Personal Reality – More of That

Swim, Ritual, Meditation, SuicidI’ve been quiet recently – for me.  In that cogitating, contemplative space patiently (fairly patiently) waiting for answers to emerge to new questions.  Probably really old questions, phrased in a slightly different way, but I needed some new answers.

I asked someone I didn’t know that well, but respected.
“Ho’oponopono,” she told me.  “It changed my life.”
I groaned.  Anything but that! I’d first encountered it at a symposium.  A young female speaker standing before us, tears flowing down her face, urging the whole audience to repeat with her, over and over, “I’m sorry.  Please forgive me.  Thank you.  I love you.”
I had no idea what I was supposed to be apologising for, nor yet who I was apologising to or claiming to love.  We were given no context, just and hour and a half of wailing and weeping.  I wasn’t moved – or impressed.
Nevertheless, I agreed to read the book my adviser suggested: Zero Limits by Dr Joe Vitale.  The writer seemed genuine and convinced, but all he said left me cold.

Confused, I turned to Koimul, my Spirit Guide.
IT IS A VALID TRUTH, I was told, BUT IT IS NOT YOUR TRUTH.  IT WILL NOT SERVE YOU.

That was a relief.

Fantasy, Portrait, Eyes, View, FemaleThen, gradually, I became conscious that some words had appeared in my mind: The Nature of Personal Reality.  They kept repeating until I finally took notice and wondered why they sounded familiar.  Eventually it dawned on me that it was another book title.  Not a book I’d read, but one I’d heard of:  one of Jane Roberts’ Seth books.  Instantly, I put in an order for the book.  It finally arrived yesterday and because I was inspired to find it, I know it will help.

Koimul hadn’t finished dropping clues in my path, though.  I was led to explore a post on a scientific website.  It was about an article that has recently been published in a peer-reviewed journal called, promisingly, NeuroQuantology.

I like it when scientists clamber nervously out of their little boxes and start trying to join things together.  After all, we’ve gone over 100 years now with ‘mainstream’ science insisting that the rules of quantum science apply only to very small and – OK, grudgingly, it seems – to very big things but not to the everyday stuff in between that works fine with good old Cartesian Newtonian principles.  Seriously?

So anyway, this magazine is apparently exploring ways of mixing neuroscience with quantum theory to study the vexed matters that conventional science has no answer to: The Consciousness Question, for a start.  About time, one might venture…

The hero of this tale is one Dr Kirk Meijer, working at a university in The Netherlands.  A cautionary note here:  As a non-scientist, all I have to go on is a very brief overview of his findings, as reported by someone on a website who had read his article.  I could attempt to read the original, but I’d probably fall at the first sentence, such is my lack of scientific knowledge.  What follows, then, is the briefest summary of a summary of a summary of this man’s cutting edge work, but it fascinates me.

Knot, Fixing, Connection, Torus, MoebiusConsciousness, Dr Meijer seems to be saying, resides in a field surrounding the brain, but in another spatial dimension.  This field can pick up information from anywhere and transmit it instantaneously to the brain – the whole brain, not just certain areas – by a process called Quantum Wave Resonance, a wave pattern that encompasses all neurons.  It’s then down to the brain to interpret what consciousness has passed to it, along the neural pathways it has established.

Wow!  Finally a theory that is starting to sound right.

It follows, you see, that because each individual ‘mental field’, aka Consciousness, can access other fields, this could allow for the existence, so long denied by mainstream science, of what the article calls ‘anomalous phenomena’ – remote viewing, telepathy, déjà vu, dowsing, channelling and the like.

Best of all, the article I read gives this utterly delicious quote:

Consciousness can be regarded as the most basic building block of nature and consequently is present at all levels of the fabric of reality.

Just think of the progress humanity will make when the brilliant minds of scientists are unleashed to encompass what spirituality has been telling us for so long.  Zero limits indeed.

And maybe my ‘mental field’, linking as it does to all others, can go by the name of Koimul.

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Am I where I want to be?

Yesterday someone sent me an email.  If the photo the sender attached was to be believed, it was a smart, squeaky-clean young American.  He told me I’d been accepted as a member of an organisation called the Association of Spiritual Writers or some such.  Can’t remember the exact wording, as I deleted it pretty quick.

For a start, I hadn’t applied to join any such group.  For an end, he quickly moved into an unabashed sales patter, telling me that in order to get top price ticket sales at my talks, I needed to enrol on his training course, which would maximise my earnings.

