The a-word

It was hard writing my recent post about my own unacknowledged racism – and there’s obviously more that I didn’t write about. I edited it far more carefully than I’ve edited most of the pieces here, trying to make sure the language I used wasn’t in itself patronising or covertly racist, and I don’t think I succeeded: the hidden racism goes too deep. But at least it was a start. I don’t want this post to be racist in its turn by highlighting the oppression of certain white people at the expense of Black suffering. But an extraordinary documentary, Meeting The Enemy, made by a young Muslim woman who courageously got to know a number of white supremacist men, has left me in no doubt that Jews – and homosexuals, come to that – are hated by these groups as much as Black people are.

It’s difficult to write about antisemitism, not only because of Black Lives Matter but also because of what’s been happening in the Labour party. I’m not going to talk about that, but it seems clear to me that antisemitism exists on the left as well as the right. And of course there’s the whole thorny issue of whether and to what extent criticism of Israel is antisemitic. I’ll say more about that perhaps in another post, but for the moment I’ll talk about my own experience.

As I’ve said in previous blog posts, I come from a Jewish background. My family wasn’t religious (my father was an avowed Marxist and my mother lost all faith during the Second World War), but we were culturally Jewish, and more so when I was younger. I grew up knowing we were ‘different’, and there was both a superiority and an inferiority in that difference. My auntie often said the Jews were God’s chosen people, but beyond our extended family and the synagogue – to the extent that we belonged to it – I was aware that not everybody seemed to think being Jewish was a good thing. I certainly felt uncomfortable about it at primary school, and found myself taking part in the Christian assembly for a while because I was too shy to say I didn’t belong. I always knew I was different from the ‘English’ children (as my parents, second-generation immigrants, still called them) but I don’t remember being picked on because of it. I believe my brother was, though. At my secondary school there was a sizeable number of Jewish girls and we had our own separate assembly – as the Catholics did – taken by one of the older girls. We’d then join the main assembly for the notices, Jews and Catholics huddling together at the back of the hall. We didn’t have any Jewish teachers, but I didn’t have a sense there was any anti-Jewish feeling.  Nor did it seem to be an issue at university.

In the 1980s and early 90s I worked for what was then Age Concern in the London borough of Camden. The area had a large Jewish population, most of which divided into two halves: those whose families had come from Russia and Poland in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century and those who had arrived here as refugees from Germany and central Europe in the 1930s. There was a marked difference between the two groups. The more recent refugees tended on the whole to be richer, better educated and – those from Germany in particular – less culturally Jewish than the people who were more established here. There was snobbery, and even antisemitism, on the part of the German-Jewish people towards the eastern Europeans, especially if they spoke Yiddish or identified with Yiddish culture. I sometimes heard people say, “I don’t speak Yiddish. I speak proper German,” and I remember an elderly German-Jewish woman, a retired research scientist, who found the befriender she had been offered “too Jewish”. At the time I let it go – I doubt I would now. From some quarters there was also anti-German feeling against the German Jews. A colleague of mine at Age Concern was all too happy to tar them with the same brush as Germans who had supported Hitler.

The antisemitism I encountered was often so much taken for granted that it passed unnoticed – and at the time I didn’t challenge it. An elderly Englishwoman who lived in a rather posh block of flats once remarked to me that many of the residents there were not “people like us,” adding that they were Jewish. I said nothing and didn’t even let on that I was Jewish too. I still wish I had. On another occasion I told an elderly Russian woman, a retired opera singer (I really did meet all sorts) that my grandfather had come from Odessa. “Oh yes,” she said dismissively. “A lot of Jewish people there. They didn’t speak proper Russian.” Again I said nothing – but I did provide her with a Jewish befriender, who as it happens got on with her extremely well. Even though I enjoyed mixing with the Jewish clients, I found myself slipping into casual antisemitism too, or letting things I said be taken as such. I once said to one of our day centre workers that the women at the Jewish day centre were rather awful – having a certain affection for their particular kind of awfulness – and my colleague quite happily took it to mean I thought they were more awful than our day centre members, some of whom could be pretty poisonous at times.

Looking back on it, what strikes me is the casualness of it, the assumption that of course those Jews are different from ‘us’ and somehow not quite all right. Not to mention the equation of  being ‘Jewish’ with being mean, or the unpleasant jokes that poke fun at Jewish people (I can’t think of an example) and are very different from Jewish jokes  within the community. Later on, in a different job, I began to see how antisemitism is often played down as a form of discrimination: the subtle assumption that Jewish people, who are supposedly privileged, don’t deserve the quite the same amount of sympathy as other white groups, such as Irish people, when they are discriminated against. I recently listened to a talk on white privilege by a white psychotherapist. She listed, with sympathy, some of the white groups who have experienced discrimination but significantly – I felt – failed to mention antisemitism in general or the Holocaust in particular. I’m sure this again came from the sense that the Jews are privileged, and perhaps the notion that they have somehow brought it on themselves in a way that other groups haven’t.

In the context of racism as a whole, it is difficult. Most Jewish people in this country are not people of colour, and it’s possible to conceal being Jewish – as I’ve said above – in a way that it isn’t possible to conceal being Black. The Jews, though frequently persecuted, have not been enslaved in modern times, and among the Jewish population there are many who are publicly successful and financially comfortable. But the discrimination still exists, in both subtle and less subtle ways. It isn’t that long since many golf clubs, for instance, covertly or overtly banned Jewish members.

Antisemitism tends to be at its most blatant from the far right. When he worked in a south London library, my brother was asked by a member of the National Front, “Why do you have so many books by Jewish authors?” The creeping spread of Holocaust denial, the resurrection of the fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which outlines a supposed Jewish conspiracy, the notion that Jewish finance is behind many of the evils of the modern world, all feed into the picture of Jewish people as ‘other’, the unpleasant racial stereotypes existing side by side with an imagined sinister power. These ideas have been adopted by the far right but there are those on the left, particularly those who support the Palestinian cause,  who subscribe to them too, or at any rate don’t challenge them. Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to see the stigmatising Jewish stereotypes in the mural he praised and his infamous remark that ‘they don’t share the English sense of irony’, which he said referred to Zionists but could equally well have been about all Jews, show at the very least a blindness to the reality of antisemitism. The distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism is often blurred – in both directions – and I won’t say more about that thorny topic now. Jewish people who support the Palestinians are sometimes described as ‘antisemitic Jews’, and that’s another whole issue in itself.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve become more aware of my own discomfort at the subtle antisemitism that I’ve experienced, and that I’ve often accepted and barely noticed, or even colluded with. If Black Lives Matter has brought to society as a whole an awareness of the depth and breadth of discrimination against Black people, it has also brought a greater awareness of the many forms of discrimination in our society. Antisemitism is undoubtedly one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Belated writing

