To go on a pilgrimage is to travel to a shrine or sacred site, usually completing the final miles on foot. It is to pass along a path to a place of devotional, spiritual significance. But is that all there is to it? Is the destination the goal? Is the motivation simply to arrive? What about the actual journey? The pilgrimage IS the journey. It speaks to the pilgrim of who he is, shows him his inner most self. The journey gives the pilgrim the chance to intimately consider his path thus far and to consider and reconsider his next steps. It gives him the space and peace to seek the spiritual nature of life and to commune with it, seeking a deeper understanding of the divine. It allows him to see and accept what is of the soul and what is not – what he can leave along the way. Challenges along the way. The pilgrim arrives at the destination via a route which has often challenged him in some way. Physically, emotionally, mentally or personally – the challenges faced strip him of familiar comforts. They ask him to redefine his barriers and aspirations. They demand that he review his definition of himself. The destination is indeed the end of the journey, but the pilgrim who arrives is surely changed from the person who began. He will have had time to think. He may have thought over the issues in his life which sap his energy and spirit. During the hours of walking he may have mulled over past hurts and disagreements maybe now seeing them with a new perspective. Without everyday distractions, he will have had moments of deep, clear introspection. Emotional baggage could be discarded with the adoption of a more balanced view of life and his place within it. His goals may have altered, his attitudes and opinions softened. His determination may be heightened and his aim surer. His arrival as a pilgrim will be as a wiser man. Away from family and hearth, the pilgrim loses much of what he identifies with. No longer cocooned in his home, his commute, work and hobbies, the pilgrim finds himself in what is left. Whilst on this journey, nothing is seen bar the man. His medals and honours are gone. Only the truth remains. The journey, albeit temporarily, strips him of his status and position in society. Unable to hide behind his story, laid bare, he must face himself. The man who stands in front of the sacred site will know himself a little deeper. To fully immense himself into the experience, the pilgrim needs to shut out the world beyond his immediate vicinity. The world wide web screams loudly into the brain. Turning off the phone, cutting off from the constant stream of information and its red-button temptations to log in, like, share, re-post can calm and focus the mind. Perhaps though unfamiliar or rough territory, a pilgrimage can be gruelling. It can be so far removed from the comfort zone that the pilgrim leaves his everyday worries behind to concentrate on the immediate needs of food, drink and shelter. The pain of the walk or fear of becoming lost may be regarded as a trial of endurance. For some, unaccustomed to travelling on foot, the body may demand rest. The pilgrim who pushes on despite this will develop resilience and confidence. Pilgrimage may be with a group; amongst friends or like-minded strangers – providing each other with encouragement, support and the opportunity to view the experience through the eyes of others. The wise pilgrim can gain insight into his own personality – seeing it reflected in the actions and reactions of his fellows. He will learn from the conversations and the silences. He will notice the changes in his own mood as he walks with different companions. It may be a solitary mission, the pilgrim walking with only his own mind for company. He may find his thoughts slowing, becoming less reactive during the journey. He may let go of the need to narrate on life – just allowing it to flow through. Having silenced or learned to ignore the inner chatter, he can watch the world without judgement. The pilgrim will find himself behind the thoughts he allowed to define him. So, as he reaches the end of his journey, the pilgrim prepares to return to the world…his world. But he has his experiences to bring into it. He can assimilate his pilgrimage into his world – he may notice subtle changes to begin with but the experience will grow and colour his reactions and thought patterns.
Writing lines that will never be read, Words tumbling and jostling around in my head, A lyric named "what I wish I had said - but I didn't." Hearing a song that no one will sing, That elusive tune only silence can bring, Wishing I'd sung it like a bird on the wing - but I didn't. Binding a book whose leaves won't be turned, A story of flying but my feathers got burned, I should have grown from the lessons I learned - but I didn't. Painting my life but the bristles have dried, Safe behind a blank canvas I hide, Should I have risked some colour before my dreams all died? Seems I didn't. Could have told others my story but why would they care So I've left it all shrouded, only I was there, Could have put it on Facebook for a like and a share - But I didn't. See.... I sang like a bird alone on a cloud, I read that book but never out loud. Could have shared my painting with the everyday crowd. But I didn't .
She stood, proud against the sea blown gales, her heart forged in the melting pot of a chaotic planet.
She held secrets, secrets given to her as the world was formed around her.
Secrets which rose her head high above the land.
Secrets she held inside throughout time, holding them close, guarding them as a mother swaddling her firstborn.
Until they came!
