Over at Michael Prescott's Blog I'm reading The Diamond and this was my response.
Michael I don't wan'o teach you to suck eggs because reading this you clearly suck with the best of us but what I most admire about this 'peace''s the detachment you manage to maintain embracing your experience wholeheartedly without allowing your ego to binge out on all its possible implications or your mind to become conceptually fixated.
You say you already knew this stuff but as a kid you knew touching hot things'd hurt but it was only when you finally did touch something hot that you TRULY understood what your mom was warning you about.
The key to your experience for me was the moment you abandoned try'n'o protect yourself and allowed whatever was go'n'o result from your medical condition to unfold. That was also the moment when you abandoned merely believing in the idea of trusting in the benevolence of The Great Whatever and actually lived it to the point I suggest where for a moment you were literally prepared to live or die to demonstrate your faith even if only to yourself.
That was almost certainly why you were able to perceive what in other traditions's been witnessed or experienced in forms like The Grail or The Pillar of Jamshid or The Body of the Mystic Christ.
It's like I was reading a while back supposed proof Carlos Castaneda's stuff was just fiction composed of thieved ideas because someone'd found an obscure Nineteenth or Eighteenth Century Hindu tract where the author describes our true form as being an egg shape composed of endlessly shifting and writhing tendrils of energy.
Mightn't it just be the case though Juan Matus and the Nineteenth Century Hindu's descriptions matched because they'd witnessed the same thing?
The same thing in fact you beheld but in a form which'd have the maximum psychokinetic impact on you?
Over at Ghost Theory I'm reading Javier Ortega's Psi and Psychosis: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid which in turn's based on Barry Taff's same named piece.
This was my response.
I don't know who Barry Taff is but based on what he's written here I'd have to pronounce him delusional.
I've friends in the police or fire services the military nursing social working passport/immigration journalism education politics etc and everyone of 'em just like me's a million tales exactly like Barry Taff's but theirs concern nutty colleagues bosses underlings or clients who either behave in weird ways or say weird things or try to draw them into get rich quick schemes that sound as sane as starting fashion lines of stitched together clouds or speak of conspiracies against them while all the time organising conspiracies of their own usually involving getting someone removed from a job they feel they should have.
Doesn't he watch the news and listen to the wild and egregious claims our politicians make about their opposite numbers or rivals or how one moment they're praising some guy as the Iron Man of the Middle East (Sadam) or playing golf with them (Noriega) or giving them financial advice on how to invest their billions and thanking them for secretly holding and torturing various western countries enemies as well as providing university references for their children (Gadaffi) the next they're hounding them down allowing them to be raped tortured and murdered/executed before roundedly denouncing them as villains for doing the same thing they themselves're doing in ohter people's countries?
Hasn't he been reading the stories about people running other people down just for the hell of it or simply because they're pissed off or the sons stabbing their mothers to death or the mothers drowning their children in baths/rivers?
What about all the stories of husbands murdering ex-wives or girlfirends for seeing other people or arranging to have acid thrown in their faces?
The neighbours from hell who make everybody else's lives hell?
The people caught wanking off in cesspits or pools of pig slurry or having sex with dogs or lampposts or the Eiffel Tower (admittedly after marrying it first)?
The people shooting up schools?
He talks about people with dubious medical histories but doesn't he know about the guy who was told by his doctor he was deluded when he claimed Ecstasy helped him overcome his Parkinson's until he saw the transformation the guy underwent with his own eyes? Doesn't he realise if that doctor hadn't had the honesty to report what he'd actually seen rather than to stick to what him and his colleagues were merely convinced of a whole new branch of potential medicine wouldn'tve opened up?
As for the impossibility of our world exploding or going to hell in a handcart hasn't he heard about Yellowstone being overdue for another dinosaur extinction level explosion or doesn't he know since some of us were kids in the Sixties there's been no end of predictions of new ice ages or race wars or World War III or resources running out or for that matter the wars that'll result from those resources running out a possibility taken so seriously by America's black ops secret military groups they plan and rehearse such wars awaiting the time when America'll need to procure scarce resources in the face of their owners opposition?
He laughs at some poor woman because she's been told by aliens the world's about to go bang but doesn't he know Tony Blair and George W Bush rushed the rest of us into murdering a million Iraqis on the basis of putting a stop to weapons of mass destruction that Sadam could launch at 45 minutes notice which never existed?
Or are we supposed to believe all of the above's the result of an interest in the paranormal?
Over at LiveScience their senior writer Stephanie Pappas has written Mass Hysteria? Strange Mayan Apocalypse Freakouts.
This was my response.
Stephanie you seem surprised at these freakouts but you forget all we're bombarded with from the moment we're born's end of the world scenarios from so-called scientific quarters.
At the moment it's global warming but when I was a kid in the Sixties/Seventies it was a new ice age or variants thereoff and of course there was the incessant theme all through the Sixties Seventies and Eighties we were only minutes off nuclear winter due to World War III. In fact that meme was so pervasive my cousin a university educated girl with a degree had a nervous breakdown from which she never really recovered. So convinced was she by all the doom mongering all it took was for a car alarm to go off or fire engine to sound its siren and she'd immediately scurry for cover distraught out her mind that any moment now the nukes'd start landing.
All things like Nostradamus' 1999 or the Mayan's 2012 provide's a kind of hook to hang all the neuroses of the civilization on allowing people like my cousin to defeatedly say okay let's hope this time it really is here and we're finally getting the damned thing over with.
This's what makes me laugh when sane well adjusted scientific types mock Mayan apocalypse types. All you have to say to reveal them as being as nuts as everyone else is to mention "You heard the latest research? They now reckon we've only got 14 months before the sea starts flooding Europe."
