Winter Road Flat – 1997

This is home, this shoddy flat in Southsea/Eastney, with the cold kitchen divided from the lounge by the red framed windows and doors. The grubby white kitchen with the dirty hob and the crumbs on the floor. The ice monster growing in the top of the fridge occasionally melting into the salad compartment where the orange juice is kept. Above the fridge sit two boxes of vegetables, one mine, one Nick’s. Ingredients for the week. The shelves next to the cooker hold the staples – dried fruit, pasta, rice, muesli, spices, herbs, millet, bulgar, in jars and bags. It’s all clean enough in the kitchen, but if it was mine it wouldn’t be like that.

Today has been spent:

  1. Sleeping
  2. Slowly waking up
  3. Breakfast
  4. Phoning in sick
  5. Radio in bed
  6. Sleeping
  7. Wash
  8. Yoga
  9. Computer and music
  10. Writing this

Can’t quite work out how amazing this whole internet thing is. Unique in this world. Global communication without censorship.

Shamanic Healing Session – 1997

I arrive at the large white house in Southsea 10 minutes early. A long grey haired couple are unpacking their kit. Others start to arrive and we chat in the kitchen. The organizer, big Russell, arrives wearing an Eastern garment that hangs limply, his belly blows it outwards. A nervous man talks to me about his back problems. The long grey haired man asks if any of us have done any of this before. I say no, only meditation. Which is a lie because I haven’t even done this properly.

We are led down into the basement four at a time to be ‘smudged’. I get excited about the prospect of painted faces, but smudging seems to be a process of riddance of negative aura before we can enter the main room of the session. I walk in, aura clean but my shoes still on. We sit on cushions in a circle and I realize everyone else left their shoes at the door, so I take mine off and put them behind me.

There’s a brief introduction and explanation of the paper squares which have been laid out, with numbers on and North South East West marked, along with the spirits of certain animals and major human emotions. Russell hands us all three stones, going round the circle one stone at a time, clockwise. We all have three stones except Russell and his assistant, Sarah, who have four. We then take it in turns to dedicate our stones to the various animal spirits. ‘I dedicate this stone to the spirit of the Brown Bear.’ Each dedication is followed by a group ‘Ah-ho,’ like an Amen. The air is smelly from the smudging process. The afternoon sun shines into the spacious room.

There is one entrance to our circle, at the East side. To dedicate a stone, you walk from your cushion clockwise to the East entrance then within the circle until you reach the position for the stone. Then clockwise to the exit and clockwise to the cushion. Why did clock-makers chose clockwise to be that way round? Each stone is a blessing for people we know, dead or alive. Mine are for my father. Once the stones are all in place, we say a bit about ourselves and why we are there. ‘My name is Duncan and I am new to all this. I am here to explore,’ I say vaguely. The group seem pleasant enough although some are quite severe, some very quiet.

Then the songs begin. In one of them, we each think of a spirit and sing our own beginning bit: ‘Spirit of the sea, carry me home,’ then the group join in. We chant along to various songs and the time passes in a blur of learning chants and chanting chants.

To leave the circle for a break, we circle three times on the spot and then round the circle clockwise to the door. During the break, I ask Brown Bear (the grey haired guy) about dream catchers and peace pipes. What do they smoke? ‘Usually tobacco but sometimes peyote.’

Back downstairs, we all write on pieces of paper for the burning ceremony. Each paper is lit in a bowl. There was something in the way it burned to guide you on the issue you had written. A lady said mine were burning quite red. ‘What does that signify?’ ‘I don’t know.’ The whole process needs patience but is fascinating in its simplicity. The session ends with a song sung together, at first with great energy then slowly softening and slowing until nothing. Each of us were asked to bring along something to shake. I could only find a pot of pills, but I don’t like its plastic rattle, so I just clap along.

The session over, as we leave, Russell allows us all to pick a paper from his bowl. Mine says: Remember, be prepared. Shed what you don’t need, including thoughts. Our donations went towards an Native American studying to be a doctor to help his tribe. A Western doctor. Back out on the Southsea streets, all is serene.

