Thursday, 30 December 2010

Awakening - Part Two - Seven Billion Soulmates

Carrying on from my previous blog…

Around the middle of April, this year, some two months after my awakening in February, I could sense that the exquisite peace I had been experiencing was beginning to deteriorate. Something was going wrong.

Now, talking about a period of a couple of months as defining a sea change of life may seem premature or overly hopeful, but it was my 36th birthday on April 8th, and in all my years, those two months were, without doubt, the happiest I’d ever known.

It was my longest episode of sustained happiness – even though I was working for minimum wage, washing dishes… something I traditionally detested, but tended to gravitate towards because I felt I had limited options in other realms of employment.

Over those two months, every day had been filled with wonder and euphoria, heightened by a sense of certainty that – at last – I’d turned the corner and my life was going to be something that actually seemed worth living for.

Because of all this, when the cracks in my peace started to appear, they were all the more threatening…

I guess I lured myself into a false sense of security on a number of issues – one of the (almost literally) most fatal being that I thought I could drink again, when throughout my life, alcohol had always been my fuel for fuckuppery.

The village I lived and worked in was six miles over a mountain pass from a main road, then another 24 miles to general civilisation, so there wasn’t much else to do of an evening except go to the pub. I didn’t even feel I was succumbing to temptation when I drank, because my life seemed so utterly different.

I didn’t drink heavily and because I rarely drank in the years before, I’d be stumbling merrily home after three or four pints and fall into bed.

But – not that I recognised it, or a lot of other things, at the time – it was veiling the light that had come so suddenly in February. Instead of a clear mind, I felt myself being drawn back to critical thinking and over-thinking. Where things had been reset and I’d been given freedom, I began to create the same old patterns of thinking that I believed so dearly that I’d left behind, and the more I sank into these thoughts, the louder and less escapable the turmoil in my head became.

I was oversteering… trying so hard to make things right again, but in doing so, I was also becoming arrogant and selfish – focussing only on myself and what I needed to repair the constant damage I was doing to myself.

It felt like sliding down the edge of a pit, scrambling and trying to grab hold of anything to keep me from falling in. I quit my job because I thought it was that that was making me unhappy, but the mental kicking I gave myself for that decision – for taking myself away from that place of perfect peace up on the mountain – became devastating.

Unseasonably snowballing through the Summer, drinking heavily, making mistake after mistake and losing the friendship of one of the greatest and most beautiful people in my life, I was standing in the ruins of the memories of the shiny life that was, and it was unbearable.

I’d experienced Heaven on Earth, and there I was in the complete opposite. When I woke, I didn’t think I’d make it through to the next sleep. I didn’t want to. I wanted silence, but not in the way I’d experienced it at Scout Rock.

Yet, in the depth of this enveloping emotional darkness, there were flashes… like something or someone wasn’t going to give up on me, and what had happened earlier in the year was trying to break through the shadow again.

It was like a personal Armageddon… like in Superman III when he battles his evil alter-ego. I realised the fight that was happening inside me, and that I had to make a conscious choice to back one of those sides in that internal struggle.

I could either give energy to the maudlin darkness that wanted depression and, inevitably, oblivion, or to the light that wanted peace and happiness.

I also remembered some words from my friend – the British TV celeb – back in April, who had advised me after a particularly arrogant Twitter tirade that I should read back my words because they were ‘all ego’.

Before then, she had told me about a book called The Power of Now, by a guy called Eckhart Tolle. She said that I’d had a similar experience to him, but – at the time – I barely took any notice, except from a brief check on Wikipedia.

At the end of August, I downloaded The Power of Now on audio book…

Here’s a brief excerpt from Eckhart’s Wikipedia entry:

In 1977, at the age of 29, after having suffered from long periods of suicidal depression, Tolle says he experienced an "inner transformation". He woke up in the middle of the night, suffering from feelings of depression that were "almost unbearable". Tolle says of the experience:

“I couldn’t live with myself any longer. And in this a question arose without an answer: who is the ‘I’ that cannot live with the self? What is the self? I felt drawn into a void. I didn’t know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed. It dissolved. The next morning I woke up and everything was so peaceful.”
The awakenings we both went through were almost identical, but back in April I really didn’t give much thought to the rumination of ‘I and myself’, so I didn’t understand the value of this excerpt. I was too clouded by arrogance.

The Power of Now gave me the revelation I needed to recognise where I went wrong earlier in the year…

However hocus-pocus it may sound… in everyone, including you, there are two ‘beings’ vying for control.

There is the pure, human spirit of you, who wants nothing but peace and happiness and love – real love. This is where the best of humanity comes from. All the truly great things in this world are the product of this pure essence of us.

… then there is the mind, or the Ego.

Your Ego is a very powerful, but very false sense of consciousness. It tries to make you believe that you are it, when it is actually nothing more than a state of malfunctioned thought which enslaves you to it.

Paradoxically, while the Ego doesn’t actually exist, it dominates almost the entirety of human society and civilisation, causing untold pain and suffering to billions of people across the planet.

It will control your life, this… phantom… and in all likelihood, you won’t even know, because you just accept it, and society accepts it as the normal state of being.

