The Shaking Seventies!!!


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..!


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Free Generation I



‘A typical desecration of the ground in search of profit.’
Arty Sozzler was staying in a cottage in south Bucks which abutted the Bradenham woods. Most of the woods belonged to Lord Dashwood and some of them to the National Trust. Their value as timber recently had gone up and so the lord was having several of the trees cut down to sell as firewood. Their stumps left unpleasant reminders of the trees they had been and the lorries and diggers had churned up the soft leafmould soil around them.
‘But you told me you lived on the common,’ said Robin, his new-found American friend.
‘I do. The land between here and the lord’s is all common land. This common and Downley Common.’
‘So how come he has the right to all the wood?’
‘Because this is the UK and in the UK members of the aristocracy still have all their privileges.’
‘You’re still allowed to walk through it?’
‘For the most part. But not all. And you’d be mad to try at the moment, unless you have a death wish.’
‘I really don’t get it. This is twenty-seventeen. And you still have lords who can do what they want with the surrounding land?’
‘He’s sold off a lot of the land around the town recently, for building houses.’
‘He must be making a mint!’
‘In the UK just a few people – members of the aristocracy mostly – own most of the land. I forget the figures, something like five percent.’
‘Five percent what?’
‘Five percent of the UK population own about 98 percent of the land. You know, like the one percentile owning virtually the world’s financial wealth. Prince Charles, for example, owns the whole of Cornwall, one-hundred per cent, and a great big chunk of Devon – something like twenty percent of that county.’
‘He owns a whole county!’
‘Why not? This is the UK. And he’s a future king.’
‘But it’s twenty-seventeen.’
‘Things are getting worse, I’m telling you.’
‘So why does nobody do anything about it – this land thing?’
‘Hardly anyone knows about it. It’s a staged rip-off. The so-called Land Registry doesn’t actually reveal who owns what. You have to make educated guesses half the time.’
‘It sounds like calculated fraud.’
‘It is. It’s a giant scam. Like the banking system. The big landowners receive subsidies from the working population – at around one hundred pounds per acre – and the workers (who believe there is a land shortage, incidentally) are ripped off again for over-priced housing and huge mortgages. You’ll work your whole life to pay off the interest on your mortgage, just to possess the deeds of a little pocket-handkerchief size of land with a little dwelling on it. Meanwhile…’
‘Sounds like you’ve got yourselves a real problem.’
‘It won’t be much different in the USA, if you analyse it.’
‘I daresay you’re right. We were really screwed by the whole sub-prime mortgages scandal.’
‘When we were in America, I got the impression Donald Trump was riding on the fact that so many Americans felt cheated and poor.’
‘That’d be about right, I guess. White folks. People of colour have always felt cheated and poor. Not to mention the native Indians, who’ve been treated worse than any group.’
‘Like you say, this is twenty-seventeen.’
‘Feels more like eighteen-seventeen, give the cars on the road, the Rust Belt and all the pollution.’
Arty and Robin had met the year before, when Arty was travelling through Arizona with Gee Ward in an old Chevrolet Astra van which they slept in, while Robin was taking time out from his wife and daughter in upstate Washington, travelling alone in a custom-built VW camper. Now the two had come together in south Bucks, and were intending to travel down through part of France to see Gee Ward sing in a performance for the Celtic Fest Noz festival in south Brittany.
‘I read online High Wycombe is constantly voted in the top five boring UK towns.’
‘Sounds credible. It’s boring in the sense that it’s long-term Tory and has all the chainstores in the town centre. Plus, it’s increasingly become a dormitory town for those who work but can’t afford to live in London. On those points it’s a very conservative town. A modern English shire county town, in fact. And yet, post-war, it had a huge influx of Pakistani and West Indian immigrants. Not to mention Irish and Polish. They just don’t seem to have impacted its politics and culture over-much, even though for a long time before most areas in the country we had great Asian food stores and probably the best pub for reggae and weed outside of St Vincent. The authorities tore down that pub, unfortunately. And the rest just got assimilated. Though riots did break out here in the Thatcher years.’
‘Seems like it takes more than marijuana and mooli.’
‘Seems you’re right. When I first met some of the guys in Zeitgeist and their friends, there was an idea to create a Free State of High Wycombe. Nothing came of that. However. Maybe they started something. There’s been an unusually high incidence of arrests for supporters of Islamic State around here.’
‘Are they arguing for the same thing?’
‘Not quite.’
While they had been speaking the sun had emerged from behind a big bank of black cloud and now its bright yellow rays flooded the air with light. The two of them pulled on walking boots and walked through the village, avoiding the lord’s hired timber-men and their machinery, before entering the woods where the National Trust owned its part. Being mid-May the deciduous forest was at its greenest, with the beech leaves in particular displaying an almost luminous quality.
‘Oh, my god!’
‘Look at it!’
The forest floor, as far as the eye could see, was carpeted with lilac-coloured bluebells, their own luminosity matching that of the leaf-filled ceiling above, while the undulations of the forest floor caused them to appear like waves, as though they were flowing backwards and forwards.
‘I’ve never seen such a spectacle.’
‘Ah, yeah, I forgot. The first time I saw them…’