Sorry to disappoint you, young Sir, but I have not the slightest interest in making money from spiritual writing or talking.  Sharing ideas, having dialogues, learning and discovering, yes – those things are hugely important to me, but that’s where it stops.

It made me think, though.  Do I have what I want now, in the autumn of my life?  And the answer seems to be that yes, I do.

I own a very small, sweet, though slightly damp and crumbly, old cottage in a beautiful part of England.  I get enough money from my pension to pay the bills and live each month and although I don’t run a car, have expensive holidays or buy luxury items, I have all I need to be comfortable and to give a little to charities I care about.

I still do some private tutoring, charging less by the hour than I pay a handyman to chop and stack my logs.  I’m fine with that, too.  I do it because teaching was my first love and I enjoy keeping contact with it and helping children who would otherwise be struggling.

I spend vast amounts of time making 1/12 scale miniature figures and room settings by upcycling mass produced and junk items.  It’s a brilliant hobby for me.  I can be creative, inventive and gloriously messy.  It involves constant problem-solving that keeps my mind active.
People say, “You must have such patience,” but for me it’s a kind of meditation.  I do my deepest meditating when I’m hand-stitching a minuscule white shirt or sticking tiny tufts of hair on to a wig base.
I display and sell the fruits of my labour at craft sales, get smiles and lovely comments and have fascinating conversations all day.  I make modest amounts of money – which I pass on to my son and his partner, as they are saving up for a deposit on their first home.

Strangely, at almost every sale I’m approached by some smartly dressed young man who eagerly tells me how I could make masses more money from my crafting by doing this on Instagram or that on You Tube.  I smile, thank them politely and carry on doing what I do.

I’ll happily trade the lack of stress, deadlines and problems for the lack of wealth and material goods.  I’m happy, I’m still learning every day and I have a wonderful life.

 

 

 

Syncing without Trace, but Czeching

I wish I could trace them – the tracks of my synchronicities.

Sometimes they feel like cross-hairs gradually coming together, to home in on the target, but it’s far more complex than that.  There are many strands and they cross and recross, ricocheting off one another in an apparently random mess, until gradually and subtly they begin building up a pattern.  Finally, with no clear idea how I got here, I find myself standing at the centre of an amazing piece of sacred geometry and the whole thing is laid out clearly for me to see, like those transit patterns the planets make with each other.

(Is that how astrology fits in?  Is it sacred geometry working out at a macro level??  Maybe Pluto or Uranus are not ‘influencing’ us – they’re just making the patterns of the synchronicity working through our lives visible.  Sorry: digression.)

So once I’ve had the ‘Aha!’ moment, I can try to work back to how I got there.  What was it that pushed me to open this file or buy that book?  I think – if I were the kind of person who could create such things – a diagram or flow chart would work better.  Alas, all I have at my disposal are strings of words, so they must suffice.  The process is not linear, but this attempt to unravel it will be, since that’s the way writing works.

