Imposter syndrome

imposter syndrome

I think I might have said this before but anyway…I suffer greatly from ‘Imposter Syndrome’. Apparently, it’s a common complaint. You set your heart on something, usually artistic, have a go at it but during the process you have a sever lack of confidence. You tell yourself that ‘you are not a proper author, a proper painter a proper dancer etc’. You start to believe that ‘you’re not from the right social background. That a council boy like you has no right to set himself up in any of those professions. That you went to a secondary modern…etc, etc, etc.

This kind of negative thinking has plagued me for most of my life and has definitely stopped me from moving forward, even causing me to turn my back on things I have been passionate about. Consequently, and I know I’m at a late stage in my life, I’m trying to change things, especially my way of thinking.

The thing is the artistic world has been hi-jacked.

This notion is of course nothing new. What happened was,  but somewhere along the way those with power and influence realised long ago that art could pay.  ‘They’ then went about corralling artistic institutions. Theatres, art galleries etc became the province of the powerful. The realisation was, that if enough people with talent could be found and (this is the point) controlled, money could be made. Hence, the birth of institutions like the Royal Shakespeare theatre, playhouses, publishing houses and major art galleries, places where the buying and selling of art and artists in all forms, could be controlled.

With this in place, the entrance of those with ‘dreams’ and new ideas found themselves vetted and more often than not rejected by powerful and monied forces. In short, such are the barriers to success that many give up before they have begun. Ergo, ‘Imposter syndrome’.

I think that because of all this, the artist has fallen into a well-crafted trap. A trap that tells him or her that there is only room for a ‘chosen few’ at the top. This mantra, if it is to be believed (which it is) allows those at the top, absolute control. The ability to control the market. To set prices and rewards. To control when and where new works can be seen. Even controlling ‘the trend’.

Unfortunately, all this has the effect of spreading in the delicate minds of the artist (like me) self-doubt and tremendous lake of confidence. Which leaves considering the whole purpose of any art is sharing one’s self-expression and interpretation for the pleasure of others, totally nullified.

One more thing about Art. (At least one more thing about Art, that I believe).

Art is not just about the finished product. Art becomes Art from the moment you say you are going to produce it. Before, paint touches the canvas. Before pen scribes. Before the photograph is taken. Art is thought. Producing it is merely a record of a thought you once had that you want to share.

The dramatic situation in Stratford upon Avon

The dramatic situation in Stratford upon AvonThe dramatic situation in Stratford upon Avon has become a common sight on social media (including print). To see various organisations pleading for their very existence is very sad. Bodies one thought that were invulnerable and would go on for ever, are reduced to pleading for funds, desperate to keep-going and still be there when this is all over.

In wealthy Stratford upon Avon the situation is of course no different from the rest of the country, except of course it is Stratford upon Avon, the Bard’s home town. And everybody knows that theatre courses through its very being. So the fact that the loudest survival-type noises come from the theatrical quarter both professional and amateur should be of no great surprise.. However, for me personally any sympathy that I might have had initially has dissolved pretty quickly when I read some of the claims that are obviously designed to raise the aforementioned sympathy level to 11 and get folks to dip into their well-worn pockets.

For instance, there appears to be a lot of weight put upon the very useful word ‘Community’. (A bit like the RSC use the word ‘education’ to fill their coffers – another story). ‘Community’ used in the sense, as far as I understand it, that we are as somehow ‘one’. That we are all ‘theatre-people’ and care passionately about one another. That so-and-so theatre group was formed out of thin air not only for the benefit of ‘the community’  i.e. punters, but more than that, formed for the struggling base of performers/purveyors. Galling to say the least.

For instance, the suggestion that prices have been kept at reasonable levels so that the local purveyors of theatre (in all its forms) could benefit is something I must have missed. Not only does it suggest (falsely), that it is relatively cheap to hire a space to rehearse and put on a production, it, worse than that, suggests that all along there has been dialogue. That those in a better position (both financially and with er…’friends in high places) have reached out to their Brothers and Sisters in Arts to enable rehearsal and performance space at reasonable rates. This has not been my experience. In fact, I would go as far to say that there is a great divide between those companies with membership and therefore money, and those of us who operate on a play to play system without a pot to piss in. In short, encouragement (of any sort) would be nice.

I ought to say at this point that I do, sort of, understand.

Once a theatre group has had some ‘success’ it becomes more and more difficult to plan. The urge is to put as much drama on as possible. Which it turn eats up all the empty space that might be free for rehearsal if said successful theatre group hadn’t been so greedy. To put it in another way, it obviously becomes more difficult to find empty spaces that would allow fellow drama people to share in that success, as said ‘successful drama group’ would be eating up free space for their own non-stop production schedule.

My complaint is, don’t promise, or pretend to promise that your particular enterprise is for the benefit of all when in fact that is a damn near impossible goal to achieve. Be honest.

There is all sorts of drama going on in this town. Which is great.

Although I am a great believer in drama that relates to the human condition and holds up a mirror to our behaviour and like a parable maybe offer a solution, I also see the reason behind what I would call ‘impersonation drama’. Drama for example, that offers copies of successful TV sit-coms, that sort of thing. Although I dislike that stuff intensely, I see the point, which is quite simply ‘entertainment’ and a good night out without too much thinking. I am very aware that this branch gives a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people, so until I begin to understand a little more, I will zip it.

The thing is, and perhaps the whole point of this rather angry article (or sour grapes as some will no doubt call it) is… we could perhaps learn from each other if only we would talk to each other.

If we could get some kind of Federation of Drama Companies on the go, where we could exchange ideas and perhaps more importantly, information (even equipment-I have some lights) then a real community could be formed that would indeed benefit us (inc the audiences) all. As it is, in all the years my little company has been going (on and off) it is only recently I have had a chat with another (albeit wealthier) company concerning the problems they have faced over the past year..

