Chapter 34 – Ideologies Part 1
A zen student once asked their master, “What happens after death?” The master replied, “I don’t know.” The student, taken aback, exclaimed, “but you’re a zen master: you MUST know.” The zen master smiled then answered, “Yes, but I’m not a dead zen master.”
It’s almost 1am on the 21st September 2021, I’m listening to Laurie Anderson singing ‘Baby doll’ on Spotify. It’s a song about her brain having very different ideas to those she’d like it to have.
The summer of 1982 saw the end of my first year as a 6th former. It was time to think about what I’d want to do after leaving school in a year’s time. I was interested in psychology and philosophy, I thought they’d help me sort myself out and besides, I found them interesting in their own right. There was a Psychology and Philosophy degree course available at Leicester University, I read through the prospectus and imagined myself living there. As far as I was concerned this would be my destiny. I tended to be sceptical about most things, even at 17, so I should have been ready for what fate had planned, but I wasn’t.
Ideologies, religion, psychological and philosophical belief systems became a big part of my life from 1982. This was the start of my journey along a road flanked by millions of broken dreams, almost all of which had been founded on the best of intentions.
This and the following few chapters are not only about belief systems and philosophies, but our propensity to corrupt and shatter every single one of them. ‘Who cares?” you may ask, what’s that got to do with an autobiography, even one as loosely defined as this? There are two main reasons. The first is to illustrate just how pervasive these things are when it comes to making us who we are, and the second centres on an issue us homo sapiens will be facing shortly. It’s a crossroads we’ve never faced before and the path we choose may well lead to the end of us as a species, and no, I’m not talking about environmental issues. At the heart of this impending threat is our corruption of all the belief systems we ever come in to contact with.
Apart from all those minor issues, these chapters also follow my life from the Spring to the end of the summer break of 1982. As I say to people who get in my car, “Put your seat belt on, I want to try something, I’ve seen it in a cartoon, I think I can do it.”
Chapter 34 Part 1
Home Life – May 1982
In TV dramas, after people have arguments, they have a talk about it, and soon after that the problem gets resolved. Well either that, or they kill each other. The fact the killer type programs are more popular says something about human nature. For most of us here in real-life land, it’s more common to find ourselves caught up in repetitive cycles when it comes to family issues.
John and mum had been married since 1977, so we were almost 5 years down the line and still nothing had been resolved between us. Nearly every meal time there’d be an argument, and everything I did became an opportunity for John to have a go at me or mum. I am sure there were times when I deserved it, and in a way, I feel very sorry for John having me as a step son, but none of us seemed able to find a way forward. Most people go through a process of ‘forming, storming and norming’ but for us the norming was storming.
The more John had a go at me, the more mum would take my side, then John would have a go at mum. Even mum and I chatting to each other became something to criticise us about. As much as mum and I had our issues, we were easy in each other’s company, and would often have a good laugh together. Unsurprisingly, the more intense the issues became between John and mum, the more distant they became too.
It’s easy to look in from the outside now and recognise the dynamics that made their relationship worse, but at the time, none of us had the wherewithal to do anything about it. As a consequence, I started reading psychology, philosophy and religious books in the hope of finding an answer. It soon became clear though, that there wasn’t going to be one, well not any time soon. And if there was a quick fix, it probably wasn’t going to be a legal one.
John’s family were very prim and proper, so for them, there was a far greater consciousness of us having a public persona than either mum or I had. Mum’s family were similarly reserved, so, it’s hard to work out where our lack of concern came from. I’m sure we had our own version of being worried about appearances, it’s just they were different to John’s.
There was a café called The Manor Bakery that I’d sometimes pop into on my way home for a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea. Not only did this feel very ‘grown up’, but it meant I could avoid eating at the argument table. One day I sat down in the café and tentatively tucked into an egg custard when John walked past. He saw me, came in and publicly had a go. The whole humiliating experience put me off egg custards for decades. I hadn’t exactly been that keen on them in the first place, in fact I’d only had one then because it was on special offer and I was hungry. It was all very unfortunate, but at least nowadays a lot of cafes sell Portuguese custard tarts, so things worked out ok in the end.
Anyway, back to the haranguing, when I got in it continued right on through the evening, eventually climaxing with John blaming me for the breakdown of his and mum’s marriage. For good measure, he added that I was mentally weak. That was a phrase I found a little confusing, which might have proved his point. Did he mean I was academically thick or just weak willed? I thought it best not to ask him for further clarification so, I took shelter in my room. Every time I heard him moving around downstairs I’d go into the bathroom just in case he’d come up to have another go.
Compared to a lot of people’s relationships with their parents, this was nothing. John didn’t beat me, I had shelter and was fed, but I wasn’t happy, and couldn’t wait to leave home. I expect for him the feeling was mutual. As it turned out, after I left home, they didn’t separate, but for both there was a bit of a resigned acceptance when it came to their marriage. I’d listen to Pink Floyd singing about ‘quiet desperation’ being the English way. I knew exactly what they meant and didn’t want that to be my destiny.
* * *
How to Make Love to a Man
A few weeks later I came in to class with a book called “How to Make Love to a Man”. Within a few seconds everyone started calling me gay. But instead of getting defensive I read some of it out loud to them. They went silent and didn’t want me to stop. Likewise, when I read some of it aloud to a group of friends on the bus home I gained quite a large audience, including a few non-school age co-travellers, some of whom didn’t get off the bus till I did.
* * *
I acquired several books from Sutton Library’s book sale in 1982. One of them was an autobiography called ‘You Should See Me in Pyjamas’ written by Robert Giddings, a broadcaster, writer and teacher with a disability. This was probably one of the first books I’d read which touched on disability issue based politics. Even the title was a statement about how people’s expectations of disabled people tend to be very low. At the time, I often experienced a similar reaction to my disability, a reaction I called ‘The Bloody Marvellous’ effect. No matter how trivial a thing I did was, people would tell me I was “Bloody Marvellous”. I didn’t knock them for doing that, it was understandable, especially if they hadn’t had much contact with disabled people. The downside of it though was they’d underestimate me, which at times meant they’d think less of me too. As far as I was concerned their opinion had very little to do with who I really was, and that was something I found annoying.
