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Salisbury and the Great War 

How were the towns and cities of the UK affected by the calamity that became known as The Great War? The Military Publishers, ‘Pen and Sword’, have addressed this issue in an illuminating series including the recent ‘Salisbury in the Great War’ by Neil G M Hall.  Thoroughly researched with startling illustrations, interviews with surviving family members – one lady still lives on her own in the house where she was born in 1912 - and drawing on vividly documented records Hall plots the impact of an industrial war upon a sleepy cathedral city. As expected there was much pathos. The mother who advertises locally in an endeavour to find her soldier son only to discover that he is dead – killed in the Gallipoli campaign – is just one example. There is disaster as successful businesses crumble but dollops of humour too. In what circumstances did a very young publican’s daughter learn to sing “Mademoiselle from Armentières”? Interesting – and the reference to why the local fish-and-chip-man escaped conscription lightens the load as does the trial of the animal trainer accused of thrashing his chimpanzee. Did he? Hall invites the reader to discover for himself. Hall also poses a mystery. How did a Canadian’s mascot bear morph into a world famous children’s hero? ‘The war invisibly regulated our lives‘, so wrote a Salisbury resident. Away from the trenches Hall’s skills draw the read into a wider understanding, not of battles and conflict, but the wider effect of war.

ISBN – 10   1473843731
ISBN -  13   978 - 1473843738


drugs and the path

Many enlightened people have fallen victim to various kinds of drug addiction. Drugs can give a glimpse of a state that can only be made permanent by other means. But drugs can also render, temporarily, a situation as 'normal' when for various reasons- pressure, illness, pain it isn't. Every drug, of course, causes the brain to make adjustments, normalising its use and exacting a precise cost for doing so. The question to ask is: does any actor act better on stage whilst drunk or on drugs- of course not. One reason why actors are particularly prone to both when they are supposed to be resting is because they they are not 'acting' as actors, they really think they ARE actors. For some reason I am reminded of something written by Idries Shah: "Just because you know you're a moving target doesn't mean you stop being one."


to act or not to act

Someone seems phoney and we condemn them- 'he's a real actor, it's all an act'. Someone is ill and they put a brave face on it and refuse to burden others with their woes in situations where burdening isn't useful for anyone- that person is a model citizen. It all depends on the act, your acting. What is this acting we do in everyday life? (I am reminded of a line in the movie My dinner with Andre; 'Grotowski gave up the theatre because he thought we were all acting so well all the time anyway...') What about the person who says- what you see is what you get- I don't hide anything? What they hide is their desire to hide things...Being upfront about everything is a kind of crudity, certainly it means you are reading your own signals before being sensitive to those of the situation. Of course you can be TOO sensitive...Politeness is supposed to be an act, so are good manners- but the best manners are simply being considerate- which you can observe in the poorest, and richest, of people. Of course you can be TOO considerate...Acting is following a template or model of behaviour for a situation rather than re-acting using habitual responses. You either act or re-act, you can't escape it. When you're acting you may get 'stuck in the role'- my character just wouldn't do that actors complain to a writer. Make your character do it! You're surrounded by friends and family and feel very relaxed- how do you act? I imagine you suppress half unconciously certain aspects of your life that won't quite fit in in this environment.

In the traditional world your act is given to you on a plate. Everything about a traditional society has survived for good reason- and it breaks down for good reason too. You can't go back, however to observe it you can see that the demeanor, words, clothes, rites of passage, manner of address are all programmed into the society rather than, as in a modern 'free' society being largely the responsibilty of the individual. Of course you have to 'act' by putting on a suit, being polite to your boss- but the act is often resented, if only you were a millionaire you wouldn't have to act at all! But an actor doesn't resent his costume, he just tweaks it so that it 'works' for him- or her, the actress Archie Punjabi insisted on always wearing boots when she played a certain role- it made her feel tougher, which enhanced the act. So those people who are always 'themselves' might just be using props that allow them to stay 'in character'. So become aware of props, costumes, mannerisms which make acting a certain way effortless.

