Days of Futures Past…

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.

Many hands make light work…

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.

The beating heart of Maes Melangell…
The Owl Sanctuary…
The composting toilets…
The Solar Kiln…
The Eco-Retreat…
The Eco-Shower…
The Innovative Waterproofing…
The Renewable Energy Supply…
The Earth Centre…
The Interstellar Roof…
The Barn…
The Kids…

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.

Bird’s Eye view of Maes Melangell (Lammas Eco-Village)

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.

Like my Robin Williams blog from a few years ago stated (Life Is Experience Not Knowledge – https://infinitybeckons.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/life-is-experience-not-knowledge) there is nothing quite like experiencing things first hand as opposed to reading them in a book.

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…

Detox…

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.

Why didn’t I take the blue pill…

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.

Juice Dalek…

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.

Live well, live longer…

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).

Eat Moderately: Poultry (chicken, duck, turkey), eggs (chicken, quail and duck eggs), cheese & yogurt (cheese, Greek yogurt).

Eat Rarely: Red meat (beef, pork, lamb, venison).

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.

Low-Sodium Diet

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.

Salt – not worth its – well salt…

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.

Snack Food: Potato chips, popcorn, pretzels, pork scratchings, salted crackers, and salted nuts

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…

The Purge…

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…

Refuse/Resist…

Oxygen. Nuts. Sepultura. Arguably three of Brazil’s greatest exports.

Without oxygen produced from the Amazon, we’d be fucked. Without nuts, modern day hunter/gatherers (us paleo types) would be short on protein and energy, and be fucked. Without Sepultura, the NWOTM (New Wave of Thrash Metal) potentially would never have taken off, and be fucked.

I’ve long been a fan of the brothers Cavalera, the raw power of those early Sepultura albums, the side projects of Cavalera Conspiracy and Soulfly, all banging out brutal chords and guitar solos at breakneck speed, all to a thumping beat and considered lyrics.

I’ve always taken a particular interest in their lyrics (key note speeches if you will), with the general theme of anti-establishment coursing through most songs.

Chaos AD is a particular favourite, an album I have been listening to quite a lot of late, with the opening track “Refuse/Resist” striking a real chord with me as the Covid chaos continues to sprawl across these green and pleasant lands at breakneck speed (not too dissimilar to their speed metal classics).

As reported in the last post, the army were drafted in to enhance and set up seventeen test centres in Liverpool, which was quickly followed by an extension to test secondary schools. If the children of this fair city were not scared enough, imagine eleven year old faces when they were confronted by the armed forces in the playground, behind masks and armed with test kits in hand this morning.

As predicted, the scope was further extended today to our side of the river, with similar demands based on Wirraliens (pronounced we’re aliens – which most folks not from these parts would concur), even though the infection rate (according to the available data) has gone down and continues to do so, with no discernible rise in mortality rates.

Then the news broke yesterday that so many have been waiting for, the vaccine is nigh! This is a vaccine that uses brand new technology that has never been tested on humans before, but whilst most rejoiced with a sigh of relief an a hope that things would return to pre-Covid norms some time soon, I sat there head in hands, with the firm belief that my last somber post is becoming even more of a possibility as each day passes.

Tonight I found out that the advent of the Digital ID / Medical Passport may also be upon us. My brother in law works in the event management business and his establishments will now demand that all patrons who enter his arenas will have to have a digital health passport to watch live events. Then within minutes, I hear on Sky Sports that the Premier League plan introduce the exact same measures. Soon all of the fun things to do (concerts, sporting events, theatre, cinema, international travel etc) may likely follow suit.

And finally, the breaking news that all university students (my son included), must take a Covid test before being “allowed” to travel back home for Christmas.

So the question we have to ask ourselves is what value do we put on freedom, what value do we put on free will, do we want to live in a fully inclusive society or are we happy to live in separation and seclusion.

I am all for pro-choice and if folks are happy to be tested for Covid, be vaccinated against Covid, to allow for their DNA strand to be inventoried, to sign up to be tracked and traced, and to have (potentially) biometric chips injected into them to monitor all of the above, then who am I or who is anyone to say otherwise. That is freedom of choice, free will.

If all of this does come in however, then those who do not sign up may find themselves excluded from society. They may find themselves as outsiders, marginalised because of the choices they have made.

Just think about that for a second. We (most of us, not all of us) have worked so hard in the UK to be the most inclusive and progressive generation this island has even seen.

We have progressed across barriers such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and many others to become a nation where the attitudes of our forefathers have become all but a vague and hazy embarrassing memory of bygone times, teaching our children that they have the freedom and the choice to be what they want to be in a society that is wholly inclusive and does not discriminate.

As things stand, we all still have the choice. A choice to sign up for those things listed above, or a choice not to.

Today we stand on the precipice, a tipping point where society may diverge into one that that looks to exclude parts of its population due to the choices they make. That is not a country that I want to live in. That is not a world that I want to live in.