When friends first suggested I write about my life, I thought of Giddings book. When it comes to autobiographies, if you’re not famous then you better have an interesting story to tell. Being disabled kind of gets you a free pass but I didn’t want to focus on disability too much. The message I wanted to put out regarding disability is that everyone is different, and in many ways, mainly bad ways, I’m very normal.
There’s also something else to consider about autobiographies, it’s the format they’re supposed to follow. I’ve read a few lately, well most of them were audiobooks but that still counts as reading in my book. Having the writers read their work to me also added an element of intimacy to the experience, an intimacy that reminded me of the first HiFi we had at home. It had speakers that were covered in material that was reminiscent of the screen between priest and confessor in the confessional. On one side of the screen I sat listening while on the other Tom Jones confessed to me that he’d killed Delilah, Elvis kept rushing in, Bruce liked open riverside sex with Mary, and got her up the duff, and Phil Collins could feel it coming in the air, and then, rather aggressively seemed to beat the crap out of something, somebody or himself.
Decades later it’s a different speaker cover but it’s the same dynamic. This time Phil seemed to be searching for forgiveness. Fenella Fielding purred her way through a life of understated reactions and ‘marvellous darlings’, and Bruce, well, Bruce just laid it out like one of his songs. It was full of darkness, foreboding, fear and love. The lessons they learnt, the funny tales they told, and the emotional connection between themselves and all of us, that was their form of autobiographies.
Then there was Carl Jung. For him, the incidents of his life were barely worth mentioning, what was important were his thoughts, beliefs and spiritual growth. Even within the first chapter he spoke of childhood dreams that I recognised I’d had too. Something small in the distance gradually approaching, getting bigger and bigger and eventually overwhelming us dreamers, he and I, with fear. And later there was his, and my own, attraction to lighting fires.
What they all said to me was “You’re not alone”.
So, here I am, someone of little significance in the grand scheme of things, writing an autobiography that seems to have veered a long way away from the traditional path, and in this chapter, I’m, writing about corruption. But, is what I’m up to a corruption of what an autobiography is supposed to be, or was the definition a bit too… definite?
Living the Dream
I recently wrote a song about the person who commissioned the building of the house I now live in. I think the first owner was a woman, it says something to that effect on the original deeds. Plus, one morning I woke suddenly and saw a woman’s face looking at me from behind a door, when she realised I’d seen her she looked startled. It was probably just a waking dream, however, for some reason, I got the feeling she was the original owner of the house.
Whether she contributed to the design of the house, at some point it was a house of somebody’s dream, after all someone had to imagine it before they drew up their plans. The same could be said of Roundshaw, the estate I lived on from the age of 7 to 12. As far back as the 1920’s artists and architects formed ideologies about people’s lives being improved by the buildings they lived in. Their dreams resulted in better lives for some, and nightmares for others, but either way they never lived up to the expectations of those ideologically inspired designers.
As I became more aware of ideologies I noticed a very cynical streak in myself, when it came to human nature I had very little faith. Was this in part caused by my experience of living on Roundshaw, and did this mean someone else’s ideology impacted my vision of the world, which in turn, influenced the ideologies I’d later be drawn to? Ideologies create realities that in turn effect ideologies.
I’ve often come across people debating the merits of one ideology over another, as if a logical argument could lead us to a single correct answer. But the influences that form our beliefs and values about the world are so varied and subtle, there’s very little chance of us ever meeting eye to eye with those who’ve had very different experiences. So, when people declare we don’t need borders, boundaries, or fences they seem to be ignoring the fact that these barriers are not just symbolic lines, but are the external manifestations of internal worlds created by extremely different world views.
While historically religious denominations tended to be the main cause of conflict within borders. In recent decades, Western societies that have experienced internal divisions on an unprecedented scale. Physical borders no longer constrain ideologies. The Internet, mass migration and multiculturalism have seen to that.
Ideologies divide people to a far greater extent than borders do. What borders do allow for however, is the easy identification of different groups if those groups are constrained within them. Another consequence of that is the ease in which very organised attacks can take place. That doesn’t mean that having no borders will stop different groups attacking each other, civil war has become the new world war disorder.
Borders, don’t have to be defined on a map, they can be found in the words we say, books we won’t read and uniforms we don’t even realise we’re wearing. There will always be borders as long as there are people who don’t meet eye to eye.
* * *
I have been studying Japanese for several years. I don’t have my father’s gift for languages so I’m still only a beginner. The reason I mention it is because I recognise very different mind-sets behind the evolution of Japanese and English. Efficiency, brevity, social hierarchy and order dominate not only Japanese language, but also its culture, and in turn culture affects language, and so on. No matter how similar people are, or whether there’s more that connects us than doesn’t, we ignore our differences at our peril, likewise, ignoring our similarities can be just as dangerous too.
* * *
This is War
On the 25th of April 1982, I’d gone to Wales for the day to watch a karate fighting competition. An hour into the proceedings we were told that a conflict between the British and Argentinians had commenced over who should rule The Falkland Islands. Even though the competition continued, a hushed depression fell upon everyone. We were at war, although officially war was never declared.
A few weeks earlier we’d been informed that the Argentinian’s had taken control of the Falkland Islands. Initially, a lot of people got the Falklands mixed up with the Shetland Islands which were somewhere north of Scotland. Why would the Argentinians be attacking them, had they not realised how tough the Scots were? The TV set anyone who was confused straight. The Falklands were in the South Atlantic Ocean, 8000 miles away from the UK, and 1500 miles from Argentina. Still, it seemed hard to comprehend why a country would attack another, especially in a nuclear-weapon-world.
It soon became clear to everyone that this war was less about historical and geographical sovereignty claims and more an excuse for the Argentinian Government to shore up division and secure some political gain. They gambled the British wouldn’t do anything.
What the Argentinians hadn’t banked on though was a weapon just as dangerous as a nuclear war head, a politician facing low poll ratings. For our Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, this couldn’t have come at a better time.