The dead-end street – 1998

Change is on my mind. It is happening inside me and I feel it cruising through my head. Tingles. An incredible awareness that will guide me into… what? I just don’t know. It doesn’t matter. There is no need to suffer. Absolutely no reason at all. I have realized that one must confront, embrace and go through the sorrow in order to understand something. How can you learn about yourself if you are forever backing away or running? Go down that dead-end street. Look for ways out but do not accept them. You will reach the end of the street. It may be horrific. It may seem too much. Stay there. Do not escape. Do not do anything. After the pain, after the intensity and the overwhelming horror that you will encounter, you will begin to see a way. You will catch clues as to a way through, out beyond. You will understand. You will realize that the dead-end street was nothing but an illusion, nothing but an obstacle fear has created to protect itself.  This fear is an integral part of you. This you is full of such blockages, obstructions. If you sense a block, latch on to it and it will disolve. Don’t ask how or why. Trust that it will. Let that trust be your strength. You cannot aim to overcome, you cannot run away, you cannot fight it. You can hold the ground and see what happens. It may seem like you cannot hold on, that you will be washed away, as a weed tugged by the overwhelming ocean. But realize this: you are not a weed. You are strong and you can hold your ground. If you don’t then you will continue to live in sorrow, forced this way and that by the flux of life, directed by fear, never achieving, never at peace, never satisfied.

A vague pretense that I am doing my job – 1998

I am £750 OD and we only got paid five days ago. I only have one more payday with Zurich. It is 17:00. My folder is open on an old item report as a vague pretense that I am doing my job, not rambling facts. My adding machine shows 112.43. My telephone has two Organically Grown stickers on it. My teeth are grinding and my eyes are sore and my body is heavy. It is some crazy attempt to be like the Normal People.

Insurance. Brokers. Accounts. Money. Nothing.

The End of Zurich Insurance – 1998

Oh my god, this is so outrageously boring I think I might die. It has been a long day and I have to stay for yet another hour. I do not want to be here. Why have I been here for 20 months? It don’t make no sense and I must stop acting out of fear before too much more of my life slips by. Fear to delve into the other stuff and fear to find out what I really want.

Such a contrast between today and the conversation last night, when I stated it would seem ludicrous to come to work today after the insights and realizations. The two just don’t seem compatible. So, in six weeks I’m outta here. Maybe not from Portsmouth but from Zurich. It is too much, working with a group girls whose major topics of conversation are television and shopping. A mundane, bland, straight, square environment. Portsmouth is the same and Zurich is the epitome of it all. Too much. Off into the world to see what’s going on. I might run back with my tail between my legs, but so be it. I wish I’d never come back to shirts, ties, ironing. I wish I’d never come back to shitty old machines they call a computer system, with their ancient green fonts.

A couple of calls interrupt my moan. Bullshit of course – where is the cheque for a return premium? A credit card payment with no expiry date. So incredibly tedious. That’s the start. The problems escalate to horrendous commerical direct debits with large possibility for error, and complex queries that take hours to solve. And what is all this for? To make some shareholders wealthier, or at least to keep them secure in the knowledge that their shares are still worth something.

Janet Street-Porter kept her first husband’s surname. England beat Wales at rugby over the weekend. Some people can see colours with their fingertips. The dispay is the most power-hungry part of a laptop. There will be a multinational space station by 2003. A new Gulf War has probably been averted.

No group, system or belief – 1997

Forever I have been wanting to be part of something, and by being a part I would become somebody. But now I see that the somebody I truely will be is not a part of anything, any group or system or belief. Not the ecoologists, although I may have similar feelings. Not the vegetarians, although I know their food is the food of the soul. Not the social groups of my peers, although I am distracted by their entertainments. Not the Buddhists, although their way reflects the truth. It is very hard but I know I can be me. Fear not, venture forth. Fear arises. Embrace it.

Virgin Soldiers gig – 1996

Chris’s gig at Docs, Southsea – The Virgin Soldiers. Craig and I on the doors, drinking. All sorts of craziness and chaos. Phill fell over the bannisters, not once but twice. The first time he was leaning against the rail and went over backwards somehow. Some people caught his legs and he dangled upside down, one floor up. Then it happened again! This time, someone caught his arm. None of it seemed to bother him.

The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot

I just finished reading The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot, an interesting book exploring a different way of looking at the universe and some of the happenings that can’t be explained so well by the current outlook of the universe and world. The basic notion is that all is connected, and that the material world we think of as solid and stable isn’t. He explores the work of Pibram and Bohm, physicists not content with the ‘so what?’ attitude that the Copenhagen Interpretation often leads to regarding quantum physics, and offers a ‘holographic’ way of looking. He explores Out of Body Experiences, Near Death Experiences, miracles, time travel, etc, etc.

