Interviews with Pagans: Beolach

Now, this guy’s an absolute CRACKER. When you run into him on forums he’s sharp as a tack, yet he’s fairly young — and he demolishes the stereotype of slack-jawed uncritical pagans. We have more like him…

PAGAN IDENTITY

1. Name / username
Beolach Lasair

+ What does it mean?

It’s very botched Gaelic, roughly meaning a long living fire – Beo being in most Brythonic languages meaning life and living. Although because my knowledge of the language is so little, I might be a bit off – but it fits, and I like it. I did find it a few years ago, and it just stuck.

2. What age are you and where do you live?

I’m 18 years old, living in Uxbridge. Before that I lived in Cardiff for the past 18 years of my life.

3. How would you describe your spiritual path?

I’m a polytheistic Pagan, with I suppose a small dash of Hellenic belief because of my personal experiences; the practice and worship of which is still evolving.

4. How did you get involved with this path? What’s your “history”? How did your personal background influence this?

I first became involved with Paganism when a friend of mine approached me. She was very interested in Wicca, mainly because a boy she fancied was as well. But, sensibly, she wanted to read and find out as much as she could, and wanted me as an outside point of view – Devil’s advocate if you will. So during this process, she decided it was silly, and something sparked in me. And I didn’t look back; that was five and a half years ago. Since then I did the fluffy thing, but avoided the Pagan scene and forums like a plague – I didn’t want to be embroiled in something I didn’t understand for one thing, and I was also afraid of being seen as too young and scorned at. Over time as my reading expanded from the books you get at the bookshops in town to other avenues, and then two years ago I had a very powerful and changing experience, which set me on the path I am on now and is also where the Hellenic beliefs come in, and the polytheism.

5. Have you always felt the same way about your spirituality, or have there been changes? If so, when, and how?

As I said, two years ago there was a very large change in my spirituality, before then I was very, well, fluffy. I’m not ashamed of it. It was when my reading had expanded, I was looking beyond the confines of “Wicca 101” books and spent a lot of time down at a local park in the nights, and on one night I had this experience with a deity, and changed everything. It’s that point that I became more at home with my spirituality, and where I realised that I wanted to absorb as much of it as I possibly could.

6. Have you ever been physically attacked or discriminated against because of being a pagan?

No, never.

7. Has anyone ever made assumptions about you (good or bad) because of being a pagan? What were they?

I had the odd devil worship comment, but after a quick three minute rant from me they changed their minds soon enough!

HOW PAGANISM FITS INTO YOUR LIFE

8. What do you do for a living? Is there any conflict between your work life and your spirituality?

I am a student reading Law, and find no conflict. I’m not sure if afterwards in a legal career I will find conflict; the risk of becoming a suit is ever present in my mind, but hopefully it’s a fate that’s avoidable!

9. What are your hobbies and interests?

As you may guess from being Web Team {of Pagan Network, a well known and reputable pagan forum}, I’m very much a computer person. As well as this, I enjoy taking walks in any direction, without purpose, and I’m a big music person. I play the piano, and sing sometimes. Pieces from musicals are currently my favourite things to play, they just have so much emotion that it really equates to me; everytime I play the piano I feel very connected to the music and feeling coming out in the notes.

10. What about your family and friends? Are they of similar spiritual paths to you, or are there differences?

My family are staunch Roman Catholics, though they love me anyway! My friends are generally all from very different backgrounds; Muslim, Christian, Zoroastrian, Pagan, Jewish, and all these differences make for very interesting discussions round the breakfast table sometimes!

11. How would you rate the importance of the following aspects of your life? (Use percentages, total equally 100%)
• Time with family
• Time with partner(s)
• Time with friends
• Spiritual time alone
• Spiritual time with others
• Your work, career, or time in education (if a student)
• Hobbies and pastimes
• Other (please describe)

I don’t think there are enough percentages to be honest; I’ve thought about this question for about ten minutes and just couldn’t think of how to answer, since the importance I place varies so much. Generally, time with family, partner and spiritual time alone are up there at the top.

BELIEFS

12. Do you believe in the existence of a ‘deity’? If so, have you ever had any divine experiences?

I believe in the existence of many, I worship two specifically. I’ve had experiences in the past with these divinities, as I said above, and that’s what shaped my path. I believe that they’re up there, but they aren’t necessarily the benevolent love and light that so many would wish them to be!

