A Toe in the Coach Trip

On my way to the Healing Circle, reflecting on last night, seeing my Beloved off at Heathrow to whirl again across the desert dancing round gypsy fires, I had a moment, like you know they creep up on you when you least expect it: after a pleasant evening dipping my toe in the waters of coaching with the lovely Mark Phoenix who rose to the occasion of distracting me from missing her so much it ached, but then, ah then, I came out of the meeting into the street and mindlessly pulled my phone from my pocket to say Hi Honey I’m on my way home…saudades, a word in her language of poetry, untranslateable into ours prosaic.
So I came home to the emptiness and watched Cilla, easing back into the Sixities when London swung and I was in the jungle creeping up on Her Majesty’s enemies and giving ‘em one for England. I rememember that voice, a combination of power and innocence; Sheridan Smith did it justice.
The Coach Trip was fun: I found Mark to be dedicated, enthusiastic, conscientious and inspiring. The bit of coaching I got from him via colleague Winston (I think he was really Wilson but seemed happily misnomered) actually got me thinking about how I can do more of this and less of that. Schedule sorted: I’ve got a publication date in mind, probably my birthday, to e-launch Shiatsu Secrets for Hairdressers on Smashwords and Amazon, before I get back to my more risque business with Taoist Tantra: aiming for Valentines Day.
Now to Camden for the Taoist Healing Circle. Year of the Horse = Life at the Gallop.

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A kind of Sundayness led me to where my Auntie Pat lived: a pebbledash house, once opposite a cricket ground now luxury apartments, with her dog Pongo (yes he did), fishmonger husband and three children, one sporty who married an actress and gave her six children (so much for that);  a  fashionista who married a pipe-smoking oilman, and a pretty communist engaged to an Angry Young Man (he proposed over tea at the Ritz.)

I would go in by the side entrance, now a curly-iron gate, to the kitchen door.  Pat seemed always pleased to see me. On a weekday she would take me shopping in the High Street, little old ladies in spotted blue dresses tugging wicker baskets on wheels from store to store.  I remember a green-glazed pork butchers with sawdusted marble floor, the name J Sainsbury over the door, and smelling like a charcuterie.  Is that the French for pork butcher?

Walking on, over the bridge,  I peered through the railway fence, overgrowth almost hiding the concrete pillbox built to defend the southern approaches to London Bridge and Victoria.  We had tried to get in to play, my brother and I, but never could so made our own way to defend the realm, he in the air, I in the mud.

Bridge Road led into Copers Cope, a broad avenue of great trees, of great houses once occupied by society’s great mistresses.  My mother bought the one once owned by  Lily Langtry.  I and my brother lived there, between South America and East Africa, with the uncle who became our Dad after his brother our father died in the Atlantic.  Even in times of war one does not expect a parent to die, never mind his role being assumed by one’s godparent, but Archie made a good job of it.  It is only the koala that tears an embryo  fathered by another bear from the womb of its mate.

My Auntie Eileen occupied a suite of rooms with her husband and their son Gregory Paul: whom they called ‘the Perfect Child’ therefore much hated by my brother and me.  Later we met up, between Brunei and Malaysia as I remember, for a drink in the Three Tuns, now an Italian known as Zizzi’s, where Greg told me he was running the Bluebell Railway.  Grown up, he seemed quite a nice chap.  Who would have thought, when he was dropping us in the shit.

Another uncle, Ted, my mother’s brother with a huge ginger mustache and addiction to adultery lived there too, mostly part time with his unhappy Welsh wife and child whose name and gender I forget, until ending up at the end of a rope.

Then there were my grandmother and great grandmother, and two lodgers: an elderly banker dressed always in black suit, wingtip shoes, starched white wing-collared shirt with traces of egg down the front,  and an Argentinian post graduate student with a short temper and long nose who once beat me for pulling it.

The other ten houses in the quartermile stretch from the top of the road had turned into luxury apartment complexes.  Ours stood as it always had, although the carriage house had become two large apartments that used to be a workshop with living quarters above a garage for two cars where I had my first driving experience reversing Uncle Ted’s Austin Seven in, until reminded by the sound of breaking glass that I hadn’t closed the door.  I was an expensive child.

The third oldest mulberry tree in Kent had long gone, as had the goldfish pond it overhung, the rockery I made, the sunken lawn where wild flowers flourished in spring time, and another pond watered by a massive shell.  The Golden Arrow no longer whistled past the end of the garden a hundred yards away, by the greenhouse where we would run to see it go by and where I first explored the female anatomy with one of Auntie Eileen’s ballet students, a freckled Cockney girl with a loud voice who, I learned on a visit between South Arabia and Hong Kong, grew up to prefer women.  Not because of me, I hoped.  The dance studio, former ballroom, had become another apartment, and the conservatory too, turned from coloured glass panes bending afternoon sunshine into a lightshow at those huge Sunday tea times when cousin Sally always took the best cakes.

The Regal, ABC, now Odeon still stands at the crossroads opposite the War Memorial.  where Auntie Eileen took me for tea in the Regal Restaurant before a movie.  Then came a real rush of memory:  the 227 came by, the little bus I used to catch with my brother.  We’d chant to the conductor ‘Two halves to the Beckenham Baths.’  I jumped on, pressed my Seniors Freedom Pass on the electronic thing and rode down memory lane, passing the Baths, now a huge spa, back home to where I live now, past itch well scratched.

