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…
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…”
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?
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.
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.
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
Let’s hope the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as outlined above happens and we all live in peace, with the freedom to live our own lives without the strong arm of the law calling the shots…
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…
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…
I guess there are a few reasons why have decided to take up a more agrarian lifestyle (or at least the start of one).
Weary of the bloatedness that accompanies eating meat in significant volumes has led to a pescatarian diet over the last six weeks has already reaped rewards in a two kilo weight loss, and its a more sustainable way to live. Spending time during the same period rambling across the green and pleasant lands of England, and getting back to nature has given a fresh appetite to put materialism to one side (after the basics hunter-gatherer equipment has been bought and delivered from Amazon – naturally), wanting a life of less that gives me more as a result, and its a more sustainable way to live. Detoxifying the body by reducing alcohol and sugar intake, flushing out unfriendly bacteria and negative Covid knots via the esoteric practice of kundalini yoga and with it a new vigour for life outside the norms of society.
Sadly, I am a hypocrite (and my nineteen year old learned and wise-beyond-his-years offspring concurs this on a daily basis without the need for prompt) and I acknowledge that. Working in an industry which is doing precious little to address global warming and investing in renewable energy sources burns deep within my eco-citizen higher self. With over twenty years invested and with retirement just around the corner (albeit a long, long corner), I have too much invested to just walk away.
My mission is simple, do what I can to be more sustainable now as an individual and as a family (even though on the grand scale of things that is insignificant). Try to improve sustainability and promote green issues in the workplace (knowing that a cultural shift from within will help change the mindset of others on a larger scale than the self or the family). Once I do eventually retire, look towards an off-grid lifestyle, becoming self-sufficient by living off the land and via renewable resources, and if possible go a step further set up a new family (an eco community), starting off small and growing over time, with mind, body and soul at the core.
I’ve admired Jacque Fresco for so long and his Venus Project vision, but it stagnates in this rule-bound material world and having a fully operable and autonomous collective which sits outside the taxation system in the US is in my opinion a tall order to achieve.
I may face the same obstacles in the future here in the UK, but there is hope. One Planet Development in Wales is starting to allow applicants to set up sustainable small holdings to help reduce the countries carbon footprint, something Westminster hasn’t done yet across Offa’s Dyke and may not do, ever.
My recent micro-expeditions over the last six weeks has pushed my retirement thinking further forward, to the extent where it is all I’ve been thinking about for the last seven days since returning from Roman Northumbria. It’s clear to me that not only will I need to detach myself from most of the day to day operations I do now, but I will need to acquire brand new skills and an improved physical prowess should I succeed in what will be the final chapter of my Book of Life.
So like Alice, peering down the rabbit hole into an unknown world, I have started to do some research on what skills I will need. Although the list will be long, it will need to be exhaustive and complete by the time I exhaustingly hit fifty five.
Thumbing through the pages on the internet last week, I decided it was time to get back to basics, real basics, and with that I tried to get an understanding of prehistoric history of Britain, and more specifically the Wirral where I currently live.
Whilst I intend to craft a full post which addresses those historical knowledge gaps from the Palaeolithic age, through the Mesolithic and on to the Romans era, what I have uncovered thus far is that the first Homo sapiens remains in the UK were found (rather remarkably – coincidentally?) at Kents Cavern in Devon where I took the family a few weeks back. These remains carbon-dated to around the year forty thousand BCE and exhibits found revealed our true hunter-gatherers forefathers (and mothers); animal bones, archaic tools and means of illuminating the deepest and darkest caverns by using flints, dry mosses and shells (ancient Yankee Candles).
The trip to the caves fascinated me as did the lifestyle, free from the problems we have today, although they had entirely different problems and dangers to face of course.
Survive they did and we are all evidence of that, but how did the sustain themselves and their tribes, what methods did they use to succeed?
Leaving the hunting aside for another post, my focus turned to gatherering, and what we call foraging today.
Buoyed by my mid-morning blackberry breakfast in Northumbria last Sunday, I did a bit of research and was delighted to find that there was a foraging course in Ruthin (small market town in North Wales) which just happened to coincide with my sisters birthday in a couple of weeks from now. So with debit card already in hand, I dutifully booked us on the course (including my eco-wife to-be), and acquireds a few beginners guides and tools, ready for our first foray into foraging.