On both sides, the politicians spoke of high ideals, but were willing to sacrifice their own people for political gain. Admittedly, Thatcher was more of an opportunist in this instance. She hadn’t instigated it, although warnings the Argentinians were planning an attack may have been conveniently ignored. Outside of pre-empting an attack by demonstrating a show of force in the region, she had very few options. It was no surprise to anyone that both the UK and Argentinian politicians would be so self-serving. After all it’s accepted that politicians all over the world are corrupt, not just in the 1980’s but throughout history too. In fact, a non-corrupt politician tends to be viewed as rather exceptional.
* * *
My OCD Part 1
For much of my life I’ve had a bit of a magical thinking OCD trait. From early childhood, I thought things like, if I do one thing, for example, don’t step on the cracks in the pavement, or look at a stranger’s face, or hold my breath until a car goes past, then something I want will come my way. Lots of other people have told me they have similar thoughts too. For instance, Monica, the girlfriend in the early chapters, told me that when she wasn’t sure about us seeing each other anymore, she said to herself that if the time of a song on her CD player got past a certain number before the track ended, then our relationship was meant to be. Luckily, for me at the time, it went in my favour.
It’s easy to see this as a thought process that’s partly behind the formation of superstitions and religions. Something on the lines of “If we do this, then God, or the gods will either punish or reward us”.
One day in the summer of 1982, I realised that I was silly being controlled by these kind of thoughts, so I decided not to give into them anymore. But a couple of things happened that made me feel I was being punished for even daring to try stopping. I’ll tell you about them in the next chapter. Yes, I know, the suspense must be killing you.
Therapy Session 1985
Me: Sometimes I think that if I do something, like get to a lamp post before a car passes, I‘ll get something I want. But also, I get a feeling that if I don’t try to do these things, I’ll get punished.
Therapist: That’s a lot of responsibility and power to have.
Me: I don’t see it as me having the power, some kind of external force has it.
Therapist: Even so, if everyone could manipulate that much control merely by doing these things the world would work in a very different way.
Me: I know it’s irrational, but unfortunately there have been times when I’ve tried to stop doing it, but as soon as I do bad things happen.
Therapist: Maybe there are times when you can’t bear not having control and at other times you can’t bear the responsibility or effort involved in getting something you want. So, the childlike part of you resorts to magical thoughts in order to deal with the hardships of reality.
* * *
Supernatural Part 1 – B&B
‘A matter that is explained ceases to concern us’
I first met Barry and Barbara in a café called Mamma Mi in Eastbourne a few years ago. It was one of those places that had a lot of regulars. It wasn’t fancy, a mixture of table and chair styles, light shades made from kitchen utensils, such as cheese graters and colanders, but what drew most of the customers, apart from the strong coffee and cheap Italian street food, was its very sociable atmosphere. Nearly everyone who went there ended up chatting with each other and developing friendships with those they connected with. That’s what happened to us.
Both Barry and Barbara were in their 80’s when we met, they seemed to appreciate my dodgy jokes which I think often indicates some kind of deeper understanding. Maybe it’s the experience of difficult times that fosters dark humour and perhaps it was partly that which connected us. Although they’d frequented the upper echelons of the international trade world, neither had forgotten their humble and difficult beginnings, consequently their feet were firmly placed on the ground.
When they first got together they both had children from previous marriages, so, once their kids finally flew the nest, Barry and Barbara got back to travelling together, a pursuit they loved. It was 1991, when Barry and Barbara, [let’s call them B&B from now on for convenience sake], decided to drive up from Wakefield in Yorkshire to Inverness in Scotland for a four-day break. It was too long a journey to do in one go without it becoming an ordeal, so, they decided to take a gamble and find a place to stay on route.
It was mid-May. The days were starting to get longer. After a 7 hour drive they passed through a town called Callander in the late afternoon, beginning to get weary they decided to look out for a hotel as they travelled northwards up the A84. 20 miles later, they finally came across a large hotel situated on a mound to the right of the road. Barry pulled up.
“Oh, thank goodness for that” Barbara said
Barry got out the car “I’ll go see if they’ve got any rooms”.
“If they haven’t, ask if they’ve got a stable” Barbara said.
He closed the door then walked the 50 metres from the roadside to the main entrance. He looked back at Barbara, who gave him the international hurry up hand sign. Then he went inside.
It was an old house, maybe 30 metres across. There was a “Hotel” sign out near the road, but apart from that it looked like a typical Scottish highland manor house.
Barry entered the reception area where an old woman in a shawl was sitting at the desk. She slowly looked up but said nothing. He waited for a second, then decided to initiate proceedings. In his poshest Yorkshire accent, he said.
“Hello, I was just wondering if you have any vacancies? I’m looking for a double room for my wife and I for one night, and we’d preferably like an evening meal if that’s possible, as well as breakfast of course.”
The woman nodded slightly and got up while saying “Aye”. She pointed at the signing in book. Barry quickly filled in their details, then went to the car to fetch Barbara and their cases.
As they entered, the old lady was waiting, key in hand. Without speaking she started walking along the corridor.
“We’ll follow you, shall we?” Barry asked
The woman, paused, half turned and nodded slightly.
They walked along a dark oak panelled corridor till they came to the room. She opened the door and held out the key. Barry, whose arms were full, said, “Babs can you take them please?”
Barbara took the key and thanked the old lady.
“If we come down for our meal at 7, would that be ok?” Barry asked.
The woman nodded and quietly said “Aye”.
When they got in to their room Barry burst out laughing and said, “I didn’t think she’d ever stop talking.”
Barbara laughed then sat on the bed and bounced up and down on it to check the mattress. “This feels very comfortable.”
Meanwhile, Barry went into the bathroom and started filling the bath. He came back into the bedroom.
“Well, there’s good news, and there’s bad news. The good news is there’s hot water. The bad news is it’s as brown as tea.”
Barbara walked in to the bathroom.
Barry laughed “I’ll give it a go. If I dissolve, then be careful driving the car home”.
Barbara whispered “I’m not bathing in that; I think I’ll wait till we get back to civilisation.”
“Why are we whispering?” Barry whispered
Barbara leaned a little closer to Barry. “I don’t know, it’s just, I don’t know. Do you think anyone else is staying here?”
Barry shrugged “There must be, a place this big, there’s got to be at least a few other guests.”
