South London Percussion

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As I grow older I remember more clearly the many faces and personalities of people that I used to know, although I’m well aware that thinking backwards can change the shape and texture of memory.
Time whizzes past at a steadily accelerating pace, and it is apparent how short life is, and how our time in this world is very much built on the bones of the past and the dead. It is our choice whether we use these bones as fertiliser for a bright new future, or whether they  become an anchor for repeat loop living.
This is about someone I knew when I was living in South London in the 1980’s/90’s

In my day there were two types of dealers to buy your drugs from. There were the professionals, who didn’t use drugs and were in the business purely to make money, and those who did it to fund their own habits.
The professional dealers were often violent and hair trigger dangerous and this instability intensified as crack became a common street drug. With these men, and it was always men, you would call a phone number and arrange a rendezvous. You would then meet in neutral territory (generally outside), complete the transaction and frantically find the nearest public toilet to consume your purchase.
Dealers that used drugs themselves were another matter. Whilst there was still a possibility of getting stung by them, this was balanced by their ability to give you a description of the strength of the drugs that you were buying. If you were part of the inner circle you could buy your fix from their home and sometimes be allowed to consume it there. The dealer would supply the water, spoon and even a clean needle if the stars favoured you on that day.
I had been buying drugs from a junkie friend called Johnny for ages, who would Act as a middleman for another dealer whom I desperately wanted to get to know personally. I was well aware that Johnny was skimming large quantities of heroin off me every time I gave him money to score on my behalf and I wasn’t in a position financially to let that continue.
Obviously it was in Johnny’s interest that I never met his dealer but when he went back to Greenock to visit his family, I finally had the chance to meet the man at the top of the personal user food chain.
This man was called Stuart and he was a long term heroin addict. He was short and slight with dark hair and a beard; good looking in a Charles Manson-ish way.
He was a professional drummer and a very good one until his habit ate away all parts of his life that wasn’t focused on drug consumption.
He had a girlfriend, a blonde pretty New Zealand woman who was a nurse, a profession that obviously had its benefits for an addict.
However as her drug habit became worse and she started to look more addled, she lost her job. She rapidly transformed from a healthy, resilient young woman to the female junkie stereotype who rarely went out and relied on her partner to supply and inject her drugs, all the while constantly whining with that grating vocal pitch which is specific to heroin addicts.
Some time after I first met them both she contacted flesh eating disease after injecting into a vein in her breast; most of her chest was eaten away before the infection was arrested.
She was quite open about this and often showed her destroyed breast to customers of Stuart’s. It was so horrible that even I, with my love of the macabre have blocked out the memory.
They lived in a red brick Victorian flat the inside of which was typical of a certain type of addict of that era, with its mess of books, videos, records, overflowing ashtrays and a bed that acted as a sofa.
I suspect that I flirted with Stuart, much as I am loath to admit it. We did become friends, well, as much friends as heroin addicts can be. When I became engaged to the man who managed the pub that I worked in, I remember all my junkie ‘crew’ saying that I was mad (though Stuart alone seemed to realise that I was doing this in a bid to be saved from my addiction)and I realised that my imminent marriage to a straight was fuelling much judgemental gossipy within the the local heroin using community.
My wedding was at Peckham Rye Registry office and I was at Stuart’s door first thing that morning for supplies to get me through the event, and returned immediately after the wedding for something to see me through the reception.
I carried on visiting Stuart after my husband and I moved to Kent. Whenever I had money I would take a train to see him, spending a stoned afternoon at his flat whilst various people who would pop by on ‘business’.
I actually felt as if these visits were reconnecting with my kin as I seemed to have more in common with the stoned residents of this Tulse Hill apartment than with my husband’s hard drinking, amphetamine taking companions from the Housing Estate in Dartford that I had moved to.
After I went to rehab I had a few brief periods where I would find out what was happening within my old peer group.
Stuart’s girlfriend moved back to New Zealand as her visa had expired and I suspect, she knew she had to leave in order to have any hope of cleaning up.
The last I heard of Stuart, he was unable to get off drugs by himself which was a prerequisite of getting accepted to a rehab, so he injected the opiate antagonist narcane to bring on withdrawals, then called the ambulance before he started convulsing. Hopefully this worked for him and he ended up being detoxed in a hospital before going to a treatment centre.
Perhaps he survived, cleaned up, and has become the musician that he wanted to be; I’d like to think that one of the songs that play on my radio, has Stuart providing the drumbeat.

