I was born and raised mid-1974 in Loughborough, within the landlocked East Midlands county of North West Leicestershire. I am from a working-class family, my father (Jullian) was a printer's clerk and children's book author, my mother a factory assembly line worker. My married parents became deceased in 2013, my mother and father died the same year, both were aged 66. My sibling (an elder brother named Justin) was born in Crewe.
My self-obsessive father often kept his own company, he was an self-contented man appreciating moments to himself; undisturbed he would reservedly offer fractions of his time towards his family. Before he met my mother, he was discharged from the Royal Air Force after mere several months, allegedly after being diagnosed with a personality disorder. As a capable printer's clerk, he authored a small children's Ladybird book entitled “Flying Models” (ISBN: 978-0721405346) from his flying model hobby that was confined to his man shed.
Flying models were rotational tethered aeroplanes which he flew at regional held British Model Flying Association club events. These were often held inside damp, frosted aeroplane hangers. Distressed by the high-pitched screaming of these model's micro engines and the tense, often angered look of men spinning themselves senseless. I would often distance from my mother's grasp towards fresh air and light of the open hanger door, avoiding lurking shadows of elderly men that would linger with ulterior motivations nearby.
My mother (Mirriam) worked hard during pregnancy at Brush Electrical Machines as an assembly worker, together with joint earnings, my parents saved significantly to enable a move into a detached house within a working-class suburban area of Shepshed. The relocation moved my mother into a more traditional role, where she focused attentions on being a devoted mother. Whilst in good health, she baked cakes, cooked nutritious meals, timely placed food upon our family dinner table.
After my father became redundant from Ladybird, he found work as a travelling book rep for romance book publisher Mills & Boon. The transient nature of the job demanded long hours driving, leaving him to frequently arrive home late; his dining room chair was often empty, each time this happened a pre-emptive stillness, a fear instilled in our family household.
He had many sleep-induced car crashes, his last crash hitting the fast lane barrier of a motorway. Fequently arriving late turned into nights of absence, before lights out I would often overhear my stressed and lonely mother cursing her frustrations at lonely emptinesss, from underneath her voice. Eventually, her suspicions proved correct, father had absconded and disregarded every care for us to share his life with a then married woman located in the Malvern Hills, a place completely unknown to either myself, brother or mother.
My parents worked hard and saved to take annual holidays at resorts within the United Kingdom, often to Lyme Regis, camping in a large tent along Dorset's gold cap coastline. At this (then proposed) World Heritage site, my father took an overly keen interest in fossils, in particular ammonites. His strange obsession with the fossil was the causation of him breaking two of his fingers somewhere between chiselling a hefty ammonite out of a cliff and placing it into his car. At Lyme Regis I reluctantly remember residing in leaky damp, condensation filled tents, eating fleshy tinned fruit and bland, undercooked food. Whilst at the campsite I never mixed with other children.
I disliked going to the seafront, my father pulling and yanking at my hand, wrist, arm and shoulder, behind my buckling knees and twisted ankles as they knocked painful vibration between crab infested rock pools; incoherent my father's excitement earnest to discover one more fossil discovery before the tide came in. As tears rolled from my eyes, over my cheeks and off my chin, I released I did not, and would probably never share enthusiasm or even want to partake in his inconsiderate fossil hunter activities; as salt became salt, as tear drops are to sea water.
My mother hurling accusations of infidelity at my father eventually proved substantiated, she became withdrawn and emersed in her thoughts increasingly paranoid sliding upon the verged slippery slope of a nervous breakdown. Being unable to keep up with mortgage repayments, my mother relocated us to a much smaller, semi-detached house a mere half-mile away.
In this new environment her behaviour became increasingly irrational. A lonely, heavily perfumed paranoid schizophrenic mother wearing a beige trench coat chose to stay out many nights, wandering dark roads for miles, possibly searching for a sense of reason. She'd often go missing for days; sometimes returning from detained by the police, her feet cut and caked in dried blood.
Crazed with paranoia our mother stormed the bedroom most nights, raging with mania fuelled accusations, that encited her deluded mind to impulisvely beat the living hell out of both me and my elder brother; terrorised and tormented by a delusuion of being raped and poisoned by an ex-boyfriend; alleging that myself and, more my sibling, were in some kind of co-hoots with this imaginary intruder, her deluded assertions alleging we were giving this intruder nightime access into the safety of our home. Food thrown in the bin, we were sometimes fed by a neighbour or relatives, otherwise we went hungry.
Throughout the debilitating and torturous paranoia of her psychiatric illness she managed to unfocus from her delusions just enough to be retrained as a linker (sewing arms onto jumpers) and thus began work for a hosiery company named Mansfield Hosieries. She struggled and endeavoured to keep this job after persistently complaining of not only malicious gossip, but also accusations of deliberate sabotage of her work. Shepshed was a small town renowned for local gossip and being in a small area of women for many hours, her allegations could probably beeen substantiated.
