from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Sunday, 30 January 2011

inner city Totnes and the Shamen

The night is cold. The fire crackles. Hairy Mutt's eyes have been completely fixed on me for the last 30 minutes.
  'Nice to be adored as a minor deity,' I say.
  'She might have a big heart,' says The Man, 'but all her grey matter's on the outside.' (See first post photo.)

My mother-out-of-law (I call her my mother-in-kin), Eileen, an exceptional, unusual and very politically-informed 89 year old, is in a tiny cottage hospital with a broken hip. The Man is just back from visiting. 'How is she?' I ask, lifting my eyes from cruising my viewing statistics whilst pretending I wasn't ego-surfing. 'Fine,' he says. 'Composing another letter to the coalition – foreign policy, education, health cuts. And by the way' – looking over my shoulder – 'she had more visitors today than you did.'

There was a Green Party benefit gig in Totnes last night. For those of you who don't know, Totnes is the small but, as they say, perfectly-formed Alternative Capital of Britain. Think Glastonbury, concentrated. We're right-on in Totnes. We are saving the world with our affirmations. We believe in going on marches, buying Palestinian olive oil and eating tofu. The Mystic (half-)Mile up the High Street has more psychics/healers/mediums per cubic molecule than a clairvoyants' convention. Everyone is an Ascended Master and/or a Reincarnation of Ramses/Cleopatra/Merlin/Boudicca. Walking up the High Street you trip over buskers, chakras and shamanic ear-candle aura cleansers. Where else can you order, in every café, decaff organic gluten-free Fair Trade rainforest-friendly locally-sourced soya milk cappuccino on the LETS scheme or with a Totnes Pound and no one bats a purple dreadlocked eyelash that you asked?

The sublimely funny Totnes poet and satirist Matt Harvey, of the Wondermentalist Cabaret, gave his services at the benefit. He concluded the evening with  a delivery on the current cultural exchange between Torquay and Totnes. (I need to tell you that Torquay, a few miles away, is everything Totnes is not, plus some.) And I can't in any way do justice to Matt's stories or his delivery; check him out online (and in Britain currently on Radio 4 on, I think, a Tuesday evening late - 11pm?). But a brief paraphrase goes something like this:

Saturday evening, late: a gang of Torquay toughs turn up in town. The shout pierces the sleepy villages for a ten-mile radius, as the Vikings' berserking howls must have done a few hundred years ago :
'Torquay boys  – we are here  HEY! / Shag your women and drink your beer HEY!'
 The Totnes men quietly drift inside, says Matt; make a salad, sprout some beans, do a bit of Tai Chi to centre themselves.
 Decide to form a men's group to deal with the issue.
 Go up to the Castle, take the moral high ground, send out healing white light to the Torquay Toughs.
 Decide to learn to swear. ('It was bloody good fun!')
 Meditate first.
 Listen to each other.
 Sharing feelings is encouraged.
 'Not sure about the beer,' someone says. 'I don't really like alcohol.'
 'Yes, I'm only drinking carrot juice and kombuchu' (a disgusting fermented healthy non-drink) 'at the moment,' says another.
 'I have a problem with the notion of shagging the women, too,' says a third. Everyone nods. 'I believe in equality. AND I can't just do it with someone I don't know. Do we have to say that bit?'
 Decision is taken. Go to Torquay on Sunday, early afternoon. Stroll along the front, quietly, inoffensively.
  Someone's brought Tibetan flags and singing bowls.
  Chant goes up.
 'Totnes men, we are here / respect your women and drink your kombuchu...'
  Then they drift quietly home...

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