This week was a big step forward in grasping the basics of both electronics and off-grid living.
I took ownership of the first in a series of devices that will accompany my journey into the technical world of electronic experimentation, with a view to understand what (or should I say watt?) works, what doesn’t, what our basic needs are and what luxury items one can still use whilst being isolated from the grid.
So the sustainable energy basics are already acquired, this week saw two exciting deliveries; the first a 100w portable solar panel, the second an entry-level 240wh power station.
I intend to review both items in time, but what it has already allowed me to do is to think in a different way. Us on-gridders invariably don’t think about how devices work, how much electricity they consume and how much it costs to run them, one typically plugs, plays, enjoys and pays the hefty energy bills at the end of the month.
With the start of the build of my “Cabin In The Yard” (the prototype for the build of over a dozen ecolodges at our retreat in Wales), only weeks away, I wanted to fully explore and understand the art of what’s possible without drawing any resources from the house.
Thankfully, my son is an electrical engineer and he gave me an electricity 101 to explain what watts, amps and volts are, how to find out the inputs and outputs of devices, and by doing the maths, I could work out the drain from each appliance on the limited power reserves I have.
I’ll admit the 101 didn’t make much sense until I started to do some research on which devices and appliances are powered by 12v batteries, USB or AA / AAA rechargeable batteries.
Once I found out the watts for each device, the penny dropped. By documenting the watts of each device, I knew exactly how much each one would drain from the 240 watt hours I had to play with on my power station.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer volume of devices out there that could continue (somewhat) a life of luxury, totally cost free (besides the initial investment of course), as long as the sun was shining (the fundamental flaw in my plan of living in the monochromatic grey realm of North West England).
Here is the list of devices I found, not exhaustive by any means and somewhat primordial when compared to those in the house for the likes of heating, cooking and lighting, but still an impressive list nonetheless (those marked green I already possess):
🟢 Portable Showers (15w)
🟢 Cooler Boxes/Fridges (58w)
🔴 Heating Stoves (40w)
🔴 Travel Kettles (120w)
🔴 Hair Straighteners (20w)
🔴 Hair Dryers (150w)
🔴 Toastie Makers (120w)
🔴 Heater Fans (120w)
🔴 Travel Hoovers (12.5w)
🔴 Electric Blankets (55w)
🔴 TVs (40w)
🔴 Air Pumps (120w)
🔴 Water Pumps (60w)
🟢 Desk Fans (1w)
🟢 Desk Lamps (5w)
🟢 Bluetooth Speakers (5w)
🟢 iPhones (5w)
🟢 iPads (10w)
🟢 Surface Pro (60w)
🟢 Nintendo Switch (25w)
🟢 Logitech Web Cams (5w)
🟢 USB C Computer Monitors (25w)
🟢 Mavic Mini Drones (15w)
🟢 Sony XM3 Headphones (15w)
🟢 Apple Watches (2w)
🟢 Portable Power Banks (15w)
🟢 Recyclable Battery Chargers (15w)
🟢 Oculus Quest VR Headsets (15w)
🟢 Portable Shower (15w)
🔴 Portable Projectors (15w)
🔴 Mini Blenders (65w)
🔴 LED Lights (45w)
Rechargeable Battery Appliances
🟢 Portable Speakers
🟢 Nose Trimmers
🔴 LED Lights
Yes, I’m at the stage of my life now where nose trimmers have become an essential item!
The beauty of buying the items above is that they are all 100% portable, so not only can I use them in the soon-to-be-erected cabin, but I can take them camping with me later in the year, and if the zombie apocalypse does turn up some point soon, I’m sorted.
Clearly to stay connected, I’ll need to tether my phone to the internet-based devices I have, so not everything is free, but it’s a good start, and does go to show that the art of what is possible is both sustainable and achievable if you want it…
As Rabbie Burns famously once penned, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!”
It’s fair to say that as the dawn rose this morning, another day of being both completely healthy and totally locked in left me with feelings of melancholy.
In need of cheering up, I took it upon myself to make my wife a Valentine’s Day breakfast, her favourite of poached eggs on toast with sea salt and cracked pepper. With two small gifts and a hug or two exchanged, my mind quickly returned to the great outdoors. As the snowflakes fell again upon the cold ground, I could not help but feeling that this year was another one that is going to pass most of us by, certainly in the UK.
