me. The number 10. Is that, like, how many of them are running the show? And then really, really horrible images. Of abused and dead children.” She shuddered.

He ran the question around the room, pleased at the evolutions. Especially one answer, that they had witnessed “a hidden college of corporations”. Stan focused on the Washington picture. “We’re seeing the heads of a rogue military entity pretending to be civilised.”

Sid cocked his head. “You are already seeing more than most. Pay enough attention and one comprehends that there are no nations, no West, no democracy. Those notions are drenched in Maya. A ‘club’ of sorts has a grip upon much of your planet. They do feud with one another, but broad consensus is expressed through certain administrative organisations. The IMF, World Bank, European Union, NATO. The United Nations less so. The leaders of this ‘club’ practice magic, of a sort far darker than anything taught here.”

Sally spoke. “Which means we have massive work to do.”

“Remote viewing,” nodded Sid. He described the significant gaps in the Akashic files. “The ‘club’ I referred to has learned to block nearly all scrutiny. But there is a way in, because we are all inter-connected.” He explained how remote viewing was teachable: used extensively by the US military. “It is public record that the CIA sponsored a remote viewing of Mars in 1984.”

He said the technique created the potential to deeply experience and describe anyone or anything anywhere in the universe. “Through flashes and patterns that piece together.”

In essence, he said, you relaxed, focused on a visualisation target, and let thoughts come naturally, drawing these with a pencil. “Let your consciousness do the work – your DNA serves as an antenna,” said Sid. In initial practices, the images were generated by thoughts from a nearby colleague. As the discipline developed, one was able to reach anywhere in the world, and beyond. “Let go of doubt,” Sid advised.

He told Jess that while she had already learned to steer a balloon through a cloudy sky, remote viewing would give her “a plane to fly to a specific destination”. He said it was even possible for an individual to remote view spiritual targets such as the first moment of creation, or their own past lives. “But, for practical purposes, missing people or pets can be located, as can those who wish to remain undetected.”

 

***

 

Satan’s pet cat, Bob, was stretched out on the Highway to Hell. Next to him lay Rosie, her belly full of Bob’s kittens. “What’s Earth like?” she asked him.

“What’s it like? You feel so dizzy when you arrive, in a toilet that stinks of male waste. It was lovely to get outside in the sunshine and wind. I was then given a saucer of whisky. That made me go to sleep. Later, there was nice white fish, beautiful flakes. I tried talking to another cat, but it wanted to fight. It was all over too quickly.”

“That was the day when you seduced me.”

“The whisky made me frisky.”

“I’m glad it did.”

Rosie asked about Maggie. “Has God changed her mind? Is Mrs T’s mission aborted? I don’t really like the look of her, but feel sorry for the poor soul. She looks so confused and frustrated some days.”

“Who knows,” said Bob. “This is a guess. I have seen her reading the New Testament. Totally absorbed in it. I think she wants to talk to Jesus. But sometimes I don’t see him for weeks.”

“That’s because he’s constantly with Mary Magdalene. Maggie should go and see them both.”

 

***

 

After her meeting with Sid, to discuss monthly expenditure, Mary Fawkes found herself walking up the hill to Leigh Broadway. At the top she cut through the churchyard, stopping to examine ‘A Calvary statue, to the men of Old Leigh’. Jesus had brown hair, and an insufficiently dark face, topping his plastered body.

Mary felt split. Part-time at work since June, dividing herself between the two Southend centres, but never fully occupied at either. One of her proudest inputs had been to insist on recipes, for the park’s café, that used the online ‘Girl Named Jack’ blogs, which were helping trim family food budgets nationally. That day’s pasta meal worked out at £0.22 per portion; and was perfectly capped by mint leaves growing in pots around the park. Tomato and basil soup for the evening meal: £0.14 a serving.

Another positive was the expanding camaraderie. Sheena’s friend Ruth had moved into the park yesterday, bringing a double dose of new skills. The community’s children would benefit from Ruth’s dance classes to augment junior yoga sessions provided by Sarah, Dave’s wife. Ruth’s second talent – a legacy of the London College of Fashion – was about to enhance the clothing emerging from Gandhi’s sewing centre. Mary looked down at the slogan on her tee-shirt. “Grow food – survive the political ice age”. The words sat above an image of a colourful allotment alongside another of the UK Parliament compressed into an iceberg.

A further new friend was Pippa, who had formally begun teaching the park’s 20 or so children, with her partner Sam. Teachers in Birmingham, touring the Essex coast, chancing on the new community, they liked what they saw and had stayed. “So many of us hate their jobs now,” Pippa had told Mary. “An excellent education encourages independent thought, not regurgitation and standardised testing.” She talked of her attempts to use “magic and imagination” at her school in Ladywood, where grandparents were increasingly acting as primary carers. “Young people aren’t being shown life’s beautiful journeys,” Pippa moaned. “They need guidance to embark on real adventures, not bloody careers.”

In Leigh Broadway, opposite Stop the World, Mary paused by the Atelier Gallery, where canvasses of windsurfers and abstract art sat side by side. The biggest hurt was being unable to spend much time at home. Rose seemed to be OK though, looking after Edward.

Was the adventure beginning to wear off? Siddharta had seen her doubts. He recommended patience, after she had opened her heart. “If only 1500 people in Britain awaken fully, linking their hearts and minds into the morphogenetic field, it all changes. Everything. In the meantime, let’s all be kind to each other.” But autumn was imminent, and then winter. Without money, in the new environment.

Thankfully, Satan kept her amused. That morning Mary sat by the lake with Sal, who had insisted over coffee that she consider the links between wearing a suit and the notion of respectability. “If you dress aiming to be respectable, do you perhaps ‘respect a bull’? Do you in fact ‘honour a bull’? She loved these conversations, where Sal would drift away on clouds of connection.

He termed it “interesting” that the Catholic Church issued decrees and communications known as ‘bulls’. “Would you also believe there is a sculpted bronze bull outside the New York Stock Exchange? Some say it resembles Moloch, the horned entity that demands the sacrifice of children.”

Satan naturally deconstructed words into sounds that provided alternative explanations. “Bankers charge interest. This makes their profit, and allows them indoors, ‘in to rest’, while the rest of the world continues to strive,” he conjectured, or perhaps clarified.