  • Phone, Communication, ConnectionI publish a post on here which includes this image.
  • Someone comments on it and directs me to an interview with Stan Grof.
  • I become intrigued and read a book referred to in the interview.  At this point the lines of synchronicity are shooting off in multiple directions; one even points at synchronicity!
  • Grof intrigues me and, like my grandfather, he is a Czech emigrant.
  • The book tells of psychiatric regressions, with patients picking up ancestral stories from their bloodline, which were later authenticated.
  • In a quite different part of my life, I am buying a piece of Moldavite for a friend’s birthday.  I don’t know why.  I simply have a very strong feeling that this person needs Moldavite, now.
  • Intrigued again (being intrigued is a very strong indicator for synchronicities at work, I’ve found) I begin researching Moldavite.  I discover it comes from the site of a meteor impact, many centuries ago, and is only found at this one place on Earth –  in The Czech Republic.  ‘There it is again,’ I think. (Repetition/dêja vu is another indicator of synchronicity.)
  • While I’m musing on that, I start exploring that country, trying one more time to locate the village my grandfather came from.  I’ve tried on many occasions.  I knew its name from the postmarks in his stamp collection, which I inherited, but the German language forms of many border towns’ names were eradicated after WWII and I didn’t know the Czech equivalent.
  • This time, though, I find it.  I’m delighted and make a mental note to explore some more when I have time.
  • After an exhausting and rather frustrating day, I decide to have a quiet evening watching TV.  I select a film called The Secret Life of Bees, a rather sugary tale of life, death and the civil rights struggles in the American deep south in the sixties.
  • Incomprehensibly, I find myself weeping uncontrollably throughout the entire movie.  I’m identifying so strongly with every aspect of the story line and characters.  It feels personal.  It feels as if I’ve been there and experienced that and the pain is still unbearably raw.  Yet I haven’t.
  • By the end of the film, I’m a red-eyed, snivelling wreck, with a mountain of soggy tissues beside me.  ‘It’s just been a hard day,’  I tell myself.  I need to go and do something enjoyable.
  • I head for the computer and go back to researching the Czech connection.
  • I find the village my grandfather came from on Google Map.  I wander through its streets and peer across the mountains he grew up in.  I even find the post office where my ancestral relatives sent the letters whose stamps now lie, old and yellowing, in his album.
  • I read other sites, with histories of the area.  They tell how this once prosperous mining town, with rich seams of silver and agate crystals was ravaged by the Thirty Years War, fell into decline, was subsumed by the Austro-Hungarian empire and the native Bohemians persecuted and viciously suppressed.  This continued for decades.  The young men faced compulsory 10 year military service in their oppressors’ army.
  • So that was why my grandfather fled to England!  He died when I was a young child.  My father was embarrassed to talk about his origins while I was growing up.  Bohemia had become part of Czechoslovakia by then and was part of the feared Eastern Bloc during those Cold War days, so Dad pretended he came from Austria.
  • Finally, I feel I understand my heritage.  I know why the Bees film affected me so deeply.  I accept that ancestral memory still travels through my consciousness.  I see why dissolving prejudice has been such a huge part of my life.
  • I turn away from the computer – and stare straight into the eyes of my grandfather, whose pastel portrait hangs on the living room wall.  I pass it a hundred times a day, but at this point I really see it.
  • And he is smiling slightly.

Viewing the Future – Probably

It’s exactly a year since Will – my friend and remote viewing partner – started experimenting with viewing future events.

The strange but accurate scene Will viewed a week ahead.

To recap, briefly:  I’d asked him if he could view where I would be at a specific time, six days ahead of the date when the viewing took place.  I already knew where I would be, having a planned appointment, so it was a good chance for us to test out his viewing skills ahead of time.  Sure enough, he came up with several very specific features of the room I’d be in and the surrounding area.

Buoyed up by our success, we tried a second viewing the next week, in which, again, I was quite certain where I would be and – once more – he nailed it.  Obviously we were delighted with this proof that remote viewing seemed to work equally well for past, present and future events.  Nevertheless, it raised some interesting questions.

What if I had changed my mind in the intervening days and decided not to go where I had originally planned to be?  What if some misadventure had befallen me on my journey, preventing me from reaching my destination?  Was he viewing my intention, rather than my future reality?  Conversely, was it perhaps some kind of quantum effect?  Was he – in effect – peering into the box where Schrodinger’s unfortunate cat was suspended between possible outcomes and, by becoming the observer, collapsing the wave of probability and determining which would play out?

In short, once he had done the viewing, was my future then set in stone?  Clearly it wasn’t.  Obviously there would not be some supernatural force propelling me to the location he had viewed me in, if I decided to stay in bed that morning.  I still had free choice.  In which case, how was his viewing so accurate, given that the event was yet to take place?

We thought long and hard about all the ramifications and Will finally concluded that remote viewing must be connected to probability.  He felt that what he was seeing was the most probable place I would be on the target date and time.

Recently, I had been mulling over these ideas in my mind, wondering how we could refine our understanding of the processes involved.  By synchronicity, we hit upon the perfect test for his theory.

Train, Station, Tracks, CopenhagenI’d arranged to meet someone at a specific time and destination.  My journey involved two train rides, with a change at the massive Birmingham New Street Station during rush hour.  Because of that, I’d factored in a 25 minute transfer time at New Street.  However, there I was, on my first train, finding that it was running 20 minutes late and my transfer time was shrinking rapidly.

The odds of making my connection seemed to be about 50:50.  My train might or might not make up some time on the journey.  I might or might not locate and reach my next platform quickly.  There might or might not be delays caused by crowding on the escalators.  My second train might or might not also be delayed.

Instinctively, I messaged Will and told him I was unsure as to whether or not I would make a train connection and asked if he could view where I would be at 6:40 that evening – a short while after my final train was due to arrive.  If he saw me at my destination, I could relax, knowing I’d make it.  If he saw me on a train, though, I’d know it was likely I would miss my connection and be on a later one.