The extra-currlcular project that I am working to invent and create an eco-retreat in North Wales couldn’t seem further away than it actually is geographically (i.e. anything beyond the Boris Johnson invisible line of seven miles is out of bounds according to the latest “guidelines”). Here we will have something that when deployed, will bring so much personal achievement for me and my comrades, as well an avenue for many others to enjoy nature, commune with others and return to an acceptable level of mind-body-spiritual balance, all of which are out of kilter for the vast majority of the populace.
I am resigned to the fact that it’s not going to happen this year. With so much uncertainty and blockers, my proposed project plan is already slipping to the right with no actions yet completed.
Someone said to me recently to only concern oneself with the things one can control and let go of the things one cannot. Wise words.
With those sage words of advice keeping my tinnitus company this morning, I took to YouTube for inspiration, and man was I inspired!
After several attempts to find the right viewings on creating ecolodges, I came across two wonderful individuals, known in cyberspace as Bushradicaland the Girl in the Woods (move over Sarah Beeny and George Clarke).
Very recently, they have created what I had been dreaming of for the eco-retreat, an off-grid cabin/lodge erected simply and quickly from standard materials one can find at the reclamation/builders yards and hardware supply stores.
So impressed am I with the simplicity, speed and quality of the build, I simply have to share the videos below, in a hope to inspire myself to build a copy of their creation as a prototype in my own compact and bijou back yard, and if successful use the same design and materials as a template for our retreat.
Girl In The Woods
After being totally consumed by these videos today, I started to put pen to paper to see how I can use Dave and Brooke’s template to create my “Cabin in the Yard”.
With the temperatures at zero outside, there is plenty of time now to draw up my plans on what the dimensions of the cabin will look like, and what materials I need to procure over the coming weeks. The planned build is to commence on the Spring Equinox (21st March).
What the future has in store for us is a point most debated just now given the state of things in the world. What is becoming clearer as the days turn into weeks and months, is that it will not be what we have been used to over the past few decades. Irrespective of the origins of Covid and which side of the debate one falls on, things will be different, change is inevitable.
I fall in and out of love with Russell Brand, who seems to float between his high-ego and higher-self a bit too regularly for my liking, but in general I think he has matured into a person who has the greater good at his core. Although he seems to sit on the fence a lot more these days, he offers up thoughts and themes for us to ponder on, no more so than his latest output on YouTube following the completion of Davos 2021:
It does appear that governments and big business have a flagrant disregard now for smoke and mirrors. The things they say and do are well and truly in the public domain, whether it be awarding contracts without tenders, billionaires updating their personal biographies with a single word which results in huge volatility in the stock markets increasing their own wealth, to some blatant messaging from organisations advising to the public they will own nothing, they will rent everything, and a huge majority will be displaced, but they will be happy.
Fundamentally, it comes down to a binary decision (like most things seem to do these days); does one go with the flow or not. Masks, vaccines, guideline compliance, political alignment and consumerism, we either do or do not. Control and self-control are two key aspects of the human condition, ultimately we either offer up the control of the self to others and have our outcomes decided for us, or we apply self-control and choose our own outcomes (although that too can be influenced by others).
I’ve long admired Steven Wilson and have waited patiently for his new album The Future Bites (annoying the title and the tracks are all in uppercase, a thing this pedant can overlook, just!). As creative output has been very limited over the last twelve months, the album was on repeat for the whole day yesterday, at the end of which I was (as per usual) rather impressed. Wilson continues to depart from traditional arrangements and instruments, and whilst this album uses electronica in most of its songs, its still has that unmistakably Wilson feel to it. It may irk the purists who see him make in-roads into the world of pop-rock and away from prog, but it is lyrically sublime as always, irrespective of the accompanying tune; a very accurate critique of the human condition, and all too familiar to the listener and reader of his post-modern poetry.
At the core, Wilson shares his own view on the rank state of play at present, with an overarching message that we have entered a period of devolution, a period which is seeing us break away from tribes, traditions and a sense of community, and moving towards a world consumed by image, self-worth, mindless consumerism and materialism. There is also a nod to the fact that social media is a plague of its own, a virtual cancer that eats away at compassion and decency. I have not had any online presence (besides this anonymous blog) for over eighteen months now and I’m better for it. Others close to me sometimes share titbits with me, often to my utter horror. Friends I have had since my school days are taking to such platforms to share the most bilious and vile rhetoric and insults, demoting them from friends through acquaintances to people I once met.