As a species, we have been here before remember, do we not learn from past transgressions?

Race…
Religion…
Gender…
Sexual Orientation…
Disability…

The definition of society is thus:

1. A large group of people who live together in an organized way, making decisions about how to do things and sharing the work that needs to be done.

2. The state of being together with other people.

3. An organized group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes.

Let’s not forget those definitions any time soon…

War Games…

Way back in 1965, Peter Watkins wrote, directed and produced a “mock-umentary” called The War Game, a documentary film that depicted nuclear war in the UK and its aftermath, which caused dismay within the BBC and the government at the time, and as such it was subsequently withdrawn from the TV schedule before the provisional screening date of October 1965.

The BBC claimed that the effect of the film was judged to be too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting.

The film eventually premiered at the National Film Theatre in London in April 1966 to critical acclaim, taking the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1967, but it still didn’t hit the UK TV screens until 1985, the week before the fortieth anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, and the day before a repeat screening of Threads, a TV film which gave another dramatic account of nuclear war and its affects on the UK city of Sheffield, the plot centring on two families as the confrontation between the US and USSR erupted. The film depicted the medical, economic, social and environmental consequences of nuclear war.

I don’t recall either of these pieces (but I did watch The War Game today – incredibly bleak with some potential fallout of what we could go through in a post-Covid worst case scenario) but do fondly remember going to see War Games with Matthew Broderick which was released in 1984 in UK cinemas.

It was Christmas 1984 that I got my first computer (ZX Spectrum 48k) and much to my disappointment it never worked (due to it being bought from a bloke in the pub, later finding out that orange juice, with perhaps a double measure of gin had eaten away at its primordial motherboard).

War Games itself was exciting, a nerd proficient in something a bit more advanced than a “specky”took part in a computer simulation called Global Thermal Nuclear War, a game which quickly escalated into a very real and very dangerous exercise when it becomes apparent that the simulator is in fact hooked up to the live nuclear weapons system of the US.

Bizarrely and coincidentally, the very first city that was targeted in the film was my home town of Liverpool. Of all the towns and cities in the UK (and world for that matter), they had to use my town as a test case.

And here we are, thirty six years later and once again, my home town is being used as a test case for an invisible war. Three weeks ago it was the first town in the country to go into Tier 3 lockdown, an experiment to see if tighter restrictions worked (in terms of bringing down the R rate) and to see how the hardened population would react to it (how compliant we are).

Yesterday, it was determined (once again) that Liverpool would be another test case for mass coronavirus testing, with the army turning up in droves to stake out positions across the city to test up to half a million people (a pre-cursor for the so-called Operation Moonshot, mass and frequent testing across the length and breadth of the country costing a projected £100bn).

As it turns out, despite scenes of long queues from tight camera angles, the turnout on Day 1 was relatively poor, and the intense testing schedule is due to carry on for a further nine days, post-which the authorities will see what the R rate is like and how complaint the people have been. The test centre set up in Toxteth remained desolate all day (“Lest We Forget”).

With all of that said, I went for a walk with my good pal “M” this morning, deliberating, cogitating and ruminating on what was going on over the River Mersey and discussing our own views when the testing inevitably makes its way over to us on the world famous ferry, sharing that everything seemed to be playing out like a Hollywood movie and my admiration for the movie War Games which he had never seen.

On the way home, I decided to pen the below, a work of fiction. The piece is not a conspiracy theory that I believe in (fully), it posits how things may be and how they may turn out.

Those that believe in the multiverse and Everts Many World Interpretation will concede that in one of the infinite amount of universes, the content below plays out exactly, and that probability and chance dictates that the odds of this playing out in this one is a value over 0.0%.

==============

Act One : Inception

A group of wealthy elites convene a meeting to discuss the future of Planet Earth.

It is clear that the projected population explosion, fragile geopolitical landscape and degrading biosphere will put at serous risk everything they have achieved (and hope to achieve).

The group decide that a plan of action is required at set out a series of activities that will not only restore the balance to the biosphere, but will put them in a position of power and control for generations to come.

The first action is to create a highly contagious but low-mortality rate virus (<1%) to fit the needed plan. The manufactured virus is a novel coronavirus used as the “primary strain” and is developed from existing pathogens (SARS-COVID-1). The second action is to create a “secondary strain”, which acts as a weaponized version of the primary strain with a much higher infection/mortality rate (>30%) as a backup plan, ready to be released but only if needed.

Create and fund a vaccination programme and roll out plan so it’s capable of being rolled out on a global scale and seen as the only solution to combat the virus. Once the plan has been initiated, be prepared to downplay and shut down any potential treatments (like hydroxychloroquine) and continue to echo that the only cure that is viable to fight this virus is the vaccine. Make it mandatory that the population have vaccinations to attend workplaces, cultural events, travel between regions and countries and introduce biomedical passports.