Tunnel, Corridor, Brick, The DarknessA few minutes later, he got back to me.  His viewing was unlike any we’d experienced.  He saw  ‘a long narrow dark area with rows of things along the side’.  There were no colours or identifying features, and we were both unsure what it meant.

In fact, I did make the rail connection.  My train arrived a little early, so that by 6:40 I was in my host’s home.  It had two adjoining rooms, with a narrow passageway through them and items of furniture to each side.  But one could argue that a train carriage is laid out in the same way.  He’d turned on the light when we got in, so it wasn’t dark.  Nor would a train carriage be.  Curious.

A day or two later, I was on another rail journey.  I decided to ask Will if he could view where I was.  This time his response was that I was on a train.  He saw it travelling through mountains and even told me the colour of the seats and the train’s livery.  All correct.  He was clearly still an expert at this.

So why the mysterious dark space in the other viewing?

Boats, Shoes, Fashion, Black And WhiteTo me it seems Will’s idea that probability is involved has been vindicated.  I’d asked him to view a future that was hanging in the balance.  The outcome depended on several factors, all beyond my control, and there was an equal chance that I would/would not catch the second train.  In that circumstance, it seems, Will was unable to pick up a clear indication of where I would be.  The long dark area could represent an uncertain future.  The items at the sides might be the two possibilities ranged along it.  Maybe, even, he was seeing both possible scenarios at once, superimposed on each other and thus darkening and obscuring his view.

Plenty to think about there, and I see it leading to more interesting experiments in the future – probably.

When My Two Worlds Collide

Summer is the time I connect with family.  Some come to stay with me, while I head off to stay with others.  It’s been a crazy few weeks of checking dates and train times, bustling about, packing and unpacking, making up beds and sorting menus.

Space, Universe, Outer Space, PlanetThat’s not the hard bit, though.  The hard bit is trying to live between my two worlds.  It’s been harder than ever this year.

My accustomed world is here – full of long, rambling, enlightening conversations with like-minded souls, either in person or on my computer.  We ponder the metaphysical and wonderful, the numinous and semi-visible, the psychic and arcane.  There are conversations over coffee about sacred geometry.  There are conversations over Whatsapp about probability.  There are articles about consciousness to read and references to check and ideas to share.  Even as the mundane carries on around me, my mind rarely strays far from this world.

In the other world there are grandchildren and aunts, cousins, sons and daughters.  We go out for meals, wander the grounds of stately homes, discuss jobs and houses, share memories and plans, sightsee and chatter.

I can manage both.  I enjoy both.  I need both.  But they are mutually exclusive.  I’ve learned – the hard way – to keep them well apart; yet this year they moved too close for comfort.

I was trying to work on both levels at once with an elderly relative.

Figure, Man, Stand, Back Pain, SciaticaThis amazing lady has enjoyed excellent health and vitality for almost 90 years.  She still lives independently and works – a complex, computer-based job that requires a flexible mind and sharp intellect.  Just recently, though, she’s been in tremendous pain.  Her physiotherapist seemed unable to help.  Pills, Medicine, Medication, MedicalThe GP arranged blood tests and X-rays, shrugged and put her on 30 tablets a day (a terrifying mix of painkillers, along with all the pills to cancel out the side-effects of the others) and told her not to sit for more than 20 minutes at a time.  She’s 89!  She still had the pain.  She had to give up driving because of all the tablets and she was – understandably – at the end of her tether.

From my accustomed world, my response was to send her distant healing and to ask my friend Will (a splendid medical intuitive) what was causing the pain.  Armed with only her name and a rough geographical location, he correctly identified the affected area and told me the pain was caused by bones in her back ‘breaking down or weakening’ and that there was something wrong in the stomach or lower torso area which might or might not be linked to this.

In the other world, I arranged to go and spend some time staying with this relative, told her a friend’s mum had symptoms similar to hers and used that to share the diagnosis Will had given, and discussed not-too-wacky alternative treatments, such as acupuncture.

Acupuncture, Herbs, AlternativeIt all went well to start with.  Like me, she has a deep distrust of Western medicine’s way of papering over the cracks, so decided to cut down on the painkillers except for the ones that seemed to be helping slightly.  She made an appointment with an acupuncturist and demanded an appointment at a pain clinic.  Her results came back from the doctor.  Osteoarthritis.  All other results normal.  “Oh good,” she said, “I had been worried that it could be cancer, because I do have some digestive problems.”

Full marks to Will!

