Wednesday, 15 April 2009


“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one ... I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amidst the mountains.” Thoreau, Walden.

Captain’s blog. Stardate: Spring 2009.

Six months have passed already. I can’t believe it. What a ride.

This shall be my last post from the mountain. I’ll be here for a week or so still, but that time will be full with packing down and saying goodbyes. When I have time for thinking, I’d like to be free just to think. And I’d like to say goodbye to the place privately.

But do not be alarmed! I’ll be keeping up with the blog. The world breathes a sigh of relief. Or was it a groan?

I’ve enjoyed having the blog as a focus and a forum for sharing ideas and opinions. And I’m sure I shall have as many opinions in the heart of the city as I do from the top of a mountain!

It will be difficult to say goodbye to this life. I am already trying to work out how soon I can return. But, like Thoreau, I have other lives to lead, and have no more time for this one. At least for now.

I am looking forward to recording the music that I have written while I’ve been here. There is well over an album’s worth. I’m also looking forward to a horizontal floor, a hot shower in the morning, and a 24 hour shop around the corner (I keep strange hours).

I’ll be in the UK for about ten days, and they will be a busy ten days. Aside from looking in on friends and family, I will also be doing a couple of sessions for web TV channels in London (Balcony TV and Get Closer), and doing a live web chat for Gigwise, where you will be able to write in and ask me questions. I’ll post more details on those as I have them.

Earlier today, as I sat watching the river run through my kitchen (see video), I was reflecting on how quickly I have forgotten how to be in a city. This yurt life has become normal now, and it’s rhythms and relationships are where I feel comfortable. This place allows an opening of the heart. Cities demand a cutting off and closing down.

I remember getting back to the city after attending Glastonbury festival for the first time. Filled to the brim with peace and love, I was mugged within a few hours. Oh Manchester, so much to answer for.

All was not lost though. I was penniless so had no presents for the muggers, and even managed to put my arm around one of them and ask him why he was being so nasty. The knives remained in their jeans and I lived to hug another day...

The Spanish words I have learnt here are indicative of the life I have led: firewood, countryside, spring, olive oil, chainsaw, rain, sun, wind, stove, stars, village, friend, electricity superhighway. I wonder which words I would know had I moved to Barcelona?

Still, I will be going to a city that I have never lived in before (Vancouver, Canada) which is hemmed in by mountains on one side and the sea on the other. So things could be worse! I’ll also be living in a co-housing community which was built using lots of reclaimed materials, has a communal meditation room and recycles its greywater. I’m interested in exploring potential solutions to the environmental crisis that can be lived by everyone, so am excited to see what a city-based community like this has to offer.

We are on this planet for a brief time, and this time seems to be a pivotal one for humanity, and for the planet at large. This is a responsibility, but also an exciting opportunity. I hope we will rise to the challenge. This involves a change of thinking, a change of values, and a change of behaviour. The change is already beginning to happen, but this is one situation where we do in fact need bigger better faster more.

The good news is that it doesn’t require everyone in the world to get it. If five or ten per cent of us change our lives, great change will happen. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mandela. History is full of the names of people who got a crew together and changed history. They were always in the minority, but a minority is all it takes.

Change is inevitable – we just need to steer it towards a future that works. Don’t wait for the governments of the world to get with the programme. And don’t wait for big business. We are the power. They will follow us.

Thanks to all of you who have read the blog so far, for the many words of encouragement you have sent, and for the sharing of ideas. See you when I’m back in the world!

Perhaps it is fitting that I should end this chapter of the blog with Thoreau’s final words in Walden:

“I do not say that John or Jonathan will realise all this; such is the character of that morrow which mere lapse of time can never make dawn. The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”

Or, if that doesn’t do it for you, perhaps you will resonate more with the succinct sign off of the great (though perhaps a little Bush-esque in his approach to inter-galactic relations) Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise: “Kirk out”.

Friday, 3 April 2009


“We read that the traveller asked the boy if the swamp before him had a hard bottom. The boy replied that it had. But presently the traveller’s horse sank in up to the girths, and he observed to the boy, ‘I thought you said that this bog had a hard bottom.’ ‘So it has,’ answered the latter, ‘but you have not got half-way to it yet.’”
Thoreau, Walden

I’ve been spending the morning by the fire, listening to a cuckoo in a nearby tree.