Child care was often hard to find when she needed to work overtime, we would both go to an uncle (Kenny), he lived in Thringstone. Kenny was a retired miner, during the eighties miners strike, as a scab he broke picket lines, enduring dispossession spurned by community resentment that ultimately deteriorated his state of mental health. I remember him scratching his stretched out shaking palms, rubbing them hard upon any table corner he could find. As a result of suffering stress, he made many recurrent visits for treatment as an outpatient at Calton Hayes mental hospital.
Many people wrongfully stigmatized my mother's brother Kenny as being Jewish because he carried in his pocket a considerable wad of cash, often over a thousand pounds. He counted this money over and over again, I remember him losing a ten-pound note and going nuts, recounting and recounting trying to prove himself wrong, until he was blue in the face. During social rejection, he sought fellowship as an evangelical baptist. He bore fever pitch disdain for my avid taste in heavy metal music (often describing my taste in music as hell-raising and satanic). My outdoor adventures in the wildwood often gave him discomfort; dispondent and disociate I never managed to familiarize myself with this “second home”.
Kenny eventually confided in the assistance of a hypnotic, invasive preacher that unsuccessfully attempted to divert me from my music taste and love of the great outdoors, my childhood sanctuary. Both the preacher and his religious nuts also attempted to exploit my mother into their fellowship, issuing her with an old torn up bible and instructed her to begin praying and preaching unto her children. She took to wearing a white silk glove on her left hand and drew out seeming endless chalk circles on our black tiled living room floor; claiming this protected her from demons.
The church eventually disappeared after performing a supposed exorcism, which involved removing our home of all our personal effects; after this episode, we never again saw this twisted preacher or his beligerent goons again.
So, lifelessly traumatized was my inherent projection that my other uncle named Colin, a warm, kind-hearted man who had broken his back labouring on building sites. Colin, through the Royal Anglican Army Cadet force, thought he might be able to restore some movement into my vacant, catatonic demeanour. The effort proved a miss, already traumatized the shouting failed to spur projection or even compartmentalize me, after being drilled a few times any mutual interest dissipated. However whilst in the Army Cadet force, I took part in two forty-eight-hour exercises held at Yardley Chase and Catterick garrisons.
This effort involved dragging around a heavy Lee-Enfield DP 303 (barrel filled with lead), a historical WW2 rifle that was almost as tall and weighed at least as much as me, at that time. The itchy woollen uniforms were uncomfortable and the annoying damp fustiness was near impossible to wash out. It was futile attempting to build a rapport with the cadet force detachment commander, the stressed man was seemingly to busy and maybe quite rightly consumed with conducting his affairs to take an individual interest in Cadets; from retrospective, maybe I searched for responses in him I had never experienced from an absent father.
Life at my Aunt's (Dorothy) and Uncle's (Colin) small terrace house located along a busy, polluted Charnwood road in Shepshed was a sheltered, safe environment from the crazed reaches of my psychotic and often violent mother; it was here during worse episodes of her grief-stricken illness I resided. Both Colin and Dorothy were caring, compassionate and loving but such endearing notions were almost completely alien to me. Colin was stocky and grizzly, being a multi-generational local he told many folk stories, explaining that the surrounding area of North West Leicestershire used to be revelling in “Witchcraft”.
Between filling his heavy tobacco pipe and filling his nostrils with white menthol snuff he'd tell intriguing folk tales, stories of leaper pits, ghost trains et al. As a family of five, sometimes six often journeyed compacted into a vehicle that was nicknamed a “Plastic Pig” or officially known as a “Reliant Robin”, an orange three-wheeler, low CC and fibreglass moulded. This was a restricted choice of “car” because Colin only held a motorbike licence. He often refused to buckle his draped across his chest seat belt, claiming static between his belt and his jumper would be enough to hold him in place if the car would crash. He rolled this three-wheeler car many times.
Along with my two cousins, we went on a two-star working-class holiday to Benidorm, Spain. The holiday was tolerable, but in many places almost becoming a disaster. My aunty was almost robbed when an infamous “woman with the roses” attempted to dip then snatch the contents of her purse. We also were lured onto a building site by the dodgiest time-share selling couple you could ever imagine. I found the heat intolerable, my pale shoulders were burned to a crisp, my northern European skin did not tolerate the strong Mediterranean sun at all.