These days I don’t write on this blog very much. At one time I kept it up quite regularly, two or three posts a month, but, like so many things in my life, it lapsed. I self-published a compilation of my blog posts and sold all of 20 copies, and then it dropped off. Now it’s just the occasional post about something I’m interested in or concerned about or shocked by. Less about writing, since on the whole I’ve been doing less of it and have had less belief in it. My second poetry collection will be coming out next year – I don’t yet know when – and I’m making slow but steady progress with the first draft of a novel, but somehow the myth I had of myself as a writer seems to have faded. Yes, I can write and am moderately competent as a poet and I think as a prose writer too. Yes, I still want to write, and I feel better and more alive when I do it than when I don’t. Yes, I still care about the craft of writing and want to write as well as I can. And yes, sometimes I actually feel I have something to say. But at the moment it’s as though the magic has worn off. Perhaps it’s Covid-19 and the lockdown, perhaps it’s that the world situation seems so utterly dire – not just the pandemic but global warming, species extinction, the alarming shifts to the far right, all of which are connected – or perhaps it’s that I’m going through a period of disenchantment in my life, a time for reassessing things now that I’ve reached threescore and ten – I still can’t really believe I’m that old – and letting go of what’s no longer sustainable.

But writing… What is it that keeps drawing me back to it, even when I believe I can’t do it and it isn’t worth trying? Why don’t I just walk away from it, maybe write the odd poem if and when I feel like it, say I’ll never manage to publish a novel (which may well be so, given the state of publishing as well as my difficulties with novel-writing) and go back to being a therapist more of the time – unless I decide to retire, that is? Much as I love my work, that feels a little dreary. Although there’s certainly creativity in my work, and in teaching Focusing, which I love too, writing has always been something different; I don’t do it for other people, I do it because I want to do it, even though it would be dishonest to say other people’s response doesn’t make a big difference. If people like what I’ve written, especially people whose opinions I value, I feel buoyed up to carry on. If they don’t, it’s all too easy to see what I’ve written through their eyes as mediocre and uninspired. The challenge then, of course, is to carry on even if that is how it seems.

How many times have I said those things to myself? How many times have I found myself in the kind of slump I seem to be in now? How many times have I felt like giving up and then somehow, from somewhere, found new energy and creativity? It’s the same story, again and again. Finding and losing and finding, and not being able to hold on to what I’ve found because ultimately nothing is solid or permanent – not me, not anything I feel or do or believe, not the world itself. It’s been like that in the whole of my life, not just my writing: times of touching into real beauty and meaning and other times of feeling I’ve lost the plot completely. And getting to those rock-bottom places and then discovering a deeper joy and energy within them. It’s been like that in microcosm on meditation retreats, and sometimes from day to day in meditation and Focusing practice at home. Maybe a lot of people live their life on a more even keel, but I know as a therapist that a lot of people don’t. It would be easy to pathologise myself and say there’s something wrong with me, but this is what’s been given to me to work with. There is deep pain and grief and loss –  in one sense life is an accumulation of losses – and there is love and connection and a knowing that everything is inexpressibly precious.

Some spiritual traditions say that in order for us to awaken our heart needs to be broken – broken open to our own and the world’s pain, and to love and connection with all beings. It’s when I hold tight to the pain that I’m mired in depression and it becomes all about me. When I can let it flow freely, like a river bursting its banks and carrying away the debris, then it has its own life and in fact is less painful: it’s just what is, and when it’s flowed through the water becomes clear and still again. There is so much suffering in the world and so much beauty, and if I want to live fully it’s not possible to know one without knowing the other. If I want to live fully, and if I want to write fully, with all my being. Writing is craft, and graft, and inevitably sometimes the river bed will feel almost dry. The same is true of spiritual practice: sometimes the cultivation seems to lead to not very much and the joy isn’t forthcoming. The alternative is to turn away from the pain of the practice and live in distraction and superficiality – which I do more of the time than I’d like. But I can’t kid myself that’s satisfying, or that I’m really happy not being in touch with what’s deepest in me.

During the lockdown it became more obvious to me that the best way to stop myself disappearing up my own arse with all this is to spend time in nature, whether in my garden or out on walks. There’s a little wood near my house that I often walk in – there seems to be something particularly healing about being in a wood – and I’ve been for some beautiful walks, on my own and sometimes with friends, by the sea or on the moor. Being near water is healing too. A wood that has a river running through it is a special place, and being close to the sea always feels like a blessing. Human contact is of course important, especially with a real person in a real place rather than a head and shoulders on a screen, but trees and plants and animals and insects have such beauty and are a reminder that my human life is only one small part of the spectrum of living beings. But being in nature means remembering how we’ve caused, and are causing, the extinction of so many of these beings who have every bit as much right to exist as we have. And that brings back the pain. How can I open my heart enough to grieve for all that’s being lost in the world? Unless I let my heart be broken by the grief and the love, how can I even begin to live fully in myself? How I can even begin to write about it is another huge question. Perhaps this too is part of the struggle to know what and how I want to write. At the moment all I can do is write what I can, and keep being open to what may come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who do I think I am?

Like a lot of people, I’m a fan of the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are? I love hearing the surprising, sometimes improbable, sometimes deeply moving stories that are hidden in people’s families and that seem to be discovered with such ease by the participants and the team of experts enlisted to help. Like a lot of people too I’ve had a go at tracing my own family tree, but it hasn’t been as easy or as fruitful as it looks on TV, for reasons that aren’t hard to understand.

During the lockdown I decided to take an ancestry DNA test. For those who haven’t done it, it involves spitting rather a lot of saliva through a small funnel into a plastic tube – taking care, of course, not to contaminate anything while you’re doing it. You then send it off and wait a long time for the result. I was hoping very much that my test would come up with a mind-blowing surprise – maybe an ancestor from Africa or perhaps some DNA from a country in Europe that I thought my family had no connection with. Not a bit of it. My test came back as ‘99.9% Ashkenazi Jewish’, which I didn’t wholly believe. (‘Ashkenazi’ refers to Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe.) I was, and still am, fairly sure that somewhere along the line at least one or two of those good Jewish ancestors must have married a Russian or a Pole – hence the fair hair and blue eyes in my mother’s family. However, it didn’t show in any obvious way, in this company’s test at least. Different tests often seem to come up with different results, and the reason I chose this particular test was that it had ‘Ashkenazi Jewish’ as a separate group among all those from Europe. My maternal haplogroup (a word I’ve now learnt, which means those who have a common ancestor) encompasses 5% of Ashkenazi Jews but also a smaller number of Eastern Europeans, so it is possible that some of the DNA may have come from a non-Jewish source. (Or, of course, that those Eastern Europeans have some Jewish ancestry.) However – again according to this test – it looks as though the amount was so small and/or hard to distinguish that it couldn’t be positively identified. Ah well. In that way at least I seem to be who I think I am.