Annoyingly, I was off ill from work this week, the kundalini yoga on Tuesday seemed to release many built-up toxins and with it a serious migraine ensued which lasted all of Thursday and Friday, and with it an unwelcome return of my tinnitus, turned up to eleven. Already sprouting cold sores on the lips, I put myself into a dark room and nestled under a duvet for two and a bit days, unable and unwilling to focus and concentrate on the deployment of intelligent IT monitoring systems at work (A.I. won’t get ill, one of the benefits of my work for my employers further down the line after my presence becomes redundant, a victim of my own success).
During my bed-bound sabbatical, I did manage to watch some YouTube videos on foraging, sometimes drifting back off to the land of nod.
There were a few videos that stood out for all would-be pickers:
1. Ray Mears Wild Food
2. Ray Mears Bushcraft
3. Ray Mears Wild Britain
4. Wild Food UK Back To Basics
I guess when it comes to cult of personality and living off the land and it’s resources, Bear Grylls instantly springs to mind. I have liked watching his shows over the years, but find them somewhat contrived and of course a little extreme, sensational not educational.
My quick bimble through some of the online guidance revealed some important principles before taking the first step outdoors:
1. Acquire advice from professionals first
2. Acquire reference books to validate what you forage and if it is safe to eat and don’t taste test
4. Acquire a diary to catalogue where and when you forage
5. Only acquire what you need for yourself/family. Only take a third of the fruits available
6. Don’t take on the edge of agricultural land, especially if the foolishness is brown, likely due to pesticide spraying
7. Don’t trust identifying apps like Google Lens
8. Don’t uproot plants on common land or agricultural land unless permission is granted
9. Sample small amounts during initial forays to make sure one isn’t allergic to the plant
10. Give plants a good wash before consuming to remove dirt and bugs, especially at ground level
Feeling a little better this morning (although looking a whole lot worse due to the “scabification” process on my bottom lip), I headed out towards the old beach line on the coast.
As I passed houses and front gardens with a more watchful eye than usual, I found quite a few interesting trees and bushes, all of which were bearing fruits. On one road alone (all with one hundred yards) I found what I believe to be hawthorn bushes, rowan bushes, a cherry tree, a pear tree and an apple tree.
The road itself has a lot of history. Wellington Road has a set of sea-facing villas, built one hundred and fifty years ago by James Atherton, a local luminary and merchant at the time. The villas still stand strong today with majestic views across the Irish Sea, each unique and picturesque. They are all built on an old tunnel system which dates back hundreds of years when bootleggers would use them as stores for forbidden fayre, the sandstone caves providing good hiding hold for non-taxable contraband.
Taking a fruit from each bush/tree for validation when I got back home (except for the apple and pear trees which were pretty obvious), I headed off to the old cliff line, known locally as the Red Noses (due to them being sandstone proboscis that stretch out to sea). These are now set back from the beach down to the creation of the UK’s longest promenade, built over one hundred years ago, leaving the cliffs a few hundred metres back from the shoreline and with it a thick growth of vegetation.
My old faithful and now off-lead comrade loves it there, as all of the long grasses, bushes and shrubs provide him with plenty opportunities to sniff around and roam for critters.
The main source of foraging here appears to be nettles and blackberries, the small stretch of greenery also lies next to a train track and the bushes grow wild up to the protective railings and are mostly impenetrable (except perhaps with a set of fishing waders which may look a little odd).
Whilst this brief outing was more a “recky” rather than a gathering for breakfast or replacing the “Friday Big Shop”, I did take a few blackberries on the way for sustenance, some sweet and some sour, but sweet anyway in the knowledge that I know they are there and my empty jam jar at home sits waiting for the first foray into preserve making.
Returning home through the back streets, yet more nettles and blackberries grew at the side of the local nine hole golf course, giving me even more evidence to suggest that even in urban areas, opportunities are out there, one just needs to look…
There is no doubt that energy is shifting daily like the sands on a windy beach.
Getting back to nature last week and living life temporarily outside the chaos has brought new light on dark times. Ignoring the pandemic, turning off the news and revisiting the positivity of the past has of late rekindled introspection and what gives me inner peace.
Experiencing the sensory and physical aspects of reality – the flora, the fauna, the cloud formations, the rush of the sea at high tides, the setting sun, the rising moon, as well experiencing the mystical and metaphysical aspects of reality too on just what it feels like to part of something so incredible, I find myself at times in awe of such beauty and the associated feelings experienced are rekindling forgotten spiritual connections I have with some people that I have lost touch with over the years, giving me such a huge internal boost in these troublesome times.
It is seven years ago to the very month that I took my reiki training, opening the neural pathways to something quite alien, quite astounding, tapping into hidden energies that had been hitherto out of reach for the materialist I once was (and have been again over the last couple of years).