Music can be, and often is, a channel for talented individuals to use their prowess and influence to draw attention to the problems we face as a race, putting across to the listener a message (clear or otherwise – and that is the beauty about it, we can take what we want from a song and turn it into something deep and meaningful to us) which can often be more powerful than what is presented by the authorities via their preferred media channel outlets.
For those who have not heard of Steven Wilson, his entire back catalogue is on Spotify (all forty studio albums), which includes his early days in Porcupine Tree and splinter projects and collaborations (Storm Corrosion, Blackfield, No-Man), but a good place to start is Insurgentes, the opening track of his first solo album, and one of his best songs to date).
I have no doubt that the future will indeed bite, but no doubt there will probably be a vaccine for that, too…
Communing with nature. Living off the land. Mind, body and soul cleansing. Community spirit and oneness. Consciousness expansion. Peace and love.
Deep down many of us want the ideals above but are either unable, unwilling or lack the courage to do those things that we know will be better for us and better for the planet.
This week saw my eagerly awaited trip to Lammas Eco-Village in South Wales, an expedition into the uncharted territory of off-grid living., a fact finding mission for our band of neophyte hippies to sequester information from the founders, Mr and Mrs Wimbush, in order for us to gain insights into their ten year journey from a barren greenfield plot of land, to a fully functional and self-sufficient settlement.
As a guy who has worked in and around IT projects for most of his life, I bring to the table my decades of structure, organisation and planning, so I took the responsibility to plan out our trip in advance, including timelines, itineraries and a large set of questions, the output of which would give us enough answers and direction to kick-start the build of our eco-retreat project in North Wales.
This is a work project not one of pleasure (although no doubt the journey and end result will no doubt be a joyous thing), and as such the trip was “allowed” under the strict “essential travel only” guidelines. Even still, I had a bad feeling before setting off that at some point over the four hour journey south, our collars would be felt at least once by the boys in blue, and in preparation for that eventuality I printed off all materials (Covid travel guidelines, agenda, emails etc) as a form of proof to plod that our trip was legitimate. As it turned out, the trip was “copper-free” and we arrived safely at Lammas, collars unfelt.
As we drove into the village, the first thing that struck us was the size. Each of the plots sized between six and seven acres and there were plenty of them (totalling seventy seven acres in all).
Our destination for the day however was Maes Melangell, the home of both the Wimbush family (pioneers of Lammas) and a newly-constructed and yet-to-be completed Lammas Earth Centre.
I had done some research on Lammas over the previous nights (reading the One Planet Life book as well as watching several YouTube videos) to provide at least some background knowledge on what the set up was like and what their journey had been like thus far.
But like a great many things in life, reading about something is one thing, experiencing it is markedly different, the whole day was testament to that.
We were greeted (after a few wrong turns) on the tracks by Hoppi (aka Mrs Wimbush), who welcomed the group warmly and invited us in to the main house for a socially distanced and hand-sanitised chat, so that we could get to know each other a little and our posse could set out its expectations for the day.
One thing that did strike me on the way in was how impressive their homestead looked, it was clear that the well-built dwelling house, the super-impressive Lammas Earth Centre, the animal barn and all of the cultivation areas had taken years to achieve and a ridiculous amount of dedication and hard graft (both physically and meta-physically).
With a hot cup of Bengal Spice Tea in hand, Hoppi walked us through their ambitious journey so far, all of us playing silent witness and in awe in what they had achieved to date and how they had done it. Their home was warm not only in temperature (from the amazing wood-burner and impressively insulated walls), but in feeling too, clearly the house was also wrapped in the warmth of love, of oneness with each other, with nature and the universe at large.
It became apparent early on that what we saw before us had taken an Herculean effort, not only in planning, designing, developing and constructing, but in terms of pressure and stress too. Here we had a small family (children were six and nine at the time) living in a small touring caravan on an empty landscape, with huge plans for off-grid living in their heads and one hell of a journey in front of them.