Instead of questioning this rationally many scientific types simply break into a cold sweat and go "I knew it wasn't far off but my god so soon?"
And if you doubt what I say try it. You may well be surprised.
Several hours later me Dad came in with the umpteenth cup of tea he’d made me that day somehow managing to delicately position it on the arm of my armchair in spite of me rocking it about so much the bastarding thing was all but taking off though this time instead of taking himself off he now hypnotically swayed from heel to heel in front of me almost making me feel seasick until I finally stopped staring into thin air at videos and acknowledged yes he’d caught my attention at which point almost like he was saluting me he pronouncedly placed the back of his hand to his lips to clear his throat visually conveying to my radio deafened ears he had information to impart an unexpected development I happened to find intensely exasperating at that particular moment because the very reason I happened to be rocking so maniacally was precisely because after countless hours of endlessly playing and replaying this morning’s events and being unable to shake the sense I kept overlooking or missing something I finally felt I was closing in on if not exactly what then where ‘exactly what’ might be found hence the basilisk like glare I now aimed at him out the corner my eye implying this better be worth my resentfully ripping off an earphone and barking “Yes?”
Clearing his throat he said “I just thought you might like to know your beloved’s on the line…”
“Oh shit” I gasped “Sarah I forgot all about her! Er sorry for being so rude Dad it’s just this business from this morning’s really playing on me mind but er thanks for letting me know though!”
“That’s okay Jim” he replied before elegantly sauntering off his use of “Jim” being his cute little way of blending in as a typical working class Scouser apparently completely oblivious to how perfectly charming but also absolutely hilarious it sounded to everyone else hearing him say it in his dead deep posh plummy public schoolboy type tones.
Meanwhile out in the hall he was clearing his throat and saying “He’s on his way…” then plonking down the surprisingly heavy sounding receiver on the large old fashioned linen chest we used as a phone stand hence my now hurrying to disentangle myself from the earphone cable caught up in the hi fi before rushing out to snatch it up and splutter “Sarah? Sorry didn’t ring back…kept meaning to but got caught up playing all these blasted videos of all this weird mindblowing shit that happened to me this morning and I simply didn’t realise the time.”
Actually it was slightly more complicated than that and a darn sight odder because after abandoning my wristwatch in disgust for refusing to behave as if it was on the blink I’d resorted to using the daylight from the window to give me a general sense of the time but rather peculiarly I kept thinking it was much later than it was because out the corner my eye daytime kept looking exactly like midnight for some mysterious reason though I sort of half convinced myself it was merely the overcast weather conditions until it finally became nighttime and suddenly nighttime started looking like midday lulling me into a false sense I still had plenty o’time to call Sarah.
“That’s okay” Sarah now said in a somehow alarmingly brusque manner “I imagined something like that” but when I now attempted to tell her what happened she abruptly cut me off and said “Listen I can’t stay on long I hadn’t exactly been planning to talk to you in the first place just hoping to leave a message in case you rang after I went out so you’d avoid a grilling from me Dad but y’Dad didn’t give me a chance to explain...”
“You’re going out?” I all but whispered try’n’o supress any signs of the distinct sense of panic now welling up in me as I recalled my fear the part time job she’d recently taken as a photo-spotter at an industrial photography developers might lead to her going out with her newfound workmates and maybe becoming involved with someone. “Wha’ you mean a Christmas works outing type o’thing?”
“No that’s in a fortnight this’s just me goin’ for a drink with Eddy.”
“Eddy?” I exclaimed momentarily calming myself by pointing out Eddy could just as easily be short for Edith until it occurred to me Edith could be some exotic bisexual Goth about to get Sarah drunk and turn her lesbian though realising I was in danger of plunging off the cliff of sheer stark raving insanity if I didn’t immediately slam on the brakes on that particular line of thought I managed to sufficiently recover to decide the best plan would be to affect nonchalance and indifference by exquisitely modulating my already naturally high voice so it didn’t betray me by attaining the sort of helium addict’s sharpness of pitch even the ears of Krypto the Superdog’d struggle to hear except in the very next breath I sounded like an adolescent whose voice’s breaking as I hoarsely squeaked “Who the hell’s Eddy?”
“Oh you know Eddy I told you all about him. He’s just our dead cheeky Jack the lad postman…”
Ye’ but the postman she mentioned sounded like some hideously deformed toothless bent over double geriatric pensioner reduced to doing real life Quasimodo impressions due to the weight of his mailbag whereas this Eddy guy sounded like some absolutely hilarious handsome hunk who did his round in the actual Aston Martin driven by the real life James Bond not to mention she already sounded half in love with the swine. “You’re going on a date with your postman?” I shrilly exclaimed genuinely shocked at the withering derision in my voice because as far as I was concerned being a postman was a perfectly honourable profession for anyone not called Eddy yet saying that I still hoped I’d been sufficiently withering to actually put her off the bastard.
“NOT a DATE a DRINK!” she snapped “Anyway there’s no need to worry it’s nothing serious” her tone momentarily more conciliatory until she now started scolding me “But this’s exactly what pisses me off about you you’re supposed to be me bezzy buddy so I’m supposed to be able to talk to y’about stuff like this without havin’ t’worry about upsettin’ y’ all the time! Anyway I’ve got’o go now because he’ll be here any minute and I deserve a nice long soak after the day I’ve been put through by a certain pisshead and I want him as far away from here as possible before me stupid drunk of a Father staggers back from the pub and goes into his usual Police sergeant third degree routine!” and to my complete shock she hung up leaving me both mortified and utterly bereft because not only’d it been our shortest ever conversation but since the day she’d first surprised me by spontaneously giving me her number it was the only time she’d ever hung up on me!
