Archive for the ‘Chat’ Category

Novahead, by Steve Aylett. Published by Scar Garden, 2011. ISBN 975 0 95665677 2

A book full of crackling dialogue. All mood, atmosphere, attitude.
It is written in flows of rhetorical language, surfing on the edge of meaning at times.
It is the created worlds and assumed allusions that pull it all together. His worlds are the further edges of dystopia; his intent satire. The language is so allusive, tight, I wonder about amphetamines, coke. The main character/narrator, Atom’s, drug of choice is Jade.
It’d disservice the ethos to review. The best I can do is excerpt.

Striking quotes so far:

Taffy Atom meeting Betty Criterion:
‘There you are, dangling from your head,’ she said.
‘The sooner I’m replaced by my corpse-in-waiting the better.’
‘Cushioned in loose worms.’
‘In a coffin, adjusting to my remains.’
With courtesies fulfilled, she stood, placed her pet ganglion on her throne….
(page 72)

And later:
‘Do you understand that when a collective identity is formed it has a very distinctive intelligence of its own, always lower than the average among its individuals?


‘For millenia humanity’s been learning with the handbrake on… but a stopped clock never boils, Mr Atom.
… science has created the misery and systems of drainage that separate us from the barbarians…
(pages 92/3)

I’ve plenty more riches to read, yet.

Novahead is the last of the Beerlight novels.

We meet the young lad, Heber, the boy with a bomb in his mind. To render him temporarily safe Atom relocates him to The Fadlands, where nothing stimulating or lively happens; where nothing can spark off interest in his mind, and so set off The End. It is a place where everything, all energy and creativity, are drained from people.
Major metaphor, anyone?
I look out of my window, and… hmm…
Perhaps I’ll leave something interesting around for him to find.
But first, must read on.

For Philip K Dick, that’d be be the trap laid out for you, to draw you in to closed recursive mind-sets: see Lies Inc. For Steve Aylett the trap is ourselves: we are each the ampitheatre of our own ruin.

And I was reading on, and a character quoted some lines. I had to re-read that again,  What? I know that. It’s lines from an early song by a band, circa 1967/8. They are not credited, I noticed, nor permission sought – so I will not press this, other than to say I can’t think of anyone more remote from Steve Aylett.
Ok, why’s that?
Well, Steve is cooler-than-cool, hipper-than-hip, to some readers. That is to say he is The Cutting Edge of present day, ‘and beyond’ (to quote Buzz Lightyear).
And he also has been adopted by the bizarro movement

Of course, once you start spotting things, it takes a hold.
So then, Heber, the boy with the bomb in his mind – was he part-suggested by an early Mark Leyner story (‘Ode to Autumn’) from the short–story collection, My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist (1991), about the human bomb ?

There is family-resemblance of style, too, with the early Leyner. Steve Aylett does far more with the concept, though.
There are passing/throw-away references to William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, and no doubt loads of things I just don’t, but should, know.

Each of the three sections of the book concludes in a battle scene; all very laddish, perhaps. But even Atom, in the middle of it all, is circumspect: he begins to suspect this happens every night, not to win any fight, but just for the sake of fighting. A weariness sets in.
And the ubiquitous car chase – it is more Blood Drive than Wacky Races, though.
And there is his fascination… obsession, with guns – but here he develops it into sentient weaponry, guns, that evolve their own living species.
Yep, Cronenberg is in this mix, and why not.
But all this saved by the wit in the telling, and the fun in the multiplying exuberance.

His flows of language are more than vehicles for attitude, and ‘smart’: they reach.
They reach, and in mid-
achieve some amazing feats, grasp new-minted concepts, ideas, that are sometimes just a little beyond my own grasp; I see them sparkling there, but can’t get to them.

And then the mix changes, and new possibilities suggest themselves.
It is like watching a vast kaleidescope, that holds one configuration for a moment, and as we are busy spotting the patterns, it all changes again. The constituents are many and intricate, and so the patterns possible are endless, and all fascinating.
And it is 3-dimensional.

Steve Aylett:


New Collected Poems, Tomas Transtromer. Translated and Introduced by Robin Fulton

Robin Fulton in his Introduction to the Bloodaxe edition of Tomas Transtromer’s ‘New Collected Poems’ (2002), writes of the poem sequence Baltic’s ‘arch-like patterning of themes.’ Page 15, Introduction, ibid.
Instantly I was paying attention.


In the nineteen-seventies Tomas Transtromer published his poem sequence ‘Baltics’.
It is based, we are told, on the writer finding (inheriting?) his grandfather’s ship’s log. He was a sea captain, and sailed the archipelago of islands from Stockholm to the Baltic regularly.
His home was one of the islands of the archipelago. From this grew an exploration of the writer’s family history, and its repercussions and interrelations with history and events.

If we look at ‘Baltics’ for its structure and thematic patternings we can see many interesting features.
It is a sequence of six poems of varying length. Poem Three has a striking structure, the beginning and ending sections enclosing an isolated word in capitals. In the first part of the poem we encounter a 12th Century church font; the writer imagines it revolving in his memory. Immediately prior to the last isolated word (MANDRAKE) we have an image as of a rotating lighthouse: ‘The strategic planetarium rotates. The lenses stare into the dark (…).’

This central division is critical to the sequence as a whole, treating as it does of transition from heritage issues and memories to a more contemporarily responsive approach.

The whole sequence begins with the grandfather in poem one, with the list of all the ships he has worked on; it is in effect a log book and also the diary of a man unused to recording his inner life.
The last poem in the sequence, poem VII, concentrates on the grandmother, and emphasises her unwillingness to dwell on or explore the past of her life. This attitude frees her, we read, ‘to catch what was new/ and catch hold of it.
The grandfather disappeared from sight, the grandmother remained, if only in the writer’s memory.

Many have argued that this sequence marked a turning point in Tomas Transtromer’s writing, from more closed and structurally conservative modes to more open and free-ranging modes.