We shared our own plans for the eco-treat which were met warmly too, but it was becoming apparent (to me at least) that our embryonic project was very different than what was in front of us in terms of components, requirements and end-state.
The five of us involved thus far all have day commitments that we don’t foresee giving up any time soon, and at this point we don’t envision any of us living at the eco-retreat permanently. So it dawned on us that going down the One Planet Development route for our project was likely to be a dead end and overcomplicated from a planning and local authority permission perspective. Ours would be a different path than the one Lammas has taken, but it would have the same ethos are drive for sustainability.
After a warm exchange, Hoppi then took us on a tour of the site, explaining the exact functions of each building and zone, safe to say that we were all in total awe of what we were viewing.
Their plans were not only realised by their own hands, but by those of volunteers too. Through the use of an entire tribe of volunteers (over seventy in total) they were able to morph their barren landscape into something truly remarkable.
And it’s is the essence of that very approach which has left a spiritual and collective resonance around the place, almost like a mycelium layer of positivity and love, woven into the very fabric of every component on site, borne from the many hands of like-minded individuals.
After the staggeringly impressive show and tell, we had the opportunity to wander the site on our own, I took the time to fly my drone over the site to get a birds eye view whilst my comrades meandered through various muddy pathways on foot, the site as impressive from the air as on the ground.
We finished our trek as the door to the main house opened and for the first time we met Tao (Mr Wimbush) for the first time. Set and setting are always important and the lunch of Pumpkin and Parsnip Soup with home made bread and goats butter transformed a basic meal to the best lunch of all time, ever.
It came across well on the videos I had seen, but in person, Tao’s calming nature juxtaposed against Hoppi’s effervescence made it a perfect partnership, and I saw the deep, loving and spiritual connection they both had for each other on a couple of occasions. Beautiful.
We shared our vision and hope for the eco-retreat with Tao and based on the components we wanted to develop (very different to Lammas), Tao advised that the One Planet Development wasn’t the best way to go for our venture and he suggested an alternative approach to achieve the desired outcome, to which we all agreed.
I was truly blown away by Tao, to be surrounded by such an amazing feat of construction and sustainable cleverness was one thing, but his calming, warming, nurturing, inspiring and guiding words (and well as long hair and beard), felt to me like I was in the presence of a modern day Jesus (affirmed by “L” on the way back home who thought the same).
As the darkness drew in and thoughts turned to the arduous long journey home in poor driving conditions, with a genuine sadness and gratitude, we bade farewell to our hosts for the day and headed back north to on-grid living, resigned and melancholic in the knowledge that workers boots and corporate laptops would called upon within just a few hours of returning.
We had so many take-aways from our trip to Lammas, hints, tips and nudges in the right direction we simply would not have hot had we not visited. We agreed that when we returned home we would double-down on our efforts to get things moving, albeit in a slightly different direction to our initial plans.
After visiting Lammas, Hoppi and Tao, it’s now very clear to me that one can live in the fruitfully in the future like we lived in the past, it just takes courage to detach oneself from what is, quite frankly, a broken and totally meaningless capitalist society.
That courage is within us all, we just need to do, there is no try…
As with most other Earthly inhabitants, and as with most years, January is always a month of reflection, reflecting on the events of last year and the plans and anticipation for the year to come, along with the perennial screaming pleas from the weighing machine to “get the f*ck off me!”
I spent sixteen days off over the Yuletide period with the family, with good quality time alongside everyone that was allowed to be around the table, around the table. As is customary, we ate too much, drank in moderation but often and put on the inevitable hip inches. It’s allowed.
Now that the festivities are well and truly behind me, I instantly turned to my rack of well-being books, naturally gravitating to the paleo and meat-free tomes as a way to start shredding the excess pounds. As I did that though, my higher-self seemed to stop me dead in my tracks, as my lower-self was sending a very loud and clear message that other things needed to be considered this time.
My material body is in pain, as penned my times before over the years and in my last post, my tinnitus is absolutely raging at the moment and my recent venture into “mushroom stacking” wasn’t the only thing required to abate my invisible and subjective malady.
As the first few days in January are quiet, I took to the internet and discussions with my hippy friends to see whether other things may be needed. Commence Operation Detox!