“Alter and altar have a lot in common,” he contended. “Contemplate, also, that you live, whirled and whirred, by words, in this world. All ‘taught’, as we all become increasingly, rigid, or ‘taut’.”

She especially liked his take on people’s jobs, or occupations. “The Biblical character Job – who God and I argued over hugely – did little but suffer. When most humans take jobs, their ‘occupation’ is just that – an ‘invasion’ of their freedom, in order to acquire worthless bits of paper.”

 

***

 

Dan had spent the morning sitting quietly by the caravan. Tasked with reporting on Cameroon, for a private client, he ended up reading News from Nowhere, written by the polymath William Morris. The book’s narrator fell asleep and awoke in a future agrarian society based on common ownership. No private property. Big cities had gone, as had courts and prisons. The monetary system was no more than a bad dream.

Dan sipped an orange juice from a batch Micky Gaze had bought in bulk from a Lakeside cash and carry. Dan and Micky had agreed that all the park’s caravans would be fitted with solar panels in coming weeks, but Micky had marriage woes. His wife Crissie showed no interest in the new community. “She wants people to know we’ve got money. I tell her she half-owns a park and she does her nut! It came to a head last night. Crissie threatened to walk if we don’t get a hot tub and a soft top Mercedes.”

Dan shut his eyes, absorbing the weaker sunshine, thinking for the umpteenth time about money. The “free market” that banks advocated, for example. Not just payment protection insurance rip-offs and rigged Libor and foreign exchange rates. But insane bonuses, driving the reckless behaviour which required the bailout. Gandhi had insisted to Dan that the work of an accountant, lawyer or banker had the same value as a barber, dustman or a sewage worker.

Yet Chancellor Osborne was challenging the EU cap on bankers’ bonuses, as if the government had a Faustian pact with the financial system. Few mainstream journalists ran with that possibility. If he had to read mainstream news, Dan kept it short. He took in the headline and maybe two paragraphs before scanning the comments section. The real story was there, in the ungagged opinions of readers, almost in real time, and often contrary to the original article.

Dan noticed that when a story ran too hot, editors would pull the comment section. Presumably because it was undesirable that a gradually larger section of society saw through the bullshit. The comment section had disappeared in several newspapers in March, when the US Attorney General Eric Holder told lawmakers that large banks might be too large to prosecute. “If you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy,” Holder said.

Reluctance to upbraid the financial terrorists was similarly evident in Britain. When the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority had recently regulated payday lenders, who were like a Wild West version of banking, it failed to address interest rates which could reach thousands of per cent. In late 2012, an adviser to David Cameron, Jonathan Luff, left to become a lobbyist for Wonga.

The payday loan companies were among various creditors that visited the park, chasing outstanding debts. They were always sent to Satan, who explained calmly that the area was a money-free zone, with any collateral held communally under trust. He then gave them one minute to leave and spelled out what he would do if they returned.

Eyes closed still, Dan remembered Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit’. “That song is about staring the Devil straight in the eyes, and knowing, no matter what you do, he’ll get the last laugh,” said Thom Yorke.

Dan’s mind drifted on, recalling rookie days reporting in the City. He had sat outside the Bank of England, feeling physically sick. Similar nausea when reading glossy magazines about finance. Some way to earn a crust. He was planning a park newsletter to carry the message of an alternative living model, after the national media’s deliberate misrepresentations of the experiment. “Well at least we got in the public consciousness,” Dan mumbled to himself. On her cross-trainer, God heard him. “Go on my son,” she cheered, checking calorie readings.

 

***

 

Much earlier that morning, Mike Burper and Satan had watched the sun rise in a gloriously red wash across the east horizon. Footsteps echoed across water. The wiry figure of Alex wandered along the opposite bank, in jogging pants and fleecy top. He crossed the bridge, pulled up a chair. With a shiver, he took a shot glass from a pocket. Poured himself a measure of Springbank.

Then he let it all out. How Chanelle’s ticket to a shared life had vanished when he ditched the night security job. How, when he announced his intention to work, unpaid, in the new community, her upset was uncontainable. After he asked her to join him, she lost it completely. “What? And live like a bloody refugee!” she had screamed. “No telly or heating and eating lentil soup alongside dropouts, wasters and hippies? You think that’s a place to be bringing up children? I’d rather carry on nicking food from Tesco. Or join up with the pikeys.”

To distract Alex, Sal talked of Steph’s 21st birthday celebration the previous evening. Each meal was served across six sittings, due to the café’s size. Dave Dawson had brought out a cake half a dozen times. And cajoled six bursts of ‘Happy Birthday’.

Alex wasn’t listening, so Sal re-wound to God’s last rant about the Catholic Church, when she cracked a screen with a high decibel lambasting of the Pope’s restrictions on contraception. “There were an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics at the end of 2011, and the world’s resources are looking highly finite,” God had bellowed, scaring away cats and frightening several timid angels. “So the Holy Sodding Father, in his wisdom, decides that it still remains against natural law to limit one’s offspring.”

Satan told his two cohorts that when God alighted upon the subject of the Catholic Church’s support for the Nazis, she became incandescent. When she touched upon its refusal to fully condemn thousands of priests that had sexually abused children, her rage breached the Richter scale, sometimes causing earthquakes. Alex thought of Chanelle. It seemed God was equally scathing on how the Islamic religion suppressed women, and the Hindu religion’s concept of ‘untouchables’ propping up its caste system.

Alex finally perked up. “You told us the Buddha’s view that those at the very top of human society have stacked up merit from past lives. Does that mean that Maggie Thatcher was a decent human being in other incarnations?” Sal savoured the malt’s juxtaposed sea-salt and peat flavours. Before he could answer, Mike said: “These conversations are like a bloody dream. How do I know I’m not barking mad?”

“You’ll know you’re mad if ever you see a tree doing the Okey Kokey,” chuckled Satan. “And if you hear a cat laugh, you’ll know it is a dream.”

239 Transcending?

 

images

 

I was on the end of a strange, enjoyable experience yesterday. It came during the second of my twice-daily transcendental meditation sessions, at about five in the evening.