Images of wind and water recur in many guises throughout the sequence. We open with fog, a combined air and water image, as the grandfather seaman edges his way through the Swedish archipelago into the Baltic. The air/wind image is taken into the next poem, where the grandmother shows concern for seafarers whenever the wind blows, even inland on her island.
Here it is contrasted with the image of free-flowing life the child surmises the wind to be. The wind can fan the flames, or blow them out.
It is in this poem we encounter the theme of the unknown threat. The threat is turned into a benign image: the sea mine was made safe, used as an ornament. The threat is from outside, whether as here the devices of a nation at war, or later where an imposed political totalitarianism brings in the contemporary reference to eastern Europe in the depths of the Cold War.

This water image recurs in the next poem as an image of peace and safety: the church font depicts carvings of battles fought, the threat theme recurring again, but once more made safe in the use of water as a placid element. In the central section the steamer continues the water and danger themes until, ‘a hundred year’s later’ and shore-based, the threat is made safe once more. The poem is top and tailed with the image of religion paralleled with the superstition surrounding the mandrake. Both are assumed to have magical properties. The writer includes the font water into this assessment by implication. By doing so he smudges any strict demarcation of paralleled elements to great effect.

Poem Four is a short but interesting piece. It is paraphrased in the first line: ‘From leeward/ close ups.’ We encounter Bladderwrack seaweed, a Bullhead fish, then the shore-based rock face on the lee-side.

We again meet the image of water, the Baltic Sea, and picking up on the previous image of the font water as placid, a calm endless roof of sea. The sailing image returns: the flag we sail under washed-out, sun-bleached – a wonderful image of sailing under all flags and none; the parochial and national identity has broken down: the close-ups have given us a sense of perspectives: near and far as a necessary relationship, inter-dependent and mutually productive.
As a poem this too falls into two contrasted halves. Note that they are not opposed but made safe by being put into a mutually reciprocal relationship. Is it another chiasmus? A chiasmus of an order we have not come across before?

Poem Five gives us an influx of jellyfish, they are not a threat so much as a curiosity, a symptom even.
Air recurs as a wordless condition, a mis-condition of the brain – aphasia (Aphasia as a rewriting of history: what was known is devalued, overwritten).
We find here that there can be style without content, there can be language without words. In poem One the grandfather attempts conversations in a kind of English, attempts communication using whatever means he can.

Threat recurs; we have seen the danger of fog at sea, of war and the sea mine, here we have the totalitarian regime that denounces the Conservertoire Director. His response after eventual rehabilitation is aphasia: danger, and its consequences. The close-up of a snail in the grass opens up the vista a time: Franciscans brought them here as a food. The influence from outside again, but this time benign.

Poem VII gives us the grandmother’s story. And it is harrowing: TB and the loss of one’s family, it also looks at the meaning of family: another close up. Family as blood-kin can also mean being used as an unpaid servant. The grandmother refuses to look back, to be caught up in the recriminations and self-recriminations that are inevitably produced by this. 

The poem moves with the narrator whose memory keeps the grandmother alive. The archipelago reappears. This time the narrator uses an island fisherman’s cottage. Wind and water recur as potent images, this time of a sense of time moving on, and of perspectives opening up, newness becoming possible.


The patternings tie together the poems, rather than opposing them as we might expect with a chiasmus. Nor do we find structurally reversed placing of theme or image between first and latter half of the sequence as a whole.  

Transtromer has noted that ‘Baltics’ marks the writer’s ‘most consistent attempt to write music’, that is, to structure the sequence thematically as a musical piece.
Helen Vendler remarked on Tomas Transtromer’s abiding concern with music in his work, particularly the work of Schubert, Grieg and Liszt, which he could play himself very competently ( poetry-inexplicit). It has been suggested that his return to piano helped him over a critical period in his life, aged fifteen.

Schubert’s last sonatas in particular make great use of recurring themes and modalities; we find here similar arching structures to what we see in ‘Baltics’. Musically they are called ‘ternary’ structures, and generally have the pattern of ABA, or extensions on that, ABBA  etc.

Commentators on the Bach Cantatas WebsiteBach Contatas Website:, have gone into some depth discussing what constitutes a chiasmic structure in music, and how it differs from a palindromic structure.
These are literary terms applied to music. The chiasmic structure, according to the Bach writers, must needs have more than one term between first and middle part, in each half of the whole; all else is a palindrome.

To apply a musical term in turn, we can say then that a ternary structure does have similarities to a chiasmic structure. In practical terms things are much more complex: tonality and melodic elements are the elements of the structure. Schubert even introduced intermediate tonalities that had only distant relations with the general key of the piece.

Tomas Transtromer’s sequence fits more comfortably with the less oppositional structure of, say, Schubert’s last sonatas, than with strict chiasmus and ring.
His psychological concerns here with conflict-resolution, appeasement of danger, the untying of heritage-issues and parental demands does seem to have accord with Schubert’s possible last accounting and valuing that went into how and by what means he structured those last sonatas.

Serenity Integrated Mentoring (SIM) is an innovative mental health workforce transformation model that brings together the police and community mental health services, in order to better support “high intensity users” of Section 136 of the Mental Health Act (MHA) and public services.

SIM Programme Content 

The SIM programme consists of: 

  • A model of care using specialist police officers within community mental health services to help support service users struggling with complex, behavioural disorders 
  • SIM supports the small number of service users in every community struggling with complex mental health disorders who often request emergency services whilst making limited clinical progress 

Can you imagine… the police having a quiet word?
They are surely, going off actual results, the very last people who should engage with mental health issues.
And, yes, this is the same police force that suffered and still suffers many austerity cut-backs in officers and money available.

And here we come to the nitty-gritty:

  Reduced cost to the police and NHS/ambulance services due to reduced crisis/999   calls, attendances and mental health bed days. 

Reduced pressure on the police/ambulance/ED services, releasing them to deal with other demands. 

Improved patient experience as service users receive earlier intervention leading to higher recovery rates. 

Service users receive mentoring to help them to avoid reaching crisis point and improve their quality of life. 

How much is one’s mental health worth?