After they’d settled in they decided to explore a little before dinner. Firstly, they went outside, where a man was standing under a tree smoking. As they passed him they said hello. He smiled and asked them where they were from. He didn’t have a Scottish accent so they asked if he was staying in the hotel.
“No, I’m stopping in a cottage nearby. I’ve just had a quick drink from the bar here. I’m having a bit of time away to” he paused a second, “to get myself together.”
There was something about his demeanour, his shaky voice and trembling cigarette hand, that reminded Barry of the soldiers he’d seen return from Dunkirk.
“You say there’s a bar here?” Barry interjected.
The man pointed to the right “Yeah, it’s just beyond the reception”
Barry mimed holding a beer glass and smiled. “I think we’ll get a drink, can we get you one?”
The man smiled back, shook his head, and said “No, thank you, I’ll have to be going soon. Thank you though”
“Where is your cottage” Barbara asked.
She thought she heard him say the name of a place that was tens of miles away, but she didn’t want to question him so just left it.
“Well, have a safe journey home. Maybe we’ll see you later” she said as they started to walk back to the hotel.
He raised a hand, the one holding a cigarette, and half waved, half smoke signalled goodbye to them. Taking a big drag, he closed his eyes, savoured the moment and let the last rays of sunlight warm his face.
There was still a bit of time to kill before dinner, so, B&B made their way to the bar where they were relieved to find a barman. He was drying a glass and turned towards them as they approached. He was in his 30’s, tall, well-built, and had a moustache. Barry ordered two glasses of wine, however, as they started to strike up a conversation with him they found his Glaswegian accent so strong they could hardly understand a word he said. He seemed to be busy anyway, so, they took a seat and chatted together till 7, at which point Barry took their glasses back to the bar and asked where the dining room was. The barman pointed and mumbled something that sounded like “to the end”.
They found it quickly enough, but were a bit surprised when they entered as it obviously also served as a ballroom. There were large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and enough tables for a banquet or a wedding, all laid out with starched white linen, candles in candelabras, glasses filled with carefully folded napkins, as well as highly polished, perfectly laid out cutlery.
As they looked for somewhere to sit the old woman appeared as if from nowhere and with an outstretched hand indicated their table. They took their seats and she passed them each a menu. As they read through it they were struck by how traditionally Scottish the choices were. Smoked Haddock, Salmon, and Grouse, were amongst the many options on offer.
“Wow,” whispered Barbara, “I can’t believe this menu”
The old woman came back a few minutes later, took their orders, and in time brought their meals. B&B were not easily impressed when it came to dining, they often frequented top restaurants in London and Paris. As they tucked in they were astounded by the quality of the meal.
“What a find this is” Barbara said quietly “I can’t believe it. Do you think she cooked it herself?”
Barry nodded in agreement “I haven’t seen anyone else but the barman and her, and what’s more there aren’t any other guests.”
“Yes I was wondering about that too. You know, even though it seems we’re the only ones here I feel like we’re being watched”
Barry nodded once again, but this time said nothing.
Once back in their room they got ready for bed, avoiding the brown water as much as possible, they got under the covers.
Whispering still, Barbara snuggled up to Barry. “This is the strangest hotel I’ve ever stayed in”.
“Yes, but the food’s good” Barry added.
“Yes, it is”
Slowly, and at a slightly high pitch voice Barry whispered “Aye”.
Barbara turned towards Barry “Don’t you start”
Barry couldn’t resist and repeated “Aye”
Barbara lay down, pulled the covers over her head and said “I’m not coming out till you stop that”
A couple of hours after nodding off Barbara woke and quietly said “Are you asleep Barry?”
“Good” said Barbara, “Can you hear that noise, it sounds like they’re having a ceilidh [Kayley] down there.”
Barry took a quick intake of breath “Yes, I can hear it. Shall we go down and join them?”
“Well, I would, had we been invited.” She laughed, “Can you hear them whooping, they sound like they’re having a whale of a time?” She paused to listen a bit more. “Maybe that’s why the dining room was all set up. I bet a coach load of people have been bused in for a dinner and dance thing.”
“Ah well, maybe it’s just for locals and that’s why she didn’t mention it.” Barry added.
“Oh well”, Barbara sighed, “Anyway, are you still asleep?”
Barry paused, then made a snoring noise, then laughed.
Within a few minutes, they drifted off again.
The next morning, they went down to breakfast, and once more were the only ones in the large dining room. It seemed to be exactly as they’d left it the previous night. If there had been a party they’d done a very good job clearing up afterwards. Just as before, the old lady served them again. Barbara chose kippers then finished off with warm oat cakes covered in marmalade.
There was no sign of any other guests, nor was the barman around to help with breakfast. When the old lady served them, there was no small talk, no “Did you both sleep well last night?” or “We do like our guests to be happy.” Just breakfast options, and “Ayes” and “No’s”.
After breakfast, they packed their things into the car and Barry went to the reception to settle the bill. When he got it, he was astounded by how cheap it was. The prices were what he’d have expected to pay 3 decades earlier, but “far be it for a Yorkshireman to question a Scot on matters of finance”, he thought to himself.
As she passed him the receipt, he asked. “Was there a party going on last night?”
“No” she said, shaking her head.
A little confused Barry then asked if they were the only guests, to which she just said “Aye”
“Oh” Barry said, a little bewildered. “Well thank you for our lovely stay”
She nodded at him politely then sat down again as he made his way out.
He got into the car, fastened his seat belt, and looked back at the hotel noticing an old-fashioned pram and a child’s tricycle to the side of the front porch.
“I wonder who they belong to?” he asked.
Barbara raised her eyebrows then got herself comfortable, “Maybe she’s got grandchildren. Anyway, that was lovely, strange, but lovely. I mean outside of the Edwardian bathroom and brown water; I’d stay here again. What do you think?”
“I quite liked the bathroom” Barry added
“No, I mean would you want to stay here again?””
As they started to drive off Barbara noted an overgrown tennis court just across the road from the hotel.
She looked at Barry. “Maybe next time we’ll stay a couple of nights, what do you think?”
“Yes, I would” Barry said. He checked the road was clear, pushed down on the accelerator and set off.