It was the usual process, sitting comfortably in a darkened room, repeating the mantra over and over, letting the thoughts enter and exit. My way is to let those thoughts stay as long as they want, and then notice that the mantra has dropped away and needs reviving. The thoughts are normal, wide-ranging. Friends, work, money, sex, Dad, new Out of Essex chapters, the evening meal, the kids.

A general description of what happens could be that each time I emerge from these thoughts, the level of my relaxation has sunk deeper. My body and the external surroundings feel further away. Eventually, in the meditations that I most enjoy, I have gone to somewhere non-physical. It’s not unlike the hypnagogic state between dream and waking. Maybe it is that? But I cannot hear myself snoring, which happens in light sleep.

So, there I was, deep down. Somewhere. Suddenly, a version of my wife was standing in front of me. Possibly a few years younger than the present Maureen. It wasn’t shocking, frightening or sinister. Having given it some thought, my best description might be that it offered a glimpse of a parallel world. Almost a platitude, but no other words capture it. In real time, she was at work, as a nanny to three kids over in Chelmsford.

I was about to say ‘hello’ or ‘what the hell?’ Then she disappeared. The room changed, from sepia tints to a sharper profile. Like an older, then a more recent photograph. I came right out of the meditation. But it felt like a magical moment. Unexplainable but joyful.

I started the TM for two reasons. The dominant one was the promise of making better decisions, from a more relaxed mental platform. It’s critical, with the job situation still unresolved. The other driver was the promise of transcending standard mental activity. Achieving what the TM says on its tin. The teacher reckoned it would take 3-4 months.

So maybe that was the start. It occurred on day number 113 into the TM.

 

 

 

238. Countertrade in Essex

OUT OF ESSEX – Chapter 23

 

“I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.”

Bob Dylan

 

 

 

Glued to the screens, obsessively monitoring her Essex experiment, God was prey to reveries. Her favourite involved Gandhi flying over Switzerland, accelerating across the River Rhine at Basel, and swooping like Superman to deliver a perfect karate kick to the headquarters of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

In her mind, she saw the jackboot shape of the ghastly edifice tumble and crumble. She knew her creative power was such that this was happening, now, in some parallel universe. Smashing asunder a secretive, private institution that regulated and controlled the world’s central banks and money systems, had no accountability and was extra-territorial, like the Vatican. According to information in the Akashic files, BIS assets could not be seized; and Swiss authorities required permission to enter the premises.

God badly missed Sal’s company. His willingness and his wit. More than once, the pair had rolled around helplessly with laughter around Heaven’s floor, at the ridiculous old chestnut that humans, somehow, had emerged and evolved from the atomic soup that once covered Earth. Then there was that other occasion, when they had taken a Turkish bath together. She remembered him gawking at her bare shoulders.

 

***

 

God found comfort in watching Dave Dawson. How he absorbed the joys and woes of each Southchurch Park resident as if they were the most important person in the world. How he lived and breathed collaboration. Like a warm sunbeam moving around the park, constantly enquiring after health and well-being. Cheering. Encouraging. Sharing himself.

Dave ensured the most fragile individuals received work tasks and other support that boosted their confidence. He was keeping an eye on Steph, an unemployed girl from Pitsea, who had drifted down to the park on a bus.

She told of her vague hope for something new, different, better. “There’s nothing for me at home except for piss-poor jobs and my drunken mum. I’ll go mad if I don’t try something else. The other thing – it’s a long shot – but I can’t get rid of the feeling I might bump into a Southend lad I met in Basildon. Ricky Ravenous-Glutton.”

“Is that seriously his name?” Dave grinned. “What a mouthful. Who knows, maybe he’ll turn up.”

Steph had been quietly shocked to see the tall, dark male, who had rebuffed her friend on the train to London, back in April. When she heard him referred to as Satan, her disquiet grew. “Don’t worry, that’s just his nickname,” said Dave, after she confessed her worries. “Call him Sal. He protects us.” Steph was equally puzzled about Gandhi. “Is he, like, a fancy-dress character?” she asked, one sunny lunchtime.

Past her uncertainties, Dave saw reservoirs of compassion. She agreed to help at mealtimes in and around the kitchen. Dave knew her kindness around Little Venice would help the park’s more anxious residents.

He still worked, as a freelance IT specialist for a law firm. Based at home, able to juggle his hours, he met Micky Gaze most lunchtimes: to plan the menus, write shopping lists and create work schedules. One of the big physical tasks had been to construct a laundry area and water supply pipe behind the cafe to accommodate second-hand washing machines. The other had been to dig over the playing field. Cabbages, cauliflower, chard and lettuces had been planted out after Buddha’s purification of the ground. Broad beans, garlic, onions, peas and spinach had been sowed directly. Spinach and lettuces would be ready to lift in January.

Micky unstintingly took the piss at how Dave would stand on his Kensington Road balcony, looking across proprietorially at each new adjustment or improvement. “King Dave. Surveying his domain.”

 

***

 

On the other side of the park, on a table in the converted bowling club, Sheena was providing an ayurvedic massage to Raj Begum, one of her former patients at Southend hospital. Raj, a Bangladeshi, suffered from sciatica. He appraised his ‘payment’, looking down at two sacks of rice and multiple bags of lentils. Fresh okra, mangoes, sweet potatoes, spices, oranges and bananas. Raj and his Irish wife Mora had scoured Southend’s market and shops to bring fresh, cheap and varied produce.

Nearby, an arthritic elderly lady and a female resident plagued by headaches received hot stones and acupuncture.

Raj looked through the window. A small Asian man wearing only a loin cloth exited the former soccer changing rooms 50 yards away. He sat beneath a shady tree. “Look – Golum reincarnated”, Raj chuckled. He had watched Lord of the Rings relentlessly with his grandchildren. Sheena asked if he believed in reincarnation, massaging his knee forcefully.

“You hear stories. Very young South Asian children find villages where they led past lives. They identify and name previous families, who seem to recognise them in new incarnation. Difficult to explain.” Sheena turned Raj onto his back. She said the resting body on the grass was Mahatma Gandhi.

“And I am Martin Luther King in cunning body disguise,” laughed Raj. Sheena manipulated his sartorius. He grunted, recalling violence on the Bengal-Bangladesh border. “Need to free those nerves Raj.” She left him to dress, placing his offerings on a trolley that she pushed to the café, in the early September sunshine.