Who does not get an undercurrent of ‘bed-blocking; drain on the services; pull-yourself-together’ mentality from this?

Obviously someone does, because:

Through our engagement we have heard significant concerns that reinforce our view that there is a lack of evidence that the SIM model meets three core principles …

• That no one is ever denied access to life-saving treatment. 
• That people need access to the appropriate personalised and trauma-informed care for their needs, delivered by appropriate health and social care professionals. 
• That all models of care are genuinely co-produced with people with lived experience.

And, more to the point:

StopSIM: Mental Illness Is Not A Crime

SIM is a model of care for mental health services that has been developed by an ex Hampshire police Sgt. Paul Jennings. It is already being used in 23 out of 52 NHS Trusts in England, and there are plans to continue expanding it rapidly. SIM is owned and run by the High Intensity Network (HIN): a private limited company….

The SIM model is designed for people who are very unwell, and who most often come into contact with emergency services. Despite being at very high risk of self-harm and suicide, the SIM model instructs services that usually provide care in an emergency not to treat these people. This includes A&E, ambulance services, mental health services and the police. This also affects people under the SIM model if they want to access a diagnosis or treatment for physical health conditions. For example, they can be denied care for a chest X-ray, even if people with the same physical symptoms would usually be offered one…..

A key part of SIM is the police being a part of community mental health teams. These police officers are called “High Intensity Officers” (HIOs) and they are given NHS contracts. SIM documents state that HIOs receive 3 days of initial classroom training, which is “facilitated and led by Paul Jennings” (who is not a mental health professional), and ‘understanding of mental health provision and services’ is not an essential job requirement. HIOs have full access to service users’ medical records, and are also able to share police records with medical staff……….. 

   We believe that SIM breaches the Human Rights Act 1998. SIM’s policy on withholding potentially life-saving care from patients breaches Article 2, relating to the Right to Life.

We believe that SIM breaches the Equality Act 2010. SIM discriminates against people on the grounds of disability, gender, race, gender reassignment and sexuality.

We believe that SIM breaches UK GDPR regulations. SIM allows ‘sensitive data’ (information like medical records, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender reassignment and financial information) to be shared between services without the subject’s consent (the subject is the person who the information is about).

We believe that service users under the SIM model are suffering institutional abuse. Institutional abuse is where the individuals are treated badly, cruelly, or roughly, because of the way an organisation is set up. This can include neglect (when a person isn’t listened to or helped.) and preventing someone from doing what they want to do, as well as lack of respect for a person’s privacy and dignity. We believe the way SIM operates could be classed ans institutional abuse.

We believe that SIM will disproportionately impact people from minoritized and recialised communities. It is likely to act as an additional barrier to asking for help, especially because police are involved in mental health care, given the fear of police brutality and discrimination.

There is no reliable evidence that SIM helps people. SIM’s outcome measures (how they measure success) focus on ‘’service demand’’, meaning how often people use services. There are no outcome measures used to assess the patient’s wellbeing or experience.

There is more to the statement by
It can be found here:

The Song of Roland is reputedly one of, if not the actual, oldest of the medieval French chansons de geste, or songs of deeds.

The Song first made its appearance in this form in the twelfth century, shortly after the First Crusade. This is important because, although it is based on an actual incident in 778AD, the twist in the chanson de geste version is very important.

The actual incident concerned King Charlemagne, and his being approached by Saracen rulers in Spain for help in dealing with a mutual Saracen enemy. He agreed and entered Spain with them, conquered two major cities, and was besieging Saragossa, when he was called away. He left Spain via the Pyrenees pass of Roncevaux. Here his rearguard was attacked by Basques, who slaughtered them to a man, and left with their goods. It was Basque territory.

The version in the geste has the Saracens the enemy throughout, and the attack on the rearguard an agreement between a renegade Frenchman and the Saracens. The composer of the piece, like his audience, knew next to nothing of Islam, and so we come across some absurdities, some crazy assumptions.

It is very important for the story-line to remember that Count Roland of Brittany was the nephew of Charlemagne, and that it was rivalry with his step-father  – as in the old folk tales, and modern life – Ganelon, that caused his death.

The Song of Roland consists of 291 ‘laisses’, that is, stanzas, of varying length. They all follow the same strict metrical pattern, however: this is syllabic verse, and each line is strictly ten syllables in length.

Each line consists of ten syllables, divided roughly down the middle by a pause or rest. The rhythm of the line is formed by strong stresses falling on the fourth and tenth syllables. Within a single laisse, the separate lines are linked by assonance—a partial rhyme in which the accented vowel sounds are the same but the consonants differ, as in “brave” and “vain,” for instance. The vowel sound repeated through one laisse never carries on to the next. Since the poet has divided his song into laisses according to the sense and not any standard length—for instance, a new laisse will begin when one combat or speech ends and the next begins—this use of assonance reinforces the divisions of plot, of action.

The death of Roland occurs in the middle of the piece. The second half is then taken up with Charlemagne’s revenge. The first half shows the treason of Ganelon, the build-up to the central fight scene.

The ending is really quite poignant. We see Charlemagne wearied with fighting, having dealt with Ganelon, sitting down at long last. Only to be met with new calls of his warrior ship: ‘How weary is this life.’ he says.

The first appearance of the chanson was as one of many legends and tales that circulated on pilgrim trails, and in local courts and gatherings.

At just about 4000 lines it required quite a feat of memory. And so the tale is structured in such a way, with parallels, repetitions of motifs, events etc, that once the main structure was grasped the reciter could riff with rather detailed subject matter fully, and with skill.

It is structured so as to be symmetrical through and through. The poem is centered around four great scenes which balance each other perfectly.
At the very beginning we have Ganelon’s (stepfather) crime; at the very end we have his punishment.
Around the center of the tale, Roland’s martyrdom and Charlemagne’s vengeance face and mirror each other, both taking the shape of great battles, presented in a parallel order, at Roncesvals.
Ganelon’s successful treachery and Roland’s early death temporarily set the scales of good and evil askew; the events of the rest of the poem then set them right.