Utterly bewildered I now staggered in the general direction of what I hoped was the bank of light switches on the hall wall my head reeling as if I’d been walloped with a baseball bat all but blind to where I was actually going due to the image of a postman’s uniform strewn across a bedroom floor looming large on the air before my anguished eyes which was probably why it took me so look to realise the source of that oddly familiar clicking sound in the background was actually me mindlessly flicking the light switch up and down waiting for the landing light to blaze into life until it finally dawned on me it wasn’t working though paradoxically my initial horror was quickly replaced by a curious sense of relief because my fear of the dark now provided me with a useful distraction if I was ever to get upstairs and bare my soul to Adrian until half way up I now spotted his bedroom door was not only firmly closed but his light was off suggesting he must’ve spent Saturday as he usually did losing all his money in the bookies before punishing himself by shovelling a grease drenched frying pan’s worth of semi-frozen semi-scorched food down his gob by way of catastrophically shutting his brain down for the night meaning not only wouldn’t I be getting to use him to alleviate the latest batch of Sarah related stress and anguish but he wouldn’t be standing-in as the sounding board I’d hoped Sarah’d provide me with to get a more objective perspective on this morning’s events.
And when I now spotted someone’d actually removed the landing light this only seemed to confirm Adrian very definitely didn’t want to be disturbed hence utterly miserable I now staggered back down the stairs into the parlour thinking what an absolutely stinking horrible day and what an even more stinking horrible night because I knew perfectly well there was absolutely no way I’d be getting any sleep though by way of a pathetic consolation prize I reminded myself at least it was a Saturday which meant while every other bastarding bastard on the planet was having the time of their lives with Sarah I’d be listening to a much wider menu of more sophisticated dance and rock music. Yippee!
And hardly’d I started rocking than I was back outside the Sandwich Shop again this time accompanied by a dim flash of video of me walking down London Road with my fellow book hunting best mate Ali as we passed a display of somehow familiar esoteric books in a very similar side window only the books in this display’d appeared anything but yellow or dusty implying if it really was the same window display it’d have to’ve been quite a few years earlier and I could even remember Ali who while thoroughly unconvinced of the relevance of such esoteric materials himself being thoroughly surprised when I now declined his rather gentlemanly invitation to investigate further because something’d seemed to prompt me to put the whole thing out my mind possibly explaining why the video was not only so dim but’d taken me so long to recall.
And it was while I was dwelling on what exactly the nature of this prompter or prompting mechanism might be that an ear shattering thunderclap like brassy K-TCHING! rang out as a police officer wreathed in steam came hurtling out the Sandwich Shop door his hands and arms overcrowded with plain white paper bags stuffed with hot food and boiling cartons of soup and for a moment it was as if I wasn’t just remembering what happened but I was actually right back there and then at that very instant in time hence I all but literally evacuated the contents of my bowels at the thought I was about to be arrested for perving up the girls serving in the shop until it now occurred to me what if that police officer was actually Sarah’s Police sergeant Dad and my persistent presentiment the pair of us were eventually go’n’o meet’d unwittingly come true?
But mulling this possibility over now caused me to drop my guard and the police officer’s uniform now suddenly morphed into a postman’s strewn across a bedroom floor causing me to all but double over in excruciating physical and mental pain at the thought something along those lines might be happening right that very moment and even while I was sitting there trying to maintain the momentum of my rocking I could be in the process of losing Sarah forever the irony being of course only hours before when I’d been Dark Alan I’d actually relished the idea of being permanently free of her hence my almost bitter laughter at the sheer cosmic joke of it all until suddenly I was somehow back outside in the hall again standing beside the phone listening to Sarah’s earlier observation “there’s no need to worry it’s nothing serious” only whereas previously it’d seemed like a mere throwaway patronising remark it now seemed to become a secret message or link planted in the conversation not for the me listening at the time but the me sitting there right now rocking away and reliving it enabling some other infinitely older immensely wiser much more intensely real Sarah who’d somehow foreseen this moment to speak to me directly by way of telling me to cut the crap and stop arsing about worrying about stuff that was never go’n’o happen and wouldn’t’ve mattered even if it had and to get the hell on with remembering what really happened in the Sandwich Shop.
Over at the Wall Street Journal I've been reading Daniel Akst's People May Be Just a Bit Psychic, Even [if] They Don’t Know It and this was my response.
Daniel once upon a time there were only a few humans and to survive they needed to be constantly vigilant constantly paying attention to everything going on in their environment including their fellow humans.
Even when they slept at night there was probably always someone awake to keep guard which may be why some people evolved who like sleeping during the day but partying at night.
In time though as such monitoring activities began to be shared amongst wider and wider groups things like police forces and fire brigades came into existence eventually expanding not only in numbers but membership too which meant not only was less and less personal monitoring required but group monitoring.
And when technology like fire bells and alarm clocks came into existence even less attention needed to be paid because if the guy next to you didn't give you a dig in the ribs to wake up one o' them loud noise toys'd do the job.
And now we're reaching the stage were we won't even have to pay attention driving our cars.
Some people're aware of the tunnels feeding through their ears and can easily feel the top and back of their heads without touching them with anything but their consciousness.
[The main weakness in body awareness I have is not being able to feel the tip of my nose and inside my nostrils quite so vividly as the rest of me].
Yet many people I know aren't even aware of the soles of their feet when walking or their arse when sitting down.
All of which suggests to me bodily esp was once the norm but over time's diminished from simple lack of use.
When they finally develop animated clothing that'll carry our bodies for us that's the moment when both bodily esp and the human race'll become extinct.
Over at the BBC I'm reading Sean Coughlan's Psychic Pair Fail Scientific Test concerning Chris French's Halloween Challenge.
And the first thing I'm struck by is Mr Coughlan's odd title BBC News education correspondent.
