The Quiet Joys Of Comradeship – Attending A Quaker Meeting

I have been umming and aahing over this for a matter of years – for the subject at hand is a commitment. I am always hesitant of nailing my colours to a mast, so to speak, in case I put all my eggs in one basket and the organisation changes direction, veering off course to my preference. However, today I attended Friends Meeting House in Harrogate for the first time since 2009.

In this blog post, I would like to explain my thinking behind the act – more to clear my head than any outward expression of boastfulness. A recap of a pre-meditated action.

As stated in the previous posts within the Quaker Diaries category of my blog, I have had leanings towards the group, but I have not set foot in Friends Meeting House for years. Would I be welcome? Would it have changed?

In these turbulent times, I wanted to stand for something – other than stand against everything I see happening around me. With crackdowns on Civil Liberties, Human Rights and a growing arms race – I did want to nail my colours to a mast. But why Quakers? Why The Religous Society of Friends? As a democratic group of pacifists, it was something that I wanted to be part of – a small cog in a big wheel. A greater whole to get behind and speak for me on an international level. A sense of belonging.

There was a quiet joy in the silence of the gathered – I felt peaceful, despite cravings for my vapouriser. I admit I did not attend out of obligation to a Bronze Age Sky God. I attended to express myself to the fullest – to live life adventurously. However, this is an adventure – I know I will not make every meeting in the future, due to health or work commitments. But it is nice to know that there is a group of pacificists just up the road who I had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with.

But what about the Spirituality? Was this the first step on the path to Jungian completion or a foolhardy leap into a metaphysical unknown? I have had a bad run with faith – I will leave that there – but with my impression of the Quakers is that there was a more accepting attitude towards the participants of the gathering, and of life in general. I was not told off for being me. In the quiet worship, there was no shoe-horning of fitting myself into somebody else’s belief system. I felt accepted.

One Man’s View Of Woman’s Suffrage On The 100th Anniversary

*Kicks Hornet’s Nest. 2018 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the right for women to vote in the UK. But, why would an upwardly-mobile, white, chubby man be writing about this? And, would his viewpoint be valid – am I qualified to pass comment? Well, Ijo Pona is my blog and a soap box for my opinion.

I definitely do not have a remit to speak on behalf of either side, male or female – but, I can offer an opinion? However vague? I am not writing this Blog post to show anyone (if anyone reads this) what a ‘moral’ person I am am or to align to any ‘side.’ If anyone reads this post then please feel free to leave a comment in the footer – I am up for learning a lot more about the topic described.

In 1918 the representation Of The People Act allowed Women who were householders and over the age of thirty to vote – it also made it legal for all men over the age of 21 to vote. It was not until 1928 that all women over the age of 21 were allowed to vote – and, even to this day, there are visa restrictions on people (not just women) voting for the government who, could in turn, decide the outcome of their stay in the Uk (see posts about Human Rights).

We have come a bit of the way to gender equality, a small step and we have a long way to go – but lets use this anniversary of Suffrage to really get equality for Women of all ages, race and denominations. The pay gap is staggering, the rights difference is staggering and the very way that society (the status quo) sees Women is staggeringly obsolete.

And … the Uk is seen as a liberal Western Society. I can only think that the best societal equality was in the Neolithic tribes – when we were Hunter Gatherers. Mind, there is not concrete evidence to suggest the varying tribal social hierarchies – this could be a romantic, nostalgic and, ultimately, uneducated view point.

But, how did the Patriarchy gain such a foot hold in the first place? How are we going to usurp it? What do we replace it with? What methods are available to us?

I do not have the answer. But essentially, men, it boils down to; don’t let the testosterone do the thinking, you knuckle dragging ape-men!

*runs to hills and retires after brief foray into Gender Politics

If you have read this blog post and you feel a bit of empathy for a man who could barely look someone in the eyes until he was 12, then feel free to write a reading list  for me below. I want to learn about my place in the world. Feel free to leave a comment, feel free to ignore this topic, feel free to hug your mum and whisper in her ear “the revolution is coming …”

In the opening sentence of the second paragraph of this Blog post, I mentioned that I –

… do not have a remit to speak on behalf of either side, male or female …

But, is this not part of the problem? Conflict occurs when there is the creation of opposing sides by a manipulative force. We have been pitched together in a power struggle of the sexes since the creation of modern society. There are the remnants of Matriarchal Tribal societies in South West China – and there is the western pay gap.

