Thursday, October 23, 2014

From Stick to Staff

[This post is 6.8K words. Here's a PDF if you prefer]

If you've arrived at this page looking for information about walking up Snowdon, you may just want to scroll down to the section with the big bold heading Details of the Snowdon Walk. There you will find a fairly straightforward account of a walk taken on the last weekend of September 2014. We ascended via the Rhyd Ddu path, descended two thirds of the way down the Ranger path, and then cut across the foot of the mountain, using a public footpath that runs through the old quarry, back to our start point. My online researches couldn't find an account of a route that allowed you to use different paths up and down the mountain without the need to catch a bus, or walk an extra couple of miles, at the start or end of your hike. So I hope the description of this one proves useful.

What this post is really about though, as the title indicates, is a journey of a different sort. It's about a stick becoming a Staff.

Those familiar with my blog will know that I write 'rambles' on Money. Posts are titled for example, A Ramble on Ingham's Nature of Money, or A Ramble on Derrida and Money Burning, or A Ramble on an LSE Democracy talk with David Graeber & Craig Calhoun, etc. I use the word 'ramble' metaphorically, equating it to a journey of thought through a mindscape of ideas about money.

Here though, metaphor is abandoned. The journey is real. There's rocks and streams and other mountain things. And so too is the mindscape. It's not academic abstractions on the nature of money, rather it's simply my thoughts and feelings about events in my life. They seem real enough to me. And crucially, my mindscape is the stick's primary territory.

Money has not been abandoned, though. What I'm hoping is that if my story can offer a glimpse into the becoming, of a stick to a Staff, it may also reveal something about Money and its becoming.

So, to begin at the beginning.

When Sally and I separated last year, I got possession of a stick. Despite it's crookedness, it functions surprisingly well as a walking stick, the contours of it's top-knot making a handle that snugly fits your palm. Where it came from is something of a mystery. To me, it looks like a piece of driftwood bleached smooth. I like to think it came from Traethgwyn, near New Quay but if I'm honest I can't really remember. Sally is less convinced of its aquatic origins and thinks instead it might have come from a local dog walk, possibly the Two Woods Walk at Old Knebworth in Hertfordshire. But she isn't too sure, either. It is a stick of uncertain origins.

I'm also not sure of when the journey from stick to Staff really started.

I'd already taken it on a pilgrimage of sorts. At the end of summer 2013 the stick went with me to Wales where I retraced my grandfather's footsteps. Sometime in the late 1940's or 1950's, he'd painted a picture of the bridge at Llanina and I wanted to visit the very spot on which he'd stood to do so. That picture is at my mother's. On a wall in my home, just a few feet from where I'm sat typing now, is his painting of New Quay (see below).

Stood where my grandfather was, if you turn your head a quarter to the right so you are facing North, you can, on a clear day across the Cardigan Bay, see the coastline arc all the way round to the Llŷn Peninsula. On one fine day of my holiday, I was sat just stone's throw and sixty-odd years from my Grandfather, reading Norman O Brown's Life Against Death. My mind fizzing from Brown's theories of time, money and the sacred, I looked up from the book, across the Bay and could see clear-as-day the distant peaks of Snowdonia swelling-sore above the horizon.

Life Against Death is a very important book for me. There was something about the reading of it. I'm more open to the idea now that you not only get meaning from the words and their particular arrangement, but also, too, the conditions of reading can profoundly influence your experience of meaning. And those ways of understanding meaning can reflect upon one another, merging, transforming, and deepening meaning still further. I've made a similar point before about Glyn Davies' magisterial A History of Money which I read on Jersey during a trip to see the solar eclipse.

I'd imagine that a forensic, evidence-based examination of events would likely point to my reading of Alan Moore's biography Magic Words as a key factor in establishing my intentions in respect of the stick. Alan Moore carries a Staff (or maybe he refers to it as a stick, I'm not sure) with a handle carved like a snake's head. It symbolizes his worship of Glycon, a second-century Macedonian snake god. After reading the book, I did a post Alan Moore and Me and in it reflected on my trip to Wales. I say that I took the stick with me to ensure it was brimful of magical energy, and I speak about my idea for marking it with my little money-mantra "Money is the AND between the One and the Many". And also my plan to inlay a coin (above) from my childhood collection into the handle. But I never refer to it as a Staff.

I'm not sure it's actually possible to pin-point the start of the journey from stick to Staff.