Then she looked very hard at me, with those piercing, alert eyes and said, “But what is it YOU are doing?  Ever since you arrived, I’ve felt so much better.  The pain is far less.  It’s getting better by the day.  I think you must have some sort of – magic.”

She wasn’t joking.  It wasn’t a trite remark.  She was puzzled and confused and she wanted to understand.

What was I supposed to say?  My family don’t do weird.  They don’t believe in energies, psychic phenomena, anything that can’t be seen, poked and physically examined.  I tried a bit of logical common sense:  ‘You probably feel more relaxed having someone else around the place.  Chatting with me takes your mind off the symptoms and so you’re not dwelling on them like you do when you’re alone.’
All true.  All acceptable.  But she didn’t accept it.

“Yes, maybe so,” she said impatiently, “But that’s not what I mean.  When you’re around me, I can feel something happening in my body and it’s really making a difference.  Explain that!”

 

Meditation, Spiritual, Yoga, MeditatingSo, feeling deeply uncomfortable, I explained aspects of my world to her.  I told her that, to my way of thinking, we are far more than our bodies and brains.  I told her I believed that when we get out of balance in some way – too tense or anxious or angry or lonely, for example – it can spill over into the body and cause physical symptoms.  I told her I believed that we can send healing energy to one another by using loving thoughts and clear intention, and that that was what I’d been doing in the days before I’d arrived and – in a more focused way – now that I was there.

She was very quiet for a very long time.

“And there’s more that you’re not telling me,” she finally said.  “There are other things you can do, aren’t there?”

I told her I’d probably said far more than I should.

“You know you’d have been burnt as a witch if you’d lived a couple of hundred years ago?”

I nodded and suddenly the tension was broken we both laughed.

“Well I don’t pretend to understand,” she sighed, “But please keep doing it.  It helps.”

So I do.

 

 

 

A Trail of Breadcrumbs

Learn, Child, View, Thumb, High, LikeIt was over twenty years ago, and I’ve taught a lot of lessons since then.  None, though, quite as extraordinary as that one.

They were 5 to 7 year olds, only ten of them, all with speech and language difficulties and several with autistic spectrum perception.  We were doing a mental addition and subtraction activity and I was recording their answers on the board.

There was a wide ability range and a couple of the kids were exceptionally bright.  I was doing my best to stretch them, while keeping the less able group involved.

I had a hidden agenda, though.  There was one boy – a six-year-old – whom I was watching particularly carefully.  He was one of the highly intelligent ones.  He always focused on the task at hand, worked hard and was unfailingly polite and charming.  We’d been watching him for a few weeks, my teaching assistant and myself, ever since I’d confided to her that I felt I was losing my grip on this class.  To be honest – and I’m not a person given to paranoid delusions – I was beginning to suspect that this little child was intentionally sabotaging my lessons.

The activity started quite normally, but before long he started.

‘27 +13?’ I asked.

‘40,’ someone said.

I wrote 40 on the board.

‘No, it’s 41,’ he said.

I talked through the calculation, using my best patient teacher voice.

‘But you said 28.  28 and 13 is 41, isn’t it?’

Hmm.  This sort of thing happened all the time in my class these days.  Normally I’d have accepted that I’d made a mistake and wondered, yet again, why I was becoming so absent-minded.  Today, though, I was ready for him.  I pretended to be flustered.  There was no flicker of a triumphant smile from him.  Maybe he’d made a genuine mistake…

We carried on.  He did it several more times, selecting his moments with infinite care.  If I stood my ground, he backed down instantly with a polite, ‘Oh, sorry.’  If I hesitated or acted confused, though, he’d capitalise on it, wasting vast amounts of time in the process.

By the end of the session I was in no further doubt.  All the times a vital piece of equipment I was sure I’d laid out for a lesson had gone missing and was then found in the most ridiculous place – by him, naturally; all the lessons where he was endlessly under my feet and I was practically falling over him, yet he’d always have a perfectly valid explanation for being there; all the times when half the class ended up repeating some stupid little phrase over and over, while he sat, bent over his work and looking up in mild surprise at their behaviour;  all this and more was being orchestrated by a child of six with a diagnosis on the autistic spectrum and severe speech difficulties.  It beggared belief.

Later that day I took him aside and asked him, point blank, why he was playing these mind games.

‘What’s mind games?’ he asked innocently, but the mask was slipping.  I could see a gleeful twinkle in those wide green eyes.

