Thursday, 22 May 2014

CJ Stone's Columns: The Home Front

Accommodationally challenged after a disastrous foreign trip in 2007, CJ Stone was forced to take refuge with his parents. It was the first time he’d lived with them since his teens, and he was surprised to find himself in a war zone. Following are CJ’s bulletins from the front line in the eternal war of age and sex.
It was bangers'n'mash night
It was bangers'n'mash night

1. Bangers 'n' Mash

It was bangers 'n mash night. Bangers 'n' mash and the six o’clock news. Mum said, “What did you used to do before there was telly?”
“Are you getting at me again?” Dad squeaked in an offended tone, almost banging his knife and fork on the table. “I used to read and listen to the radio if you’d like to know.”
“Well I’m fed up with looking down your ear’ole,” she said.
There’s three of us at the kitchen table: Mum on one side, with her back to the telly, Dad on the other - even now craning his head around again to catch some local news item about a mother-of-two who’s won a modelling competition, giving Mum a glorious view down the hairy funnel into his inner ear - and me, opposite, trying not to laugh.
“So what did YOU do before there was telly Mum?” I asked. “You’re always watching the telly too.”
“I used to talk,” she said. “He never had anything to say even back then. Always just sitting there like a great big fat lump.”
Well it’s true… or partly true. Dad watches a lot of TV. He’d turned it on in the kitchen even as his dinner was being laid on the table. He does the same thing every night, making a great to-do about the process, turning it on, picking the channel, adjusting the volume, even as Mum and I are tucking into ours. Until then he’d been watching a program in the other room. Mum said, loud enough for him to hear, “He hangs around like a schoolboy waiting for me to call him in for his dinner.”
He doesn’t like silence our Dad. He always likes to fill the empty spaces with something glaring and noisy. Generally that thing is the TV. If he’s not catching the news, or watching an afternoon movie on Channel 5, then he’s playing something he recorded last night or the night before or something he recorded while he was watching something else. But then, what else is he supposed to do? Sometimes he just looks very tired. Tired to his bones.
They are both in their late seventies now. Still squabbling after all of these years. It’s the squabbling that keeps them alive. But it’s the rule of the house: Mum is always right.
She has a certain tone. A certain way of looking at the world. For years I used to think it was me. I’d lived in fear of that withering look, that note of scorn. Even when I was a grown-up that look would have me quaking like a schoolboy before the headmistress’ office. It’s only in the last couple of months that it’s struck me. She can’t help it. It’s just the way she was made.
I’m a 55-year-old-man living at home with his parents.
I’m thinking of joining one of those on-line dating websites. I’d put it up as my personal ad: “55-year-old-bachelor living at home with his Mum.”
The women will be queuing up in anticipation.
She even does my washing for me. I try to stop her but she’s always rifling through my drawers when I‘m out, fiddling with my underwear.
If you ask me she has an unhealthy interest in the state of my underwear.
She’s also always asking me if I’ve got a woman in my life yet. Once she asked me it in Tesco in a very loud voice. Everybody turned round to look. I must have flushed a healthy state of scarlet, shushing her as I did.
“Please, Mum, not here.”
I’ve refused to go to Tesco with her since.
I say, “No Mum, there’s no woman as yet. Who would want me? You’d be standing outside the bedroom listening in.”
“Well I have to know what’s going on in your life. It’s my duty.”
You’re probably wondering how I got here. I won’t go into all that now. Life has so many twists and turns, so many ups and downs, it’s like a roller-coaster ride at times. The roller-coaster of mundane middle-age. Even six months ago I had no idea that this is where I would end up: that very soon I would be living back at home with my Mum and Dad.
I also had no idea that it was a war-zone. So I’m a war-correspondent now. These are my domestic bulletins from the home front.
It’s a kind of trench warfare rather than an all-out attack. Dad is usually sniping from a fox-hole. The big guns are all on her side. He keeps his head down mainly, defending himself with hobbies and with routine. He has a lot of hobbies and a lot of routines.
Turning the TV on as he’s sitting down to dinner is one of them. Is it a hobby or is it a routine? It’s hard to tell with our Dad. Both have the same quality about them, a kind of dogged persistence, a head-down, measured, unswerving sense of purpose, an unwillingness to adapt to change. Everything he does he always does it in the same way, at the same time, in the same order.
After dinner is over Mum gets up and starts putting the dishes away. Dad says, “You go and sit down love, I’ll do this,” but she carries on anyway, just long enough to annoy him. This is also part of the daily ritual.
Dad likes to have control over the washing up machine. So Mum sticks a few plates and cups in, rattling them about, and then he very pointedly takes them out again, one by one, unloading it completely before reloading it again. There are certain places for certain dishes and no one else knows where they’re supposed to go. Only him. This is his territory.
So Mum gives up and goes into the living room and I make her a cup of tea while Dad fills the washing up machine. The cup of tea is my contribution to the routine.
After that I go upstairs to play with my computer.
Can you see how undignified all of this is? Not only am I living at home with my Mum and Dad, but I’m turning into a bored teenager at the same time.
Read more here.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

King Arthur Pendragon at Stonehenge

It was back in 1986, before the name change. He was still plain old Johnny Rothwell then, a crazy-arsed barbarian from the Farnborough and Aldershot area, head of a gang of outlaw bikers, a death-defying trouble-maker, a rebel and a fighter, known as “King John” at the time, not because he had any aspirations to royalty, but because he was famed for throwing full-moon parties at nearby Odiham Castle, also known as King John’s Castle.