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History with Elvis

Coming January it would be just 20 years to Elvis’s 100th Birthday.  That thought came to me last night at Miss Saigon (a thousand true stories.)  All I remembered from the first time were the helicopter and the faces of abandoned children.  I felt my soul feel the hurt of them all, including my own.  That first time it was closer and so was I, veteran of a different campaign in Southeast Asia: same same, but different.  Now I feel full of history.

The Fifties were sixty years ago.  Poison dwarfs wrecked the movie-house on Delamere at the first screening of Rock Around the Clock.  Bob Mitchum got punched by a husband in the Long Bar.  Elvis Presley became the best-known name in the world without the benefit of Twitter, Facebook, Fox or Sky.  The Thirties seemed like a really distant past, too far back to picture.  None of us had any idea of what the future, the Sixties, would be like.  I had a picture, when I thought about it, which was rarely, of a continuation of the time that we knew.  Elvis changed all that.

The King is dead.  Long live the King.

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Tai Chi Goatsmilk Quest and Boom, That’s What I Do

What do I do for a living, they asked. Well, I just got back from drinking milk squeezed fresh out of the goat before my very eyes in the breakfast break at Tai Chi Retreat in the wilds of Wales. That was after a gig talking about Taoist Secrets of Love and Life Mastery to a full house at the Quest Festival in Devon. Now I’m taking a breath of fresh London air – so much sweeter now we have a garden – before flying out to Portugal to teach those same secrets at the Boom Festival: already sold out! And going back there again for our first Tai Chi Certified Instructor Training in September: also sold out! Anamarta even managed to fit in Jade Circles in Wales and London in between times. And we came home to find invitations to teach in Cape Town and Greece, yay.
Yes, this is what we do. Somebody said somebody suggested we just did it for the money. Well, sure, it’s a great life but if it was just for money I’d have stayed in the real estate business and Anamarta in PR. Think of the numbers – I don’t remember those times too fondly but I do remember making enough in one deal to take two years out. Nowadays work does feel like time off in comparison to that fiscal slavery: bit like the Wolf of Wall street minus drugs and hookers.
One day you wake up and realise where the real value lies. A property colleague used to say he’d die the richest man in the graveyard. Food for thought, I thought, dropping career at age 51 and picking up rucksack. Twenty two years later I live on what I’d have tipped and don’t regret a moment. Sure struggles can challenge, but wtf – I teach turning stress into vitality: grateful for the chance to practice! Success comes from keeping at it regardless.
Hey, I didn’t set out to write a sermon so I’ll sign off now: see you at the Boom? OK, September in Kentish Town where I’m going to celebrate with more Tai Chi Tuesdays.

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It’s Not You, It’s Me

Reading, Seeing and Hearing the outrage from all directions I can understand why we were told never to discuss politics, sex or religion. Then they told us of our government’s holdings of Krupp shares in WW1, and Imperial Japanese War Bonds in WW2.  Then came my own experience of facing an ‘enemy’ in Southeast Asia armed with the same weapons as ours: Sam Colt’s AR15, and some of whose officers had trained with me in England.   (Btw the late Col Gaddafi was in the same group, then a lime-juice-drinking young Lieutenant showing no sign of subsequent extremism except when the choice of dinner was pork or bacon.)

I am reminded of the admonition of the first Zen Patriarch ‘Seek not the Truth nor Cherish Opinions.’  Is anyone right?  Is everyone wrong?  Is there any solution to anything, except exiling their leaders to Koh Pha Ngan, confiscating their clothing, and feeding them mushrooms?


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The Tao of Who

Tao is Old and Tao is New
Tao is False and Tao is True
When they ask the Tao of Who
Tao is Me and Tao is You

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Garden Dream

After 22 years suspended between heaven and earth I have a garden.  I see it now peeking through the windows of my mind the step I go down to flatten the grass with the souls of my feat, an achievement of my story, mystery and myth, trees, flowers, leaves laid in noonday dreams, pierced by shells shocked by colors bedded by bamboo borders.  Lighting up the center parked among yellow blossoms the barbecue, visible by satellite, roasts the beknighted loin and my mouth waters the meadow, the green and ancient forest to the east where things begin.  White tigers fly into the sunset where its brief light expires but to be sure it will rise again to allay the apprehension of humans unsure of anything but the need to play taxes and keep occupied until it’s all over the papered cracks of social greedia.  But all is not lost in thoughts of magic, the thorn of the north pricking the lips of the south, fire and water fusing like an overloaded circle it circling the clitosphere speaking its own linguage like the cherries in my morning see real the flakes of corn.

Opening my eyes I see the real, the green wilderness of grass and nettles, docks and brambles and know to manifest this dream I must hie me to the garden center and purchase gloves and a hoe, shears and a rake however reformed, leaving Nadal noisily laboring to manifest his dream.  I have the secateurs left me by my Dad who loved making things and doing things and in whose hands a few sticks of wood would become a cylinder for a garden hose.  They are white-handled with well oiled volute springs, sharp edges to prune and shape and nipple in the bud.  He had always the right tools for whatever job and on reflection so do I: I make do with vision and teleology and know that whatever path it takes to take me there it will.

But don’t we all have this gift, this mind-picture that can fulfil dreams?  Using it of course is another story because so often I hear ‘if only’ and now I take my own medicine: if only I go to Homebase for metal I will make a start on the alchemy for our home base, our little garden of weeds feeding their last on mother earth.  I’ll be back, armed with rotary mower, so shrink, shrivel and cower, little aliens, your summer’s lease has reached its date.  Give way to morning glory and rambling rows of silver bells and cockle shells.

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