What I'm inclined to believe though, strange as it may sound, is that an agglomeration of mindscape events, past and future, were resonant to me in the moment I looked up toward the distant Snowdon. That's when the possibility of knowing - that the stick had to go up the mountain - was mapped onto the mindscape. I'm not even saying I discovered it consciously at that moment. Just that I might have, if I'd thought about it.

There are other ways to conceive of it, of course. For example, you might prefer to believe that the Staff is eternal and that events can somehow and sometimes conspire to enable our perception of its true eternal nature. Once perceived, we seek to return some balance to the universe by manifesting something of the infinite, universal, or eternal within the appearance of the stick or by the way we in which we treat it.

However, if you think a Staff is just a fancy stick with a good story attached, logically, you're on dodgy ground. There's a phrase beloved of historians and economists alike - 'necessary but not sufficient'. It applies here. Creative carving, mystical markings, and tall tales are generally thought necessary for a stick to be considered a Staff. But they are not sufficient. What's missing has to do with the Staff's relation to mind - or, as I prefer to say, the mindscape.

With an early start on the Saturday, perhaps unwisely, I'd agreed to do some Friday night overtime. If it all went to plan I'd be finished at midnight. It didn't go to plan. The Hills Road, which runs south from Cambridge city center, presented me with the toughest of the evening's van driving challenges. Like some poor miscreant Padawan, eventually I was forced to pull over, call my customers, apologize for my tardiness and beg their forgiveness. As a van driving Jedi, I found this most humiliating.

The first customer after the Hills Road hold-up had booked the dreaded tea-time slot when late deliveries and hungry stomachs can combine to create, as my corporate masters might say, 'a challenging delivery environment'. But the lady customer could not have been more forgiving. On the doorstep, I was apologizing yet again for my tardiness when she insisted it was she who should feel sorry for me.

"Oh, you poor man," she said gesturing to me to place the bags of shopping on her doormat. "You'll get home so late."

"Well, I wouldn't mind, but it's a bit annoying tonight, as it goes. I'm going away this weekend. Early start in the morning".

Adjusting my stance and balance, I concentrated my gaze upon the doormat. I leaned forward and placed the bags down with an exaggerated gentility, pausing for just a second, still gripping the handles, while gravity's action upon the contents of the bag reached a locally static equilibrium. I looked up. Smiled. Then, as if I had done it ten thousand times before (which I have), my right hand reached down into the large side pocket of my trousers and pulled out a triple folded receipt, flicking it open using my thumb and forefinger and presenting to her in one motion.

"All there. Nothing missing." I said.

Our brief exchange was close to its conclusion. "Wherever you're going," she said, "I hope you have a lovely time."

"Oh, thanks. It's Snowdon."

"Magic !"

When my deliveries were done I made my way back to the yard. There are around two hundred numbered bays. Any van could go in any bay, it depends on when you get back and how the Vehicle Inspectors decide to fill them up on the night. 

I was late back so it was already pretty full. The Vehicle Inspector checked me in and then said "Stick it there, mate" pointing to a solitary empty bay in a long line of neatly parked Mercedes vans. It was bay number 23.

I could be making this up. But I'm not.

So Saturday morning came around fast.

Up at 5.23 am sharp, I showered, made a cafetiere of proper coffee which I transferred into my travel mug and put Sunday's packed lunch into one of the ruck sacks. I'd already packed the rest of what we needed into the boot of the Berlingo on the Thursday night, including the stick-soon-to-be staff. I set off for Royston. Then, two minutes later, I returned home to fetch my wallet - weird that, I never forget my wallet. At Royston, I picked up my daughter and her boyfriend, and then on to Leicester, to meet my son at the railway station. From there on to Conwy Falls Cafe for lunch.

I discovered the Conwy Falls Cafe when I was tour managing. The act I worked for at the time used to get seasick, so he'd fly to Ireland rather than come with the rest of us on the ferry from Holyhead. On one such trip I was set to return from Ireland alone. It was, if I remember correctly, a TV appearance rather than a gig so there was no crew just me, the artist who'd get seasick, and his drummer, Dan. But Dan hated flying. He would avoid it as much as he could. On this occasion he'd flown into Ireland directly from Sweden, and so jumped at the chance to cancel his flight back to the UK for the next show and return instead with me on the ferry. From the Holyhead ferry the most scenic route, and the best one if you're heading anywhere in the south of England, is down the A5. Follow it far enough and you'll end up at Marble Arch.