‘Are these the woods Gee marched through – when he was seeking..?’
‘They sure are. Years – through all the seasons – he used to come here.’
‘No wonder. It is absolutely beautiful.’
After taking a picture on his phone to send back home, Robin was ready to continue and the two men continued to a stile leading out to a sloping field. Beyond were meadows, more forest, and then beyond the tree tops more forested rolling hills, all in differing shades of green picked out by the glowing sunshine. They rested briefly on the old wooden stile before clambering over into the field. The grasses were dried off from the sun’s heat but the earth below was still quite damp and slippery, so they had to be a little bit careful walking down the slope, then the terrain flattened and they walked in a westerly direction.
‘The ground here seems solid. Like an old road.’
‘It is. The government built it back in the eighties, to bring in building supplies for an underground bunker up at Strike Command, about a mile away. People were protesting at the entrance over its construction, so they found a way round it. This was the time of Greenham Common and so forth, when people were protesting about the increasing arms build-up with your country and threats of war and further militarisation.’
‘God, the eighties. What a time! Money, greed, war. We’d forgotten all the lessons from Vietnam.’
‘And still have. Britain’s always at war with someone. Always.’
‘Oh, it makes you tired, all these warmongers. These constant ‘threats’ to our ‘freedoms’. They won’t let us just live. – Hey, I’ve got a poster back home I ordered: Pink Floyd playing the High Wycombe Town Hall, back in 1969.’
‘Ah, fantastic. That was just before my time. The first band I saw down there were a local band. Round about nineteen-seventy-three. You were living in San Fransisco, weren’t you, around then? Did you ever get to see the Dead or Jefferson Airplane or whatever?’
‘Sure I did. I’m a few years older than you, so I saw Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead play in Golden Gate Park back around the time the Floyd were in your hometown.’
‘That must’ve been awesome.’
‘All that idealism. All gone now.’
‘Not all.’
‘But conservatism and materialism has pretty much taken over again. That and fear of the ‘other’. I honestly thought those days were gone.’
‘So did I. But, you’re right, they’ve come back with a vengeance. It’s like the last fifty years never happened.’
‘Trump. Brexit. Only Europe seems to be holding out for the greater ideal.’
‘I’m becoming Polish.’
‘Serious. If I want to travel in the EU, and maybe work there, I’m going to do it as a Pole. Not as a Brit. I’m a bit ashamed of my country, if I’m honest. Just as a lot of us were in the nineteen-sixties, sick of all that jingoism and the waving of the flag and about how great Britain is. I thought we’d eradicated that, too. But it seems we haven’t. Everybody’s back to being manipulated again just so those in power can keep their power, the rich can get richer, and the poor be done over all over again. I’m sick of it. At least my daughter and people like her seem to be seeing through it, but whether they’ll make the same changes again, I’ve no idea.’
They left the woods over another stile and again the Vale of Aylesbury lay stretched out before them, green and wooded in the continuing sunshine. A short walk through a meadow took them beyond the forest fringe and looking now eastwards across the Chilterns Arty pointed out the golden ball atop the steeple of St Lawrence’s church.
‘You can see it glinting – just.’
‘I’ve got it. Can we make our way there?’
‘It’s about ten miles.’
‘We’ve got all day.’
They headed down the slope and on towards Bradenham Manor, where the D’Israelis had settled back in the nineteenth century, across land that had once been a deer park, and was now used by an Arab sheikh to train his polo horses. Robin stopped at the graveyard entrance to St Botolph’s church.
‘How old is this place?’
‘The doorway is twelfth century. But Bradenham goes back to the Domesday Book, as part of the lands of Leofwine.’
They walked around the church interior before re-emerging, blinking, in the south Bucks sunshine.
‘You just don’t get that in the USA.’
‘Of course not.’
They walked along the front of the manor and Arty pointed out the cricket green and pavilion, promising to explain the sport’s rules should they manage to catch a game in progress. A steep slope took them back up to the Bradenham woods and they took a path west through the beeches.
After tramping a few more miles, their way was curtailed by a railway line, which they crossed cautiously before continuing out across a ploughed field and over a road to another sloping field which brought them to within a mile of their destination.
From a virtually sightless path lined with hazel and alder trees they came out to an opening and the tower of St Lawrence’s with the golden ball atop clearly visible. The sightline now exposed, they were able to see three-hundred and sixty degrees around the Chiltern Hills, High Wycombe clearly visible to the east.
‘There it is,’ said Arty. ‘One of the UK’s most boring towns. Twenty-five miles onwards, and you’re in the world’s most exciting capital city – arguably.’
‘England, oh England! Land of… What?’
‘Of city bankers and hedge fund managers. Of zero hours contracts. Of xenophobes and a Tory press. Of warmongers and jingoists. Of a backward-looking populace.’
‘For England and St George!’
And the two of them raced down the slope in front of the mausoleum, barely staying on their feet as gravity and momentum pulled them forward two hundred yards until a row of thorn bushes arrested their progress and they pressed further downhill, huffing and puffing a little, until a pavement took them through the village of West Wycombe and they could rest in a fine old pub, a pint of good, golden ale on the wooden table before them.
‘To the Queen!’
‘The Queen! God bless her – and all her land-owning heirs!’