Culturally I never really got to experience Spain but at one point did go out for a long walk on my own, at the age of twelve / thirteen this launched my guardians into a degree of havoc, at least for a few hours. I did not savour the bright, hot, dry climate and in many ways was glad to arrive back at a grey, cold, rain-swept East Midlands airport from a blisteringly hot, dazzlingly bright Alicante. During my stay at Charnwood road, my cousin suffered badly with stomach pains that, I believed, were caused by his diet of fizzy Corona branded soft drink.
As “latch key kid” I would nearly always arrive into a cold, silent, forbading stillness that I somehow, through dispondence defined as my home. This changed when my elder sibling found mother upstairs, self slain, limp and semi-conscious, her leaking life contained inside a white and red streaked bloody bathtub, her wrists deeply cut open, sprawled limp dripping congealed blood. I was pulled back from observing this, but the picture from that momentary glance remains with me to this day. Mother withdrawn confining herself to darkness and bed rest until she was observed and reported to the police for pulling out a kitchen knife on a canvassing politician.
Upon arrest, a distraught mother finally got much needed psychiatric help to alleviate the years of suffering she had endured with Paranoid Schizophrenia. As I walked away, led by an allocated social worker, attentions fixated on the reflective glass of windows and doors being bored up with wood boards; my emaciated and trembling body was turned away from the hectic single-parent family life that my disturbed rationality had clung desperately to signify a validated existance.
Subsequently, (originally my mother agreed to me going into care but then retracted) I was subjected to a “full ward of the court” whilst my elder sibling was bundled into Loughborough student bedsit land accommodation, were alone, without much support he struggled to manage with ongoing episodes of bulimia and recurrent flashbacks from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
My sibling and I were fetched (without being given a choice) from North West Leicestershire and driven at least twice to the Malvern in Worcestershire by my lucid and estranged father. Once for a defacing visit and the next and final occasion was to attend his second wedding to a callous would be but never materialized stepmother who had so abruptly removed our father from our lives. She disliked us immensely, as an unsightly inconvenience when out of our sight she frequently and abruptly referred to us as “ZOMBIES”, noticeably when enquiring how much longer we would be present within her house.
At a meticulously planned wedding ceremony, we were left outside with a family member, such as the strength of feeling toward our unwanted, uncouth presence. A broken, unrecoverable chapter of unsightly history both the bride (Mistress Susan) and the groom (my father) wanted to forget, disregard and move on from. Although these two were overheard after bedtime in debate during our stay, no concern or empathy was ever directly shown to us in the vaguest concern of our neglected and poverty-stricken situation back in North West Leicestershire.
Observing this poorly written grammar you'll probably guess I suffer quite severely from dyslexia, I have always got my b's and d's back to front and even had a problem with writing the number “2” upside down. I received a poor, disrupted education. My school attendance was minimal, vague, tormented and ostracized; I was denounced and stigmatized by older children as “FREAK” or “ALIEN” at almost every attainable instance of inclusion. So vindictive and grievous was this bullying (for years my elder sibling went along with it) that I was slashed deeply across my right hand with a craft knife when seated at a table within the kitchen of my home.
For five years remaining, I was repeatedly abused in local governmental care, exposed naked inside children's homes, fiddled by foster parents and mentally abused by relatives and insidious “friends of the family”. All photographs of me & brother as children, along with close family and distant relatives were all cut up into misshape triangles with plastic-handled scissors, then thrown into the rubbish bin of my drunken mother's void of Holstein pills dissolution. At first, she cut out my father, but I guess the act of damaging the photo of us also became unbearable, hence destroying all of them.
Adolescent life away from home during primary schooling, between the years of five and ten, I can only describe as utterly sinister. I used to dance away my obsessive-compulsive disorders between tarmac pavement cracks as though they were deep crevasses of to be or not to be, cursed misfortune. During my final year at the primary school a creepy and maybe malicious teacher regularly asserted his directive by pulling out my blonde curly hair in chunks whilst he mocked and taunted me “sly child” and on other occasions as “BaBy BlUe EyEs”, often constructing a spectacle of stigmatizing my slumbered presence at school assembly for refusing to sing from a torn, peeling woodchip wallpapered Christian hymn book.
Despite this unnerving altercation, I found a sense of relief, freedom in movement, resulting in myself cross-country running for my town twice in school country championships. I also learned to play a dented trumpet (loaned from the teacher who regularly pulled out my hair). The teacher, Mr Benison also segregated what he considered “Brighter Students” which he claimed were more intelligent and should therefore not be distracted. To escape alienating abuses I would often find sanctuary by a brook (an overflow from Black brook Reservoir) that eventually ran down to a steady flow, just beyond a trickle to the borderline edge of my home's rear garden.
