Saturday, 9 July 2011

Scooters, Boats, and Paul Weller’s Haircut

I’ve got myself a job, working in a shipyard for a company that makes insanely priced luxury motor yachts for foreign gentlemen with more money than sense.

They’re beautiful things, these boats; white and gleaming: they nose through the blue waters like mythical sea beasts.  They are things of dream and fantasy; the kind of item you probably imagined yourself buying before you resigned yourself to the fact that you were never going to win the lottery. You can get one for between £750,000 (if you have a modest budget) and twenty million quid (if you’re more of an exhibitionist), and it'll be made almost entirely from stuff that you can get at B&Q.

There are several hundred people employed at the shipyard, but providence saw fit to put me on a team of scooter enthusiasts. These guys are far more interested in talking about the latest modifications to their Lambrettas than they are about anything that’s happening on the boat, which is fine by me. They were very pleased, I think, that the newest member of their team was not a freakishly huge eastern European body builder foaming at the mouth from too many steroids (which they were expecting), but a thin white sleepy looking bird with a Paul Weller haircut, rectangular sunglasses and a “Watch the Cloth, Moth” T-shirt.

At the moment the lads are in excited anticipation of the Isle of Wight scooter rally. 

         “We go every year,” Frenchy told me, “why don’t you come with us? I reckon it’s going to be Roger Daltrey headlining. Last year it was Ronnie Lane. The year before it was Madness.”

“I’d love to,” I said, “but I don’t have a scooter.”

“That’s ok. Half the people there don’t have a scooter. It don’t matter. It’s just three days of camping in a field and getting extremely pissed. I drink a bottle of Bacardi every night. You drink Bacardi?”

“No, I don’t drink at all these days.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m allergic to alcohol.”

“Why, what happens? Does it make you break out in a rash?”

“No, it makes me break into your house.”

And so began the discussion about alcoholism. I described the physical craving and mental obsession, and they all decided they had at least one person amongst their acquaintance who was probably alcoholic. The carpet fitter was kneeling in the corner listening intently. I knew he was listening because he is an alcoholic, but it hasn't dawned on him yet. When he does he’ll know who to talk to.

“Anyway,” I said to Frenchy, “I can’t really afford to go to the Isle of Wight, because I’m saving up to go to India for two months at the end of the year.”

“Really? I’ve never been to India. What are you going there for?”

“Well, I’m going to study.”

“Study what?”


“What’s that?”

“It’s the science of self-inquiry. The study of consciousness.”

“No shit. Wow. How cool is that. You know you can pick up a scooter for a couple of hundred quid out there. Hey Arnie! Paul Weller’s going to India!”

“That’s great, Paul Weller!” the voice of Arnie drifted in from the cockpit. “Now we can import some Lambrettas!”

Friday, 8 July 2011

Teetering on the Edge of the Unknown

Some people claim that the twelve step program of recovery is “a bridge to normal living”. Bully for them, is all I can say. I have no idea what constitutes normal living, but I know it’s not what I ever wanted – the very thought of it was enough to send me scurrying rat-like towards the bottle; to drink myself into a state of terminal hopelessness as fast as was humanly possible – and it’s just as well, because my post drinking life has turned out to be anything but.  Its resemblance to “normal” is – to say the least – slight. If I wanted normal living, I wouldn’t need a bridge; I’d need a rocket.

As time’s gone by I’ve become wildly eccentric. I don’t care anything about social convention or - if I’m honest - the world. The beliefs that dominated me over the first half of my life have been destroyed, and I am less and less bound by fear and desire. It has been a spiritual journey which has led me to this: teetering on the edge of the unknown, with no other choice than to jump.

I was always going to jump.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Better than Excellent

There are few things more enjoyable in life than lazing around on a summer’s day, drinking tea and listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and reflecting on the fundamental goodness of life, in your underpants. That’s not to say that the goodness of life is necessarily limited to your underpants; far from it. But it can be a useful place to start.

An even better place to start is here, now. This is where life takes place. Yesterday hasn’t just gone: it never happened. It only exists as a number of similar but unconnected thoughts appearing in the mind, giving an illusion of continuity. From this we build our story. “I am so and so, from such and such. I think this and I think that. This is what has happened to me in my life. This is who I am.”

This is not who you are.

On the subject of time, and just to belabour the point, the future isn’t real either. The future hasn’t happened yet, and it will continue not to happen. Why? Because it’s just a random bunch of thoughts projected by the mind (as if you didn’t already know the answer to that one). And they have no basis in reality.

If you think you will be happier at some ill-defined point in an imaginary future, when circumstances are more in line with what you want, you are wrong. Even if – by some dumb luck – you get what you want, you won’t be any happier.

That’s because happiness is not found in objects: it is our true nature.

The only reason we’re all so miserable and desperately hunting round in the world for money/stuff/security/love/prestige/experience and on and on is to try and alleviate that sense of lack; of incompleteness. The fact is that we are already complete and lack nothing, but we’ve apparently forgotten this because we are so identified with the person on our passport; the individual that we take ourselves to be.

Drop it. You’re not an individual. You’re not the person on your passport. You are not what you think, feel or believe; you are not the sum of your experiences. You are not your job, your sex, your race, your creed or your colour. You are the limitless awareness in which everything has its being; that which is the witness to everything, and you are better than excellent.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Half Goat, Half Pigeon

It’s been a funny summer so far. By “funny” I don’t mean funny ha ha, I mean funny peculiar, and at about ten to five this afternoon it got even more so.

I was at work - I have a job in a shed building warships - and was just knocking off a frigate for the King of Spain when I became aware that I was not alone. There was an indescribable something lurking somewhere around the periphery of my awareness, and it had been lurking there since some time after lunch. When I looked for whatever it was there was nothing to be seen, so I turned the other way and pretended it wasn’t there: whereupon it sprang sharply into view.

There, in the corner of the shed, happily munching away on cavity wall insulation and electrical cable and as bald as you like, was a skygoat.

I hardly believed it myself. It’s not every day you see a skygoat. In fact, up until that moment I had been under the illusion that they were mythical creatures, like parrots.

But there it was, like I say – its beady eye fixed upon me like some deranged old lady – in the corner of the shed on the edge of awareness nonchalantly destroying everything around it.

For those of you unfamiliar with skygoats, they’re interesting and amusing creatures: half goat, half pigeon. They are beasts that enjoy a particular ontological status: they cannot be said to exist; nor can they be said not to exist. The first reported sightings happened across France at the time of the plague, but were dismissed by the world at large as some kind of mass hysteria. They pointed out that the French were always getting hysterical about something, and they had a point. Consequently the seers of skygoats were condemned as dangerous lunatics and stoned to death, ostracized from society or chained up in caves outside the village where there was wailing and gnashing of teeth.

You’d think that in modern times – “the Age of Reason” – such closed-mindedness would be a thing of the past, but - to society's shame - this is not the case. We may as well be in the Dark Ages.  Even now, “science” claims that the sighting of a skygoat is nothing more than a hallucination in the mind of a madman; the symptom of a deeper and more sinister underlying mental instability. Doctors and the courts - those government lackeys – treat the seers of skygoats with derision, contempt, mind-numbing doses of Largactil and interminable stays in maximum security hospitals.

But it is written: “He who commands a skygoat commands the world.”

Things will be changing tomorrow.