 

***

 

15 minutes later, over a coffee at Little Venice, Sheena told Raj that the park had now entirely pre-paid its utility services. Secure water and broadband agreements were in place for years ahead. She said their lawyer found it tougher than dealing with Southend Council. The private sector was less accommodating, and “better versed in legal nicety”.

Raj was hardly listening. Could the great saint, about whom his relatives talked with awe, really be here? Gandhi’s followers swore the Mahatma would one day return in spirit.

Some of Raj’s relatives had fled southern Bangladesh – then East Bengal – in late 1946 after communal riots between Muslims and Hindus broke out. Thousands were killed and hundreds of women raped as mobs rampaged in the remote Noakhali region. The brutality shocked Gandhi, who rushed to the area and went barefoot for four months preaching communal harmony before the clashes ended. The Noakhali Peace Mission that he set up still worked with poor Muslim and Hindu families.

Raj thanked Sheena for the drink and set off towards the Southend Manor changing rooms. By the path, a rainbow-haired woman was tending the ‘Stephanie Bottrill garden’, created to commemorate the Birmingham woman who killed herself over the bedroom tax.

Raj found the man, inspecting batches of tee-shirts and some new designs. Nervously, he noticed that the Gandhi-lookalike sported a scar on his right thigh, and a smaller scar below the left elbow, the size of a pea. How could it be him? Despite the face of a 70-year old, the man had a muscular chest, thin waist and long, thin firm legs, bared from his sandals to his short tight loincloth. Raj spoke up, suggesting he could help the park. “What help were you thinking of?” asked Gandhi, calmly. “Before I tell, can you tell of your birthplace?” replied Raj.

“Porbanar in Gujarat State”, said Gandhi, speaking as much with his gentle eyes, framed by gold-rimmed bifocals, as his voice. Excited now, Raj explained. He would buy the park 300 cheap mobile phones, each with pre-paid time. These could be handed out for voting in a more efficient way than the current show of hands Sheena had described to him. They would work in conjunction with an app installed on a cafe laptop to count the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ texts. To streamline further, a similar app would automate the residents’ credits and debits.

“And how do we pay you?” asked Gandhi. His bones looked wide and strong; his fingers big and firm. He listened respectfully.

“Little bits, month by month.” As Raj and Sheena had strolled to the café, around the lake, he had seen a bike repair shop and hairdressing service set up in what looked like a self-assembled container unit. “Through healing, haircuts, everything park offers. Services for grandchildren’s bikes; tee-shirts for family”.

And then a second idea. Raj’s textile trade contacts could provide a steady stream of good quality cloth. The Bangladeshi knew where well-made garments fetched good prices. If Gandhi’s embryonic factory could produce a consistent flow, Raj would let the park have the profit margin in food.

Gandhi nodded. “These are helpful ideas. Thank you.” He told Raj of his love of self-sufficiency. He talked of the spinning wheel, or charkha, a small, hand-cranked wheel he used in India for spinning thread from cotton or other fibres. “Using the charkha was like a sacrament Raj. Sitting, spinning for hours, lost in the rhythm, chanting God’s name. Now I listen to sewing machines. Different sounds, different times.”

 

***

Gandhi led Raj from the makeshift garment factory into the afternoon sunshine, donning a white cheesecloth cape. They sat by a tree. Gandhi told how he had come “to love and respect Britain, despite the tens of millions of Indians who starved under its empire”. Raj nodded. “Now the pendulum swings back. English men and women taking their turn to be subjugated.” The moral crusader pursed his lips. “We all hear talk about Greece. Riots in streets, due to desperation and hunger.”

Raj twigged. “How bad things going to get here?”

Gandhi hesitated. “Worst guess: look at Russia. Oligarchs looting assets which the public sector built over Soviet generations. Dirt-cheap privatisations behind closed doors as people starved.” Gandhi seethed at how UK assets were continually sold without consultation. “Royal Mail now gone; fire engines and ambulances sold to private companies; hospital services contracted out massively. Those with assets get richer. £7 billion of dividends paid by energy companies last year while Britain’s poorest learned to live without heat.”  Raj was quiet.

“Government indicating schools should be profit centres, a more subtle form of privatisation. All the time workers’ rights disappearing, legal aid and citizens’ advice shrinking, food banks faced with record demand.” Gandhi watched Raj, sensing fresh neural pathways break open.

“In hospitals, the hungry treated for malnutrition. In job centres, unemployed attend indoctrination classes to adjust to life as slaves in pitifully-paid jobs.” Gandhi waved to Alex, on his afternoon security round. “Yet your journalists headline celebrity and sport and royals as if everything is fine. May as well seek truth in comics.”

Gandhi tried to be positive. “Remember Raj, only that economy is good which conduces to the good of all. This park sees that, tries to embody that.”

 

***

 

To boost her morale, God constantly reminded herself how Gandhi’s determination and principles always left indelible marks, wherever he went. When Mahatma returned home from South Africa in 1914, after helping reverse discriminatory legislation against fellow Indians, Jan Christiaan Smuts – who was twice South Africa’s Prime Minister – said: “The saint has left our shores, I hope forever”.

Another mighty will, Winston Churchill, had demanded to know from Smuts why he had not assassinated Gandhi before the ‘half naked Fakir’ could threaten the British Empire in India. General Smuts replied: “How could I do this to a man who made sandals for me with his own hands when I imprisoned him”.

God knew. That Gandhi – and the kind of teamwork that Dave and the Southend initiative embodied – put the lie to the clever but fuzzy merging, by global elites, of Charles Darwin’s ‘natural selection’ concept with Herbert Spencer’s ‘survival of the fittest’ idea. The resultant philosophy had been trumpeted remorselessly to justify everything from colonialism and slavery to private central banking, monopoly capitalism and subjugation of the planet.

Cunningly, the oligarchs had obscured Darwin’s central and very clear thesis – that the survival of a species was dependent on a high degree of cooperation. Gandhi would never destroy a building. He would talk and collaborate his way to victory, so that the central bankers at the BIS would one day leave the jackboot of their own accord, never to return.