The Ego pulls your consciousness to the past and future, but there is no true life in either illusion.

The only place that life exists is right now.

There was a phrase I used to say to myself, usually with a smile on my face, when I was up at Scout Rock. I would look at the world and declare: “My reality!”

It was a statement that affirmed my presence in the present moment; where I recognised the now – and I always said it when I felt that perfect peace that I hadn’t known existed until it was ‘gifted’ to me.

Before I knew anything of The Power of Now, I was living it.

Eckhart Tolle said: "Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life."

Christ said: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself."

The Buddha said: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

Les Floyd said: “My reality!”

Weird, eh?

How could it be possible that I would spontaneously come to the same conclusions that these great people did… unless I share the same greatness?

I do believe I share that same greatness, and I believe there are close to seven billion people on this planet who share it… though many remain unaware, for the moment.

All across the world, people are waking up. It seems that every other person I meet, now, has some element of spiritual belief, and if you are doubtful of my words– ask around your close friends and family and you will very likely find someone close to you who is aware of this change that has gone beyond just beginning.

You may be experiencing it yourself, but the recognition isn’t there, yet.

Have you ever said that someone was your soulmate?

If you put that concept into the realm of science and fact, and subject it to the test of physical senses, it is absurd.

Yet, in their arms, there’s an elusive knowing that goes deeper than thought.

And this ‘greatness’ isn’t religion… it’s the timeless foundational energy which religion rose from, as a way of trying to explain.

One of my best friends is an atheist, but he lives and treats people like a Zen master would. He’s probably the most in-tune spiritualist that I know, yet he doesn’t believe in it.

I’m not religious. This is about being human and the awareness of real life, and there are too few people in the world who truly know that experience.


I could blather for an age, but from now, in this blog, I’m going to move away from theory and start documenting the practice of living in the moment, and the benefits that come from it.

I feel I’m going to be able to teach people, but I’ve learnt the lesson that I can’t break through brick walls – and nor should I be able to.

If you have any questions, then email me at:

If you want to laugh at or insult me, or suggest good psychiatric care, the address is:


Happy New Year to you all! 2011 is going to be pretty special! ;-)

Monday, 29 November 2010


I began writing this blog with the intention of explaining, as best I could, the process of awakening which began for me in February of this year…

… yes… a spiritual awakening…

The thing I’ve realised is… attempting to explain this in spiritual terms is going to either scare away or glaze the eyes and minds of the very people who would benefit most from understanding what has happened to me.

I fear that when I mention the ‘mystical’ element, people probably hear the following in their brains:


It’s intense stuff, and I understand that there will be disbelief. That’s cool. If I’d had access to a time machine ten years ago and jumped to the present to have a chat with my future self (I think I got that right?), I would have been doubtful, too.

Whether you believe me or not, the truth is that my life has changed dramatically since the morning of February 15th and that hour of ‘revelation’ – and I don’t use that word with any Biblical connotations. I’m still not religious. I’m still a heathen.

It took an hour for me to transcend from being a lost, lonely, frightened, miserable and depressed wreck, to being perfectly happy. Not deliriously and delusionally happy, but suddenly acutely aware of the true meaning of happiness, and also the source of it… the peace that exists within all of us, and that is available to all of us.

I began to decode life; dismantle my old barriers and realise that most of the junk in my head that had dragged me down for years… decades… was the product of such trivial and complete nonsense, that it was almost laughable that it had prevented me from truly living.

The first great realisation, as I mentioned in my first blog, was the fact – absolute fact – that emotional pain is an internal process and it is impossible for someone else to actually hurt you in this way. You actually have to take these hurtful words or actions of others and turn them into pain, inside your mind, which is insane… absolutely insane.

You ferment this negative energy inside your thoughts, replaying scenarios over and over again – very likely coming up with alternative ways you think you should have reacted, just to punish yourself that little bit more – and it poisons you.

None of it exists outside your mind.

You can be beating yourself up, crying every night, trying to analyse and make sense of sadness or loss or hate or rage, because you feel that someone has done you wrong, but what good is that doing? The person you believe has caused you pain will probably remain entirely unaware – and perhaps not care at all – of what you’re going through, but you continue… to hurt… yourself…

This understanding lead directly to the next great revelation…

Forgiveness is liberation from emotional pain.

Some people say that they will never forgive, but then they subject themselves to the mental violence (against themselves) described above. And if they truly never forgive, they will never be free of that internal processing of negative energy. However deep and dark the hole in their mind they bury that lack of forgiveness in, it will stay there, rotting and festering and it will never go away as long as they breathe.

What it seems so few people realise is that forgiveness – true forgiveness, and not just the offering of idle words – is a gift, primarily, to themselves.

Letting go of all those negative thoughts allows you to clear your mind and sweep out the debris in your heart. It gives you the chance to live your life without the burden of constant, dark reflection.

It is freedom for you, first and foremost. You don’t even have to let the other person know that you’ve forgiven them.

Which leads to another important point…

Forgive yourself.

We have all held on to the self-inflicted pain caused by stupid mistakes and even deliberately malicious actions that we’ve made over the years. They creep into your thoughts in the quiet hours and you wish you could have done things differently.