Once again it was my wife that reminded me of just who I was back in 2013 and how of late bits of my old self had returned. My “being” back then was born out of abject negativity and selfishness, with me operating as it were as a mid-week bachelor and weekend dad (replicating the abhorrent behaviour of my own alcoholic father).
Such was the shame at this realisation that I was becoming him if not already, that drastic action was required else my strong-willed wife and children would be gone, something my mother sadly never had the strength to do.
So an awakening took place, and with it a connection to a hidden and healing energy, a cosmic current taped into for the first time, opening my eyes to the fact that there was more to this reality than the five senses could serve up.
Buddhists and New Age folks say that things go around in seven year cycles, and here we are exactly seven years later and I find myself knocking on the door of my old reiki master “L” who has “upgraded” to kundalini yoga, and has her own practice based out of a majestic place in the heart of the Wirral countryside.
Although I had not seen her for many years, it was clear that time doesn’t exist (does it anyway?) when it comes to a rekindling of spirits. A quick non-non-distancing hug and catch-up revealed that we would pick up exactly where we left off and both agreed that paths we have taken across the years seem to be forever intertwined.
The same for my wife too. She has been struggling too over the last six months as a furloughed complimentary therapist with too much time on her hands, consuming the chaos, facts, lies and conspiracies for most of her waking hours, minutes and seconds each day. She too needed to refocus by joining me on this journey.
I decided after our trip to Devon to remove meat from my diet. The previous seven days had seen us consume half a farm, chickens, pigs and cows were all present on our daily calorie count and a return to the homestead made me feeling bloated and like a badly cooked steak, over-done.
I was a vegetarian for around eighteen months when I took my reiki training and with the new outlook, new friends, new energy and new lifestyle, it was only natural a diet forms part of the new me.
We have all consumed too much during the lockdown, grazing from cookie jars and overdosing on Netflix for too long over the last six months and our portly figures provide the evidence of that, so a dietary change was a must. I’ve also been out every morning running, cycling, kayaking and land-boarding before everyone else opens the curtains, and boy what a difference a week makes.
Tuesday saw our first kundalini yoga session with “L”. I like to understand what I’m getting myself into so spent sometime on Tuesday morning researching what kundalini yoga was all about. I had heard and read some negative and sensational reviews of the kundalini experiencing, ranging from mental instability to whole body orgasms and a lot of other stuff in between. Classifying it as fake news (but having an awareness of it in case I experience such – yes to the orgasms!) we joined the class and took part in what was such a different experience to the Hatha / posture-based yoga I have always undertaken.
Relatively easy positions were counter-posed by vigorous breathing techniques (breath of fire) leaving us both exhausted yet conversed completely invigorated and energised by the end. Everyone in the group was lovely, warm and welcoming, leaving us with the opinion that in some way, we had found our way home.
We spoke fondly of our experience on the drive home through the shadowy country lanes and with energy still racing when we got back home, I went for a run with the old and faithful pooch, giving new life to old legs.
Land-boarding on the promenade and looping the local marina in the morning sun as the open-water swimmers raised the mouths for breaths the next morning reminded me what if felt to be alive, a positive feelings I’d not felt in a long, long time.
If the early part of the week blew us away with positive energy, then what we experienced on Thursday made that look like a mere ripple on the sea compared to the the tsunami which was about to take place. When we have good weather and as we live close to the sea, when the conditions and tides are right, then “L” conducts her kundalini yoga class on the beach, which is accompanied by evening swims and paddling (sea kayaks and stand up paddle boarding).
As we approached, the beach car park (usually only partly occupied) we were surprised by how was rammed it was with vehicles. As we decanted our kayak and paddling gear, we looked up to see over 100 yoga mats laid out facing the sun, a welcoming inward tide and our spiritual instructor for the day in the lotus position waiting to begin. Incredible.
The session was the same as the “kriya” as Tuesday so we both knew what as to come, this time it was easier as we had had the practice, the session was more magical than the previous one, given the setting, the sheer volume of people and the communal and positive energy by all, resonating a common frequency of happiness.
Feeling again totally energised, we spent the next hour kayaking on the open and warm waters of the Mersey Estuary, totally at one with the universe and the like-minded souls we were spending time with.