Free Generation II


‘Ah, what I’d give for a psychedelic revival!’
‘Hah! Now that’s a thought. But that could never work out. Not again. People aren’t so naïve. Not the young people. “We won’t get fooled again!”’
‘“No, no.”’
‘So the music mattered?’
‘It still does. A hell of a lot. Our children identify themselves with their music just as much as we did.’
‘That’s true. It’s funny how r’n’b psychedelia had a bigger political impact than something like punk rock, which was overtly that way.’
‘So what’s going on? Why haven’t those freedoms been built on?’
‘Well personal freedoms certainly have been. Thinking of sexual gender issues and the like. But you’re right, not a lot else. Not social issues.’
‘Yeah. Financially screwed again.’
The van they were using to travel down to south Brittany was a replacement for the one Arty had written off in a freak accident some months earlier. On that occasion he was passing Bristol on the M5 when he suddenly felt sick and dizzy but was unable to pull over because the hard shoulder had been opened to accommodate the high volume of traffic. Next thing he knew somebody was tapping on his window to wake him up. His lap and the whole dashboard was covered in yellow vomit. He felt nothing, saw he was parked by the side of the motorway, opened the electric window, and was asked if he was all right. He told them he was fine and wondered why they were asking. More concerned-looking men were also standing around. Somebody told him that he had been involved in an accident and he ought to get out of the car. Looking back as he did so, he noticed a van had been parked about fifty metres distant and a man was waving traffic along. Then he saw how the front wing of his vehicle had been dented and the front wheel tucked in at a crazy angle. The other side was worse, with the wing entirely crumpled and the wheel dragged back to the middle of the chassis. Arty was wholly nonplussed, until another man explained how he had seen the vehicle wander over two lanes of over-taking traffic before colliding with the central metal barrier and then drift across all five lanes of fast-moving lorries and cars before grinding to a halt against the barrier, where they were all now standing out in the cold November air. Arty had no explanation. Knew nothing. That he was safe and un-injured had been a miracle – even conscious he could not have performed such a manouevre; not even an experienced F1 driver could have done so!
So now they had another Doblo, which Arty had located in south London. In the rear was the sleeping and eating set-up he had managed to rescue from the previous vehicle, and they were setting up the bedding before heading into Poole town centre for a fish and chip supper. Tonight they would sleep in the ferry terminal carpark.
‘There was the ‘Lost Generation’ and the ‘Beat Generation’; ‘Generation X’, ‘the Millennials/Generation Y’. And us, the Baby Boomers.’
‘Well, technically we’re the ‘Baby Boomers’. But I’d say we’re the ‘Free Generation’, those born at the tail-end, during the mid- to late-fifties.
‘We’re free from debt; or should, or could be. Certainly serious debt. Houses were affordable. Just. In the UK. Credit cards were an issue. But that was more personality disorder than necessity. Sexually liberated. Non-racist – or at least PC. Anti-war and repression. Pro-charity. All freedoms. We fought for all those freedoms. Freedom to wear what you like, look what you like, think what you like. We fought against all those oppressions, and more or less won them.’
‘Kind of. The old fuddy-duddies have fought back.’
‘A lot of our generation have become those old fuddy-duddies.’
‘But Trump and UKIP. Putin in Russia. We can’t go into all those oppressors across the world. But you know what I mean.’
‘There’s always reaction.’
‘Yeah, but this reaction could prove disastrous. Back to Cold War rhetoric. Israel versus Iran. Sunnis and Shias. Islamists. It’s gone right back. Maybe worse than before.’
Next morning they were up and about by seven o’clock and first in the queue to board the ferry, the Barfleur, taking them to Cherbourg on the Normandy coast. About an hour’s drive down, near the town of Coutances, Tazz was expecting their arrival in a tiny hamlet close by the sea. The crossing was un-exciting and Arty drove off the ferry and hit the N9 south.
‘It only just occurred to me,’ said Robin, ‘not only is it the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love, but it was only ten years after that that punk came along.’
‘Making it the fortieth anniversary of the Summer of Hate, as some called it.’
‘Topsy-turvy old world.’
‘You’ve reminded me of a dream I had, in the van last night, in the car park. Everything was as you said, upside-down: events, people, objects, dates. So my nan was un-smiling, something happened in November 2014 that couldn’t have happened, a telephone was attached to the underside of a table rather than placed on top, and so on. All awry. And it made me think about the comprehensibility of the world. Of how it is. You know the myth of Er, as Plato tells it?’
‘The one that explains reincarnation. How people coming back to earth choose their next life, depending on how they have experienced life previously, and then pass through the Lethe river, where they drink and forget what they’ve chosen.’
‘Well, suppose they chose the wrong life.’