My favourite part of the book was the way that people who have Near Death Experiences change so radically. He cites the story of a labourer who had no interest in science, reading or academic pursuits. During his NDE he had a vision of ‘total knowledge’ but could not recall this afterwards. However, various physics terms would pop into his head. One morning he blurted the word, ‘Quantum!’ Later he announced, ‘Max Planck – you’ll be hearing about him in the near future,’ but didn’t understand what he was saying. Equations and maths symbols would surface in his thoughts. He didn’t even know what quantum meant, or who Max Planck was, so he looked it up. Discovering he wasn’t talking bollocks, he began to read books on physics, parapsychology, metaphysics, higher consciousness, and enrolled in college to study physics.

This book explores the notion that there are things going on that we just can’t explain, not only the stranger experiences of NDEs and UFOs but even the way our minds and memory work. It leaves you with the feeling that no one really knows what the hell is going on down here…

At Durley – 1996

I have now moved to Durley. It is quite a change already. I am alone in the house now, apart from two cats. One pays more attention and is one the chest of drawers licking its rear left leg. Jennifer is kind and pleasant and easy to talk to. She said like-minded people are somehow drawn together. On the first day here, we have touched on writing, K, environment, health, diet, chess. I am to bring my stereo for the front room. It is so different here. I am not now off to the video shop to get some films, to sit and smoke dope and eat crisps & chocolate. I am going to look at the books. There are many interesting ones here. But the answer isn’t there. It’s raining and dark outside. No TV. I like it here.

Own Way

These young people were typically modest and thoughtful. Our culture has no place for such young people and they will have to find their own way. There is no way of knowing how many such young people all over the world have likewise been touched by Krishnamurti.

Giving up smoking – 1996

If there’s beer about, I’ll drink it. I will smoke anything offered to me or that I’ve got, if I’m in a smoking mode. Suddenly tempted to go and buy cigarettes. Shall I? No. No smoking. That rule now sucks. As I write, I think: No it’s all right to have some. Is it? Don’t really know the harm. I believe what they say. But they are so very nice. But I won’t. No!

Escape from Portsmouth – 1996

I have looked at a lovely cottage out in a little village called Durley, which is near Botley, which is near Hedge End, which is near Southampton. I think I will go and live there. I can write all the time. I would love to be able to do that. And walk in the country and eat good food. The silence of the place! The fields, the birds, the walks. Yes, I’ll do it.

The End of Chelsea Road – 1996

Chris. Letter. Things. House. Wrong. Mess. Broken table. No lounge. Moods. Negativity. New place. New people. Scary. Why? Do it. Give notice. Sell stereo. Sell speakers. Tough. No money. Sell CDs. Miss them? One or two. Keep them. Which? No, sell them all. Start afresh. Move? Yes! Why not? Not good here. Shitty house now. Mess on carpet. Never clean. No freezer. Broken fridges. Bored of video watching. Camper van coming. 8 days. Orange. Moving = running. No. Do it. Odd year. Odd life. Learning. Learning. Good. Don’t worry. Do. No problems. The letter. It is done and it is true.

Most of everything is nothing

The nucleus of an atom is very small. The electrons whizz round it very fast, but not near it. It is like the electrons are wasps buzzing round the walls of Waterloo Station and the nucleus is a plum in the middle. I.e. most of the atom is space. Therefore most of everything is nothing! The Empire State Building, if compacted completely, would fit on the head of a pin (but still weight the same!)

Alone – 1995

Not one bloody positive thought. So unhappy. Hurt, pain, despair. Will it ever be OK, or will this up and downing last forever? Alone all day, face to face with myself. Something is wrong. A man should be able to be alone without this happening.

Things get broken, people get rude – 1996

I have decided to stop drinking alcohol. Reasons? None that really can be argued. Mainly, it throws me off centre for a few days and I don’t like it. Also health reasons, also money reasons, also I don’t particularly like the atmosphere on a Friday night. Things get broken and people get rude. I have beeen at No. 11 for over a year and have changed a lot (in some ways). I am more healthy mentally and physically. Been going to bed earlier, and stopped taking dope in any form. Two nights ago I am sure I had my last cigarette, after stopping and starting many times. My mind had been very unsettled, with constant worry and nagging. Now, sometimes, bliss arrives. I don’t spend much time with people, mainly just at work. Things are calmer and easier when I’m alone.

Instead of the Pub – 1996

I am alone in the house, Saturday night. My choice – turned down all offers. Something is keeping me from doing these things and for the first time it isn’t shyness or nerves. I don’t want to talk, or listen to, bollocks in a pub, or drink, or smoke. That kinda excludes me from the society I know.

Following my mind closely these days and when I stop and lie down, after about five minutes, things start to change. Tingles and tightness, pleasant, at the back of my head. And moments, sometimes lasting, of bliss. Thought stops it. Ceasing thought can’t be forced. This feeling seems the most important thing in my life right now.