From the comfort of my pyjamas, can I call a truce? Can a fat man who has tea-stains on his pyjama t-shirt ask that there is no longer the viewing of the sexes as different ‘sides.’ Is it possible to replace the current status quo with equality? Is it possible to see someone for the worth of their character rather than their shape? Can we have equality?

I admit I have only been on the receiving end of social prejudice in the form of classism. But to have a society hell-bent on the degradation of half of the nations population seems illogical. Why do people judge others on their Bits other than the worth of their character.

I do not know I am rehashing some out-dated opinion or if I have hit a nerve. All I wanted to was try and vent my frustration about the fact that it is 2018 and women are treated as a second tier in society. In the Uk. In 2018.

Sort it out …!

Letter #16

We seem to be having a ‘wholesome’ day here at Ijo Pona HQ. Kathryn is at a Church Parade with her Girl Guide group and I am left to my own devices. Rather than just head back to bed to catch forty winks, I decided to try and put my time to good use.

That is, after all, the purpose of being here as a person – you have no say in your arrival or what you arrive with – but it is up to you to make something of it. And, if I can help other people get along, then it will help me get along.

This is what I ‘made’ today …. I decided to write to Andrew Jones, Harrogate & Knaresborough MP. Believe it or not, the right to a trial before imprisonment is still not available for people fleeing strife in foreign lands. Habeas corpus (/ˈheɪbiəs ˈkɔːrpəs/; Medieval Latin meaning literally “that you have the body”) is a recourse in law through which a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment to a court and request that the court order the custodian of the person, usually a prison official, to bring the prisoner to court, to determine whether the detention is lawful. The right to a fair trial – for only crossing a border – is still being denied to thousands by the British Government.


Dear Andrew Jones,

There is growing criticism of Britain for being the only EU country without a statutory time limit for the detention of immigrants, including criticism by the UN Human Rights Council. Every year the Home Office locks up tens of thousands of people – including survivors of torture, trafficking and rape – and gives them no idea when they will be freed. The lack of a time limit destroys mental health. Self-harm, suicide attempts and deaths are common. This is state-sanctioned suffering on a vast scale.

Survivors of torture, trafficking and rape are among the tens of thousands held in overcrowded centres – for months, or even years – where a recent investigation uncovered “widespread self-harm and attempted suicides”.

The Home Office has paid £21.2m to migrants it unlawfully detained over the past five years, laying bare its “chaotic decisions” it was alleged.

Now campaigners believe a looming immigration bill offers a fresh opportunity for MPs to pass an amendment to impose a strict 28-day limit. Will you back this movement?

“A stain on our democracy”

– Andrew Mitchel, Former International Development Secretary

Almost 30,000 people are detained each year in the centres, with several hundred held for longer than one year. One person was held for more than four years, according to The Independent. I don’t think it’s right to hold people in detention indefinitely. It’s wrong in principle and this is an issue that really matters.

A suspension of Habeas corpus in this day and age, Andrew Jones? Really?

Half of immigrants leaving detention centres end up being released into the community – rather than deported – where monitoring them cost 80 per cent less, according to the latest figures.

Will you back a 28-day limit if it is supported by a fresh independent review into the welfare of immigration detainees, to be published in June by Stephen Shaw, a former prisons and probation ombudsman?

Most British people would be surprised to find out it is possible to be detained indefinitely in this country – something that goes back to Habeas corpus. I would like to see Britain use methods that have proven to be effective in other countries – such as Sweden – if Stephen Shaw says any consequences with a 28-day limit can be overcome. Will you add your voice?

“Indefinite detention is not only cruel, but costs hundreds of millions of pounds.”

– Afzal Khan, Shadow Immigration Minister

I will re-iterate my point: will you back a 28-day limit if it is supported by a fresh independent review into the welfare of immigration detainees, to be published in June by Stephen Shaw, a former prisons and probation ombudsman? Or, will you blindly suspend Habeas corpus, unlawfully, for another year?

Yours faithfully,

Andrew

Ooh, Hai 2018

So, 2017 – was it a good year for me?

I had a lot of bad things happen to me that were out of my control in 2017. A few examples of this were Brexit, Grannie passing away and my Dad’s dog passing on. However, these things are out of my control – they were ordained by higher powers (whatever they are) and I had little to do with their matters. I can but bear witness to them happening and work with those I know towards achieving a legacy.