13. Do you believe in the existence of ‘spirits’ – human or non-human? Have you ever had any experiences of ‘spirit’?

I do, I believe in spirits both human and non-human. I have, however, had no experience of them. There’s just something that says they’re going to be floating around somewhere!

14. Do you believe in the existence of magic? As a believer, how would you explain it?

The existence of magic to me is very much a practice of skill, which can be wielded by the experienced and the knowledgeable, and essentially those skilled in it, but to those who aren’t experienced, or skilled (whether through training or by some sort of gift) magic will seem to either be pointless, or even not real. I believe that magic is the practice of using the mind to ‘bend’ the world around us to create some form of change, and how that bending takes place varies, but somehow it finds a way, but again, to those not skilled, it would be like someone who can’t do DIY trying to put up a desk, a disaster!

15. Do you practice your spirituality alone, in a group, or both? Was this a deliberate decision or a necessity?

Alone mainly. I have practiced in a group before, however I found it stifling. So whereas previously my isolation was through circumstance, it is generally through choice now.

16. If you’ve done both, which do you prefer?

I’m not averse to group work, but I do prefer practicing alone.

17. Do you believe in the reality of curses? Would you ever do one? What types of spell would you include in your concept of a ‘curse’?

Yes, I certainly do believe in the reality of curses, however I don’t believe that I would do one, although I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been so incensed I’ve thought about pre-meditated cursing. My concept of a curse would be anything wishing ill on another.

18. Do you think the law of three-fold returns exists?

No. I believe that the only way Karmic laws could occur is by balance – eye for an eye, if you will. I think that the universe does balance itself, but it can’t balance itself by going three times the other way for a single imbalance on the other site.

ACTIVITIES

19. What practices are regularly incorporated in your spiritual life? (E.g. meditation, prayer, ritual, magic, visualisations, trance work…)

I try every day to have at least a bit of meditation and prayer during the evenings, and ritual and visualisation I tend to keep up regularly at least once or twice a week, it’s just keeping myself disciplined enough to go through it. Trance work is usually quite dangerous for me, I’m hypnotised very easily!

+ Do you think having a catholic background has been a help or a hindrance in your practices?

I think it’s a help. When I was in a Catholic service I had a great sense of ritual, I loved it. I enjoyed watching the Eucharist being held by the priest, I loved the incense, and the chalices, and it still awes me when I watch it. I might not believe the intent behind it, but it is such a beautiful ritual that I can’t help but adore it.

20. What festivals, holy days, special occasions etc do you mark as part of your spirituality?

The main eight festivals – from Samhain all the way through to Mabon and so on. I never really recognised Mabon or Lughnassad on as large a scale as I do Samhain and Beltane say, mainly because I never felt that connection there, though recently it seems that Mabon onwards is my time of the year, when the good things happen, and the last two Imbolcs have been rather depressing, due to events occurring on or around them. So possibly I should start ignoring Imbolc just for my own sanity! Other than that, I try and mark the full and dark phases of the moon, but sometimes I do lapse – mainly because of time, the world is such a busy place I just don’t always have the time to focus as much as I would like to.

+ Wow! All of that and academic work too… how DO you find the time?

To be honest, I don’t. Either one or the other falls behind, usually academic work, but then I find a way to catch up so that’s fine. The festivals occur once in a specific period of time, whereas academic work I can catch up on any day of the week!

21. Have you ever done magic to get something and did it work?

No, I wouldn’t risk it. I tend to have such bad luck with such things that I wouldn’t go near it, and I think I want to leave myself fallow there until I feel ready to get into practicing magic.

22. Do you spend much time in nature, in the wild? Do you spend enough time out there?

I spend as much time as I can, but never enough. I sometimes go off into the wild, the fields, just on a random walk somewhere, and do that as much as I can. But again it’s the time – finding the time to get away between my studies and everything else that’s going on.

23. Do you think paganism works better in the country than in the city? Why?

I think it’s easier, but I don’t think it’s better. I do think it requires more effort to be able to focus without the smog, and the oppressive atmosphere, and the general noise and nuisance, but there’s no reason why you can’t – there is nature everywhere, and the Gods are everywhere, why would they all avoid the cities?

CONTENTIOUS PAGAN QUESTIONS

24. How do you define the term “Wiccan”? How do you feel about the idea that “Wiccans” are people who have been initiated into a lineaged Wiccan coven?