‘The little wind-ups you use in my lessons, like in maths this morning,’ I replied.

He gave a yelp of delight.  ‘So it’s YOU!’ he said.  ‘I thought it was you.’  And he smiled his concrete-melting smile.

He went on to explain that he’d been trying his ‘tricks’ on a number of key adults in his life for some time, waiting to find the one who figured out what he was doing.  I had, it seemed, passed the test.

So as his teacher I had two choices.  I could get angry, label him as a disruptive and manipulative pupil and apply sanctions.  Alternatively, I could be delighted that I’d come across such an audacious, brilliant and imaginative mind, give him the deepest respect and remember never to underestimate him.  I chose the latter.  Of course I did.  This was a once in a lifetime meeting.

From that day onward we became the best of friends.  Twenty years on, we still are.

That’s not to say he’s let me off the hook.  Far from it.

If he wants me to discover something, to move closer towards his level of comprehension, he will never simply tell me.  He uses the Socratic Method.  It’s the most effective form of education ever developed.  The student is given scenarios and placed in situations which require high-level problem-solving skills.

Hiking, Nature, Walking Trails, JeansI’m given a trail of breadcrumbs to follow, often a heady mix of physical and psychic, since he operates in both modes.  He ruthlessly ignores my questions or pleas for hints.   If some of the breadcrumbs have disappeared or been blown off course, I’m simply expected to work harder and faster to find the rest.  It’s exhausting and exhilarating – the kind of buzz people get from climbing mountains or running marathons, I suppose.  If I fail, he ups the stakes.  If I succeed he’s utterly delighted and we are able to communicate on a higher level than I’d ever have achieved alone.

I’m busily following one such trail at the moment.  Here, as an example, is just one of the crumbs he’s thrown me:

Phone, Communication, ConnectionAutistic people are capable of communicating and socialising. They have a naturally different method of accomplishing this. What exactly that method is I don’t believe is fully understood at present by either autistics or non-autistics. I don’t believe the correct words have been attributed to autistic matters to describe or explain them properly. I suspect at some point this will be achieved and hopefully will allow autism to be harnessed to its full potential and remedy the blindness of so many.

Wish me luck  🙂

 

A Flock of Clockwork Birds

Nothing deep this week – just a simple story, which happens to be true…

‘Flock of singing bird mechanisms, job lot’ said the advert.  And it had me – a bird in the hand…

I called the vendor, who – it transpired – lived less than a mile from my cottage.

“Yes,” he said. “Brass and steel.  Clockwork.  They have tiny bellows and a little brass whistle.  When you wind the key, the bird warbles and twists around.  My father had them, long ago.  Mother found them when she was turning out – asked me to find a home for them.  The sort of thing popular with Victorians, in little gilt cages, you know?  Could you use them?”

“Yes,” I said, not daring to pause for breath.

“How?” I wondered.

I could afford the price.  It seemed most reasonable for such treasures.  Real clockwork mechanisms – they are disappearing from our world like smoke.  No batteries.  No USB connectors.  Just brass and steel, cog and cam, key and spring.  I have loved clockwork, automatons and all such things ever since, as a toddler, I ripped my cardboard musical box apart to find where the sounds came from, and sat entranced as I watched the shining beauty of its mechanical perfection.

With no plan in mind, I simply knew I had to have the flock.  Perhaps the birds would sing to me and tell me how to bring them back to life.

At three o’clock I was led to the vendor’s garage.  A faded, mouse-gnawed, cardboard box was pulled out for my inspection.  Twelve little packages, each wrapped in yellowing tissue paper lay there.  He unwrapped one and placed the dainty mechanism in the palm of my hand.  Springs and cams glinted slightly in the dim light.

“Needs a key,” he said.  A second box was brought out, filled with hundreds of tiny folded waxed paper envelopes.  Why did he have that many?  He pulled one open.  I glimpsed fragments of wire and brass and plastic inside, and a shining brass key.

“Turns this way,” he said. “Counter-clockwise.  Left-handed.”

Like me.

He screwed the key into the mechanism and turned.  Nothing.  He twisted the device around, searching his memory, muttering to himself, “Must need oiling.  Not been touched in years.  How do they start?”

Then his hand knocked the fly wheel.  It began to turn.  A few slow revolutions, then it spun as smoothly as it ever had.  The bellows moved up and down like some tiny creature’s beating heart, and the warbling began.   On and on it trilled and I watched and listened, thanking the inexplicable impulse that had nudged me into answering his advert.