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When The Drugs Don’t Work

2892E2FF-0F02-4F7E-B620-53253CE1859A.jpegIt’s been a long while since I last wrote here. Time is moving more quickly as I age and I realise that I’m living in my future and anything that needs to be done, must be done now, before I blink and ten years have passed.
I’m presently well established in my anti depressant free life and exploring its options and poking in new experiential corners.
I’m not depressed but I do feel, and feel more deeply, which takes some getting used to. I have lost my immunity to the emotionally manipulative memes, news clips and animal protection advertisements that float around the artificial aether, frequently finding myself in tears when I’m fool enough to let my time (see above) get gobbled by computer browsing.
I received my confirmation that my hep C is officially cleared, and I am no longer a necessary client of my local hospital so the physiological need for the drugs is gone, and now it is about dealing with life and all its happenings as best I can.
In some ways it seems harder as I get older as people around me die, become ill or realise that if change is needed it must occur immediately, so they move on or away, and all this must be managed and dealt with.
I learned non drug related ways to cope years ago, before I became overwhelmed and needed chemical help, so now I must relearn these techniques.
Soon after coming off the citalapram I managed to pile up some debt in a short period of time as spending as an emotional survival technique came all too easily, as did overeating and sugar drugging.
However I became aware of these proverbial slippery slopes pretty quickly and started reaching into my dusty bag of tricks finding my beloved yoga, and AA, which I have started going to again.
I clicked that drinking and using drugs would always remain an option in some part of my psyche so it seemed best to be aware of that, although it has been near 23 years since I cleaned up. Also, although it wasn’t necessarily the right approach for me, the fellowship did once help me live in the mainstream world, so acknowledging that and going back for a while seemed a good move.
Yoga, well yoga is a longstanding love affair of mine, and I have been very lax for way too long in my acknowledgment of this relationship. Aside from helping my strength and flexibility the practice gives me a joy and awareness of my body like no other, and experiencing reality as an integrated person is a necessary joy that I intend to explore and appreciate as long as I can.
I suspect that getting the drugs fully out of my system will take a while, so having a lingering cold and some rather adolescent spots appear is par for the course (though said pimples could of course be a result of the aforementioned sugar binges).
I’ve been able to flow more easily into my art and yes, my memory has returned although I am working at training it up and challenging my mind again, but that’s a longer term plan.
Perhaps this is rather short blog but being able to flow into words has been one of the last things to return and I suspect it will be a new pattern of communication that will emerge, but initially there will be clumsy explorations and experimentations which should be fun and at stages a bit frustrating and invariably illuminating.
Thus written, a synopsis of where I’m at. A start and a change so a new story with an established beginning and multiple possibilities of plot and conclusion.

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Feeding the Spirits of Cyber Space

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Magickal traditions and approach’s are fluid things that must evolve alongside shifting times and changing lifestyles in order to remain effective. One must look at patterns and end results, then compare them to past ‘problems’ and how they were dealt with. The dark places, the in-between, the lurkers and the vampires constantly change their behaviours as much as their human counterparts’