For the things that were in my control – I had a great year; Guerrilla Dub System had four top ten hits and my web design business went from strength to strength. I qualify as an Audio Mastering Engineer soon (as soon as I bang the homework in) and I saw my Niece blossom into a little lady. I grew closer to my Mum & Dad. Indeed, I told my Dad I loved him – there was an awkward 11.5-minute silence and then he asked if I had taken my medication. Mum just called me soft.

My radio show started to get taken seriously – if you want to see that check out go to www.theparishnews.com.

I made some great friends and cemented some friendships that are Samson Strong. Kathryn, as ever, has been amazing to me and lets me do as I wish within reason – she really is amazing, awesome lady.

For NYE, I strolled, barged-booted and Ox-broad, to Harlow Hill Club for New Year’s Eve celebrations. The reason was Metal Sans Frontieres. Not what you would call my cup of tea – a hair metal night has never really appealed to me. However, there was a noise and humanity to the night that would not be rivalled through town. We were amongst people we love and respect – we were free to be who we are and come what may.

However, I sat like a grumpy arse through most of the night only loosening up towards the end – the quiz was a right laugh although it did not go to plan. The host, Stuart, had his family with him and they were a credit to him; good lads the both of them Stuarts boys.

We went to an after party and Kathryn and I shared a beer before heading home. Good shindig. Called Watty-P (based in Dubai) a rude word and I hope he doesn’t get deported – still it is all on me and my fault. He sent a link to me on Whatsapp about people getting deported for swearing when they are in Dubai – most of Eirene’s friends (Watty-P’s better half) want them to get deported so that they come home.

My New Years resolution is to swear less and be less of a nob. I will start a tag that I’ll keep people updated on the progress of the swearing – here it is. I can’t make promises on the updates for being less nob-like though. I am worried this could turn me in to another prude or a naysayer. Hopefully, it will make me into a better person?

If I could do one thing in 2018 a bit better (other than less swearing // Nob-like behaviour) is to be a bit more of a better listener. I find that when people tell me things I am keen to jump in and give my two-pence worth before they finish their schpeal. If I left it to the ultimate (them finishing their talking) then they will probably be able to give themselves the answers that they need. Funny how it works out. I suppose it goes back to bearing witness – my interpretation – where you stand for what you believe, but point the way as opposed to telling them what to do. However, I could have this wrong. Am I qualified to “point the way,” am I even qualified to listen to people talk to me?

Here is a better representation of what I think – In a heavyweight dub style.

 

That’s The Weekend That Was, Remembrance Sunday 2017

Not a load of recollecting done on my account – yes, I held a vigil last night and at 11am when I was silent for a minute. However, with my Quaker leanings, I do not really see the glorification of war as something to steer society towards. Yes, I admit it, I am not a ‘Full’ Quaker – I am an attendee – but a lot of the philosophy has rubbed off on me.

So, Instead of praying for the dead, whatever that means, I will in fact try and make the world a bit more peaceful. Not hiding behind religion’s mask – but brazenly going forth and bearing witness to make this bit of the world a bit better for everyone, regardless of creed, ethnicity or background.

I admit I could not stomach the pomp of the Remembrance Service on the BBC – It did not chime well that people were celebrated for the killing of other people; after all, don’t the ‘opposition’ have a similar service on the same day? It is a pure chance – in a geographical lottery – that we are born in the UK (one of the most hated countries in the world)? Isn’t it pure chance that we are born into the country we live? I appreciate that if my Brother had been born 28 miles south he would have been born in France.

But still – these drunken ramblings will not bring back anyone. Least of all those who want to outlive a war, for they are a foul business. I appreciate that the argument goes that it is through the sacrifices of our forefathers that I am allowed to express this opinion (indeed, I go on about this is my previous Blog articles) but at the same time … if everyone saw the errors of their ways in war we would stop the International Dick Swinging and come together as Human Family. Is it too much to ask that the politicians are given the guns and told to fight as opposed to sending in our boys?

On Friday, I was invited out for a drink – I could not make it as I was already in my PJ’s. However, this is the last time I think I will have had the opportunity to see Matt before he goes to Dubai. Still, I am very confident I will see him on his return journey. He has been an excellent mate to me and one of the reasons I got into Blogging (therefore got into Web Design and earn a trade; ta mate). He will be sorely missed in H’Gate and I wish him all the best in his new UX adventures in the Middle East.

Saturday saw me wandering around town like a lost soul – I had no one to meet up with and had too much time on my hands.

Sunday saw me super-charged for maximum celebration: it was DJ Scooby’s Big Band Sunday and I was helping out. I took my camera down and took some images. I am probably the worst photographer on Getty’s books but still, it is a laugh.