I don't miss much from those tour managing days. I always felt marginally guilty that I'd just stumbled into it hoping to earn a few quid whilst enjoying a lot of free time between jobs, when I could read my money books and do a bit of writing. Needless to say, it didn't work out like that. The jobs became more and more demanding and took up far too much mental space. I think its fair to say, that for many of my colleagues, working in the music business was a vocation. It's one that can easily become your whole life. Kids are missed, friends become family, marriages split up. What I think keeps drawing people to it - other than a love of music - is the reflected glory and the buzz of showtime. But, as I say, I don't miss any of that. Much. I do miss Dan the Drummer, though.

As it goes, Dan figures in the apotheosis of 'van driving journeys I have made'. The details of it are in this 'travelogue of summer 2010', but basically I drove from Dan's hometown, Åmål in Sweden - a small town made famous by a film called Fucking Åmål -  all the way to Codicote in Hertfordshire. Twenty-two hours, 1100 miles, seven countries. I find it uncanny that the awesomeness of a journey like this is so utterly unremarkable. Even during the journey, the journey disappeared into nothing. When I reached Hamburg I found myself thinking "nearly home".

If early one morning long ago the ancient Celtic-Jon, had said to the ancient Viking-Dan, "I shall be near Londinium an hour after the sun sets", Viking-Dan would have thought Celtic-Jon a liar, or else a magician able to summon a dragon and ride it there. Actually, it's quite likely that Viking-Dan would have been able to entertain both those possibilities simultaneously.

All of this, I could happily have talked about with modern-day-Dan without so much as a raised eyebrow or wry smile between us. But on the occasion of our drive from Holyhead down the A5, we weren't saying much. There was something distinctly primal dominating both our thoughts. By the time we were an hour or so into our journey from the ferry, Dan broke the silence to declare in his authentic Swedish-Chef-accent "Now, I'm a rearerly hungerarey". It was just at that very moment we happened across the Conwy Falls Cafe.

As my young companions and I pulled into the car park in the September sunshine, my Daughter chirped up "Do you know we're quite close to my favorite place in the world? Portmeirion is only twenty miles away." Saying so at that very moment was prescient, uncannily coincidental, or both.

My grandmother used to tell me to be wary of North Wales "Oh," she'd say, "They're a bit funny up there." So, Portmeirion doesn't figure strongly in my own mythology, but it does in Sally's - forming her childhood holiday memories - so, in turn, despite my Grandmother's warnings, our children are imbued with a sense of the place and have visited it on several occasions. The white building housing the Conwy Falls Cafe (pictured above*) was designed by Clough Williams-Ellis, the very same famous Welsh architect who designed Portmeirion.

What makes it special is not only its heritage, and not even the home cooked food, friendly service, and reasonable prices, but the fact that just a short walk into the woods that border the Cafe's garden is a deep river valley with the gorgeous waterfall that gives the cafe its name.

After lunch, we took in the falls and followed the trial through the woods for a twenty minute leg-stretching walk. Then we got back in the Berlingo and pressed on to Dinas Emrys, just another thirty-five minutes drive away.

Dinas Emrys is wrapped in mythology. It's a particularly pertinent mythology for me. I have on my upper left arm a tattoo of two dragons, one red one white, locked together in (a sort of) combat. The legend says that as a boy Merlin was brought to Dinas Emrys by King Vortigern. Vortigern was trying to build a tower that kept collapsing and his Druids had told him that sprinkling the blood of a fatherless child on the foundations would solve the problem. Merlin was the fatherless child. But once at the site Merlin told Vortigern why the tower kept collapsing. Beneath the tower, he claimed, was a pool. And within that pool were two urns, one containing a red dragon and the other a white dragon. The pool, said Merlin, was emblematic of Vortigern's world and kingdom.

"The red dragon", said Merlin to Vortigern, "is your Dragon. The white Dragon is that of the Saxons."

Vortigern's men dug down and soon discovered a pool containing two urns. As the urns were opened two dragons flew out and began to fight. Eventually the red dragon won and chased the white dragon away. Merlin's life was spared, and the Druids put to death. So it goes.

Dinas Emrys** seemed then, like a good place to take my fatherless stick.

We took a walk up the hill to see the ruins, taking in the splendid wood carvings along the way as well as pretty little streams and waterfalls. It took us an hour  - maybe an hour and a half - and served as a good warm up for the following day's exertions.