‘Is that possible?’
‘Not according to the myth. But suppose it was – or something went wrong. I just wondered, suppose I had chosen the wrong life. Where would that leave me now? I mean, I’ve often wondered why I chose this one. There’s loads I can’t explain. My parents, for instance, I don’t really see how they have helped me progress at all. If anything, they seemed to have hindered me.’
‘Maybe that’s how it works: you learn by overcoming obstacles. That’s how you find out for yourself.’
‘You know, I hadn’t thought of that.’
‘You know the old Russian tale, the old folkloric story, about how a man unable to withstand his suffering asks God for another cross to bear, and he’s guided to a yard where there are hundreds of crosses lying around, and he’s told to choose one, and each one he tries to lift is too heavy, until he finally finds one he can pick up – only to realise that this was the very cross he had asked God to take from him in the first place.’
‘Lovely. Well, it got me to thinking, if you cannot pick the wrong life, then there is perfect order in the cosmos; that God is perfect, and only our lack of understanding hinders our knowledge of perfection. The world is not upside-down, or topsy-turvy as we imagine – only our comprehension is awry.’
They continued rolling on down the dead straight French road, trees and water drainage pools on either side.
‘Isn’t that the tractor tyre you asked me to look out for?’
‘You got it. Next right.’
They took a single-track road through fields and woodland until reaching a hamlet where a fork in the road led them down to a shingle drive and converted barn; where Tazz was sitting in the Normandy sunshine, a hat covering his head, reading a book and drinking coffee. Robin hadn’t seen the bass-guitarist of Zeitgeist since the time they had all spent together at Redondo Pier and on the beach in LA during a series of gigs they had undertaken eighteen months or so previously (see ANSWER). The two men hugged and more coffee was procured.
‘Wotchya reading?’
‘Text and Drugs and Rock’N’Roll. It’s kind of like someone’s PhD about the connection between the Beats and rock culture. It’s kind of interesting. Kind of like from Kerouac to Bono, or whatever.’
‘Like Zeitgeist.’
‘I was about to ask Arty what his bands were – what were the bands that influenced him. I know he liked Floyd.’
‘Early Floyd,’ Arty corrected him. ‘Nothing after Dark Side.’
‘Well go on, then,’ said Tazz. ‘The man’s waiting.’
‘Okay. In temporal order. The albums. Slade ‘Slade Alive’ – stomping rock. T.Rex ‘Electric Warrior’ – popular cosmic poetry, however fey. Alice Cooper ‘School’s Out – I took this literally, and stopped going to school; also, I liked the panties inner-sleeve, since I was just getting inside my girlfriends’ panties around then. The Planet Gong ‘Camembert Electrique’ – French, cool, spaced-out and silly. Hawkwind ‘Space Ritual’ – cosmic sounds, lyrics and imagery, listened to this every Sunday for months on end, while on acid, helped me forget about school and straights generally. Todd Rundgren ‘Initiation’ – genuine insights from Theosophical teachings alongside far-out, cosmic, funky songs. The Stooges, ‘The Stooges’, ‘Funhouse’, ‘Raw Power’ – attitude. Ramones ‘Ramones’, ‘Leave Home’, ‘Rocket to Russia’ – life is supposed to be fun. That is the sacred twelve. And apochryphally, Led Zeppelin ‘Led Zeppelin’, ‘II’and ‘III’ – affected my sensibility, but already seemed old and faded, so that I never bothered with the unnamed fourth album and simply pinched ‘Houses of the Holy’ from Boots.’
‘And you, Tazz?’
‘All Mahavishnu. And then all the stuff Arty’s mentioned. You?’
‘Oh, Grateful Dead, Neil Young – old school.’
‘Well, I liked them all, too. Still do, of course.’
A car approached up the shingle drive and stopped in front of them. A woman of about forty and obviously pregnant stepped out and let out a greeting. Tazz introduced his partner, Jeanne, and announced that now they were married and about to have a child he intended taking out French citizenship.
‘So Arty is becoming Polish and you’re becoming French.’
‘Viva les Republiques!’
‘Matt’s becoming German – after living on and off there all these years.’
‘And Gee is becoming American, apparently. He’s marrying Annette. Or he can take out Irish citizenship by way of a documented grandmother.’
‘Is this all because of Brexit?’
‘Pretty much. The mood in the country has got ugly. Our only hope is that Corbyn gets in. Either way, we’re all still changing our nationality – or, rather, taking out dual nationality. It goes to show the ridiculousness of clinging on to old national identities in a global world. You can be what you want. Be who you are. It’s all a nonsense, this fixed national identity.’
A loose arrangement was made for them all to meet up during the sous les pommiers festival – in which Tazz was participating – on their way back from meeting Gee, and the two men climbed back in the Doblo. Picking up the N3 again, they continued south.
‘Ah, I just love this travelling feeling!’
‘Too right!’
‘What are you making of France?’
‘Early days. Great roads.’
‘They’re like America. Straight. Fast. Empty.’
‘You don’t mind driving on the right?’
Rain began to fall off and on, between the sunshine. Signs appeared through the road mist: Granville, Avaranches, Fougeres…