What the DNA test has done is to rekindle my interest in genealogy. I’ve tried two or three times before to trace my family back beyond my grandparents but have never succeeded. As I’ve said above, there are some good reasons. Firstly, the records that you can find online may not be complete, so that even though I know for certain that my grandparents arrived in London by sea, I haven’t been able to find any record of their arrival. This is partly because I don’t know the exact years, but partly also because I don’t know how their names were written down when they arrived. Spelling isn’t always a strong point in these documents. In my maternal grandmother’s family, for instance, the surname was written at various times as, among other things, Rebetsky, Rebatsky, Robitsky, Rubitsky, Ribitsky and Robotsky, and perhaps also Ruvnitsky. My paternal grandfather’s name was anglicised to Taylor (he was a tailor), but whether it was originally Schneider – which means ‘tailor’ in Yiddish and is a pretty common surname – or whether it was, as my father’s sister claimed, something like ‘Telja’ (less likely, I think) I have no way of knowing. This means that tracing either family back to their origins in Poland is a lot harder. There is a Jewish genealogy website but I seem to have drawn a blank there. Another difficulty is that although I know or have identified the places in Poland where my father’s parents were born, I’m not absolutely sure which of them came from which place. One of them came from the same town, Płock, as my maternal grandmother, which is perhaps how the two families came to know each other when they arrived in England.

But that’s conjecture too. Failing any sort of lead into my grandparents’ families – though I know from my mother’s parents’ marriage certificate that my grandmother’s father was a wholesale draper and my grandfather’s father was said to be a farmer (for ‘farmer’ read ‘peasant’?), I’ve been looking up some of the lateral branches of both families. In fact I think it’s true to say I’ve succumbed wholeheartedly to the genealogy bug and have now obsessively been trying to build a family tree, or trees. I hadn’t seen before just how compulsive it can become, especially when many of the people I’m trying to place were known to me in my childhood: my mother’s aunts and uncles and their offspring, my father’s cousins, my own first cousins who were twenty or thirty years older than me.

And there are mysteries I’d like to unravel. Did one of my father’s sisters really die from threatening to drink jewellery polish, and then actually drinking it, when she found out her husband, who was a jeweller, was having an affair? Did my father’s brother’s first wife – who was said to be mad –  commit suicide? Was it by accident or again suicide that the same brother was killed while apparently repairing a gas stove? I can find some of the answers from their death certificates, of course, and can identify the people in the family photographs that have been passed down to me, but there’s so much I can never know. I have one letter from my father’s brother to their surviving sister, dated 1936, which seems to have been written in a sanatorium in Vienna and alludes to the ‘terrible time’ he has been through. I have no idea what this refers to. He remarried in 1927 and from what I remember his second wife was a nice, ordinary woman who wouldn’t have caused any trouble to anyone. In the letter he warns his sister and my father, their much younger brother, not to have anything to do with their father. Again I have no idea why.

Then there are the intergenerational anomalies, notable but not so puzzling. My father’s surviving sister married one of my mother’s uncles. There wasn’t that much age difference: my grandmother was younger than her husband and she seems to have been older than most of her siblings. Another anomaly is that one of my grandmother’s brothers married his niece, my mother’s cousin – not forbidden in Jewish law but decidedly iffy in English law, I would have thought. She was deaf and he promised to look after her, which he did. They never had any children and I don’t know what kind of marriage it was. I met them a few times when I was a child and remember that she didn’t speak in a way I could understand.

Comparatively recently I discovered another brother of my grandmother’s whom I hadn’t known about before. I knew that three of her brothers had stayed in London and a fourth had emigrated to Israel – again I don’t know exactly when – but when I was going through the family photographs with my aunt, my mother’s sister, in the late 1990s, she pointed out someone who must have been another brother, whom I’d never heard of before. The photo is of him in what I’ve now identified as Polish army uniform, and as it’s beside one of my great-uncle/uncle by marriage

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\in World War 1 British uniform I assume it was taken at much the same time. I’ve tried writing to the Polish army records office (having got an online translation into Polish) but unfortunately my email bounced back. I’m intrigued by him, though. I don’t know whether he ever came to England – I think he must have done as my aunt seemed to have known him – and, if so, why he was sent back to fight for Poland when his brothers were in the British army. I don’t know what happened to him or whether he was killed in the war.

I could go on, and will probably continue researching if it doesn’t get too addictive. The fascination is in all that’s unknown, and in putting names and dates and places to people who until now were only vaguely there in the background. When did X marry Y? What was their name? When did they change it? (Quite a few did, from something that was obviously Jewish to something that sounded more English.) Did they have any children? If so, are the children still alive? And so on. Part of me says it’s a complete waste of time when I could be doing something more creative, but part of me is driven by the desire to know, even though there’s so much I can never know. In some way these people matter, even if I hardly knew them, and they are alive in me, aspects of who I am.

 

 

 

 

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The r-word

I’m sure I’m not the only white person to be asking myself at this time: am I racist? Is there hidden racism lurking in me? Are there racist assumptions I don’t recognise I have? Despite my long-time liberal credentials, my having worked in multi-racial organisations, my commitment to meeting everyone from a place of shared humanity, despite the diversity training I’ve had, I’m ashamed to say that at times the answer is yes.

First of all, the easier bit. There have been times when something I’ve said or done has been taken to be racist, when I didn’t think it was. A Black associate at work told my boss I must be racist because of my accent (Oxford overlaid on suburban London). She didn’t give any examples of my racism – she hardly knew me – and in that case I didn’t believe her assumption was fair. I could see why she might think it, though, as accent can imply class and privilege and therefore certain attitudes – can, but not necessarily does. But there have been plenty of other times when I’ve inadvertently blundered, not seeing how someone who had experienced racism might interpret something I said or did as racist even if I believed it wasn’t meant in that way.

I once asked a Nigerian Christian colleague if Nigeria had any particular Christmas customs. I was genuinely interested to hear how Christmas was celebrated there and failed to see how, with his post-colonial heritage, he would take it to mean I thought Nigerians weren’t as ‘civilised’ as people in England. He told me in no uncertain terms that they celebrated Christmas in the same way as we did, and why would I think differently? I tried to explain what I’d meant, but the damage had been done. I was sorry that he’d been made to feel Nigerians had to imitate English people in order to be acceptable.

On another occasion I was standing in a crowded bus and was pushed up against a woman in African dress. I hastily drew back, with a very English “Sorry” – I don’t like having my personal space invaded and assume other people don’t either. The woman of course took it that I was recoiling from touching a Black person. Nothing I could say convinced her this wasn’t so. Seeing myself through her eyes as yet another racist white person was hard, but at the very least my behaviour had shown a lack of awareness.

When I first moved into my flat in London, back in the 1980s, I had a friend to stay for the weekend. We were  kept awake all night by loud music pounding out from the neighbouring flat. At 7 am the music was still going on. Prompted by my friend, I went round to the other flat, in my nightie, and told the occupants angrily that if they didn’t shut up I’d call the police. They replied, “You’re only saying that because we’re Black.” I’m afraid that at the time their response just made me more furious, especially as they didn’t turn the music down. Now, of course, I can see why they reacted in that way. I really couldn’t have cared what their ethnicity was; I just wanted the noise to stop and would have said the same to anyone. However, I didn’t pause to think that to a Black person any suggestion of the police was bound to come across as a racist threat.