You can’t change the past… the past doesn’t exist. All it is is memories, and, again, these are fleeting, phantom things inside our minds.

This is a pledge I made to myself, not long after February 15th:

“I forgive myself and everyone else for everything that I ever felt has caused hurt.”

I did just that, and I meant it.

You can argue that perhaps I’ve done things that other people won’t forgive, but I am not those people and I can’t be the bearer of their pain.

The inability – or unwillingness – to forgive, is a curse on our species, but it’s generally accepted as the norm. It is at the root of so much ill-feeling and chaos, from broken relationships and family disputes, to genocide and global conflict.

You could look at all I’ve written so far and say it’s not mystical at all, but firmly in the realm of psychology.

Yet the source of all this understanding came on the morning of February 15th, in that hour of revelation… just out of the blue, it seemed. I consider myself an intelligent guy, but not so smart that I could just pluck all this stuff out of the air.

I’ve read books, since, from authors who have spent decades of their lives studying and exploring spirituality, and – despite me never researching the subject before – I already knew so much of what they were telling me.

In the Spring, I would regularly go walking up a mountain, near where I worked in the Western Highlands of Scotland, to a place called Scout Rock, and I would sit and watch the world, with nothing but peace inside me. I would barely think. I just looked. All of the old mental debris that caused so much worry and heartache throughout my life was gone.

I wondered if maybe I’d just caught up with the rest of the world, at last, and whether how I was feeling was how ‘normal’ people felt… but I knew that wasn’t true. I only had to watch the news to realise that.

I remember joking at the time that I had ‘the peace of Buddha’ inside me… 

Around the end of April, however, things started to ‘unravel’ and I began to slide down to some of the darkest days in my life…

… I’ll explain all that in my next blog.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Barnsley Bear - Episode One (Fiction)

Barnsley Bear

Episode One – The Phantom Menace
Illustration by Gladys Hobson
Barnsley Bear shuffled in from the kitchen with a tray, carrying a pot of steaming tea, his favourite china cup and a plate of freshly-baked honey biscuits, which he laid on the small table beside his chair. Then, with a groan of satisfaction, he sat down, ready to watch his favourite programme.

As he reached for the remote-control and the television flickered to life, he thought to himself that his was the most comfortable chair ever made, and he shuffled his bottom until he was perfectly settled.

Anne Robearson greeted him from the television with a stern glare which made Barnsley nearly spill the tea as he poured it.

"Steady on, Anne!" said Barnsley, chuckling, as he dunked a honey biscuit. "I don't think the old ticker can take shocks like that."

He liked 'The Bleakest Wink' but that ginger bear frightened him. Once, he had such a terrible nightmare that he woke up in a cold sweat, and couldn't get back to sleep until he checked under the bed to make sure she wasn't there.

"You are obviously an idiot," sneered Anne at one of the contestants, raising another chuckle from Barnsley, who sipped at the piping-hot tea. "As a binbear, you don't know that the atomic weight of Nitrogen is 14.0067 and NOT 15.9994... which is obviously Oxygen? "

The contestant began to cry.

At that moment, there was a tap-tap-tapping at the window... very much like the sound a dyslexic woodpecker would make.

"What on earth?" Barnsley asked himself.

He put down the cup of tea, and lifted wearily from his chair to investigate the noise.

With more puzzlement than shock, he watched the half-brick smash through his living-room window on a trajectory that led it to bounce from the top of his head and knock him solidly backwards into the arms of his comfy chair.

"Goodbye!" said Anne Robearson, winking from the television screen before Barnsley slipped into unconsciousness.

* * * * *

When Barnsley awoke, the Ambulancebear was covering a nasty wound on his forehead with vinegar and brown paper.

"Ouch!" said Barnsley, as his vision began to return.

"Sorry about that," said the Ambulancebear, securing the stinging paper bandage with butchers' string. "Management cutbacks I'm afraid."

The whirling image of Detective Sergeant Panda floated into view. "Listen Barnsley, I'm not mucking about with your problems any more. This is the nineteenth time bricks have been blown through your windows this month, so I suggest you contact the council. If I have to come over here again, I'm arresting you for murder - and you just see if I can't make it stick."

"But I didn't call you!"

Something solid swiped across the back of Barnsley's head and he looked around to see PC Polar turn away and replace his baton. He was eating the last of the honey biscuits.

"Needless to say, Barnsley, if you so much as think of calling us again..." continued DS Panda, "it will be the last phone-call you make as a free bear."

"But I don't even have a telephone... Oof!"

Barnsley rubbed the tender spot on the back of his head as PC Polar began to whistle innocently.

"Very well," said Barnsley, with a sigh of resignation.

"Good, good," said DS Panda, flashing a crooked smile. "Now," he carried on, turning to the Ambulancebear, "I suggest you have this bear checked out in hospital. We wouldn't want him dying on us now, would we?"

PC Polar sniggered.

"Well, I normally would," said the Ambulancebear, putting the ball of string back into his Tesco carrier-bag. "It's these cutbacks, though... the Hospital Manager had to sell the ambulance so he could get a nicer car. You know how it is; you can't get funding if you don't make the right impression, so he needs it for conferences and whatnot. I'm on my bike. Can’t you take him in your car?"

