Stop wanting stuff
There are two types of unknowns: the yet-to-happen (or future) and the intellectually-challenging (the Unknown).
As for the former, Hume (1711-76) and others have shown that it is indeed impossible to fully know the future, that the best we can do is make guesses and assumptions based on previous experience.
As for the latter, there is a process which allows the Unknown to become familiar and wholly known.
First, learn to sit in complete silence and become unaware of either your own body or immediate surroundings.
Secondly, at the end of each day consider your own actions and thoughts and decide whether or not they were selfishly motivated; if they were, change them next time round.
And that, my friend, is virtually the entire process from which everything else will flow.
Pollination Symbol by Julius Bissier (1937)
‘[1936-37]…he [Bissier] produces a series of small-format ink works on paper and “symbolic inks” (“Symboltuschen”), which synthesize through elementary symbols the bi-polar constellations (male-female, wave-rock, life-death, protected-threatened) and thus refer as much to myth, philosophy and European mysticism as to philosophical concepts of the Far East (above all, Taoism and Zen).’ – bissier.org/biography
This reproduction of an ink drawing by the German artist has hung on my wall for twenty-five years, and still reveals something new on each viewing.
All that Gary Glitter music blaring from the clapboard hall orifices must have triggered some kind of primeval survival instinct within me. Vapours from the newly-sited Chinese takeaway hung in the village air over the crossroads and away into the woods. There had been a really bad feeling about crossing the threshold of the local disco from the very start. Trouble loomed large even before my vision could properly adjust to the DJ’s jarring light-set. Wearing his leather biker’s jacket and bovver boots, red-faced and bleary-eyed, the biggest bruiser for miles around had placed himself right by the door on one of those stackable grey plastic chairs you find in halls everywhere. Jimmy Hetheridge was obviously waiting for someone. And that someone would, of course, be me: Vinny Ball. Two years older, and at least twice my size, this teenage monster had a terrible reputation for violence. Just his spoken name ushered in a kind of silent respect.
Now, Jimmy Hetheridge’s girlfriend, from an adjoining village, had been coming up to see me over the last few weeks, and I rather had the hots for her, too. So. During the next song – Boney M, probably – the bull-necked and revengeful beast came up to me in the middle of the dance floor.
‘You who I think you are, you black cunt?’
His confused silence was all the time I needed to get hold of Doug Sawyer and lure him away with the promise of some stolen drinks-cupboard liquor. We had made it past the crossroads and were close to the woods where the drink was concealed when a great hollering erupted behind us, followed by the thuddering of big army boots on the new tarmac path.
This is it, I thought, nearly wetting myself.
‘Why did you say you weren’t him?’
‘You been seeing my bird?’
‘He has, Jimmy! He has!’
This second voice belonged to a curious individual who had developed a rather strange obsession over me. Back in the disco, he had asserted to Hetheridge that I wasn’t in fact the person who he thought I was; now he was trying to drop me right in it.
‘He has, Jimmy!’
‘Listen,’ said Jimmy, getting his face close up to mine so that I could smell the Watneys on his breath. ‘I don’t want you going anywhere near her, understand?’
Perhaps he could smell my fear in return because after that warning he became quite warm-hearted and avuncular.
‘You go anywhere near my bird, and I’ll break every bone in your body, even if I have to go to jail for it. Got that?’
‘That’s all right then. You coming back?’
‘We’re gonna get some booze.’
‘All right. I’ll see you later.’
‘Can I come?’ pipes up Ronald Oakley, seemingly having forgotten that just nine seconds earlier he was doing everything he could to have me severely beaten up.
‘No, I don’t think so.’
‘Oh, all right,’ and off he goes with Jimmy Hetheridge back to the disco, while Doug and I knock back the previously hidden hooch, which gives me the courage to go back up the road and once more face the strains of Shawaddywaddy and Mud.
Only afterwards did I think, black cunt? I’d been called a cunt many times: a shitty cunt, fucking cunt, useless cunt, curly cunt, and countless other variations on that part of the female anatomy – the normal retort was, ‘At least I’m useful, what about you?’ But as far as black cunt was concerned, this had never occurred before. I’d never been called a black anything. I’d never even thought of myself as black.
Back in 2001, I journeyed from Yaroslavl, by way of St Petersburg and Novgorod, to Staraya Russa – the only native-English speaker to have been there in living memory at that time, apparently… From 14th November, so that from now on this week in the calendar is ‘Dostoevsky Week’ (the guy was born on 11th November, 1821). We’re gonna be going back 2021. Please join us.