He’d had this weird revelation about his true identity – about his once, true and former name, as he describes it - in a run-down squat in Farnborough while sitting with another member of the gang called the Whippet. It was a year or two after his parents had died, both of them in the space of two weeks, and he’d had been on a bender ever since. But he was bored with life. He’d started doodling on a white laminated board in black marker pen. He’d put “King John” in the middle, with a three pointed crown above the K – which is how he always signed himself – and then around that a circle of names: Bacardi, Viet, Johnny Reb, Mad Dog, Ace, his social security number, his army number, a whole host of names and identities that he had adopted over the years.
“I’m bored,” he said, and handed the Whippet the board.
The Whippet had been reading occult books at the time. Something must have been going on in his head. He said, “no you’re not King John, you’re King Arthur.”
The Trials of Arthur: Revised Edition
The Trials of Arthur: Revised Edition
Amazon Price: $11.87
List Price: $18.99


And that was how it started. Somehow those insane words buried themselves in his skull and set light to his imagination. He and the Whippet got into an intense debate lasting into the small hours, at the end of which he decided that it was all true, that he really was King Arthur. That was the revelation.
He said, “you know if I go for it, I go for it all the way? No turning back.”
And the Whippet said, “I know.”
The following day he went to the solicitors in order to change his name. Always an extremist, his biker motto was “No regrets!” Not content with having had a revelation about his identity, he wanted to make it a declaration to the world. He also wanted to ensure that he couldn't go back on his decision in later life.
But then the doubts had set in. He realised immediately that if he went round telling people he was King Arthur, they would call him crazy. Indeed, he had some doubts about his own sanity too. So he decided to test the strength of his belief by looking for a sign, and he and another bunch of mates had driven over to Stonehenge.
Why Stonehenge? Because he was a biker. Because the biker’s festival, the Stonehenge free festival, had been held there from 1974 to 1985. Because he had attended most of them. Because what he was looking for was confirmation of an ancient truth, and Stonehenge seemed the only place venerable and sacred enough to meet his needs.

Read more here:

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Engaged Spirituality

As spiritual people, are we obliged to protest against injustice? CJ Stone examines the case for the spiritual sphere making a political stand. From Kindred Spirit magazine.
Russell Brand in the New Statesman
Russell Brand’s interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight was one of the most watched YouTube clips in the UK last year.
It’s not surprising. Brand is always entertaining, and to see him go head to head with one of the UK’s heavyweight political pundits had something of the air of an intellectual sparring match about it.
Indeed it was billed that way. The BBC’s own YouTube channel calls the interview “Paxman vs. Brand”.
So it was the old guard vs. the new, political commentary vs. anarchic comedy, seriousness vs. facetiousness, democracy vs. revolution, politics vs. spirituality.
I’ve heard a number of opinions about the interview. People are polarised about it. A lot of people don’t like Brand. They think of him as a foppish, over-sexed attention-seeker, only really interested in what goes on in his underpants and his wallet. Why did he do the interview, they ask? Because it was good for his bank-balance..
On the other hand, no one can deny that he raised a lot of issues, and that the kind of views he was airing went global as a consequence.
Brand is a significant figure. He has a major public profile. He could use it to support all sorts of things, instead of which he is talking about the underclass, about the environment, about exploitation and world poverty, while name-checking the Occupy movement along the way.
What makes Brand fairly unique, at least in the mainstream media, is that he attaches the idea of spirituality to these issues. As he says in the New Statesman, in the article which was the stimulus to him being invited onto Newsnight:
  • For me the solution has to be primarily spiritual and secondarily political. This, too, is difficult terrain when the natural tribal leaders of the left are atheists, when Marxism is inveterately Godless… By spiritual I mean the acknowledgement that our connection to one another and the planet must be prioritised.
As the article goes on he refers to paganism, Yogananda, Celtic spirituality and the Nordic tradition, while talking about consciousness. And he has this to say about socialism:
  • Socialism’s historical connection with spiritual principles is deep. Sharing is a spiritual principle, respecting our land is a spiritual principle. May the First, May Day, is a pagan holiday where we acknowledge our essential relationship with our land.
These are not the kind of thoughts you would normally expect to hear aired in that venerable old magazine of the left, the New Statesman.
Read more here.