* * *
After their stay in Inverness they decided to return to the hotel on their way back. Barry knew the route, so took the same road. The loch was on his right, but as he approached where he expected the hotel to be there was nothing. Just the mound to the left. No tennis courts, no driveway, nothing. It was all gone. He decided to double back to see if he’d missed a junction, but he hadn’t, so after a few miles he turned around again and continued along his original route. Eventually he got to the junction he expected to find so was sure he hadn’t accidently taken a similar but different road. They were both stunned.
Even though Barry was sure he’d followed the same route back, he realised it was possible he might have been confused, so, for years afterwards whenever they were travelling nearby they’d try to find the hotel again, but they never did.
* * *
I’d have been sure this was an urban folk tale if I didn’t know Barry and Barbara. The way they weave between each other the telling of the story, the details and consistency with which they convey it, all those things, plus trusting them anyway, leads me to believe that they’re telling the truth. I have made a video of Barbara and Barry recounting this experience so you can judge for yourself. It’s at https://youtu.be/5ubOvCRxyYE.
So, for you the reader you’re left with the possibility that I’m being a bit gullible, or that they may have somehow either become self-deluded, or hypnotised by someone else into believing it happened, or they just took a different route to the one they thought, or maybe something I haven’t even considered. But, of course there is also the possibility, no matter how small, that something we can’t explain yet, did happen.
How you react to this story says a lot too about your own beliefs, and your own model of reality. Do you believe they experienced a ghost hotel, or time slip, or do you believe that such phenomena are totally impossible, or are you someone who is both sceptical whilst simultaneously open minded and willing to say, “We just don’t know”?
* * *
I was trying to find out more about this area as I wrote the last section. This involved me using Google Street view to have a look at all the roads nearby to find a building that matched the one B&B had described. But after about 5 hours of doing that I gave up. Then, trying a few lateral internet searches, I came across a page that described a similar phenomenon happening to another couple on the same road going Northwards out of Callander, and what’s more it occurred in the mid 1990’s too. You can read the original article at:
Here’s a synopsis of what the piece reported.
On the 15th August 1995, Mr and Mrs Hardy of Snaith, Humberside, had gone to Callander for a Chinese meal. At 23:45 they set off back to the campsite at Cultybraggan. A short while later they were driving along the A84 beside the edge of Loch Lubnaig. They looked at the moonlight on the water then suddenly found they were passing a sign that said “Oban 5 miles”. The time was now 00:20. Mr Hardy said that he felt as if he’d entered a kind of Twilight Zone, he even wondered if he’d died or was unconscious as things felt so strange. One minute he was looking at the Loch, the next he was close to 30 miles away, yet they’d only been driving for 40 minutes on roads that wouldn’t have allowed such a journey in so short a time, especially without noticing.
After his wife convinced him to turn around they headed back, but the journey felt as if it was in slow motion, also everything looked strange. There were no other cars, road markings or street lights. The land and houses were there but seemed different. At one point, they drove under a railway bridge that they’d later find out had been demolished 30 years earlier. Once they recovered from the shock of this adventure, the couple retraced this journey many times, but never found the “Oban 5 Miles” sign although they did find the site of the old railway bridge. As much as they tried to make sense of what had happened, they never could.
I contacted David Cowan, the writer of the article, to see if there was any other information about the couple involved. There wasn’t which is partly why I decided to make the video of Barbara and Barry recounting what happened to them. Hearing someone relate an incident directly does offer more credibility than just hearsay. However, just because we might be able to find cross references online about certain things does not make them any truer even though people often think they do. Still, to me, this article did feel like an interesting coincidence.
A few weeks later the editor of the British Dowsing website sent me another article about time slips. It starts with “For one hundred and fifty years, the small Suffolk village of Rougham, lying four miles south-east of Bury St. Edmunds, has been the site of a curious phenomenon. Many people have reported seeing houses in places where no houses exist, and these buildings have subsequently disappeared.”
The phenomenon of time slips was something I’d never heard about before doing the research for this, and just like many people, I feel it is unlikely to be possible. However, as with a lot of the subjects I’ve brought up here, even the scientifically minded amongst us ought to be sceptical and open minded at the same time.
* * *
Just as cancel culture stops people who’ve stepped out of line being included in certain areas of society, the same goes for ideologies. For instance, a scientist should accept an unproven hypothesis as just that, unproven. However, many who claim to be scientists are far too quick to dismiss unconfirmed matters as complete rubbish. The fear of being ridiculed by their peers may be one of the many causes of such self-censoring, but by not keeping an open mind they fall back on conjecture too. Of course, they’re entitled to their opinion, but scientifically speaking something ought to be proven to be false before it’s completely dismissed. In the meantime, it can simply be labelled as ‘unproven’.
When I first started using the Internet I believed that it would lead to humans moving forward at an even greater pace than previously. In the past only a small proportion of people had information at their disposal, and along with the constraints of religious and ideological dogmas, they were additionally restricted.
I was sure that once billions of people had information at their fingertips there’d at least be millions of us who’d want to change the world for the better. The result of this, I assumed, would be progression beyond our wildest expectations.
To a point that’s been true, but what I didn’t consider was the fly in the ointment, the lack of verifiable ‘facts’ and the almost war like division that seems to permeate every corner of the internet and society. Maybe like Leonard Cohen I was just a kid with a crazy dream. I should have known better, but I didn’t. If only I had waited to see the truth about the Internet. Finding the truth takes patience and as much as I’ve prayed to God to hurry up and give me some, God hasn’t obliged so far.
Accepting that we don’t know if something is true is a difficult but necessary position that we’ll, more often than not, have to take if we’re searching for the truth. Not knowing is a kind of no man’s land between verified and uncorroborated which most people find unbearable. Before long they fill it, even if it means turning to the supernatural. It’s in our nature to do so and we’ve been doing it for millennia. So, I doubt we’re going to stop any time soon.
* * *
The earliest evidence of scientific endeavours goes back 5000 years. It took from then until the 16th century for something even remotely resembling the scientific method to make headway. Without getting into a lot of detail this method means that if a hypothesis about something is presented, then a very sceptical approach should be maintained when trying to collect evidence to either support or dismiss it.