At a training course in the 1990s, I met a young woman who seemed to be of Asian origin but had an accent I couldn’t identify. I’m always curious about language and accent so asked her, very misguidedly, what nationality she was. I still cringe when I think of it. As far as I know I didn’t mean it in a racist way: at that time I worked with a lot of Asian people and had great liking and respect for them. Back then I hadn’t realised the word ‘nationality’ implied a racist stance, and I was shocked when she told me forcefully that it wasn’t OK to ask. As I remember, she soon realised my lack of awareness and explained why it wasn’t OK. She was then willing to tell me that she was Pakistani and had grown up in Germany – hence the unidentifiable accent. Her response made me aware just how sensitive an area such questions are, and I was grateful she took the time to enlighten me.

I think all these examples show how easily the language, assumptions and behaviour of a white person can have racist implications, even when the individual doesn’t believe she is being racist. There have been times, though, when I’ve caught myself out in racist thoughts or reactions, and I’ll own up to some of them here. Not that long ago I organised a workshop for a poetry group that I’m part of. As people came in I checked their names against the list. Devon, where I live, is not known for its multiculturalism and it’s comparatively rare to see a Black person, so when a Black woman gave me her name – a very English name that I’d pictured belonging to a certain sort of white woman – I didn’t manage to hide my surprise. She picked up on it and must have known the reason for it. Although I was as welcoming as possible and got on well with her, so far as I know she didn’t come to any more workshops – and I can understand why. It’s something I still periodically feel bad about.

Some years ago, when I was living in London, I bought something in a charity shop and paid for it with my debit card. Not long afterwards I discovered the card was missing. I went back to the shop but it wasn’t there, and I realised someone had been using it to draw out money from my account – which meant they must have seen me enter my PIN. I had to report it to the police, who asked me if anyone might have brushed up close against me and taken the card when I paid for my purchase. Unfortunately the only person I remembered being close to me was the shop manager, a Black American woman. I mentioned her and must have described her, and my covert accusation was quickly discounted. I wasn’t consciously aware that I might have seized on her because she was Black, but I felt uncomfortable afterwards as that was obviously how the police had seen it. And I couldn’t be absolutely sure that on some level her ethnicity hadn’t been in the mix. I still feel bad about that too.

Another way I’ve been conscious of my subtle racism is when watching TV dramas. In the recent adaptation of His Dark Materials, which I’d read and loved, I noticed myself thinking about several of the characters, ‘But he isn’t Black’, ‘But he wouldn’t be Black’, even when the actor concerned was playing the role well and there was no compelling reason why the character shouldn’t be portrayed as Black. As with the woman at the workshop, my white imagination had pictured the characters as white. If a contemporary drama has a Black actor playing a character who could equally well be white, I don’t have a problem with it. Nor do I have a problem with, say, a Black Hamlet or a Black Julius Caesar: Shakespeare’s characters can be interpreted in all kinds of ways and none is better than any other. But in the books I read for myself, my default imagining of the characters is that they are white unless described otherwise. I don’t like admitting it because I think it shows precisely how for a white person being white is taken as ‘normal’ and being Black is seen as ‘other’, however subtly so and however little overt racist intention there may be.

I don’t have any easy answers for changing these barely conscious attitudes. Not all my friends are white British and neither are all the characters I write about – though in both cases white people predominate. I’m also Jewish, which complicates things since the Jews have been on the receiving end of racism and have also been seen as privileged. That’s a whole other topic in itself. For now I just need to acknowledge that, along with many white liberals, my anti-racist credentials aren’t as pure as I’d like them to be. And I want to do better. George Floyd’s death has brought home to us the awful reality of Black people’s lives, both in America and here, and we can’t allow ourselves to be complicit in it.

 

 

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It’s all different now

On 16th March I came home from a two-week solitary retreat without phone, internet, radio, TV or newspapers. For those two weeks I was either struggling with my internal demons, not to mention mud and rain and hail and freezing winds and damp firewood, or else in a state of peace and joy and well-wishing for all beings. In neither of those states was I thinking about the coronavirus. I knew it was happening, but it didn’t seem to be affecting us down here in Devon.

When I got home I rang an old friend to tell her I was back. Instead of wanting to hear about my retreat, she more or less brushed it aside with news of what was going on now: more and more people getting sick, the rest of us being advised to stay at home (the lockdown wasn’t yet in force), almost everything we’d taken for granted becoming a threat. “It’s like the plague,” she said. I had to believe her, but for the first day or two I was walking around in shock , not knowing whether to carry on as normal or hide myself away. Like everyone else, I started thinking I’d better stock up in case I couldn’t get to the shops again. I made sure my food supplies wouldn’t run out for a while but I didn’t quite understand the great toilet paper rush. Having shopped, and then shopped more online, I started to prepare myself for the long siege.

It was odd, driving around the lanes and quiet streets near where I live, to see how ordinary everything looked. The fields were still just fields, the hedgerows were full of violets and primroses, the cows and sheep were grazing on. The few people I saw looked a bit more hurried and worried than usual, but that was all. At that stage it was hard to take the whole thing seriously, and the day before lockdown I went for a walk in Dartington gardens with a friend. We did our best to stay 2 metres apart but I confess we didn’t always manage it. And that was that. The rest, as people say, is history.

Now, nearly three months and over 40,000 deaths later, like many people I’m still living most of my life on Zoom: psychotherapy work, meditation retreats, Qigong classes and much more besides. Not long ago I read at a Zoom open mic. I forgot that if I held up the paper in front of me people would be able to see what was written on the back – in this case a ten-year-old bill for renting a psychotherapy room. Some people found that more interesting than the poem. Of course Zoom has its limitations: faces freezing or disappearing, distorted sound, noises off when people forget to mute themselves – whoever muted themselves in ordinary conversation? – the inescapable fact that a two-dimensional image of someone’s head and shoulders can never be the same as the person’s real presence in the room.

I’ve got used to talking to neighbours, if I meet them, from somewhere in the middle of the road, and I dodge away from people who walk past me in the woods as though it was something I’d always done. People are probably more friendly than they were, but is the physical distance subtly alienating?  I’ve seen my friend a couple of times but each time studiously avoided our normal hug, so the only proper physical contact I’ve had since March is with my cat. I’m fortunate have him, of course, but a bit more human proximity would be rather nice. There’s also a part of me that for much of the time really doesn’t mind – in fact enjoys – being on my own and doing things by myself. I’ve lived alone for many years and on the whole it’s worked. But I’ve seen how, for me and many other people, the coronavirus situation has brought to the surface any underlying loneliness or fears of being alone. And conversely, for people not living alone it may have brought to the surface the need for space and solitude.