What really gets me, daggers aside – is this: Major Tom’s. Hands down the friendliest, nicest and authoritative drinking place in H’Gate allows us to rock up and put on a charity event for MSF. DJ Scooby arrives every second Sunday of the month and plays – let’s face it – some pretty out there tunes to a public who seem to lap it up.

We managed our first Meat Feast Pizza although Stew & Karen went for the Veggie/Vegan options. When we arrived home, Kathryn let out a burp that practically deflated her and echoed around the pace we live – thanks for the drinks Kathryn (and Andy D).

The charity event would not be the same without the bar and the bar-staff (it is the bar staff who make it). The owners of Major Tom’s Social (Lee & Toby) allow Scoob to come but it is down to Josh, Ellie, Sam, Anna (new addition), Kate, Joe, Lauren & Dale to help the day go well (sorry if I have missed out on any barkeeps). Cheers guys! Thanks for being there on the other side of the bar … here are some photos …

 

A Fall

I am a bit worried this post may set the cat amongst the pigeons – indeed, I asked permission from a family member if they would object to me putting a post up here about the subject I am going to write about. The subject of Mental Health is still a taboo subject and, in many cases, still an elephant in the room; mental health, there said it again. In this blog post, I intend to put into words and rationalise the emotions and sensations that have been keeping me down in this most recent episode of my head.

Things have taken a bit of a dip here at Chateaux Backhouse – I am worried my brain is turning in to something akin to a dystopian science fiction novel penned by Philip K. Dick. I have around the same level of paranoia as the aforementioned author; just slightly blunted by the good doctors I have seen.

At the minute, if you shake me; I rattle – I am on a lot of medication and feel bloated and on a continual comedown. Today, I’m vacant.

I do not know if you are familiar with Simulation Theory, Dear Reader. It is the belief that all that we inhabit is a simulation – an alternative reality to the core reality where your cells inhabit. Indeed there are an infinite number of simulations and an infinite number of outcomes. Last night I thought I inhabited my brother’s simulation. I thought his back was better and he had attained deserved recognition from his peer group, that he had enough of an income to keep a roof over his young family’s head and, should he so wish, he could go out and buy a CD with enough disposable income to get some fancy coffee on the way home. I was convinced of all of these things. I was convinced I died in China in 1999 from malaria and the sum of my existence was only in this reality; my brother’s simulation. This may seem like tripe – but for a good four hours, I was tilting at windmills. You can’t tell from the calm, measured fashion I just recounted last night – but – I was really climbing the walls.

The ‘alternate reality/simulation theory’ has been a long standing theme through my health (yes, it is a matter of health … Malaria or Schizophrenia or a reaction to anti-malaria medication (I was on Larium)).

This simulation theory was the crux of my spirituality. Even when I was bothering God, I could not shake the spiritual metaphor that “we are all but feather’s ‘pon the breath of God,” as attributed to Julian of Norwich. This feather is spiralling to the ground and needs some extra ‘puff.’ I do not know if this blip in health is because I have been neglecting my inner dramas. I admit I have been neglecting my spiritual side – and, “Man cannot live by bread alone.” Inherently, we are spiritual creatures – Do I need a constant trickle of crazy to keep the floodwater from smashing the levee? In other words; “Do I need to have a ‘Prayer life’ to stop the spikes in a psychosis?” I admit I am not in a position to get out of the house much at the minute, so heading off on a Spiritual Quest seems a bit too much (first thing I would need to do is shower …). But, what do I mean by ‘Prayer Life?” The begging of the Universe to forgive me eating all the pork pies? No, it will be a dialogue between me and what goes on in my head; as prescribed by a Doctor I saw back in 2010.

I would quote Aleister Crowley; something about creating your own system or being enslaved by another man’s. But, instead, the quote on this post will be ….

Love Is The Only Principle Which Makes Life Tolerable.

  • Aleister Crowley

And that is how I will ride this Blip out. I am grateful for the confused help I am receiving and I will try and be a nice person, despite what adversity and tortures my mind throws at me. I will offer my psychosis ‘cake’ and that generally shuts it up. If the hallucinations are happy then I do not think I will get a full-blown psychotic episode like I did last night.

Ensure a gentle trickle of crazy to stop the dam being breached.

Granny B

I am writing this late on Easter Monday’s afternoon – struggling to make sense of my emotions. The weekend got off to a hell of a bad start; on Good Friday my mum phoned to tell me that Granny had passed away peacefully, loosing her battle with Dementia.