On my day off I like to revel in a long, lazy and deep lie in, so the phone ringing incessantly only a few hours after I went to bed, was more than unwelcome.
It was too early for any normal human interactions, too early even for cold callers. All my friends know I hate telephone calls, so I assumed it was important and forced myself to answer.
At the other end of the phone was an acquaintance who told me of the suicide of someone dear to me; a young woman called Sabina. It was the sixth suicide of someone that I knew in as many months, and as with the other deaths, Sabina was the top of the gene pool and a major ‘influencer’ with instagram followers numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
I staggered out of bed to make coffee, smoke and think.
Sabina and I had met for lunch (well just caffeine really; the higher Sabina’s followers count on instagram grew, the less food she consumed) a few days ago and she had seemed fine. Radiant in fact. Beautifully groomed and expensively glossy with the slight dislocation we all have from our maintenance dose of anti anxiety meds.
She was happy, bubbling with plans and projects and potentialities, many courtesy of her online sponsors.
Sabina was a celebrity witch. She would perhaps have been a bog standard practitioner but for her good looks and ability with a camera, things which ensured her high profile book deals, interviews and well paid celebrity clientele.
My other friends who had killed themselves, though with different métiers, were the same in their being blessed with photogenic features and good selfie skills, so were all also doing incredibly well when they for no apparent reason, killed themselves.
Deciding that I wasn’t going to be the only one to be woken at this hour, I rang another of our crew, albeit a living one, Eliott Edge. As with myself Eliott didn’t have a huge online presence, in fact he used that to advantage as he was a cyber witch and a member of the esteemed COCO- Cyber-Occult-Collective-Organisation of Cunning Folk.
As I had expected would be the case, Eliott hadn’t yet gone to bed and was typically hyper despite a sleepless night of revellery.
I talked to him about Sabina and arranged to meet him within the hour, at a nearby coffee house that provided the best rocket fuel around.
I was sitting at an outside table of the cafe when Mr Edge rocked up, near transparent in his leanness with his slightly stained suit still rumpled from his previous evenings excursions, and a cigarette hanging from his mouth.
Eliott was always able to lift my spirits; his camp gambolling being a distraction from his huge intelligence and focused cyber magickal ability.
He also had been personally acquainted with all the recent suicides although not as well as myself. Eliott tended to mix with the dark off-liners; people who played within the tech world and deliberately avoided creating a (genuine) social media profile.
We drank espresso and smoked cigarettes as we talked. Eliott interrupted a few times to make various phone calls, then called a halt to our conversation and hustled me into a taxi.
He managed to get a friend of a friend to allow us access to Sabina‘s corpse; something I wasn’t too sure about but Eliott seemed to think it was necessary to prove a theory of his.

The morgue was a come down from the high glamour that Sabina recently had been submerged in.
Part of a standard Victorian red brick hospital,the mortuary was situated in its traditional place in the basement.
How Eliott managed to get us past security I don’t know, but he did. We walked down the final, damp stained corridor to the room that housed the drawers that held the bodies, one of which would be Sabina’s.
Eliott checked the lined up name tags and eventually slid out a long drawer. Sabina had been cleaned up after her deliberate overdose and she looked small, grey and very much an unoccupied flesh shell.
Eliott rummaged in various suit pockets, and produced a couple of small pairs of reading glasses with rectangular smoked lenses. He put one pair on, then gestured at me to do the same with the other. I looked at the body again whilst wearing the glasses and felt my morning’s coffee rising in my throat. Sabina’s body now looked as if it was suffered from some sort of hideous acne. She was covered in raised lumps with black centres and it looked as if those centres were moving, o god, those things had eyes. Christ it was hideous.
Eliott leaned over Sabina and with a long pair of tweezers, carefully squeezed one of these bumps, and an oily, stinking, glossy black worm came wiggling out.
At that point I fled to find somewhere to throw up.