Until a man dug into her skin and, in that first cut, exposed her riches, her beauty, her secret.
She proudly proclaimed “See my wondrous colours! Marvel at my body!”
Oh they saw!
Then they came…
They came in their hundreds. Swarming! Smashing! Destroying!
Taking her apart, rock by coloured rock,
Digging, boring, scraping, taking – taking – taking.
Even as she died, her arteries were alive with the industry of her murderers.
Her veins throbbing as they dug and carried her away,
Until only a great chasm remained where her heart had been,
And she was drawn and quartered for the crime of containing what men wanted.
Then sated, they left.
And she died again – for they took their beating hearts along with hers.
They took their lifeblood along with hers
And left her with nothing bar scars,
For on her exposed belly, little would grow, little could live.
They left her with nothing save the secret which had killed her,
The beauty a macabre autumnal shroud – her colours shouting their agony in silence,
Screaming their anger voicelessly in the wind.
Yet justice will not be hers,
For she is no more.
What turns “everyday normal people” into screaming firebrands of pent up energy? What has the power to split families, create rivalries, draw lines across the country and paint areas, ghetto-like, in one colour? What gives thousands upon thousands of people intense delight and gut-wrenching frustration on a weekly basis? What has created a universal language of comradeship and togetherness which can explode into intense rivalry and mutual hatred without the need for actual words?
Employment? Unemployment? POLITICS? Cult religions? Race relations? The gender pay gap?Never..it can only be football.
There are two types of people in this world – football fans and others.
Football! Modern man’s tribal bonding; the display of club colours, the chanting, the imbibing of alcohol and more alcohol, the mass hysteria, the rituals. By rebooting our ancestral roots, football resurrects the caveman still dwelling within us – and awakens his fears! To be one beside the fire amongst many like-minded fellows was to survive. To be able to repel one’s enemies with a group display of aggression – to appear to be the bigger “monster” – was to be safe. To lose the fight, to suffer humiliation, to be second best, was to die. That is football too! The terraces replicate the hunting grounds we thought we had left behind in our evolutionary journey – maybe we have not evolved very much at all.
“Some people think that football is a matter of life and death – I assure you, it is much more important than that!”
That was a comment from the late, great Bill Shankly. To some people it is a joke – those people are not football fans! Shankly understood football and more importantly, he understood football fans. He understood the demands of the tribal mindset and the subconscious penalties paid for failure. The tribe would literally be fighting for its life – for its very survival. Shankly understood the common working man and his need to escape from the factories and coal faces to a world where the warrior could once again proclaim his strength and power with primal displays. He saw the humble cloth cap transformed into a war bonnet, the wooden rattle raised as proudly as any weapon.
Allegiances forged in the cradle are not easily broken.
Children from football families are rarely given the choice about which team they follow – they are gently indoctrinated before they realise that there are other choices. Not liking football is not on the table! Oh the shame! Youngsters are presented to the tribe with pride. This is of great importance to the parent since the tribe’s continuing health relies on young blood joining the adults in the associated rites and rituals. They are taught the songs and the history, they learn the sworn enemies and the “nobody hates you, nobody cares” tribes that no-one fears.
Defending the sacred turf and the pride of the club is the role of the fan.
This is akin to a religion! The icon carrying flock attends the sporting church to worship beside the revered turf, calling upon a greater power for success – or at least, for a decent referee! Sacred relics or football superstitions – lucky socks, lucky pants, lucky whatevers, are carefully prepared for the match. There are the pre-match rituals, THE scarf, THE shirt, the hymns sung in unison. The books within the team bible are many and varied. They tell of victories – past glories are trumpeted to the heavens and the infidel consigned in song to the cold depths of league one.
The players, more like celebrity demi-Gods these days, are culturally a step removed from their adoring disciples, their names shouted with reverence. It can work both ways – a worshipped team member leaving the tribe instantly grows horns and a tail, visible only to the aggrieved parties… any skills they possessed are now negated by the change of colours. And football fans have long memories for anyone challenging the honour of the club.
Watch any group of (mainly) men watching a game in a pub. Banging tables, crying out in joy or pain, arms signalling the success (raised) or failure (cradling the head) of their favourites. Those same arms punching the air or barely suppressing the urge to punch a neighbour whose team is besting their own. Watch them covertly observing the guy beside them – where are his allegiances – what are his colours -is he of their tribe? See the inter-connections being forged – those making the same gestures of triumph will form a bond across the room, brothers in arms. Those whose reactions show that they are not of the same group will be regarded with sullen suspicion – unless their team loses of course! Then they are prey!