I guess in the end I will be accused of being bitter and twisted and to that charge part of me pleads, ‘guilty’. I just think it’s about time in the long theatrical history of this great little town, that the surprisingly large number of drama/dance etc groups that exist, swallow their pride and make a real and genuine attempt to get together.

UPDATED

the dramatic situation in Stratford upon Avon.

 

Birmingham Ninjas

Birmingham ninjasThe word on the streets says the tourists and sightseers are making a stealth-like and illegal comeback. Using skills adopted from the long forgotten Birmingham Ninjas (later to become the infamous Peaky Blinders), they have taken to hiding their smoked-stained and pollution grained second-city faces behind masks thickened to muffle their easily recognisable Brummy tones.

The police have reportedly denied this saying…(The Herald full report)

’ Stratford police were adamant this week that the town was not experiencing a significant rise in out-of-town visitors despite worries continuing to be expressed by local people on social media.’

Far be it for me to contradict our Boys in Blue, but I must disagree.

I was out on Sunday and the river paths were busy with a lot of what I would call ‘near-local tourists’ and by that, I mean visitors within a 20/30-mile radius. Of course, there is no way I can prove my observations but believe me there were rather a lot of outsiders out for an obvious jolly. And judging by the abundance of thick cheese and tomato sandwiches and loud references to ‘snap’, it was obvious where their point of origin was…Birmingham.

And I get that.

We all know what it’s been like to be locked down for as long as we have. Two words…Cabin Fever.

The thing is folks we are making progress. The plague is on the back foot and there’s only one thing that can make a complete hash of all the hard work and sacrifice people have made. That one thing? US.

The vaccination program is making good progress thanks to a very stressed looking Zahawi (never thought I say this but he AND THE NHS are doing a good job and the knighthood looks secure). So let’s take a deep breath and be patient. Not long to go.

Keep to the rules. Keep wearing the mask and just because you can feel Spring in the air Don’t Get Cocky.

OK, so you have survived (so far) but all it takes is a few idiots to think they are invulnerable and off we go again. More than ever lockdowns. More Brutal Lockdowns that will go on forever and prove more that a problem than the original Covid 19 ever did.

HANG ON IN THERE…NOT LONG NOW.

 

Peace, patience and er…parsnips.

The Stratfordian.

Here comes the Sun.

OK, I realise it might be very here today and gone tomorrow but here comes the sun and isn’t it nice. I mean, doesn’t it fill you with, I don’t know…buttery goodness.

I don’t know about you but (and I promise this isn’t a euphemism) can’t you feel even amongst all this disease and plague, the sap rising? The thing is, for me my sap is so risen that this little blast of the suns rays has set me to explode.

Doesn’t it make you feel reborn, refreshed, re-jigged and renewed? Don’t you feel like that after the two worst months of the year, January and February, you have come out of hibernation? You have woken up. Your senses are doing what they are supposed to do and er…sensing. There’s new sniffable scents in the air and a feeling of new life. OK, it’s a cliché but just for a moment, doesn’t it actually feel good to be alive? Like there’s something new waiting for you just around the corner. A new experience. A new sensation…a new person, a new friend or, perish the thought, a lover? OO-er missus.

I don’t know about you, but I feel part of something.

Yes, it’s something to do with nature (‘the nature of things’). But it’s also a bit (a lot) more than that. Like we’re (I don’t want to speak for you so I’ll stick with ‘I’)…like we’re part of something bigger. I can feel a connection.

Don’t worry I’m not getting religious here (but it’s OK if you are) but it’s like I’ve woken up to the gang I belong to. You know the gang I mean…the human race. Today I feel ‘the Oneness’…and I like it. And I’m going to make the best of it because I’m an old cynical soldier and I know it won’t last for long. I’m going to make the best of it while I can and would ask you to let go of whatever is holding you back and join in.

Take a deep breath…and feel it. Hold on to it (not your breath – too long and you will go purple and die). Hold on to that good feeling. Feel it moving through your body like the pure energy it is. Take strength from it. Let it power you through the rest of your day. It’s a golden light full of peace and energy. It’s vibrant. It’s powerful and while you have it nothing can touch you. It’s a positive energy that drives you forward.

Of course,  the thing is, the appearance of the sun I mean, the here comes the sun vibe is just an aid. It helps. And at the moment, as we have all been suffering a little bit, it’s just what we need. A pick-me-up. Because the good days have been harder to find lately and indeed, some of us have maybe lost the skill of ‘feeling better’, the sun is there to remind us. (Personally, for me the rain does the same). All is not lost.

And when this burst of sun is gone as it will, (we are still in February don’t forget), don’t despair. Wrap yourself in your imagination.

And Don’t Scoff…no scoffing allowed.

The mind is a powerful piece of fleshy machinery and we don’t use it enough because we’re too busy (yes you’ve guessed it), scoffing.

scoffing

(you are however, allowed to scoff at this)

adjective

Contemptuous or ironic in manner or wit:

Close your eyes, get comfortable, relax and remember the warmth of the sun on your back and your face. Draw strength, feel good about yourself.

You are OK. 

You are special.

You are unique.

And there is no-one else in the whole of this huge world that is anything like you.

Shocked and Horrified

I have to say how shocked and horrified I am that Stratford upon Avon council have, verified by the Stratford upon Avon  Herald agreed to increase Council Tax.

No matter their excuses (see Herald), I am appalled that during this time of deep National and Local suffering that this bunch of heartless Tories have proved once again that WE ARE NOT IN THIS TOGETHER.

They should (but won’t be) ashamed of themselves.

shocked and horrified

It really is time that the residents of Stratford upon Avon started to think deeply about their voting choices.