News as education?
Sounds suspiciously like propaganda to me.
The first thing I find unscientific about this's we all know people who'll deny certain positive characteristics attributed to them.
Some truly generous people hate to be described as such for instance.
Many a great hero'll tell you they're no such thing and may even get cross with you for insisting they are.
So it goes without saying this's even more true when it comes to negative descriptions.
We say greedy - they say healthy appetite.
We say mean - they say sensible with money.
We say nasty - they say truthful.
And when it comes to other less polarisable characteristics things get even more vague all of which Chris French as a psychologist should be fully aware of.
Better judges of such attempted descriptions surely'd be third parties who know the person and since even then there'd be a tendency to bias it should some sort of committee of such friends and/or relatives.
The other questionable dimensions to this experiment are
1) how talented or allegedly talented were these psychics? If someone tells you they're excellent musicians yet they're clearly tone deaf then if you were sufficiently unscrupulous with a certain agenda to push you could actually use such people to make a statistical case for there being no such thing as true musicians or even such a thing as music.
2) who were the individuals being described? Were they random people off the street? Believers in psychic powers with a point to prove? Or members of skeptical societies with an axe to grind?
Whatever the case this 'test' looks much more like a typical French or Wiseman style public show trial of the paranormal to me rather than a true scientific experiment.
And if it was only a bit of Halloween fun why not ask the psychics to guess more extraordinary things like career or medical histories rather than vague wishy-washy characteristics which even the most talented of wordsmiths might find difficulty describing never mind less fluent or verbally astute individuals made even more tongue tied by the kind of pressures even talented doctors would find it difficult to diagnose under.
Over at NBC's Cosmic Log I'm reading Alan Boyle's Why Werewolves Give Us the Willies a piece on Linda Godfrey's Real Wolfmen: True Encounters in Modern America.
Boyle asks the question 'if there are all these reports of "upright canids," why haven't scientists identified this, um, unusual species?'
When I was a teenager in the early Seventies I had a mate called Terry who had this huge black Labrador called Sooty which was basically either a super genius or totally insane. Probably both.
It seemed to go round with a permanent bonger on that resembled an enormously long stick of boiling pink lava which it used to hump every lamppost or leg it could wrap itself round but never let any of this incapacitate its attempts to keep up with its beloved master.
There were a lot of derelict houses round at the time and we used to spend a great deal of time on their roofs enabling Terry to call down to Sooty and tease him he was beyond its reach.
Sooty though'd vanish out of sight and the next thing we'd know its overly long nails'd be making a clipping sound on the slate tiles as it came galloping up over the other side of the roof only to then start splaying its legs almost to the point of doing the splits as it struggled to avoid sliding off the roof to its doom.
Time after time it kept pulling off this trick and no one was quite sure how until one day Terry called down to me from the roof he was on I simply mustn't delay rushing round the alleyway at the back because I was not go'n'o believe what I'd see Sooty shinning up a drain pipe.
Bollocks I thought but fuck me it really was!
Then it occurred to me it was obviously a hoax and someone'd cruelly stuck it up there and I began to worry how we were go'n'o get it down especially since its legs clearly had to've been dislocated to get them round the pipe.
But to my astonishment it now proceeded to wiggle its way to the top get free and clamber up on the roof then lose its footing and after madly scrabbling on the spot Scooby Doo style for several extremely fraught seconds slip backwards rotate in mid air then land atop a derelict bomb shelter just below.
I was told some years later it died under similar circumstances as a result of old age finally catching up with it.
When I tell most people that story they refuse to believe it or write it off as a freak story about a freak animal yet less than a decade later I was living on a Toxteth housing estate where a family nicknamed the Jaspers were celebrated for having a cross breed Beagle called Patchy which was more intelligent than them and one day I was observing one of our neighbours black cat sitting on the fence taunting the local dogs by drooping her tail over the edge then sweeping it back up at the last possible moment .
This went on for a while until Patchy showed up.
He stood there with his stout little leggies spread wide as if carefully appraising the situation then to my astonishment started shinning up the fence by inserting his legs between the gaps between the planks.
Meanwhile the black cat with a look of the utmost pleasure on her chops'd gotten so smug about her fishing for dogs trick she'd lain down on the fence and almost started dozing off until she now suddenly realised Patchy'd trotted along the fence and was standing right over her.
She let out a squawk then fled hotly pursued by a yipping Patchy until she escaped by leaping the gap to the next fence forcing him to abandon his hunt and jump down to trot off with a look almost of utmost satisfaction on his little chops.
The point of these stories's Alan Boyle wonders why scientists haven't identified Linda Godfrey's unknown race of "upright canids"?
Probably for the same reason they'd accuse me of being confused deluded or a liar because "dogs simply can't do such things".
Well not if you spend all your time in a lab validating your research with reference to the work of other researchers who also spend all their time in labs.
For some strange reason unknown "upright canid" species and dogs that like to shin up drainpipes or fences don't seem to like hanging out in labs.
It seemed obvious retracing the route I’d taken might provide an answer how I got back so quickly to ours and maybe even a clue why the hell I’d gone down Plimsoll Street in the first place but when I now wound back to a little earlier I was stunned to find myself entering Plimsoll from Hawthorn Grove a route I’d NEVER take not only because accessing it required going out your way but using it made you even more vulnerable to the Gargoyle Brothers.