In terms of human progress this provided us with a set of very powerful tools that changed the world beyond recognition. Our relationship with the truth changed everything, and yet it is the corruption of this relationship that may prove to be our downfall.
* * *
The Corruption of Science
When it comes to Science there’s a big black hole that sits in the middle of the scientific universe. You can’t see what’s in it because some of the strongest forces ever money, power and fear are bending the truth out of view. This isn’t a new thing, right from the moment the big bang for your money got involved with research, maybe before that even, maybe when just being a star was the goal, scientists could be pulled away from the truth.
During the 1980’s the editor of the British Medical Journal raised concerns about research fraud, his peers thought him “eccentric”, and recently the editors from the same publication released a warning letter to Facebook about their inaccurate Fact checkers curbing the publication of uncomfortable facts.
Money, reputations lost for not toeing the political line, or arguing against other scientists’ findings all involve a lot of risk. Science is supposed to be an ideology centred on searching for the truth. So, if it is so susceptible to corruption then what hope is there for all those other ideologies that are only concerned with the truth if it supports their beliefs?
* * *
In the last chapter I looked at how I veered away from what I’d come to believe was my chosen path when it came to relationships. Was this new path just more realistic and honest or had I simply strayed because it was too difficult for me to follow? Was it corrupt in its inception, as in was it impossible for most people in the first place, or was I simply corrupted by an easier path.
The word ‘Corruption’ comes from the Latin ‘corruptus’, which amongst other things means:
‘Perverted’ as in departing away from the original or pure; ‘Spoiled’; ‘Contaminated’; ‘Decayed’; ‘Seduced’; ‘Violated’; ‘Dishonest’; ‘Fraudulent’, and ‘influenced through bribery or other wrong motives’.
There are many ways in which corruption can be facilitated, but seduction and threat are probably the most common methods. The mafia, persuading people to go against their deeply held principles using a case full of money or a bullet from a gun, puts it succinctly. Violence and threats against us, or our loved ones are very powerful motivators, as are the temptations of rewards with ‘no consequences’.
* * *
Friends – 1982
By the early summer months of 1982 I found that by acquiring a large collection of people to arrange meeting up with, there was always someone to send time with, and this way I didn’t push myself on to any one person too much. By the time I’d completed a circuit of seeing people there’d been a good bit of time since we’d last met. That way they were far less likely to feel put upon. There were a couple of other consequences to this that helped as well. The first was I didn’t exude a sense of desperation, no one likes to feel they’ve been called on because there was no one else to see, plus there’s something rather unattractive about a person who feels desperate, it’s as if they’re being driven by a touch of madness. The second effect was a few people started to genuinely like spending time with me. I expect a few of those I used to visit might say I was still a bit of a pain in terms of forcing myself upon them, but for the sake of this book I’m going to ignore them.
I’ve mentioned Jackie before, we met in life drawing classes and her dad was a university professor, yeah, remember now? That’s right, that’s the one. One day, after we’d been studying in the library she came back to my house. Mum cooked us some tea then on the way back to her place, we decided to go to the pub to see if there were any friends we could have a drink with.
It was already dark when we set off. As we walked through Carshalton High Street we passed a wine bar opposite the ponds then took the path through the graveyard to get to The Greyhound pub. At one point, I looked over my shoulder. I noticed two men walking behind us who seemed a bit drunk. A few seconds later I heard footsteps approaching at speed then a shout and felt someone’s hand grab my shoulder. Jackie screamed, I screamed. And in all the confusion I spun around and struck the assailant in the face. He recoiled and slumped backwards on to the railings. He was obviously dazed, his head turned from side to side, and there was blood coming out of his nose. He said “Simon, it’s me Warren”. I realised then it was a friend from school. As he started to regain his composure he said, “I think you’ve broken my nose”.
“Why did you jump on me?” I asked
“I was in the wine bar and saw you go past, I thought it’d be funny to jump on you”
“You scared us” Jackie said passing him a tissue and helping to clean his face.
“I’m really sorry” I said “I should have looked first but I panicked. We’re taught in karate to look first. I’m so sorry Warren”
“No, No,” Warren said “I shouldn’t have jumped you, it’s my fault”
I must have felt bad because against my nature I offered to buy him a drink as a way of an apology.
He agreed, so, we went back to the wine bar where people looked very concerned as we entered. There were a few “Are you ok Warren?” inquiries, followed by very confused looks as they tried to work out what had happened. As they looked at me they thought there was no way that I could have done it. They then looked at Jackie and probably assumed that Warren had been a bit inappropriate and got what he deserved. Poor Warren, it wasn’t his night.
Although I was a little proud of how I’d reacted, it did show me that I was far from a competent karate-ka. Maybe becoming aware of my inadequacy was the beginning of coming to terms with the reality of my limitations, not just because of my disability but also my proficiency as a fighter. In a matter of months, I was to be put in a position that highlighted just how useless I was, even after 3 years of intense training. I’ll come back to that in a later chapter. Yet more suspense, I know.
* * *
Corruption Part 2
There’s also another type of corruption that may best be termed ‘subversion’. Subversion turns our values on their heads and often involves seduction, contamination, and dishonesty. It’s a process that’ll make you doubt, maybe even hate, what were once your core values, and by the end of the process what once seemed right, will now seem wrong, it’s so subtle that it’ll feel as if corruption was never involved, but it was.
Subversion was there, right at the beginning, well at least at the beginning of the Bible. By the time the serpent had finished with Adam and Eve their whole world had been turned upside down. Even now, in 2021, there’s a feeling that many of our values have gone the same way.
People once believed that humans were essentially kindly, and it was society that corrupted us, right now it’s the Internet and Social Networks that are believed to be the biggest cause of division. But what if all along this division that had been planned. What if division is the aim of an ideology? If you want to know more, come meet Yuri.
* * *
Yuri – Stage One
Two men are sitting next to, and slightly turned towards each other. We see them through a grainy, faded colour TV screen. The man on the right is Yuri Bezmenov. He’s wearing a grey blue suit jacket, white shirt and dark tie. He has grey receding hair and is wearing very slightly tinted glasses. The TV presenter is sitting to his left, he’s dressed in a beige colour coordinated jacket, shirt, tie and matching face.