237. Little Wing

 

Well she’s walking through the clouds
With a circus mind
That’s running wild
Butterflies and zebras and moonbeams
And fairy tales
That’s all she ever thinks about
Riding the wind

When I’m sad she comes to me
With a thousand smiles
She gives to me free
It’s alright, she says
It’s alright
Take anything you want from me
Anything
Fly on, little wing

 

 

11 January 1988 was a special day.

 

I was singing Little Wing (a Jimi Hendrix song) to myself, walking home from St John’s hospital, Chelmsford. Our daughter Lauren was just a few hours old.

Our firstborn. It was a hitherto-unknown feeling of elation. My feet hardly touched the ground. A strange space where nothing could ever be the same again, responsibility looming, yet I was bouncing along, carefree, heading home to feed the cat and grab some sleep before heading back to the maternity ward next morning.

Watching Lauren’s birth had been unforgettable. After a day when it became clear to my wife that the time had come, Maureen’s friend Jackie drove us to the hospital. We were made comfortable in a cosy room, with a calming picture of a forest walk hanging on the wall. The midwives were kind and helpful. Maureen seemed to take it all in her stride, walking up and down to assimilate the contractions, using the gas and air provided, holding my hand, asking for the occasional massage. She was a natural. No unbearable pains as the birth approached – although it’s easy for me to say that!

Lauren was born about three hours after we arrived. I can still vividly remember seeing her head emerge, and then the body. Suddenly she was there. Covered in green, alien-like vernix.

The word awesome is over-used, but awesome it was. Magical. Heart-stoppingly beautiful. Very quickly this gorgeous child was being held by her mum. It was startling how there were now three of us in the world. Just like that. Lauren weighed in at 8lb 5 oz.

Her and Maureen stayed in the maternity ward for a week, bonding amid the other mums and babies, so there must have been less pressure on the NHS back then. Lauren had a habit, very early on, of holding out her arms in front of her, fingers moving as she tried to touch whatever was in her limited gaze. One of her first noises was a kind of prolonged ‘laaa’. She was a demanding feeder; and showed signs of being a restless character. We loved her to bits. Still do. Maureen’s song that brings back that time at St John’s is Terence Trent D’Arby’s ‘Sign Your Name Across My Heart’.

Everything was new, transformed. But life went on. Mum and baby came home. I had to be a dad. Mentally scary, because I was a total novice in terms of childcare (although I was good with the cat). Luckily my wife was a nursery nurse and nanny. I listened hard to any instructions and complied. It seemed to work.

I had been a milkman for around 21 months; and would carry on delivering the pints for another five years or so. It was a great job in that I could be home early and take my share of the childcare. One of my best achievements, looking back.

In the intervening years, I’ve always tried to be a hands-off dad. Supportive, available, but listening and responding rather than steering.

It’s been such a pleasure and privilege to witness the Little Wing learn to fly. Here are some pics that show Lauren’s growth from baby to woman.

 

2019 No 4

 

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2019 Number two

 

2019 No 7

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2019 Number 5

 

2019 No 6

 

2019 No 3

 

2019 No 9

 

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Wedding

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236. Lineage

OUT OF ESSEX  – CHAPTER 22

 

 

“All life should involve waking from a dream.”

Buddha

 

  

 

Leigh-on-Sea. Two o’ clock at night. Quietly shutting his front door, the Buddha walked down the small close, towards the recently reopened railway line. He wore two Arsenal shirts, away kit over home, to rebuff the breeze. Scruffy white track suit bottoms and red trainers completed Siddharta Gautama’s attire.

An important task lay ahead, but the cake in his stomach dominated the moment. The offering from Mrs Hudson, his neighbour, was laden with cherries.

He turned left, heading east. Reconstruction still everywhere in evidence. The road changed names continually during the next mile. Cars passed sporadically. Endless ‘For Sale’ boards littered the cliff-top road.

He had not expected his sojourn in Essex, nor its dense obsessions with property, money and sex. He maintained balance by pursuing the ‘middle way’ required of all situations. He mixed freely with the workmen who were amalgamating the six dwellings comprising his spiritual centre. He listened, showing compassion and generosity.

Further ballast lay in deep meditation, the steady intake of tea and cake, and Match of the Day, a television programme each Saturday and Sunday evening. Arsenal were leading the Premiership, but Buddha knew results were transient.

As he walked, a slivered moon lit the roadside topiary, much of it still twisted from the May 12 apocalypse.

His ‘ashram’ was nearing completion. It would unveil ways to explore and control the inner world; and teach healing techniques. He had asked Micky Gaze to install equipment to play music. Buddha collated his favourites, including Awake my Soul by Mumford & Sons. Another choice was Santana’s Put Your Lights On, in which an angel told people to discard fear. The sounds looped while the men worked. Including You Can’t Always Get What You Want, by the Rolling Stones, and All We Have is Now by the Flaming Lips.

He still knew so little about England’s oldest county, whose profile had become inextricably linked to a television show named ‘The Only Way is Essex’, Mrs Hudson said. Yet almost three quarters of Essex was rural, she told him. She insisted there was more to it than girls with fake eyelashes emerging from tanning salons.

The previous morning Siddharta listened to two local decorators malign a Polish plumber grafting tirelessly in the same building. He was “stealing our jobs”, they said. Talk turned proudly to the new royal baby, and Prince Harry’s military tour of Afghanistan. The Buddha had perspective, having descended from the Shakya dynasty. Buddhism stressed the merit in good lineage.

Reaching Chalkwell Avenue, Siddharta turned downhill. The tsunami’s imprint was evident as the seafront came into view. Many homeowners had been unable to make repairs without compensation. Mounting some steps by a closed vending hut, he found a bench, with a view of the Crow Stone in the foreground of the becalmed estuary. It was time to experiment.

Yesterday, astride his Ducatti, Satan had screeched into the close hosting Buddha’s new home, and almost hammered down the door. Leathered, from chin to toe, Sal was grim with anger. “Come in and talk,” said Buddha. He sat him in the kitchen and offered sweet tea, but Satan was beyond creature comforts.

On the bench, back in the present moment, Buddha lifted his physical awareness, lessening his habitually meditative state. His five senses were ready to see if his feelings approached Satan’s. He felt his slightly aching leg muscles, dryness in his throat, and stiffness in his shoulders. Through the jogging pants, the seat was unyielding.