The many repetitions and parallel passages of the poem contribute to the total sense of purpose and symmetry.
For instance, the similarities between how the battle between Roland’s rear guard and Marsilla’s army, and the battle between Charlemagne’s and Baligant’s men, reinforce the poet’s point that one battle is the mirror-image of the other, that Charlemagne’s triumph over Baligant is perfect revenge for the Saracen ambush.

The order in which the two battles are presented is the same; first there is the inventory of the two opposing forces as they assemble themselves, then, when they meet on the field, the threats and boasts and first blows. Each one-on-one combat, besides the most remarkable and important ones such as that between Charlemagne and Baligant, takes up one laisse, and all are described in the same language.
Comparing the various rather gory ways in which the warriors kill each other, one sees immediately that each description is a slight variation on all the others. Ideally, the effect of such repetition is a sense of ceremonious consistency and rhythm.

Rather than running along at a consistent pace, the narrative consists of certain scenes where time is slowed down so much that it almost stands still, suspending the noble and the wicked gestures of the characters mid-air, with bits of quick summary providing the connection from one tableau to the next.

This rhythm is particularly clear and easy to pick out toward the beginning of the poem, in the first fifty or so laisses. After some quick exposition in the first laisse, we get the council of Marsilla presented as if it were a drama. The poet summarizes nothing; he describes the stage of the action, the “terrace of blue marble” (2.12) and then gives us the speeches of Marsilla’s advisors in full.
The story is conveyed in this section by dialogue, not by running commentary. Then, after another quick laisse of summary, telling how Marsilla’s messengers rode out to Charles’s camp, we go back to the same slow, dramatic mode of presentation that was used for Marsilla’s council for the conversation between Marsilla’s envoys and Charlemagne. This alternating, fast-slow-fast-slow rhythm, interspersing quick pieces of narrative between long dramatic scenes at regular intervals, is characteristic.

Within each laisse, each sentence and phrase stands separate, on its own. Similarly, no grammatical connection is drawn between one laisse and the next. The reader must draw the connection between one element to the next on his own, for the author does not make the relation between the separate elements clear, but instead simply sets them side by side, without conjunctions.
This technique is known as parataxis, which means “a placing side by side” in Greek. To see more clearly what this is, one might take a quick look at laisse 177, for instance, a particularly striking example. There is no connective tissue: “Roland is dead, his soul with God in Heaven. / The emperor arrives at Roncesvals” (177.2397-2398). The corollaries of this lack of relation between phrases include a propensity towards long lists and a lack of simile, aside from certain highly stylized and conventionalised comparisons which are repeated often—beards, for instance, are very frequently “white as April flowers.” The elements are strung together like beads, one after another.


It is thought the The Song of Roland, like other medieval chansons de geste, was passed on orally, sung by wandering performers known as jongleurs at feasts and festivals, before it was ever written down.
The written epic that we now have, based on a manuscript version set down by a medieval scribe, bears the marks of its origin in the performances of the jongleurs in its narration. The voice that tells the story is the voice of the jongleur. He does not take on the character of one who was there, nor does he take on any kind of neutral, third-person-omniscience of observation. He tells the story as a story-teller.

While the events recounted in The Song of Roland are almost all myths and inventions, the jongleurs’ medieval audiences accepted them as historical truth. Because of this, and because the heroic deeds described took place in what was the distant past for even those long-ago listeners (the centuries that separated the audience from the figures they heard about made those figures seem all the more grand and glorious), the jongleur could not take on the point of view of an eye-witness of the events he sings about. If he did, the whole story told would lose credibility in the face of the obvious impossibility of the jongleur having seen himself anything that he was describing. Thus, the effect that the narration aims for and achieves is a vividness without immediacy. The characters and events are brightly painted, to be sure, but there is none of the you-are-there feeling that one usually expects nowadays from a well-told story. Different eras want different effects from their literature.

The narrator does not pretend that he was there; he instead implies that he has his knowledge from chronicles and tales, which he alludes to in order to gain the best effect of credibility for the story he tells: for instance, he says of Olivier, Roland, and Turpin fighting at Roncesvals that “The number that they killed can be determined; / it is written in the documents and notes: / the Chronicle says better than four thousand” (127.1683-1685). It is probable that many of the historical chronicles he speaks of are as much his own inventions as many of the events he recounts, but this does not hinder his allusions to them from creating the desired effect of a past both mythic and historical.

That the telling of The Song of Roland does not aim for surprise or suspense is a result of the way in which it, like other chansons de geste, was passed about orally, told again and again, varied but still recognizable in each new performance. The narrator assumes that his audience is already thoroughly familiar with the story he is telling them; he knows they have already heard it plenty of times, but that they enjoy hearing it again. The interest of the audience is not bound up in the question of what’s going to happen next; the listeners already know that Ganelon will betray Roland but that Charlemagne will avenge him in the end. Familiarity was part of the story’s charm for medieval listeners. And so the element of surprise is absent, and suspense is not cultivated; in the very first laisse, we are told that Marsilla will be clobbered by Charlemagne’s men, and Ganelon is called a traitor before he makes a single treacherous move.

‘SUNDIATA, AN EPIC OF OLD MALI’ by D T Niane. Translation by G D Pickett

This Mali epic as we have it now is the summation of a collection of oral legends. The legends are based around King Sundiata Keita, who consolidated and expanded the Mali Empire. His period of governance was 1217 to 1255.

The role of the griot is central to the story. The Preface describes the functions. Furthermore the opening commentary to the tale is entitled Words of the Griot Mamadou Kouyate, and he explains his functions and status. The griot is the King’s counsellor; he keeps the tribal customs, histories, and musical and oral traditions. His role may be similar to what we at the present time understand by the role of what we take to be the traditional Welsh bard. To be granted a griot is to be accorded great status. Sundiata was given Balla Fassekeas as his griot. Balla was later captured by the sorcerer King Soumaoro Kante’, however, before Sundiata came into his power.