Next a box of birds (“All hand painted, you know.”) was passed to me for inspection.  Two hundred?  Maybe three?  Some in shades of blue, some gold.  I must have gasped at the quantity.

“Oh, you’ll be amazed when you see how many you’ve got here,” he told me.

Sure enough, as he lifted box after box, I saw an endless mass of the clockwork devices.  Enough for every key and every bird.

“No idea why my father had them,” he said.  “Obviously he was planning to do something with them and they got forgotten.  Just been stuck in an attic ever since.  You sure you can find a use for them?”

“Definitely,” I said, wondering how and when and what.

I’d happily have paid his price for the original twelve, but here I am with dirty, dusty box after dirty, dusty box of the tiny wonders, now stashed in my coal-store and waiting, waiting not so much longer now, maybe, to be released – to sing and twirl and entertain as they always intended to.

Orcadian Education – a better way?

What follows is little more than scattered traveller’s tales, gleaned from a very few days spent exploring the Orkney Islands.  I apologise to any Orcadians who should happen upon this post for the lack of detail and insight it contains, but would just like to throw in a few thoughts on a system which seems to me – from a very cursory glance – to be worthy of further consideration.

The first thing you notice, looking out from the hostel on one of the smaller and more northerly islands, is the idyllic view of land and sea, layered in horizontal swathes of colour, from emerald to deepest turquoise to heathery brown and finally ocean indigo, all set off by a clear, azure sky.  The second thing is a small herd of alpacas grazing a nearby field.

“Oh, they belong to the school children,” we were told.  “They learn to look after them and run the herd as a business.”

The school in question was the primary school.  It currently has seven pupils, but they are hoping to reach double figures in September.  Older children take the ferry to a secondary school each day – whatever the weather – on a larger island nearby.
“They do arrive a bit green some days and it’s a while before they can focus on the first lesson, but they never complain,” a parent told me.
Post sixteen, they weekly board on the island known as Mainland.
“They all have to sign an agreement,” she said, “Saying they’ll take full responsibility for their behaviour and attitude towards learning – and they stick to it.”

‘Taking responsibility’ seems to be the core ethic on the islands.  No one – young or old or in between – is mollycoddled and provided for.  Everyone does what they can to add to the quality of life.  We saw no litter, no graffiti or vandalism.  The ‘oldest home in Northern Europe’ – a magnificently preserved pair of buildings which predate the Egyptian pyramids – is protected only by a gated fence to keep the cattle out.  Not a DO NOT sign or so much as a crisp packet in sight.

I recently read a quote to the effect that you need a village to educate a child.  In this case, they have an island to do the job.  So yes, there are schools, and all the normal core curriculum subjects, but that’s just the start of it.   They learn not just about ‘The Vikings’, but their Vikings – the ones who farmed and fished their islands.  The history and culture of their home is shared with pride, so that every islander feels a deep and abiding connection with the land.  A local poultry farmer gives the children a few eggs to incubate and rear each year.  At lambing time each child is apprenticed to a farm worker and allowed to watch and sometimes help to deliver the babies.

The idea of informal apprenticeship pervades the place.  As soon as a child or young person is judged or declares themself ready to learn a new skill, an older islander will take it upon themselves to teach and supervise them.  Older ladies teach the skills of knitting and sewing to a new generation.  A lad is expected to pick up a skill set that will enable him to be a useful member of the community, whether it’s how to demolish a wall or how to service IT equipment.  Once these skills are mastered and the instructor judges the youngster to be capable, they are encouraged to do such tasks alone.  Each teenager develops his or her own abilities and is happy to give back to the community who gave them the skills in the first place.  The result:  young people are a valued part of the community, appreciated by everyone; the elderly are cared for by those who learned from them in the past and children look forward to becoming as skilled and useful as their older siblings.  No adolescent angst; no inter-generational tensions.

“Every new initiative on the island will only be given a grant if we can prove that it benefits every age group,” I was told by the development officer.  “So we have a youth council as well as an adult one, and they get to say how their share should be spent.  They were offered a youth worker, but they didn’t want that.  They said they’d prefer a dart board in the pub, so they could play while their parents were drinking!  Oh they all come to the pub.  Everyone knows their age, and when they’re old enough to drink, the adults are around to keep a watchful eye.”

The transition from kid to adult seems truly seamless there.