Who are ya?
Football fans refer to the name calling and humorous threats as “banter”. Banter can be funny and witty – banter can also be highly insulting and sometimes bordering on hate speech. Banter is songs and chants, it is “in-jokes” about six-digit hands and webbed feet, questionable parentage and social standing… it is part of the colourful football world. Much of the real violence has died out now – the angry young men grew up and became lawyers. Trouble at the ground now tends to mean that the bar ran out of pies or the referee’s mother was his brother, you know? The surging terraces gave way to seating and crowds were sterilised. The rebels who used to smuggle weapons into the grounds now appease their inner terrorist by standing despite the stewards’ demands that they sit.
Some anger remains-
There are still teams which attract the angry mob, even in England where the Government’s knee jerk reaction to football’s 1970/1980’s troubles almost reached high enough to split the jugular vein of the game. Most of the major instigators of the violence are now fathers to the modern crowds – maybe they are not wiser but their offspring seem to be. Mostly. Football is a great way of releasing pent up frustration – playing or supporting. It gives the disaffected somewhere to regain a sense of power without needing to consider adopting a political cause.
The police presence at certain games is markedly raised and tense; they watch the opposing factions, herding them along preplanned routes in a manner that can be seen in sheepdog trials. The sheep – or fans – obey their inner flocking instinct as a means of staying safe. As in times way past, to be cut off from the tribe is to become vulnerable. Understand that and you are at one with any football crowd.
It is a game…it is only football! This is my way of stepping back and observing my own tribal instincts to football through the glass of a screen. We know it is just a game. We know it is unimportant in the overall scheme of things. If your team loses, yea, the sun still shines, the world carries on turning, the birds still sing. But I tell you what – the sun dims, the world slows and those bloody budgies are going to be plucked!
ITID…and if you don’t know what that means, you are not in MY tribe!!
just wondering where this post will end up on my site – which page! I am a dedicated technophobe trying to make sense of this computerised world.
All I ever wanted to do when I grew up was live in a hedge.
Seriously, all I ever wanted was to live in a hedge. It seemed so simple to a seven year old – thick hedges are warm and dry and comfortable. I dreamed of living in nature, watching the seasons change, finding my own food and sharing with the squirrels. The practicalities of life would sort themselves out, the way they do when one is so young – or when one lives their dreams.
Every day would have rainbows and sunshine.
Every day would be different – a good kind of different. Watching the birds, insects and animals, seeing the weather change from calm serenity to tempestuous storm, looking through my leafy ceiling at the stars – seeing the pinpricks of light gradually appearing at night and dimming with the rise of the sun. Making stories from clouds – watching the characters evolve as they roll across the sky, in and out of my life. Never needing a clock…imagine!
Now that I have grown up I have revised my dreams – the sunshine and rainbows are misted over with the drab grey of reality. You know the colour; that life-sucking, heart wrenching, miserable grey which reminds one of bills to pay and social acceptabilities. Sometimes when I look at the sky, I just see clouds. Grey clouds.
I still want to live the dream – in a hedge. But now I want wifi.
But why? WHY FI ? I love that I can find out what I want to know within seconds. I love being able to explore the world whilst sitting with a mug of hot chocolate. I also love that I can write and publish this easily.
BUT BUT BUT…COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY…TECHNO-JARGON…I do not love the teeth grinding, angry, frustrated feeling I get when I just don’t understand what the hell the screen is trying to tell me – I am writing a blog, not running the country – that is IaWaB NRtC ! I swear that the initialisations are done just to confuse us ordinary folks! SEO, HTML, https, WTF???
Tech-speak and jargon should be classed as hate speech – punishable by flogging.
Slow computers, areas without signal, running out of data, incomprehensible initialisations, … I want to be able to shrug off such minor issues and get back to being seven again. I want to extinguish the need for the instant gratification of immediate knowledge. I want to get out and smell the roses. I want to get back in touch with the wonder and joy of being seven and take it forward with me. I want to get out of the trance, dodge the rat race – I don’t want to be brainwashed any more. I want to wake up and watch the world turning. I want to live in a hedge.
With a fairly fast broadband connection – just for when I need it, you know?
If any of this squit resonates with you and you want to be seven again…or at least calm amidst the rat race, see how to de-stress and chill…Zen breathing.