On one level it is a straight forward story of a king growing to greatness, overcoming a formidable enemy, and consolidating a mighty empire. The telling of the story, however, reveals many levels and complexities. To give an example of the complexity of storytelling let me show you the finding of Sogolon, Sundiata’s mother: 

                          ‘(…) a soothsayer turned up at the village of Niani and prophesied to King Nare`that the would father a great warrior king. Some time later two hunters and a young woman came across King Nare’ and company as they were out hunting. They approached the king and told him this tale: as they were hunting they came across an old woman weeping, she begged them for food, which they shared with her. For their kindness she informed them that she was the spirit of the Buffalo of Do, no warrior could kill her; and she had already killed seventy-seven warriors. There was only one way to kill her, which she told to the hunters, and gave them the requisite tools. They were to take the body to the local king who would be overjoyed and grant the one who killed the buffalo a choice of a wife amongst the women-folk of his town. But, the old woman said, they must only choose the ugly one with the hunchback; she also was an aspect of the buffalo woman. This woman would give birth to a warrior king. After telling the King this they presented him with the woman, Sogolon Conde. She was the one the old woman said; the king married her.

As you can see from this we have a story within a story within a story: three levels of story. Add onto this the symbolic level: the Lion king who marries the Buffalo woman. This also has its own chiasmus, a sequence based on the all-important binding of Sogolon to King Nare’.


Sundiata grew up unable to walk; the King desperate for a healthy heir married another wife. This set up all sorts of jealousy and supremacy problems between the wives. Sundiata was seven before he could stand and walk. This is a variation on the standard hero presentation.
Just before this time the King had died, and Sundiata, who was supposed to be his choice successor due to prophecy, was judged physically incapable, and he and his family relegated, ridiculed, and subjected to mockery and increasing hostility.

As soon as Sundiata could walk he quickly learned hunting skills, warrior skills. All along his mental acuity had been high, his kindness supreme. The old kings’ new wife plotted against him: she hired nine witches to catch him out and curse him; his kindness towards them, not knowing who they were, won them over. He was warned of the plot.

His mother Sogolon took her family away for safety. She found however that many tribal kings had been bribed to turn them away. They were forced therefore to travel out of Mali and into Ghana. There they met kindness. It was when they travelled to Mema that the old King, Mansa Tounkara, took them in. He had no children himself, and warmed greatly to Sundiata. In all they spent six years with him. Sundiata grew into a strong and tactical warrior.

While in exile, however, the sorcerer King Soumaoro Kante had grown strong, attracted many followers, and moved in on the Mali tribes, and capital Niani. 

Representatives from old Niani travelled around in search of Sundiata. When they found him at Mema they told of what had befallen Mali. Sundiata vowed to return and destroy Soumaoro. The old king however refused to let him go.
It is at this time that Sundiata’s mother, Sogolon; died. The old king accused Sundiata of being ungrateful, and a turncoat. Sundiata, a very powerful warrior by this time was able to command most of the old king’s men. He had to let him go back. He took half the king’s men with him.

As he returned many tribal people who resisted Soumaoro joined with Sundiata. There were three main battles (and one night sortie), each time Sundiata was victorious, but Soumaoro escaped using sorcery. The pursuit of Soumaoro was long and bloody. It is only when Nana Triban, Sundiata’s half sister by his father’s new queen, along with his own griot, joined him, that he learned the way to defeat Soumaoro’s sorcery.

Soumaoro was defeated, but not captured.
Sundiata levelled Soumaoro’s city of Sosso; he re-entered Mali a victor; he granted land and livings to all loyal tribes, showed mercy to the defeated, and rebuilt Niani on a greater, grander scale.


The whole movement of the epic is based on two arcs superimposed and conflicting with each other, one where we see the build up to Sundiata’s eminence, is contrasted with his unfortunate beginnings: we have the auspiciousness of his prophecy and the inauspiciousness of his childhood.
There are three interpolations by the writer into the narrative; these are
Chapter 1, The First Kings of Mali;
Chapter 8, History; and
18, Eternal Mali

: that is the first, middle, and last.

Each of these chapters has the same structure of author’s assessment of the story, followed by a précis of the following events. These three chapters differ from all others, in that the others consist of direct and engaged narrative of the story. The first and last chapters also are connected in the ways they begin and end the tale.
The First Kings gives a brief history of the Mandingo people and of Sundiata’s genealogy, before introducing us to the story.
The last chapter Eternal Mali, sums up the ending of the tale, and in the latter half gives a brief history of Mali after the time of Sundiata.
The central chapter, History, begins by reverting to the same objective tone of the first and last authorial interpolations; it tells how the story of Sundiata has reached its central point, and how all the auspicious signs of his childhood will now come to fruition. This is followed by a brief précis of the preceding chapter, and introduces us to the proceeding events of the story.M

La Trappe 0.0
created La Trappe Nillis brewery\

Written by

Madhavi Raaijmakers

On Saturday there are long lines at the Abbey of Our Lady of Koningshoeven. Both the shop and the food court are busy. Many beer lovers come to have a look, curious about that new beer.

In the monastery shop, sales were so strong that they limited the sale. Customers can only pick up a maximum of six bottles. People who can’t wait sit on the terrace to immediately savor the newcomer.

Brother Isaac of the abbey points out that it was not easy to make a special non-alcoholic beer. “It’s not about: let’s take a Trappist beer and make alcohol out of it,” explains the brother. The idea was born three years ago. “It responds to a trend. About 28 percent of young people want to drink alcohol-free. But we also found that we could do something with alcohol-free beer to reduce the risks of alcohol use.”

But, can we get it? NO!
Only from the monastery shop.

I cannot tell you how looooong I have waited for this!
Trappist beer is how I always wanted beer to taste. But the alcohol content was always too high.
And now….

the torment

so near,
and yet….

Choose The Future

Posted: August 23, 2021 in Chat
Tags: ,

I’ve been reading recently of ventures in past-life experiments.
You know, the attempts to explore past lives through hypnotic regression, out-of-body experiences etc.
Many have heard tales of young children remembering in great detail other lives, people, places that they had no chance of knowing themselves.