Create and fund a global crypto-currency to replace the current economic / banking model and introduce a Universal Basic Income with the plan to migrate all low paid workers to it. At the same time, develop a biometric chip which will be administered via the vaccination programme, whereby population movement and biometric / physical data will be monitored constantly, with the population earning credits which are uploaded to their biometric chip, credits which can be exchanged for goods and services.

Act Two: Initiation

The primary strain of the virus is released, with the primary narrative being natural in its evolution, its origin / epicentre being a market where the contamination of the food chain takes places via an unfortunate jump from animal species to humans.

As a back up, the secondary narrative is that the virus escaped from a laboratory by accident, the outcome being the same, a localised infection.

As the virus takes a grip on the local community, downplay human-to-human transmission for as long as possible to allow the primary strain to spread on a country then region then global scale, before any country can lock down respond to avoid initial infection.

Once a country has seen infection in situ, lock down incoming and outgoing travel to keep the transmission within the country, spreading for as long as possible.

Once enough people in a country are infected, enable strict national lockdown restrictions to emphasise the severity of the situation to test initial compliance and resistance.

Overhype the mortality rate by tying the primary strain to deaths that have little to nothing to do with the actual virus to keep fear and compliance at maximum levels. If anyone dies for any reason and is found to have the virus, consider it a virus death. If anyone is thought to have had symptoms of the virus, assume they have it, and mark it as a virus death on death certificates and national statistics.

Keep the public in lockdown for as long as possible to break the countries economic model, create civil unrest, break down the supply chain, and cause the start of mass food shortages. Lockdown will weaken the immune system of the population due to a lack of interaction with human and environmental bacteria.

Continue to drag out the lockdown over and over again causing fear and unrest which will eventually lead to compliance from further parts of the population, with others standing up to resist. Bring in more powers of enforcement by threatening fines and imprisonment for non-compliance. Increase the amount of, and visibility of, the police and armed forces to further increase the fear amongst protesters, weakening resistance.

Set up detention centres for those that do not comply, introduce enhanced arrest and detainment powers and relocate protesters until they agree to comply and take the vaccine / biometric chip.

Act Three: Escalation

Should the initiation phase fail (due to non-conformity or lack of / delayed progress), move to the primary escalation phase.

Increase the amount of testing in all regions and report a significant increase in the R rate whilst launching a proactive media campaign against anti-establishment / non-conformists and put the sole blame for the current situation on them, turning the population against each other, effectively doing the governments work for them.

Enforce lockdowns at a much more extreme level (6 to 12 months of total lockdown) increasing the penalties for defiance. Deem all travel as non-essential. Increase checkpoints, including military assistance. Take full control of food, energy supplies, and create large scale shortages so that people can only get access to essential products or services if they conform.

If the majority of population go against the inception phase and the primary escalation phase, then initiate the secondary escalation phase by releasing the “secondary strain” (30% mortality rate) on the population as a final measure to punish the minority to conform.

Act Four: End Game

Once full control is in place, initiate The Great Reset by moving the population into smart cities (whilst reallocating assets to the elites), reskill workers, reclaim rural areas, create wilderness zones, restore soil health, reduce global population through control measures and biometric monitoring.

Whilst the planet recovers, society is completely divided into the haves and the have nots.

End state is realised.

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Clearly works of fiction make for good books, films, and TV, and whilst the above is more than likely not going to be realised, it is interesting to see how much (if any) of the above comes true.

Let’s hope the only realisation is a global recovery programme which is fully inclusive, a society which achieves the following:

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Should the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as outlined above be realised, and we all live in peace, with the freedom to live our own lives without the strong arm of the law (or Big Business) calling the shots, then now is a real opportunity for real change.

The chances are, however small, that such goals are an affront for a more hidden and sinister agenda (oft tabled as The Great Reset) that will only play out well for the elites of society, time too will tell whether is also true…

This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours…

Utopia. We all dream of it but it’s very definition (albeit in wiki and not OED) is “an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens”.

Imagined. A work of metaphysical fiction. A hope. A dream state.

I was a huge fan of Utopia when it first came out back in 2013. Utopia in the form of a Channel 4 series here in the UK (not the rehash on Amazon Prime which has never seen the light of day on my TV) which follows five protagonists who uncover the truth behind a sinister plot by an unknown syndicate who’s aim is to reduce the worlds population via a mass-sterilisation programme, hidden in an RNADNA changing vaccine administered under the guise of a global pandemic. Sound familiar?

The opening line of neo-prog prodigy Steven Wilson’s To The Bone album sums up quite well what truth is.

“Once we’ve made sense of our world we wanna go fuck up everybody else’s, because his or her truth doesn’t match mine. But this is the problem, truth is individual calculation, which means because we all have different perspectives, there isn’t one singular truth, is there?”

No truer words spoken. We have 7.8 billion truths right now, so in the immortal words of James Dean Bradfield from Manic Street Preachers, this is my truth tell me yours.