I define the term Wiccan as being someone who is, or has been, part of a Wiccan-lineage coven – i.e. one that came from Gardner and his group. I believe that Wicca should be kept in lineaged sense, but there’s nothing wrong with saying that you follow a Pagan path with “Wiccan influences” – that’s not saying you are Wiccan, it’s just saying that parts of Wiccan belief/practice influences your own belief and practice.

25. Is Wicca and paganism generally too “fluffy”?


As far as the books from the mainstream bookshops go, the media interpretation and so on, yes there is too much fluffiness. But looking beyond that, not at all. You get the fluffy people, I was incredibly fluffy a few years back, I’m sure a few here would say I still am probably! But people change and grow, and fluffiness generally doesn’t survive in general Pagan circles, and those who persist in it get bored and drop out over time. But then it comes down to a person’s definition of ‘fluffy’.

26. How involved are you with the Pagan ‘scene’? What are your views on the Pagan community –its strengths, weaknesses and any issues facing it?

I’m not very involved – I’ll go along to PN moots, and a few Moot With No Names. I think that the Pagan community is very political and bitchy, which to be quite honest isn’t what it should be. I would like to have that feeling of community spirit, that commonality that we all share at least something. I think that at times though it is a great place to share ideas and debates, and I’ve had some interesting discussions over a few pints at the Blue Posts.

27. Does British Traditional Witchcraft represent a real surviving ancient form of witchcraft pre-existing Gardnerian Wicca?

In a word, no.

ENDS

Interviews with Pagans: Elani

I think it’s great that the first two interviewees in this series are atheists; it makes a nice contrast from the usual image of gullible pagans…

PAGAN IDENTITY

1. Name:
Elani
2. What age are you and where do you live?
31, Gloucestershire
3. How would you describe your spiritual path?
Atheist, a bit humanist, a witch by my own definition, an environmentalist – a mish mash really.
4. How did you get involved with this path? What’s your “history”?
When I was a very small child I felt an affinity with nature, I was aware of an energy and it could make me feel very extreme emotions. Thats what I believe magic to be to this day – the interaction of our subconcious with the energy/spirit of nature.
HOW PAGANISM FITS INTO YOUR LIFE

8. What do you do for a living? Is there any conflict between your work life and your spirituality?
I’m a full time Mum with 3 children.
My beliefs didn’t really crop up much in day to day conversations with my children until my son began R.E at primary school. He asked me if I believed in God and I said “No.” and we had a quick chat (very quick, there were more interesting things in the back ground like…tv!) about evolution and I finished by saying that he should listen to as many different opinions as possible and make up his own mind.
9. What are your hobbies and interests?
Oh the usual reading, art, cycling, walking and getting drunk. Seriously, I’m very into my artwork, its something I’m occaisionally paid to do, I’m writing/illustrating a childrens book so hopefully it may become something I’m constantly paid to do.
10. What about your family and friends? Are they of similar spiritual paths to you, or are there differences?
I don’t know any other pagans, although I’d say most of my friends have decidely pagan attitudes about alot of things (though they might not describe themselves as such!). My Dad’s side of the family are ex-circus folk (wall of death) and the women on that side all have a history of precognition which my sisters and I (and my dad too oddly) also share. They don’t practise themselves but are generally very interested in the things I get upto.
BELIEFS

12. Do you believe in the existence of a ‘deity’? If so, have you ever had any divine experiences?
No.
13. Do you believe in the existence of ‘spirits’ – human or non-human? Have you ever had any experiences of ‘spirit’?
Yes, sort of – I believe nature itself is an energy that could also be described as a spirit.
As for human spirits, I believe when we’re dead thats it – but that people can leave an imprint on your memory or the collective memory of places or communities/tribes of people.
I did recieve a farewell from a friend, who’d died, in a dream once – it was a very real and profound experience that I can’t explain.
14. Do you believe in the existence of magic? As a believer, how would you explain it?
As I said previously, I believe magic is the result of an interaction between the human subconcious and the energy that is nature (to encompass everything, elements, plants, animals…)
15. Do you practice your spirituality alone, in a group, or both? Was this a deliberate decision or a necessity?
Alone. Originally because I didn’t know of anyone else who shared my beliefs, although its become so personal to me that I prefer to continue alone.
17. Do you believe in the reality of curses? Would you ever do one? What types of spell would you include in your concept of a ‘curse’?
Well, I’ve never cursed anyone, but I think for a curse to work the recipient would need to believe in the power of the curse as much as the sender. I guess by that I’m saying I think its mostly a psychological thing?
18. Do you think the law of three-fold returns exists?
I didn’t, but then I had an experience where I made a spell for, well what could be construed as material gain I suppose. The spell worked (which was a surprise in itself) but I definately paid a price for it. So I definately believe you should be prepared to make some sacrifice for things you hope to “gain” by magic.
ACTIVITIES