“Tonight we’ll be talking to an ex KGB officer who escaped from the Soviet regime in the early 70’s. He sought refuge in Canada but was eventually compromised. He’s decided to come out of the shadows because he’s got a message to tell us. It’s a message I think you’re going to want to hear. Good evening and welcome to the show, Yuri”
[The audience applauds, Yuri nods politely and mouths “Thank you” towards them]
The presenter looks back at Yuri “How do you feel about living in America Yuri?”
“You know” Yuri pauses “When I lived in Russia, America was blamed for anything that went wrong. If the crops failed we were sent out to look for American beetles, of course, we didn’t find any, but that just showed us how conniving the USA was.”
[The audience laugh]
“We focused on our enemy, that way we didn’t have to look at ourselves. But to answer your question. I’m worried.”
The presenter, looking confused, interrupts him “You’re worried about living in America?”
“Yes, I’m worried because I know what the KGB had planned for the West, and I can see these things, these plans, are coming to fruition”
[The audience gasps a little]
“What is the best way to win a battle?” he asks the audience. “don’t worry, I will tell you”.
he holds up a book “This book is called ‘The Art of War’. Every KGB officer is required to read this book. It teaches many things but one of the most important points it makes is “The best war is one where you never have to pick up a weapon”. I mean, why go to war with your enemies when you can destroy them from within? So much so, that by the end of it they will not just be willing to be ruled by you, they will be asking you to do so. This kind of war is called Subversion”
He puts the book down, then takes a sip of water from a glass on the coffee table in front of him.
“You’ve got to have patience if you want to win that war, there are at least 4 stages to it and the first one might take anywhere between 15 to 40 years. We call it “The Demoralisation stage”. I’ll explain it to you if we’ve got the time”
The presenter gently says, “Don’t worry Yuri we’ve got plenty of time.”
Yuri coughs lightly, puts his hand up to his mouth, then looks up
“Primarily the aim of this stage is to get your enemy distracted from things that previously mattered. This is done by getting them to pay attention to lots of less essential issues while at the same time encouraging division. In the West, this already started in the 1920’s. Back then Communism was seen as the way forward, especially within academic circles. Even when those good-hearted people were confronted with Soviet failures, such as millions dying from famine, they just dismissed these as lies until they were confronted with evidence, and even then, they argued it was nothing to do with the ideology. To some, famine, gulags, and genocide, were all worth it in the long run because the murderous ways of Capitalism were far worse.
Have you heard of the journalist Gareth Jones, he brought the Soviet famine of 1932 to the world’s attention? You probably don’t know him. He influenced Orwell’s book, ‘Animal Farm’. The KGB killed him, they don’t like bad press. That might be why Orwell wrote about farm animals and not the KGB.”
[The audience laugh a little]
The presenter shakes his head slightly. “I didn’t know about that, what did you call him, Mr Jones?”
“Yes, Gareth Jones, the farmer in the book was also called Mr Jones, it’s a bit of a coincidence, don’t you think?”
The presenter nods and looks back at the audience.
Yuri straightens his back. “So, with an intellectual elite already in the waiting, infiltration began. The main targets were, and still are, the education system, the media, the civil service, political parties, and lots of other institutions such as the unions, even the military and other law and order bodies. And here we are, in the 1980’s, with three generations of students having been exposed to Marxism without any contradictory arguments, what do you think the result is going to be?
If you doubt the success of the far left’s infiltration, ask yourself if being labelled as right wing has an element of stigma to it nowadays? That’s just for a start. Here, let me tell you about the main aims of the Demoralisation Process:
Firstly, we must take away traditional faiths, cultures and values. In fact, go as far as ridiculing them, then replace them with fake faiths such as political ideologies, consumerism, and media gods. Does that sound familiar?
[The audience murmur in agreement]
Next, aim to divide society further by taking away traditional neighbourhood and community social life. Soon people will start feeling divided. That’s a good time to create artificial, unelected leaders, such as spokespeople and political agitators. As far as the press goes, encourage those who follow the party line as well as mediocre journalists who don’t question anything in depth, but make sure you stop anyone who does.
Now we’re ready to go to the next step. It’s time to erode the established power structure by undermining leaders and members of the ruling classes, delegitimise the police by highlighting their abuse of power. Make the criminals victims of an oppressive society. Make victims of crime, the criminals. Surely we must redress the adversity of the unfortunate victimised criminals.
Don’t worry, we’re nearly there. Finally, we need to ensure the death of the natural exchange of ideas, and ideologies. Let’s make people scared to talk openly.
If at any point you find your laws are not working create further, harsher laws, but never ever question their validity, or the negative consequences of their existence. If a media platform contradicts the doctrine ‘discourage” it. In fact, all media platforms should, where possible, repeat ideological phrases like parrots without thinking. Even if it’s the ideology of businesses calling for us all to consume more NOW!”
The presenter leans forward, “Sorry, Yuri, we’ve got to take a quick break but we’ll be back after a word from our sponsors”
Yuri picks up his glass of water, the camera zooms out and the adverts start.
* * *
Trip to Exmoor Part 1 – Late August 1982
I mentioned setting up my version of a portable stereo a few chapters back. I think I’d used the Oxford Pocket Dictionary as a reference. Basically, I needed a big bag to carry it in, but to me it was worth it. Just as car stereos probably saved a lot of people from getting killed (as well as causing many deaths too), having a way of either blocking out the world around me, or at least giving it a rose-tinted soundtrack made my life a lot more bearable. So, when mum and John decided a holiday in a cottage on Exmore was going to help make things better between us all, I made sure the cassette player and headphones were at the ready.
I was still playing the Dire Straits ‘Making Movies’ record all the time, and a week before going away I bought their 2 other, previously released, albums. I also splashed out on a pair of small headphones. Up till then I’d been wearing large domestic ones which might be cool nowadays, but back then they just looked weird. By the time we were ready to set off I’d copied the albums on to cassette, packed a week’s supply of batteries, and threw a few books into my bag, just in case I needed an escape.
Mum and John thought leaving at 3am was the best way to avoid holiday traffic, so by the time we arrived at the cottage in Winsford, Somerset, settled in and eaten something, I’d been awake for about 48 hours. Tempers were a little strained.