I have absolutely no doubt that COVID-19 exists, empirical evidence and narratives directly from the front line via trusted friends and clients in the medical profession (doctors, nurses and paramedics) makes it utterly impossible to refute. The horror stories are there, the chaos at hospitals all too real.

So we know that we have a problem, what we don’t know (and will likely never know) is where it came from and how it entered the system. The two main hypotheses are a naturally occurring disease or mutation from a previous iteration or a jump from the animal species into our food chain, either way accidental, or man made and deployed for a reason.

Either way, it has crossed the planet like wildfire and taken its toll on the population the world over.

According to the global statistics, to date 43 million people have tested positive, with 1.2 million loosing their lives.

I have never looked too closely at the infection rates, instead looking at the mortality rates (here in the UK) as a barometer to gauge the severity of the situation. What we currently have when looking at the overall mortality rates is a graph that spiked in March and April, and has flattened out ever since, so much so that the last few months mortality rates have been under (well under in some cases) the 5 year average.

What we have also seen is a country under lockdown which had little to no impact during the months of March, April and May and once again now, which when looking at seasonal variations, looks quite normal too for respiratory mortality rates this time of year.

Our story is not unique here in the UK, with other countries seeing similar patterns. What the governments are doing the world over is the pretty much the same (perhaps with the exception of Sweden), by deploying lockdown tactics to varying degrees, national in the case of Wales and regional in the case of England and Scotland over the last few weeks.

Whilst the R rate goes up, the mortality rate stays relatively flat. It’s clear that the help to eat out scheme, primary and secondary schools as well as universities returning to site have played their part in increasing the rates of infection amongst the younger age brackets, so it’s logical to conclude that governments look to cut off locations and services where the younger generations hang out (soft play areas, pubs etc) to get the rate down, and that is exactly what’s happened here.

It is odd that the Tory government have imposed the strictest restrictions on opposition strongholds and where unemployment and low wages are prevalent, but I’ll leave that emotional outburst aside as it detracts from the main point I’m trying to make.

The Earth is so fragile and is having a real existential crisis right now. I have discussed candidly with sustainability consultants in my work and they have shared reams of data and info graphics over the last 6 months.

The biggest problem we have (and this is my truth) is not climate change, it is not plastic and toxic waste, it is not the diverse geopolitical spectrum, it is not the broken fiscal system, it is over population.

Simply put, our planet cannot sustain the amount of people on it. A study conducted back in the 1970’s (which is still relevant today) stated that to live in harmony with the Earth, no more than 3-4 billion people should reside here.

Our current population stands at 7.8 billion, and if projections are realised, that number will be 10 billion by 2050, 3 times the amount allocated for optimised living.

Climate change, waste products, poor sanitation, poverty and dwindling natural resources are bi-products of a species that has gone overboard in the bedroom.

On the face of it, our planet is on the road to self-destruction, so the logical question is what can be done about it and who stands to lose the most?

In the immortal words of Eric Idle in the Monty Python song Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life “You came from nothing, you gained nothing, so what have you lost, nothing!”

Those at the very bottom of the ziggurath do not have much to lose, except their miserable existence and ultimately their lives. The expendables.

In stark contrast, those at the very top of the ziggurath have the most to lose. According to Forbes 2020, there are 2095 billionaires and an estimated 47 million millionaires. It is these people that stand to lose the most.

If the planet was to self-destruct (non-explosively) over the coming century then some drastic measures would need to be taken to depopulate the amount of Homo Sapiens that dwell here to protect what the haves have right now, wealth, power and control.

How could that be done? I guess there are several ways to do that. War is one, too impactful. Proactive programmes is another, to limit the amount of children one has on a global scale, culturally and logistically difficult to achieve.

What about a covert operation? A plan so cunning that no one will suspect what is going on. The projection of a global campaign of fear, funded by 2095 billionaires and 47 million millionaires so that the vast majority of society placed under dystopian rules and regulations, with the very things that makes us human (consciousness, connectivity and community) consigned to the back of our minds as distant memories.

Separate us and we cannot reproduce. Alter our RNA/DNA and we cannot reproduce. Break our spirits and give us no hope for the future and we won’t want to reproduce.

So if this scenario was to play out over the coming years, then the population will decrease significantly and as a result, the planets ecosystem will regenerate, there will be enough natural resources to feed, clothe, water and energise the remaining populace and balance will be restored.

Left on a pre-COVID trajectory and the planet would truly be heading for oblivion and real soon.

There is a poignant and pivotal moment in Utopia where the character Wilson Wilson (not a typo, that’s his name honest), realises the master plan, and fights with his emotions as he knows that logically the syndicates objectives are to save humanity in the long run, but what does he believe in and how will he react?

Does he fight back and fight for the fundamental rights we all have as citizens of Planet Earth, or does he turn a blind eye and let the vast majority of the world be injected with a sterilisation vaccine, knowing that inaction now could lead to the end of the human race as we know it where everybody dies…

What would you do? What will you do?