It also served to open up the stick to the transformative possibilities of being atop a mountain.

The only dog I've owned (which seems like such a crass way to describe one's relationship with a dog) was called TD. He was a wolfhound/deerhound cross. He was a big dog, a little skinnier than a wolfhound but tall and very fast; at least he was in a straight line, cornering was something of an issue for him. I got him from a rescue center. Apparently whoever had him as a pup had failed to consider that he would grow quite so much. But I wanted a big dog. I'd been violently robbed of my Christmas market takings and wanted some back up. Although I'd tried to resist the attack, a big spray of ammonia directly into my eyes and up my nose had temporarily blinded me and made breathing tricky. The rage the robbery inspired or released - I'm not sure which it is - was unquenchable. My big dog was to be part of my armory. I both feared and longed for a re-occurrence.

The children were very small at the time. Although TD was a very gentle dog, I felt that I had to dominate him. A snarl or growl at the children - no matter what they did to encourage it - would be harshly met. I regret this now. I wish I'd had more confidence in his spirit. He'd had a rough start to his life. Much of it had been spent in small cage which must have been torture for a dog that loved more than anything else to run freely. Thankfully, working with me on the markets he was able to indulge his passion. The markets were held on old airfields. Most times we'd turn up in the lorry the night before to set up the stall. It was big one selling music, videos, books and any similar lines that I could get cheap. As soon as the air-handbrake made its 'Pssssst' sound TD would be ready to go. The door would be opened for him and he'd be off. He had complete freedom to roam as he liked over a couple of square miles. Once the framework of the stall was set up we'd give him a shout for his supper. He'd come bounding back, eat, and then he'd be off again for another hour or two before we'd call him for bedtime. I think then, he was the happiest dog in the world.

I recall two incidents in particular. One, when a guy who worked for me was driving at thirty miles an hour along the airfield in his car, only to be passed by a grinning TD who then accelerated away from him. And another, when TD had been off on his explorations for an hour or two. There were a couple of other people who stayed overnight and TD would go to see them, getting snacks and attention. He was well known and well liked. This particular night, a car I hadn't seen before was driving around the market suspiciously. I was keeping an eye on it when it drove towards my lorry pulling up just in front and to the right of it. His headlights were on full beam and his engine still running. I locked my doors and wound down my window a few inches. "What you after, mate?" I shouted. The driver began to wind his window down. When the gap was about six inches, TD bounded out of the darkness and shoved his head through. The car driver shat himself. "Jeesus !" was about all I could make out. I called TD off and he came immediately. It turned out the guy was just an unfortunate minicab driver who'd been called out to the airfield to pick up one of the overnight workers.

When TD was about seven - we weren't too certain of his exact age - I noticed a tiny lump just above his right front paw. I took him to the vets, thinking nothing of it. It just so happened that he was something of specialist in larger breeds. I'll never forget the look on the vet's face. As far as he was concerned that little lump was a death sentence.There were tests to be done of course, but he wanted me to consider that I'd have to have TD put down. I railed against it. He was such a loyal dog and gentle spirit. It cost me far more money than I could afford, and the vet had to spread the cost for me, but I took the option of having his leg amputated hoping that the cancer would not have spread. For a few days after the amputation I regretted it as TD was so very depressed. Soon enough though, his spirits lifted and he was running around again on three legs almost as well as he had done on four. But within six months his health deteriorated. He got to the stage where he found it an effort to go out in the garden. One evening I bought him a whole chicken all to himself. I think he enjoyed the gesture more than the food. Soon after he collapsed. I lifted him into the back of the car and took him to the vets

I can clearly remember standing at the door of the vet's struggling to hold this huge dog in my arms whilst trying to ring the bell for the surgery. As soon as they opened the door, they cleared some space and then laid TD on the floor. He was very near death. We stroked him until finally he let out one last howl and passed. 

We stayed overnight in the Prince Llywelyn in Beddgelert (you say it be'th'gelert). Beddgelert means the grave of Gelert. This is the story as written on Gelert's tombstone which lies a short walk south of the village 
"In the 13th century Llewelyn, prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, ‘The Faithful Hound’, who was unaccountably absent.
On Llewelyn's return the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The prince alarmed hastened to find his son, and saw the infant's cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood.
The frantic father plunged his sword into the hound's side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog's dying yell was answered by a child's cry.
Llewelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but nearby lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain. The prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here".