The odd desperate smile

the odd desperate smileJust came back from a nice walk around the river. I have to say that this weather suits me. I’m afraid I like the rain and if it’s not too cold all the better. There were a number of people about and nod’s and the odd desperate smile was exchanged. I think it’s pretty obvious that people have had their fill of the Lockdown and wish normal service could be resumed as soon as possible. I wouldn’t call myself a particularly arms-out-wide kind of person, (in fact I’m a curmudgeon and life-long grumpy bastard) but even I have have had to fight back the urge to ask ‘how you doing?’

Something I quite miss is talking to strangers. Although, to be honest such a thing was never a regular occurrence in my life, (my appearance seems to put people off. The eye patch, three cornered hat (tricorn?) and a peg leg don’t exactly draw people to me), and although I have learned to live with it, when people do take the trouble to communicate, I love it. When people (usually fellow pirates admittedly) put their fears aside and make the effort to talk to me it’s always appreciated. As my dear old mum was fond of repeating, ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’. The truth is I’m more Enid Blyton than Stephen King and am always open to conversation, especially unexpected conversation.

When I think back it has always been conversations with complete strangers that have stuck in my mind.

I remember when I was a Dry-Cleaner, a wizened old woman came to the counter of my shop and demanded to read my palm and look at my er…. nails. She declared in no uncertain terms that one day I would be extremely famous. What for, I never could work out because at that time I was particularly unambitious and was just ‘bobbing along’. Anyway, although her predictions were complete rubbish, her memory has stayed with me for a very long time.

I do wish we would engage a bit more. It would be really good to find out more about people and their lives. I know from the time I was a counsellor with MIND that other people’s lives are usually unbelievable and useful tools for living out our own existence. In other words, there is such a lot to learn. Communication is the key and cure for so many of our ills and maladies.

Social media just doesn’t cut it. It’s like distance learning. Sure, its useful and in some ways it fills a need but we are sociable creatures that without face to face contact and touch, we wither.

Contrived card days

I gave up on contrived card days years ago. The pain that made me award Valentine’s day the top prize for ‘most unnecessary day ever’, still sticks in my mind. A brain-stain that I know will never leave me.

I was a young man feeling in a romantic mood (randy) and had purchased a single rose off an authentic looking gypsy woman for the princely sum of one pound. Wrapped in a dark polythene covering of romantic smoky blue, the red of the rose was startling and bright.

It was (so I thought) guaranteed to melt the heart of the lucky lady (I can’t actually remember who it was – there have been so many), and I knew I would get what I wanted without too much effort, (I was young and foolish). She would swoon (there’s a word you don’t hear much these days), and be mine in a flash.

This over-confidence lasted up until the moment I handed her the package and the red rose promptly detached itself from the stalk it had never been attached to in the first place.

To cut a long story about a short evening er…short, along with the card that was supposed to play Volare but squeaked to a halt after the first ‘O’, I ended up looking a complete idiot or as the lady described me,  ‘A dick-head’.(Note: A pattern that was to follow my romantic pathways for the rest of my life).

Since those early disastrous days, I have always resented the designated card-buying days set by none-other than the scheming and greedy card companies themselves.

Especially Mother’s Day.

Expensive and unnecessary.   I loved my mum most days of the year (except when she made me sit in darkness for hours on end, in the cupboard under the stairs). She didn’t need a padded piece of throwaway cardboard in the shape of a heart to know that I loved her. And anyway, I tried it once and I failed.

My dear old mum never forgave me for going my own way and choosing a card that I thought carried an interesting painting of white Lilies. It was different and unlike the usual rubbish I had seen. It was in my mind classy and printed on something that looked like it wouldn’t disintegrate in the rain.

OK so it was a condolence card. A ‘sorry for your loss card’. How the hell was I supposed to know? It was plain inside because apparently you were supposed to compose you own heart-felt message although not necessarily, ‘Love you Mum. Have a great day’.

My family I think were at least partly to blame for my hatred of these contrived card days. I remember receiving cards that I knew were for me because they said so. ‘SON’ embossed clearly at the top of the flimsy piece of cheap cardboard in an effort to remind me who I was. You can still find them stacked up in W H Smiths in the section marked ‘IDIOTS’ stating the bloody obvious…’DAUGHTER’, ‘MUM’, ‘GRANDAUGHTER’. I recently saw ‘STEPFATHER’ for God’s sake.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s definitely a place for celebratory message cards. But I would always suggest you make them yourself. If you have to put an effort in, it means more.  And if you are not the handy sort, I’m sure there’s an episode of ‘Blue Peter’ somewhere on You-Tube where the unfortunately-named Peter Purves shows you how to make a card with just a toilet roll, a tampon and a roll of stick-back plastic.

Mrs The Stratfordian has played a blinder

the stratfordian
Not my DNA

It’s not often that I praise Mrs The Stratfordian on these pages but on this occasion, I must congratulate her. On this occasion Mrs The Stratfordian has played a blinder.

How so? I hear you ask.

This goes back to Christmas and the buying of a DNA test kit for every member of the Lower Regions i.e. Kids. Mainly Grandkids but also including the more direct bloodlines, I refer to of course, my/our son and two daughters. I must admit my initial reaction was one of horror at the expense of this exercise,  but realising the battle was lost before it had really begun, I retreated (as usual) licking my wounds and relieved that no blood (mine) was spilt.

Anyway. I take it all back.

It was a genius idea (that somewhere along the line I’m sure I actually had a part in).  Well. The results are in and what we are left with is a bunch of interested and surprised grandkids of various ages, to say nothing of my own son & daughters. There’s a sort of new sophistication to their swagger, which to my way of thinking can only come from the smidge of Italian that they carry (or ‘Roman’ as one family member has put it). Other segments reveal that it won’t be long before they take up yodelling or a career in reggae. 

The delight on their faces to discover that somewhere along the long line they/we, had an ancestor who was sexually assaulted by a big hairy Viking is a sight to behold. As is the joy in finding out that another sad relative was taken for slavery from the West Coast of Africa.