Power to the People…

The son of my wife’s classmate took on the British government and won this week. He argued that gyms should not be closed on the basis that their very existence is to promote the physical health and mental well being of its members, whilst taking every single precaution and measure the government asked of owners across the land.

Slapped with £1000 per day fines by the local constabulary yet undeterred, he stayed open anyway and took to social media, whipping up a global frenzy (story being run by CNN and the New York Post) by using statistics and logic against the UK government and following the science which the Torys have ceased to do. Only 78 positive Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in an estimated in 22 million gym visits in the UK this year.

Another massive u-turn by the wholly inept establishment, proving once again that the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.

Well done Nick, a working class hero is something to be!

Lockdown 2.0…

So along with the other one point five million good folks of my home county, we found ourselves placed in the highest bracket of England’s new three tier system of lockdown rules this week, a traffic light system as it were.

The system was introduced as a series of measures to reduce infection rates, increase ICU availability and ultimately decrease mortality numbers.

We have been told time and time again to follow the science, and many of us have done just that, albeit not the science that this woeful and truly incompetent government would have us believe.

Those who seek the whole truth and not the truth from “trusted media outlets” like the BBC and Sky, have found gaping holes in the science and much worse, which includes the redirection of public funds to private sector industry, more specifically to organisations that have close affiliation to the incumbent prime minister and his cronies (all without impartial and unbiased tender processes).

What the science tells me is that something is very wrong in this country. When you overlay the areas of infection which have the most draconian measures applied, a few things become very clear all of a sudden.

The first and most obvious observation are that the hotspots are places in the north of England. Second, almost all of these areas are Labour strongholds where little to no Tory candidates wield power. Third, the amount of test centres and testing is disproportionate in those areas of high infection when compared to other “Blue” parts of the political map. And it is in those very same areas where unemployment is higher, so when the government incentivised testing for those out of work (via hard luck or choice) by increasing the amount of benefits folks would receive if they tested positive, it doesn’t take a genius to work out why these areas are spiking. Finally, in our case, we have a brand new hospital sitting empty in the city centre, barren and idle once again due to government contracts, this time it’s abject construction leaving the health centre a health hazard and the eventual collapse of the construction company responsible, Carillion, as well as the potential of the building itself. Not only that, but it is clear to all that the NHS is broken, critically underfunded and simply does not have the correct number (and properly paid) medical support staff nor the capacity to cope with normal situations, never-mind issues such as COVID-19, all of which puts a squeeze on the medical profession and puts the onus on the people to do something and misdirect attention away from the governments catastrophic approach to social care in this country.

All of this put together stinks of something rotten and rather sinister.

Sadly, the local council here have always been as corrupt as their Westminster counterparts. Back in the bleak days of the 1980’s, Margaret Thatcher attempted to put this town into “managed declined” when she decimated the manufacturing industry and eroded employee rights. We fought back then, literally, via the infamous Toxteth riots, only to be saved by an unlikely hero (Conservative MP Michael Hesseltine) who stood up against the government and said no.

Our local council took advantage of the situation back then and via a branch of socialism known as Militant Tendency, proceeded to be, on the face of it, a flagship of equality, whilst behind closed doors pocketed many of the centrally allocated funds proving once again that some people are more equal than others.

So here we are exactly forty years later in another period of “managed decline”, the strong arm of the law policing establishments l and issuing fines and criminal records on people not abiding by the rules as laid out by a totally inept regime (central government and local mayor who appears to have both seemed to have sold us down our famous river) neither of which know their arses from their elbows.

In stark contrast, our old nemesis Manchester have a strong leader who is not taking it lying down. He and his comrades have formed a Manchester united (not the football club) and refuse to be walked over like Liverpool, unless the true science is followed and a just and fair economic package (for all businesses and self-employed people throughout the supply chain, not just those asked directly to close) is delivered for its constituents. Many of us in Liverpool stand besides our northern kin, albeit with head lowered due to our own spineless leaders here.

To further paint a picture of our pathetic prime minister, not only does he not understand his own rules (again getting found out last night), but within two days, his clear three tier system is now four, with Lancashire negotiating their own deal which allows gyms to stay open, whilst they are closed here.

Never in my time have I witnessed such a pathetic and totally out of their depth government, clearly led by a bunch of “bellends” as they say here. Hats off to local entrepreneur Dan Davies for renaming and rebranding one of his closed public houses here this week.

So we sit at home and watch the drama unfold before our eyes. Thankfully, my family are not greatly impacted by the latest measures, but many folks across our county are so this weekend we will stand alongside them at planned and socially distanced demonstrations in the city centre, putting our hands in our pocket for local causes where we can.

My daughter came to me this week and said she was studying something in English she didn’t quite understand.

“Dad, what does dystopia mean?”

“Well”…………

Mid Morning Mushrooms…

Keen to consolidate my foraging training, I took to the woods today with old faithful to see what mushrooms I could find. The weather was quite damp in the early part of the week, replaced by dry and sunny conditions towards the weekend, so according to my man-based mushroom guide and my paper-based mushroom guides, perfect conditions for a romp amongst the trees in search of a fungus or two.

