August 27, 2010
Today I Am Free
Today I am free,
The madness my mind creates,
To give itself a sense of purpose
Has not disappeared,
But today I know my thoughts have no power,
And even as they appear, they float away
Dismissed as the utter nonsense they are.
They have no power,
How fantastic is that,
To recognize the truth,
They have no power.
An operative will be with you shortly
P.S. For our countless Marzena fans, wondering where she is, the answer is this: she presently has a technical problem with the blog apparatus, but normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
So don't hang up - we really do value your custom.
Oh, and you have not been charged for this call.
The Brighton Lanes Ghost walk Part 5
As with every great series like 'The Office' or 'West Wing', there has to be a final episode, and we have reached that today. From here on, sadly, you'll have to find something else to do with your life. But I understand your pain.
The thing is, we've now returned to the pub where we started, 'The Druid's Head.' Our actor friend took the money at the beginning, so that's sorted, but he does have one final story.
The Druid's Head pub apparently has two secret passages beneath it. One leads down to the sea, and was used by smugglers on the 'Rum run'. The other passage way leads to the Brighton Pavilion nearby, and was used by the Prince Regent for a different sort of smuggling - smuggling prostitutes into the palace.
The Druid's Head is haunted; it has to be really, but I wasn't listening too closely by this time. The actor was trying, but he was at best an average performer, and when his material dipped, so did the experience. I was now somehwere else.
The walk was billed as 'Frightening!' to promote business. And of course I too hammed it all up at the beginning, like some circus barker getting in the crowds. After all, most of us like to be a little spooked, from the comfort and security of our arm chairs. But d'you know what? As the sun goes down on this August day in Brighton, and a chill wind blows from the sea, I'm thinking its alot more sad than frightening.
Our actor friend has done his best to thrill, playing always for the scream. But really, as the stories have unfolded, there's been little to do but cry and wonder as the unresolved pain of figures from the past makes nonsense of boundaried time, and walks unbidden through the centuries' walls in search of relief.
As the eras melt before our eyes, and past and present unite in strange union, we stand in the eternal now, present with those before us, and with those still to come. Mmmmm....
So yes, the Brighton Lanes Ghost walk has been a haunting experience -just not the one I was expecting.
August 24, 2010
The Brighton Lanes Ghost Walk Part 4
Well, as you know, we're walking the Brighton Lanes, so do try and keep up. Yes, you at the back dawdling, please!
And as we walk - some of us faster than others - we're discovering a rather large number of ghosts, and today we find ourselves standing outside the Cricketer's pub, about a 100 yards from the sea front.
Our actor friend dressed in black tells that its a very fine hostelry, and is the place where a famous novel was written. Can you guess which one? Yes, apparently in an upstairs room in this pub, Graham Greene wrote much of his novel 'Brighton Rock'.
But this isn't some poncy literary tour, thank God, but a ghost tour, full of spooks and menace, and our particular interest here is that locals say that the pub is haunted by the ghost of Robert Stephenson, an one-time patron who seems reluctant to leave.
As you may well be aware, Robert Stephenson, a former army surgeon, is the most likely identity of Jack the Ripper.
But please don't let that put you off a quick sweet sherry and a bag of nuts in the saloon bar...
August 20, 2010
My healing fire
A couple of months ago I completed a long four year degree. It first started as a dream six years ago and now has come true through hard work, some luck and some kind people, who along the way supported me in various ways.
Once completely finished, I was left with a feeling of loss as I came to terms with the fact that this part of my life had now ended. I realised that I now needed to have an emotional clear out and let the four years pass though me thus making way for new adventures.
Two months on, I have had the time and space to work it through and while there are still some experiences that are stubbornly holding on, I now feel ready for what lies ahead and continue my journey.
Last week looking around my study (I am a natural hoarder) I could see that there was a great deal of paper stacked up and lying around. Some was valuable and worth keeping however 80% was not. So as part of my clear out I collected it all and found a place where I could sit with a cup of tea and watch it burn.
As I sat on the grass and threw pieces of paper into the blazing beautiful flames, twirling smoke rose out of the fire and into the air. As this happened I also felt the past come out of me and follow the smoke into the air. I stayed until the last flame had gone out and ash was all that remained.
Thank you my healing fire.
The Brighton Lanes Ghost walk Part 3
And so, dear reader, to the sad, and in some ways repulsive, story of the Grey Nun, in 14th century Brighthelmstone. (I will leave it to you to decide who is repulsive.)
We must remember that during the 14th century, the south coast of England was vulnerable to all sorts of raiders, particularly French. And so a group of soldiers were stationed there to protect the monastery and its surrounds.
But then something happened. One of the soldiers fell in love with one of the nuns, the Grey Nun of our story. They decided to elope, but were captured by the Order, and the soldier was hanged. The nun's fate was worse, however. For her punishment, she was bricked up alive in the monastery walls to die a lingering death, because, we are told, the church did not want blood on its hands.
The Grey Nun still walks the Lanes, revisiting the site of her tragic arrest...