Winding back a little further though I now became all the more bemused to realise I hadn’t as I’d supposed entered Hawthorn cutting in at Dorothy Street’s Wavertree Road end but via the Gladstone Road end spectacularly hurtling round the corner almost completely rotated on my side not so much running as diving my shoulder dipped so low to the ground I all but grazed my cheek on the pavement my concern to avoid crashing face first in the gutter abruptly overridden by my sudden confusion I no longer knew where I was followed by stunned incomprehension why I was no longer running up London Road then shocked realisation I was staring at exactly the same shiny wet blue-black glassy-metallic Victorian basalt cobblestone cubes I’d only moments before started frantically rifling through my earliest childhood videos for giving me the eerie sense all the chaotic emotions provoking and indeed provoked by my newfound obsession with cobblestones might’ve somehow opened out a window onto that particular period.
But when I now tried winding back to the moment where I should’ve been coming along Dorothy before turning into Hawthorn I was startled to find myself coming along London Road instead and at seemingly the precise moment I’d first started using all those early childhood videos of cobblestones to wall out something my mind found so unbearable I couldn't admit to myself I was doing any such thing which possibly also explain why I didn’t seem to’ve recorded myself running up Pembroke Place passing the School of Tropical Medicine on my right and the Dental College the Royal Hospital and the blood bank place on my left not to mention all the other buildings and roads between there and Hawthorn Grove.
There was also of course the possibility their absence was merely some sort of artefact resulting from me processing the videos in reverse order but when I now tried things from the other direction the video still simply segued from London Road straight into me crashing round the corner into Hawthorn.
But there was also the fact me Mum’d been diagnosed as a petit mal sufferer meaning another perfectly feasible possibility was somewhere along the way I too could’ve blacked out ONLY coming to on reaching Hawthorn.
Yet all these hypotheses were seemingly ruled out by the inexplicably tiny amount of time it’d taken me to cover a distance which even in good weather should’ve taken me a good ten minutes nonstop running.
And even while I’d been heading down Plimsoll to ours almost propelled there by these peculiar waves of invincible optimism continually surging UP through me my chief concern hadn’t been what to do about the Gargoyle Brothers when I finally turned the corner into ours but with try’n’o convince myself it was perfectly feasible the freezing wind and the icy rain could’ve caused my watch to stall only for the period between London Road and Hawthorn and equally credible that unwittingly smacking it against something while hurtling into Hawthorn could’ve caused it to inadvertently wind back ten minutes (though given the conditions it had to’ve taken far longer than that).
But in between continually checking whether my watch’d finally confirmed it was on the blink yet or burying myself ever more deeply under ever higher mountains of childhood cobblestones another set of quite different images kept disrupting all my efforts to convince meself nothing out the normal’d taken place intermittently goading me to deny Pembroke Place wasn’t by any means the first place which'd vanished on me.
For instance back in the early Seventies when I was about thirteen I had a friend called Vinnie whose mum used to have him deliver sums of money to her cousin once a week only on this particular occasion in spite of taking the exact same route we always took and turning off Lodge Lane at the exact same point we always turned off his auntie’s house and street’d apparently vanished off the face of the Earth.
The thing to bear in mind about Boswell Street was it was probably the most easily visually identifiable and frequently visited street in the entire neighbourhood because not only was it where the most easily accessible letterbox was to be found but in those days you’d’ve been lucky to see one or two cars parked in any of the other local streets whereas Boswell wasn’t just lined with end to end cars but any spaces left were filled with caravans and even trailer mounted yachts.
In fact it was suddenly becoming aware they were missing as we made our way down the hill which caused me to observe to Vinnie we seemed to’ve picked the one time to visit Boswell when everyone’d in the street’d simultaneously decided to take all their cars caravans and yachts away for the weekend provoking his equally mystified observation how could that be since it was still actually only the middle of the week?
And even though our doubts’d continued growing all the way there it still shocked us to our core when we finally reached his auntie’s and it WASN’T his auntie’s or rather didn’t APPEAR to be because the theory I now quickly cobbled together was since they were supposedly minted maybe they’d had their front remodelled.
After momentarily frowning at me for bringing up the subject of family wealth Vinnie now snapped well they weren’t so minted they’d’ve been able to afford to remove the entire front of the building and replace it with something which didn’t even look like it’d seen a lick of paint in years but as I pointed out its oddly shadowy colourless appearance might simply be due to the fact we weren’t used to seeing it that way add to which the sun seemingly going down much earlier than normal might also be contributing to the unusual lighting conditions.
It made perfect sense to me at least Vinnie should knock just in case but he now insisted if someone answered the door with a face he couldn’t recognise he’d not only feel dead embarrassed but be completely tongue-tied whereas since according to him I was celebrated for me brazenness and me ability to think on me feet I shouldn’t have any such problems.
The problem with this idea though was since I always waited outside while he went in I didn’t have a clue what any of his auntie’s family actually looked like hence the plan now became I’d knock on the door then the moment someone answered it I’d immediately step to one side to give him a chance to sneak a good look at their faces from behind a nearby privet hedge and if it was someone he knew then he’d simply step out and take over.
But the strange shadowy looking oddly colour drained person who finally came to the door stared at me with such intense suspicion as if I was the weird looking one I instantly knew unless Vinnie’s auntie was married to Herman Munster we didn’t just have the wrong house or the wrong street but maybe even the wrong parallel universe.
But of course I could always’ve been mistaken hence my now taking a surreptitious glance back towards the hedge to try to evaluate the gormless expression I expected to see on Vinnie’s pale bespectacled face only to find somewhat infuriatingly he’d done a runner leaving me to explain to the now not just deeply suspicious but simmeringly aggressive householder how it’d come about me and my no longer present mate’d mistakenly knocked on his door at which point I quickly scarpered myself and started frantically looking up and down the street for Vinnie until he finally sheepishly appeared from behind another hedge with eyebrows raised and petrified look on his face suggesting he too’d started wondering whether we’d inadvertently stumbled onto the set of a Hammer horror film.