We’re assured now that the outbreak is abating – at least for the time being – but two hundred deaths in a day is still far from nothing. We don’t know what will happen as people start to go out and mingle more, and we certainly don’t know how badly we’ll be affected again come the winter. As everyone has said, we’re not returning to normal as we knew it, nor should we be, given the uncertain level of risk. I’m at an age where I need to be careful, as are at least some of my friends, and I don’t want to find that all our care and distancing have counted for nothing. I’d love to see more people and go out to more places, but as far as I’m concerned caution is still the name of the game. The virus hasn’t gone away, and until we find a vaccine or it runs its natural course, which could take years, it isn’t going to go away.

So here we are, about to venture, masked and gloved, back into the world. The tranquillity and slow pace of life that many of us have valued in these last months will begin to be intruded upon. The lucky ones who have work will get busier again; others will struggle with the cruelty of the economic situation and the lack of support available. Black people will have to go on fighting for their rightful place in society. Carbon emissions will rise, adding to the climate crisis. Brexit will go ahead, whatever the consequences. Meanwhile people will probably continue to die of Covid-19, albeit in smaller numbers while the warm weather lasts. Everything has changed, except what hasn’t changed.

 

 

 

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Cognitive dissonance

This Christmas the phrase ‘cognitive dissonance’ keeps coming into my mind. Why are we sending each other pictures of snow and robins as though this is what Christmas is, when we know it’s likely to rain the whole winter and robins are becoming scarcer every year? Why are we decorating our streets and our houses with sparkly things and celebrating at all, when the climate situation is so unimaginably dire and this country is being subjected to a far-right takeover? I feel as though I’m believing two incompatible things at the same time: that it’s sort of OK to go on doing just what we’ve always done – buying presents people don’t really need and wrapping them in toxic non-recyclable paper, consuming more food and drink than we actually want, indulging in things that we wish afterwards we hadn’t indulged in and calling it ‘joy’  –  and that the world has changed irrevocably and the future we used to take for granted, even if we were afraid it might be blasted by a nuclear bomb, can no longer be relied on to be remotely the same. So on one level I’m enjoying my relatively modest Christmas preparations and as usual sending cards to wish people a happy whatever they celebrate, while at the same time I keep catching myself thinking: What on earth am I doing? What is all this for, and how can I justify it?

This probably makes me sound like a puritanical misery-guts. Why not enjoy a few nice meals with friends and give a few presents to people I care about? What’s wrong with sending cards or e-cards to other friends I haven’t had a chance to catch up with for a while? Why not enjoy a few programmes on TV (which I do anyway)? And of course there’s is nothing wrong with any of that in itself. It’s just that the context has changed and we can no longer pretend, in the way that we could, that the world is going to continue as we knew it. As I write this I keep remembering that I haven’t yet made my Christmas donation to the food bank. Not that many years ago, food banks were unheard-of and the idea that large numbers of people in this country wouldn’t have enough to eat would have been shocking. Now we take it for granted, just as we’re gradually learning to take it for granted that refugees (I refuse to call them migrants) will be treated without humanity and in America children will be detained in what amount to concentration camps and left to die if they are ill. And that vast swathes of the natural world have been and are being devastated in the name of corporate profit. And we sort of believe, although we don’t, that the changes in our climate which are already having such catastrophic consequences will magically go away or aren’t really happening at all.

We still continue with our fiction of  ‘Christmas’, though the majority of people in this country are not Christians and large numbers don’t even know what the Christmas story is about. We can’t kid ourselves we’re celebrating a religious festival: that faded into the background a long while ago. Nor can most of us say we’re celebrating the Solstice and the seasonal cycle of death and rebirth, or at least not consciously. I’ve never had a problem, though, with the idea that we need a festival to celebrate regeneration and renewed hope at the darkest, coldest time of the year. But when I look at my garden now and see the winter jasmine already in flower and the remains of the last rose still on the bush, I can’t see the festival in the way that I did. The hope, it seems to me, has to come from people who care about what’s happening in the world joining together to do  what they can (and I could do far more, I know). The other side of Christmas is that it is about community, not just in separate family units but all of us together. In Christian terms, Christ came to bring  love to all. Christmas is a terrible time for many people because it reminds them of their isolation, but we aren’t only isolated from each other. It’s been increasingly easy for us to become isolated from the natural world and forget that it isn’t just there for our use or even enjoyment. We’re part of it, and our separating ourselves from it is what’s caused so much of our current predicament.

This is in danger of turning into a cross between a rant and a sermon, and I imagine that for most of the people reading it I’ll be preaching to the converted. I don’t want to put anyone off enjoying their Christmas/Solstice/other festival celebration and I intend to enjoy mine too, while at the same time holding in mind the reality of what’s happening in the world. I don’t think the cognitive dissonance will go away – what is happening is too big and frightening to hold in mind all the time – but I need to see how I can best carry on doing what I’m doing while recognising that things have changed irrevocably.

I wish you all the best for the festive season, whatever you celebrate or if you decide not to celebrate at all.

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Adelina’s Adventure

Hello Everybody

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me or the Belated Writer on this Blogg, but here I am again – with her Permission, of course. Most of her Friends seem to be talking about nothing but the Dreadful News, but obviously a lot of People don’t think it’s Dreadful because they voted for Mr Joris Bohnson and his Brex It. Personally I can’t see how Brexing It will help us very much, and it’s Awful about the Climate and what’s happening to the Earth, which the Conserva-Tories don’t really seem to care about. No wonder the Belated Writer has joined the Extinct Rebellion, though she isn’t one of their Red People or their Green People but just a Person who isn’t very Brave and hasn’t been Arrested.

Photo by Miriam Quick, XR Totnes and Local Area

I’m worried too about all the People who have no Homes and no Money and are probably going to have Even Less now. I don’t really understand about Politics but I think that’s Wrong, especially as it’s Christ-mas and People are meant to be having Goodwill Towards Men (and Women as well, I hope) and to have a Nice Time too. It’s a pity it keeps Raining in the Festive Season, but I’m afraid that seems to be part of the Climate Change. Lots of places in the World aren’t having any Rain when they should have, which is Worse.

Anyway, as well as writing about the State of the World I want to tell you about something that happened to me and my dear Husband Humbert. (I haven’t put in a Picture of him as he doesn’t care for Publicity.) We were without the Belated Writer for over a Week, which was  Unusual for us. We went away to Ox-ford with the BW to see the Ox-ford Light Festival, where all sorts of Buildings and things were Lit Up and there were some lit-up Carry-Boo dancing in the Street. (I don’t think they were real Animals, but they were Very Spectacular). After that the Belated Writer went to a Calligrity Work-shop (I believe that’s the right word) where she tried to learn how to do Copper Plate Writing with a funny Pen.