DS Panda muttered something sharply at the Ambulancebear.

"Right away," said Barnsley, wobbling to his feet. "Sugar and milk?"

The three uniformed bears looked at him with bewilderment.

"Four coffees? I think I've got a jar of Goldielocks Blend somewhere."

The Ambulancebear patted Barnsley on the shoulder. "You get some sleep. It seems you're having a little trouble hearing, so if you get any discharge from your ears later on, just plug it with cotton-wool and get yourself to the hospital in the morning?"

"Put the lights and siren on, Polar," whispered DS Panda to his assistant as they left with the Ambulancebear. "I'm late for my dinner because of that hairy wanker."

Barnsley sighed. He hated to cause trouble.

With a visit to the cupboard, he placed a wooden board over the smashed pane and nailed it into place. The wintry breeze still crept in.

After sweeping up the broken glass and washing his dishes, he turned off the television and the lights, and clambered up the stairs to his warm bed, which was cold.

* * * * *

With bleary eyes, and a wide yawn, Barnsley surveyed the damage in the light of day. There was nothing that couldn't be fixed with a little work, and he liked his little odd-jobs; they kept him busy. His only concern was a patch of dried blood in the carpet. It was too late to simply mop it out. He would need to make a visit to the village shop for some cleaner.

With that, he put on his coat and scarf - making sure he remembered his keys - and walked out of the front door, pulling it tight behind him.

It was a bitterly cold morning, but looked jolly seasonal with the layer of frost that covered the trees and buildings. The sound of swearing birds filled the air as Barnsley, with a spring in his step, paced down the street. It was all the circle of life, he thought, as he whistled to himself. Without the beauty of winter, he wouldn't have the joy of summer.

Pushing through the shop doorway, with a tinkle of the bell above his head, Barnsley loosened his scarf and approached the counter.

A beautiful young lady-bear stood behind the till.

She'd made quite an impression on Barnsley since she came to work in the village as part of her care-in-the-community rehabilitation programme.

"Hello there, Miss Bear," greeted Barnsley with a blush behind his fur.

"Good Morning," replied Miss Bear, before shouting "Woof!" at the till.

"I'm afraid I had a little trouble last night."

"What's with the... the... the... BUMPS on your head?" interrupted Miss Bear. "It makes you look like a ferr... a ferr... a FERRUCKING triceratops!"

"Oh Miss Bear, you do make me laugh with your observations."

Miss Bear looked past Barnsley with unblinking eyes. A slug of drool dribbled from the corner of her mouth and dangled from the fur on her chin.

"Well, I had a mishap last night and took a few bumps on the head," said Barnsley. "I have a bloodstain on the carpet, and I wondered if you stocked any stain-remover?"

Miss Bear blinked fast, returning to the land of the living.

"Yes? Can I f-f-f.... help you?" asked Miss Bear, before barking again.

"Erm. Perhaps I should have a look myself?" suggested Barnsley with a warm smile.

"Perhaps you should WHAT?" yelled Miss Bear at the counter.

Barnsley edged away from the till, and walked to the back of the shop. Miss Bear was definitely the loveliest bear he'd ever set eyes on, but he sometimes wondered if the assurances from the police and medical-assessor were true. But, he smiled, if her ex-boyfriend hadn't fallen on the scissors, that jury would have convicted her. That's the way the law worked.

Searching the shelves, Barnsley found a bottle of 'New Improved Remove-o-Blood'. The advertisement on the television said that it was even better at removing bloodstains from fabric than 'Remove-o-Blood', and that would be perfect.

He walked back to the counter, and Miss Bear slammed the till.

"Just this," said Barnsley, smiling and placing the bottle on the desk. "What do I owe you?"

"Thirty pounds!" screamed Miss Bear. “I don’t do it for less than thirty!”

Barnsley frowned. "But it says eighty-five pence on the bottle."

Miss Bear smiled, and keyed the eighty-five pence into the till. "Lovely weather?"

Back on familiar conversational ground, Barnsley took a twenty pound note from his wallet and handed it to Miss Bear. "I think we may have snow for Christmas this year." He looked through the window to the early-morning frost of Christmas Eve, and smiled at the hope of it being layered with white for the following day.

With a slap of her hand against the counter, Miss Bear stared at Barnsley.

Fifteen pence lay there.

Barnsley blinked hard. "But I gave you a twenty pound note?" 

"Prove it," hissed Miss Bear, stuffing a crinkly piece of paper down the front of her trousers.

"Erm... I only had a twenty pound note..." said Barnsley, opening up the leather wallet and looking down to ensure he hadn't made a mistake.

As he checked, he heard the shop door slam behind him. Looking out through the window, and onto the street, he saw Miss Bear waving her arms in front of a large truck that had slid to a halt on the icy road before her.

Barnsley wondered what on Earth had happened. He rushed, as much as his tired legs would allow him, to the shop door, and pulled it open.

"He wanted me to kiss his dirty gerbil!" wailed Miss Bear to the truck driver, who was already climbing down from the cab. She pointed over to Barnsley.