And I don’t know whether it was the sun seemingly starting to set way too early or the oddly unnerving overcast sky conditions or maybe even something like electricity discharging from the street lights but there was definitely something increasingly weird and almost oppressive not only about the street itself but also its actual inhabitants and even though the pair of us seemed strangely wary of emitting so much as a squeak we only had to look at each other out the corner of our eyes to know we both felt ourselves not only being spied on from behind every set of closed curtains or from the back of every darkened room but also being finally evaluated judged and condemned hence when this strange looking middle-aged guy appeared from nowhere with this weird looking little dog on a leash only to come to a dead stop and turn to abruptly glare at us as if WE were the Martians we both experienced a collective silent shriek roar at us get out ! Get out NOW! The authorities’re on their way!
And that was it.
The pair of us now just bolted hell for leather up the street feeling such relief when we finally reached the top because not only could we start breathing again but there was no bright red pillar box on the corner which meant we hadn’t been in Boswell Street at all.
No wonder it’d seemed so strange!
But as we now stepped back onto Lodge Lane where everything suddenly became so much brighter almost as if it was still much earlier in the day and surveyed the many very familiar landmarks all around us by way of working out where Boswell Street was we realised Boswell Street HAD to be right where we were standing!
More deeply confused than ever we now began to panic because how the hell were we go’n’o explain any of this to Vinnie’s mum?
Yet wasn’t it possible all the other times we’d been visiting his auntie’s the pair of us’d been yacking so much we’d never actually noticed where Boswell Street REALLY was?
Or wasn’t there that program called Candid Camera which pulled tricks on people like switching the nameplates of streets then filming the ensuing chaos for TV?
Then again everyone knew the local council were a bunch of real jerks who’d use any excuse to spend money and if they hadn’t done something so outrageous as literally dig up the streets and switch them around it wasn’t beyond the bounds of possibility they’d decided to change the streets’ names without telling anyone.
Anyway Vinnie now raced one street ahead and came back looking completely crushed so I raced one street back and returned not too surprised but still utterly mystified how any of this was possible especially with a civilian along.
“Oh god this’s bad so bad so very very bad!” Vinnie wailed almost tempting me to give him a movie style slap across the chops to calm him down until he now gave me a figurative one by blurting out “Me Mam already says you’n’your kid’re bad influence on me’n’our kid and now she’ll never let us go on any more messages with yous ever again and I can’t bare it because yous always manage to make everything seem somehow less black or less borin’!”
Suppressing the urge to take offence I now responded “All we do’s teach yous life can be more fun than she wants yous to believe and t’go in Jack’s shop an’ ask for Bum-Dicks instead of Drumsticks or Gleeblies instead of Climpies…”
“…or Arse Bars instead o’ Mars Bars…See…y’doin’ it again…I’m laughin’ instead o’ cryin’!”
“Look we’re both grammar schoolboys and we’ve both passed our Eleven Pluses so all we need do now’s prove none of this’s down to us arsing and we really did seriously look for Boswell Street or rather we should now be looking for that red letterbox because for all we know maybe the Post Office’s moved it to a new street or maybe they’ve just taken it completely away and even y’mum’d never find y’auntie’s that easily without that!”
So Vinnie now ran one street ahead of us again but instead of running back to tell me the postbox wasn’t there this time he stayed put and made a huge exaggerated dipping motion with his arm to signify thumbs down followed by me doing the same in the opposite direction.
Then he ran ahead to the next street on and made the same dipping gesture with his arm only this time with his blond head despairingly dipping too hence I now made the exact same equally pointless gesture of running to the next street on in the opposite direction only to send precisely the signal we both knew I would.
And we kept doing this until we ran out of streets at which point we switched ends and repeated the whole cycle.
Then just in case the reason we kept missing the red pillarbox was because only one of us at a time was doing the checking we worked our way down those streets as a pair.
But much to me and Vinnie’s surprise his mum calmly took his word for it there’d been no messing about but insisted he must go back to his auntie’s with the money this time accompanied by his dad though instead of me and to Vinnie’s extreme bemusement Boswell Street was exactly where it was supposed to be as was the red pillarbox.
And to the best of my knowledge it’s still there to this day.
Ditto Pembroke Place.
Over at Time Magazine online's Ideas section I've been reading Shamus Khan's Have We Become Too Obsessed with the Rich? and this was my response.
Shamus try this for a thought experiment.
Imagine everyone from the middleclass downwards sets aside provisions for growing their own food and maintaining basic water supplies then simply withdraws from society as it presently stands.
What'll happen if they keep this up for a few months or even a few weeks?
The first thing that'll happen is they won't be paying any taxes so all those state subsidies so much of industry relies on'll stop.
The banks won't be able to turn to government for bailouts so they'll crash.
Quantative Easy ie printing of money'll be pointless because no one'll be using banks or indeed have any use for money to buy what're ultimately unnecessary material goods.
So manufacturers won't be able to manufacture unless they're fully automatic but even if they are and they can somehow provide themselves with a power supply all the retailers will've gone to the wall and there won't be any consumers anyway.
All the burger bars and coffee joints'll close down because no one's buying their products and anyway no one's available to run them.
All the investment banker types'll have nothing to gamble on and anyway manoeuvres like hypothetication dealing in bonds etc'll be impossible because money'll be worthless.
The rich won't be able to act like they own the world anymore because all their theoretical wealth will be revealed to be worthless paper or electronic signals that stop blinking on computers screens the moment the computers running the system run out of juice.
And where before they could spend their day flying round the world buying fleets of solid gold Rolls Royces encrusted with diamonds now they'll be lucky to be able to get hold of puncture repair kits for repairing bicycle tyres or indeed anyone to do that repairing for them.
If they've got gold or silver or gems to bargain with they'll still need to convince people to take them off their hands in exchange for water and food which no one can afford to spare especially for goods no longer viewed as precious.