“Our son, at 17, wanted to start up a fishing business,” a mother explained.  “He told us he hadn’t a clue how to deal with all the paperwork, so I made an appointment for him with an accountant on Mainland.  He took himself off there and sat down with them and learned all they told him, then he came back and got on with it.  He’s never asked us for any help.  That’s how it should be.”

And it is, isn’t it?

 

 

Always will.

Glass, Shattered, Window, DestructionTen years ago, I was just finishing the most terrifying, exhilarating, exhausting and arguably the most successful year of my life as an educator.

I’ve spoken about it before, but not for a while, and a few things have happened this week (like the message from D) to make me want to look back at it.

Briefly:  I worked in a primary school at a time when everything was controlled by THEM – the curriculum, the standards, the targets, the methods.  As educators we were under stupid amounts of pressure to conform and jump through all THEIR hoops.  The alternative was Special Measures.

Ours was a smallish school and – as sometimes happens – in that particular year, we were struggling with an above average number of, um, challenging pupils.  The reasons for the challenges weren’t hard to fathom – parents in prison, parents who had died or were seriously ill, parents with substance abuse issues, violent and abusive siblings and step-parents, family break-ups, history of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.  Those are just the bits I can remember.  There was also peer influence and imitation; children would pick up on the behaviour of others and copy it.

Run Riot, Anarchy, City, Urban, GraffitiEvery class in the 7-11 age group had a few hard-core rebels and several who copied their behaviour.  Teachers felt their standards slipping as they struggled to deal with daily disruption.  Some were refusing to teach certain children or to have X and Y in the same class.  Exclusion of these youngsters wasn’t an option.  It was frowned upon by THEM, and anyway, we wanted to help these kids.

As a senior management team, we pondered long and hard on how we could organise classes for the next academic year.  No combinations worked.

Until I had my crazy/wonderful idea.

I opted to teach a mixed-age class of just 16 pupils, containing every one of the challenging children and a few others who had their own issues and difficulties, despite not being disruptive.  My conditions were that the National Curriculum would not be followed, testing would be optional – and then only at the very end of the year, targets would be replaced by frequent ‘look how far you’ve come’ reviews, the education would be holistic, with a different programme of study for each individual based on their personal circumstances and emotional needs as well as the educational ones.

Luckily, I had a brave, supportive head teacher and some brilliant, visionary and courageous support staff.  I was also able to buy in help from a very talented play therapist/counsellor.  Annoyingly, the local authority insisted on adding in its Behaviour Support Team, who tried to get me to run the class along the lines of Pavlov’s dogs or Skinner’s rats.  Not helpful.

My curriculum was, very broadly:  Term 1 – learn to tolerate and begin to like yourself.   Term 2 – like and take some responsibility for yourself and begin to tolerate one or two others, so you can manage to work in a very small group.  Term 3 – take responsibility for your own behaviour and actions and begin to tolerate and work with larger groups and the whole class.

Girl, Boys, Children, DevelopmentEach of the 16 who stayed at the school (such families travel around a fair bit, so some moved away) went on to rejoin a normal mainstream class the next year.  All of them opted to take part in the end of year tests and did as well or better than expected.  In the final term they did a whole class project and cooperated as well as any group I’ve ever taught.

Obviously the hardest bit – so hard I still have to fight back tears as I remember – was to get these lovely young people to tolerate and, later, like themselves.  Once that was achieved, the rest flowed relatively easily.

As I mentioned earlier, several synchronicities have turned up recently, drawing me back to 2007.  Some will have to wait for another post, but I will mention D.

He was one of the oldest in that class – an intelligent, painfully sensitive, deeply troubled young lad who somehow transformed during the year from having always been the class weirdo to becoming an excellent and much admired role model for the younger boys in our group.

Last night – as he does from time to time – he messaged me.  Said he hoped I was doing OK.  We chatted briefly.  I told him what was happening in my life; he told me a little about his.  Then we signed off.

“Thanks for remembering me,” I said.

“Always will,” came the reply.

I’ll always remember him, too, and the rest of the class who taught me that once you can like yourself, there are no limits to what you can do.

 

 

 

 

Some advice on Managing Sensory overload. — The Snacking Sage

 

We’re back in business guys! Anyway, where were we? Ahem: It may be hard to believe, but I’m actually rather shy. I know that makes little sense considering I’ve put myself out there on the web. I’ve been doing some talking with some people, and I feel that this is something that would be of […]

via Some advice on Managing Sensory overload. — The Snacking Sage

I’ve been following this blogger for some time.  There are some wise words here that may well be of interest to many of you, so do take a look…   Jan.