Last night a frog sat croaking by the river in the valley below – the silence is so total here that I had no problem in hearing him or her (I’m guessing it was a him out on the pull) all the way up here in the yurt.

The fog has been rolling in and out for the last couple of days.

And in London several thousand people stood shouting about bankers, governments, capitalism and the environment.

Part of me really wanted to be there. Another part of me feels slightly confused at the abstract nature of global capitalism, compared with, say, a cuckoo or a frog.

What does the ‘G’ in ‘G20’ stand for anyway? Gobshites? (I hope so – I love that word). Gnomes? Gnobheads?

And how come it’s G20? When I went to the last big protest in the City, I’m sure it was the G8. Is there some kind of tournament? Is the first round G20, and G8 is the quarter finals?

All I know is it’s a bunch of middle-aged white men in suits (plus Obama), sitting around deciding to do something or other with a trillion dollars. Spend it, I guess.

And there’s another abstract concept. A trillion dollars. How much is that? I can get my head around a fiver. Maybe even a grand. But beyond that it all becomes Monopoly money. My guess is that this is true of the men sitting round that table too. And yet someone has to stump up that trillion. And that someone, in the end, is me and you.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make here is that the economy is in the state it’s in because it has become far too complex. The crops didn’t fail. There wasn’t a natural disaster that wiped out all the houses. The work that needed to be done last year to keep us all thriving needs to be done this year too. And yet we are in a ‘global recession’. The worst since the second world war, apparently.

In the words of Thoreau, ‘Simplify, simplify, simplify!’

When we start talking about hedge funds, futures markets and currency trading, we put ourselves in a situation where greedy bankers with insatiable appetites can pull the wool over our eyes, the government’s eyes, and even each others’ eyes. They don’t really understand the economy either. All they know is if they spend somebody else’s money on X in the next 15 seconds, they make another 50k for themselves.

The economic tumble happened because of greed and too much complexity. The system is set up to make such fluctuations in the economy inevitable.

I don’t think the answer is to have a small number of people sitting around a table talking about a trillion dollars, pretending that they understand what’s going on. If they understood what was going on, they would have been able to pre-empt the recession. No one expects the Spanish inquisition.

I think the answer is to live local lives, in local economies, so that massive global fluctuations cannot happen. In a local economy, no one needs to know how the global economy functions. In a local economy, the people really do have the power. They don’t work at Starbucks for five quid an hour, they own their own land. They don’t have a mortgage that will take 25 years to pay off, they build their own house in a year or less, then get on with the rest of their lives.

This kind of living makes you reliant to some extent on your neighbours (e.g. to help you put the roof on your house, or to feed you for a while if your crops fail), but you are always reliant on someone. Better your neighbours than banks and police and the government. And remember – your neighbours also rely on you. There is a balance of power. You cease to be the little guy.

Anyway, the world will continue on its path. The bankers will continue to do their thing, the governments of the world will continue to do theirs, and the cuckoo, at least for a while, will continue to warm my heart in the mornings.

I have been a protester on several occasions and know a whole bunch of anarchists, climate campers and Reclaim the Streets types. They are intelligent, caring, friendly people. I also know several people who work in the City and they are actually very nice people with good hearts too. I don’t agree with the sector they work in, and I wouldn’t work in it, but to blame the bankers for all this mess is to miss the point. We are in the same system, and if we look at the full implications of our actions we see that the money in our own pockets is just as dirty as theirs.

The entire system must change, and it will only change if we, as individuals, change our behaviours. To blame the other guy might make us feel better (and may have some truth to it) but it changes nothing. If you wipe out individuals but leave values and mental states in tact, other individuals will soon take their places. We need to change hearts, minds, values and therefore behaviours if we want real, lasting positive change. And the easiest heart and mind to start with is your own. So hug a banker, I say. Love em till they ditch the day job. And then hug an anarchist. Ah, what the hell. Hug everybody.