Eliott and I had given up on coffee and were now in a bar. I was still feeling fragile, something that several large whiskeys was rapidly rectifying.
According to Eliott, the creatures that I’d seen burrowing into Sabina were not unusual. They were suckered astral worms: inter dimensional soul eaters.
These things had always existed, but their main hang out had previously been hospitals, cross roads and bridges; places where people took energy but didn’t give it. They found a new portal when the internet was invented but had remained pretty innocuous until being connected because ubiquitous. This had somehow given them an ability to use the internet as a vector to come through and reside as parasites within human hosts. Their food being the human spirit, soul, spirit or chi.
In smaller numbers they were relatively harmless; they would cause a slight debilitation, tiredness and depression that in modern terms was considered pretty much the standard; a modern malaise which pharmaceutical companies quickly rose to the occasion to deal with with various of SSRI’s.
However social networking sites seemed to be particularly rife with these creatures and the higher the attention and focus on a particular profile,the greater the magnet the person behind the profile become for these suckers. Somehow the energy generated by a large amount of ‘followers’, created a more solid vector for them to travel on, and the ‘influencers’ became a target that would often end up like Sabina, debilitated, drained and depressed by a resident colony of writhing, voraciously hungry, soul eaters.
Eliott said he had been looking at these things for several years now after encountering them in a cyber journeying trance and many other people in his field had enough suspicion about their existence to avoid social media entirely.
‘Was there a cure?’ I asked as I finished my third whiskey and munched a handful of mixed nuts to try and refill my stomach.
‘No’, said Eliott as he made his way to the bar with our empty glasses, ‘not at this point, only avoidance of contact which is becoming nigh near impossible now.’
He went on to say that when they lurked in the traditional places such as areas where a suicide had occurred or a hospital, there was modes of protection that one could take. However in this case, there is no three dimensional mass of matter to work with it; also, these soul suckers are essentially etheric until they reach their target where they assume form from substance gained from both the host and their followers, so there is no specific target to say, work an exorcism on.
In the past you could choose to avoid these so called hot zones or pacify the area by feeding it with offerings or by building a spirit house on it to occupy any ill-intentioned or mischievous invisible visitors.
Now the ‘place’ as such doesn’t exist, so a whole new approach must be created.

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Peter Jenx and the Thai Occult

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‘Cultural initiation requires metamorphosis, and we cannot learn any foreign values if we do not accept the risk by what we learn’ -Simon Leys The Halls of Uselessness New York NYRB, 2011

Belief needs to be tempered with cynicism and some good investigative skills when working with the spirit world. Spirits are tricky and people who work with them can be even trickier, so it seems a sensible thing to do to tread carefully in these realms.

I’ve heard reference to Peter Jenx for some years now due to his involvement in the music scene (former Psychic TV Agent), association with Coil’s Peter Christopherson, and for his work and books on aspects of the Thai Occult.
I had also come across Thai magical objects/fetishes that were sourced through him and was intrigued as they definitely had ‘something’ that appealed to both my creative and my magical side.
I’ve collected fetishes and magickal artifacts for many years, and consider them as both art and power objects but creatively and spiritually I also study their construction and ‘feel’. Although I have been to many amulet, charm and fetish markets in Thailand, these particular items seemed a bit different. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about them so I organised an interview with Peter to talk about these objects and his work, both written and practical, with the Thai Occult.
This exchange was fascinating intellectually and spiritually, with Peter striking me as passionate about his chosen (and chosen for him) path but also earthy, grounded and approachable.

To balance my interview with Peter, I also quizzed some of the people who have read his written work and visited him in Thailand.
The way I roll is I like to know about the person who works the magic, how it affects them and those around them. A lot of my conversation with Peter was not primarily focused on his books (though I did of course talk about them, as spiritual practices in Asia, particularly those with an animist folk magick approach, is my passion) but rather, on him specifically.
As Maya Daren said in the beginning of The Divine Horsemen, ‘Great gods do not ride little horses’, and working with powerful spirits requires a strong and grounded person with a bit of madness, a lot of humour and masses of passion.
The spirits chose well with Peter, he is all of those things. Before expressions of ‘cultural appropriation’ and ‘spiritual tourism’ are tossed around, Peter clarified that the Spirits and Magick of Thailand wanted to be heard, because the sellers (NOT the creators) of their personification in amulet/fetish and tattoo form were often a little off with the truth and purpose of the objects and the Arjans (teachers) and the spirits of the land, wanted to set the story straight about the true power and beauty of this extremely old tradition.