A lot of questions are prompted by this, of course: how reliable are these tales? What exactly were the circumstances of the recalling; of the recording of the recalling?
I’m sure you can come up with many more.

– It is disconcerting how many of these the writer takes at face value, though.

So, new ventures – what new ventures?
Some thought it interesting to try future seeing.
This seems to imply that regress-memories/lives are part of a base-fabric of time-existence. That futures also exist to be accessed.
Ok, so they tried it.
The same questions apply, of course.

Get to the point!
Ok, so they tried it with volunteers etc. Amongst the scenarios that came up with something like four recurring themes.
These, they seem to say, are our possible futures.

‘One group described a joyless future… living in space stations... silvery clothes… synthetic food’

‘Another… happier, more natural lives in natural settings, in harmony with one another….’

Yet another ”hi-tech urbanites’ described a bleak mechanical future … in underground cities and cities enclosed in domes and bubbles….’

The last is ‘post-disaster survivors in a world … ravaged by some global… disaster. Living in… urban ruins, caves… isolated farms… obtained much of their food by hunting.’

Another note is that none of these scenarios are of hugely populated worlds like our present one.

So where do I get all this?
The Holographic Universe, by Michael Talbot, published 1996.

He also writes authoritatively of religious states and concepts, teachings.
– Most of/all these require guided interpretations, strictly applied. I seriously doubt that any ‘teacher’ could cover so many disparate teachings.

And So I have serious doubts about the veracity of this book, its bases of arguments.

The argument seems to be that we create our world through thought and mental preoccupations. That our world as we know is a projection of mass mental states.

If that is the case then we’d better start opening up our options.

And how much of the above smacks of pulp Sci-Fi novels, Western fiction, and films?
All of it?

One thing I do know, is that we prime our ‘seeing’, imagining, foreseeing, by reading and acquainting ourselves with other similar accounts – we get the framework, terminology, style, there – and imaginative reading – this prompts/limits our own imagining.
We see, in other words, what we expect to see.

We really do need better, wider, options than these, though.
Is that really all we can up with?


I remember, way back, a then renowned meditation organisation declared they were going to open a centre in every city, if not town. This would steady the mood of the place, make it more settled and productive.
I thought at the time, No, don’t tell people, let the results speak for themselves.
But also there are always those who see their sole purpose in life as disrupting such things: this is an open invite

What was being done, was more prosaic, yet subtle, than transcendental: the organisation was using its current kudos and prestige to influence behaviour: ‘They have a centre here now, see how calmer we are.’
People adjust their behaviour, then translate that as outside influence.

This was how the church building movement worked: God is in our midst, we must behave better etc.
This leads onto the famous Pascal’s Wager: behave well now, just in case….

There were, of course, those in the meditation organisation who really believed in their mind-power. And so we got things like… yogic flying.
Remember that? No, that rather spoiled the effect.

And how Western all this seems.


I wonder if, during lockdown, you’ve been like myself, trawling and exhausting Netflix and TV channels,
Our future world options from there seem to be young women running screaming from two-dimentional male ‘things’.
Wonderful entertainment.
All our fears.

Murdered women, and something male that lumbers off to do more of the stuff.
We stay with the victim, naturally. And so we should.
But what of this other ‘thing’/creature? What is it?
And how many lost, wrong-headed and disgruntled messed up males… copy that? A ‘kind’ of identity.

We are shown a male behaviour here that I have never come across in real life, nor have I ever known anyone who thinks, never mind behaves, that way.
Everyone always at extremes. Because none of us are, and we need excitement in our lives?

Until people start copying it.

Are all men psychopaths?
If they were then these portrayals would have little impact or interest, this would be ‘normal’.
But they are not, and this is anything but normal, and so this kind of scenario has a kind of usableness.

I was going to say we need to rethink these things from scratch, but we are always influenced by what is happening around us, and what we would take as base, ground, normal,
would probably be anything but that.

Yep, I am writing this in the middle of Afghanistan, wild-fires, earthquakes… not to mention Delta-variant upsurges..

We really do need to get out more.


So what do we make of this book, The Holographic Universe, greatly praised by many?
I cannot grasp the holographic idea, how it works, what it is.

Then here was a promising article in the recent Scientific American magazine

well, until I hit the paywall.
So why not take a subscription?
Oh, believe me we have tried.
On this up-to-the-minute science and technology platform the subscription service cannot seem to cope with UK money.


Kengo Kuma – Mesh Curtain at Gaudi House — LKA+A Architectural Reference Library

Just had to Share this.

A very good site to take a journey around..

Installations, Art Gaudi House,

Of all The Lais of Marie de France, Bisclavret has aroused much controversy.

Bisclavret, an early werewolf story, has gained comments as a misogynistic tale.
In Bisclavret the married king Bisclavret regularly absents himself several days a week from his castle. Eventually his wife gets him to unveil his secret, in a time honoured fashion that goes at least back the Bible. He reveals that he turns into a wolf; that as long as his clothes remain he can change back. His wife then steals his clothes so he cannot change back, and once the king is declared missing, marries her new suitor.
The deception is unmasked, king restored, and wife and new suitor/king suitably done away with. 

How are we to read Bisclavret?
This is deception of the worst kind: the loving embrace that then reveals one’s vulnerabilities to the world, as it were.
Is this tale a prime example of the misogyny of the time, and especially of Church attitudes? We cannot read well the signs of older cultural models.
As Dutch historian Johan Huizinga asserts in an excellent essay in Men and Ideas, the marriage of convenience was very much the model for nobles and people of rank. Woman were commodities, because vehicles for succession through child-bearing; in the case of lack of issue, as we see in other tales, the man would be advised Put your wife aside, choose another to ensure an heir – because, of course, it was always the woman who could not conceive.
I do suspect it was well-known that it was as much the man’s inability; this would never be stated in public, or the public place of text. The flip-side to this is, if a woman is so positioned with a man with doubtful proclivities, as in Bisclavret, the woman could be just as likely to ‘Put the man aside’ and find a mate better suited. And with all the elements of supplanting that goes with this. 