The end months were not graceful for Granny B – she was such a proud woman and it was sad to see her laid so low with an illness. She had been battling dementia for a number of years; what a sad, cruel illness.

If it had not been for Granny, I do not think I would have pursued an academic bent towards Zoology & Botany. I studied Wildlife Conservation at Plymouth Uni with the hope of working with the Big 5 in Africa – however, my health intervened on that one. We used to walk miles, despite her age, to see the Canadian Geese that used to stop off on the farm in Norfolk. She was over the moon when I told her I had managed to get a job at Newby Hall as a gardener – she confided in me that she had often thought about dropping out of Nursing and becoming a gardener herself.

However, she was a very good Nurse – a Gold Standard nurse and a Sister, I believe.

I will always remember the time when Granny, the beaming matriarch, took me and my brother and sister down to London to the Natural History Museum – this is what spurred my enthusiasm for wildlife – even if the reason for going down there was to see the Dinosaurs. I managed to sneak through an open door and see some of the private collection – I was so thrilled. I believe she takes her recipe for Seville Casserole (beef and orange hotpot) with her but she leaves a legacy that the greater Leamington area can be grateful for; she worked tirelessly for the regions health cause’s and was eventually awarded an MBE for her services to Health & The Elderly.

When I was told of her passing I did not have mixed emotions – I burst in to floods of tears. But, now the raw grief and shock has gone, I can see that it was her time to go. She is no longer suffering – but there is a granny shaped hole in my psyche.

Below is a photograph of my Grandparents – only Granny Dornoch (on the left) is surviving. Grandpa passed away 1st July 2016 and now Granny B joins him – she will be making sure everything is in order wherever she is.

Dementia really is a cruel illness – Granny was such a proud lady in life, before the illness crept over her. She was the beaming matriarch who would deal out the Chocolate Fudge Pudding to the Children’s table first. She ruled the family with a rod of iron but, ultimately, she was very fair. She had a massive influence on all three of us (me, my brother and my sister) and I do not think we would have got where we are without her encouragement.

In life she was a lion of a woman – age reduced her stature and I have to admit it was not pleasant to see. However, I now need to be there for the rest of the family – God knows what Dad and his three brothers are going through (having lost both their parents in less than a year). All I can do is offer a shoulder of support and bear witness to the great life that Granny Backhouse led.

A Quiet Joy

Today I woke up late, even by my standards – 14:00. I had been working on a few reviews for my other site, Sigil Of Brass, late in to the small hours so it was mid afternoon until I came and collected the post. There was a cream envelope marked with the crest of the Army addressed to me.

I admit it, my heart skipped a beat – what had I done? What do they want? These questions and more were rushing through my mind. I carried the envelope up to my flat and, smiling a bit, peeled oped the letter.

It was a letter, on Army headed paper, and an invite to dinner. The letter, addressed to me, explained I had been selected to attend a reception at Rudding Park with Brigadier Stokes MBE, commander of the Army in my region.

You may be wondering why I have been invited – Indeed, I was wondering why I had been invited. The aim of the dinner was to give a greater understanding of what the Army does.

I really was in a pickle – do I ditch my pacifist principles and side with force for a free, delicious meal. Or do I take a stand?

Then I realised: I am not really taking a stand – I am just an angry voice. Full of aggression channeled in an anti-authoritarian direction. My life did not mean anything as I was defined by my paltry actions as opposed to actually standing for something. I was standing against authority, not standing for anything. I realised I need to do something to define my life. But, quite what that was eluded me.

Then I felt a quiet joy.

No, not a presence. No, not a parting of the clouds. No divine epiphany whatsoever. Just a quiet joy. I suddenly knew my place.

Over the past two decades, I have experimented with Yoga, meditation & even Reiki. But there was one place I felt relaxed. Friends Meeting House. It is the calmest collection of like minded pacifists and gentle folk you could shake a bayonet at. In the moment of quiet calm I realised I belonged amongst that group of peaceful people who are trying to make the world a better place through action.

I often joked to friends that I was an unofficial Friend – following the principles of the Society of Friends without the mumbo-jumbo. But it dawned on me; there is no mumbo-jumbo with The Religious Society Of Friends. I am as much of a Friend anyone who has stepped inside the Meeting House already. Fair enough, at present, I do not attend the Meetings – but I would not need to shoehorn myself in to another man’s set of beliefs. I already am a Quaker and the quiet joy was the realisation that I had a home and something to stand for in these dark days.