The truck driver - a very large brown-bear - looked across to Barnsley with disgust. He rolled up his sleeves and stomped in the direction of the shop.

Barnsley quickly went back inside. He didn't like the look of things.

The truck driver pushed through the door and broke the bell, sending it spinning into a shelf of cornflakes. He sneered at a cowering Barnsley.

"She's playing a trick. I didn't do anything, honestly," whimpered Barnsley, stepping further and further into the back of the shop. "There's some sort of mistake."

The muscular truck driver cornered Barnsley and bared his teeth. "I'll show you what happens to mistakes."

Suddenly, a loud grumble startled both bears, and they turned around to see the headlights of the truck smash through the window of the shop...

* * * * *

The roaring fire lit the room with a soft orange glow. Barnsley lifted his son onto his knee, giving him a warm cuddle.

"And that was how I met your Mum." He smiled as he kissed the top of his boy's head.

Barnaby Bear looked up to his Father.

"After the coma, I was so surprised..." continued Barnsley.

"Why Daddy?"

Barnsley chuckled. "After the shop was destroyed she wasn't allowed to work there any longer. Can you imagine my surprise when the first face that greeted me, when I work up in hospital, was that of that same lovely bear from my own local shop?"

Barnaby was cross-eyed with perplexion.

"A clever man in the government thought it would be a good idea for those people under community supervision to help out in the hospitals, and he made your dear mother a nursing assistant,." explained Barnsley. "It's still a mystery who threw those bricks, though."

"Dad?" asked Barnaby.

"Yes, my boy?" Barnsley said, giving his son with a warm cuddle and a soft smile.

"You really are a ferrucking idiot, aren't you?"

The End

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Curious Incident of the Cat in the Daytime

My little friend, Titan, is the friendliest cat I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. You only have to look at him and he starts purring. In normal circumstances, a simple hello will have him running across the garden to meet me, and he’ll flop down for a roll on the ground and a tummy tickle. He is a happy boy!

However, sometimes he is a naughty kitty and gets me into trouble…

His Uncle Itchy sadly died in a road accident nine days before Titan was born, so Titan and his siblings were brought up as ‘house cats’, though that included regular time spent, supervised, in the garden.

Sometimes, though, when backs were turned and he was away from the gaze of watchful eyes, Titan – obviously having a heart for adventure – would quickly slip out ‘beyond the gate’.

Being very anxious about his safety, after Itchy’s death, this would freak me out a bit.

On one such occasion…

… a bit of background first, though…

I used to write a blog for my local newspaper’s website, about five years ago, about my experiences ‘in recovery’ from depression and associated anxiety problems, and I’d also been interviewed for a feature in the paper itself, to coincide with National Depression Week, in the UK.

It was a very frank interview. I talked about alcohol abuse, agoraphobia, trouble with the police and there was even a prison sentence in there… I had nothing to hide, and I thought, by being honest, perhaps my own experiences could prompt others to find help for themselves, if they needed it.

Not long after the interview was published, a young couple - who lived just down the road from me, but who I never spoke to – stopped me in the street, and the guy (who I only vaguely knew from school, many years earlier) told me he thought it was very brave of me to open up like that. He said he’d had no idea what I’d been through, but they both wished me the best for the future.

I was deeply touched. Perhaps a little bashful, but incredibly grateful that they’d taken the time to say that to me.

… back to the future…

On one such occasion of Titan escaping the confines of the garden, I went out to search for him and spied him sitting under a van, parked across the road at the back of my house.

It’s a cul-de-sac, so there was no ‘clear and present danger’, but my anxiety wasn’t going to leave me until he was back in the house, and safe.

However - unlike when he was in the garden and I only had to call his name for him to come sprinting over for a stroke - no amount of verbal coaxing was going to break his resolve to sit under that van, at his liberty and leisure.

After stooping down and trying to get a hold of him, from various sides of the vehicle, I decided to head back into the garden and grab a branch which had recently been cut from the tree there. I returned and attempted to scoop Titan out, but he just kept moving and watching me like I was an idiot. If cats could laugh, he’d have been howling at my efforts.

I went to get another branch, thinking that I could make a scissor action and force him out towards me…

Then, I heard something that made my heart jump…

… a car… and it was turning into the cul-de-sac…

I had visions of the car approaching, startling Titan and making him race across the road to the garden…

The car turned the corner and came towards us. I had to do something to stop it.

It was that young couple… the ones who had recently read an article about me being ‘a reformed mentalist’ and had wished me luck. They had their children in the back seat, and as the car stopped, they all stared at me…

… standing in the middle of the road… a branch in each hand… not a cat in sight… to all intents and purposes, being a tree…

I will never forget the look in their eyes.

They haven’t talked to me since.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Mordor, She Wrote (Fiction)

Mordor, She Wrote – Part One

When the news reached Jessica Baggins that her second-cousin, Bilbo, had been charged with breaking and entry at the Hobbiton branch of Anne Summers, she packed a knapsack with a few bottles of juniper juice and caught the last dragon flight to the Shire. She didn't know, or even care if Bilbo was guilty or innocent, but it sounded like a great plot for a shit book.