‘Are we going to visit the forest of Broceliande before or after meeting Gee?’
‘What would you rather do? We’ve got a few days.’
‘Why not go there first?’
‘Okay. Hold on.’
Arty took the old hi-top off the main road and veered towards the west. They turned off at a good-sized aire and camped the night. Next morning, after coffee, they continued in the same direction and before too long found themselves climbing through a landscape of stunted trees.
‘This must be the start of the forest.’
‘Reminds me of Dartmoor. A bit barren.’
‘It sounded so romantic and mystical, with its associations to King Arthur.’
‘Compared to Washington State, surely anything in Europe seems a bit tame?’
‘Well it’s not so vast here, of course. But there’s so much history, which countervails it.’
To their disappointment, a lot of the woodland was roped off and clearly not accessible to the general public. It got worse when they entered the small community at Paimpont and saw all the mystical tat for sale in the few shop windows, not to mention the tourist office: faery statues, amulets and crystals, images of sword-wielding, big-breasted, women wearing tiaras and males looking like thunder gods.
‘Is this it?’ asked a crest-fallen Robin.
‘I didn’t really know what to expect,’ said Arty. ‘But I guess we should have guessed. This is what usually passes for mysticism, in the public mind.’
‘We’re not staying, I hope.’
‘No worries. A quick walk round the lake, to stretch our legs, and we’ll head off.’
Away from the forest of Broceliande the sky became clearer. The heat grew and, lacking air-con, they rolled down the windows and let the outside air rush inside to cool them. The town of Josselin provided them with an excuse to stop and they ambled through its medieval centre. On the outside of town, they pulled into a Intermarche and stocked up with tins of food and bottles of Breton cider for the next part of the trip. Redon was signed soon after and they discovered a campsite just a couple of miles from the town. Arty sent a text message and they planned to meet Gee the following day, in the town centre.
He looked in pretty good shape when they got together and strolled around the quay. He had come from a practice session and carried the guitar purchased in Tuscon during their trip in the van through Arizona.
‘We’re playing all Gaelic music,’ he explained. ‘A couple of Irish songs and a couple of Breton. Should be fun.’
Their friend had sought and experienced mystical enlightenment, although he could in no way be regarded as following any religion. On the contrary, he had always been anti established religion. Arty could remember him saying how he would like to see everyone give up their belief in a religious faith since it causes delusional, muddled thinking and deep-rooted divisions between otherwise sane and ordinary people.
‘Actually,’ he had said, ‘no one religious can be regarded as sane. Just as anyone who gives their thinking ability up to the views of an authority figure can’t be trusted.’
It had seemed to Arty that Gee was pointed towards his experiments by his analysis that normally people limit their understanding of the world by trusting only in these authority figures and what their own five senses tell them. He had wanted to prove that such limited knowledge could be transcended. And Arty had been trying to follow his example. He had found that when you look up the meaning of mysticism or spiritualism you generally find definitions as they relate to established traditions – Vedic, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic – and all the cultural baggage accompanying them.
‘But, come on,’ said Gee as they located a bench to sit on, ‘this is 2017, and in the twenty-first century we want to allow access to the ultimate meaning promised within those traditions on our own present-day terms. So that mysticality for us means the freedom to discover the greatest possible knowledge available to all human beings, without being bogged down by previous ideologies or fuzzy modern-day thinking. In which case there can be no recourse to crystals, fairies or Hallmark-style sayings – like the ones you found in the forest of Broceliande – and certainly, no gurus. What you achieve is what you put in. Complete, entire and utter knowledge of the whole universe is in your own hands, right this second. There are no hidden mysteries or arcane knowledge to block the way. You can access wisdom such that nothing else is required or indeed can be known. Most so-called esoteric teachings are pure hokum anyway, and that which isn’t was locked up in symbolism to protect its purveyors from religious intolerance. Pure, undiluted knowledge is up for grabs. In reality, persistence and normal common-sense are the only qualities required to unearth a full and comprehensive understanding of all being.’
Both Robin and Arty agreed with these ideas fundamentally and vowed to keep them in mind as they embarked further on their own spiritual journeys. That evening they attended the show and Robin was surprised at how the music really seemed to re-affiliate him with his Celtic past, making him want to take another trip through Ireland as soon as possible. For now, they could afford to stay a couple more days in Brittany before heading back north to see Tazz at the Coutances jazz festival, and then making their way back on the ferry to Poole and the UK.



