Japan and Birmingham

I play a lot of music during the day as I work in my home office. It never ceases to amaze me the power of music. In particular, its power to evoke memories and trigger mood and emotional responses. If I want to meditate, I simply go to youtube these days and select a nice suitable piece of music and I am off to other spheres…..

Today, I played some Japan. It has been a long time since I did and I was immediately transported back to Birmingham and 1979. My best friend at college – Steve – introduced me to Japan one afternoon at his flat. We were playing Dungeons and Dragons and he put one of their albums on. I loved the music and the deep rumbling of David Sylvian’s voice. I immediately went out and bought that record – and the next and the next. I devoured Japan music. Now, I listen and I am back in that room all of those years ago……. that is the power of music. 35-years on but ‘Nightporter’ sends me back in time every time.

I also went to see Japan. In Glasgow while doing my Ph.D. Perhaps they were an acquired taste but I could get no one to go with me and so I went alone. Amazing evening. Given it was a sell out at the Glasgow Apollo I have to wonder why none of my friends wanted to go? The music of Japan accompanied me to Nova Scotia and periodically through my life. I still adore David Sylvian’s voice and have two of his solo efforts too.

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It makes me wonder. What music will I associate with now? In a few years time, will I be transported back to my office in our apartment here in Brno by the sound of some artist or song? I guess I will.

Here is some David Sylvian to float to –

 

 

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A Journey to the End of the world

I remember one day deciding with a friend that we would explore the very edge of our world. We jumped on our bicycles and set off resolutely in that general direction. After about 15-minutes, we had already entered an entirely new world about which we knew only rumor. Here, there were supposed to be roaming gangs that if they caught you, would carry you off to their secret lairs in the ‘blackgang’. We felt, well, very brave to have gone so far and to be in someone else’s territory.

Parking our bikes by the side of the street, we entered some gardens discovering a veritable paradise of willow trees and grass surrounding a small private pond. It was magical and it was someone else’s secret garden as we had hauled ourselves over a 6 foot brick wall to get there. To me, this was a secret and deeply mystical world. The grass and the drooping willows gently moving in the breeze stirred my imaginative juices and I recall sitting there savoring the atmosphere.

Of course, we were afraid that whatever Giant owned this garden, they would be miffed to find us trespassing there, so we shortly left taking one last long look back over our shoulders, hopping back on bikes and cycling down the street home just as fast as we could. We half expected to hear the thump of feet as we were chased down the street. We half expected to meet the members of ‘blackgang’ on the trek back. Of course, we arrived home safely and enjoyed a sandwich and fizzy drink in front of the TV.

I recall this expedition with clarity. I recall the feelings and emotions. I recall the secret garden at the end of the world. It was magical day in a magical childhood.

Not so long ago, I had an opportunity to go back to my childhood house in Westlands Rd., Hull. A quick stroll up the street, one block essentially, and I found that ‘blackgang’ was now a sprawling housing estate rather than the square of bomb damaged wasteland it was when I was growing up. Another block and I found a block of flats and peering over the brick wall, I was surprised to find the magical garden. It was much smaller than I recalled and there was just one willow tree there and  a small muddy green pond unkempt and overgrown.

Imagination is an incredible thing. Far better than the reality we surround ourselves with. On the other hand, perhaps that reality is created through our imagination? In which case, we simply need to imagine better just like I did as a boy. Just like we all did when we were kids.

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A Yorkshire Christmas

Christmas Eve was spent collecting Ammonites on a cold, blustery but magnificently beautiful day on the Yorkshire coast. We found lots of these whirly fossils in the lower Jurassic of Ravenscar and the walk down and then back up the cliffs was refreshing and invigorating. This experience was topped off with a delicious cream tea at Raven Hall Hotel. It couldn’t have been any better.

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As the three of us trooped down the muddy path, I reflected on the many trips around Yorkshire fossil hunting I had done with my late Father. Not only did we hunt fossils but we explored the area in depth. Roman roads, ancient burial sites, viking villages. You name it, we did it. We even found a whole bunch of iron age pottery that we donated to the Yorkshire museum – Staxtonware – from the valley just at the Scarborough side of Staxton hill. I was back in my element and enjoying that.

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We took a look at the Alum works and I tried to explain to my daughter that the rocks above us were brought down to this place and treated with gallons of human pee brought by ship from Hull to the south. I asked her the question my Father had once asked me, “Can you imagine how it would have smelled here?” By the wrinkled nose look she gave me, she probably could.

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After the cream tea, it was back to Beverley to finish the trifle we had left there that my Mother had made at my request. Delicious!

My daughter had never experienced Santa delivering presents. In the Czech republic, they are delivered by Jezisek and on Christmas Eve conveniently just after dinner. She enjoyed ripping open the presents that morning and she opened everyones just for good measure. She was also fascinated by the Christmas crackers and managed to go through a couple of boxes of them! Just the thing for her, little plastic novelty gifts and party hats in everyone!

Christmas dinner followed and she enjoyed traditional turkey and trimmings followed by Christmas pudding and rum sauce. Actually, she didn’t much care for the pudding which meant I got double helpings….

It was a brilliant experience for my daughter but it was also nice to be with my Mother and family back in the place I was born for Christmas for the first time in over 30-years. Hull City even managed an away win on Boxing Day……

Christmas is Just Silly!

Christmas has many facets. One of them is the never ending commercialization of what really should be a simple family Christian religious celebration. Of course, christmas has in its central theme, much for non-Christians to peruse and consider in terms of its greater spiritual meaning and in terms of other non-Christian celebrations at this time of the year. However, the endless commercialization has really spoiled for me what used to be a happy and beautiful time of the year.

In the Czech Republic, christmas decorations generally still go up around the 1st December. Some of the chain stores with HQ’s overseas start earlier though. In other places like the US and the UK, christmas basically now starts in October or even earlier. It is no longer a religious holiday unless your religion happens to be shopping! Even more bizarre is that the sales begin now before christmas too. Walking around London in late November, I was surprised to observe many company Xmas parties taking place already. The commercialization extends to the internet too of course and the internet begins to be lit up like a christmas tree by mid-October too. I really detest this.

By making christmas last 3-months it’s specialness has been erased. It was a special few days when I was growing up and now its a season all in of itself!

I also have to reflect on Christmas in another way these days too. As we celebrate what is the birth of the Christian savior or avatar and reflect on the values taught by Christ, contrast that with the downright lies we tell our own children! Every year, as parents we concoct a litany of lies about big merry men in red and white sliding down chimneys bearing gifts. He is carried there by a sleigh that flies pulled by several reindeer that can also fly. Apparently, this man lives at the North Pole with Elves and other strange creatures making toys (I think actually, this part is incorrect, it is plainly obvious these days that Santa lives in a place called China. It says so on all of the toys he brings). Any rational and sane person would deeply distrust a man who liked to dress up and be surrounded by elves and children!

OK. I get it. It is fun and it is part of the whole charade we play at this time of year but eventually our own children come to understand that, despite telling them not to lie and fib and make things up, their parents have happily been doing it to them for years… What kind of example does that set?

Then we have the christmas movies, songs and so on. Cynically, just a bunch of people making money out of the holidays.

No, Christmas, is a strange and bizarre time of the year if you really stop to think about it and these days, its a long way from what Christmas was supposed to be. However, I am no Scrooge and I will do my very best to celebrate the holidays this year….

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Meanwhile, here is another view of Christmas – a short story written last week and as a seasonal gift, please do download Moon whispers for Free today before its too late….

A Meeting with God

In the run up to Halloween, here is another true and strange tale of the paranormal. I will post a new strange true story each day so don’t miss them.

A few weeks into my college days, as I made my way from the Students’ Union building to my student flat on the 19th floor of a campus building, I noticed a rather suspicious looking character who seemed to be following me around. As I entered one of the elevators in the ground-floor of the building, he followed peering sideways at me but looking away whenever I tried to catch his eye. As the elevator arrived at my floor, I was hoping it was all just my imagination and that perhaps he would continue up to the top floor above me. But, as I left the elevator, he followed and as I reached the doorway into the group of six study bedrooms, shared kitchen, and bath that was my home on campus, he was still right there – right behind me.

“Do you want something?” I asked nervously.

“Gary, I want to talk to you,” he said quietly.

“How do you know my name?” I asked in surprise.

“Oh, I know a lot about you.” he replied. “And I must speak with you – Now if possible.”

Reluctantly, I let him in to my study bedroom and he introduced himself as an Indonesian student. He practiced meditation, he said, and he had been asked by his Guide to talk to me and help with some challenges that I was facing. I was rather incredulous but convinced. How exactly did he know my name?

Anantha and I actually became firm friends from that point forward. He really did know a lot about me for someone I had just met and that seemed both mysterious and alluring. He tried to help me understand that I was a ‘sensitive’ and that this sensitivity meant that I was open to all the flotsam and jetsam of the astral world. He also told me that my uncontrolled reaction – pure fear – was attracting things from that realm that I was probably better off without. He started to teach me some psychic self defence methods that were useful but the problem was that at the smallest hint of any phenomenon, I became a total wreck and fear possessed me completely.

In order to help me overcome this deep-seated fear, he suggested that it might help if I could share a controlled experience with him. Sitting me down in a comfortable position, he asked me to close my eyes and relax. Peeking out of the corner of my eye I watched him do likewise. Suddenly, I was with him in a stone tunnel, it seemed to go on for a great distance and as it did so, it slowly curved around so that you could not see where the tunnel went. What I could see though, was the brightest light I have ever seen. It filled the tunnel with golden light but its source was always just around the bend in the tunnel so that it could not actually be seen directly. The light began to fill me with laughter. It made me feel very happy, happier than I had ever felt and happier than anyone has any right to feel. I began to laugh out loud and as I did so, tears of joy sprang from my closed eyes. As I laughed an odd thing happened. My laughter seemed to become magnified thousands of times and to descend in pitch until I realized that this was not my laughter anymore but someone or something else’s laughter. The laughter permeated throughout my entire being so that everything was laughter and golden light and I knew then that I was in the presence of God.

When I finally came out of the trance that I had found myself in, Anantha was already sitting opposite me with a smile on his face and a questioning look in his eyes.

“You see, He is always there for you,” he explained. “There is no need to be frightened. All you have to do is trust in Him.”

As I discovered on several occasions since then, a wonderful experience like that quickly fades just as the memory of a dream fades. At the time that it happens and shortly afterwards, it feels as if it should surely stay with you forever, but it fades just the same as consciousness returns to normality. And, with its fading away so too the newly found and almost grasped confidence went with it and as Anantha left, I was ashamed to feel just as frightened as I had been before.

Anantha did help me a lot though. Through slow perseverance he got me to a state that I could best describe as the toleration of fear. He was also someone that I could share my thoughts and experiences without fear of reproach or that look of horror as your confidant realizes that you might well be a total freak. Unfortunately, he left the college at the end of my first year returning to Indonesia and I never heard from him again.

If you enjoyed this story you will also enjoy my novel – The Last Observer – great price on Kindle all winter!

Poltergeist

In the run up to Halloween, here is another true and strange tale of the paranormal. I will post a new strange true story each day so don’t miss them.

up in my house was on the whole, pretty good. We had great parents, almost every weekend we were gone camping somewhere, we had two proper holidays each year and I have no complaints at all. Just a bunch of heartfelt thanks to my parents and a growing sense of awe as to how they did all that with three small boys and not a lot of money.

When I was eleven, we moved. It was a good move to be honest from a terraced three up, two down in west Hull to a rather nice semi-detached outside of Hull. It meant a better school and a nicer environment back then. It stretched my parents’ finances a bit too. It is funny though that my brothers and I really did not like that house the first time we saw it. It had terrible wallpapers, it was gloomy and ill lit, very cold and damp without central heating. Between the three of us, there was no excitement at moving there.

Of course, within a few months, that house was completely different. Central heating had been installed, old fireplaces blocked up and replaced with modern gas fires, new wallpaper and décor and new curtains. To make it seem more homely, a couple of internal windows had been added letting much more light enter into the rooms as well. It was transformed. All was well in the Vasey household. But it wasn’t to stay that way.

The first incident was the Cavalier ghost and after that, I swapped rooms with my little brother giving me the smallest bedroom at the front of the house but also the privacy of my own room. I gradually came to loath that room. It started with the noises; strange noises at all times of day but mostly in the dead of night. Scrapping sounds and scratching sounds. Dad put it down to maybe a squirrel in the loft. I wasn’t as convinced.

Things would also move around. I would place my watch by the bathroom sink to get washed and find it in the kitchen. At first, I thought it was Dad having fun as he was always a great practical joker but it soon became apparent that it was not him. Keys went missing. Money too. These would then just as mysteriously turn up in the strangest places like on a window ledge or under the sofa cushions.