* * * * *

Frodo was sitting against the trunk of a tree at the edge of a mossy glade, reading the tattered copy of 'Elven Wives' his uncle Bilbo had given him one drunken night, when he heard the wheels of the cart clattering along the cobblestone lane. As he stood, and with deftness not usually associated with the race of Hobbits, he pulled up his trousers and lodged the magazine back in its hiding hole in the tree. The brief exclamation of the resident tawny owl did nothing to distract young Frodo, and, clasping his belt, he ran off in the direction of the noise.

The cart trundled to a halt as Frodo stood on the grassy bank, overlooking the cobbled road.

"You're late!" mocked Frodo, his arms crossed.

The woman in the cart swigged back the last of the juniper juice and swayed a glance to the erect Hobbit.

Frodo lowered his hands, misconstruing the previous paragraph, which was simply trying to explain that he was standing proudly or standing straight… nothing to do with his genitals at all.

"Authors are never late, Frodo Baggins," began Jessica, bloodshot eyes peeking from beneath a flowery bonnet. "And neither are they... hmm… spiders."

"What?" said Frodo, checking his script. "What are you on about?"

"Well, it's a fact, isn't it?” drooled Jessica, smugly, as she opened another bottle of juniper juice. "How many books have been written by spiders? Answer me that!"

Frodo frowned. "But that's like saying that rats can't be car mechanics. It's nonsense."

Jessica stared wide-eyed at Frodo in a disturbingly long pause. "Where am I?" she asked at last, lapsing into a moment of sobriety.

Frodo's lips tightened. “Act one, page one. At the bottom.” He pointed a stubby finger to the open page of his script.

"Ahh, yes," said Jessica, looking over the top of her spectacles, then down to the untidy bundle of paper on the seat beside her. “Carry on, then.”

With a broad smile, Frodo jumped from the bank and into Jessica's arms. "It's so wonderful to see you!"

Jessica looked down at the young hobbit and chuckled. "You didn't think I'd miss your Uncle Bilbo's hanging?"

"What? But it's obvious there's been some sort of mistake," protested Frodo. "I thought you were here to help, not to watch Bilbo die?”

"I'll do what I can, my Frodo. I swear that on the life of my dear husband."

Frodo frowned. "But didn't he disappear mysteriously last year? And didn't you have him declared dead so you could get the money from his insurance policy?”

"That is neither here nor there..."

Suddenly, there was a burst of delighted laughter from the lane behind, as five excited children rushed out from their garden.

"Fireworks, Jessica! Fireworks!" shouted the smallest of the hobbits.

Frodo looked across to Jessica and smiled. Although she appeared not to have heard the voices, there was an amused twinkling in her eyes as she looked along the road ahead. With one hand on the reins, she delved the other into her handbag.

"Fireworks," moaned the dispirited voices as they watched the cart trundle away.

Jessica threw something in a high arc over her shoulder and Frodo laughed, then heard joyful screams as it exploded. At least he thought the screams were joyful, until he turned around and noticed that blood was running from the children's eyes and ears, and they were stumbling around and bumping into one another.

"Stop the cart," said Frodo urgently, causing Jessica to look over her shoulder.

The horses lurched forward as she whipped the reins.

"Didn't you hear me, Jessica? Stop the cart!"

“I think not,” snorted Jessica. "Offer ourselves to the police when those kids don’t have a chance of picking us out of an identity parade?” She shook her head.

Frodo crossed his arms angrily as the cart moved along the track at speed. He was beginning to think Jessica wasn't as nice as he’d remembered. 

* * * * *

Bilbo sat in the cold, damp prison cell and whimpered to himself. Through the barred window, he could see the sun setting. Tomorrow morning, he would be hanged, and the world of Middle Earth would leave him; but his current disturbance came from a rather large and ugly Orc who sat, salivating, on the cot directly across from him.

"Go on..." said the Orc, “Show us your ring."

Bilbo stammered in hesitation. "N-n-no! It's mine, I tell you!"

"Just let me give it a little rub?" asked the Orc again, his lips twisting to a grimacing smile. He lifted to his feet.

Bilbo flurried and ran to the bars of the cell. "Help!" he shouted.

At that moment, the door to the holding block clunked as the lock turned, and the Orc sat back in his bed and snarled.

Frodo and Jessica were ushered through the door by a particularly small Hobbit guard who also played an Ewok in Return of the Jedi, though it wasn't a primary role, and he was dressed in a bear costume at the time, which meant his friends always took the piss and called him a lying bastard.

"Frodo? Frodo, my lad?" gasped Bilbo, rubbing his eyes. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again. Did you find Gandalf?"

"Sort of," said Frodo. "Gandalf was elected Prime Wizard. He said he doesn't give a toss about local stuff any more. He wants to concentrate on his image, and he told me that aligning himself to petty criminals isn't good for his street-cred. He wishes you well, though, but he'll deny saying so if it gets to the papers."

A tear trickled down Bilbo's cheek. "Good old Gandalf."

"Jessica's here, though," brightened Frodo. "Maybe she can help?"

"I'm sure, cousin Bilbo, that there's been some terrible mistake," announced Jessica as she patted down her crumpled dress. "I intend to get to the bottom of this. I'll do anything I can to help you through this sorry situation."