Aside from the listening to Gordon White’s wonderful interviews with Peter on the podcast Rune Soup and general feedback from people I met, I also briefly interviewed Sheer Zed, an electronic musician, Shaman and artist. Sheer Zed is someone I have a lot of respect for who has long been committed to a magickal spiritual path that leaned heavily towards Buddhism, so he was no dilettente to the subject and knows Peter and his work well.
Sheer Zed had a correspondence with Peter that spanned several years and after careful and fascinated reading of his books he finally went to Thailand in 2017 to meet him and be introduced to the facets of the Thai Occult that Jenx wrote about.
When I asked Sheer Zed if these contacts with Thai Magic changed him he replied, ‘They haven’t changed me. They have transformed me. My internal life is far richer beyond any imaginings that I thought were once possible. I feel very different indeed, My experience is now in high definition as opposed to hi-fi. When I was in Thailand Peter shared his discoveries with me, which has been a continuing joy. Being introduced to the Arjans through Peter has been completely life changing for me to say the very least.
The daily practice I now run is a major focus for me and has given me a complete and integrated experience which would be difficult to articulate within the restraints of this discussion. The rituals and encounters I underwent with four Ajarns last year were intense surreal and highly uplifting. My relationship with numerous katas, amulets, practices and deities are deeply satisfying and profoundly moving. I have moved from one realm to another. The spiritual elevator has reached another floor. I can see it moving again- to where I cannot even think. The image of Ken Kesey’s bus with its destination ‘further’ on the front does come to mind for some reason.’

Prior to my interview with Peter, we had also been mailing each other for well over two years, chatting generally about Asia and magickal art. I had initially hoped to interview him in 2017 but life threw me a few curveballs and we didn’t manage to connect until a few weeks ago.

My favoured format for interviewing someone is I send them written questions. This is for a variety of reasons; mainly being because I hate telephones (and similar situations that require technological interface) and when I talk in person about something I’m passionate about I get over excited, and interrupt too much.

However Peter leans the opposite way to myself as he prefers actual conversations. It worked out well as I was wiped out due to a particularly gruelling work schedule so I held off from interrupting too much, and we had a extremely long and fascinating talk on Messenger, which I recorded. I transcribed the results and sent them to him to check over, because interpreting information is subjective and especially dealing with a different language culture and belief system, I didn’t want to mishear and misinform.

Peter started visiting Thailand initially to visit a friend, some 26 years ago, and from the offset had that ‘coming home’ feeling. He already had a strongly developed albeit eclectic magickal spirituality that didnt really fall into place and direction until he started spending time in Thailand.
He immediately had both a spiritual and intellectual pull towards the local Thai Occult practice, which has integrated Theravada Buddhism to its benefit as it introduces a balancing effect and a practical morality to its darker animist aspects.

Peter also is a long term Tai Chi practitioner who initially studied the discipline to stop himself ‘being a nutter’ and was committed enough to study the form in China. Whilst he said ‘I would never presume to call myself a Buddhist, I do practice aspects of it which are helpful to me’, I found a lot of his lifestyle and attitudes towards existence were extremely Buddhist, showing an insight into himself and problems of modern living, and a dedication to stripping back unnecessary complexity and applying an attitude of simplicity to everything.

Talking to him was talking to someone whose life really opened up when he uncovered what proved to be the right path for himself.
As I mentioned earlier, the Thai Occult had long been misrepresented by the sellers of the work and the spirits and the Arjuns (teachers) felt it was time that things were set straight and the power reverted back to the teachers and the truth of this strong and ancient tradition was put on a greater stage.
Many Westerners have promised the Arjans of Thailand to redress this imbalance by recording the traditions for a wider audience, but Peter is the only one who has actually consistently done this, and continues to do it. This in itself marks him out as being not just a bit different, but unique.
Also unique is Peter’s direct, profound and experiential comprehension of the subject he is discussing.
He mentioned that the the Arjans he worked with were extremely patient and forgiving of any cultural faux-pas and misunderstandings he committed whilst undergoing this process of information gathering and transcribing.
Jenx said that the assembling of the information and writing about it was a discipline in itself as the editing was not just about editing the book but also rearranging his own thought process and assimilation of information. He said that this proved transformative for him as, ‘Writing orders the mind. Writing this book was really hard work….I’d let it all out then I’d look at what I’d written and think what a pile of shite, but I’d find that continuing to write was a way of clearing up your own confusion and creating a greater understanding of the magic and your own life’

As he proved his commitment to the Arjuns, they trusted him more fully and gave him greater access to their teachings, which in turn enriched his own practice.
Of course there were challenges, especially for someone coming from a culture with differing taboos, ideals and ethics. The Thai occult amulets and sacred statues sometimes contain remnants of animal and even human materials, which though gathered in strict accordance with Buddhist teachings and Thai law can be challenging to the Western mind (and many Thai people truth to tell); however taboos are often markers of points of initiation and once broken through can lead to a higher level and more personal level of understanding.