19. What practices are regularly incorporated in your spiritual life? (E.g. meditation, prayer, ritual, magic, visualisations, trance work…)
None, I’m quite erratic – although I write down any spells I make in a special book I have.

20. What festivals, holy days, special occasions etc do you mark as part of your spirituality?
Well all the regular ones, easter, harvest, halloween and christmas – which is pretty much down to either the kids, consumerism or both – but for my self just Midsummer’s Eve which is very special to me for purely personal reasons.
21. Have you ever done magic to get something and did it work?
Yes, see question 18!
22. Do you spend much time in nature, in the wild? Do you spend enough time out there?
Absolutely! I live in the Cotswolds, its so beautiful here it’d be criminal not to get outside and appreciate it on a daily basis.
23. Do you think paganism works better in the country than in the city? Why?
I think you may be likely to feel more “intune” in the country – but its something that essentially comes from within, so if you have the conviction it doesn’t matter where you are.

PAGAN QUESTIONS

24. How do you define the term “Wiccan”? How do you feel about the idea that “Wiccans” are people who have been initiated into a lineaged Wiccan coven?
Ha! Ha! Well, I’m not wiccan so I’m ultimately not bothered – but for the sake of argument I land on the side of those who say – if you haven’t been initiated into what is basically an initiatory religion, then why do you need to call yourself wiccan to validate your own beliefs?

25. Is Wicca and paganism generally too “fluffy”?
Only in America!

Interviews with Pagans: Jools

There’s no such thing as a typical pagan. However the subject of this interview, Jools, is a good one to start with, simply because she’s such a feisty and independent minded person who is both a fairly well known figure on the York pagan scene, while refusing to conform to pagan stereotypes.

Here’s a lovely picture of her down the pub:
Jools

PAGAN IDENTITY

1. Name

jools

2. What age are you and where do you live?

I am 38 years old and I live in York

3. How would you describe your spiritual path?

I am an atheist witch

4. How did you get involved with this path? What’s your “history”? How did your personal background influence this?

My grandmother bought me a book about the tarot when I was 14. In the bibliography there were references to books by Regardie and Valiente so I got them from my library. Since then I was hooked. My mother is a strict christian but thankfully never made us go to church. She was very concerned at my ‘dabbling with the devil’ as she thought it.

The idea of paganism appealed to me as I was always strongly drawn to fairy tales, magic and using my imagination as a child.

5. Have you always felt the same way about your spirituality, or have there been changes? If so, when, and how?

I originally agreed with wiccan ideals as a teenager and came close to joining a coven but found it too much like christianity. I pretty much gave up all spiritual practices for the first 5 years after my daughter was born. I then started on my current path 10 years ago.

Interesting – would you like to expand? (Was it a “real” Wiccan lineaged coven?)

It was a wiccan discussion group which would have morphed into a coven in time. I found their stances on various points as being unresearched and ‘unsatisfying’ in a way. it was closed soon after and I was not invited back, purely because it was a case of last in forst out, and I was last in (or so they said). I then dabbled with eclectic paganism until the birth of my daughter. Mostly kemetics.

I empathise about stopping spiritual practice after having children – I have two under five and I’m barely beginning to get my spiritual head above water… Did you have a burning desire to get back into it or did you get led back in by a friend?

It wasn’t a burning desire but after 5 years I was drawn back to it. A shame as I had given away nearly all my books and had to replace many of them. I suppose the underlying need was always there but being a parent meant not too much time for personal things. If it is within you it never really goes away.

6. Have you ever been physically attacked or discriminated against because of being a pagan?

No

7. Has anyone ever made assumptions about you (good or bad) because of being a pagan? What were they?

No.

HOW PAGANISM FITS INTO YOUR LIFE

8. What do you do for a living? Is there any conflict between your work life and your spirituality?

I am a civil servant working for the Ministry of Defence. There is no conflict.