In high school when not absent (having the second most poor attendance record in the entire school) I excelled in the study of foreign languages, most notably German (not French), my teacher stipulating I had near precise vocal pronunciation of Germanic words. After a couple of brief scrimmages with the truancy officer, my social worker began attempting to escort and drive me directly into school attendance. At the car park, she watched me walk into the main entrance but as she drove off she did not notice me walking straight through the building and out the other side, through a playing field and over a fence where glue sniffers used to frequent.
Frequented and favourite areas of my childhood in North West Leicestershire included White Horse (south of my Shepshed) and Piper woods (north of Shepshed), Beacon hill (two miles south), Bradgate Park (four miles south), Swithland Woods (six miles south-east). I rambled and coddiwompled everywhere within my reach at various ages, expanding my reach through BMX riding (for fun) and still do today (for exercise). This area of Leicestershire was a stronghold of Viking settlement, and many places ending or beginning with the name “Thorpe” still tell of this within their names.
Although I have a birthed connection to this central England vicinity, my family were proper Northerners who came to this area, arriving into the East Midlands to earn a living wage from working-class, manual jobs. My Scotto-Norman father originated from Batley, Yorkshire, my scandinavian mother was born in Durham. They were both experienced arrogance from being outcast as intruding outsiders by locals in Leicestershire. Anybody who was not of 5th or 6th generation within this locality was viewed and thus stigmatized as an outsider, beyond any conception of locality.
Distant visits via car with my family to the Towers mental hospital were incredibly stressful, initially, originally my sick mother had been misdiagnosed with depression and subsequently received many shock treatments of Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT). By the time we were allowed onto the locked down ward, she could not recognize us as her family by our appearance.
It was claimed that due to the treatment, she also had immense trouble speaking clearly, varying in volume and tone which was alarmingly alien and impossible at times to understand. Wards she resided on were always locked and upon our last visit to the ward, we had to be rushed off the premises as another impatient caught our eyes and proceed to direct malevolence towards our presence.
After being made a “ward of court”; from the age of eleven years onward a transient, dishevelled four years ensued, ghosted between placement after placement, a faded existence consisting of fifty-two designated residential care placements. This involved residing under the roof of many foster parents and misplaced foster siblings who were exploited underage prostitutes, suppressed drug addicts, some were quick-tempered, others violent psychotics troubled with unpredictable and unresponsive personality disorders.
After the redundant failure of satellite foster placements (around the locality of Shepshed and Loughborough) in between moves to Leicester, I was resettled in a now redundant mining town of Coalville. Schooling was transferred to King Edward college, where I fell behind with work, unfocused on learning I was taken to see the deputy headmaster who was ill-informed enough to be mystified as to why I wasn't being graded after he tested me to an IQ of 150+.
For several months, I was residentially placed in a semi-detached town house located mere footsteps away from Coalville's busy London road. The foster parents were both busy teachers, they never expressed any nurturing love towards me as they did to their maternal children. I could not relate to a functional nuclear family life that I hadly experienced.
A tall grey hair foster father named “dick” enjoyed his own time with a bottle of Scotch, routinely sitting himself down in a leather chair placed in between two pedigree great Dane dogs which often evacuated the smelt of excrement, a lingering unpleasant canine discharge that was overtly pungent to the nose. Next door I made friends with a neighbouring teenager with brittle bones, he hung on a lot where he could but due to his nervous silly attitude was not tolerated much by other people.
Over a busy main road was some green iron gates at the perimeter of the town's park, here a made friends with heavy metal bikers, some hells angels. I found myself attracted to the bright embroidery of their denim cut off waistcoats and felt enamoured not just by their taste in powerful rumbling motorbikes but also by the uniqueness of their heavy metal music. Just past an allotment, the park backed off onto Whitwick Colliery, which had been abandoned and demolished into an enormous pile of dusty rubble.
The boarded derelict town was financially redundant and in many places almost lawless; underage drinking, rowdiness and in the midst of confusion fighting was a very common occurrence. I was illegally served a copious amount of alcohol inside pubs and two clubs (snooker and nightclub) at the age of fifteen, these teenage nights would end either with a bloody nose or projecting vomit over filthy pavements. Trouble became so bad within this dying town the council demolished our hangout, the park shelter, a brick building with park seating removed, leaving us nowhere to go.
Nothing changed in this dreary town, I would often turn away from the sun and face off towards ever-changing patterns of rain that gave relieving indifference to awareness of the stagnated surrounding. Crumbling and dammed conceptual reality cast far away from any upliftment via urban regeneration. Any gentrification would have looked obscured, if not odd, to the emotionally torn faces of this broken, debilitated mining town.
Through a friend, I met with the good company of an ex-biker by the name of Bill who introduced me to intricate selections of cords in the electric guitar and his infinitely wide taste and knowledge in classic 70s to late 80s rock music. His family were kind to me, shared food and drink whilst I was there. Bill had some mental health problems and had lost two inches off one leg due to a motorcycle accident, which in retrospective had probably anchored with trauma to a house he rarely ever left.