When they turn to the police for protection of their property there won't be any but even if a dutiful few still remain they'll simply say not only won't we protect you or your property but we're claiming your mansions and estates as bases for us to to attempt to create and maintain law and order.
In other words we've been hypnotized into believing we depend on the rich when in fact it's the rich who not only depend on everyone else but who extract enormously more benefit from society as it presently stands while actually contributing the least.
Nor's Communism the answer because that just creates new elites who live off the hard work and suffering of whoever gets designated as the new lower orders [at the onset of Communism in China for instance it was the former super rich as so vividly depicted in the movie The Last Emperor].
The answer is just as the likes of Global Warming scream at us we're all utterly dependent on and at the mercy of the totality of things including climate we all need to come to an understanding of just how much we depend on the totality of society for who we are and what we've got.
Including if not especially the rich.
Remember social security wasn't invented by some pinko leftwing liberal.
It was invented by Bismarck the Iron Chancellor who foresaw 19th Century Germany would come apart at the seams if some sort of accountability to the poor wasn't forced on the likes of the callously autocratic Junkers.
The thing was it’d been perfectly obvious from the start the best way to’ve dealt with whatever the hell was going on would’ve been to just do what I always did confronted by the apparently insoluble namely have a rock because that way things always seemed to reveal their secrets of their own accord yet shortly after I got in and started acquiring a taste for being Dark Alan something’d seemed to warn me taking that route’d ultimately cost me all my favourite little things like rocking and tea yet the ecstasy inducing prospect of permanent release from the burden of being human and the exhilarating possibility nothing’d any longer be beyond me’d proved so overwhelmingly attractive I simply couldn’t resist hence even now all but right back to being crappy ol’ normal Everyday Al the possibility rocking might kill off a last minute rally by Dark Al seemed good enough reason to go along with the idea now coming to me maybe it was time to give up rocking altogether.
Yet even as I sat there basking in the hypothetical glow a lifelong era rocking chairs to bits’d finally come to an end I now abruptly warped into this sort of “Hulk mad! Hulk smash!” routine normally associated with Adrian losing on the horses hence my balled up fists now came down to all but shatter the arms of my chair simultaneously launching me in the air with the conscious intention of using my full body weight to deliberately shatter my own feet only to land at the last moment in a sort of crouched superhero shaking with indignation type pose my furiously quivering fists curled menacingly in towards my maniacally gurning face as I now emitted an infuriated semi-strangled lung-busting roar followed by a sort of frustrated crushed whimper causing me Mum to briefly glance up with an arched eyebrow and glazed eyes before returning to her impression of a mercury bird scanning Agatha Christie and Julie to inquire “…everything…alright…?” to which I could only respond in a sort of clenched jaw grunt “’an’t talk…going doom…keep ’pointment…‘ternity…” as I flounced out the room for the parlour.
“…’goes doom’ never looks that good on the ol’ CV” Julie cheerily called after me “’keeps appointments’ looks BETTER! …not so keen on ‘with Eternity’ though…”
And I might’ve found quite funny if I hadn’t been so determined to be in such a bad mood with whatever the hell was making me rock hence I now sought to impress it with just how severely pissed off with it I was by picking up and slamming down the phone as it started ringing only to suffer a momentary pang of guilt at effectively blaming Sarah or indeed the phone for my woes even as another upsurge of rage now had me rather snazzily pivoting on my heel to boot the poor parlour door through which in my head was go'n'o look kind o’ cool in a theatrical Starsky and Hutch bun fight pantomime kind o’ way except it turned out the parlour door wasn’t just the most solid thing in the house but the one door without a dodgy catch hence the pain now shooting through my foot also signalled the spine of the shoe on it'd snapped the net result being almost before I knew what I was doing I was infuriatedly doing my best impression of Quasimodo lurching across the carpet dragging a foot along behind me by way of keeping the shoe on not quite sure whether it was out of laziness or bloodymindedness before ramming my poor huge chunky padded earphones on my head with such force I all but lost an ear then deliberately leaping up in the air TV wrestler style to ensure my favourite armchair’d receive the full weight of my arse as I crashed down with a flop of such vehemence I actually felt something inside the poor bastarding thing go only to mask my momentary spasm of conscience with a contemptuous supervillainous fake laugh then crank up the radio so loud my teeth were set juddering in their gums as I now whisper roared through teeth so clenched they were practically horizontal “Go on then SHOW ME!
Only nothing happened.
Oh I could hear the radio alright but the binary pulse thing which did all the actual rocking seemed to’ve deserted me as’d all the formerly incessant pulsating-cum-scintillating videos nor did mechanically rocking backwards and forwards have any effect other than to severely distress the fabric of the chair and make my back and neck ache.
Meanwhile I was becoming more and more aware something akin to a vertical cast-iron battering ram was periodically try’n’o pound its way up through the centre of me the apparent source of all the insanely spastic surges of momentarily unbridled rage I kept having leaving me half convinced I was on the verge of both a heart attack and an aneurism until something seemed to tell me all that was needed was for me to calm down and go about things the way I normally would.
Of course I thought I’m still wearing my Clark Kent operating in the outside world uniform whereas what I really need’s my Superman operating in the inside world uniform hence I now headed straight for the little room at the back of the house where all our junk invariably ended propping myself up against the doorway to delicately but painfully tease my longsuffering shoes off giving them a kiss of gratitude for the mistreatment they’d received as well as an apology for almost certainly never wearing them again then lobbing them straight out o’ sight behind the old mattress at the back.