Do you feel uncomfortable about MOD use of British sacred land, in Wiltshire and elsewhere?
Not really. It belongs to them, but they are giving (or at least selling) a lot of it back. It wasn’t the army’s fault really, it was the governments. I am sure that it would not happen now, for example.

9. What are your hobbies and interests?

Cooking, reading, brewing wines, baking, comparative religion, camping, my daughter

10. What about your family and friends? Are they of similar spiritual paths to you, or are there differences?

Most of my friends are interested in the occult and/or pagans. My mother is high Christian and my sisters aren’t religious at all. My partner is wiccan.

BELIEFS

12. Do you believe in the existence of a ‘deity’? If so, have you ever had any divine experiences?

No

How do you resolve the pagan nomenclature of deities and the pagan practices of working with deity with identifying an atheist witch?
Being a witch is independent of paganism. You can be a wiccan witch, a christian witch or even a satanist witch. Witchcraft is more of a skill than a spiritual path. I was an atheist before I became a witch, as the religious parts of wicca and paganism always gave me a problem. I didn’t have success with talking to the gods, and when I really thought about it, it seemed more acceptable to me that deity doesn’t exist. Witchcraft fits around that perfectly.

13. Do you believe in the existence of ‘spirits’ – human or non-human? Have you ever had any experiences of ‘spirit’?

Yes. I talk to trees.

14. Do you believe in the existence of magic? As a believer, how would you explain it?

Yes. It is science that hasn’t been explained yet. It is the human brains ability to bend the universe to its will.

15. Do you practice your spirituality alone, in a group, or both? Was this a deliberate decision or a necessity?

Both. It was more of an accident. I used to practice alone. When I started seeing my current partner it turns out he did an Open Circle so I joined in with that.

16. If you’ve done both, which do you prefer?

Both as good as the other.

17. Do you believe in the reality of curses? Would you ever do one? What types of spell would you include in your concept of a ‘curse’?

Yes. I have done a couple. Curses are spells with the intention of causing harm or hurt to a person. I only use them in response to hurt or harm experienced by me.

Did they work?
Yes they did.

18. Do you think the law of three-fold returns exists?

No

ACTIVITIES

19. What practices are regularly incorporated in your spiritual life? (E.g. meditation, prayer, ritual, magic, visualisations, trance work…)

Pathworking, guided meditation, spell working, visualising, potions, divination, ritual.

20. What festivals, holy days, special occasions etc do you mark as part of your spirituality?

Mainly Beltaine and Samhain, but we celebrate the main fire festivals and quarter days.

21. Have you ever done magic to get something and did it work?

Yes and yes.

22. Do you spend much time in nature, in the wild? Do you spend enough time out there?

I tend to go for a good long walk in the countryside near my house once a week. I think it is enough.

23. Do you think paganism works better in the country than in the city? Why?

No. because paganism is a path that is made spiritual by the people who practice it, not by where they are.

CONTENTIOUS PAGAN QUESTIONS

24. How do you define the term “Wiccan”? How do you feel about the idea that “Wiccans” are people who have been initiated into a lineaged Wiccan coven?

A Wiccan is a member of an initiatory tradition that is part of the western mystery tradition. I have no problem with people being initiated into covens, as that is what Wicca is.

25. Is Wicca and paganism generally too “fluffy”?

It can be, but that is down to the books being published now. These bear no relation to books published soon after neo-paganism gained in popularity.

Which ones did you have in mind – and would you recommend them to newbies?

I am thinking more of books by Paul Huson, which would have had much less fluff and more witchcraft in. Unfortunately they would not have been any more historically accurate than the books we have now. Just less fluffy. So no, I would not recommend those books now. The only ‘older’ books I would recommend to newbies are books by Valiente, but in conjunction with Hutton or Davies because she still gives an incorrect history of witchcraft.

26. How involved are you with the Pagan ‘scene’? What are your views on the Pagan community –its strengths, weaknesses and any issues facing it?

I ran a pagan gathering in York, and help my partner run 2 others. We also run an Open Circle for all occultists to attend and celebrate the festivals.
My views are that pagans are too apathetic. They ask for moots to be provided and complain at the lack of interactivity but when it is provided they don’t want to come. This is not the case everywhere – there is a strong pagan community in Bristol and other places that I have visited, but in York it seems that it is a bit fractured.