Research and chatter has revealed that tinnitus is thought to be an inflammation of the inner ear (among other things) so a diet avoiding items that inflame to body (wheat being a classic example, our ancestral DNA was never meant to take it from the beginning, the agricultural revolution really does have a lot to answer for!) and to take items that are rich in anti-oxidants was the way to go. Not only that, but sodium also has a part to play in the downfall of our well oiled meat machine, too much salt can also play unwanted tin whistle tunes inside the head it seems.
Not only am I now taking a variety of supplements as outlined above (left stack of Lion’s Mane and Niacin for tinnitus – right stack of vitamin D3 and zinc for Covid prevention – yes it’s a thing!), my mind-body-soul coach “L” suggested that I get onto Anthony William (aka the Medical Medium), who has an interesting backstory of contacting “the other side” to provide nutritional advice to his clients and the general public. One of the main approaches in the morning is to kick start the detox process by consuming a flagon of celery juice. Let’s see what state the guts are in over the coming weeks, clean and gurgle-free I hope.
So here we are at the start of the New Year, regressing to a well established, free to all (no subscription required) and age old lifestyle and optimized way of life. Ladies and gentlemen, let me re-introduce you to The Mediterranean Diet!
Before launching into what that entails, two things spring to mind. Firstly, my wife lived in Sicily for a number of years before we met and recalled this morning that her diet / lifestyle whilst there was great and her joie de vive was never better (youth playing its part of course!). Secondly, I reminded myself to watch the video below, which was a Ted Talk I saw a few years back which gave some insights into several studies completed from various parts of the world, including Sardinia which for the geographically challenged is an island slap bang in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Whether we actually want to live to one hundred is a moot point, the take-aways from the talk are well worth taking note of:
The Mediterranean Lifestyle
Whilst the focus on the below is a scientific approach to food and drink, lifestyle choices do go beyond diet. As Dan mentions above, exercise (especially the use of natural techniques and not putting the body under too much strain/pressure), mindfulness (in whatever form of that suits) and community (traditional ways of exchanging ideas and information via verbal dialogue and body language, not via technology) all play their part too in the enjoyment and fulfillment of life as a whole.
The Mediterranean Diet:
A diet that is high in healthy plant foods and relatively low in animal foods (although eating fish and seafood is recommended at least twice a week) is a good rule of thumb to bring optimized nutrition. The following outlines the basic principles of what to eat and what to avoid:
Eat Often: Vegetables (tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots,, sprouts, cucumbers, fruits (apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches), nuts & seeds (almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds), legumes (beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas), tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams), whole grains (Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole-grain bread and pasta), herbs & spices (garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper), fish & seafood (salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels), healthy fats (extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados and avocado oil), water & wine (red wine – one glass maximum per day) and tea (herbal or black tea without milk or sugar).
Never Eat: Sugar-sweetened food and beverages (incl. table sugar), processed meats (sausages, hot dogs), refined grains (white bread, pasta made with refined wheat), refined oils (Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and others) and other highly processed foods (incl. those marked “low-fat” or “diet”, butter/margarine and various processed foods.
A low-sodium diet limits foods that are high in sodium (salt). Following a low-sodium diet will reduce the likelihood of high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart failure and hopefully in my case, tinnitus. We still need sodium in our diets for the salts lost during exercises and trips to the toilet, but moderating our in take is something to consider.
The recommended daily limit of sodium will vary depend on factors like gender and age, but generally speaking the daily recommendation is between 1.5g – 2g per day.
Nowadays, food labels tend to display the sodium they contain and a quick walk down the aisles at Morrison’s this morning revealed the same so it does become easier to calculate and regulate should you wish to be scientific about it.
Foods that have less than 5% of the daily limit of sodium are considered low in salt. Foods that have 20% or more of the daily limit of sodium are considered high in salt, and the following lists which food to avoid:
Processed Foods: Mixes for bread, biscuits, cake, and pudding, ready meals.
Instant Foods: Packet mash, cereals, noodles, and rice.
Packaged Foods: Stuffing, rice and pasta mixes, snack dip mixes, and macaroni and cheese.
Canned Foods: Canned vegetables, soups, broths, sauces, and vegetable or tomato juice.
