So why didn’t I go to school? I really regret not doing so now. But what choice did I have. Every lesson of everyday I was bullied and scorned for being a soft feminine young man. I was living with the full blown experience of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder where the fear would grip me and push me into submission, I would experience the most horrific of visions. Not knowing why or how this was happening to me. I was too scared to talk about it. when your dealing with that kind of shit Algebra and Dickens kind of takes a back seat. I couldn’t wait to see the back of that Hell Hole. So PTSD and Grange Upper left me with a learning difficulty. The effects of which continued well into my late twenties. I never thought that I would lead a normal life.
Now in my late Forties, all that pain has healed and been understood, it took the best part of twenty years in which to do so. And after all of that. I realize my shortcomings in the academic nature of English.
But my appreciation of Art remains. Do I need to go back to school at 47?
From the sacred fire of Eden.
To the sacred healing of the Solstice In The Glen.
With the Grace Of Angels to the Healing Fields Of Glastonbury.
To the new site of Audio Soup.
To Reviewing the Edinburgh Festivals of Performance Arts and Literature,
For The Mumble.
A journey of renewal to balance the experience of loss.
With the moment.
Because the wealth of such experience cannot be measured.
In pounds and pence.
Because Grace is priceless.
It cannae be bought.
Mother of the muse’s come to me.
Aum Sarasvati Aum!
My first year with a Mum in Heaven.
And my first year of being a middle aged orphan.
I found Art to be my comfort blanket.
The nurturer to my soul.
Now I’m rested.
I’ve really been tested.
I left the education system at 14.
An ignorant system that failed me.
Damo left it at 20.
But has what it takes to make the grade.
Alas no valid effort is wasted in Art.
I appreciate the opportunity.
Because this creative Season has stretched me.
And ultimately Healed me.
Aum Namah Shiva Aum!
Edinburgh International Book Festival
August 23rd 2014
I spent an excellent hour of historical nostalgia with Mr Kynaston last Saturday, whose casts his erudite & widely spread academical net over the period October 1959 – June 1962.This follows on from 2007’s Austerity Britain, 1945–1951, (The Sunday Times’ Book of the Decade), Family Britain (2010) & Modernity Britain, covering the years 1957–59 (2013). He began his talk with a ten-part quiz for the audience, which included ‘which two towns won the Football League Championship either side of Spurs’ triumph in 1961.’ Being a Burnley fan, I knew it was Burnley (1960) & Ipswich (1962), when Burnley were runners-up – & I was the only one in the audience who knew, happy days!
Kynaston has an amazing & comprehensive ability to eke out out interesting nuggets from the past, such as the Beatles’ first southern show in December 1961 being played in his home town of Aldershot, the fantastically glamorous introduction of Philadelphia Cream Cheese into the English palate, the introduction of wrestling on TV, & the arrival of Vivienne Nicholson in London, who after her who win on the pools, declares she was ready to, ‘Spend, Spend, Spend!’ I found Kynaston to truly be a sagely seer, shining a powerful light into the murkiness of the past, whose lazar-like mind is a joy to witness
The Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Zakes Mda is regarded as one of the most important novelists to have emerged on South Africa’s literary scene since the end of apartheid. The author of more than 20 novels and plays, Mda is now resident in the USA, where he is a professor at Ohio University. He joined us today to discuss his output, including his new mystic-realist epic, The Sculptors of Mapungubwe.
An hour’s audience with an inspiring man who had, as a Black South African, experienced the horror of Apartheid first hand. Zakes Mda cut his craft as a story teller and script writer when white South Africa enforced ridiculous ignorance and brutality upon its own people. Art drawn from a survivor of such extremes displays survival tactics drawn from a humanitarian heart, born from the most inhumane of conditions. Becoming a refugee as Apartheid crumbled in his native South Africa, Mr Mda found solstice in Ohio and discovered that his self-taught skill as playwright could be advanced to a degree standard.
We discovered how this man started his first novel Black Diamond, with the words; ‘There are many ways of dyng.’ Zakes Mda inspired this reviewer with the notion, that if a an unjust system fails you and academia is the least of your problems. A true talent will shine and speak the truth that needs to be heard.Zakes Mda inspired this reviewer with the notion that if a an unjust system fails you, then academia is the least of your problems… but a true talent will shine and speak the truth that needs to be heard.