The fact of the matter is that these DNA tests are in most cases an eye-opener. You/we are never quite what you/we think you/we are and although not (apparently) 100% they give us all a very good idea of our roots. The main thing to remember is nobody is ‘Pure’ anything. We have all been, somewhere along the line, ‘interfered with’. If by chance you refute this and insist on an ‘uninterrupted bloodline’ then your past family must have spent all their lives in a cave high up on a mountain that they couldn’t leave.  What went on in that cave, I hate to think.

I would go so far as to say that DNA should be taken at birth. No child need ever leave hospital without knowing what stock he or she comes from. What a story he or she could tell. Roots. So important. As Marcus Garvey once said, (I paraphrase) ‘A tree without roots, falls over’.

If everyone took a DNA test kit perhaps this would put a permanent zip on the lips of the racist and the other scum who make it their business to make life miserable for those who are ‘different’. A knowledge of their own DNA make-up would perhaps/maybe (I’m sort of doubtful because underlying it all is a lack of braincells) make them think before they open their rancid gobs.

Peace. the stratfordian

The Great Weather Forecast Conspiracy

Once again the Americans appear have taken the lead. This time in Conspiracy Theories…or so they think. Well, we can do better. The Stratfordian feels very strongly about this and cannot, in my heart of hearts allow the deeply troubled USA any sense of success in this area. Since Elizabethan times Great Britain has led the way in manipulation and lies, in smoke and mirrors. From Walsingham to MI5/6, conspiracy and the art of deception has been our ‘bag’ and long may it be so….

???????????????????????????????????? 

The Great Weather Forecast Conspiracy

You’d think wouldn’t you, that in these horrible times where we’re all suffering from cabin fever and some of us are on the verge of insanity, that the one thing that they’d get right is The Weather Forecast?

You would think wouldn’t you, that in this age of dreadful uncertainty and the awful realisation that some of us may wake up dead in the morning, the very least they could do was provide us with an accurate and knowledgeable Weather Forecast? Something to set us up for the day. Something to send us on our merry way suitable dressed for whatever the British climate should choose to throw at us. The sad truth is, the weather forecast is not what it once was and the days are long gone when I would go purchase an umbrella on the advice of these charlatans.

Unfortunately, times have changed.

The weather forecast is not what it seems. It is not what it appears to be and is now being used for sinister and nefarious purposes. To put it bluntly, The Weather forecast has become, over the years the propaganda arm of the British Government.

Think about it.

It is a scientific fact that knowing what is going to happen in the British skies over our British heads (rain) is absolutely, and always has been, vital to our British well-being. The weather forecast holds a very special, and powerful place in what it means to be British. In short, whoever holds the keys to the weather forecast has, and I can think of no other way of putting this, has, an open door into the hearts and minds of a very large proportion of the British population. And because of that we are being led, albeit subconsciously, down a very dangerous path.

Think about the way we receive our weather news.

If it’s not boring men with beards telling us what’s going to happen weather-wise, it’s super attractive sultry women who are so let’s face it, so sexy that the weather is the last thing on even the keen weather-watcher’s mind.  Also, even if you were able to pull yourself away from the on-screen temptresses and take note of what was being said, it wouldn’t take you long to realise that the predictions were complete and absolute nonsense. Easily proved by the fact that there hasn’t been an accurate forecast for years.

It’s obvious that the whole thing is a plot, a ploy.

The truth is they can produce as many animated maps as they like but predicting the weather is the last thing they do. The whole thing is a ruse.

So what is it…The Weather forecast is a mind-control exercise.

In short. the BBC are pumping government propaganda into your dulled and diverted brain. The shocking thing is…THIS IS NOT NEW.

If you are as old as me no doubt you will remember TV’s, ‘Potter’s Wheel’.

Basically, a five-minute film of a potter’s wheel (yawn) and a pot being thrown. We were told that ‘there would be a short break’ before the next programme and ‘The Potter’s Wheel’ would ‘fill our time’.  I now know better.

We were being hypnotized. Manipulated and gently opened up to all sorts of (to this day) unknown propaganda. These, I suspect were experiments and the early days of mind-control.

And so it goes on…

Beware. Stay alert and watch the skies.

Just a little Prick

just a little prick
                 NOT MY ARM (STUNT ARM)

A very good start to the day today and after all the fuss it was just a little prick. Yes indeedy, today was my day to be  summoned to the hospital for a shot in the arm of the AstraZeneca virus beater. The first of two, I’m glad to report that all went well and I was in and out in a flash. I thought I would have to hang on for a bit to make sure there weren’t any side effects. But no, as I wasn’t driving, I was allowed to go immediately. It would appear that it’s OK to collapse in the street but NOT when in charge of a vehicle.

There were some people who were required to stay and as far as I could see most everyone seemed fine and dandy. There was admittedly a set of empty clothes smouldering on one of those plastic hospital chairs and a very distressed woman who appeared to have grown an extra set of limbs, but when I inquired of the nurse she told me not to worry ‘as it would pass’.

Unfortunately, there was nothing anyone could do for the gentleman who once owned the empty set of smouldering clothes but once again I was assured that this was an extremely rare occurrence and the next of kin were on the way to remove the debris.

I was advised to increase my pace and move swiftly on by a large er…doorman,  passing the pool of thick (and steaming) purple liquid and the gentleman whose socks appeared to be rolling up and down of their own accord, with barely a second glance. Then out into the fresh air. Hurrah for the NHS.

I’ve managed to walk from Stratford hospital through a fairly deserted town with no major side effects as far as I can tell. Although, (how can I put this)…to be honest, I have noticed a surge in a er…personal area that I am going to put down as beneficial, although of course only time will tell. I suspect (sadly), as the nurse told me earlier...’it will pass’.

So, to all those who are worried about the vaccination and to quote a well-known Carry-On film (Carry On Doctor?) again, ‘it’s only a little prick’ and it goes without saying, worth it.