Bilbo paced up and down, nervously. "Well you could start by having me transferred to another cell. He..." he said, pointing to the Orc, "wants to rub my ring!"

"That doesn't make sense, uncle," said Frodo. "The ring is in a sealed envelope back at Bag End."

"Exactly!" replied Bilbo.

* * * * *

Sheriff Brody reclined in his rocking-chair, sipped his coffee and pretended to listen as Jessica read her lines. He wondered for a moment why the author of the story had named him after the lead character in Jaws? Was it forgetfulness, or just bone-idle lack of research? 'Mr Cunningham', 'Father Dowling', or even 'Ritchie's dad from Happy Days’ would have been much clearer. At least they were recognizable parts, from programmes he still received a steady royalty cheque from. There were certainly no personal battles with sharks in his career which he could recall.

"Why would Bilbo Baggins need to break into Anne Summers, Sheriff?" asked Jessica with a dismissive, yellow-toothed smile. "That man has the greatest wealth in the whole of Hobbiton."

Sheriff Brody rocked the chair forwards and stood, trying his best to look like a better actor than he actually was. He raised his hands and let them fall again. "Jessica, you don't seem to understand," he sighed. "We've got positive identification; fingerprints; closed-circuit television footage; matching DNA samples... damn, we've got a signed confession from Bilbo himself, and we didn't even have to hit him."

"Yes, you bloody well did!" came Bilbo's faint voice from the corridor.

Jessica creased her brow. "But something just doesn't make sense, Sheriff. There's an element to this episode which we're not seeing."

Sheriff Brody flicked to the end of his script and sat heavily back in his chair. "You're probably right, Jessica, but I don't like to wear glasses on screen. Okay... I'll give you a day to prove Bilbo is innocent."

"Oh, thank you, Sheriff," said Jessica. "You won't regret it, I promise."

* * * * *

Samwise Gangee was cutting the grass in the garden of Bag End. He liked gardening, but all the more when he could cultivate his crop of high-wield cannabis skunk in the vegetable patches of gullible fools who paid him to tend their lawns unsupervised.

It was always good to play the idiot, thought Sam. He’d say “master” and “missus” and they’d laugh behind his back, paying him half the going rate because “the idiot don't know no better”. Then they’d carry on laughing down the tavern with the money they saved, and the news gets round that stupid Sam is a soft touch. Soon enough, he’d have a hundred gardens around the Shire to attend to, and a hundred different places to grow his gold.

And who would the police blame if they found all the plants? Not stupid Samwise, that's for sure. “He don't have the brains for that”, the Sheriff would say. And before you know it, Sam would be far away in Mordor, personally auditioning some pretty elves before pimping them out to the lustful orcs - making even more money - while the hobbits who laughed at his naivety were dangling from the branches of the oak in the market-place, feeding the crows.

Sam sniggered with his thoughts as he stood and wiped his soiled hands against the waist of his overalls. Next stop was Master Greyscurdle's garden, where a bit of pruning and trimming was required… though, of course, there would be no clippings for the compost heap.

"Samwise Gangee," said a sudden, ominous voice.

The hobbit startled and spun around, then rushed a sigh of relief. "You scared me then," said Sam with a nervous laugh. "What are you doing out, anyway? I thought if I set eyes on you again it would be through bars at best... or on a rope at worst."

A flash of light in the side of his skull threw Samwise to the ground before he realized he'd been hit. It was a numb pain, and even though he was disorientated, he tried to push himself back up. Then another strike came in - a heavy boot against his forehead - whipping his head backward and snapping his neck like a branch of a dead tree.

His body convulsed for a moment, and then he was dead.

End of Part One

Friday, 12 November 2010

Beautiful Dreamer (Fiction)

Beautiful Dreamer

She was dreaming, her face paled by the full moon which glanced through her curtain as if it were playfully smiling at her in a challenge of peek-a-boo.

Her eyelids flickered restlessly, hiding a tempest. She whispered a name, inaudible, and turned on her side, gently biting her lower lip and holding it between her teeth.

With the softest moan, a tear grew like a honey drop on one lash, then fell, rolling slowly down her cheek.

The wind blew outside, and the sad old tree bowed to her.

A hush passed among the stars in the heavens, then two tiny flecks of the most wonderful bright blue light fell like electric snowdrops, dancing playfully around each other as they circled down through the crisp autumn darkness and drifted lazily to her window.

There the lights stopped, bobbing in the wind.

"She sleeps, my Mab," said a voice like a soft crystal chime.

The lights glided to her, through the window glass, and fell into orbit above her unsettled dreams.

"Oh..." cried another voice, "... her heart is so sad."

The lights drew closer, kissing her cheek with their glow.

"She is soooo beautiful, Mab," came a whisper.

"But she is hurting."

In night silence, the guardian lights paused, feeling her thoughts. They watched her face, the soft skin of her brow furrowed in an unseen misery. They heard the gentle beat of her heart, trapped and lonely in her chest. They sensed the loss.

"I have it!" declared Mab, and span in the air, up and down, then around the room in a speeding circle, growing faster and faster with every circuit.