Zakes Mda touched his audience very deeply today,with an awe inspiring and comforting tale of an artist who became a professor out of folk law.
Awsome! Thankyou,Thankyou, Thankyou.
Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert
Confronting a nation’s history involves confronting its national myths. If the country is our own, that can move us right out of our comfort zone. As we in Scotland get closer to the referendum on independence, the issue of our history seems to take on more importance, and we are reminded of George Orwell’s words, from ‘1984’, “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” Looking at the past, for the purposes of this debate, were historian-authors Michael Fry and Angus Konstam. Their chairman Joseph Farrell described them as ‘heavyweights,’ and although Angus Konstam suggested that if the conversation flagged the two of them might entertain us with a bout of sumo, the chairman was clearly referring to their intellects.
To Michael Fry, control of the past, as in the publication of books on Scottish history, has been left too long in academic hands, and has been a one-sided account of social and economic history replete with statistics. His bias was towards culture, society, and politics, in the search for what has kept Scotland Scotland; he has found that when a historian undertakes research he finds things which relate, albeit perhaps as echoes, to today, and that what we recognise are not the products of sudden upheaval but have deep roots. In his book ‘A New Race of Men’ – the title being a phrase taken from observations made in 1845 by the Rev. George Cruden, one of the few kirk ministers to have taken part in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland in both 1794 and 1845 – Fry presents a picture of a nineteenth-century largely at peace, with a conservative constitution (if I can use such a word) that supported that of England, union with the rest of the United Kingdom long since a ‘done deal’. Scottish capitalism was in the hands of men who had served their time as apprentices and shared social roots with the men who worked for them, giving rise to a sense of egalitarianism. In movements such as public health, it was recognised that contagion did not stop at the edge of working-class areas, and that therefore health belonged to all, not simply to the bourgeoisie.
Ideas like this didn’t fail to draw dissent from the floor. A questioner from North East England challenged the assumption that the nineteenth-century Scottish working class was any less exploited than the working class in his own area – and indeed the supposed difference that Michael Fry had suggested between the Scottish and English concepts of class did seem to sit rather awkwardly with a previous statement to the effect that the North East of England, for example, shared much of Scotland’s perceived remoteness from London and Westminster. Another questioner challenged the idea of the ‘done deal’ with its roots going back to the eighteenth century, citing the verse in ‘God Save the King’ about ‘rebellious Scots’; unfortunately her point merely perpetuated the canard that the verse is insulting to the Scots as a whole, when it is actually specifically directed at the Jacobites. Fry made this point in reply, however – that in the ‘age of revolution’, between 1789 and 1848, while the death toll in political causes in other countries was high, there was a total of twenty-three in Scotland. “I counted them’” he said.
Angus Konstam, although principally a maritime historian, has been fascinated by Robert Bruce since reading a ‘Ladybird’ book about him. In his book ‘Bannockburn’, according to the event pre-publicity, Konstam ‘debunks some myths about the legend of Robert the Bruce’. He describes the modern popularity of Bruce as ‘a national talisman… wrapped up in romantic guff’. The definition of Bruce’s wars as ‘Wars of Scottish Independence’ was a later one, as are those of a nationalist or a class war, both of which would have been lost on Bruce himself. The thirteenth- and fourteenth-century conflicts were fought to ‘solve purely medieval problems’, and in them even Bruce himself changed sides more than once. Nevertheless, by the time of Bannockburn there was an unprecedented and unfamiliar wave of specifically Scottish patriotism that must have lent something to the subsequent sense of Scottish identity.
For all that, the presentation did leave me wondering what myths were going to be debunked. It is more than forty years since Nigel Tranter’s ‘Bruce Trilogy’ was published, moving into popular fiction what historical study had long made known – Bruce’s career as a serial turncoat, and his murder of a rival. I listened to the account of Clifford’s unsuccessful charge against the Scottish infantry, and muttered to myself that surely the knowledge that horses will pull up before a solid mass of footsoldiers was known as far back as the Greek phalanx. However, we were brought back to popular myth when Konstam reminded us of the legend of Bruce and the spider – “It’s in the Ladybird book, so it must be true,” he said with a smile – for which there is no evidence beyond its existence in popular folklore.