Thus far Peter Jenx has written three books on The Thai Occult, the most recent being a huge tome of over 500 pages. All three have been published by the superlative French Company, ‘Timeless’.
As he himself said, ‘I’m still a nutter from Manchester, but I’m a productive nutter!’

Someone such as myself who has been visiting and sometimes living in Southeast Asia for over 30 years, all that time accumulating locally published books on traditions and folk practices as well as oral traditions, can recognise what a huge achievement this is, as Thai practices are notoriously difficult to get solid reference to.

Peter Jenx’s use of the Thai language was obviously a great start, as was knowing local practitioners but I also bear in mind another quote from Maya Daren’s ‘The Divine Horsemen’ saying that, ‘when the scientists come in, the spirits go out’.
Peter, like Deren was recognised in a foreign country as a creative person with an innate spirituality that clicked with the local beliefs, and because of this he has been trusted and allowed ‘in’. Also, he does what he said he was going to do, and this for the Thai Occult community is huge.
One thing that Peter and I discussed in depth was the process of ‘being magic’. I mentioned that I found that people become so bogged down by practice, politics, traditions,hierarchy and verbiage that they forgot about the process of personal change and end goal.
Peter said that in Thailand people ‘live magical lives’ and strive to ‘be magic’, and that he has the same goal. Magic as a way of life and way of being.
God knows Peter deserves a break after what he has done though he does have other plans which include a photo book and a book assembling information on the magickal elements of local herbs, stones plants, metals and trees etc but that is a way off yet.

‘I’ve got a duty now,’ he says,’I’ve been told by the arjans I work with, my duty is to open this to the world and open them to the world; there are not many living strains of magic that go back 1000’s of years and this one has not been annotated or exposed properly.’
Relative to the length of our conversation I have given few specifics of the things that we talked about; some of of it was details of what make us human; talk of mother’s, partners views of one’s practice (Jenx’s partner is supportive but has been known to ‘eye roll’ here and there), spiritual practice in various other parts of Asia, camera choice…and so on. Perhaps I’ll tidy up the audio recording and put it out for public consumption but meanwhile I’ll leave it up to the reader to check out Peter Jenx’s website and his written work (see links below).

What has been done, and done beautifully, is Sheer Zed has taken the transcript of the interview between Jenx and myself, and created a powerful piece of music inspired by it, which he wove around the words. I’ve attached a link to this piece of music, which was remastered by Greg Janman.

Personally I learned a lot from our conversation about Thai magickal spirituality, and most importantly leaned Peter Jenx is a sound and ethical practitioner who is bringing something incredibly valuable to our attention, and for that I’m very grateful indeed!
Many thanks to Peter Jenx and also to Sheer Zed for their time and focus with this interview.

Composition ‘The Thai Occult’ inspired by the interview by Sheer Zed and mastered by Greg Janman of Hermetech Mastering                                         https://soundcloud.com/SheerZed/the-Thai-occult

Peter Jenx’s remarkable The Thai Occult website
http://www.thethaioccult.com/

Timeless publishers link to Peter Jenx’s writing
http://www.timeless-shop.com/catid/Jenx-101.html

Sheer Zed’s website
https://sheerzed.me

Greg Janman
http://www.hermetechmastering.com

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The Pop Pack of Sunshine

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I had been struggling with taking my anti depressants for some time. There was a feeling of heaviness and of being slightly drugged, and I found I was sleeping too long and too deeply.
Then my memory deteriorated to the degree that I was thinking I had some horrible, early onset mental degeneration. Rather than panic I did some research and found that long term use of citalopram caused memory loss to the point that there were online forums of people on the drug saying they thought they were developing Alzheimer’s.
As I cleared my hep C some time ago, my body and mind now should have recovered enough to remove the need for me to take antidepressants (life stuff notwithstanding), so with my doctor’s support I gradually reduced my dose until I recently completely came off the little fuckers. I’ve struggled with withdrawing from them for several years (I’ve been taking them for 5 years, and was also on a course of them some 20 years ago which I came off after 15 months) so I knew they weren’t pleasant to stop. I’ve taken the withdrawal process slow but am very aware that I’d become emotionally reliant on them and have forgotten many of my non drug related life coping mechanisms.