One of the key writers on these topics, Johan Huizinga, also commented: It is manifest that the political and military history of the last centuries of the Middle Ages as described by Froissart, Monstrelet, Chastellain… reveals very little chivalry and a great deal of covetousness, cruelty, cold calculation, well-understood self-interest, and diplomatic subtlety. The reality of history seems constantly to disavow the fanciful ideal of chivalry (Chivalric Ideals in the Middle Ages). In Equitan the relationship of the seneschal and his wife perhaps fell under these last designations. That she is described in the text by Equitan, as a lady who needs love: the marriage, as most of the period was one of convenience and arrangement 

We cannot, I suspect, judge Bisclavret’s wife by any standards than what we know of those of the time. It probably was not actually accepted practice for the wife to do this, and hence its appearance in this tale: we glimpse something perhaps of Marie de France’s originality in her choice of content here. In this tale could we say then that the dynamic is in the discord between the reality of the mores of the time, and those of the chivalric mores some attempted to re-introduce? Is this the source of the dynamic of the Lais as a whole: discord and the search for harmony? We see the novelty and great success of Marie de France in writing about amour courtois against this background. This new perspective does seem to be the gestalt behind Marie de France writing-up, and presenting these Lais. 

If we apply Huizinga’s assertion we can perhaps see a more contemporaneous interpretation that gives an alternative reading.
We dabble here with intentionality: how can we gauge Marie de France’s intentionality in this tale? When we look again at Equitan we see how the writer valued romantic love above the mores of her time, we see in the central part of the tale, the ‘heart’ of the tale where the story was leading, and from where the consequences derive, how the constancy of the affair between Equitan and the seneschal’s wife was lauded: in all that time he neither took another lover nor neglected her, that he was willing to kill for her so they could take up an honourable relationship in marriage. But is there anything in here that shows her ‘bucking the trend’, rather than producing a romantic fantasy? In the tale of Equitan we hear the wife’s fears and doubts, and they are indeed given full expression: they match the king’s for intensity and responsible awareness. She is no member of the ‘lower orders’ struck dumb, abashed or overawed by being feted by the king; she is her own woman, and well aware of the responsibilities of her and, later we see, his position. So, yes, I think we do see here cause for reading intentionality in the Tales. 

This tale, of a couple of battles in 1185, was purportedly written in the years shortly after the battles. Internal evidence points to an origin shortly following the actual events. The manuscript, however, was not discovered until documents from the monastery of St Saviour in Yaroslavl’ turned up in 1788-92. Amongst them was this text.

The only trouble is that this original perished in a fire at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The text we now have is a copy – one of several were made for prominent people of the period. The most famous is the copy made for the Empress Catherine the Great. There are one or two textual areas that lack clarity, however.

Nevertheless it is a great piece of work.

It is a relatively short piece of work: the copy I am using has only twenty-two pages of text – many notes, invaluable footnotes and an excellent introduction (and translation by Robert C Howes).  All in included the Tale consists of 747 lines of verse.

There is a translation by Vladimir Nabokov also available.


Like many such campaigns it does not stand up as a particularly heroic one. But then, are not the majority of traditional songs of loss, upset, distress? The minor key, the lyricism of distress: these seem to be the memorable elements of western culture. I would extend that… but then, upon reconsideration what hasn’t western culture touched, affected, in some way? You have to look long and hard to find the unalloyed element in any cultural records.

Take the Tale of Igor – we have elements here from Byzantium, and, if certain studies prove correct, as they seem to be, also a healthy dose of Scandinavian influence.

Also, take the Polovetsians – who the campaign is against; they were Eurasian nomads, who influenced the cultures of Hungary, Bulgaria and the Balkans. They allied themselves at one point with the Kimchak, a Turkic people. The mix must have been quite potent: blue-eyed, blond haired nomads supposedly originating from southern Siberia/ east China areas. And smaller, dark-haired Turkic peoples.

The Tale is as follows:

Chapter 1 

                  – the narrator asks: should this be a song of sorrow?

He calls upon the traditional bard of the Russian Kiev peoples, Boyan, and asks how he would have done it in his songs of the early years of princely wars.

The Polovetsian wars had a long history.

Chapter 2 – Igor Prepares for the Campaign

The narrator continues his debate about how Boyan would have done it. There are two openings he thinks Boyan would have used:

It is a storm that carries the falcon across the broad plains;

Flocks of ravens flee to the Great Don


Horses neigh beyond the Sula;

Glory rings out in Kiev.

Trumpets blare in Novgorod:

Banners flutter in Putivl’.

And Igor waits his dear brother Vsevolod.

These are the old fashioned ways, he seems to say.

Chapter 3 The Campaign Begins

Igors’ younger brother Vsevolod, the Wild Ox, suggested the campaign to Igor. He responded affirmatively. Vsevolod’s own men, he said, were bristling and ready; Igor mustered his men; but celestial omens were bad, dark hid the sun.

He refused to heed them.

They approached the River Don, and Igor husbanded his troops like a mother bird. There are many animal similes, but, more touching, there is also wide use of the folk image of the helpful animals, of the rivers, and the earth, that help.

Chapter 4: First Day of Battle. A Night of Rest and Another Battle.

It was their fifth day out and then they encountered the enemy.

Igor’s men sowed the field… with their arrows.

This first encounter was a victory; they carried off slaves, and booty by the bucket full.

They captured all the symbols of honour, the horse-tail whisk etc etc

On the second engagement, though the Polovetians had martialled themselves better. Igor was surrounded. He saw his brother fighting valiantly.

And the narration breaks off.

Chapter 5: Memory of the Wars of Oleg Styatoslavich 

This is an important chapter: it gives the context for the Campaign. Oleg was an ancestor of Igor – and that is important. There were two cousins amongst the many local prices ruling the regions of Kiev Russia: Oleg, and Vladimir.

Oleg was a warrior, the instigator of the wars with the Polovetsians. Vladimir became the peacemaker; his reputation as the epitome of the Christian Prince held high for centuries.