Today was more of a “recky” than a restocking of the larder as I’m in London this week.

As the last post explained, my interest in mushrooms has exponentially increased recently due to the revelations from my foraging guide and those of Dennis McKenna (Terence’s brother) who took a seat on the Joe Rogan Experience a few years back and went into quite some detail on psilocybin mushrooms. As I only have Spotify and Audible on my phone, I searched for Terence McKenna audiobooks and one did come back – True Hallucinations – which I took a punt on, downloaded and started to play on our early morning journey to Roydon Park in the heart of the Wirral Peninsula.

Although not narrated by either McKenna, the first chapter was intriguing, setting up I guess the back drop for the rest of the book, the Brothers McKenna “trip” to the Amazon rainforest, in search of hallucinogens.

We parked up and instead of sticking to the path as we usually do, we headed straight into the thick wood, mindful that the denser it was, the more humid and moist it would be, and as such, perfect conditions for shrooms.

Old faithful was in his element, as soon as I let him off the lead he was away. He adores the woods and quickly forgets that he is not a puppy anymore, sprinting off to hunt out the smell of, and the capture of, squirrels (not so much the capture part), his springer spaniel DNA kicking in.

So as he was off doing his own thing, I started to look around for produce. Imagine my shock then when what could only be described as the ghost of Terence McKenna invisibly steered me across the wood to a rotten tree stump which had a burst of small mushrooms on it.

To my utter surprise and unless I was mistaken (which I could well be as it’s early doors for me), were hundreds of what looked like Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybe Cubensis). I know these come in many shapes and sizes and the ones I took in my youth did not look like the ones I saw before me today, but I had a good inkling that they were indeed what I thought they were (some validation in my books and an internet search would tend to confirm such).

It is of course illegal to pick, dry and be in possession of these non-taxable, free-thinking, mind-expanding, depression-ceasing, consciousness-creating fungus, so I’ll neither confirm nor deny that these are or are not in my possession (Shrodingers Mushroom…)

The most abundant mushroom we found over the course of our morning bimble was Birch Polyphone (Piptoporus Betulinus), it was everywhere. There are plenty of Silver Birch trees in the woods, and a large majority of them had these sprouting from various parts of the trees in a variety of shapes. Sadly these aren’t edible, which is a real shame as there were enough to open a greengrocers shop.

Continuing on, I spotted a clump of brown ball-shaped mushrooms on the forest floor, and on closer inspection, I believed them to be the Common Earthball (Scleroderma Citrinum) which indeed they were. Using my very new and very awesome and very legal curved foraging knife, I cut into one and as suspected, saw a quartz like glittery black innard, the same quartz like glittery black innard we saw on our trip two weekends ago.

I recalled a snippet of info that whilst (again) this was not edible, the outer layer can be peeled off and used as a plaster for a wound, a neat feature in case you just happened to slice your finger open by say putting away a very new and very awesome and very legal curved foraging knife…

Next up was one I’d never seen before which looked like orange jelly. As there are over 8000 species of mushrooms in the UK, I could be wrong but I believed it to resemble a Yellow Brain (Tremella Mesenterica), again inedible but nice to see a new species in glorious Technicolor.

This was closely followed by a solitary toadstool looking very lonely indeed, and a scrawl through the field manuals couldn’t offer up a single suggestion so I left it there for the faeries to rest on a while.

Old faithful legs were starting to give way and the onset of his glaucoma is starting to take hold. Still off-lead, he wandered a bit too far away and I called him, and much to my sadness saw him off in the distance dead ahead yet confused.

I called him repeatedly and he ran off in different directions, able to hear me but not able to locate me. I ran to him, calmed him down and put his lead back on. He has been the most amazing and utterly insane canine I’ve ever owned and it’s sad to gradually see various parts of him pack in, I try not to think about the day when he’s not around.

Leaving the wood, we saw a squirrel haven with many oak trees and fallen acorns, as well as plenty of Rosebay Willowherb / fireweed (Epilobium Angustifolium), one of natures great firestarters (twisted firestarters…)

On our way back to the car, we took to a hacking trail, and there was a very amusing sight, this time my eyes playing tricks on me and not old faithful’s. We came across a fenced-off field and in the distance, I thought there was a small stone circle or henge, which instantly put my hippy spider senses tingling. Putting my glasses on revealed that it was not a circle of stones, but a circle of small police traffic cones, in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere. Bizarre!

Foraging Trials…

There may come a time, perhaps not in my lifetime, and hopefully not in my children’s lifetime either, that society collapses completely.

Hollywood has played all of this out expertly in many films. The Omega Man and Planet of the Apes, lead by Charlton Heston, were some of the first movies I recall seeing which depicted dystopia and one mans struggle to exist in a completely different environment to what he was used to.