May I also say at this point a HUGE THANK YOU to the team of volunteers at the hospital who made today and easy and quite pleasant experience.

the stratfordian

Thanks from The Stratfordian.

The Fat Stratfordian

the fat StratfordianYesterday, cunningly disguised as ‘The Fat Stratfordian’ (I wish). I got to escape what I have come to call my sheltered accommodation for an appointment with my local surgery’s Diabetic Nurse.

The mission was to discover why I had turned from a Greek God to a large and it has to be said, rotund gentleman, seemingly overnight. Or, to put it another way, why I could easily be mistaken for ‘The creature from Planet Lard’.

With my excuses in hand and well-rehearsed, ‘Honest it was the lockdown what done it’ I prepared for battle with the no-holds-barred Nurse C.

The Verdict. (She won).

The straight-talking Nurse C went for the jugular.

Basically, if I didn’t lose at least 2 stone by March I would become a died- (see what I did there?) in-the-wool Diabetic and on the pill forever.

Even, if the truth were told, this did not come as a great shock I still had to have a sit-down. So I got myself a coffee… (I do like the fact that a number of shops are selling coffee from literally their front doors. Long, (unlike the virus, may it last), and deposited myself on a backless (what’s that all about?) by the swan fountain thingy on the Bancroft, to do something I hadn’t been able to do for a long while, people watch.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to mention this but Town feels wrong. Everybody drifting along as though in a dream.

No-one appeared in the hurry you usually associate with Town centres (even Stratford upon Avon Town centre). In fact speaking as an expert on how people pace themselves in Town Centres, the rhythm was what I would call zombie-like. Very strange. Odd in fact. Although I have to admit that it has been so long since I have been around more than four people, it could have been me.

Anyway, from where I sat it was obvious that there were one or two illegal visitors. (Easily spotted because of their need for fish and chips and the way that they just didn’t fit). I was surprised not only by their presence but by the fact that they nearly all appeared to be in the most at-risk group, older people. Perhaps I wondered shockingly, they had given up and this was the most pleasant way of suicide they could think of. Death by sight-seeing.

The other thing that baffled me was the number of shops that were open. I was under the impression that only essential shops were allowed to do business. W H Smiths…. essential? I’ve was obviously missed something here. Possibly something about Toblerone being a necessity.

Anyway, curiosity sated and boredom creeping in, I began my long drudge home to Trinity Mead carrying extra weight and contemplating life as a one potato a day man.

Sad.

The fat Stratfordian.

Ten predictions for 2021

Ten predictions for 2021In a year where it’s still too early and unwise to get a tattoo reading ‘I made it to 2021’ and the Number One Christmas Carol was ‘Deck the Halls with Spores of Covid’. I still want to say to my surviving reader, ‘well done’ for coming this far.

I wish I could go further and say ‘have a happy and mask-less New Year’ but I think we all know, even with the miraculous vaccine that this is probably an impossibility (and a good thing?). Anyway, to set us on our way here are…

Ten predictions for 2021.

  1. Brexit will return this land to the black and white of the 1950’s.
  2. Sausage and Mash will become the staple diet and vegetables will once again be limp and lifeless.
  3. Children will not be able to leave the table until they have ‘cleaned their plate’.
  4. We will return to wearing our dead relation’s clothes and there will be an old lady down the road who does the knitting for the whole street.
  5. Mutton will become a thing again.
  6. Outside restaurant/pub Tables and Chairs will retreat indoors marking symbolically the end of our brief flirtation with being European.
  7. Brexit will suck what’s left of goodness from these British Isles.
  8. Expect a rise in Right Wing Jingoism and ‘Johnny Foreigner’ rhetoric.
  9. There will be rationing.
  10. Nadhim Zahawi will be knighted for his work regarding the Vaccine.

This is an update of a previous post.

Something about the snow

Don’t you just love the snow? I know I do. There’s something about the snow that suddenly endears me to my fellow man and woman. When the Weather Forecast predicts snow,  I want to take them under my wing and cosy up in front of a log fire (without getting arrested). And when that’s done I want to rush around living life to the full and leaving my mark. Also, for some weird reason the snow fills me full of mischievousness. 

The snow for me is like a rainbow is for other people. The snow apart from all the weird things I describe above, is for me a sign of hope. A sign of freshness. Like a good old cleanout. Like disinfectant from the heavens. When the snow comes I always find myself wishing my kids hadn’t grown up and I could take in once again, the wonder of their faces when they wake up and look out of the window.

I also wish I had a pet again. I once had a three-legged cat called Max who refused to accept that he had a leg missing and suffered the most hilarious mishaps because of his disregard of his disability. He loved the snow too. Touching it with his good (and only) front leg as though he had never seen it before.

There’s something about the snow that makes the memories come in fast and furious.

something about the snow
Not me

One of which is me in a pram, in a snowstorm, well wrapped up and parked in the back garden. Mums in those days thought nothing of putting baby outside in all sorts of weather. Tightly swaddled. Warm and quite safe in the Rolls-Royces of perambulators that were common in those days (what was that make – anybody?).

No matter that she sometimes had to dig me out after a few hours we were as safe as houses. I’m sure (could be a false memory) I also remember at the nursery I attended, having our usual afternoon nap on camp beds parked outside in a snow flurry.

I’m inclined to say that those were the days, that it was a golden age when we were hardy, germ free and resistant to most everything. Of course, that wouldn’t be true. Polio ran through us at speed, crippling us as it went. Committing hundreds of kids and adults to ‘iron lungs’, callipers and life-long limps. Sometimes death.

In truth, I sometimes wonder how we survived. Our diets were crap, we lived in a coal driven world and began work in our early teens sometimes in the most appalling conditions.