Frozen Food: Ready meals, entrees, vegetables with sauces, and breaded meats Meats / Cheeses: Smoked or cured meat, such as corned beef, bacon, ham, hot dogs, and sausage, canned meats or spreads, such as potted meats, sardines, anchovies, and imitation seafood, delicatessen or lunch meats, such as bologna, ham, turkey, and roast beef, processed cheese spreads
Condiments & Seasonings: Limit use of salt, such as such as garlic salt, celery salt, onion salt, and table salt salt. Regular soy sauce, barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce, steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, flavored vinegars, ketchiup and especially monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Bread and cereal: Choose breads with less than 80 mg of sodium per serving.
To keep the flavours up during cooking, replace salt with herbs and spices to foods instead of salt during cooking. No one wants to eat bland food, else the mind will wander quite easily over to the cookie jar (though if the above is put in practice, then it would be fine as it will be empty!).
Time will of course tell whether the above actions yield the positive outcomes and planned noise reductions inside my noggin, if at first you don’t succeed…
Since the turn of the year, when able I’ve taken to the sea for meditation and contemplation.
Whilst New Years Day brought several hundred to the beach and a communal spirit of togetherness, today marked a different experience.
As the temperatures in the UK starts to plummet, so have the numbers of “dipper”. I got to the beach at eight this morning to find only a few folks milling around the car park, the sea completely barren of near-zero bathers.
Undeterred by the cold -2c read-out displayed on the dashboard, I waded into to the duck-pond calm waters of Liverpool Bay, surrounded only by gentle waves and whistling white noise the sea was making as it ascended and receded on the not-so distant shoreline.
Eyes closed, body cooling, the tiniest of crescent moons focused my morning meditation and shut out everything else in the known universe. Meditation allows for breaks in the chaos, the disorder, the high entropy of the broken system we find ourselves in at present.
Quite soon, there is no cold, only stillness, calmness, nothingness, like a dissolution of the lower self as the higher self takes total control, and blocks out all materialism.
Eventually (fifteen minutes in), the lower self returns and the body reawakens to suggest it’s time to get out before hypothermia kicks in.
A wade back to the shore is greeted by winter-wrapped dog walkers with amusing grins, a nod to the crazy person emerging from the icy cold waters.
Back home, as the rest of the house still slumbers, the wood burner heats the frozen body parts on the outside and the warm poached eggs and coffee does likewise inside.
One of the big takeaways from my inaugural foraging trip last year was just how incredible mushrooms are.
Not only do they possess their own kingdom (neither animal, vegetable nor mineral) which is impressive in itself, but, when the right ones are consumed (and there are plenty of poisonous ones out there to be avoided), they provide many benefits, including mind (neurogenesis creating/repairing neural pathways), body (nutritional boosts via vitamins and anti-oxidants) and soul (altered states of consciousness leading to an improved human experience).
Whilst I’ll come back to the mycelium later, stoned ape theory and psychedelics in future posts, it’s clear that my friends and family have cottoned on to the fact that I’m looking to grow more of my own produce more this year.
As a result, I received not one but two “grow-your-own-mushrooms” kits, one which cultivates oyster mushrooms via old/used coffee grounds, and a second which grows the standard breakfast white mushrooms via mycelium soaked wood chippings.
I decided to start off with the white mushrooms and got quite excited to unbox it and get mushrooming.
I have become patient in terms of waiting to harvest the fruits (and vegetables/herbs) of my cultivation activities (apropos my smart garden) so will do the same for the mushrooms.
Can’t wait to taste them in twenty-three days from now.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have suffered from tinnitus for almost three decades now and from time to time, spikes over a period of several weeks can negatively influence my mood, stress and sleep patterns.
I have habituated this well over time (on the basis that I had no other option as there is no cure for tinnitus) but was interested to find that mushrooms may be the answer.
Known as the ‘Mushroom of Immortality’, Lion’s Mane mushroom is one of the most important Chinese herbs and is a symbol of success, power and longevity.
Its benefits allegedly include the stimulation of nerve growth (reparation and new), especially in the brain, and as tinnitus is likely to be the noise generated by misfiring neurons connected to the synapses in the ears, and if damaged neural pathways can be repaired, then in theory the noises in side my head (excluding the voices, that’s a different topic altogether!) can diminished or be silenced.