I was raised in a family with the philosophy of, ‘Something wrong? Life too stressful? Take a drug!’
The medical attitude of the time encouraged this attitude with easy access prescriptions, which in those days were the less subtle benzodiazepines, barbiturates and amphetamines, so it was easy for me to lapse into this conditioned thinking, especially as I am, ahem, of an addictive temperament.
I am also a depressive from a family with a history of such, so a lot of fears about where I am mentally have floated to the service and I have had to relearn what is anxiety that I can deal with, and what is more serious (I know I’m on the edge when I start obsessing about suicide whereas less dark versions of the downs I can generally push myself through).
The irony is, I find I am now less depressed than I was when I was on the medication.

Aside from the memory loss which I couldn’t countenance (I would rather be depressed with a working mind, then a sedated memory-lapsed happy person) I had found that my artistic life had stalled.
I was still creating whilst on the pills and in many ways what I was making (jewellery) was the most commercial work I’ve ever produced, but for me it wasn’t progressive or inspired.
The term ‘therapeutic art’ comes to mind, in that what I was making was my version of wicker basket weaving.
Admittedly my art and writing is always, medication or not, both therapeutic and cathartic. My art is particularly soothing in my more troubled times as it has a strange order to it, unlike mundane reality which makes no sense to me at all. I find my creative process to be a safe and obsessive space to seek refuge although the jewellery making zone was more upper layer of my alternative haven, a mindless surface skim that felt like treading pretty water rather than swimming with the current of a magnificent alien river as I do with my more intense art work.

Strangely enough, coming off the pills made me realise there were things occurring in my life that were actually causing me deep unhappiness and my new awareness of this helped me correct it rather than my previous mode of drugging myself into not noticing anything to be amiss.

I haven’t actually told many people I’ve come off the pills and near all the women I know (some as young as 20) are on them. If I was open about my new anti depressant free status,I feel (and maybe I’m just being paranoid) that perhaps any of those very human moments of odd or reactive behaviour I may have, will cause them to think that I’m a better person when I’m more passive and better behaved.
O sure I’m struggling with smoking too much, spending too much and eating in a food as a coping mechanism sort of way, but I’m aware of this as well as the fact that my inner self is flailing for ‘something’ to fix life.
So I’m conscious of the journey once more….and I’ll also be able to remember it which I think is rather splendid!

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A Bus Ride

92EC3ED3-371C-44A0-A845-C02A736CF348I prefer to walk to work despite it making my commute longer and half of the journey entailing walking alongside a busy and polluted main road. In spite of this, the morning trek soothes my mind and often rearranges my perspectives and inspires me.
Yesterday I opted to catch a bus as I woke up late. Truth to tell I’ve been getting lazier of late, seemingly finding the extra half hours sleep a fair trade off for the raised stress levels I get when I don’t have my morning meditative stroll.
A young woman, probably in her twenties, got on the bus soon after me, accompanied by her toddler in a pram.
She obviously found the child delightful and I zoned out as she cooed and talked to the little boy, whilst behind me a middle aged massage therapist with positive thought blinkers, rambled on to a woman in her seventies.
A few stops later a man in his seventies and a female companion got on the bus.
They both had wheeled, tartan shoppers with an assortment of keychains and ornaments hanging off them and though together, didn’t speak to each other at all.
This man was one of the city’s ‘characters’. Long wild grey hair, dressed in dolphin or wolf tee shirts and sometimes a leather jacket covered in badges, I’d seen him around the town centre for years. He would invariably yell out, ‘Hello beautiful’ or ‘Hello lovely’ at me or other females, even if a woman was on the other side of the road. One was always careful not to engage with him and his intense staring; just smile or nod and hurry by quickly.
I noticed the woman with the child had become very quiet as this man, now sitting opposite her, had yelled his usual greeting and was staring at her fixedly.
The massage therapist twittered ‘O it’s lovely to see someone so cheerful’, to which her older companion replied, ‘I’m not so sure’.
I’m certain that this woman noticed as I did that the young mother was looking visibly upset as she concentrated on staring out the window and away from the leering.
The old man’s companion, with her dyed black hair and heavy eyeliner seeping into the hard lines on her face, also gazed in another direction.
I tried to meet the young woman’s face to give her a sympathetic smile, feeling ineffectual and that I should be doing more.
I got off the bus but all through the day this incident bothered me. I mentioned what happened to a woman I know who is in her 90’s and she said, ‘Well she will just have to get used to it’.
For the 20 years I’ve lived in this city, myself and other woman have just ‘got used to’ this man. I’m not sure if he is a bit mad, or just adopting a caricature of a now outdated persona, and what used to be considered harmless I now realise isn’t.
Okay he isn’t doing anything illegal, just being offensive and very invasive, and all it really takes is a few woman to say something to initiate a change.
However this experience wasn’t simply about the old lecher, it was about my reaction to him (and I suspect I wasn’t the only female spectator on the bus that felt like this) and realising that simply because my generation felt it necessary to accept such behaviours, acceptance now means uncomfortable complicity.