What he had been told was ………..but even as he re-considered the information his smile broke through.

Satan had discovered that Britain’s monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, would be asking for another increase in her budget. The news would leak out in weeks ahead. Buddha regarded this information neutrally, but the punchline had made him excuse himself, to visit the bathroom. He wet a flannel, washed his ears, used a mirror to ensure their complete cleanliness, and returned downstairs.

“Tell me that last sentence again please Sal,” he requested. Satan had begun to see the impossible humour, green eyes twinkling again. “I said she reckons she is down to her last million pounds”.

Now Siddharta roared with unbridled laughter. Eyes streaming, arse farting as his body tried to expel air through every escape valve. His shoulders heaved. His belly began to hurt. In houses set back, he heard windows opening, and an exhortation to “let us get some bleedin’ sleep”. He waved in apology, noticing several houses still boarded up. The force of the laughter made him pull his Arsenal top across his mouth.

Satan’s incandescence had eventually transformed into cold logic. “Sid, the saddest thing is that her request is likely to be accepted without fuss by an acquiescent public, sold on the notion that the queen is running short on cash, and tightening her belt just like them.”

Karma always paid out for greed, Buddha knew. If you neglected, you would be neglected.

Satan grinned. “Maybe the guys at Southchurch Park can send her a second-hand tent.” He mulled awhile. “Maybe, just maybe, she does only hold a million in cash. But how many billions, or even trillions, does she hold in assets. If you hold assets and you need money, you cash in. End of.” He was boiling up again.

Buddha reminded himself that life taught the necessary lessons, if attention was paid.

“Do you know who acts as the queen’s financial adviser?” Buddha had no reply. “It’s Evelyn Rothschild”. Buddha wanted Sal to stick to the subject. “Has anyone tried to work out the queen’s financial worth?” he asked.

Satan said the lack of clarity in the akashic files had frustrated God. In 2012 Forbes cited £18.1 billion worth of royal assets including art collections, the Crown jewels and palaces. “It would be logical to guess that her majesty has at least a few things tucked out of sight,” said Satan. “You read reports that she owns a huge chunk of Colorado, particularly around Denver, much of Delaware, several Park Avenue blocks in New York, real estate in the heart of downtown Chicago, and land all over California. What she holds in precious metals, stocks and unit trusts can hardly be imagined.”

That’s better Sal, stay rational.

“This is forgetting the Crown Estates portfolio, valued at well over £10 trillion. Crown land in Canada, for example, contains huge mineral and timber resources, but there are indications that the City of London is the real owner of the Crown Estates. That’s another story.”

Greed is divisive, and always one’s undoing. 

Buddha stood up, brushed himself, and walked. Pier remnants poked up in the distance. Satan had let off more steam. “Every major UK office of state power – the armed forces, police and judiciary – swears allegiance to the royals. Not the people. Not the parliament.”

Any system of hierarchy is equivalent to acute spiritual blindness.

As he moved, he recalled how the ‘middle way’ had revealed itself in his last and final human life, in the sixth century BC, in what is now Nepal. Siddharta had been born to immense privilege. Aged 29, he had quit his cushioned existence for abstinence and asceticism. His goal, to transcend the five senses, was not unusual. Across Asia, individuals who chose poverty to explore their inner nature were highly respected.

As if it were yesterday, Siddharta recalled his burst of clarity beneath the Bodhi tree after meditating for 49 days: that efforts pivoting upon solitude and self-deprivation were insufficient to counter the cyclical miseries of birth, ageing, sickness and death. The rest was history.

The Buddhist philosophy he developed contained doctrines of karma and rebirth flowing from Siddharta’s Hindu background, although all practitioners were encouraged to question the ‘dharma’, or law. Most importantly, the practices could take adherents beyond the suffering caused by the external world’s temporary satisfactions and pains, and the ‘scientific’ notion that you only live once.

 On strode Siddharta, passing the restaurants where Mike Burper had first seen the Big Wave. Most remained closed. The smashed casino, further along, looked like an abandoned shipwreck in light bouncing from the river. Satan’s words echoed on: “Russia kicked out its royals, so did the French. The British were actually the first to depose them, in 1649, after a long and bloody civil war. 11 years later, they were re-established, along with the Church of England, to help squash unruly radicals, like the Quakers.”

Monarchy and church are artifices. Every human is sovereign, able to tune into the highest spiritual levels.

Sal had frothed and fulminated. “Since then Britain has experienced slave trade, industrial revolution built on the lives of poor labourers, empire, world wars, lies and more lies, and now new extremes of degradation and poverty that serve to protect a ruling elite. These degenerates just happen to own the media, which fawn endlessly over the trappings of their wealth. They might look colourful, but so does petrol in a pond.”

Buddha loved the vigour with which Sal trod the troubled path of a fallen angel.

Walking now, along the very mouth of the empire, Buddha considered the word ‘evil’. While not used by Buddhist practitioners, its nearest equivalent in the lexicon was ‘unwholesome’. He thought again of Satan’s view that “many of the landed gits are inbred, psychotic lunatics who are addicted to chasing and killing small creatures using a pack of dogs”.

He remembered God saying that the Queen Mother had placed two of her nieces, Katherine Bowes-Lyon and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, into a psychiatric hospital because they were severely handicapped. On royal instruction, Burke’s Peerage listed the sisters as dead. This was nothing compared to a 1917 cover up, as World War One raged. Fearful of patriotic sentiment, George V changed the family surname to Windsor, disguising descent from Germany’s House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

By the time he stood opposite the destroyed pier, Siddharta decided to let emotion rise again. One of the decorators sat with him recently, sharing tea and lemon cake. The man normally talked about his football team, Southend United, but not this time. His daughter’s boyfriend, on an agency workbook, had prepared for a recent night shift.

“He gets a phone call saying ‘don’t bother turning up for work, there is none’. No notice,” the decorator said. “They have two young kids and a mortgage, and those calls are happening more and more.”

The decorator knew how business worked. “This is a company that made a £4.3 million profit last year. More and more of my daughter’s generation have to take work on very low pay, especially if they aren’t highly qualified. Shed loads of jobs are now temporary, part-time or so-called ‘zero hour contracts’. Is there any hope for ordinary people?”