Due to my surname being Cooper they gave me the nickname “Alice” which kinda stuck but only whilst I was resident within the town, I never chose to hang on to this nickname. I believe Bill's family had considered fostering me at some stage, but a police caution resulting in their house being searched completely wrecked and finished any chance of a placement within this home. From Coalville, I was again returned to the city of Leicester, after a few days stay in the Holt (childrens home in Birstal) I was transferred to a hostel located on Gopsal street, in a run-down Highfields area of Leicester.
The hostel was geared towards rehabilitating institutionalised “Children's Home” residents into independent living; there were no new introductions to these residents, as already previously known them from many other children's homes I had previously resided in. The idea behind the hostel was beneficial, but was floored with apathy from years of unresponsive dejection.
I spent eight months ascending the council waiting list for a flat. Arriving near the top, I was offered a studio flat housed inside a grey concrete high rise flat block named “de-Montfort House” located next to Leicester's busy main Railway Station. Here I was awarded and squandered my “leaving care grant” leaving me either seated on the floor in silence or staring out of one of two thick double-glazed square windows at the ant life below. Whilst here, I avoided the notorious King's Head and drank at Leicester de-Montfort public house located on New Walk.
Here I met Pip and Blacko, two pot-smoking Hells Angels (ex Rat eye members) thus enabling me to copiously drink alcohol (Newcastle Brown Ale) and smoke both tobacco and weed profusely. I was also befriended by a geeky guy from Rushymead who shared the same birthday as me but had nothing else in common other than lucidly similar taste in heavy metal music; he presents himself a few times before fading away, I once met his reclusive parents who I found owned a vintage Austin Cambridge car.
I was temporarily housed, sometimes for months in three different children's homes (but still managed by the same local authority) within the city of Leicester; twice at The Oaks, Mill hill lane, (Highfields) — three times at Dunblane Avenue, (Rushy Mead, Thurmaston) and three to four times at the notorious Holt reception home (Birstall). Many unwanted mixed races, gipsy and mentally ill and just pure angry children co-inhabited these state-run adolescent institutions alongside me.
There were other places named “secure units” for more damaged children. Lucky, I narrowly avoided the Beeches children's home (haunts of child-abusing predators Frank Beck & Lord Janner) although I assume this deliberated as an 'option' many times during years of social worker meetings.
New Age Travellers
In 1990 finding me kicked out of temporary accommodation, I happened to catch onto the tail end of a white diaspora nomadic subculture known as the “New Age Travellers”. During this period of a mere few years I lived in converted coaches, ramshackle caravans and shuffled around inside makeshift shelters called benders.
Many of the sites divided into tracks, at noisier times live music would be play, at chilled times giant pots of opium poppies were simmered, distributed as communal tea. Vintage vehicles broke down and were stationary and often in need of repair, so many travellers used “blat motors”, usually run down errand cars purchased from motor auctions. Post humorously inside these cars, travellers replaced tax discs with beer labels.
Whilst inebriated to the eyeballs with Carlsberg Special Brew I also occasionally took skullcap and valerian, seasonally during dark, colder months spiritually journeying out realms, self-guided and exploring enhanced perceptions via consumption of magic mushrooms (liberty caps). Recreationally I dabbled a little with amphetamine but repulsed and avoided “nowhere ketamine”, the false friendships of MDMA / cocaine” and a sleepy cosy blanket death I came to know as heroin, more commonly known throughout our circles as smack.
Despite these often far removing altercations, I was generally well-liked and accepted, which I suspect was somewhere in affirmation of my run down and jilted childhood background. On an autumnal sunrise arrived the gift of an incredibly cute puppy dog. I had gained the loyal company of this collie/retriever dog for several years. He was spoilt with food and treats (mainly by old ladies) but there was nothing I could do to discourage him from eating faeces and licking urine from lampposts.
In 1992, I met the Druids holding a quarter year festa eisteddfod at Avebury. After some study of the eight-fold year cycles I held hand fastings, naming, and remembrance ceremonies. I instructed Gorsedd's at Avebury, Bath Circus, Stanton Drew, Glastonbury and eventually Stonehenge during (Winter Solstice). Early 2001 I was recognized as a Druidess (one of the youngest) by unanimous vote in a meeting chaired by an elusive but by now deceased Douglas Lyne AOD, chaired as representative from Welsh Iolo Morganwg Liaison of Wales.