In The Omega Man, Heston resorted to a Hunter-Gatherer, albeit in disused shopping malls, foraging by day and hiding by night to stay away from the bad guys.

He had to take what resources he could to survive, and survive he did by knowing exactly where to look and what to look for.

A few weekends back, I booked my sister (for her birthday), the wife and I on a foraging course just outside of Ruthin, North Wales, in an effort do do something less ordinary, get away from the chaos of the news channels and back to nature, and to learn some new skills.

Armed with some preliminary toolkits (books, satchels, snappy bags and knives), our tribe for the day arrived at the mouth of a small wood in the small hamlet of Bontuchel, where our guides from Original Outdoors greeted us with warm smiles and hope. Good start.

We did the usual round of creeping death introductions and when it got to me, I boldly shared the fact that I was likely the bad guy of the group as I worked in the oil and gas industry. The smiley faces turned to frowns and even boos. Was I surprised by this, not really, I was prepared for that knowing that people who choose to go on foraging courses are more likely to be closer to nature and the industry I work in presently has a diabolic influence the fragile ecosystem we live in which is frowned upon by many.

I did go on to say however that the company I worked for was leading the way (according to Gartner’s latest magic quadrant) in terms of its journey towards carbon neutrality and that with oil prices staying lower for longer and Covid reducing the demand for product, they are taking very bold decisions to leave the black stuff in the ground, reshaping their business completely to pursue plans to migrate from an oil and gas major to a true energy company, investing heavily in renewables.

I also shared that I am working very closely with the company’s Sustainability Consultants to take a detailed look at how as individuals we can make a difference both in the work place and at home, creating as we do a gestalt/hive mindset that we can be greater than the sum of our parts if we all know what to do, how to do it and by when.

Clearly this lightened the mood and some words shared can start to paint a more positive light on an industry damned in all parts of society. Clearly we all have energy demands (everyone arrived by petrol/diesel cars for example), but we must all work together to realise our joint goal to save the planet before it’s too late.

“R” and “A” (our hosts for the day) took us through the woods over the next four hours, pointing out plants, wild herbs, fruits, berries and mushrooms that we could look out for in future bimbles.

Over the course of the day, we uncovered twenty different species, all of which are described briefly in note and picture form below:

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1. Beech (Fagus Sylvatica)

Nut/Leaf. Good for mushrooms. Leaves good for gin. Small triangular nuts from the husks if the squirrels haven’t eaten them all. Only found one between the three of us, still hungry…

2. Chanterelle (Cantharellus Cibarius)

Mushroom. Grows on slopes and among beech trees is common. Very edible, didn’t take a sample as we only found a few minute ones. One for the foraging list though.

3. Earthball (Scleroderma Citrinum)

Mushroom. Black inside. Not edible.

4. Porcini (Boletus Edulis)

Mushroom. Huge and when dried out, expensive to buy. Found under beech or pine. Maggots can burrow, can cut off yellow layer. Slice then dry then fry. Took one for home. Very happy!

5. Bramble  (Rubus Fruticosus)

Fruit. The ubiquitous blackberries. Can also eat stem and leaves too. Top bit of stem (end – youngest) like asparagus. Are several, very sweet, not tart at all. Nicest wild blackberries I’ve ever eaten.

6. Herb Robert (Geranium Robertianum)

Leaf. Also known as Stinky Bob. Good for herbs. All edible. Geranium family

7. Opposite Leaved Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium)

Leaf. Good for salads (like cucumber).

8. Hedge woundwort  (Stachys Sylvatica)

Leaf. Squidge leaves and insert into wounds. Smells like rotting flesh. Squeeze together taste better.

9. Pendulous Sedge (Carex Pendula)

Seed. Starchy carb. Seeds used. Green used. Brown chaff. Paste on stone dry cook for crackers. A lot of work for little reward when out in the field.

10. Hen of the woods (Grifola Frondosa)

Mushroom. Found on dead oak stump. Similar texture to chicken. Darker colour than Chicken of the Woods (which we didn’t find – gutted as this was top of my list for the day. Fry with butter and garlic. Eat in small quantities.

As we say off a while, we had a discussion about foraging rules, one of which being the carrying of knives, only three inch blades were allowed, else it’s classified as a weapon. The one I used to take a cutting of Hen of the Woods was a bushcrafting knife with fixed blade, illegal in the current scenario. At least I know for next time.

11. Wood Sorrel (Oxalis Acetosella)

Leaf. The odd flower in a salad. Toxic if too much consumed. Stuffed in fish and used in sorbet. Found in woodlands where there is sunlight (edges and clearings)

12. The Blusher (Amanita Rubescens)

Mushroom. Not worth it because of the toxicity.

One key nuggets though was that the best time to pick mushrooms is dry day after rain. Noted!

13. Jelly/Wood ear (Auricularia Auricula-Judae)

Mushroom. Also known as Jews ear, named after Judas Iscariot and only grows on dead elder tree (“R” was keen to point out that this term is no longer used). It’s a dry jerky-type of mushroom, nice and crispy.