Without sounding like a stuck record in reference (reverence) to Westworld, the words “Some choose to see the ugliness in the world, the disarray, I choose to see the beauty” never rang so true. If you are in the position to commune with nature and seek out opportunities for serenity, there is no better time than now. I’m mindful that we are not all in that position presently, with my friends and colleagues in India under almost full lockdown so I have to tone down my own personal journey at the moment, so not to fan their flames of despair, but they are in my thoughts and non-religious prayers.
I’m not one for taking good photos, but every now and again I hit jackpot. As my wife was paddling in, I stood waist-deep in the sea as the sun was setting and pressed click, the result of which reminded me of the ethereal Pink Floyd album The Endless River (Sea in this case), which sure seemed to be that way with nothing visible on the horizon, almost suggesting that infinity beckons…
As with every storm, there is a period of tranquility as long as you are in the right location at the right time.
With chaos and turbulence all around, there is a period of respite if you happen to spend time in the eye of the storm which gives one a time to recharge, to gather thoughts before the inevitable onslaught of a second wave.
This week I sought out the eye of the storm, and after many years of promising to spend some time on the south coast of England, airport blockades gave me the needful kick up the backside to experience what others have always said about Devon.
Keeping costs down to a bare minimum, we set up camp in Dawlish (scene of its own storm seven years ago when Mother Nature ripped apart its coastal railway to pieces) and plotted our week of relaxation, exploration and adventure.
Like the mystic who peers into the bottom of the teacup for insights, I held my plastic beaker up to the sunlight to see it also reveal a similar eye of the storm. Ordinarily that would predict an ensuing hangover but we managed to find non-alcoholic rum which tasted remarkably like the real thing when poured over “the real thing”.
Like a great many of us, lock-down has provided its own opportunities to learn new things. New hobbies, new skills, old habits which die hard. I’ve gone through extended periods of sobriety over the last six months but also recall a few regrettable occasions where empty bottles have been kicked aside by unshoed toes through bleary morning eyes.
So our trip was a sober one (save one day where we consumed a few afternoon beers) and a much welcomed change to our usual holiday boozing and excessive weight gain.
The campsite itself was the best I’ve ever been to in the UK, with outdoor and indoor swimming pools, restaurant, pub, shop, kids adventure playgrounds and five fishing lakes, and the weather made it the perfect place to kick back and whittle some.
Dawlish, Teignmouth, Torbay and Brixham provided our south coast adventures, with adventure golf, ancient caverns, forest walks and obligatory fish ‘n’ chips on the beach keeping us busy and Woolacombe Beach on the north coast allowing us to swim in the sea, embarrass ourselves with some primordial body boarding, as well as giving us all the obligatory lobstered-look the next day, as only the Brits can truly achieve with aplomb.
All of this was proliferated with several short early morning bursts of fishing on the lakes, catching bream, tench and carp (the largest of which was around six pounds – the biggest fish I’ve ever caught).
Our last day saw us take a boat trip down the Jurassic Coast, taking in the views of the coastal towns, sandstone outcroppings and the beautiful and pea green sea (apt after eating at the Owl and the Pussy Cat in Teignmouth for the wife’s birthday the night before), accompanied by clotted cream scones, jam, tea and Julie Peasgood – soap star from Brookside which set in my home time of Liverpool, who sat next to us who now lives in the area as a writer.
The overwhelming beauty about this week was just how “normal” it was. Camping is by its very nature self-isolating and socially distancing, with each family given there allotted “metreage” away from everybody else, as it was at the outdoor swimming pool, play parks and fishing lakes. The only notable difference was the directional arrows on the floor of the shop and the masks worn by the bar and restaurant staff, but done in a subliminal way.
The footfall was notably lesser too. This week being the height of the summer season (kids first week off school in the summer holidays in the UK), our last three days were spent in isolation our field of twenty camping spaces. Whether the site will be there next year with the same facilities and capacity time will tell, here’s hoping it will as the staff there were uber-friendly and it would be a real shame for it to go under. We are already booking to go back there such was its appeal and such is the uncertainly about international travel.
As I was up all week as dawn broke to go fishing, my circadian rhythm was still set to daft ‘o’ clock so I was up early today, taking the dog for a walk on my local beach up north, both man and dog happy to rekindle their morning sojourn before the day started for the rest of the troops.
The low tide brings with it the opportunity to get to the other side of our local lighthouse, and for a brief moment, a break in the dark and foreboding clouds gave the light of the sun the ability to shine through its fresnel, providing a clearer outlook, not unlike my trip to Devon this week.
Who knows what the new normal will be hereafter, but if you can take time and spend it in the eye of the storm, you will feel a lot better for it as I do today…