Siddharta was encouraged by the man’s desire to perceive clearly. “I often wonder to meself if Southend will go bust after the Big Wave, so I started to read up. Detroit just went into bankruptcy, but not before Wall Street nicked half a billion in fees from rolling over the debts.”

These humans were generating hell worlds after their deaths, before they progressed to Satan’s quarters.

Siddharta inserted himself into the mind of the decorator, who was finishing off a room for a Buddhist shrine. A mind filled with dark and stressful worries: overdraft charges, inadequate pension, heating bills, his wife’s health, and his grandchildren’s education and job prospects.

Standing opposite Adventure Island, he looked at the deserted and still traumatised Golden Mile area, at the arcades, souvenir shops, night clubs and cafes eviscerated by the Big Wave.

Images came. From when the Firm had watched a documentary about Princess Diana, made by comedian Keith Allen. ‘The Unlawful Killing of Diana’ was unavailable in the UK due to legal clampdowns, but was freely available on The Place’s screens. It started by showing a letter from the Princess to her butler. “My husband is planning ‘an accident’ in my car. Brake failure & serious head injury.” Less than two years later she died, in a Paris road accident.

Amazingly, French CCTV cameras along the crash route failed to record anything. Before the medical examination was complete, the French press were stating the driver was “as drunk as a pig”. Yet the hotel bill showed he had ordered just two Ricards. “Disneyland is never far away,” was Satan’s first comment. It caught Siddharta’s eye how road sweepers were allowed by French police to clean the crash site – and accompanying evidence – within hours of the accident.

From whatever angle Siddharta viewed Britain’s royal family, its treatment of the unfortunate Diana Spencer spoke of untold darknesses. Now Buddha felt his abdomen shake. Bile tingled in his throat, heat spread through his head.

In the October 2007-April 2008 inquest, members of the royal family were prime suspects, but not one was called as a witness. God had rubbed her eyes in disbelief, and again, when Paul Condon, then Britain’s most senior policeman, admitted his refusal to hand French detectives a letter from Diana to her lawyer, explaining fears for her life. Condon was now a Knight and a Lord.

Concluding, the coroner instructed the jury to ignore eye-witness statements and forbad it to even consider the possibility of murder, Allen’s film recorded. The jury defied him, declaring an “unlawful killing”. The film’s last third underscored the monarchy’s huge cost to taxpayers, and included a clip showing Philip, aged 16, flanked by German relatives in SS and Brownshirt uniforms.

Buddha staggered to a bin. He emptied the contents of his stomach, his nose streaming acidic moisture. Innumerable lives had taught him that points were reached where ordinary conceptions of planet Earth were radically transformed. Resets, as happened with Atlantis and Lemuria, when Mother Earth shook off surface poisons.

Purged, he walked. New ideas were forming, about his work in the months ahead, and how to tackle tonight’s task. Opposite the Hope Hotel, looking through the open window of a red car, a young woman was transfixed on the battered pub. He approached, and spoke, gently. “You look a little upset. Did something happen?”

She looked him up and down. A fat Arsenal fan. Traces of puke on his white trousers.

“I could have died in there. Sometimes I wish I had,” she said. He knew to be quiet. Sally related how her married date had drowned. Her sprint along the front. Saving Chanelle’s kids. Still unemployed in a smashed-up town. “I can’t sleep, so I come here. Feels like the memories will never leave. My money continues to go, though. This car will have to be sold soon.”

You will build your own sacred path, of kindness and warmth. And show others how to hold to beauty at all times.

“Have you seen that movie, Elysium?” she asked. “Is that what’s in store, a nice paradise area hanging in space for the mega-rich, and a ghetto down here for the rest of us, with bloody drones and robots keeping us in check? Or the Hunger Games, where the rich watch the poor kill each other for sport?”

The meek always inherit the earth because Forces of Light head naturally to softness.

Siddharta pulled her from the blackness. “It is an impertinent request, but could you give me a lift. I have walked from Leigh, my legs are tired, and I must reach Southchurch Park.” He spoke oddly, but she trusted him. “Why are you going there in the middle of the night? Do you know people there?”

Her interest was pricked. “There were reports about that “community” in most of the national dailies, claiming people there have criminal records, addictions and mental health problems. How do they live without money? I could do with that knowledge.”

He answered her, clearly and truthfully, during the short drive. He told of Gandhi’s presence. She parked up in Kensington Road. Offered him a lift back, and waited.

Burper was manning the southern gate. “Allright Sid,” he greeted. Mike liked it that Siddharta hadn’t crowed after Arsenal’s 1-0 win over the Spurs.

Buddha walked to the bridge at Little Venice, crossed the small lake, and approached the still figure of Gandhi out on the field. They embraced. “Lord Buddha, it is so very good to see you,” smiled Gandhi. “And you Mahatma,” bowed Buddha. They exchanged small talk about their individual projects. Then Buddha explained the course of action ahead, asking to be left alone.

“As you wish. I will be in the textile centre, preparing for the day.” Gandhi retreated into the dark. Buddha cast his gaze at tents and caravans corralling the playing field. This had finally been completely dug over after the removal of its top layer. He walked to an approximate centre, envisaged the ground as a unity, and cast inside for pure awareness.

He chanted softly. “Ong ah hong, ong moni beni hong”. Gently, via a rocking motion, he envisaged a blue spherical object encompassing the unity. He squeezed the sphere with his mind. Back and forth the blue ball swayed, grey wafts of smoke exiting its edges, carrying away salinity. Buddha let the images clear, opened his eyes. He slowly walked back to the gate, dipping his trainers in the lake so Sally’s car floor would not muddy.

“All done Sid? See you soon then.”

“I do hope so Mike.”

Sally was bursting with more questions as they drove away. “I’ll suspend my complete disbelief about Gandhi living in there if you tell me what he’s doing. Is a new civil disobedience movement kicking off on my doorstep?”

Buddha said he could not predict. That Gandhi was overseeing the production of clothing, and the community aimed to grow all of its own food. “I can also say that if we assert our values, we become the change we want. You can do this yourself Sally. Be sovereign. Tomorrow’s benevolence is the fruit.”