There is also the notion that vitamin D3 can be stacked with the Lion’s Mane too and I have started taking this too today.
The final part of the stack is the micro-dosing of psilocybin mushrooms, which in small quantities again may also have curative powers, re-wiring the brain and improving perception of the five (and possibly sixth) senses. Clearly the untaxable and criminalised acquisition of such mushrooms is illegal in the UK (and most of the world), so my stack may just contain a double not a treble…
Living even more sustainably in Twenty-Twenty-One is one of my primary goals (beyond surviving the impact of Covid-19 of course).
I made significant in-roads into reducing my own, my families and my colleagues carbon footprint (via a Sustainability Cook Book I released to the masses in late December). Some of it by my own volition and some of it as a consequence of this year’s limitations on travel and consumerism.
In the book “How Bad Are Bananas” by Mike Berners-Lee, it proposes that we should all try to live a 5 tonnes lifestyle (less where possible), and after doing the official UN carbon footprint calculation, my families overall tonnage was twenty-four tonnes, 6 tonnes per head, not bad when you look at the average in say Australia is twenty tonnes per head.
So a few further tweaks to the family processes next year (switching to hybrid car, off-boarding one of the children to his own house and eating a plant/fish-based diet with minimal red meat) will help reduce it to four tonnes per head. Phase One complete, Phase Two being the long term plan of setting up an off-grid small holding.
My foray into techno-agriculture (Blade Runner 2049 larva farm on standby) was met with some success. Growing my own produce (albeit in micro-quantities) gave me some insights to cultivating edibles and The Infinity Garden is currently performing admirably…
I have been impressed with the quality of the growth, I had heard mixed reviews on the outputs, but I must say everything that has churned out thus far has been very “Cuprinol”.
With an addition of not one, but two grow-your-own mushroom kits and a book of the greatest and best Indian Street Food recipes from one of the best (if not the best), restaurants in Liverpool (Mowgli), I feel more armed with organic opportunities already for the coming year.
A friend of mine “I”, who is also part of the eco-retreat build starting soon, has also just acquired nine allotment plots and is keeping an eye out for me so that I can join the collective, putting to bed my vision for a vertical garden in the confined space behind my house.
I would not have thought twelve months ago that I would be that much more in-tune with nature and the universe in general, but it just goes to show that even in chaos, opportunities for positive change are there, one just needs to take a breath, focus and do…
The beauty about cartoons and animations is that they invariably operate on many levels.
To the young and innocent, human and non-human forms come together in a series of fast moving caricatures which often titillate and excite the younger generation, without them having the experience yet to fully understand the more subliminal meanings behind such creations.
I’ve been a fan of animation for a long time, my first real emotional connection to the art form forging when the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon hit the UK screens in the nineteen-eighties.
Here we had a visual work of fantasy, whereby six protagonists get sucked into an alien world of monsters and magic, all given special abilities to cope with life in their new realm, pulling together as one team to find their way home.
Rewatching the entire series again during lockdown brought back many fond memories, not only a nostalgic nod to my childhood, but also to those long dark (k)nights were my friends and I would emulate the cartoon quests with pencils, paper and dice under esoteric lighting systems.
My daughter has had a passion for art since she was a youngling and as such it was an easy sell to her to watch some aged cartoons from years past, a passion we now share together; she watched my old animations and in return we doodle and draw together and watch her new wave of animations.
“When can we go to Tokyo dad”, is all I ever hear these days. At present, she fully immerses herself in anime/manga, a basic yet effective art-style I also enjoy.
Little did she know about my liking for it, watching Akira, Dominion Tank Police and the darker Urotsukidōji and Tetsuo, (not made for the eyes of a child) back in the early nineties when there was a minor explosion of manga here in the UK.
Netflix have bought into anime in a big way, so we have started to watch some of the series together as the platform is awash with them.
We started off with My Hero Academia, a great show about kids in University with special powers (quirks), banding together to overcome a hoard of enemies.
Then we had Blue Exorcist, a great show about kids in University with special powers (magic), banding together to overcome a hoard of enemies.
Both of the series were great, very enjoyable and much like the Dungeons & Dragons of old, segmented episodes with an overarching quest, with themes of good versus evil and a spirit of team work.