Yet here we are. Ravaged, yes but full of thanks (I hope) to our parents for the amazing efforts they put in for their and our, survival.

For me there’s something about the snow that serves as a reminder that life goes on.  And always there’s something about the snow that leaves me with a sense of wonderment.

I watch it fall, (the thicker the better) and still, even after all those lessons at school about weather systems etc, I marvel because I still don’t get how it happens.

An imposter like me. What went wrong Part II

How times have changed. A few years ago I was a religious person. So much so I went on to study (ha!) for the Priesthood (Church of England). I was Ordained early nineties at Coventry Cathedral and became The Reverend The Stratfordian. To this day, I am amazed that an imposter like me made it that far.

It was not a particularly pleasant trip or indeed easy.

There was a lot of ‘Man in the Mirror’ stuff and a lot of confrontation with people. People, who although holding senior positions in the Church, should have spent more time looking at themselves rather than  spend it, judging me.

I think it’s safe to say that my although problems, my doubts started the moment I stepped through the doors of Salisbury and Wells Theological College, I met some fantastic and unusual people and I have no regrets, although I sometimes wonder if perhaps it would have been better and saved a lot of people a lot of precious time, if I had never bothered. Who knows…?

I actually fought hard to go to theological college because I was under the naïve impression that if I got in that my so-called faith would be explored. That I would find justification. That I would find that God indeed does work in mysterious way and…and…he had chosen me. I actually believed that College would put the stamp of approval on my ‘Faith’. That there would be questions and finally answers that would make it OK to move forward. Sadly, I was very wrong. It wasn’t like that at all. To put it simply, College was an instruction manual on ‘How to become a Church of England Priest/Vicar’. Hymns to sing and prayers to murmur on the correct day.

Anyway, enough of that. Here’s something I recently came across, that sums up everything that I began to feel in those early days and proceeds to grow as I get older. I wish I had come across it then. I thought I was alone.

Did you know that when Einstein gave some conference in the numerous universities of USA, the recurring question that the students did was:

– Do you believe in God?
And he always answered:
– I believe in the God of Spinoza.

The one who hadn’t read Spinoza stayed in the same…
I hope this gem of history will serve them as much as I do.

Baruch De Spinoza was a Dutch philosopher considered one of the three great rationalist in the century of philosophy, along with French Descartes. Here’s some of him.
This is the God or nature of Spinoza:

God would have said:

“Stop praying. What I want you to do is to go out into the world to enjoy your life.
I want you to enjoy, sing, have fun and enjoy everything I’ve done for you.
Stop going to those gloomy, dark and cold temples that you built yourself and that you say to be my home.

My house is in the mountains, in the forests, the rivers, the lakes, the beaches. That’s where I live and express all my love for you.

Stop blaming me for your miserable life; I never told you you were a sinner.

Stop being scared. I do not judge you, nor criticize you, (you do not) anger me, nor bother me. (There is no) punishment. I am pure love.

Stop asking me  (for) forgiveness, there’s nothing to forgive.

If I made you… I filled you with passions, limitations, pleasures, feelings, needs, inconsistencies… of free will, how can I blame you if you answer something that I put in you?

How can I punish you for being as you are, if I’m the one I made you? Do you think I could create a place to burn all my children who misbehave, for the rest of eternity?
What kind of God can do that?

Forget about any kind of commandments, of any kind of laws; those are wiles to manipulate you, to control you and that only create guilt in you.

Respect your peers and don’t do what you don’t want for you.

The only thing I ask is that you pay attention in your life, that your alert status is your guide.

This life is the only thing there is, here and now and the only thing you need.

I have made you absolutely free, there are no prizes or punishments, there are no sins or virtues, no one carries a marker, no one carries a record.
You are absolutely free to create in your life a heaven or hell.

I couldn’t tell you if there’s anything after this life, but I can give you a tip. Live as if there wasn’t.
As if this was your only chance to enjoy, to love, to exist.

So, if there is nothing, then you will have enjoyed the opportunity I gave you. And if there is, be sure that I will not ask you if you behaved well or wrong, I will ask you. Did you like it?… did you have fun What did you enjoy the most? What did you learn?…

Stop believing in me; believe is to assume, guess, imagine. I don’t want you to believe in me, I want you to feel in you when you kiss your beloved, when you (lift) your little girl, when you love your dog, when you bathe in the sea.

Stop praising me. What kind of egotistical God do you think I am?

I’m bored (when you) praise me, I’m fed up (when you) thank me.

Do you feel grateful? Prove it taking care of you, your health, your relationships, the world. Express your joy! That’s the way to praise me.

The only thing sure is that you are here, that you are alive, that this world is full of wonders.

What do you need more miracles for?

Why so many explanations?

Don’t look for me outside, you won’t find me. Find me inside… there I’m beating in you.”

Baruch De Spinoza

Persons of Colour

For Christmas last year all my kids (Kids!? The youngest is only 37-bless him) got a DNA kit. Soon the results will come in and they should to a man and women be able to claim the mantle, POC or Persons of Colour.

Probably more important to me than them, when they open that envelope they will see a positive connection to the West of Africa. For me, (I don’t really want to speak for them, but I know I’m safe in the assumption) it was a tremendous moment that few will understand and indeed some will even wonder what all the fuss is about. But to finally have proof (my blood) and as it were, an identity, put simply a place to originate from with a history, (dark as it may be) was a very important moment in my life. It filled up an empty chasm that existed since the day I realised that even my school couldn’t be bothered to tell me who I was.

However, all wasn’t lost. Thanks to a life-long curiosity brought on by a lack of answers and  things I’d prefer to push into that dingy little room at the back of my mind, I had done my research some time ago, so was not wandering around uselessly in the dark. Thanks to the wonders of the modern age and the best birthday gift I have ever had from Rosie here it was, my ‘history’ in (wait for it), black and white. The icing on the cake.