She enjoyed it all very much and was quite Tired by the time she went home on the Train. Unfortunately when we got back to Newton Abbot she picked up the wrong Suit-case without noticing it wasn’t hers (she can be Rather Remiss sometimes), which meant that Humbert and I were left on the Train. It wasn’t until she got the Suit-case Home and looked inside it that she noticed it was the Wrong One, and even then it took a Little While as she thought somebody had put their Clothes in her Case. (I told you she can be quite Remiss.) She could tell it wasn’t hers, though, because Humbert and I weren’t in it. We always stay Side by Side in one of the Pockets. Fortunately the Lady the Suit-case belonged to had realised what had happened and handed the Case to the Train Manager, so that we didn’t get Lost. We were very frightened, though, as we were being taken away to Strange Places and we didn’t know how we would get Home again.

The Belated Writer managed to work out that the person the Suit-Case belonged to probably lived in Totnes, on account of a Book that was in the Case about the Transitional Town, which Totnes is Famous for. When she posted about it on the Face Book Page which belongs to Totnes, somebody who knew the person with (or rather without) the Suit-case saw it and managed to get hold of her, which meant that the Belated Writer could give back the Wrong Suit-case even though she couldn’t get the Right one. Meanwhile we were taken in the Train all the way to Pens-Ants, at the very Bottom of England, and arrived there at 1 am in the morning. The Train Manager there looked through the Case, but there was nothing to say who it belonged to. He looked in the Pockets too, and unfortunately he separated Humbert and me so that we were in different Pockets and not Side by Side any more. We could still talk to each other, but it wasn’t the Same.

After that we had to wait in Pens-Ants for a Long Time before the Suit-case was taken to the Lost Propriety Office. It was Dark in there and nobody spoke to us, and we wondered when on Earth we would get Home. By that Time we were Rather Cross with the Belated Writer, as you can imagine. She once left her Suit-case on a Bus in a place called Swiss Cottage, which is not Switzerland but in a noisy and trafficky part of London. However, she realised Straight Away what she had done and Felt Awful about leaving us behind. We were Very Cross, as that was extremely Remiss of her and she didn’t even take someone else’s Suit-case by mistake. We were very lucky that she was able to go to the Bus Garage that same night and get us back again, but it isn’t the same with Trains as they travel such a Long Way. I think this train may have come all the way from Scot-Land, which isn’t England at all.

Would you believe it took more than a Week for us to be taken from Pens-Ants to the Lost Propriety Office in Bristole? We had a Bumpy Journey there, and then we were quite badly Shaken when the Suit-case was put on a Shelf. I’m pleased to say that the Belated Writer came to rescue us as soon as she Possibly Could, and she was Very Apologetic, as of course she should be. We were so Relieved to be Back Home again and in our usual comfortable place on a Doiley (I am rather Partial to Doileys) Beside the Bedside, but we didn’t feel like talking to the Belated Writer very much for a Little While. We’ve forgiven her now, though, as we know she couldn’t Help It.

So that was our Adventure. I must say I prefer being at Home and not having Adventures, but I suppose it makes life Interesting. Humbert was very Philosophical about it all, but my Nature isn’t quite so Calm. Oh well, never Mind. The main thing is that we are both Safe and Sound, and grateful to have a Home to go to.

It’s been lovely talking to you again and I hope you have a Happy Christ-mas or Sol-stice or Honey-car or whatever you Celebrate, even if there isn’t much to Celebrate this Year.

With love from

Adelina xx

 

 

 

 

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Gurification

Back in the 1990s, my then therapist pointed out that I had a tendency to ‘gurify’ certain people, i.e. to see them as far wiser, more spiritually aware and generally better human beings than I was, even when this turned out not to be the case. At that time I’d just started my psychotherapy training and had been to see Mother Meera, an Indian guru or, if you believe it, a divine avatar or incarnation – there are quite a lot of those in India. I paid several visits to Mother Meera in Germany, where she still lives, and not long after that I made a life-changing trip to India. There I visited the ashrams of two living gurus/divine avatars, Ammachi (Mata Amritananda Mayi), who is known for hugging people, and Satya Sai Baba, instantly recognisable by his Afro hair and orange gown, which on Christmas Day he exchanged for a white one – make of that what you will. Sai Baba has since died but Ammachi is still hugging people. I also spent time in two ashrams dedicated to teachers who are no longer alive, Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Aurobindo, whose ashram is a shrine to him and his consort, known as The Mother.

These weren’t the first beings described as gurus that I’d come across. Back in the seventies I knew people who were involved in the Divine Light Mission led by Guru Maharaj Ji and later I learnt Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. (This is really very little different from any other mantra meditation except that you have to pay a lot to learn it and some practitioners go in for ‘yogic flying’: bouncing about the room in a cross-legged position. The flying is said to have huge benefits for the practitioner and the world, but I have to take their word for that. I was never advanced enough to try it.) In the late seventies and throughout the eighties I was involved in what was then called the ‘growth movement’ and took part in different therapy groups where many of the participants were followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (later Osho). For those who remember, they were the ones who called themselves sannyasins and wore orange or dark red. A few still do and many have kept the Sanskrit names they were given, but many have also become disenchanted or drifted away. The leaders of a series of groups I attended were at that time devotees of Baba Muktananda. I once went to their flat in Amsterdam for a course that consisted of chanting, meditation and video presentations by Muktananda himself. People spoke about his extraordinary power to call forth deep devotion and awaken spiritual energies. At that time I didn’t experience much of it, but I could see from his photograph that he was an enormously charismatic and attractive man.

Despite becoming involved with Theravada Buddhism, which unlike Tibetan Buddhism doesn’t see the power of the teacher as central, I still longed to find someone whose presence would enable me to enter new realms of experience. Like many people, I was led to Mother Meera by Andrew Harvey’s book Hidden Journey. I longed to be turned upside-down and inside-out the way he was. Or part of me longed for it. Another part would have been shit-scared if anything so dramatic had happened. It didn’t, but at a time of upset and upheaval in my life I was more than usually open to the atmosphere that surrounded her, and a sense of its peace and beauty definitely reach me. If Harvey and her other devotees were to be believed (he is no longer a devotee), she too seemed to be a divine incarnation and she apparently speaks about herself as such, referring to the rest of us as ‘human beings’. At the time I was prepared to entertain the possibility. I’m less so now; I believe we all have the divine within us and are all ordinary human beings, even though it’s clear that in some people certain energies that I would call spiritual have been awakened to an extraordinary degree.

I certainly felt it in the presence of the teachers/gurus I encountered in India, both the living and those no longer alive, but even at the time I was aware that these energies were not necessarily an indication of goodness or selflessness. At Sai Baba’s ashram, for instance, I was deeply uneasy about the deification he seemed to welcome and the cult that surrounded him – but I can’t say I didn’t experience that extraordinary energy. His ability to ‘manifest’ vibuthi (sacred ash) has been debunked, but I do remember that when he threw a handful of sweets into the crowd, the sweets seemed to hang in the air for a moment in a pattern before they fell to the ground, to be picked up eagerly by anyone they landed near. What that meant I didn’t know, though it too was extraordinary. Ammachi seemed then much more like the genuine article. Her ashram was smaller and more modest (it isn’t now) and she herself exuded benevolence. I felt blessed and uplifted the first time I saw her and received my hug, and continued to do so, though gradually less, on the number of occasions when I saw her in London. She too believed herself to be a divine incarnation and in a particular ceremony would put on the kind of crown worn by Indian gods in statues and paintings. Again I was half-ready to believe it. I certainly experienced the beautiful quality of the energy that surrounded her, and I responded to it deeply.