As a teacher in front of a class of children you have to act- you cannot react. People who are 'cool' are those who have habitualised certain responses early on in life. It looks like they aren't acting which is why they sometimes make good actors in movies.

You can look at acting as deciding on a certain persona or stance you conciously adopt for which you face most situations in life. It's OK to go with the flow, but it stops you from drowning if you have a boat. Doesn't have to be that big either.


desire for oblivion

Desire for oblivion often masquerades as humility. But it's just another form of giving up. Using the 'I'm not good enough' excuse to not do things can feel like you are being 'humble' and lacking in self-centredness. But doing things, even if they aren't wildly 'successful', is more positive and has more developmental possibilities. If you've got a donkey why not ride it? No one gets anywhere just looking at their donkey and seeing all its faults.


honour and acknowledge your multiple selves

Micromastery- doing a small thing well- is a good way to acknowledge and honour one of the many selves of which you are composed. No one is just one thing, one leviathan-like unity. We are like multiple strands- not even woven, and our life is the fight between them for the honour of carrying the little monkey that is climbing up...

The strands compete; sometimes one strand tries to strangle another. You get obsessed with one thing and let everything slide- but another strand of self will re-assert and condemn the 'addiction'. The secret of the traditonally wise was to try your best to integrate all the strands, weave them together into one rope that pulls in one direction.

But prior to integration you need to find some stability. You need some distance on your mutliple selves. This doesn't come from navel gazing- it comes from honouring each self with recognition. It doesn't have to be much. For example, if you have a military self don't join the army and kill your artistic self- simply wear a uniform for a day or two every so often. If you have an artistic self draw and frame a picture every month. The rest of the time you can run your business- which may be boring at times but is honouring your ambitious worldly self.

Micromastery- doing an eskimo roll, juggling, making a perfect omelette is a way to instantly access the self involved with each task. Once accessed and honoured (chef self is rewarded by everyone praising his great omelette) you can rest assured that self won't try and sabotage your life.

Because most people spend a lot of emotional energy putting out fires started by their competing selves.


interesting or emotionally affecting

If you write, draw, paint or take pictures you'd be odd if you didn't ask yourself- is my stuff any good or not? Quiet apart from stylistic and compositional or formal qualities I think it is a good idea to ask yourself- 'is my work interesting?' and 'is my work emotionally affecting?' It has to be one or the other. Interest is to be found in new information, new sights, new ways of looking at something. Emotion is to be found in melodrama, domination and submission, tugging at heart strings, nostalgia, suspense, in your faceness, violence and sex. If your work is neither interesting or emotionally affecting it probably is 'thin' and needs a rethink, reboot or moving on to something stronger. Get used to asking yourself- 'how interesting is my work?' 'How emotionally affecting is it?' This is more useful than asking 'is it any good?' You can increase emotion in something that is lacking interest by increasing contrast- literally in a photograph or picture, and through cutting away the nuances in writing, the shades of grey.


don't be assertive, be more curious

Assertive people are held up for us to admire and yet though we try we don't REALLY like the brash abrasive feeling of putting ourselves first and not really being interested in others. So we go around moaning that we should be 'more assertive'. Actually we should be more curious. People who want to be assertive often lack the means to effectively get attention- that is one point, and this blinds them to their main stance which is a basic lack of interest in others. If you get more curious about why others think as they do then they will be more interested in you. Giving and getting attention- the basis of civilisation as Idries Shah puts it in his documentary 'One pair of eyes'  (well worth seeing- you can find it on Youtube). Switch from a general stance of 'I already understand' to one of 'help me to understand'. This doesn't require endless questioning (which can be mechanical and empty) - all it needs is observation, which has verbal and non-verbal parts. Once you really understand someone they will tend to find reasons to listen to you.

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