What we have watched/are watching at present is in my opinion, the best animated series I’ve seen to date; Full Metal Alchemist.
The central tenet is about two teenage brothers who lose their mother through illness and who try to bring her back to life via their rudimentary understanding of alchemy, which rebounds tragically and spectacularly on them, leading them to go on a quest to search for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone in an effort to return their lost body parts.
Oddly, and almost in a nod to somewhat cringeworthy end to Game of Thrones, the original series was created in the early noughties and finished before the manga/comic book version had had the chance to complete, with disastrous consequences, leaving the audience aghast with what can only be described as a Scooby Doo ending.
We scratched our heads after sitting through fifty-one episodes, feeling a little dejected at the end (for me in the same vein as Vanilla Sky).
A colleague of mine advised us to watch Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, a full and expanded remake of the original, and with just ten episodes left of the series, we are both blown away by just how awesome it is.
Not only are the visuals fantastic, but the show is different from others in that it is one complete and continuous storyline/timeline, again not too dissimilar to Game of Thrones (it even has a wall to the north covered in snow), and more importantly it has that deeper level of meaning, which really struck a chord with me.
The band of bad guys in the series are based upon the seven deadly sins (Lust, Envy, Sloth, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath and Pride for the uninitiated).
Each of the sins is represented by a bad guy/girl, a Homunculus (which the dictionary defines as a representation of a small human being made by an alchemist), the traits of which come across very well to the older and wiser viewer.
It was only really this morning that it hit me. Lying awake in bed at five am, I tried to get back to sleep but the vivid visions of last nights mini-marathon of twelve episodes in one sitting prevented me from do so.
I had a somewhat biblical conversation with Weltanschauung yesterday (and do stop by his site, in my opinion one of the [if not the] best on WordPress – and imagine my shock this morning when I actually visited his home page for the first time only to see the strap line The Philosopher’s Stone, the central tenet of Full Metal Alchemist!), so it was only natural that this morning that as darkness still enveloped the land, my thoughts turned to my own reflections on whether or not I have succumbed to the seven deadly sins.
1. Lust: I have almost reached the half century now and no longer have the sexual desires I once had during my virulent heavy metal days and have come to understand just how wrong pornography is, objectifying men, women and others.
2. Envy: I am no longer envious of others, be it the material possessions they have or the successes they achieve in life. I don’t recall using the word jealous in a long time and gain joy in hearing success stories from family, friends and colleagues.
3. Sloth: One thing is for sure, I never rest on my laurels. I’m a firm believer in the concept that there is no such thing as boredom, there is always something to do, if I find myself scratching around for something to do, I find something meaningful to fill the void, including exercise.
4. Gluttony: This year gave me the opportunity to put a balance to my diet, spending half of the year taking a paleo and pescatarian approach to what goes into my body.
5. Greed: I have also of late (with the exception of Christmas presents) been very mindful to purchase only what I need and not what I want. I need to do more next year and stop filling the pockets of Mr Bezos. Giving back is also something I’m keen to do, invariably we live a take lifestyle, giving is so much more rewarding and I’ve started to do that more now (even if it is more time for others, time is actually the most precious thing we have to give).
6. Wrath: Since working from home and not travelling, I have become less fatigued. The lockdown has also given me the opportunity to go back to yoga and get back to nature, and as a result I feel calmer and the conflict situations I have had (with the exception of dinner table arguments around differing opinions on the potential truths behind Covid) have diminished dramatically.
7. Pride: Back in the dark days of twenty-twelve, my “Wolf of Wall Street” lifestyle nearly destroyed my marriage. Replacing cocaine with booze, I was a big shot, top of my game at work, climbing the corporate ladder, travelling all over the world, the big I am. It came at me like a lightning bolt when my wife asked to separate. My ego, arrogance and self-importance had taken over from duty, loyalty, sense and reason. Looking back at my behaviour eight years ago still fills me with disgust, but it acts as a constant reminder not to be that person.
So on reflection I think I have done my level-best to purge the vast majority of the seven sins, and of course there is always room for further improvement.
There are hidden messages that ripple up to the surface from time to time, sometimes in the most unlikely of places (like children’s cartoons), freeing ourselves from sin (in a non-biblical way) raises our consciousness and helps to find them…