Free Generation III



‘I’ve been checking up,’ said Robin, ‘on the twentieth-century mystics, western-style.’
‘I’m not impressed, unfortunately. They all seem to be either theoretical – you know, not having achieved full enlightenment – or they display odd personalities and weird behaviour. So the men all write about divine love and what have you, and the women all produce stigmata or claim visions. It’s pretty dire.’
‘For instance?’
‘Men like Thomas Merton or Alan Watts. They both felt ‘drawn’ somehow, to spirituality, and they joined the established channels of Christianity and Buddhism. They explored nothing new. Both failed in achieving the enlightenment experience, had recourse to alcohol and failed sexual relationships – I mean, in their lives, they failed to exemplify any kind of ideal whatsoever. Merton even committed suicide at the end. What sort of mystical understanding is that – when you can’t even cope with the present world? What they both achieved was writing best-selling books. That’s what really distinguished them. They were best-selling authors. And probably quite charismatic in their own right. Certainly they pulled the wool over the eyes of their followers and the establishment, which they seemed unable to do without. They weren’t outsiders by any means. And they possessed no special knowledge. No wonder mysticism is criticised.’
‘And the women?’
‘Like I said, all ill and weepy. Further bad examples. What seems to single them all out – men and women – is that they were all dreadful egotists and attention-seekers. They couldn’t do anything for its own sake, except that everybody had to know about it. Yetch!
‘So why are we bothering to continue?’
‘Because we believe that mystical enlightenment is possible – and that it is only possible by stepping out beyond the established channels. Or at least that’s how I see it. Such knowledge is achieved by your own work, not by taking it on trust from others, or doing it to try and impress others. You know, I really think mysticism – twenty-first century non-religious mysticism – is the big one.’
‘I wish I shared your optimism. I can’t help thinking it will still seem to be seen as the domain of the few.’
‘But only personal enlightenment can break down the barriers.’
‘I agree. But who is genuinely prepared to put in the work? If anything, with social media and so on, egotism seems to be more rife than ever. Who is going to withdraw themselves for a sufficient period of time in order to look into themselves and understand the principle of the One – of the One in All, and All in One?’
‘Well, you don’t need monasteries any more, or ashrams or whatever. Society is sufficiently stable and sufficient provisions like security, warmth and food available. It’s down to the individual – enough individuals – to withdraw and overcome their egoism. It’s practically possible.’
‘Well, like I say. I’m not so very optimistic over all.’
‘But at least some of us can try. One more American and one more Brit, that’s got to be better than nothing, better than giving up altogether.’
‘It seems that to be a human is never to be free.’
‘Which is why our humanity needs to be superseded, by as many of us as possible.’
They were on their way through the lovely old south Bucks countryside on a slightly circumspect August day replete with grey cloud and sunshine and low summer temperatures, heading for Milton’s cottage, in Chalfont St Giles, following a visit to Great Missenden, where Arty had once lived for a brief time, and where the Dahl family had set up a museum for Roald – not that either Robin or Arty had wanted to go in. They had visited the church and been impressed by the garlands of sunflowers left around the entrance door following a weekend betrothal. They had sat in the churchyard and drank coffee from a flask, barely retaining their warmth despite the time of year. Arty eased his Fiat Doblo out onto the main road, where they met a flurry of traffic. Cars just seemed to be driven aimlessly around the countryside, their drivers in search of any activity that might pass the time of day – a visit to a pub, to an organic food outlet; or maybe even Milton’s cottage.
John Milton, 1608-74, poet, essayist, polemicist… Regicide.
‘Makes me think of our walk through the beech woods that day, onto West Wycombe hill. You still haven’t explained about cricket to me.’
‘The time will come.’
‘You know, I’ve been thinking about the Key of Love, and I actually think I’ve something to add.’
‘Go ahead.’
‘Well, it’s the spine of the thing.’
‘Visualise it for a moment. If it’s safe.’
Driving was easy, and Arty saw it in his mind
‘Okay. Got it.’
‘Now the R, at the bottom.’
‘So, look at the perpendiculars, on the L and the E…’
‘And the R.’
‘You got it. That perpendicular… That’s the Logos feeding down through Eternity and Vortex to Earth…’
‘And the R?’
‘That’s the feedback. See, R joined to itself – on the spine, reversed – you have the O and the upturned V…’
‘Wow! You’re right! You’ve got it.’
‘That’s the human intellect comprehending the One in All…’
‘It’s the – Kundalini..!’
‘My friend, we have it!’
After the trip to Milton’s cottage Arty just couldn’t wait to contact Gee and tell him what we – Robin, actually – had discovered.
He was in his Devon farmhouse and for a moment I thought the line had gone dead. And then he got back to me.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Yes. You and Robin. You have cracked it…the code.’
‘Now all we’ve got to do,’ I told him, ‘is to experience it. By my reckoning it took you 45,000 hours of thinking and 25,000 miles of walking – the circumference of the Earth – to make it happen…’
‘Sounds about right. But I started from the ground, don’t forget. You’re nearly there already.’
‘Thank you, Gee,’ I said. ‘I’ll let you know when I get there.’
Robin was due to leave for America the next day, and Arty had promised that he would join him there sometime.



Glyn Ridgley books


At 58, the work is done.
So, from question to answer…


I see a life – or at least a certain type of life – in cosmic terms.
With a lifetime tracing itself throughout the universe back and forth, in and out, seeking experience, causing experience until – facing itself – the life rests in the discovered truth.
From then on, I believe you are free to do as you wish.