Details of the Snowdon Walk

We set off from our hotel in Beddegelert at 7.30am on Sunday morning, making the short drive to our starting point which was the car park on the south side of the village of Ryhd Ddu (you say it "rheed-thee"). Now, in deciding upon our route up and down Snowdon there was a problem - one we still hadn't resolved at this late stage. We wanted to ascend the mountain via one path, and descend it via another. The problem is that there is quite a distance between the beginning of one path and the end of another. The last thing you want to do after your hike up the mountain is walk at least another couple of miles along a road to get back to your car. The solution suggested online is that you park your car at your end point, and catch the Sherpa bus service, or even the train, to your start point. Well, that's great if the buses or trains are running at the times you need them. But this wasn't so for us on this Sunday.

The OS map - do buy an OS map - showed a footpath leading from two thirds of the way down the Ranger Path cutting across the quarry and leading back directly to the car park at Rydd Ddu. Armed with a compass and our weatherproof OS map we decided that we'd risk it. If worse came to worst, we'd go to the end of the Ranger path and call a taxi.

The Ascent - Rhyd Ddu

I parked my Berlingo in the Car Park just to the south of the village of Rhyd Ddu. The train stops there, it's well signed, and you can't miss it. Five quid for the day.

From left to right Amy (Daughter), The Stick-soon-to-be-Staff, George (Son),
and Stephen (Daughter's BF)
Our party was one reasonably fit 48 year old and three youngsters ranging from 21 to 24 all blessed with that annoying level of fitness you get in your youth and that you've never had to work for. Physically, the ascent was manageable. Psychologically though it was a bit more challenging. Around half a kilometer from the summit, things start progressively to get a little scary. The climax is where you walk around a little rocky outcrop and then are faced with a path a foot or two wide, and ten or fifteen yards long, going along the top of a ridge. There is fall to certain death either side of you. For us, the drop was partially obscured by mist and cloud cover which helped, and the wind wasn't too strong either. Do have a think if you can handle this before you choose the Rhyd Ddu path. Once past the very scariest bit though, the rest of the walk to the summit is relatively easy going.

Having said this, of the very few other walkers we saw on the Rhyd Ddu path (about 4 or 5 on this very fine day) one was a young girl of about ten years old, hiking with a well equipped adult. So I guess those more used to mountain terrain might scoff at us townies getting scared on a little hill.

The Summit

I haven't been up Snowdon since I was a teenager, so the whole Hafod Eryri visitor center on the summit of Snowdon was new to me. Whatever the right or wrongs of building atop a mountain, the center provided us with the best cup of tea in human history. All the food was fairly priced too. I went up Vesuvius as a teenager (in about 1981) where there was a stall selling Mars bars for the Lira equivalent of £1 (which was a lot of Lira). The usual price for a Mars bar in 1980 was 15 pence. The massive injustice of it still haunts me.

Anyway, in the visitor center you'll find stand-up tables where you're free to eat the packed lunch you've bought with you - none of this 'only food purchased on the premises' malarkey. The idea of standing up is good too. It's tempting to sit down, but a sure way to stiffen up before the descent.

Once I had tapped my stick on the very top of the busy summit, we began our descent.  

The Descent - Ranger Path 

The Ranger and the Llanberis (the easiest of all the paths) run together for the first few hundred yards alongside the railway track before the Ranger crosses over it and descends the mountain more steeply that the Llanberis. For quite a long way - about 45 minutes walking, I think - the Ranger path makes a fairly easy descent before there is a marginally more challenging section. For us veterans of the Rhyd Ddu path though, this was nothing.

Stephen taking in the view

Cutting across from the Ranger Path to the start of Rhyd Ddu

Now here's where it would have been helpful if I'd have taken a note of the OS map reference and a photo or two. But sorry, I didn't. When you're coming down the Ranger path you need to look for a stile on your left hand side that takes you up and over a stonewall. There is a badge on the stile giving the exact OS reference - its something close to SH 57430 55288 (I've tried to work it out with Grid Reference Finder)

The footpath is signed every few hundred yards with a yellow arrow on a pole. It's relatively easy to follow. The ground is quite boggy in places though, so be careful. I think this section of the walk took us just over an hour, maybe ninety minutes. It was really enjoyable though. We didn't see another soul until we crossed the railway track near the end. There is a very short climb over the mounds of discarded slate near the old quarry. And there are some streams that have to be hopped across via rocks although the larger streams have proper footbridges. On a lovely late September summer day none of this was a problem but, I imagine, in very wet conditions the path would be more of challenge.