For me definitely, and I hope for my offspring the DNA was a positive move but there are what I like to call, consequences.

First of all, there will be some Black people who will say that me and my kids aren’t Black enough. And to call ourselves People of Colour is a stretch of the imagination. To them I would offer a hearty F O and say that (in my case) and whether they like it or not, I am just a Brother who was taken a little further away than they were and the sooner they accept that the sooner we can join together and fight the scourge of racism.

And secondly, there will (always) be the dyed in the wool racists who won’t change for nobody. Unfortunately, we can’t ship them out on a reverse Windrush, (where would you send them?) And it wouldn’t be right to shoot them, so I guess it’s best that they are continually fought off and confronted with reality…ergo…

We are here and we ain’t going away anytime soon. Get used to it.

Mental ill-health

mental ill-healthThe news that yet another member of my family is experiencing mental ill-health was a bit of a blow I have to admit and another restless night wondering what the hell is happening to us all. And by all, I don’t just mean my family unit. I’ve never known so many people ‘on the pill’ (Prozac).

 

Mental ill-health.

We’re all at it, self-included.

God knows what it is like for those that really suffer, but waking up in the morning (for me) is usually rotten for at least 30 minutes and then, if it’s a bad day, sporadic intervals over the next 24 hours. For some reason the weight and misery of the world piles in and takes up residence in my head.

This is of course blatantly ridiculous because I live in Stratford upon Avon.

The Taliban don’t have a base here (as far as I know). There hasn’t been a locus swarm to wipe out our crops in living memory so we’re not starving, and at the moment, I’m not called upon to sign up to the army and go abroad and conquer foreign lands. So all in all, everything is tickety boo and Bristol fashion.

I am living a very nice (I was going to say European – wash my mouth out with soap and water) lifestyle. We’re extremely comfortable with all the basics. We have heat, we have food, we have electricity. I have no religious fanatics telling to believe in a destructive God and I am not being bombed by a fanatical Government who want to get me round to their way of thinking. What I do have is a problem when I wake up in the morning.

Like many over-privileged Westerners, I have the misery symptoms but none of the actual misery. Symptoms without a Cause that goes by the name of  Anxiety‘.

Of course, the temptation is to say, ‘Pull yourself together’If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, ‘pulling oneself together’ doesn’t work. For two reasons. First of all,

  1. I’m not a pair of curtains/drapes and secondly…
  2. I don’t have that kind of control. As hard as I try, the misery clings on as though a separate entity.

However, in my case, the pills appear to work.

The cutting, razored edge of this mysterious misery is dulled and for a while, tamed. (It must be the pills because if I attempt to come off them I come over all doo-lally and fall once again into the pit).

The pills.

As I said, the pills work, so, why I hear you ask, ‘Why would you want to come off them’?

The answer is simple.

I don’t like taking them because it is in my addled brain a sign of defeat. Deep down inside I want to beat this thing without any artificial help. But, I know that ain’t gonna happen. I have to reluctantly turn myself over to the pharmaceutical giants.

I’m told by those who know about these things that there is, a chemical in my brain that is misbehaving. Why it’s misbehaving I have no real idea although I’m led to believe that it could have been triggered by some past life experience. To get to the bottom of this puzzle and go some way to finding an answer and maybe a cure, I would have to employ an expensive therapist but like many others, that kind of solution is not something I can afford. I can’t afford the therapist, so I have no choice. It’s the pills for me and thousands of others like me.

[Personally, and I’d appreciate it if you kept this to yourself, My own personal diagnosis says it’s something to do with the time we live in. As I alluded to above there are various unpleasant things happening right this very moment to a large part of the Human race all while another part of the Human race goes relatively untouched. THIS IS NOT FAIR. I believe that all human beings are somehow connected. Taking that into consideration, I believe that a large number of us diagnosed with mental problems and are in fact suffering from a form of…GUILT.]

Dealing with it. 

There are in my case, moments of peace and quiet when ‘it’ seems to leave me. I’ve learnt to take advantage of them, to relax in them before the onslaught begins again.

Something I have discovered quite recently is the ability ‘to answer back’. I read somewhere about someone who uses a mantra (a form of words, a sentence, anything) to go on the defensive. So, for instance when I feel my brain beginning its regular delivery of doom and gloom, I tell it (aloud) to ‘stop lying’ or in simple terms to (excuse the French), to ‘fuck off and leave me alone’.

(NOTE: The best place to practise this is in the privacy of your own room as it is quite possible, in these times of great misunderstanding, for it to be construed as a conversation with invisible friends).

Another good way of dealing with it is not to suffer alone. If the therapist route is for you and you can afford it, then good for you. Use it. For those of us poverty stricken odd-bods. Find an outlet. Call a friend. Talk to someone you trust. Don’t let it fester.

To sum up. My theory.

Mental ill-health of the type I am describing and so often labelled ‘Anxiety’ is *I believe, a consequence of the times we live in. It is, in part, I am convinced, caused by our ‘picking up’ on the sufferings of our fellow human beings no-matter who or where they are.

  • my own personal theory/just a feeling that’s never been raced or rallied.

What went wrong Part I

what went wrong

It’s true you know. The closer one gets to one’s Sell-by date, the more time is spent looking back on one’s life and wondering ‘what went wrong’.

In my case I find myself looking back to the crazy time I decided that I was maybe, ‘holier than thou’ and should train as an Anglican Priest to prove a point.

Believe it or not and to cut a very long story short, I was accepted and went for training at the now extinct Salisbury and Wells Theological College, (I’ve always felt that I had something to with its demise but that’s another story for another time).  Anyway, within a few short months I think it’s fair to say, I had the distinct feeling that I might have made a big mistake and had been reading the signs wrong.

[NOTE: I put this feeling down to a recent pondering and subsequent enlightenment that throughout my life, I have been unable to, and have great difficulty in how you say…’Towing the line’. Or to be brutally honest, arrogance, i.e. ‘my way or the highway’].