The Most Dangerous Novel

What is the most dangerous book you have ever read?
If you look at books that are banned around the world typically it is because of their sexual content, anti-religious sentiment, depiction of drug use, championing of violence or revelations concerning state secrets.
Such books, arguably, are not dangerous, except as they bring to light behaviour that those in power find morally reprehensible or threaten to expose internal corruption. More recently, hate crime has given cause for issuing bans.
A dangerous book threatens to bring about a widespread alteration of consciousness. A dangerous book threatens the status quo.
Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ simply poked fun at Islam, and was banned for that reason. As a book, it was only really dangerous for the author, who was threatened with death and violence by religionists. The text itself was not dangerous in that it did not promote social change or intellectual enlightenment. In reality, its content remains effective only at the adolescent level.
Nearly all dangerous books are non-fiction in the accepted sense of the word.
An exception to this is a work of fiction which probably is best-fitted to be referred to as the most dangerous novel ever written: ‘What is to be done?’ by Nikolai Chernyshevsky.
This tale of ‘new’ men and women set in mid-nineteenth century Russia was the book Vladimir Lenin carried around with him at all times, reading and re-reading it over and over again. This is a novel that inspired a whole cultural and political revolution, started precisely one hundred years ago, thereby affecting the whole world.
Closed societies, of course, are notorious for shutting down serious intellectual debate or any depiction of their cultural inadequacies.
This latter reason for trying to ban a work of fictional literature is exemplified in the Czech government’s attempt to ban the work of Bohumil Hrabal, and his 1974 novel ‘The Little Town Where Time Stood Still’, in particular. During that period, only Socialist Realism was being permitted as an art form in the Soviet Union. Hrabal’s life-affirming narrative showing the vivacious behaviour of characters set in and around a Czech brewery town was considered extremely provocative. They tried to censor the writer himself, but were unable to do so because his spirit would not be thwarted.
Although they may overlap, banning and censorship are not necessarily the same thing. The former is more overt than the latter, so that to ban a piece of work is to make it physically inaccessible, whereas censorship subverts the intellectual process in many different forms, with banning as just one example.
co baw
So, you can use censorship to decide what class of person may be able to access certain material (as with film categories, for example) or, in a more refined form, by what is or isn’t made available in the first instance, on celluloid, on the stage, in the gallery or between covers (with digital representation being an extension of the same). As a writer, it is with the last example that I am concerned.
Let’s take a simple example, not from fiction where the lines may become a little more blurred and subjective. Take modern history and a series of events that many people still alive went through: one writer offers their view of what happened during a given period, another writer proffers their own, each backing up their arguments, supposedly, with relevant facts. Let’s be even more specific. Oxbridge educated/connected Dominic Sandbrook puts together an account of British politics in the mid-seventies which is published by long-established publishing house Allen Lane, while Queen Mary College educated / Trade Union connected John Medhurst covers the same period in a book published by newly-formed Zero. Which book do you think is available for free from the local Public Lending library? Which version of the same time-period is chosen by the BBC as the basis for its own history? You already know the answers. The Establishment view is reinforced over and over, and, in this way, a form of censorship is exercised over the alternative – if actually more credible – assessment. One of these accounts is dangerous, the other is more soft-soap. And only one is made readily available to the public.
One of my own books, ‘Question’ – a veritable ‘What is to be done?’ novel – took thirty years to write, and mine and its own history are a reflection of this apparently benign yet irksome and effective method of censorship.
Go back to 1981 and a manuscript written in a fortnight satirizing Maggie Thatcher and current society (sound familiar?) is seized upon by an established literary agency. They want to see what else I have in my locker and when they are provided with non-derivative examples which fail to meet their identikit picture of the author-as-young-man all interest is quelled. So be it. I am young. Fearless. The first part of ‘Question’ finds its way to a young, up-and-coming agent at another agency. Like me, she is fearless. But not as fearless. This project is also dropped. And so on. I should add this fiction is not a satire but a full-on assault of British neoliberal culture. Part two takes another ten years to write, partly written in the old Soviet Union and partly in the West, and again there no takers. Part three is completed in an Al Quds hotel room as Jewish settlers cavort in the streets outside, and the manuscript finds its way back to that same fearless literary agent. Except a look at her roster now reveals a whole host of Establishment writers. A piece of work which had aroused so much excitement in her fearless mind thirty years prior – a piece of work that is now more exciting and relevant than back then even – is not actually considered worthy of perusal by the aged agent. She has, instead, become the censor between the work, the publishers, and the public. And that is true of all the literary agencies and mainstream publishers, whether it be A.M. Heath, Curtis Brown, A.P. Watt or others.
As for the Lending Library service. The 2004 novel ‘A Sort of Symphony Piece’ was made available nationwide in paperback form and, locally at least, was positioned on the fiction shelves amongst the humungous brick-sized hardback bestsellers published by the likes of Allen Lane (surveys had revealed that people were buying books according to size rather than content at that time). The library had its own censoring policy of choosing which books would be displayed at the check-out under their ‘reads on the go’ scheme. These books were of the usual well-advertised, soft-soap variety. As an experiment, I plucked my relatively slim paperback volume of ‘A Sort of Symphony Piece’ from out of the obscurity of the brick-sized hardbacks and placed it on the ‘reads on the go’ rack. Within a few minutes it had been checked out.
Both ‘Question’ and ‘A Sort of Symphony Piece’ are dangerous novels in the sense that each has the capacity to fulfil the qualification of that which ‘threatens to bring about a widespread alteration of consciousness’.
Whereas something like ‘Death and the Dead’ and ‘Life is a Feeling’ proffers the kind of upliftment of the spirit that the Soviet authorities found so reprehensible in Hrabal’s work. An upliftment that many people with influence in the neoliberal world would also like to see quashed.
You do not have to ban a book to make it inaccessible to the broader public – on the contrary, this tends to make the artefact yet more desirable and sought after. Far more effective is it to deny the work any credence whatsoever in the first place.
QUESTION and A SORT OF SYMPHONY PIECE by Glyn F. Ridgley, published by Valley Independent Publishing, are available to order at bookstores and online either between covers or in Kindle format. As are DEATH AND THE DEAD and LIFE IS A FEELING.

The Sunday Crimes 09/24

As reported earlier, the implement that was supposed to have been handed down from Rodion Raskolnikov to Samuel Harvey was indeed an axe. Trying to make sure that we did not do a hatchet job, we have waited and been extremely reluctant to post this blog. We feel almost that we are stuck in the nineteenth century, whereas we would much prefer to be engaging in a far more modern dialogue. That may yet happen. Signing out…

38 – 48

you put your left leg in
your left leg out
in, out, in, out – you shake it all about
hokey cokey
So much of life is a complete waste of time
And so in 1997 Blair’s New Labour project procured results in the UK elections.
Ah, man, we were so enamoured and positive about the future, both re the UK, the world, and our little family.
All those horrible noises and threats coming from Thatcher’s and Reagan’s governments were being replaced by the softer, palliative sounds emanating from the mouths of Clinton and his aides and the new Labour rhetoric.
Which was all it was, in the end.
Rhetoric, with lies about what was happening in the Gulf states, and Iraq in particular, led to yet another bombing campaign…

I was doing a Russian degree course at the nearby university, driving in every morning with my daughter, leaving her at the crèche, and then driving home at the end of the day – and pretty much hating the whole process. On the course, no one taught me a word of Russian I had not already taught myself – least of all the native Russian speaker hired to do so, tutors were drunk or incapable, and, really, the whole experience was execrable. A couple of new members to the faculty were actually helpful. While on a language course at a private school in the twinned Russian town, I decided to shorten the course by a year and so graduated at the time of the second millennia.