Under Oleg and Boris, however, the stability of the region broke down, civil war became rife:

And then throughout the Russian Land,

Seldom did the plowmen

Shout to one another.

But often did the crows caw,

Dividing among themselves the corpses.

And the jackdaws would speak with their own tongue,

As they flew out after prey.

Chapter 6: The Defeat of the Russians and the Great Sorrow of the Russian Land

The battle lasted from morning to evening, from evening to morning.

On the third day the banners of Igor fell.

But this wasn’t just the loss of a fight, it was the loss of men whose place in the community was vital; and the ones left behind in the centres of Russia were too old to take up the burden of ruling again. In-fighting became common once more, brother trying to oust brother.

Obida (wrong, injustice, offence) has risen up

In the army of the grandson of Dazhbog(Polovetsian ancestor)

As a maiden she stepped forth

Into the Troyan land;

With her swan’s wings

She splashed the Blue Sea by the Don

….banished the times that were fat

Igor had awakened the evil that their father Svyatoslav

The awesome Grand Prince of Kiev,

Had lulled by his might

The tragedy was that Svyatoslav had won renown for himself and his people from the Greeks, Germans, Venetians, Moravians. And now all that was now in peril.

Chapter 7: Dream of Svyatoslav and his Talk with the Boyars

Igor’s father awoke from a dream, which he told to his Boyars: he was being dressed in his funeral robes by Polovetsians; he was placed in his tomb.

The Boyars passed it off as a dream of grief at the loss of Igor.

But now shame has replaced glory

And thundering violence has stunned freedom


On the River Kayala

Darkness shrouded the light.

And the Polovetsians spread

   Across the Russian Land

Like a brood of leopards

Chapter 8: The Golden Word of Syvatoslav and His Appeals for Princely Unity

It begins with a lament for Igor and Vsevolod.

What follows this, however, are reprimands for the neighbour princes who did not respond to the call, did nothing to help the campaign: fourteen princes are chided in turn by the Grand Prince Syvaloslav.

This leads directly into

Chapter 9: The Song of Vselav

Vselov was a hero of old who stirred up the country in his attempts to seize Kiev and Novgorod for himself. His campaigns were many, and chequered. This chapter balances the previous chapter with war campaign against wise ruling throughout each these periods.

Chapter 10: The Lament of Yaroslavna

This is a thoroughly delightful piece – apart from the subject matter. Yaroslavna was Igor’s (second) wife. The Lament takes the form of four apostrophes of natural elements, the ‘mightiest natural forces of the Russian Land’.

At dawn she calls on the cuckoo in flight to help her

                  she calls on the wind

                  she calls on the river Dneiper

                  she calls on the sun

Chapter 11: Igor’s Escape

A Polovetsian, Ovlar, helped Igor escape his capture. Once again there is a call on the animals and elements to help: the ermine of the rushes to hide him; the white duck of the water; the grey wolf; the falcon. He is hidden by the mist.

But Gzak and Konchak pursue him. The river Donets addresses Igor, helps him as a golden-eye duck on the water, as a seagull on the waves, as a black duck in the winds.

Where, in history of these campaigns the border river Stugna had drowned Prince Rostislav, it helped Igor.

Although Igor got away they still had his son captive. What should they do with him? They resolve to marry him to one of theirs, thereby bridging their conflicts.

Chapter 12: Final Praise for Igor and his Men

Here all shame at their stirring up terrible times for Russia are forgotten as Igor is welcomed home – not as a conquering hero so much, but as a true prince of Russia, bringing peace again. For, the bards of old said: what is the head without the body; or the body without its head? 

One important sub-theme in the Tale is that of the narrator. He starts off very much to the fore telling us what he intends for the telling of the tale. Similarly he ends up in the last chapter telling us about the old bards again, how they would have handled the Tale, and by implication connecting himself to their tradition.

The question he is putting us is: how is he going to do it differently from the old bards? And the answer is crucial: with the impartiality of his position – he can extol the deeds of the warriors, but he can also, through the Grand Prince, bring out the shame over glory of their deeds, the dangers to the community of their deeds. This is the central chapter, the turn in the tale. It is crucial because it ties in both ends, as well as the reason of the change of mood of the piece.

The narrator gives us the Tale, but also deconstructs the tale.

Put like that it makes this sound like a modern forgery, at the least. But no, many narrators of tales draw attention to themselves; writers of epics include themselves and their (mostly pecuniary) plight within the text. We see this in Chaucer, the poems of Dunbar; it is subtly done in Beowulf where the very artificial structuring of the story is his usp, unique selling point. Because all these are the bard’s/narrator’s selling points to their patrons, or future patrons.


There is a part in the early chapter where, when talking of the old bard Boyan, the narrator says he would be, darting as a nightingale about the tree of thought/ flying in your mind against the clouds,/ as you wove a song of glory….(ll 40-42).

This had me wondering – there is a great deal of bird imagery in the piece, but, this one: darting as a nightingale about the tree of thought –could this be an equivalent of a memory system in use? 

This tree of thoughthas all its connotations with Yggdrasil. The identity of Boyans and his bard companion Khodyna, have been speculated upon, and it is suggested that there could well be old Viking roots here. These rivers were their trade roots. But also the Lament of Yaroslavnahas a close resemblance to a piece composed by a Viking bard in Byzantium previously to this. Whether this Lament is based on that, or by the same person…..

The squirrel that runs up and down Yddrasil, between Hel, and Asgard – could this be an ancestor?

This tree of thought, though: we know old shamanic practices amongst the nomadic tribes, the central Siberian hunters, used the tree as the path into the other world, to be climbed to find answers and visions for their people. 

Could this tree be the repository of all the knowledge: memories, songs, tales etc etc, of one’s people? That the tree mirrors the growth and strength and health of a people; it also shows which offshoots are healthy, and which have failed. To look at a tree, assess a tree, would be to ‘read’ it, to be able to discern the environmental impact on it. 

A tree as a body of remembered, cultural, icons.

The rags on the wishing tree; the votives on the healing tree.

From the garden of Eden, to Golgotha.