Here is a map I traced out on Google of the route - start bottom left go round anti-clockwise. The exact distance is 8.6 miles (13.35 km), the ascent/descent of Yr Wyddfa is 2.936 feet (895m).

And here's the relevant section of my OS map showing the Rhyd Ddu path, the Ranger path, and the footpath joining them.

We had the best weekend ever doing this walk. It was really special. Good luck if you choose to take it on. I hope the weather holds for you.

So it was a great relief to our little party of orange-clad pilgrims to finally see in the late September sunshine the distant glimmer of my beautiful silver Citroen Berlingo. Closer still and we could see her flat wiper blades pressed snugly against the curve of her windscreen; rain-dispersing capabilities and aesthetic appeal in a heady mix of function and form. The French beauty parked peacefully and squarely with her round corners patiently awaiting the return of her those who now longed to be inside her.

We were happy to see the car.

And she must have been happy to see us. Or perhaps, the Staff was already enveloping us in some sort of magical field. Or else, it was all just pure coincidence. But the journey home seemed blessed. We did all that we needed to do. We stopped first at Glaslyn Ices in Beddgelert to quench our thirst. Then we drove. Down the A5 and into England. Burgers and toilet. Then onward. We arrived at Leicester station at 8.59pm. My Son took his bag from the boot, strolled calmly into the station, onto the platform and straight onto the 9.00pm train back to Sheffield, as if it he'd summoned it.

From there we retraced our route back to Royston to drop off my Daughter and her Boyfriend about an hour and a half later, at around ten thirty, quarter to eleven. From there I made the last leg of the journey home alone.

Me with the stick-soon-to-be-Staff. Taken at a rocky outcrop on Dinas Emrys over looking the valley

So now there exists in our material world a Staff where there was just a stick. It still looks like a stick, but it is imbued with magic. You can believe this, or not believe this. Or you can do as most people on planet Earth do and have done across the ages, you can do both things simultaneously and in complete contradiction.

The Staff also possesses, or at least shares with those around it, some form of momentum. It has, in some sense of the word, intent. The Staff will continue its journey of imbuement by standing upon the peaks of Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. It now has a ritualistic rhythm to its existence that sets it apart from the slow organic decay of a mere stick.

I will attempt to make this extant temporal pathway visible on the body of the Staff. My task is to try through the carving, marking and inlaying of the Staff, to match corporeal reality with magical essence.

During the writing of this post I have found the name of the Staff, hidden in plain sight, as it should be. It is already taboo to refer to the Staff as a stick.This point was openly agreed among the pilgrims. Henceforth it is taboo to refer to the Staff as 'it'. An 'it' is a thing and the Staff is not a thing. So referring to the Staff as 'it' is not only taboo, it is factually incorrect. The Staff is beyond gender so referring to the Staff as he or she would also be wrong.

As I am in the fortunate position to be chosen by fate as the keeper of the Staff it is incumbent upon me to open my mind to possible future paths, both literal and metaphorical. It is my responsibility to determine whether or not it is in the interests of the Staff to reveal those paths to others. The Staff and the keeper of the Staff may have their secrets.

I thought about Bill Drummond for a moment when I was up the mountain. To anyone familiar with his writing, the precariously balanced pile of stones is the clear echo of a distant Drummond. And I'm thinking about him now, writing this. Of all of his Ten Commandments of Art, the one entitled 'Don't Make Punk Rock' resonates most strongly with me, and is also the one I'd love to delete (Number eleven of his Ten Commandments gives you the option of deleting one of them). 'Don't Make Punk Rock' contains the line, which should be applied to all art forms : don't join the dots.

I'm forever joining dots.

I have an urge to join the dots now. I want to work out in words why the story of TD is there, I want to write about duality, yin and yang. time and telos. The One and the Many. King Vortigern/Kurt Vonnegut. Sexy Berlingo. Orange jackets. Intent and Intentionality, Money and Currency. Gyges. The visible and invisible. The mundane and the profound. Dylan Thomas. 

I want to connect it all to Money for you

But no. I'll pay heed to Bill's words. And I'll restrict myself to just asking one question.

Is the Staff to a stick, as Money to a coin?