Nowadays when we go away, we are still connected via the Internet and mobile phones to our friends and other communities. Back then going a few hundred miles felt like being stranded in the middle of nowhere. I felt a bit down generally, and thought that going away would help. After mum gave us a quick tour of the area in the car I downgraded my expectations somewhat.
After our first night’s sleep, I felt a little better. Mum, John and Stephen went to the coast while I stayed in most of the day doing homework, as well as writing cards and letters to friends. After tea, I went for a walk to the local pub. As I passed the bus shelter I noticed a ‘biker’ looking couple having sex in it. Curious to see if they were still at it I left the pub after one drink, they weren’t but my heart rate was raised further when a dog started barking from behind me. I decided that a quick run might be a good idea.
When I got in Stephen was ill, as I watched him puke I thought “I hope I don’t get that”. Sure enough, a day later I took command of Stephen’s bucket in the middle of the night. The silver lining to this was I got to stay home alone when Mum, John and Stephen went out for the day.
Shortly after they set off the owner of the cottage turned up and had a long chat with me in the garden. At one point, we were joined by a young man who had learning difficulties. He also had a dog, who, in a post-modern ironic way, was called Pup.
Once they left I spent the rest of the time writing, then, as evening fell and feeling as if I’d earned a break I went to the pub again. I stayed longer this time, had two drinks and a chat with some of the locals. I could feel my youth keenly as we talked. One of them said I was bloody marvellous, so, tempted to cause a massive brawl, I smiled and said thank you. On the way back, I prepared to be scared by the snarling dog, instead the biker couple were at it again so I slowly walked past hoping to pick up a few tips.
By the next morning I was beginning to enjoy staying in the cottage, but then John started having a go at me for talking to the owner. It seemed that this place had an argument table too.
* * *
6th January 2022
When it comes to cultural change there’s often a resistance to it from those who, back in their day, instigated their own revolutions against the wishes of their elders. No matter how much they call for things to stay as they are, or return to better days, everything moves on. They may be right, some things may have been better back then, but society doesn’t always develop along a constantly positive trajectory.
For those who believe we’re heading towards impending catastrophes, it’s only natural to worry. Similarly, for those who push change forward, it’s impossible to take their eyes off the prize and be aware of all the other possible consequences, good or bad.
As far as natural selection is not concerned, no thought is ever given as to what might, or might not work. Mutations come about and they either succeed or don’t. It’s almost beyond our comprehension to understand how millions of mutations could ever result in a species being clever enough to cultivate their own genes, but here we are. Even so, it’s just another branch of evolution blindly seeing what might happen next.
When a scientist splices and edits human genes, as far as natural selection goes, it’s as natural as a plant leaning towards the sun. Evolution is neither kind or cruel, but humans, on the other hand can be either. The mutations they plan to create may be motivated by positive intentions, but there’s no guarantee of success. That’s partly why when it comes to adjusting human DNA, the hands of scientists in the West are tied. They are strictly limited by ethical, religious and ideological bodies. But there are plenty of other countries who don’t care about such issues.
When I said earlier we’re coming to a crossroads, the choice was already made in our DNA hundreds of thousands of years ago. As a species, we are programmed to take one path only when it comes to creating Homo Sapiens Mk 2, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Ideologies have played a major role in human development throughout history, but there’s been a side effect that is easy to miss. The net result of the of interweaving humans with ideologies is self-hatred. Humans, realising that they cannot live up to their ideological ideals conclude that it isn’t the ideologies that are at fault, but humans. Therefore, the solution is to either destroy humans, or change them so they will live up to the standards required of them. From religious cultural conditioning, Eugenics, Social Engineering and now genetic engineering, humans
“The best war is one where you never have to pick up a weapon. I mean, why go to war with your enemies when you can destroy them from within? So much so, that by the end of it they will not just be willing to be ruled by you, they will be asking you to do so.” Yuri. This kind of war is called Subversion and Subversion turns our values on their heads and often involves seduction, contamination, and dishonesty.
Some of us will argue that our human weaknesses are our strengths, but such calls will go unheeded.
The universe is filled with billions of galaxies, presumably some of them have the potential to evolve intelligent life, and yet, so far we’ve never seen any signs of such civilizations. Do all intelligent beings eventually destroy themselves? There’s a theory that bacteria and other microbes might be able to hitch lifts on bits of debris hurled across the universe as a result of planetary collisions and somehow that’s how life on earth started. Maybe intelligence bears no relation to survivability after all.
Last night I dreamt I caught 3 tiny creatures, in their own way they were quite sweet, like cartoon versions of bugs. But when I realised they were going to destroy me, just as some bacteria might, I stamped on them and killed them. I felt bad about it, but I knew I had to do it. Then I would, wouldn’t I, after all I’m a human Mk 1. But to so many other people, including a part of myself, my action would be seen as disgusting and anything but human, even if it was just part of a dream.
* * *
Thursday, 6 January 2022
It’s cold here in the house of someone’s dreams. Over the last 2 years Covid-19 has turned the world upside down. I’ve been thinking of selling up as this is a big house to keep maintained. Lately when it rains heavily, water drips in through the bay window roof. It’s as if the house is crying. The scaffolder may come tomorrow, he’s not sure. Finding a worker to fix the roof is proving difficult, but I’ll get it sorted in time.
This year is going to be full of big changes, I can feel it. A few days ago, I ended up in hospital with a suspected strangulated hernia, fortunately it wasn’t, but it reminded me of how little time we have, and the deal I made with myself to get this and a few other projects finished as soon as possible.
For now, though, I wanted you to know, I don’t sit at an argument table anymore, instead it’s a peaceful one, often accompanied by laughter. Still, I’m always aware that both good and bad times come to pass, and I’m prepared for things to change, both for the better or worse.
When I was 17, it wasn’t the best of times, but things were changing and I knew there might be a different way to live so I started searching for it. Had I been able to tell myself anything then that I know now it would have been, “You’re gonna be very lucky, you’re going to experience so many good, and sometimes bad things, but at least you’re going to get to live a full life. So, put your seat belt on, there’s something you’re going to want to try, you’re going to think you can do it.”
* * *