I went to a small party with people about twenty years younger than me and after plenty of drink and dope had been slooshing and smoogling about two lads invited me into the kitchen where the oval vulva and rosy anus of an American diplomat’s eighteen year old daughter they had up-ended over a chair were parted very invitingly between a pair of very large pale buttocks. My groin never even stirred. Her lop-sided grin made me feel a little bit queasy. “Go on,” they said. “She wants it. You can have her. We have already.” “Yeah, exactly,” I said and left the room feeling that at last age had caught up with me, or at least made a difference in my thinking, and that probably it was all down to having young children and a beautiful, trusting wife.
So what now?


What now resulted in getting work at a seaside language school twenty miles and two hours away and driving up every morning at seven am listening the unfolding news that the UK was going to war with Iraq on the pretext that the Gulf state had Weapons of Mass Destruction which could be put to use in 45 minutes minutes with devastating consequences to all our lives. Such outrageous bullshit had not been heard on the airwaves for some little while and the lies of a government which I had voted in were pitiable and an embarrassment. Not to mention being an outrage.
All the propaganda and lies led to millions of deaths and contributed fully to the position we are in now relative to so-called terrorism.

At around this time thoughts about my sister’s drowning (as related in the 0-18 blog) re-emerged and I tried to get details from the only person who was actually with her at the moment it happened i.e. my remaining sister. For years she had avoided talking about it  (or anything else) with me and now she replied to an email sent her from 3000 miles distance with incomprehensible language. This led to a request for the Coroner’s Report from the time and this, too, proved inconclusive, with the coroner – having the same name as my hometown ha ha – not providing an actual decision about who was responsible for my sister’s death.
What the report did provide, at least, was a temporally and geographically accurate account of the events leading up to and surrounding the drowning. Plus a medical assessment of the drowning, which did not make for entirely pleasant reading. So I knew what she had eaten for breakfast that morning, how her pericardial cavities were filled with water, and how a sports club instructor had watched a little girl drowning and told his canoeing pupil that there was nothing to worry about, and also other eye-witness accounts, and what treatment the medics gave her, and her time of death…but, on an emotional level, it didn’t really do very much at all.
Hah! What it did reveal was the woman with whom I could recall being placed under an umbrella while my parents disappeared and an ambulance appeared on the beach, was actually my aunt.
I hadn’t known that! Incredible.
Actually, nobody had ever included me in any retelling of the events at all. The most traumatic experience of my life hadn’t happened, according to those around me.
This is one of the main reasons I sought truth on a personal level and, in fact, the search led me to the discovery of eternal truth. And now I get why the event occurred as far as I am concerned.
Also, since you have to understand that I am now in full knowledge of matters regarding karma and reincarnation, I am fully satisfied with regard to the outcome of my sister’s transition.
My remaining sister was diagnosed with cancer during the period covered by this blog, and following her refusal to accept orthodox treatment and self-treat herself instead, died within a few years of the discovery.
So now I am sisterless.
Ho hum.
hokey cokey
That’s what it’s all about
You might think

Oops, I love August Bank Holiday: Reading Festival

Nice and hot, all the time in the world…
reading 76

…the summer lay ahead, meaning lazy, hot days in the countryside and by the beach, the free festivals, a trip to the west country, all culminating with the Reading Festival on the last weekend of August over the Bank Holiday.
At the end of the summer – which hadn’t been completely marred by burgeoning police brutality and right wing officialdom, although the writing was on the wall for the end of the seventies – Vin and I arrived at Reading bronzed and ready for action. Doug and Caitlin were waiting for us with the tents, still wrapped. After putting them up on a patch of ground surrounded by pennants and banners, we went in search of more friends and familiar faces. There were so many we were soon completely zonked from the sharing of joints, lines of speed and cans of beer. Next morning the music started up and the afternoon passed in a mad celebration of skanking to the great reggae bands, who were unfortunately pelted with beer cans by the racist ignoramuses amongst the crowd, fusing into the trippity jazz rock of Mallard and Gong. Saturday produced a similar blast, with the set by Van Der Graaf Generator horribly shortened by the rain getting into the amps, and on Sunday the whole thing deteriorated as the rednecks took over once Brand X had left the stage.
On the morning following the festival’s end I was due to enroll at the college, but the horrible truth dawned on me: still no authority had stepped forward to offer me any funding for the three-year long course, and so a decision had to be made.
‘How much dope have we got left, Vin?’
‘Just under an eighth.’
‘And money?’
‘I’ve got just less than a fiver.’
‘I can match that. OK, what are we waiting for?
‘We’re off to find another festival.’

Good luck Muse tomorrow tonight