And yet… A couple of years ago it came to light that a well-known and widely respected Tibetan Buddhist teacher had behaved abusively, which led to his resigning from the organisation he had founded. The abuses concerned power, sexuality and money and seemed to stem from his position as a teacher within the Tibetan tradition, where a student is expected to give her/himself completely to the teacher and accept whatever comes from him as a teaching. He had bullied those close to him when they didn’t meet his demands, had affairs with female students and used funds from the organisation to enrich himself, while continuing to offer teachings on relinquishing greed and attachment. He may or may not have had the same kind of energetic power as the gurus I’ve described – I only saw him once and didn’t sense it – but he was certainly in a position of power. My shock at hearing about this prompted me to find out whether similar abuses by any of the gurus I had seen or heard about had come to light. In a depressing number of cases the answer was yes. Osho had already been discredited, but what I found in relation to so many of these other gurus were accounts of abuses in those same three areas: power, sex and money. Few were exempt, though some came out much less badly than others. Most of the accounts seemed to me genuine: many were from people who had tried hard to reconcile the treatment they had z`received with their devotion to the guru, and had been vilified and ostracised – and worse – when they finally spoke out.  By placing him/herself in a different category from the rest of us – and of course being placed there by students and devotees – the guru or teacher is given licence to act out in ways that are sadistic, exploitative and self-aggrandising, while claiming that it’s all for the good of the student. As we know in other contexts, it’s all too easy to blame the victim and discredit what they say. The guru knows best, so this person must be malicious, disturbed or spiritually unawakened and their perceptions are not to be trusted. And undoubtedly there is transference: a guru is such a powerful figure that s/he is bound to call forth emotional projections of all kinds which may skew someone’s experience. But that’s not an excuse for denying the reality of what has been done.

A common defence, by the guru and her/his acolytes, is that because s/he is an enlightened being, normal standards of behaviour don’t apply. In certain ‘crazy wisdom’ traditions the teacher’s freedom from conventional restraints is believed to be what brings about the student’s awakening. It’s also true that by giving away so much of their power to the guru, people make themselves more open to exploitation – but that’s not an excuse for the exploitative behaviour. What all of this shows is that there aren’t two categories of people, the gurus and the ordinary mortals, and it’s dangerous when we believe there are. In my experience it also shows that, however flawed the guru may be, somehow the spiritual energy can still shine through and enable students to access it for themselves. Or it may not, if the student becomes caught up in the abuse. What’s important is to see the guru as a human being, and to recognise that the spiritual energy resides in all of us. Gurus may have the ability to awaken it in us, and may use that ability skilfully or less so, but it doesn’t belong to them. We can only become enlightened or free or happy for ourselves.

 

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How Can We Brex It?

I was going to write a post about Brexit but gave up, as my mood kept veering between despair and hysterical laughter. Perhaps the extended deadline has offered us some hope, but given what’s happened up till now there’s no guarantee things won’t still go pear-shaped and politicians who don’t know what they’re doing won’t lead us into some chaotic and half-baked deal which is supposed to be the ‘will of the people’. But there’s a possibility it could get better rather than worse, and the Labour leadership is being pushed harder and harder to endorse a second referendum. If only… The ”Revoke Article 50′ petition is still gathering signatures and now stands at over 6,076,000. Even though it didn’t reach the 17,000,000 or so that people were hoping for, this is a significant number and needs to be taken seriously. But it seems to me that ‘the will of the people’ has become a Humpty Dumpty term which means whatever anyone wants it to mean. If Stephen Kinnock can say that a second referendum would be anti-democratic, then we’re already in Orwellian territory where ‘freedom’ means its opposite. Except that of course it’s more complex than that and our country and its politics have become more deeply divided than they’ve been in many years. The biggest political parties are split into different factions and the smaller ones sadly don’t have the clout to get anything done. The will of some people is most certainly not that of others.

I could go on and end up ranting about it, or else holding my head in my hands and asking, as so many people are, ‘How did we ever come to this?’ There are reasons, of course, but I’m not going to into them now. Instead I’m going to hand over to Adelina, who has volunteered to come to my aid. By her own admission she doesn’t know an awful lot about Brex It, but as always she is  full of goodwill and eager to learn. I take no responsibility for the content of her post.

Hello Everybody

As the Belated Writer has told you, she is letting me write the rest of this Piece of Blogg because she gets so Angry and Upset about Brex It. I said I would be happy to help, as I like to understand things in Simple Terms. I don’t know very much about The Situation but I’m sure that if I try to explain it, that will help you all as well. As I expect you know, it’s all about things like Politics and History and whether we are Coming or Going, which is what nobody seems to know.

A long time ago in 1975 there was something called a Refer-endum and people voted to join the Common Market, as it then was. The Belated Writer tells me she voted against it, but she was quite young back then and things were different. Anyway, the United Kingdom (only it isn’t very United and it’s a Queendom and not a Kingdom) became part of the European Union, which meant all sorts of things like Butter Mountains and Health and Safety and people coming here from Other Countries. Not all of it seemed like a Good Thing but some of it did, and there was a lot of Buying and Selling going on Between the European Countries. Some people in Parliament thought we shouldn’t be in the Union, though, as they thought Britain ought to be Great all on its own, like it was a long time ago when we had a big Empire and made a lot of people in Far-off Countries very unhappy. Most people seemed to think it was a Good Idea on the Whole, though.

Then somebody came along whose name I think was Mr Nigel Farrago. He made a lot of Fuss about Britain coming out of the European Union because there were too many Immigrants (which means people from Other Countries coming to live here). So Mr David Cameron, who was Prime Minister then, said we would have another Refer-endum which he thought would prove people wanted to Stay In. Only it didn’t. Just over Half the people Voted to Come Out and just under Half Voted to Stay In, which meant that Mr Cameron had to stop being Prime Minister and a lady called Mrs Tweezer May took over. She had said she thought we should Stay In, but now it seemed all she could say was that we would have to Brex It (which means Come Out) and she was very Strong and Stable. She kept telling people that Brex It means Brex It. I don’t know why she had to keep saying that, as it couldn’t really mean anything else.

At the same time Mr Jeremy Core-bin, who leads the Labour Party (except that there are some people who don’t want him to) stopped saying he was In Favour of the European Union and didn’t argue with Mrs May and her Friends in the Tory Party (which some people call the Nasty Party, because they take Money away from Poor People and give it to the Rich, which is called Capital-ism). Then it turned out that some of her Friends – who were also her Enemies – like Mr Joris Bohnson, who has a lot of Hair, and Mr Michael Glove, who hasn’t got very much, had lied to Everyone about Money, so that the people who voted to Come Out didn’t really know what they were voting for and some of them wished they hadn’t.