Of the two books foregrounded, it strikes me that Michael Fry’s is probably the more controversial. However both authors were kept busy signing copies of their books after the event. I have to say I was left wanting more time for public discussion with the two authors – to drill down into some apparent contradictions in what Michael Fry said, to challenge Angus Konstam further about whether the myths about Bruce were actually as powerful as he assumed. Joe Farrell did make the point that the pair seemed to have been drawn together simply because they were historians. This was the first time I had attended an event at the Book Festival when I wondered if either of the authors on stage was thinking to himself “If I were Germaine Greer or George R R Martin I would have this stage to myself. Obviously I’m considered second division!” I am happy to give the Edinburgh International Book festival the benefit of the doubt on this issue, because it does what it must to pack so much into its schedule, and by-and-large gets it just right.
The Bookfest welcomed back Billy Collins after an 8 year hiatus, an effulgent poet whose works are short, funny & touching. We get no mighty mechanical manouvres, or deeply-pirit-shattering revelations, just keen & quiet observations on life that he makes with an effortless dance across his page. U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003 and New York State Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006, his latest book – Aimless Love – is a blend between the best poems of his past, & fifty new additions to his oevre.
When Collins reads his poetry, he strikes his listeners with such pleasant & easy cadences, that we all feel rather much like we are toddlers listening to mother tell a story. One poem was called : Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House:, & reads:
The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.
The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,
and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.
When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton
while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.
The theater was packed out with fans of Collin’s work, from whom rose a constant murmur of titters & guffaws. I found myself joining in on many occasions, & liek many in the audience, now found myself a fan after a only a few moments withe man & his work. Here’s an excellent film on you-tube for fans & future groupies alike.
Edinburgh International Book Festival.
People with severe mental health issues are often stigmatized by society. From drugs to psychiatry, solutions are complex and expensive. Eleanor Longden, a voice hearer and a qualified psychologist joins James Ley, a playwright who explores his bi-polar disorder in his writing, and Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research at King’s College London, to discuss how hearing voices and other problems can be ‘creative and ingenious survival strategies.’
Chaired by Dr Angela Woods, a lecturer in Medical Humanities,I knew that this was going to be an interesting gig. The theme of the day was making art out of pain and suffering. Eleanor Longdon became a Divine hero this afternoon. As she talked about the hell of being able to hear voices in her head and her barbaric experiences at the hands of Psychiatry. Indeed, Ms Longden’s recounted experience was the very reason I adopted the label of Spiritual Medium, especially before I had healed the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that had prevented me from progressing in life. I chose not to become a statistic or test case for western psychiatric medicine. I chose to find my own way of understanding this debilitating condition an to heal myself successfully!
The frustrating thing about this discussion,was not being able to be part of the discussion.The question that I was longing to ask Robin Murray, Professor of psychiatric research. Was, How is it possible to understand something if it had never been experienced first hand? Ms Longdon’s, account of possible solutions and ways of coping were admirable. However, not once was the possibility of healing the cause of the traumatic incidence aired as a solution. In fact,the only possibility of a solution that was raised, was to obtain more funding for research. Research is not going heal the cause/ causes of trauma and a damaged mind. Conscious change and removing the long held ignorance of the healing arts. Will heal the cause so that the effects no longer effect day to day life.
The first rule Of Spiritual Healing,is to take responsibility. I did and it worked. It will for you too. Good Time!
Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert
Briefly let me revise what I said a day or so ago about the demographic. It depends on the day! On two separate occasions here at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the cross-section of visitors has been totally different, and the key factor is what’s on, who’s appearing. On my latest visit, for example, Patrick Ness was one of the authors who was appearing. There were also presentations by Mark Greenwood, Tommy Donbavand (although I’m sure he would say that his comedy/horror vampire / spy stories appeal to all ages), and readings by Kathryn Ross from Alan Garner’s The Owl Service. That being so, the young visitors outnumbered the mature, with long tail-backs for book-signings. Queues were still very polite and orderly; where they crossed each other, they did so without mutual disruption, often marshaled by Festival staff.
On the train going home I spoke to a woman with two young daughters, who had sat quietly reading, all the way from Edinburgh Waverley to Perth. They had been at the Book Festival all day, had not been to any event, but had spent their time buying books and taking in the atmosphere. It’s as I say – you can do that. Although Charlotte Square is always full of people, it’s almost a haven of peace if you have been on the packed pavements around Fringe venues. There’s still time to get some of that!