The next developments though were what eventually had me relieved to leave and go to college. It was what kept me awake at night in total fear. Have you noticed that silence is loud? I mean when you are really really focused on listening to nothing it is very, very loud. I would lie in bed, head under the bedclothes, bedside light on and listen. The scratting sounds, scratching sounds and the sounds of doors opening that I knew were locked, the sounds of footsteps and breathing. It was enough to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

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I would actually dread coming home from college for a weekend or the summer because of this. By the way, this only happened when I was there! Just for me apparently. I would literally go out and get drunk to stay there. The best example was one night close to Christmas. I was home from college and had been out with my friend and had a few. I was sleeping on the floor in my brother’s room that night. I lay down hoping to pass right out but instead I was cold stone sober and scared half to death by the sound of the front door opening. Now, the first thing I thought was that somehow I had left the door unlocked but I knew that wasn’t the case as I had checked it on the way up the stairs. The key was in the lock and that door was locked.

The front door opened and closed as I listened sitting half up in bed. There was a deep sigh and a little cough. Ice-cold fear ran through my veins. The silence was so loud it was unbearable. Then, the first foot step and creak of the bottom stair. My heart was beating as if to burst. Another long sigh and another step. And another. I was now fumbling for the light but my hands were shaking so hard I couldn’t find it. By now, the steps seemed to be at the top of the stair and moving along the hallway. The floorboards creaked and there was that sigh again. I was frozen to the spot but what I actually wanted to do was run. Run and anywhere. There was a moment’s silence and then I watched in disbelief and horror as the bedroom door began to slowly swing open.

I screamed. I screamed so loud you probably heard me in London.

A few moments passed by and then the door flew open and there to my utter relief stood my Dad in his pajamas holding a very large spanner in one hand and a flashlight in the other. He switched in the light and my brother looked about him in a state of shock through two sleepy looking eyes.

“It’s OK, I heard that too,” said my Dad. “I heard it too.”

We sat Dad and I and my brother for quite a while but all was quiet. Whatever it was it had gone. I eventually fell asleep and my Dad went back to bed checking the doors in the process.
We didn’t talk much about it the next day. It was simply something that happened in that house when I was home. My Dad said it was poltergeist activity and it was centered around me. I think he was right. We didn’t really know what to do about it but we did discover one thing. If I got angry, the phenomena stopped. So, that is what I would do. I would get angry and shout at whatever it was to get lost or perhaps using even more choice phrases. If a door started to open, instead of screaming, I pulled the door open with a verbal challenge. It had the desired effect.

The activity followed me though. It followed me to Aston University until I met Anantha. But that is another story.

If you enjoyed this story you will also enjoy my novel – The Last Observer – great price on Kindle all winter!

Life is But A Dream

I recall singing that song when I was a small child and wondering what did it mean? – Life is just a dream?

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

But where did this come from and who wrote it? A bit of research suggests that the earliest printing of it was in 1852 but who wrote it and why seems lost in the mists of time. If anyone knows, please let me know…

I thought life a dream when I was a child or rather, I thought it a game that I controlled. It was a sort of virtual reality (as it would be called now) and I was sat in a box connected to a machine that gave me vision and senses. So to be honest, I didn’t puzzle too much over the idea that life might be a dream. I rather accepted that it was.

I have lost so much as I have grown and yet I have gained so much. My imagination as a child was beyond equal. I could create other worlds right there in my head and my dreams and my waking life seemed interconnected and one. I could fly back then. Magic – physical magic was real and so were elves. There was a girl I loved so much trapped on an island of towering cliffs looked after by her wicked witch of an Aunt that I dreamed about over and over again. One dream ran into the next even weeks apart until I finally rescued my love and the wicked witch met her destiny.

There may have unlimited imagination as a child but there was no experience of life. In the Mystical Hexagram, I talk about the hardened horny matter that is built up by life. We talk about the burning away – the transformation through fire – of life’s experience. The breaking down of this hardened horny material that we build up through life.

It’s as if we build ourselves a prison.

It starts early with our parents who, knowing no better, burden us with some of the hardened life material. Next, its other kids (peer pressure) and our teachers (culture, way of seeing things etc.). We lose our ability to just imagine and it is replaced with the straight jacket that is normality and acceptance. We no longer ‘row the boat, gently down the stream’ but rather fight the currents going in God knows which direction and to what end? Oblivion?

Life loses its innocence, its gaiety, it’s merriness. It’s no longer a dream but a nightmare.

That is until you remember how to imagine. How to center yourself and imagine. Learn how to dream again. How to cast off the horny matter and transform the experiences – no matter what they are – into something of eternal value and meaning. Something spiritual and energizing. The combination of childish imagination skills and the adult’s experiences of life to at first remember to row, gently DOWN the stream (with the current – Just as Asteroth said ‘don’t fight, go with the flow merrily understanding, it is YOUR dream and you can create your own reality.

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Originally posted on Asteroth’s Domain.