In the meantime, winter arrives in Zheldor. They say that if it snows on a certain saint’s day then you’re in for a lot of snow that season. Well, we’ll see, because it is snowing on that particular day. It’s snowing when I wake up and look out the window. It’s snowing as I eat my breakfast of cheap sausage and a lukewarm hardboiled egg and it’s snowing when I enter the street in my padded cotton jacket, the woollen hat that my wife bought me two birthdays ago, and a soft woollen scarf with a check design bought from the local univermag wrapped around my neck, my hands encased in leather driving gloves that I’ve always had and wonder if they’ll be warm enough on this particular occasion. Beneath my feet the pavement is frozen into one giant sheet of ice and I have relearned already to walk over it by lifting up my feet a little more vertically and quickly than normal, which tends to make the leg muscles ache; while up above great ice stalactites dangle precariously from overhead ledges some five or six storeys up and will kill me if there is a thaw and they drop on my head. I laughed when I was first told about these ice-hangs, it just seemed so incongruous with what we know about winter in our safe little corner in the south of England, and then my Russian teacher grew angry and asked why I was laughing when several people a year are killed by these giant ice-spears and I didn’t have the language to answer her (the word I was looking for is nesootvetstvuiuschyi) so I just blushed sheepishly and grew quiet instead. I hate teachers, even though I am one. Teach is what I am on my way to do on this blurry dark-snow morning of ice. I stop off at a kiosk to buy a banana and a currant bun for breaktime, and at another one to purchase a bottle of mineral water – I’ll stop off at the same one later to buy a bottle of beer to wash down my dinner. I swap a joke with the pretty female vendor who has never met an Englishman before me and always laughs at my terrible Russian pronunciation and then it’s across the busy road to school, a set of warm and solid rooms on the second floor of a hundred year old civic building. Very nice. Boris, the owner, is there already and he gives me a big broad grin and shakes my hand. ‘Xolodna?’- ‘Net!’ Our usual greeting since the temperature dropped following an Old Woman’s Summer that went right into and even beyond the middle of September. Now the river is showing signs of freezing at its edges. Soon it will probably be very xolodna indeed. I tell one of the Russian teachers there that, since there’s a weeklong break coming up, I shall head out to Dostoevsky’s for the duration, at which she snorts and says, ‘But this is Russia. You’ll never make it.’
Golden-brown, crisp beech leaves lay on the floor and along with the previous season’s mast crunched under my feet. Sticky green buds were appearing on the outer branches and soon would form into ‘bread and cheese’ which could be eaten as fresh young leaves. The day was abnormally bright and I thought about my first day out of prison, seeing myself somehow objectively in the third person, as if it had all happened to somebody else almost a million miles away and a million years ago. So much had altered in the last few days, including my grip on reality.
I found some indentations set off from the path – they were no more than that – which correlated with the description Jack had given me concerning the sawpits and gradually wandered in a disorderly direction among the beeches. And then, from nowhere really, I looked up and saw the most unlikely and incredible sight. Hanging from one of the beech trees, perhaps about twenty-feet up, was –
The figure was dishevelled and crucified. All his veins stood out from his thin arms and legs and the bones protruded from his emaciated body. His head hung forwards and slightly sideways. He looked withered and sad. Big nails were driven through his feet and hands. Upon his head sat a crown of thorns…
When I woke up, Spencer was cradling my head in his lap, away from the cold leaves. The rest of my body was cold.
‘It was him,’ I said, not quite deliriously, but extremely quietly.
‘The guy that came into my cell and led me out.’
‘But that’s Jesus Christ,’ he said looking up at a wooden carving. ‘Among the beeches.’
Over the last few years the south Bucks Ridgleys have held a private get-together at a hidden location once owned by a famous twentieth-century artist in the area. If you are a member of the Ridgley family, or know anyone from the worldwide Ridgley family who would be keen to participate and enlarge the gathering in 2018, in the first instance send me a friend request on my Glyn Ridgley Facebook page, and I can then contact you with further details. We are an extremely modest bunch – but our hospitality knows no bounds.
Apropos of the right wing assault on the first elected socialist and pacifist Prime Minister of Great Britain, my great-uncle Norman Ridgley married Ishbel MacDonald, daughter of the very same Labour Prime Minister.
Listen to a low-key introduction from THE DEATH AND THE DEAD and get prepared for a story to shake up all your preconceptions concerning the fabulous 1970s
Confined to bed after my fainting fit in the cottage garden, I devoured books from the town library and spent hour after brightly coloured hour tuned into the radio in a prescripted valium haze listening to bands like King Crimson and Moody Blues. Electronic sound engulfed me during those times. Blu-tacked pictures of rock-stars on my walls stared out iconically. One singer looked like an Aryan Jesus and, influenced by my father’s disgust of all things religious, I tore his image down and emoted instead over the more down-to-earth posters given away each week in Sounds. American comic books, Pan horror stories, a book about Buddhism, Edgar Allen Poe’s works, all these deranged my thoughts even further, so that when at last the doctors declared me fit for a return to the humdrum world my whole consciousness had been altered.
Instead of a schoolboy desire to master logarithms and find out about the harshness of the tundra climate or which king killed who what why when or where, I simply have to discover the best place to buy a faded denim jacket and a pair of two-tone velvet loon pants. I need to get out there. I need to live. I want to be ferocious, hit things, make a racket. Be a drummer. I have decided to be a freak like the people I read about in the music papers during the day and listen to in the evening and watch at night on TV when no one is around. No longer do I want to be another brick in the wall. I want to be on the road, taking drugs and drinking gallon after gallon of strong hooch: some kind of drug-taking, drink-swilling, long-haired musician or maybe writer or something – a fiend, still undefined and embryonic, but definitely out there in front of me as a goal.
The Seventies were out there waiting for me..! And I was gonna help make them happen..!
DEATH AND THE DEAD
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