Pagans’ strengths are that they do believe in fair play and that they should be heard. Their weaknesses are that they are not willing to take on personal responsibility for that. The issue facing paganism is basically acceptance by mainstream society.

27. Does British Traditional Witchcraft represent a real surviving ancient form of witchcraft pre-existing Gardnerian Wicca?

It may represent pre-Gardnerian witchcraft, but that would only make its lineage early 20th Century (post Murray, Graves etc). There is no ancient form of witchcraft surviving in this country. British Traditional Witchcraft and Wicca both incorporate ideals of what the protagonists thought was witchcraft but was probably just cunning craft or wise craft. Until Murray printed her theses witches were always thought of as malefic, so pre 20th century people will not have wanted to be identified as a witch.

AND FINALLY…

28. Is the political climate getting more or less amenable to pagans?

More so, definitely. I have no problems with other religions but there are always people who want to stir up trouble. The Discrimination at Work Act has allowed pagans to be honest about their path without fear of being discriminated against.

34. What would make the pagan scene in York better?

More interest.

35. Is Martin Shaw really all that?

Are you kidding me? Did you see him in the Scarlet Pimpernel? He is gorgeous.

36. Do you think synaesthesia influenced you to start doing pagan stuff?

No, because I didn’t know what it was until I saw it on TV. I thought everyone was like me. I believe that it helps my path now as I find visualisation extremely easy, and every sense is inter-related.

ENDS

Interviews with pagans

A fairly significant aspect of my outlook on life can best be described as pagan — though with many caveats and clarifications. It goes back a long way, twenty five years or so, and I think I can say with a fair degree of confidence that over that time I have been a pretty useless, dim-witted and incompetent pagan, but I enjoy it neverthless. That’s despite some ups and downs, which I have written about elsewhere.
silvanus -
Now, I get the impression that having a “spiritual life” is something of a faux pas in my corner of the blogosphere, and that materialism, sometimes of a fundamentalist bent, holds sway. I don’t wish to challenge any of that simply because, well, I have a life. However there are some amusing an occasionally irritating misconceptions about what pagans believe and what they do floating around and while I again don’t want to take on the task of educating people, there might be some value in letting a few pagans tell their stories so people can make their own minds up.
Pashupati-Horned-God
Or not, as the case may be… I’m really not bothered either way. However, I personally am interested in what ordinary (and no so ordinary) pagans do and I enjoy talking to them about it. Over the last few months I’ve conducted a few interviews with pagans for the Pagan Network forum, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, and I will be putting some of them up here.

Goodbye dad

Last weekend I was in London staying with our friends Dan and Emily. They’re lovely people– when you spend time with them one enters a parallel unierse where everything is cool, everything is nice. Not that they’re divorced from reality — far from it (Dan’s family has a hardcore lefty history) — but rather that life seems just that little bit sweetter when one is with them. Planet Dan and Em we called it. As an example: we tipped up at Kings Cross station early-ish on Saturday morning and there was Dan over the road from the Midland Mainline terminal, in his big white van, with a little sound system rigged up in the back playing reggae. (His big sound system — half of Manassah’s rig, some of Awassa’s, from the eighties — are in his carpentry workshop.) We clambered in and drifted a cross London to where they live, a quiet little backstreet nestled right behind Mare Street. We met up with John Eden and his partner on the Sunday and froze our nuts off on the a lenghy derrive around the south bank. Dan and Emily live ten minutes from Beck Road, where I met John in — what was it, 1989? — at Gen’s old house. Their house is therefore ten minutes from St Joseph’s Hospice, which is just opposite Beck Road.

And it was at St Joseph’s Hospice that my father died, and we realised whilst walking past Hackney Town Hall on the Saturday that that day was the seventh anniversary of us going there to register my dad’s death.

My dad — Tom, not Thomas — died of lung cancer after a brief terminal illness that lasted a few months. Or maybe it wasn’t brief — he started smoking when he was a child eleven and I can’t ever remember a time when he was really well. In a sense he was dying for a very long time indeed, certainly he wasn’t really living as much as I would have wanted him to. When he died it was, as it often is, something of a relief. I was fortunate that I was able to see him dead. I think my mum really regrets not having seen him dead. The catharsis from seeing him on the slab, face yellowed and hollowed in death, was immediate and overwhelming, an instant breakdown into tears. He was finished with suffering — he had very expensive private health care which in his case hastened the end — but it wasn’t a good death for the rest of us, simply because so much damage had been wrought over the course of his illness. I won’t go into the details but effectively his marriage to my mother dissolved when he was diagnosed and the whole family collapsed. It got worse ater he died, and it’s a mad story, and was horrible to live through; not just for me, but for all the people around me, including John.