Knowing the route by heart, she pondered on one of her psychology modules at university, which had examined benefits from community gardens in Manchester. “The art of agriculture is the first lever of wealth in any person or nation,” she said, remembering a quote. “Have you ever seen an allotment in full bloom?” she asked her new companion. “Flowers juxtaposed with cauliflowers and runner beans, with multi-coloured paths running in and out of structures made from old doors and corrugated iron.”

He told her of the Austrian, Rudolf Steiner, who founded a spiritual movement, anthroposophy in the early 20th century. “You would enjoy his fusion of science and mysticism.” Sally nodded. Her cousin had attended a Steiner school, before building an architect practice.

In 15 minutes they were back at the close, where he asked Sally if she meditated. “You have expressed yourself very passionately tonight. It would help you to know that the highest and most comprehensive teaching of the Buddha was the Lotus Sutra.”

“Oh my days, you know some stuff. I’ve heard of the Karma Sutra. What does the Lotus Sutra teach?”

“The existence of an innate and universal truth known as the Buddha nature, the manifestation of which brings absolute happiness and boundless compassion.”

“I could so do with some of that. How do I start?”

“Repeatedly chant the very simple phrase Nam Myoho Rengi Kyo. The sound and vibration will tap into your full potential as a human being, which leads, eventually, to Buddhahood.”

“Sounds awesome. So are you a Buddhist?”

“Yes, devoted for many years Sally. Please chant those four words. Aloud or inside your mind. You will enjoy the outcomes.”

“Can I see you again,” she blurted out. “Obviously not like that,” she added. “Well, no, not obviously! No offence meant.” She was becoming flustered. “Oh I’m sure you’re wise enough to know what I’m saying.”

“Yes, I would be honoured. Just visit when you wish, or call me on this number.” He handed her a card from the pile printed by Micky Gaze.

She read the name. Siddharta Gautama. “Can I call you Sid?”

 

235. Joe Pesci and me

 

index

 

I would never willingly offend. So, if you have reservations about profanity, go no further.

 

My old Norwich mate Jonny Price used to reckon this story was “the best thing you have ever done Kev”. That’s hardly likely, but when I met his mates three decades ago, they all knew the story. It was gratifying that they found it so funny.

While working as a milkman, back in the late 1980s, I served a customer who lived on the Westlands council estate, in western Chelmsford. I served about 350 of them, but this one stood out. He was a jack-the-lad, roll-of-the-shoulders geezer, who loved nothing better than banter. Can’t remember his name anymore, or any other details, except that he was about my age (30-ish), and had a touch of wit and confidence that made conversations fun.

I would knock on the door of his maisonette for the milk money, every Friday evening. We developed a singular repartee, where, at some stage of the conversation, one of us would say. “What are you?” But actually sounding something like “whoraya”. That last bit is important.

And the other would reply: “Cunt”.

Being Essex, the reply would have been much more like “caaaaant”, stretched out in the estuary delivery mode. That delivery was essential, the lynchpin of the humour and play-acting. Southern Essex man pulls back his lips and lets out that sound with a mighty disdain, apeing the contempt with which his Cockney peers wield this missile of a word.

It made us chuckle, grin and bond. Cathartic and poetic.

Down at the dairy, the word would bounce around liberally as the lads loaded their floats in the mornings. It was a bog-standard form of friendly verbal sparring for blokes around our way, however odd, rude, disrespectful or non-PC it might sound (or not) in the ever more polite and offendable climes of 2019. The foreman, Bernie, would often be on the end of the banter. He would unreservedly insist that “a cunt is a useful thing”.

Anyway, back to Westlands. I think this guy had been out for a few Friday evenings in a row, building up arrears for his red tops (homogenised milk). I knocked, and was about to go away, thinking he was out on the razzle again, when I heard him come down the stairs. He opened the door, with a towel around his lower torso.

“Whoaa, allright mate,” he said. He was swaying a bit. Alcohol had clearly been imbibed. “I got a bird upstairs, but I better pay you. I’ll nip back up, write you out a cheque.”

“Cheers.”

Reascending, he asked what he owed me. Really slurring the words. “Whorrriyowya?” So very similar to the joyful trigger of “whoraya”.

Eager for jousting, all I heard was the ritual question. “What are you?” (coming and trying to take my money when I’m getting my leg over).

Clearly, there was but one reply.

“Caaaant!”, I batted back.

He was halfway back up the stairs. He stopped, turned and frowned. “You what mate?”

I took a deep breath, leaned back, and really let him have it this time. “Caaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnt.”

He was really puzzled now. “What?” he hissed. I was more convinced than ever that he was prolonging our weekly exchange.

Letting my diaphragm use itself deeply, I repeated it joyfully, with utter glee. It took all my breath away. “Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnt”.

“What’s going on pal?” he said. “I’m asking you what I owe and you’re calling me a cunt!” I saw violence brewing in his eyes. My light bulb finally came on.

Parallels perhaps with the Goodfellas scene, where Joe Pesci menacingly asks: “Funny? How am I funny?” That excruciating, liminal space where perceived insult can beget belly-laugh or brawl.

Somehow, I explained the misunderstanding. Luckily, he was truly preoccupied with matters of the groin. Maybe the drink, or the awaiting pleasures, had erased our rite from his memory. It may have been fortunate that he was one swift move away from a falling towel.

Most importantly, I got his milk money.

The shame was that he moved a week or two after, and I never got the chance to make a proper apology for being such a caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaant.

Never saw him again. I hope his life rolled smoothly. He will never know the pleasure that he gave Jonny and his Norfolk mates. The story has an unexpected ending.

I e-mailed Jonny yesterday, who said this: “It’s one of our many catch phrases on birding trips. Often in the rain forest you’d hear someone mutter…cuuuuunnt.”

Love it.

 

 

 

 

234. Multi-tasking

 

Watching television, for me, is all about tunnel vision. Laser focus, completely drawn in. Paying undivided attention. Trying to ignore my phone for an hour or two.

Maureen has the gift of being able to simultaneously work with her hands and follow the narratives. In such mode, she has created these items over the past week or two.

 

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I am beguiled by the craft and artistry, in what has been labelled as slow stitch meditation. The contrasts in colour and texture, the imagination to dream so precisely in such a small space. She also manages to look at her phone, illustrating her multi-pronged mastery.