August 16, 2010
The Brighton Lanes Ghost Walk Part 2
One of the first stories we heard on our Ghost walk in the Brighton Lanes, was that of the unfortunate John Robinson, who recently gave a copper a bit of a shock.
Robinson was an 18th century adventurer and soldier of fortune whose luck ran out in Persia - he backed the wrong side in a rebellion and his eyes were burnt out with hot irons. A few years later, a sympathetic merchant found him ailing on the streets and helped him return to England.
The adventurer finally made it back to his home town of Brighton, only to die there in the district called the Old Steine. But it was there in the Old Steine that a police officer recently met him. He saw adventurer John's phantom lying in the road, and was physically sick after seeing his face.
While on another occasion, a woman was so appalled by the figure's appearance that she spent a night in hospital.
Next stop, the story of the Grey Nun.
August 14, 2010
Marzena's back from a wonderfully poetic Poland, and I'm back from a couple of haunted days in Brighton. I've been there often, but hadn't realised quite how many ghosts have been watching my every move down there on the south coast.
I was staying near the famous Brighton 'Lanes'. They were the original fishing village of Brighthelmstone, before the place was made fashionable by the (fairly/deeply unimpressive)Prince Regent in the 18th century. Now, however, the Lanes are fish-free and full instead shops that are trendy, quirky and pink. (And God help any fisherman found there.)
But the Lanes are also full of ghosts, a truth I discovered after going on the 'Brighton Ghost walk' in the company of an actor dressed in black hat and tails. We went from site to site, hearing of nasty deeds and subsequent hauntings.
I'll tell you one or two of the stories. So you may not wish to visit this blog site alone over the coming days...
August 12, 2010
Polish priest on Nothingness
The much loved Polish priest and philosopher Joseph Tischner (they don't make them like this any more), when asked about his political views, replied that he was neither from the Left nor from the Right but from a small town called Lopuszna, where he spent his childhood, and where he loved going back to for the rest of his life.
I have just come back from 'holiday' in Poland. Inverted comas are here for the simple/complicated reason that going back home is never a proper holiday. It's to close to home , as it were, to close to the bone..
Despite everything, like Tischner, I too like going back to where I grew up, and soak up the sights and sounds and smells and tastes of my childhood and my youth. Yellow bumblebees, iridescent dragonflies by the river bank, arrow-like swallows in the sky, storks in their nests, the sound of grasshoppers at night, mushrooms and wild blueberries in the resin-scented forest - it all added up to my own private Proustian madeleine. Both transient and eternal.
Prof. Tischner gave his sermons in a normal secular voice, without a trace of that annoying saintly diction that most priests tend to adopt, and as well as true wisdom, was blessed with a lively sense of humour. When asked by an interviewer to explain the concept of 'Nothingness', he responed: "Nothingness is like.. nothing.. it's like, for example, a half a litre of vodka for two people!"
For some that amount spells total oblivion, for others - nothingness, or nothing much at all..
August 11, 2010
The hot ticket...well, warm.
While you were watching 'Big Brother' last night, I was doing some preparation.
I'm speaking at the Greenbelt Arts festival this month, at the Cheltenham Race Course over the Bank Holiday Weekend.
As a speaker, you never quite know what your venue is going to be like until you get there. Last year I found myself speaking in the arena where the horses are presented before the race. Even without horses, the place was, like, so full of Horse. Total horse. Had I known this in advance, I suspect I would have put in some clever and wry allusions to horses in my spiel. As it was, clever and wry remained determinedly absent, as I never quite got over the fact that standing there, I really should have been a large horse...and I wasn't. I really wasn't.
This year, I'm in a different venue, but again I foresee problems. It's called 'Bethlehem', which clearly feeds into all my messianic pretensions. After the horse thing, the messiah thing. And are clever and wry comments appropriate about the nativity? I can imagine looking out on a sparsely filled venue and saying, 'No room at the inn, but plenty of room here, it seems.'
Still, if you wish to come and see me struggling,I'm on at 3.30pm, Saturday August 28th. I'm in conversation with, and reflecting on, Meister Eckhart, Leo Tolstoy and Vincent Van Gogh.
They're worth the ticket alone...
August 08, 2010
Living without the security blanket
Some of the children I work with carry items that they use to comfort themseves, sometimes these are well worn pieces of cloth and are known as security blankets.
I think our personality is like a security blanket thrown over an ugly deformed face. Hiding what we don't want anyone else to see.
We also use our personality to cover up the parts of ourselves which we dislke, and unable to see them, try to convince ourselves that they are not there.
Because of the perceived ugliness, we always expect attacks from within and without and we use our personality to protect ourselves. It is our security and we think that we cannot live without it.
But if we dig deep enough inside we will find the purest stream of light, which when uncovered and allowed to shine into the dark places, can light them up and dissolve the layers of old pain transforming the ugliness inside.
When this happpens the personality blanket is no longer needed.
Only when we are free, we realise how restricting always carrying the blanket about had been.
And we discover our true face is one of luminous beauty.
August 05, 2010
One of my recent birthday cards had on it a quotation from Jonathan Swift:
'May you live all the days of your life.'
So simple, so probing, so flower-openingly wonderful.