Also, present were representatives from Glastonbury Order (GOD), Secular Order (SOD), Druid Clan of Dana (Steve Wilson, the fellowship of Isis), Insular Order of Druids, Iolo Morganwg Fellowship and lastly Cotswold Order of Druids (Rollright Stones). Some might think it bizarre that I never held social correspondence with any people from these orders, but we met in ritual order as robed Bards, Druids.
Somewhere between 1993 and 1996 I held a short held tenancy on a tiny “shoebox” basement flat in the area of Montpellier area of Cheltenham. Here I occasionally frequented a hell's angel clubhouse until they attempted to put pressure on me to sell my small chopped motorbike. In the Cotswold pub, I drank myself up to the eyeballs, often alongside a bearded spook named Eric medicating his dislodged memory from a disturbing legacy of working at GCHQ.
At this time in between my tenancy in Cheltenham I temporarily became resident in a small first floor flat on Westgate Street in central Bath. I lived with a female flatmate (a street stall ex-flower seller) who owned an old Bella Vega bus converted as a mobile home, the bus was previously used as a space to promote the raising of the Mary Rose ship during a children's programme's “Blue Peter” appeal. She was also an ex-drummer for an all-girl rock band. We enjoyed drinks at a music gig pub known as the Hat and Feather.
During the bronze and gold autumnal months of 1993 I was evicted by police from my Bohemian life, becoming familiar with legislation known as the “Criminal Justice Act” then manipulated and realigned towards a “moved on” transient lifestyle. Viewed as unsightly and angered by an oppressive state that denounced my existence and others as “not in this age, not in any age” (UK Prime Minister John Major) I merged myself into the 90s road protest movement which for me began at Twyford Down M3.
Road Protest Movement / Environmentalism
As an environmentalist, I contributed to direct action campaigns of Newbury bypass A34 (destruction of Snalesmore common) and Nine Ladies of Stanton Drew (reopening of a quarry for stone to be used abroad). Rambling my childhood, hearing the cries of Beagles whilst walking the Malvern hills with my estranged father (who shrugged my questions) made me a near lifelong vegetarian / vegan and an increasingly compassionate animal rights activist. Whilst in Wiltshire, I joined an environmental campaign for around three months in a joint effort to save an allotment brownfield site from Strategic housing.
The field was located in a small market town named Highworth. Locals from a Wiccan Coven among other people from surrounding areas were very active in politically campaigning. Some locally as councillors, others taking direct action (working professions restricting) against five-hundred thousand new homes being built, mostly on green belt land surrounding the area of the city of Swindon. The protest camp was erected and occupied by members of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, a ceremonial circle with quarters marked by hazel pole gateways, there we performed Druidic rituals in our effort to connect with the people and land.
We built shallow vented tunnels and walkways high up in the trees to prevent eviction, whilst we petitioned the newspapers to apply pressure on the Swindon council to cease development on the site. The occupation was lost after a freak weather storm, providing bailiffs with an early groundbreaking opportunity to drag us off-site. Tunnels had become flooded and walkways wrecked, thereafter the campaign dissolved and the planned houses eventually erected. Next I became aware of a copse being put up for sale whilst hitchhiking upon a motorway junction between Wootton Basset and Swindon.
The existing woodland, Hagbourne Copse, was in disrepair, the land had blocked drainage, resulting in trees rotting from their roots upwards. The previous length of woodland cut down by developers to build locks brook industrial estate. I contacted a handful of activists still in the area from the previous Highworth campaign and after some discussion, we decided to create a protest camp in the woodland to secure its future. A month or so after I had given an interview with a local newspaper (appearing on the front page as “Owl and friends move in to save woodland”) I was informed by a informative journalist that Wiltshire Wildlife Trust had been bidding for the purchase of the woodland.
This woodland, an invaluable corridor for nature, was eventually purchased by the trust and thus was secured for wild animals to use and nature-loving people to enjoy to the foreseeable future. One warm evening, a few days later, we packed away all our belongs, intending to leave the woodland as though we had never been there. This woodland exists today as a tended nature reserve, at seasonal times of the year the woodland floor will be covered blue, in thousands of bluebells. I moved out from the reflective surrealness of this nurturing woodland and with a brave, tearful face walked towards a busy Motorway M4 roundabout and hitch-hiked westwards.
A lift quickly arrived and landed me upon the outskirts of Bristol. Clockwise, I walked along with the cities busy ring road to discover a road protest in a set-aside field located on an area known as Syston Common. Here I walked a further few yards through a gate, I was welcomed over to a group of people kindling a fire. Here I met Dr Margaret Jones, a veteran anti-nuclear weapons protester (Aldermaston) who openly debriefed me as to the goings-on. I remained on the camp for a few days, meeting elaborate characters who all had their reasons for protesting. Jones although with compassion, treated the occasionally functional camp with mild regimental authority.