Having spent time sitting contemplating the sheer magnificence of mountains, I was left wondering what it is about them that calls mankind towards them in worship. Why do we feel the need to draw and paint them, to write poetry and songs proclaiming their magnificence. Why do we struggle up the ascents simply to slide down again? These geological accidents, caused by chaos and upheaval, inspire more than misty-eyed art; they evoke deep thoughts of inner and outer strength, of perseverance and permanence, of life – and death. They call to us and we come, spellbound, to their feet – often with the greedy intention of conquering the stoney slopes to sit at the crown, just beneath the sky. As if any man could ever conquer such a creation! We stand atop, having dragged our puny, time-limited bodies towards the stars across terrain we were not meant to step upon, and call to the world that we are conquerors. He who has climbed above others rules the world, he shouts. But does the mighty hill bow down to its master? Does it submit, subjugated to our command? It does not. It never will.
Mountains are the guide to many meditations in our quest for peace and enlightenment – we raise our vibrations to the heights, we slow our thoughts to resonate with the solid, cold rocks, we diminish the ego in the face of these massive natural creations. We see the peaks reach up towards the heat of the sun with worn fingers and imagine that we can do likewise. We allow our insignificant concerns to billow away on clouds which cover and reveal the summits according to the whims of the breeze. We wonder at what it has witnessed, the changes it has seen. Does the master meditator need to ascend the mountain to absorb its deep wisdom? Ask the mountain…it will consider for many lifetimes and reply still in silence: it cares not! And that answer teaches us what we desire to learn. The mountain has long since been there, it is only there and will be nowhere else. Risen by violence, it is the peace that remained. It does not have to struggle and strive. It has no questions. It has achieved what we seek; the mountain just is.
April 2018 – Shrublands Farm, North Repps
Hidden in the comfort of our metal gypsy wagon, I watch a pair of pheasants pick their way around the sympathetically camouflaged green painted toilets towards me. Stunningly marked, such creatures are better enjoyed thus – still wearing their feathers. It saddens me that this brace, these comrades without arms, are seen as sporting targets by those who seem to have lost touch with the idea of a level playing field. It saddens me to have to accept the guilt-edged suspicion that my enjoyment of wooded copses, stands of peace amongst industrialised fields, relies on the ritual sacrifice of these beautiful birds. Stand and stare at them one day – really look – the intricacy of their markings belies belief. Such beauty! And mankind in our civilised way simply sees a plaything – something which cannot hit back.
In penning the description “comrades without arms”, I had watched the pair walking and pecking gracefully with the odd flutter of feather as the breeze momentarily disturbed their balance and I wondered ” how do they manage without arms and hands”. It hit me with a smile of embarrassment that the birds, seeing humans, would wonder what we had done to offend God so greatly that He had taken away our wings. Maybe God is not a “sportsman” either…He keeps the playing field level.
We had often talked of wild camping. To motorhome owners this is a foray into the savage, untamed wilds of lay-bys or car parks – without electric hookup! It is ridiculed by the macho backpackers who venture into the real wilderness….but hey ho, we can feel as though we are being brave in our metal tent if we are not safely tucked up in a certified, registered site. Yes, we have torches and blankets, gas fuelled cooking and heating, and a toilet….but it is still wild camping because we are not in a snug, numbered bay with a plug in supply of electric!
Ignoring the perils, we turned to the lawless, wild side in Norfolk when we snuck into a little car park along the coast road after dark and parked up. It was quiet …the only wild aspect was the stormy weather…but we felt like naughty school kids and were perversely quite pleased when some early morning twitcher dobbed us in to the warden the next day. He politely reminded us that overnight parking was not encouraged – then chatted about his job and the local wildlife.
He told us that their main objection was that motorhome owners had emptied their onboard chemical toilets into the grounds and watercourses of the nature reserve. We were slightly ashamed to be considered part of that group and assured him that we would not have even considered such a thing. Disgusting on several levels.
But – wild camping – we don’t think it is for us. We spent much of the day seeking a suitable place to park up and wasted what would have been tourist or walking and exploring time in the locality. We also wasted a lot of diesel and it would probably have been cheaper to have booked a pitch somewhere instead of stealing a piece of a free car park for a few hours.
Crime actually doesn’t pay. It amused us though.
Even travelling without a site booked in advance is fraught with little irritations – we have Google and club handbooks but no-one answers their damn phones so again, we waste time, roaming data and fuel seeking out a place to stop.
The main issue we had with becoming outlaws was using our toilet for…well…you know. It has been the final frontier for us…the step too far.
Turning the little radio up as loud as we could, amid much encouragement and mirth, we were brave soldiers. Thus another taboo was broken. We were outlaws of the meanest, baddest kind …the sort who use their onboard loo for number two!!
Don’t mess with us!