Meanwhile gazing down at severely mangled looking feet with blisters the size of new potatoes peeping out sports socks glued rigid with blood and serum I now noticed me Dad over the sink peeling onions struggling not to sniff while craning his neck to squint through glasses frames with only one butter smudged lens intact at various tabloid horse racing guides strewn haphazardly across the countertop opposite in between snatching his favourite obviously very hot cracked discoloured cup out the bubbling saucepan it was noisily rattling away in and very pronouncedly slurping mouthfuls of very strong almost condensed milky coffee from it.
“Dad in between your jaunts to the bookies can you do us a favour and start bringing us cups of tea while I’m having a rock in the parlour? I’ve got this big indescribable thing playing on me mind and the more I can just concentrate on going over it instead of nipping in and out for tea the more likely I’ll be able to get some sort of handle on it…just one thing though…” and he now cleared his throat as he always did when about to speak and in a very deep and rich plummy public schoolboy type accent betraying no hint of his Bristolian origins said “Yes I’ll remember to wash the onion off my hands.”
“Good ta you’re the best. Oh and there’s no particular need to rush the mo’ ‘cause it’s go’n’o take me ages just gettin’ up and down the stairs with me feet like this…” and I started very gingerly making my way upstairs before perching on the edge of the bath and soaking my feet for several extremely excruciatingly painful minutes periodically tugging at various parts of the socks to test whether they were sufficiently unglued to be finally removed.
By the time I’d finally changed back into the threadbare beach shorts I’d been rocking in so long they no longer had a crotch and my similarly tissue thin soled dilapidated ‘white’ trainers I realised I was finally starting to feel like myself again because not only did Dark Alan no longer hold any attraction for me anymore but I was even contemplating using apologising for slamming the phone down as an excuse to phone Sarah though something seemed to insist I mustn’t any longer delay getting to grips with whatever the hell’d been happening today but because I could also now feel all my old normal enthusiasm to have a rock returning to me again I could only agree finally confirming I was now back to something like my old self.
So I started dialling up and down the stations searching for stuff with driving beats or stirring tunes though not to listen to but to intensify my ability to get to wherever it was I went whenever I was rocking but I’d forgotten back then Saturday afternoons were an absolute desert for any kind of music never mind the rock indie or dance kind of stuff useful for my purposes and on the rare occasions I did actually tune in anything half decent not only’d it be just finishing but the DJ’d be talking over it with local phone-in football fans and while in comparison with the commercial stations Radio 1 was a veritable oasis back then there was still far too much discussion about record making at that time of day and not enough actual record playing meaning just as I’d be homing in on some key insight my concentration’d keep getting interrupted by having to find replacements for the likes of Kate Bush’s The Sensual World to stir up and enflame my emotions into the equivalent of rocket fuel or Little Louis’ French Kiss to hypnotically invoke sections of video to arise and imprint themselves on the air before me or the Felly version of Technotronic’s Pump Up the Jam to overdrive my consumption of larger and larger volumes of data which’s probably why I ended up simply turning the radio off and just rocking.
And the first thing that concerned me was why I’d used the front door instead of the backyard because the feeling lingered I hadn’t been acting entirely under my own volition which really bugged me.
Of course my surprise at the complete absence of the hordes of highly aggressive youths who normally spent their entire existence spread all over our front area like wan'obe gargoyles may’ve played a part in my change of mind but then there were the facts I didn’t have a key the weather was appalling and my mob hated answering doors.
Yet as I sat there rocking and watching Julie answer the door over and over again I was struck by how hurriedly I kept rushing in almost as if something was alarming me.
And when something now tried to fob me off with the idea I’d probably just noticed some of the Gargoyle Brothers coming down the street I sensed maybe now I was really starting to get to the crux of the matter so began rocking that bit more intensely playing over nd over the period between first arriving at the door and Julie finally opening it and there it was that flash not so much of light…but of what? Vividness? Intensity?
And what was that presence I kept sensing standing over me somewhere just to the right of and slightly behind my shoulder? Maybe if I’d’ve turned to look back I might even’ve caught a glimpse of it but each time whatever it was kept seeming to start telling me something’d just been done to me my initial feelings of elation kept quickly turning to feelings of alarm and dread then relief whenever Julie arrived.
Yet why? And for that matter why’d I been so keen to quickly block the whole thing out my mind?
What seemed to make the whole thing all the more mystifying was the reason Julie’d had to let me in in the first place.
As a teenager in the Seventies I’d developed a deep aversion to keys after being inspired by the metal bending antics of Uri Geller to start rubbing a Yale brass door key between my palms only to find I couldn’t any longer pull them apart at which point the bastarding thing seemed to explode melt then come alive in my hands wriggling just like a much larger much heavier molten hot metallically dense eel as my entire body was set resonating like an insane dinner gong when the bastarding thing now emitted what I can only describe as this hideous blood-curdling silent metallic scream before finally swooning to a dead faint and snapping back like elastic to its original unalive dimensions allowing my hands to finally burst apart and the now visibly v-shaped key to plop to the floor leaving me with the deeply unpleasant sense I’d just been guilty of raping a key.
So here was I a guy who once raped a key and a key remember which came alive in my hands yet because I got flashed on the doorstep and told I’d been irrevocably changed somehow I was now suddenly shitting me pants?
And then there was that other thing bugging the hell out me because it also smacked of me not operating under me own aegis the fact I hadn’t come down Gladstone Road or as I could even clearly remember deciding to Wavertree Road but’d somehow ended up heading down Plimsoll Street instead and this in spite of the known danger of landing right in the lap of all the wan’obe gargoyles parked all over our front area just waiting for an opportunity to impress their peers taking turns squaring up to me.
I mean how could I’ve been so stupid or so bewildered to make a mistake like that and not even notice meself doing it?
And come to think of it how the hell did I cover all that ground between the top of London Road and Plimsoll Street in such an impossibly short time?