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Blindsided on a Sunday Morning

32415115-D080-4F30-A16A-11F8A6BFD88EI spent yesterday morning at the Accident and Emergency department of my local hospital.
My problem turned out to be nothing particularly serious, albeit uncomfortable and aesthetically displeasing (a subconjuctival haemorrhage which gave me a blood filled eye; a Marilyn Manson look which I’d rather not have). This way of starting my day was a time warp of a visit, the ingredients of which don’t seem to have changed in decades.
There were the same antiquated wheelchairs, handcuffed bloodied young men shouting about human rights to their police escorts and older people shaken and confused after ‘falls’.
I saw harassed, anxious parents with overactive children that had taken their physical adventuring too far and a woman in her seventies staggering across the room (until I assisted her) to where a nurse stood calling her name. This elderly lady later appeared with a cast on her leg.
These were all reruns of scenes I had seen so many times over the years.
The nurses were exhausted, the coffee machine yielded something horrific, and the wait was long.
What was different was that I wasn’t afraid.
My many experiences with hospitals in various countries eventually produced an anxiety in me that was near phobic.
Aged ten I saw my younger sister struggling to breath on life support as she had a massive asthma attack, and my own childhood incidents of stomach pumpings, broken sewing needles being removed from my foot and visiting elderly relatives, gradually segued into an adolescence peppered with forced stays in intensive care and psychiatric units.
As we get older hospitals become a more dominant part of our lives. Their perpetual corridors create panicked disorientation in moments of stress and anxiety, as you are racing towards someone tucked away in a distant, tiny room.
I think as the self obsession of my youth faded so also did the NHS’s personal interest in me as they lost their financial strength.Time combined with this growing mutual disinterest gradually dissipated my fears as it simply wasn’t ‘about me’ anymore.
Growing older saw me visiting these places during the sicknesses of friends and family. I attended a bedside wedding of a friend in the final stages of his terminal illness and later my family gathered around my mother’s bed, surrounding her with love as she died.
My constant visits for monitoring and treatment of my hep C over a nearly 30 year period made me a witness to a system that increasingly only seemed to be for the poor, like a run down medical council estate where those with money choose to go elsewhere.
I would ask my practice nurse why there were so many amputees around (diets of cheap food resulting in diabetes related amputations, and consequences of various cheap drugs like spice) and constantly see signs warning of wards shut down to nor-virus, and health care professionals whom I’d been working with for years, look steadily more exhausted and burned out.
In some spiritual lores during initiation into priesthood, hospitals are to be avoided due to all the wandering lost spirits looking for someone to latch onto to in order to free themselves. Other traditions believe that hauntings occur in hospitals, waiting-rooms and on bridges because they are all passing through places where people take, but don’t give.
All those long winding loping corridors painted in timeless colours, filled with the lost, both living and dead.
Maybe that’s why people bring flowers to those in hospital- on an obvious level it is giving colour and life to the patient but on a deeper level it could be seen as an offering to the spirits of place.
Anyway.
Now those introspections are out of the way, I’m going to go and create myself a dashing eye patch to cover my blood filled orb.

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