Those ‘few short month’ I referred to a moment ago, kicked in when I realised most of the would-be Priests and Vicars I trained with (I include myself here) were, rather than disciples, hangers-on. All desperately looking for a way through their fear of life and who they really were,  that didn’t leave them at the bottom of the pile. 

To put in simply.

We/they all were in desperate need of someone to tell them what to do. The need for an authority figure to berate us when we misbehaved and sedate us if we had any thoughts of misbehaving. Someone/something to confess to and feel better about ourselves.

I fitted the bill perfectly. .I felt so much better about myself especially when I realised the comedic value of lots of grown men and women falling to their knees to confess their so-called ‘sins’. Usually, those moments in their lives when they had succumbed to their natural urges, sex and that, something I did all the time.

It was around that time that my vision/my idea of God, which was a little ‘loose’ to start with, started to diverge from the Gospel of the Church of England.

To cut a long story short I ended up as the last Ordinand in College without a job to go to. I gave up going to the chapel unless I had to and spent my time indulging. Anything to keep my mind off my original reasoning on being there. I felt a fool.

I actually was Ordained (Coventry Cathedral 1990/910. I ended up a Reverend-Imposter. A fraud. The only thing that got me through was telling myself that I was a servant of the people rather than God. I was a social worker in a priest’s clothing.

However, there is no way I regret my time at Salisbury and Wells. 

I learnt a lot. Especially about myself. I learnt that like all others, I am a complicated beast. I am unique (as are you). What suits me does not usually suit another. This realisation, I hope enables me to go a little way to understand my brothers and sisters and maybe assist in solving the complications and stresses in their own lives.

 I think differently now.

For instance, there is no room for prayer in my life anymore. Meditation, yes, asking for ‘get out of jail’ cards, no.

I am hardwired for survival and the easier and more pleasurable my life the better.  

I demand revenge from those who have hurt me (there goes forgiveness).

Sadly, I see no sign of this loving God that people talk about.

Somewhere along the line, we have misinterpreted, got it wrong. I suspect banking all on a tome written a very long time ago by a different culture, was perhaps our greatest mistake.

This has been a rambling post from the stratfordian

Those were the days

those were the days

I was thinking the other day about the times before we became European. Those were the days.

Or, as I like to call them, the bad old days (yes, I’m a Remainer) before we became Europeans. Sadly, I think we have conveniently forgotten the trials of tribulations of the dark society that we were then and the grim days we lived in.

The streets of Stratford upon Avon (not London) were very different before we became European. Before European sophistication set in,

I seem to remember that our pavements were knee-deep in (white) dog poop.  In those days if you saw someone picking up dog shit and putting it into a black bag,  you were more likely to call Social Services than thank them for being good citizens.

Then there was the strong unpleasant scent of the unwashed Englishman.

Remember, before Europe and the invention of the shower, there was the stoic ‘one bath a week’ Englishman. I knew him well.

Friday night bath. Out on the piss and the rest of the weekend to lie in his own sweat and stale beer/cigarette smoke until work on Monday. Eeee…them were the days.

There was litter everywhere.

You couldn’t walk down High Street without becoming entangled in the discarded week-old copy of the Stratford upon Avon Herald, flying through the air enveloping everything in its path.

In those dark days the Herald was huge (easily 6ft x6ft). An airborne copy was without doubt a danger to life and limb. I know people who were near suffocated to near death by the local paper just going to the shops. We don’t talk about it much but there were those who were simply swept away, never to be seen again, God rest their souls.

Sophistication.

If you were labelled sophisticated before we became European, it meant that you had dined in the local ‘foreign’ restaurant at least once (Wimpey’s didn’t count).

Always hidden away down a side street you could tell it was ‘foreign’ because it had what was once a brightly coloured canopy. Years of the British weather had put paid to any gaiety it might have represented years ago. There was always a rain-stained menu and plastic flowers In the window alongside faded nets. Strangely, the flowers were always in a water-filled vase?

The restaurant kept odd opening hours. But no matter. It was where you went for family celebrations like anniversaries, birthday parties. With entertainment that included shouting insults at the swarthy waiters (because no-way would they understand you), followed by the traditional and intentional mispronouncing of the menu which the elders of the family (uncles, fathers) usually undertook in an effort to prove their seniority and knowledge of other cultures. The truth was they really had no idea what it was they were ordering. Especially the wine. If it wasn’t Blue Nun, they were lost.

As for the pubs.

If you got home at 11.00 you called it a lock-in. The beer really was warm and the lager (if they had any) was too cold.  Whatever you drank, it gave you a headache.

So, here we are,  Brexit is according to our lunatic Prime Minister, done and dusted.

And I have no choice but accept the decision made by a British people who appear to yearn for a return to pockets full of dirty copper coins, handkerchiefs, vests, Y-Fronts and toilet paper abrasive enough to take a layer of skin off your good old British arse.

Last one to leave, turn out the lights.

The Stratfordian writes…

the stratfordian writesI’m sorry if you had just become a keen follower and were perhaps even enjoying what the Stratfordian writes (the last version).

You have been let down.

I’m sorry if this sudden change on the Website has reduced you to tears and left you distraught, but I’ve been having some trouble (Betty).

I’d tell you what it was if I could understand it myself but suffice to say it’s to do with the dreaded Internet and is very technical, therefore beyond this tiny brain.. In short I have lost the contents of my last ‘The Stratfordian’ website.

So forgive me if I’m a little testy and short with you (5′ 6″). At the moment, I’m very angry and pissed off because It’s way past my bedtime (2.55/05.05) and I’m still at it trying to retrieve what I can.

BUT, basically, and there’s no getting away from it, I have to face the fact that I’m going to have to start again…so…deep breath…

========================================================

 

Back to top
%d bloggers like this: