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…
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.
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…
Over the past twelve months, we have all to some extent become fledgling virologists. Every news bulletin is presented in front of a large screen emblazoned with various Covid-19 info-graphics depicting how the virus attaches itself to the human cell, opens up a way in and infects the cell until the point where it is either extinguished by antibodies that the cell produces or it takes hold and kills its host, propagating and replicating.
Over the same time period, I have had some very interesting dinner table discussions with the family, and especially my nineteen year old son who is currently studying English Literature and Creative Writing at University.
He loves engaging in thought-provoking dialogue and I’m more than happy to deliberate and cogitate his musings and arguments and wade in with my opinions, so after re-watching Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman, my thoughts turned back to Covid-19 and the info-graphic depicted above on how the microscopic world of an individual cell and things attacking it could be viewed on a much larger scale and how humanity is self-creating real and credible threats to our very existence on Planet Earth, and how cause and effect is impacting our ecosystem.
My opening statement was that humanity (not unlike Agent Smith from The Matrix), is a virus that is attacking the very ecosystem it needs to survive. A virus is defined as “an agent that infects living organisms, often causing disease and death, which in itself is unable to replicate without a host”. Whilst I concede that Earth is may not be conscious (in the way that our brains are) and it does not have a sense or morality, when viewed as a single organism, it is living and can generate effects from the various causes imposed on it to protect itself from extinction.
I took up my pen (converted to a jpeg for clarity) and drew a crude Covid-19 virus molecule and replaced each S-Protein nodule with each anthropogenic risk we are currently facing (adding a non-anthropogenic risk for good measure) and discussed each one at length:
Nano Technology: Also known as grey goo, the current train of thought is that as humanity advances technology and things get smaller and smaller, there is (however small, nano even) a risk that molecular nanotechnology becomes out-of-control and self-replicating machines consume all of the biomass on Earth while building more of themselves, which in theory could consume the entire planet down the core with nothing Mother Earth could do to prevent it. The stuff of science fiction horror movies perhaps, but still a potential risk but we agreed that we would likely not see this one materialising any time soon
War: What is it good for, absolutely nothing (except for the economy of course, as described rather simply and expertly in Zeitgeist: The Movie – one of the best documentaries I’ve seen). The most clear and present danger that humanity currently faces is the ability to destroy itself by conflict, by war. History tells us that a global foot war would never wipe us out as there would lways likely be a winning side. A nuclear war and associated nuclear winter could of course do two things, wipe out humanity plus many plants and animals but the Earth could recover in time (much in the same way it did during the dinosaur era), or toxify the atmosphere and boils the seas so much that all carbon-based systems cease to exist and Mars 2.0 happens
Pollution: It is abundantly clear climate change is here and having a huge impact our ecosystem. Through heavy industry, toxic/plastic waste, deforestation, desertification, natural resource extraction and consumption, the effects are stark and plain for asll to see (whilst not including certain deniers and Paris Accord withdrawers). If those are the main causes, then the effects are equally as numerous, with Earth (in a non-conscious way) producing storms, fires, floods, famines, viruses, earthquakes and even plagues of locusts, all very biblical and ominous. In theory, Earth could in fact continue to react in this way until humanity is wiped out and the order is reset and recovery takes place. Whilst war seems to be the primary risk to life on Earth, if left unchecked climate change is a close second.
Artificial Intelligence: We all love a good dystopian novel/movie, with seminal classics like The Matrix, Terminator and latterly Westworld spinning a shared narrative that self-realising machines become super-intelligent and wage war against humanity until it’s near ultimate demise. Whilst there many benefits to automation (I myself am heavily involved in developing intelligent monitoring systems – not in a state surveillance way I might add), there is a danger, however limited that self-awareness and autonomously acting systems could in theory wreak havoc and Stephen Hawking himself theorizing that AI could indeed see the end of the human race. A quick look at the Boston Dynamics production line (Atlas and Spot which are now available via mail order) would and should give some insights to the potentiality and realisation that a new order could be created if the light-bulb ever gets flicked on, however small the risk appears today
Bio Technology: A biological war could in theory make the human race extinct if a virus reached 100% of the population and had a 100% mortality rate, but Mother Earth (which can do nothing to prevent a man-made biological war) would continue and positively recover from everything man has thrown at it. We may never get to find out how Covid-19 was released on to the human race (by accident or by design), but the wonderful thing about a virus is its ability to mutate to survive, so if you believe that it was released by design by some sort of illuminati / NWO, then lets hope they keep full control on the SAR-COVID-2 strand and don’t let the mortality rate increase to 100%, else that could be end of days territory.
Resource Consumption / Overpopulation: Clearly we have problem, arguably the biggest problem and most realistic threat to our way of life. David Attenborough has said that overpopulation is the biggest existential threat to life on Earth, if we don’t do something about it, nature will do it for us. We have seen unprecendented natural disasters over the last few years and as the planet gets warmer and wilder, and as we consume more than we can produce – using mass-production techniques which release more CO2e into the atmosphere, then our ability to cultivate the land diminishes, desertifcation increases and as such the increasing population goes hungry, until at some point we have burned all the trees, destroyed all of the soils, raised all salty sea levels leaving our ecosystem infertile. Some say that Covid-19 is naturally occurring and it is a curse that Mother Earth has put on us to wake us up to the root cause of our problems, over population.
Genetic Modification: A few Hollywood films have placed such a concept onto the silver-screen. We play God by mapping out our DNA strand and modifying it to iron out the kinks, remove all defects to create post-modern-man, with catastrophic consequences. There is also the notion of cybernetics, where man replaces carbon-based appendages with technology, resulting in a fight between it and IT. The stuff of B-Movies however is unlikely to come to fruition.
Scientific Exploration: So what exactly is going on at CERN? OK they allegedly found the Higgs-Boson God particle, but what they intend to do with it is not entirely clear, neither is the roadmap of experiments. There are clear and present dangers in scientific experiments of this scale, with the potentiality to rip time and space apart, creating a black hole that we all fall into never to return. As Socrates Johnson once said, all we know is that we know nothing, and if Dan Brown’s Angel & Demons anti-matter theme has anything to go by, messing around with the laws of physics we know very little about may see us disappearing up our own arseholes.
Non Anthropogenic: Extinction Level Events. Meteors, aliens and demons (in that order) have the ability to bring the seven point eight billion population count down to zero in a matter of seconds. Deep Impact, Armageddon, Star Wars, Independence Day and Constantine all depict such events in glorious CGI, let’s just hope Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis and Mark Hamill, Will Smith and Keanu Reeves don’t retire any time soon.
The response to all of this from my “son-beyond-his years” was abrupt and to the point:
Son: “Dad?” Dad: “Yes, son?” Son: “Two things. Firstly, you think too much. Secondly, you’re an idiot…”
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…
Kundalini yoga is very different to other more traditional forms of yoga, it concentrates on actions not postures, with breath and energy flow more important than ones elasticity.
I think it is for this reason that it aligns more to the metaphysical rather than the material form, and as a result it is more of a workout for the mind than the body.
One of the ways we can understand our existence better through the practice of kundalini yoga is by what is known as the ten bodies.
We are made up of one physical body, three mental bodies and six energy bodies. The ten body system makes us aware that we are so much more than only our physical shell, so much more than the sum of our parts.
“If you understand that you are Ten Bodies, and you are aware of those Ten Bodies, and you keep them in balance, the whole universe will be in balance with you.”
Last nights kriya on the ten bodies was one of the best sessions of kundalini yoga I’ve had so far. Buoyed off the back of the best year end performance review I’ve ever had from my new and wonderfully supportive line manager, I welcomed “L” with open arms (no social distancing/conditioning here) and took to my usual position at the back of the class and went through this kriya with a “permasmile” (albeit with a little pain from my recently diagnosed laboral muscle tear on my right hip. I nearly fell off my chair when I thought I’d heard the consultant tell me I had torn my labia, my operation isn’t scheduled until next year!).
So what are the ten bodies:
1. Soul Body
Our first body is the soul body, which is quite literal our soul or essence. It represents our connection to the infinite and the divine. It is our deepest core, our truest self, giving us the ability to live truthfully and from our heart. In an imbalanced state, we act from our head instead from our heart, prioritizing our intellect over our intuition. Within kundalini, the soul body responds to postures, breathing exercises and mantras that resonate with our heart chakra. To balance the first body, we have to open our hearts to the divine.
2. Negative Mind
This is our second body. Whereas many people do not want to accept that they have this body, it is within all of us and also part of human nature. It has its place, as it is constantly working to assess our environment and situations for danger or negative potential. In this way, the negative mind keeps us safe and alive. Moreover, if there wouldn’t be a negative mind, how could we then possibly know what a positive mind is? Everything in the universe works in dualities. It is however important to balance our negative mind by becoming aware of it and with the practice of discipline and purification.
3. Positive Mind
Just as we have a negative mind, we also obviously possess a positive mind. The positive mind gives us our strength, willpower, playfulness and a positive outlook on circumstances. It helps us identify opportunity and resources with its characteristics of enthusiasm, hopefulness and trust. In relation to our physical body, everything we do in order to strengthen our core and the area around our navel (our solar plexus chakra) resonates with this body and is beneficial for it. Strengthening the positive mind through kundalini will enhance self-esteem and self-worth.
4. Neutral Mind
Not only do we have a positive and negative mind, we also have a neutral mind, which makes up our fourth body. The neutral mind absorbs and evaluates the thoughts of the negative and positive mind. Contrary to the second and third bodies, the fourth body makes decisions out of non-emotional intuition and looks behind the assessments of the positive and negative mind. It therefore delivers guidance and stimulates decision-making based on clarity, calmness, balance and wisdom. Meditation is a wonderful tool to strengthening your neutral mind.
5. Physical Body
This is our tangible body, the one we can perceive with our eyes and other human senses. It is the temple in which houses all the other bodies in some form. Through the physical body, we have the ability to balance ourselves and our lives. An imbalance in the physical body can manifest in the form of anger, jealousy, greed, fatigue and a lack of gratitude, but also in an obsession with physical appearance and a clinging to the material world. To balance our physical body we must develop a practice that keep our bodies strong, flexible and resilient, like yoga or a form of martial arts.
The arcline can be visualized as our halo, expanding from one ear to the other, encompassing the hairline and the brow. It is our avenue of intuition and regulates the nervous system. It is also associated with our pituitary gland, our third eye. Women have a second arcline across the chest, reaching from one breast to the other.
The arcline serves as a balance and gateway between the physical and the cosmic realm and between word and deed. If out of balance, our values might not be in line with our actions and we will have difficulty focusing. In order to balance the sixth body, awaken the pituitary gland (our sixth chakra) through meditation, pranayama and drishti (gazing) to our third eye.
The aura is our electromagnetic energy field surrounding our physical body. It cannot be perceived by the naked human eye, but it can still be felt. Even though that might sound very spiritual, it is scientifically measurable that this energetic resonance exists between three to nine feet away from our bodies! The aura contains and protects our life force – our prana – and interacts with it. If mastered, it projects positivity and repels negativity from our body, working as a shield. An imbalanced aura will be felt in paranoia and a lack of self-trust. Negativity can enter your body and psyche much easier. To balance the aura body, meditation, pranayama, martial arts as well as wearing natural fibers and following a wholesome, organic diet are beneficial.
8. Pranic Body
The pranic body is our eighth body in the kundalini tradition. ‚Prana‘ means life-force in Sanskrit. Through our breath, we are continuously working with our pranic body for life force to enter our body. If mastered, we will experience fearlessness, purity, energy as well as the balance of polarities. Hence, the male and female energies present within us are fully integrated within ourselves. In am imbalanced state, we might experience anxiety, fatigue and defensiveness. To balance our pranic body – yes you guessed it right – every pranayama will have a positive impact.
9. Subtle Body
This body is characterized by our ability to sense and perceive the infinite and universal reality with the material and physical realm. The subtle body is deeply woven within our soul body. When our physical bodies die, the subtle body carries our soul. The qualities of the subtle body are calmness, insight, intuition and mastery. A weak subtle body manifest in naivety, restlessness, frustration and the feeling of being misunderstood. In order to master the ninth body, keep up any meditation or kundalini kriya for 1,000 consecutive days
10. Radiant Body
This body gives – of course – radiance, as well as courage, creativity and nobility. Magnetic and charismatic people are a great example of a balanced radiant body. A weak radiant body will express itself in shyness, problems to overcome fear and the avoidance of conflict. The best thing we can do for our radiant bodies is to have commitment, no matter what obstacle or challenge we might face.
The evening ended with relaxation and I could feel the positive energy from my fellow classmates all around, warmly embracing me and sending me into a different realm of consciousness, albeit (too) briefly.
Throughout the session I noticed the amount of times “L” mentioned the word infinity, as if a nod to this blog and to my inner thoughts and scribed outputs here.
It’s times like these that one tries to seek out calmer waters in the maelstrom we all currently find ourselves in, Captain “L” helps her passengers expertly to avoid them reaching for the sick bag, steering her ship away from the rough oceans and onto the sea of tranquility…
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:
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
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.
One of my favourite films of all time is Into The Wild, an existential journey of a man who turns away from a promising career in law and instead chooses a life less ordinary by today’s norms.
The inspiring yet ultimately tragic tale of Christopher McCandless (portrayed expertly by the then young Emile Hirsh) strikes a chord for those trapped in a similar situation, faced with a life changing choice.
The film resonates on several levels, of how important nature and relationships are and how unimportant material possessions and conformity really are.
Most of us choose our own paths, although sadly some have paths chosen for them, victims of society or oppressors. Seldom it seems do we make life-changing alterations to our paths, instead opting for safety and reduced risk.
JFK said it best when he exclaimed (in relation to going to the moon):
“We do things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too”.
Last weekend, I met up with my old buddy “M” for a walk in the Clwydian Hills in North Wales, the first time we had been in each other’s extended company since our “Not the New Years Eve Party” on the 3rd of January this year.
We set off early (separate cars) and reached our destination as the early morning field mists began to dissipate as the sun rose higher in the sky.
Opting for the forest route, we bimbled and talked for almost three hours about Life, the Universe and Everything, taking in the flora, fauna and vistas as we wove in and out of copses and along the long and winding path.
Our paths have not been too dissimilar to date, both work in IT, married with children, houses, cars, pensions etc.
We both have a passion for consciousness theory and spent most of our morning discussing time; does it really exist, does the arrow of time only ever go one direction, is our life path predetermined or do we have free will to influence it, are there infinite paths which all play out in hidden dimensions and it is our choices that steer us to the one we perceive as reality?
We talked about our shared goals too, to retire as soon as we were able and lead that life less ordinary, and I shared my own vision of what that may look like; a small holding off-grid, away from everything that has polluted humanity to the extent that we see today every time we turn on the news.
One thing was for sure, time flies and before we knew it we were back at the cars and heading home.
As I drove home, a song came on my playlist from a prog rock band from the UK called Haken. “M” and I had seen them live a few years back (back when live music was still played – I miss it so much), after which we chatted to the lead singer a while, blood nice chap.
Decanting my hiking gear from the car and sitting down with my mid-morning brew, I chanced to read over the lyrics of the song, and how wonderful and poignant they are:
“This life is a dream A gift we receive To live and to love We forge The Path
Our nightmare in birth Our struggle for worth In vain we carry on Our mission to become
Adapt to this world It’s a chance we must take We’ll sing our song We’ll play our hand”
We are all on different paths, our own journeys through time and space, yet sometimes our paths converge with those of others. We should cherish the moments where we can walk along side others, for those moments, those fleeting moments (like my morning trek with “M”) interlink kindred spirits and it is the metaphysical relationships with fellow man that makes us what we are, human…
Tribes. Tribal convictions was where the conversation turned slightly sour. Declaring to an ex-squady (who has always voted Tory, who has always pledged allegiance to the Queen and who would always have voted for Brexit), that you didn’t identify yourself as being British was never going to go down too well.
We conversed what “tribes” we felt we belonged to, radiating from the self outwards. For me, the most important tribe is my immediate family, my wife, sons and daughter (even my faithful old pooch). Nothing is more important than that tribe and nothing will ever come close.
As one goes further afield, the extended family (siblings, parents) as well as close friends come next, more geography dispersed and with that a weaker bond. Outside of that, it is our streets, avenues, villages, towns, cities, counties, countries, continents, planet, solar system, galaxy and the universe that make up the outer laters of our tribal onion and with that a lessening connection as we move away from the core and what is most important.
True bonds have strong metaphysical connections, spiritual if you will. The bond with my immediate family is strong.
The bond with my extended family is not strong (as this site has described over the years) although the recent reconnection with my sister is starting to repair what was broken for many years.
The bond with my close friends remains a constant, with quality not quantity reigning supreme.
The bond with my neighbours is divided, some super strong, some super strained (and Covid has widened that gap even further).
The bond with my community solid, I’ve always admired the Scouse way, never one to shy away from a debate, never one to take things lying down, always one to take it on the chin and fight back (the political establishments don’t stand for us and we stand strong and proud to our core values and principles, a real spirit of togetherness).
The bond with my nation is broken, feeling totally disconnected from Westminster, from the population at large (due to recent election and referendum results).
The bond with my continent is still there just, the love of mainland Europe and friends I’ve met and kept in touch with over the years is still in tact (and will be after we officially disconnect at the end of the year).
As for my planet, never has the population of the Earth been so divided as it is now, each nation state doing their own thing, preserving invisible borders and protecting “their” resources within non-material lines, not caring about the whole, only their part, infecting every corner of the world with the promotion of self, destroying our “little blue dot” in the process.
The challenge my bimbling comrade gave me was an honest one. Politics aside, why did I have no connection with Britain. As we hiked over the hills of Northumbria, I pondered this question as we gazed upon the historical sites and came to the conclusion that I had no real idea about the history of Britain, beyond what TV had taught me over the years (Monty Python mostly).
What did the early landscape of Britain look like and how did it become an island? How did the inhabitants of Britain evolve over time and how did they organise themselves into tribes and communities, and perhaps the most intriguing question of all, what made them British?
Maybe after finding out all of those facts would I be able to make a more informed judgement on whether I identified with being British or not.
So without going too far down the rabbit hole and borrowing some facts primarily from Wikipedia ( I say borrowing, its more like stealing really – what all Scousers do apparently, its in our DNA according to some!), I uncovered the following timeline, with a particular focus on the area where I live now, Wirral.
Palaeolithic (Stone) Age
Clearly there is no real way to validate the true timeline of a period that dates back almost one million years, but the collective understanding on how things evolved in the Britain are based on population migration from the continental mass of Europe (you heard it right Brexiteers, we are all immigrants!), as well as the geo-morphological aspect due to several ice ages and tectonic movements.
Our first hominin ancestors lived in Britain around 900,000 BCE, and is presumed to be Homo Antecessor, a few stages and several million years after the monkey-to-man thing happened (curse you black monolith!). These folks were amongst the first Hunter-Gatherers and we assume this via various Stone Age tools and animal bones which were found in Happisburgh (in Norfolk) and carbon dated to that period.
The map of Britain as you would expect looks very different one million years ago compared today, with Britain being a large peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides, much like a Wirral on steroids.
Between 700,000 and 500,000 BCE, Homo Antecessor was replaced by Homo Heidelbergensis, whose brains were significantly larger than that of its predecessor, and with that extra capacity, expanded its intelligence and thought processes. Historic finds around this time have uncovered early flint tools (Pakefield, Suffolk) and with flint comes fire, the catalyst for real advancement of the species.
At the end of that era, the first mention of glaciation creeps into the history books, and Britain is almost completely under ice, thus driving our early human ancestors back south and east to the warmer climates of Europe.
Around 450,00 BCE, as luck would have it (for the Brexiteers), the land-bridge that connected Britain to France (Weald-Artois Anticline) was cut for the first time (small at first), creating the English Channel (though I suspect La Manche was more of a La Rivière at the time).
400,000 BCE saw the first Neanderthals set foot in Blighty, and Swanscombe Man was recovered from a bog in Kent, along with several hand axes, mammoth teeth and jaw bones. Early indications were that these ancestors spent most of the time in the south west of England, not venturing too far north due to densely populated woodlands making hunting more difficult, and less habitable conditions (temperatures mostly and the proximity to escape when the inevitable ice flows came back.)
And that is exactly what happened for the next few hundred thousand years, ice flows in, Neanderthal flows out, that was until 125,000 BCE when the rising sea levels completely cut of Britain from Europe (much to the rejoicing of Tommy Robinson’s Neanderthal forefathers).
It was around 45,000 BCE when the first evidence of Homo Sapiens was found, as my last post stated in Kents Cavern in Devon and it was this period that the Neanderthals were completely driven out of Britain by the new kids on the block, never to return and eventually die out altogether only five millennium later..
Several more periods of glaciation took place, again driving “humans” (as they are now known) back to Europe until 11,700 BCE when the Holocene warming begins, melting huge volumes of ice, rising the sea levels and starting to hint at Britain that it may not be a peninsula for much longer.
Up to this point, humans lived freely across the land in tribes, no invisible borders existing, free to roam from country to country in search of sustenance and security within nomadic tribes. All that was about to change however with the dawning of the post-fire evolutionary catalyst, the agricultural revolution.
With things warming up nicely in Britain around 9,500 BCE, our ancestors began to migrate north and with that form structures to live, a good example of early settlements were found near the Vale of Pickering in Yorkshire (Star Carr) and although nothing much exists there today, finds included the remnants of deer (headdresses presumably used as either hunting aides or ritual adornments), boar, bear and wolf, as well as some rarer finds like amber, hematite and unsmelted iron pyrite object d’art used as prehistoric Pandora (jewellery).
Post holes and evidence of early hearths dot the landscape here and reveal what could be one of the first real settlements on mainland Britain, and it is shortly after this period where the Wirral gets its first proper mention in the history books.
Excavations in Greasby (more recently signposted as Gravesberie, a nod to its ancient past), revealed the exact same footprint as found in Star Carr 800 years earlier, uncovering flint tools, signs of stake holes and a hearth used by a hunter-gatherer community., and other evidence from around the same period has been found in New Brighton, where I live with my own tribe today.
As most of us know, East Anglia and vast parts of the Netherlands are still below sea level today, but many may not know (until recently myself included), that until around 6,200 BCE, the two were connected by marshlands known as Doggerland.
Around this time, a great ice sheet in western Norway side off into the North Sea causing a mega tsunami which flooded the entire area, and with the associated sea level rise cut Britain off from the continental land mass completely, never to return. Little did I know that we have only been an island for just over 8,000 years.
At this point, the agricultural revolution had been spreading like wildfire from its origins in the Middle East (Jericho and Aleppo being the first known structured civilisations to pop into existence), and around 6,000 BCE, the Isle of Wight off the south coast of Britain gave birth to wheat cultivation.
So it was around 4,000 BCE that saw a marked shift from hunter-gatherer tribes to organised collectives in Britain, with humans now able to create and store food for the first time, and with it the advent of rules, regulations, hierarchies, ownership, greed and conflict (not an exhaustive list by any means).
To date, the most impressive nod to the Neolithic movement can be found on Orkney, an island off the north coast of Scotland. Skara Brae is a prehistotic village made out of stone around 3,000 BCE. Cut deep into the landscape and with the exception of the roofs which would have been thatched, stands strong today, with fully formed semi-subterranean houses giving real insights into how we used to live during that time and not too dissimilar to how we construct our homes today, with central living spaces, cooking areas and sleeping quarters all close to heat sources when the weather turns gnarly.