The torn and tired wind flapped tents were aligned in straight lines and affairs on the camp overseen if somewhat controlled. One member of the came was named Bangles (because of deep suicide scars on his wrists), female protests flirted with him as he had the appearance of a fairy tale pixie, this was consistently edged off by a possessive girlfriend named Robin who had been raised by her mother through “Rainbow Tribe” hippy gatherings for most of her adolescent life.
Margaret struggled to keep numbers up at the protest, the camp became sullen and drunk, leading her to ask “Why do they behave like this, the army wouldn't?”. The protest was also infiltrated by two undercover moles, allegedly from construction company Costain leading my distancing after they were invited back onto the protest camp from expulsion.
I began to wander the West Country, performing Druidic ritual, staying on travellers sites. On one Beltaine I hand fasted protestors Bangles and Robin on the summit of Silbury Hill to last for a year and a day. The stag night was full of merriment and held in wake vigil of our ancient ancestors who had been desecrated by excavation at West Kennet Long Barrow and in the morning I requested they should join together for “as long as love shall last” rather than a year and a day. Confident on a year and a day I knotted their wrists together, they jumped a broomstick, drank plenty of mead and fell asleep together within the stone circle of Avebury.
One year and a day later I returned to fill my duties of renewal by returning to Silbury hill, but to my dismay neither of them were present. Also, the Silbury hill had been taped off as dangerous; shoring from a Victorian excavation had collapsed underneath living subsidence within the centre of the mound. I eventually caught up with the pair, Robin had run off with her Kebele rent arrears cheque and bangles had illegitimately moved on to another partner, bizarre sometime near the collapse of Silbury hillside archaeological shoring.
I decided to make a change to the world through the order of legality. In 1999 I gained resident Walton Street entrance as a mature student, to study an access course tutored at Ruskin College, Oxford. During the three months in residence, I originally chose to study politics then after a mere few weeks changed to read law inside the corridor depths of the Bodleian library, gained life membership to Oxford University's world-famous debating Union. Friendless and marginalised I was approached by an Earth First activist who safeguarded my guided introduction into the East Oxford's binge-drinking, substance misuse, Bohemian social activist/environmentalist scene.
Some activists, as a last resort, would take advantage of a late-night opening hours of a Jamaican bar, but I was turned away at the door, barred from premises yet unknown to them; surmising management did not like my “too White” Nordic face; thus this grubby bar became boycotted. There was also a party collective situated around a derelict mansion in the Boar's hill area, as well as regular pagan parties at riverside scrubland known as the kidneys. Over the years of infrequent stays in Oxford.
I also occupied and opened several squats whilst around and about in Oxford. I also met a friendly couple (Ali and Jill) who lived in a bender just outside Oxford until they decided to associate themselves with a Kabbalah group in London. Ali disappeared completely off the radar but Jill returned to Avebury (after finalizing the sale of Chalice Well, Glastonbury) and raved her madness about “Mother Mary” at Silbury hill. s) I quickly found many socialists students (some ex-trade unionists) at Ruskin college unduly disliked me; most notably, one black supremacist student from London who talked about murdering me in a conversation overheard then made known to myself from the Oxford Union housemaster.
Incidentally, the Union housemaster of year 99 said he had initially thought wrongly of me, though I'd be the first “to go” before apologizing profusely enough to purchase me a drink at the union bar. I also frequented the Purple Turtle nightclub and although indifferent to the ruling classes I felt that my presence, there was not at all unwelcoming, worlds apart I quietly and inquisitively observed the privileges of this succession of aristocracy.
With sleepless nights within the hall of residence admit lucid dreams of strange men entering my room and piling up non-attendance of classes, I departed Ruskin College by abseiling down the halls' stairwell, ran out of the side door into an awaiting van load of cheering Anarchists returning to Bristol from having demonstrated a vivisection cat breeding farm.
Life in urban Bristol had changed, multiculturalism had become tort and abrasive, unlike fellow anarchists I refused to chew on the climate change agenda and was at constant fever pitch conflict with masculinity obsessed feminists. I also detested Communist narratives that were being to prise and twist repugnant divisions into the existing Anarchist movement.
Drawn to the opportunity of a “hard to let” flat and given the keys by Kirklees council just after one day (no1 Gelder Terrace) I sat comfortably with a can of special brew and watched the televised collapse of the crumbling twin towers. The council flat, a terrace house conversion, was in a high mortality rate area of Huddersfield. I consumed copious magic mushrooms, picked from surrounding hills, whilst tearfully stooped in unresolvable depression, burned by a roasted red painted living room. I eventually picked myself up and abruptly left this windswept, run-down, near future less city of West Yorkshire. I arrived into a mesmerizing and bustling South London via hitchhiking some two hundred miles down the A1 descending deep into a mesmerizing and bustling South London; an unknown location I had told myself recurrently I'd never, ever enter.