14. Hawthorn (Crataegus Monogyna)

Fruit/Leaf. Leaves edible in May (May pudding). The berries are collected in autumn and the squeezed into a pulp. Put in muslin and pour hot water through it. Skin and stone stay in the middle – fleshy pulp comes through, after which it can be dried out and turned into fruit leather (nature’s wine gums which lasts forever if stored in parchment. Berries are everywhere, defiantly going to try this (Ray Mears Wild Foods has an episode on making this)

15. Elder (Sambucus Nigra)

Fruit/Flower. Contains cyanide, use only flowers and fruit. Flowers (only a few days sometimes) make Elderflower cordials etc. Berries poisonous if raw. Cook or ferment. Wine gin and vodka, and cordials.

16. Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa)

Fruit. Produces sloes. Gin and vodka or hedgerow jam. Sour raw, I ate one, ain’t that the truth! Wait until they are ripe, pick them, freeze them (bletting) which gets them juicing

17. Dandelion (Taraxacum sp)

Leaf . Raw and peppery. Like rocket on salad. No too much as it’s a diuretic.

18. Crab Apple (Malus Sylvestnis)

Fruit. Bitter when eaten from the tree. Best use as cooking apple for pies and sauces

19. Birch Polypore (Fomitopsis Betulina)

Mushroom. Non-edible – used for stropping knives or as a wound dressing

20. Burdock (Arctium sp.)

Root. Used as starchy fibre. Cannot uproot on public land, can take on provide land with landowners permission

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All in a very educational day with lots of take aways, and a reminder just how beautiful Wales is. Looking back, over my shoulder (using Crowded House parlance) saw the ridge of Offas Dyke in all of its glory as the sun was beginning to set, Foel Fenli, Moel Famau and Moel Arthur seem from below instead of on high. Majestic.

I guess the moral to the foraging story is to make up a shopping list as you would do for the supermarket, and target the items you know will be there (taking into account the location, weather conditions and season) and foraging just what you need and use them or dry them when you get back home so they don’t end up as bin food. It’s essential to know your locations and what grows there, (e.g. oak and beech woods after rainfall increases the chances of acquiring a chicken of the woods).

Easily the most fascinating discussion I had on the day was a side conversation I had with “R” which centred around Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybin Cubensis), which we didn’t find on the day (they may have been there but he could hardly point them out!)

Back in my youth, I took the liberty caps once with some friends at home (with my parents and sister away on holiday). Although I took a relatively small dose (30-40 mushrooms in a Pot Noodle) the doors of perception did open, ever so slightly.

I recall initial giggles, the chess board motif of the linoleum flooring of the back kitchen began to twist and contort into weird swirling shapes. We took to our prostate positions in the living room and turned out all of the lights and put on an Ian Andersen (he of Jethro Tull fame) and tripped out. I recall laying with my back to the floor looking up at the ceiling, both of which soon became wall, with the window as the floor, the dimensions of the space around me changed. The only light source was the LED display of the video player, the heightened senses bringing the digits into full 8k high definition and bloated compared to their usual size. The digits then floated all around me, changing in shape and size. All in it was a very interesting experience, one I’ve never repeated but once the door is opened, reality is never really the same again.

“R” went on to say that there was a hypothesis that mushrooms were not of this earth, not part of the original evolutionary chain, and that some believed that they came in on a comet. A mushroom has its own kingdom (bringing with it a hidden blanket called the mycelium layer) and is neither animal, vegetable nor mineral. Fascinated, I agreed to take an action to research more into the world of the fungus, no doubt posting the findings here.

If that was enough to bake my noodle (not Pot Noodle), what he said next surely did.

“R” asked me if I’d ever heard of the Stoned Ape Theory by Terence McKenna. I said that I had not and he told me to go back home and look it up, but in essence what happened millions of years ago was that as the climate changed in Africa, primates came down from the trees as rainforests turned into grasslands and foraged for different food types.

As ancient bovines grazed and defecated, their patties gave homes to bugs and fungus, which as a source of protein our hairy ancestors ate.

McKenna’s theory goes that under such conditions, psilocybin mushrooms thrive and as a result of eating them, the doors of perception opened for apes and they looked at the world through different eyes and begin to think in a different way, so much so that new neurological pathways were created, new thoughts and ways of thinking allowed for the progression of tools and language and as such the brain began to evolve and grow bigger, until eventually we harnessed fire which gave rise to different diets and the further expansion of consciousness to make us what we are today.

So here we have a possible explanation for the missing link, thanks to the good old shroom!

What was to be a nice day out turned into a mind-bending, thought-provoking journey, not only through the eyes of the Palaeolithic people of Northern Europe, but an unexpected journey back to the dawn of man.

When I got back I dried out our days collection, and put the mushrooms in storage for a meal to come and retired for the evening, knackered.

What a day, what an epic day…