Britain wouldn’t be Britain without a good henge, and it was around this time when thoughts turn to the sky for the first time. Obviously the most famous of the henges (Stonehenge) began its construction around this time, but it wasn’t the the only one (I’m sure Strawhenge and Woodhenge were early iterations of this, only for a big bad wolf to go blow them down), with hundreds of these ancient sites still dotted around the landscape today.
It was clear that henges were constructed for a few reasons. Firstly, as a place to bury the dead. Excavations at most sites reveal this, with buried remains found at various points across the sites, our Neolithic graveyards. Secondly, as a monument or a place of worship. To me it is no coincidence that all henges are circular, a nod to the sun. Typically henges and barrows (burial mounds) are aligned to both the summer and winter solstices when the sun is at its highest and lowest points in the sky, signalling death and rebirth, with new life and new hope around the 25th December when the sun (or should I say son) which aligns to the northern stars (forming a crucifix would you believe) starts its ascent.
Clearly this was the first signs of thinking beyond tribes and that there was something more to the physical life as they knew it. The ancient druids of Britain clearly recognised the importance of the cosmic bodies and the wider Universe and as such erected such monuments, creating rituals and sacrifices by way of appeasing “the maker”.
Society was starting to mature at this point in Britain and settlements far and wide were springing up, again around the abundance of natural resources and sources of food, and at this point the tea-cup bearers of Europe (the Beaker People) crossed the English Channel and settled in, bringing with them new technologies and of course “heavy metal”.
Bronze / Iron Ages
It was around 1,800 BCE that bronze and iron working took off in Britain, with ores being excavated and smelted from various quarries across the land, rendering stone and flint tools obsolete, and with that added durability came an increase in crop production and an uplift in the standard of living, for some at least.
In terms of a class system, it was around this time that the haves and have nots were created in Britain. Those who claimed the ownership of the land became the masters of others and as the land was carved up, so the invisible lines were drawn up on ancient parchments so that villages became towns, towns became cities, cites became counties and counties became countries, carving out Britain into the three component parts we know today (England, Scotland and Wales), owned by the few and worked by the many (not much has changed since then).
As borders were created, so were barricades and strongholds, and with that the increase in Iron Age hillforts to protect the land owners and what was “rightfully theirs”.
Whilst we don’t have many prehistoric reminders on the Wirral, a short journey over the border to Wales gives us a taste of what life was like back then. Nestled on top of many of the Moels (hillocks) in North Wales are the shapes and ruins of Iron Age hillforts, a particularly frequent stomping ground for my family, neighbour and I, with Moel Arthur being a particularly impressive site.
Coming to the end of prehistoric Britain and before the Romans came to rape and pillage our fertile lands, Wirral was inhabited by a Celtic tribe known as the Cornovii and artefacts discovered in Meols (on the north coast) suggests that it was an important port from around 500 BCE, with traders coming from France and the Mediterranean to exchange minerals and rich ores mined from North Wales and Cheshire for foreign goods, setting up the first sea-faring trade routes in the area.
What did the Romans ever do for us.
What happens next will be the subject of more research and a future post, taking us up to the modern day, with Romans, Vikings, Angles, Normans, Saxons and likely more marauders not yet known, all scrapping for a piece of Britain’s green and pleasant lands, a real- life game of Risk or Age of Empires.
So with all of that knowledge committed to both my brain and cyberspace and reflecting on the original challenge, has a foray into the past given me a better insight into the history of Britain, of course it has. Has it made me any more British than at the start of my journey, no not really.
What we now know is that until 6,000 years ago, we were physically a part of Europe and now we are both physically and metaphysically not which is a real shame.
That said, I do feel a spiritual connection to certain places in Britain, none more so than the aforementioned Stonehenge but even more so on top of Glastonbury Tor, for me the most magical place on Earth, acting as it were as a nexus point to several ley lines that convene at the hills top. The druids knew it and that esoteric knowledge has been passed down to non-materialists and panpsychists ever since.
The energy of that place is unlike anything I’ve experienced, and tapping into into makes one realise that there is so much more to life than being British, being “Universalish” is something that we all should aspire to be, maybe then we can truly evolve, choosing lover over fear, as one…