That was all in 2016. Since then Mrs May has been trying to Brex It but she still hasn’t managed it. Some people have been trying to stop her and some people, like Mr Jacob Mees-Rogg, who is Very Rich and has a Nanny, think we should just Leave with No Deal, which means a lot of things in this Country would just Come to a Stop and everybody (apart from him) would be Worse Off. Fortunately Parliament has Voted against No Deal, but nobody seems to like Mrs May’s Deal and the Members of Parliament have done an awful lot of Voting about it all and don’t really seem to have got anywhere, which may be something to do with the Irish Back Stop. I’m not quite sure what that is, but I think it’s about whether people can go from one bit of Ireland to the other, and the Democratic Unionist Party (who don’t seem very democratic to me) trying not to let them.

And then of course there are all the people who want to have another Refer-endum, as they say so many people have Changed their Minds about Brex It on account of Brex It not having meant Brex It in the way they thought it was going to. Or even if we still have Brex It, they think we ought to Vote on how it’s going to happen. Somebody started a Petition on the Inter-net to stop Brex It and over 6 million people have signed it, but Mrs May, and Mr Core-bin too, still say it isn’t the Will of the People. I must say I don’t know which People they’re talking about, as there are an awful lot of People and quite a lot of different Wills. There are some People – though not nearly as many as the Petition People – who think we should just Brex It now and Never Mind What Happens Next. Anyway, the European Union have got so fed up with us that they have given us an Extension till the end of October to Sort It All Out and decide What’s Going to Happen and when and how, which nobody seems to have been able to do up till now. I believe people in Other Countries have been laughing at us because we’ve got in such a Mess, and that’s not a very nice State of Affairs.

I do wish it would all get Sorted Out and Everybody could just go back to living a Quiet Life. Personally I don’t see why we couldn’t have just stayed where we were and not had to Brex It at all, as it doesn’t seem to be doing anybody any good. And I wish all the people who have had their Money taken away could get it back again so that they don’t have to live in dreadful Houses with not enough Food to Eat. I believe wishing things like that is called Social-ism but I don’t mind what sort of Ism it is. Some things are Not Right and nobody should pretend they are Right (except that the Nasty Tory Party call themselves The Right or even the Far Right, which means they want to do even more things that are Not Right.)

I do hope this has helped explain Brex It for you. I’m certainly Clearer about it myself now. It’s been lovely talking to you all.

With love from

Adelina xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adelina’s Re-treat

Hello Everybody

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written on this Blogg and it’s lovely to be talking to you all again. The Belated Writer has asked me to write this as she has been on Re-treat and isn’t ready to write anything herself yet, so I thought I would tell you about my experiences on Re-treat. I don’t know if I’ll say anything about Budd-ism, as it’s a big Subject and there are quite a lot of Ideas in it that I don’t really understand.

My dear Husband and I have been on Re-treat with the Belated Writer quite often before. He is very good at Meditating and doesn’t mind being Quiet all the time but – as you may realise – I am rather more Talkative by nature and don’t like not being able to make Remarks. This time the Belated Writer had a very nice Room and we were very comfortable sitting on a little Shelf beside the bedside, next to a card which the BW’s Friend sent her with a picture of a Lady made of Mud. The Lady seemed to be Fast Asleep but I think the BW’s Friend thought she might be Meditating. She didn’t make any Noise, anyway, but I’m sorry to say the BW did sometimes, what with closing the door and opening and shutting the Bureau which she had instead of a Chest of Draws (I think that’s what it’s called). I’m afraid she may have disturbed the Lady in the next Room, who is a Budd-ist Teacher and possibly Quite Important. As I expect you know by now, the BW can be rather Clumsy sometimes, even though she tried hard to be as Mind-full as possible. I’m not really sure what Mind-fullness is, except that it seems to be about making your mind more Empty.

To be perfectly Honest, I’m not exactly sure what the BW was doing most of the time on her Re-treat. My Husband and I were left alone in the Room while she went Outside, even in the Snow. We were doing Sitting Meditation, of course, but as well as sitting in a little Shelter, wrapped up in a blanket, and Breathing, among other things, the BW was doing Walking Meditation, the kind where you walk so Slowly that if you’re not careful you might Fall Over. And she was doing Tie Chee, which I think is called a Marshal Art but is really more like a Dance, where you pretend to be hitting somebody but do it so Slowly that they would have plenty of Time to run away. She likes doing it very much and does it in the Garden here sometimes while Mr Koala, her Cat, sits and looks very Puzzled.

As I said at the Beginning, I don’t really know very much about Budd-ism or Meditation, but when you start to Meditate you notice what a lot of Thoughts there are in your Mind and how some of them keep coming round again and again. I was worrying about the BW being out in all that Weather – though we had Sun-shine sometimes too – and hoping my dear Husband wasn’t Meditating so much that he wouldn’t want to Talk to me any more. I was also remembering the nice Room we lived in in Golders Green, and before that the BW’s little House (or part of a House) in a place called Crickle-wood, where Mr Smith invented the Potato Crisp. (The BW told me this once – she likes Useless Information.) I came to live with her in Crickle-wood because when she stopped seeing her nice Therapist, the Therapist sent me to look after her. I remembered the Therapist’s House too, and my dear Brother Everard Vark who still lives there. I don’t know if he is still made to work as a Door Stop as I haven’t heard from him for a long time, but sadly that was his Job.

Anyway, that was all about me and not about Meditation. I do know that there are a lot of different kinds of Meditation. Sometimes the BW was doing Loving-kindness Meditation, which means wishing everybody well. I haven’t tried it very much but I do like it, though it seems to make the BW cry sometimes, especially when she is wishing herself well. Sometimes she was just sitting there and Breathing, or noticing things that were going on, like her Feet feeling cold or being Cross with somebody for moving her Things in the Meditation Hall. Sometimes she was watching the Clouds in the Sky and how they never stay the same, which in Budd-ism is called Impermanence, or listening to all the Sounds, such as the Rooks in the Trees and the Wood-pecker, and the Tractors on the Farm and the Chain-saw, and not being more interested in one than another, which seems very Difficult to me. One day there was a Hunt, which was rather Upsetting. We could hear the Horn in our Room, and the Dogs yelping and the Horses’ hooves on the Road. I’m not sure how you Meditate with all that, but I do hope the poor Fox got away.

I don’t think I will say anything about Budd-ism as I’m feeling rather Tired. We’ve been back from the Re-treat for a couple of weeks now and the BW is doing lots of other things apart from Meditating. She thinks it has done her a lot of good, though, and has changed her Inside so that she can get on with her Writing better as well as do everything she has to do. I was glad to be back Home, I must say, especially as my Husband and I had to do without the Doiley we normally sit on and the Shelf was quite hard. Never mind. It was all good Experience, I’m sure, but I’m very glad to be able to Talk again now.

With love from

Adelina xx

 

 

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