I was invited to London by a multimedia activist woman who had come to be made known to me through an activist named Sussie. Whilst residing in Oxford, Sussie and I had become close friends infrequently enjoying each other's company; although during later months of absence, after arriving in South West London, our friendship stretched, strained, and thus became diminished. The South Western location of Lambeth felt like any other district in London but with quieter areas, where a sense of calming peace from ongoing commotion could be found, not dissimilar to suburbia.
Whilst at Dulwich road I authored and maintained three websites, Pirate TV, Road Alert and Global Elite. I also made a series of short environmental films viewable via the internet and also published in MP4 format on a CD-ROM accompanying the SchNEWS activist yearbook. I was also duped into illustrating a pick of published “top trump style” control cards. The release was heavily defamed by main media critics, the album a struggling flop and the record label was unnervingly threatened with libel, a fall out argument ensured.
Along Dulwich road towards Herne hill, there was Brockwell Lido, where I attended (for six months) regular twice-weekly Buddhist meditations of “Metta Bhavana” and “mindfulness of breathing” with the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (now known as Triratna Order) who had arrived from Croydon. Enabled by London's Quakers allowing their facilities at the Euston premises to host his visit allowed London Buddhists to take Refugee and also Bodhisattva vows with the Lama.
Curious upon invitation I visited an auspicious event, I spoke to the lama and decided to take refuge but cannot remember reciting any Bodhisattva vow. The lama took some of my hair, gave me the Tibetan name of Pema, written on a piece of white paper in both English and Tibetan language, he tied a multithreaded protection cord around my neck and I guess from that day onwards I became divided Buddhist; via my refusal to give up my belief of ATMAN.
Along streets of London, inside shops, Hindu's told they could feel a presence around and about me, they told this to be their goddess. I became interested in Hinduism and began visiting temples; the first temple I entered was Shivyogam, Muthumari Amman Temple in Tooting. Unfamiliar with Hindu temples, I walked through a rear door, took off my shoes then proceeded to climb a flight of stairs, through double swing doors and into the temple. In the temple I felt surrounded by a vibrant light, I also noticed this light from a Hindu Brahmin (priest), he motioned me to sit down. As I sat down, it felt as though I'd arrived home after a long, long journey; such was the familiarity.
Collecting composure I stood up and began to walk around the temple, I'd done a little research so knew that the first deity to visit was Vinayagar. Nearing the idol, light appeared as if making the idol come alive. In a clockwise direction I moved sideways to the next idol, and so on, until I approached the centre of the temple. Here I reflected upon the idol of Muthumari Amman before leaving the temple. Shortly after, I visited a South Indian restaurant below, named Sarkonis and enjoyed a Tamil dish named Masala Dosai. Here I found a yoghurt drink named Mango Lassi, which became one of my favourite drinks during my extensive travels around India.
I visited several temples, shopped at pooja shops and occasionally dined in pure veg restaurants. I purchased and enjoyed a sweet named Barfi, at two sweet shops opposite Shivyogam, one was named Pooja sweets, the other Shiv Darshan. I also visited temples in North West London, including the Sanatan Mandir [Wembley], Swaminarayan Mandir [Neasden] and Eelapatheeswarar Aalayam and Nadarajar kovils [Wembley]. The light I saw inside the temples also appear in other places, most notably upon a travel shop window, on card inserts advertising outbound flights to Gujarat, India. Many Hindus had urged me to go to Gujarat, despite me mostly visiting Tamil temples.
I acquired a passport, purchased a flight ticket [from Southall Travel] and boarded a plane to Ahmedabad from Heathrow Airport. An Indian woman frantically searched my belongings before boarding the plane, but instantly calmed, looked up and smiled once she discovered a Ganesha idol wrapped inside my clothing. The several hour long flight arrived at Mumbai International airport; landing, I had but a few hours to travel and catch my connecting flight to Ahmedabad from Mumbai's domestic airport. I decided to walk after a taxi driver attempted to charge me over fifteen pounds for a few miles drive. The road was hot and dusty, but I made my connecting flight in ample time.
Leaving Ahmedabad airport I had not made any plans where to go, I stood wondering and then thought, railway station. I flagged over a tut tut driver, who took me to the station. Tired with jet lag I roamed until I found a bench, a seated myself, burried my head for a few minutes until I noticed a crowd had gathered around me.
After some years (2003 – 2010) it slowly dawned on fickle me that these “Anarchist” were all virulent, crypto-Communists. My white reflection revealed a realization of something being very, very wrong with my current situation; from a light head a feeling of blood sinking to my feet became apparent, once I had realised a displacement.