I think it was the hospice that finally killed him. He was in there for one day, and that night, he died. We got the call at four in the morning in Brixton that he’d died. We got to the Hospice around five. I was numb, in shock, as you need to be in these situations, but when we got the ward where he had been it was nightmarish: so many people, all old men as I remember it, hours from death, and so many of them not fading from life in blissful narcolepsy, but struggling in a losing fight with pain, crying out and screaming. I remember thinking, “This is bedlam.” For some there was nothing the doctors and nurses could do. I imagine my father lying there and thinking, “Sod this. I’m off.” He didn’t last the night. We children last saw him the previous day — my mother wasn’t talking to him by this point — and he was gleefully out of his mind on drugs, inured from the devestation wrought on his body by cancer. He made a point of saying, “What’s that herb you take…” — I could never work out how much emphasis he laid on the “you” — and we said it was cannabis. And he said “That’s alright that is.” I thought that was a terribly kind thing to say in your last few hours on earth. When I drove home from his flat in Docklands I knew I wouldn’t see him again, not in a state fit to talk.

They say life goes in seven year cycles. I don’t know if that’s really true or not, but it kind of feels like it. The pain softens, turns into a tenderness that can be joyful. I was just amazed to find myself — completely unplanned — right back where I was seven yeas ago.

Well, geographically, anyway. This time we went over to a park on the edge of London Fields so the various children could burn off some energy and I had to take emergency action so that my older boy could perform a private function without access to facilities. Brilliant!

Goodbye dad. I wish you’d got to see the kids, but that’s OK. Love you.

OTW track listing and original file

On the wire, 17th September 2005: 21st Birthday Edition mix by John Eden and Paul Meme.

The file is up at http://www.grievousangel.net/OnTheWire.zip

You can’t stream it, you can only download it.

It’s not a ZIP file so don’t try to unzip it — just change the “.zip” extension to “.mp3” and you’ll be able to play it.

More comments and notes on the music when I have time…

1. Delroy Wilson. Keep on Trying. Music Lab
2. Carlton Livingstone. You Make Your Mistake. Black Joy
3. Lone Ranger. Collie Dub. Black Joy
4. Yellowman. Soldier Take Over. Sonic Sounds
5. Welton Irie. Army Life. Pressure Sounds
6. King Kong. Don’t Touch My Boops. Unity Sounds
7. Admiral Bailey and Chaka Demus. One Scotch. Unity Sounds
8. Shabban Rankin. Roots and Cultue. 1989. Digital B
9. Pinchers. Bandolero. 1991. Jammy$ Records
10. Frankie Paul. Tu Shung Peng. Greensleeves
11. Frisco Kid. It’s OK. Jammy$ Records
12. Trevor Sparks. Bye Bye Love. Jammy$ Records
13. Admiral Bailey. No Wey Better Than Yard. 1988. Live & Love
14. Pinchers. Agony. Live & Love
15. Admiral Bailey. Big Belly Man. 1987. Live & Love
16. Shabba Ranks. Trailer Load of Girls. Shang
17. Cobra. Yush. 1991. Penthouse
18. Cutty Ranks. Dominate. Penthouse
19. Killamanmachine. Amen. Clash
20. Bong Ra. 666MPH (FFF vs Dionysos Remix). Supertracks Records
21. LFO Demon. Utterly Wipeout (Rave for Communism). 2003. Sprengstoff
22. Prince Jammy. Jammin for Survival (Grievous Angel’s Jammin’ on Distortion Mix). 1979 / 2005. Attack / Morwell Esq?
23. Initial T. Tricks and Trade. 2005. Tree House Cannabis Music
24. Turbulence. Notorious. 2005. Tree House Cannabis Music

On the wire postscript

Well that seemed to have gone done OK. The mix sounded well fat through my ‘phones.

Surprisingly it turned out that the show our mix was in was the twenty first birthday edition of On the Wire — so happy birthday, it was great to be part of it. Fenny said he and Jim were dancing in the studio to it, which was nice.

Then he played a spoken word piece by (I think) an old US folk singer and a weird blues record. Fantastic!

Weird night though…