"Mab?" asked the other, confused.

"Join me! Join me!" sang Mab.

The smaller light followed, wobbling, hesitating to reach pace and unite with the laser light trail of Mab. "What... are... you... doing?" panted the voice as it finally came in line with Mab.

"Bringing on the morn!" said the excited Mab. "Faster! Go faster!"

And faster and faster they went, so very fast, until a ring of pure white hung above the girl and a soft harmony of voice began to fill the room.

Outside, the tired moon slipped from the sky, behind the violet-lined horizon, and, one by one, the twinkling stars in the heavens went out.

Through the window, a solitary ray of sunlight came, hesitant as a lamb to the world, and it crept through the shadow, cutting the darkness away. The guardian lights fell in beside it, guiding it to the bed and the girl.

They lead it to her face, and the warmth of the soft, yellow light evaporated the tear on her cheek, and all trace of its path.

They carried it onward to her chest, and there they stopped, and the ray of light shone.

It shone brightly, caressing her torment, filling her soul.

She absorbed it.

"Have you done it, Mab?" asked the voice.

The guardian lights danced, darting too and fro.

"She has Sunshine in her heart." said Mab, proudly. "And she will always know love."

A laugh tinkled, faint to any listening ear. "Then our work is done, and home we go!"

"Our work is done," sighed Mab. "Let beauty be at peace."

With a final look to the vision before them, the sparks of brilliant blue departed, through the window glass, and faded away into where there were stars before.

And in the dawn; as the powder blue of morning spread across the sky; and the songbirds began their chorus in the meadow; just for a moment, still in dream, the sleeping girl smiled.

The End 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The road goes ever on and on...

“Was it love? Or was it the idea of being in love?” - Pink Floyd


In the early hours of February 15th, 2010, over the course of about an hour, I experienced what I can only describe as (and what I believe was) a spiritual awakening.

After decades of struggling through prolonged bouts of serious and often suicidal depression, critical over-thinking and immense disharmony and mental dis-ease, I found – much to my amazement – that I was suddenly happy.

It wasn’t just relative; a case of thinking: ‘Oh, this is much nicer than the misery I was in a few hours ago. I will call this feeling ‘happiness’, rather than ‘less-shitness’.”

I was happy; at peace; calm and without dark or negative thought. I moved from abject misery to a state of absolute tranquillity.

The process began when I was talking to my (very patient) friend, Jo, on MSN Messenger. I said to her something like: “I am breaking down.”

Almost immediately, and from a place that wasn’t my mind - because my mind was obsessed and lost in the pain I was experiencing - I wrote: “But I will rebuild much stronger than I have ever been.”

The hair stood up on my arms (sadly, not on my head – the experience didn’t include follicle renewal) and wave after wave of charged enlightenment washed over me.

All of the scouring, thorny, slashing thoughts that I’d allowed to hurt me over all those years suddenly became benign curiosities and I realised that they just didn’t matter any more. They were not who I was. They were only stones on the path that led me to that moment of liberation.

I understood the power of forgiveness – not just to others who I felt had harmed me on my way through life, but, critically, to myself – and that love and forgiveness are the same thing.

I saw that nobody could cause me emotional pain without me giving that pain permission to enter my mind and poison it, which meant those people were never, ever the source of the pain in the first place. It was always me. I was the enemy I’d been fighting against for all that time.

The love and sense of completeness I’d been searching for all my adolescent and then adult years was found, at last, and it wasn’t in the arms of woman or hidden in a box of success… it was right there inside me, and it had been all along.

I have to admit, I did wonder (and it has been suggested since) that perhaps I’d lost the plot entirely at that point; that I was having a ‘bit of a breakdown’ and when I awoke the next morning (or more precisely, later in the day) I’d be back to ‘poor-me’, thinking about trucks and bridges and taut, creaking rope in deep woods.

But I woke up happy.

The emotional clutter I’d thrown off in those early hours hadn’t returned. If anything, I was happier… clearer… more focussed...

The next morning, when I woke up…

I woke up happy!

The day after that…

I woke up happy!

There was no more fear, no sadness, no loss, no sorrowful longing. I could look into what were previously the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind and find nothing but light, joy and… happiness.

Skip forward four or five months and I’m surrounded by bottles, drinking wine by the gallon, sitting on Facebook saying goodbye and fuck off to the world, again. (I’ll get back to that some other time. It’s a blog, not an autobiography. I’m not Stephen Fry.)

Now, in November…

I am happy!


I have had three periods of prolonged happiness in my life, as far as I can recall, and two of them have been this year. This one… just… meow…

Whatever happened to me in February (and I do understand that the majority of people who read this may think I could do with some professional help for even mentioning a mystical nature as its cause), it is maturing now.

The lessons I have learnt over the course of this year have brought about a heightened state of enlightenment and peace, and I am truly, truly happy.

February 15th was simply the planting of the seed.

Now, I’m stretching up into the light, my branches are beginning to reach out, and if I’m a very, very lucky boy… perhaps I’ll attract some little squirrel friends (blog readers) to join me as I grow to my real potential.

It is time to remove the last layers of falseness and begin the unveiling of my true destiny.

This is Lesism.