Well, one question and one quote - from what I was reading when I looked up across Cardigan Bay to Snowdon.
[T]he special attraction of gold and silver is due not to any of the rationalistic considerations generally offered in explanation but to their symbolic identification with Sun and Moon, and to the sacred significance of Sun and Moon in the new astrological theology invented by the earliest civilizations. Heichelheim, the authority on ancient economics, concurs on the essentially magical-religious nature of the value placed on gold and silver in the ancient Near East. Laum states that the value ratio of gold to silver remained stable throughout classical antiquity and into the Middle Ages and even in modern times at 1:13½. It is obvious that such a stability in the ratio cannot be explained in terms of rational supply and demand. The explanation, says Laum, lies in the astrological ratio of the cycles of their divine counterparts, the Sun and Moon.
       The history of money from this point of view has yet to be written. Greek money, which contributes to modern money the institution of coinage, was recognized by Simmel to be essentially sacred and to have originated not in the market but in the temple. Laum has amplified and established the thesis. But Simmel and Laum are confused by the illusion that modern money is secular, and hence they confuse the past by describing as 'secularization' a process which is rather only a metamorphosis of the sacred. Even Keynes perhaps shares this illusion, although he sees the real secularization of money as still lying in the future. The historian must doubt the possibility of having capitalism without gold fetishism in some form or other. At any rate, the historian must conclude that the ideal type of the modern economy retains, at its very heart, the structure of the archaic sacred. And once again the undialectical disjunction of sacred and secular is seen to be inadequate.
Norman O Brown Life Against Death (1959) p. 247-248

I didn't check the time when I finally arrived home but I am absolutely sure it was 23:23. By this stage of the journey the sychronicitous appearance of 23's was mundane.

And the mundane had become profound. On the final leg of my journey I achieved an almost transcendent level of satisfaction from the most mechanical and predictable of actions; just before I rejoined the A1(M) for the final twelve miles, I heard a buzz and a little yellow light appeared on the dashboard. It was the fuel warning light. The whole adventure - the whole journey from stick to Staff - had drained one full tank. Perhaps you have to spend eight hours a day behind the wheel of a van to appreciate the sense of completeness that this can lend to a journey. It was - or so I thought - a final gift. One personal to me where the giver is like a lover who knows just what to say and do.

The Staff at rest in the reliquary

But I was wrong. There was one more gift.

I was both vessel and witness to its giving, but the prestation was to the Berlingo, not me.

Sainte-Chappelle uncannily
 similar, isn't it? And French.
I think perhaps the Staff had come to regard the Berlingo as a kind of reliquary: a mobile Sainte-Chapelle. Maybe, by virtue of being the most valuable single object that has ever existed, the Crown of Thorns acts teleologically upon all other venerated wooden artifacts. After nearly eight hundred years of being kept inside the high stained-glass walled splendor of it's own, purpose-built, reliquary - the Saint-Chappelle built in the 1240's by King Louis IX - the Crown of Thorn's connection with its immediate surroundings is morphogentically transmitted to all wooden artifacts, forward and backward in time; like a perfect idea, that not only pulls-forth the thoughts that proceed it, but is also the basis for those that come after it. Any Citroen salesman worth his salt will sit you in the back of a Berlingo knowing that experiencing the bright and roomy interior is the best way to sell you the car. I guess to a wooden artifact one bright and roomy French interior is much like any other.  

Or, maybe the Staff just really liked being inside her. She is after all, a very sexy Berlingo. 

Whatever -- whether there was some deep sexual resonance between the Staff and the Berlingo, some sense that unity rather than separateness was their preferred state of being; or whether some mystical power emanating from the Crown of Thorns spread sacredness through the ether to those of similar material and psychical being; or indeed whether it is just incumbent upon the human brain to incessantly search for meaning in what is ultimately a chaotic and meaningless universe -- None of this is in contradiction to the fact of the matter, that when I took the Berlingo to the petrol station to fill her up, this happened.

3 times 23.
The SEX number.
The chaotic universe spewed forth meaning regardless of sentience. And it makes me wonder. Is it doing this the whole time?

My friendly forgiving lady customer on the Friday night had said, "Magic !". And she was right. It was a magical weekend in any sense you want to give the word. I'm very glad that I got to share it with George, Amy and Stephen.


* I didn't take this myself. I got it from a google search and its from here
** If you fancy taking the trip to Dinas Emrys Snowdon Heritage have an audio tour - we didn't the route described, opting instead for the harder walk red path which is shown on the map in the car park, but the audio tour is a good way to learn about some of the history.

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