The Round Table (Wheel of Fortune)


How strange and how lovely – and, at the same time, how sad, for these cards carry both in their train. We can, of course, wedge a stick in a wheel’s spoke so that it does not move; but stopping movement in this way does not prevent the cyclic change, the wheel of time and tide, from turning inexorably. This can be a hard, and deeply hurtful, lesson to hoist on board, for many of us prefer to keep things safe and the same: To cling on to the stasis of the known rather than rolling with the wheeled vehicle of the new and unknown.

We are now into Summer. Cyclic change has come with the turning of the year. My life, too, is evolving, moving into the next phase, the next opportunity. Such is the Cosmic Law. Such, if we accept such matters with a modicum of grace, is the ongoing tide – its ebb and its flow – of our individual life spans.

But, with the Wheel turning ever-faster upon its next track, we inevitably see certain aspects of our lives becoming distance, the past, a country we cannot return to as the people we were before.

Last night, unconscious of this trend, I set up a Round Table – a circle of chairs with a table as its central point – in the garden. Here, a Fellowship met. No one sat at the head, for there wasn’t one; no one was superior, a King or Queen; it was a meeting of equals, convening to raise the energies creatively. As is true of the message of the tarot card, we sought balanced ways of representing the rights of all beings. It was, in many ways, a Tribal Council to Arthur’s Round Table.

It is easy to sit and watch the Road of the Past narrowing and disappearing behind us;to become caught in the wrenching grief this can cause us; to cling to any tiny fragments of rock and dust we can grab hold of as our chariot hastens ever-onward. But even the smallest particles can weigh us down and slow the turning of the Wheel – and sometimes we have to acknowledge that the aspect of past existence we are trying the hardest to keep clenched in our hands is nothing but phantasm and mist.

Mourn, yes. Grease the wheels of cyclic change with tears and sweat and blood, yes. But movement forward carries us whether we like it or not. Better to go with change, flow with the energies, than to fight.


Light in the Velvet Darkness

Night falls, a cloak of velvet darkness. I sit in the still-warm circle of chairs created for a Shadow of the Tor rehearsal. Scents, both sweet and more earthy – from flowers and budding apples and the night blooming of animals’ nocturnal scurrying – rise all around me.

One by one, and then ever faster, a dizzying wave of brightness, my garden lamps flicker and flare and, fully-lit, add their loveliness. I breath gently, savouring friendship yet feeling sorrow for that which no longer is.

For a brief moment, equilibrium reigns: Dark and Light so perfectly balanced, polarity so intensely harmonious, that I need do nothing but drink in the sight.


Local Sadness : Beauty Without Roots

This could not be much more local: It deals with my precious garden – and, by implication, with the beds and borders of my heart…

I could weep.

But also I could cringe, a worm of embarrassment squirming in my heart.

The beautiful freesias – my favourite flower, their scent so evocative and fine – that I replanted on Saturday did not, as it turned out, have viable roots, and have wilted and died, their delicate heads sunk upon withered chests, their perfume now the rancorous edge to happy memory.

I am subtly ashamed of myself for uprooting and massacring, albeit in innocence, their fragile root system.

I cringe at my blithe expectation that everything I moved from one patch to another would blossom and thrive.

The symbol of this act is as deep as those roots turned out to be shallow.

I cringe.

Tears fall.

But, I shall go and find more bulbs of this, my most loved floral companion – and, digging them deep into fragrant earth, perpetuate my little freesia paradise.

Note: Image shown was taken before the freesias wilted and sagged…

Applying Emotional ECT to Others…

Why are you telling me this?

It is cruel information and not something I need to know.

Why are you undermining me with comments upon my character?

Have you examined yourself in the psychic mirror recently?

Why do you feel YOU have the right to tell ME how to live my life?

Yours is a melange of denial and untendered emotional weeds.

These imaginary dialogues represent a truth and a shift in my response to the world. With the plethora of psycho-spiritual movements (not, in itself, a bad thing) undulating across the Collective Consciousness, too many of us think that we have the absolute right to apply them wholesale to our friends and family, often without asking ourselves whether we have passed the basic ‘Exam’ necessary for such an endeavour: A’ level Know Thyself.

It is frighteningly easy to subdue and control another by these means. If we know someone intimately – and I do not mean by this a bond that needs to include sex – we will be very aware of the Points of Entry (as I call them): The undefended, vulnerable, wounded holes which let in psychic spears and swords. If we tell ourselves that attacking these cracks in the soul is an act of kindness, we may well be lying to ourselves: We may be mistaking our own intolerance and impatience (and hair-trigger temper when faced with the flaws of others) for genuine psychological awareness and impartial therapeutic intervention. If, to put it bluntly, another’s weaknesses stir rage, we are not the people to be donning the mask, and drawing up the metaphorical couch, of the psycho-therapist.

Justifying such behaviour on the grounds of the wounded one’s good is, in my view, a highly dubious, self-serving response. It means, more often than not, that we have bought into certain psycho-therapeutic trends which, used by a professional may well release psychic pus, but used by amateurs can do more harm than good.

Our interventions will, on the whole, be dominated by our own unacknowledged baggage; our motivation for such a step is, thus, highly suspect.

I am thinking here particularly of the perennially-popular Shock/Hurt You For Your Own Good school of psycho-analysis!


Because I firmly believe that such shocks stem as much from intolerance as they do from genuine love and a desire to help: That there is a very thin line, in the untrained, between, ‘I’m doing this for your good!’ and, ‘I’m doing this because I can’t tolerate your flaws and want you to snap out of them.’ Is it a genuine desire to help the other grow – or a vent through frustration in order to get it out of your own system?

I have been subject to untrained intervention of this type on many an occasion – and have, because of low self-esteem and fear, tended to agree with my ersatz counsellor and to take on board (but often not down to the hold) this form of criticism wrapped up in therapeutic jargon. But I have been in therapy enough times myself to know the difference between genuine counselling and meanness/spite/envy/impatience given blanket acceptance value through the medium of ‘Your Own Good’…

No counsellor I have been to has ever used verbal electric wires applied to my skin in this way. They have not needed to: Calm and probing questions have released my inner knowledge without such drama being necessary.

We can, in the final analysis (all puns intended!), only ever work on, and know in this way, ourselves. I do not think that ‘Know Thyself’ means ‘Bully others into knowing themselves first’. I do not think it works like that – because, every time we apply the electric shock to another, we are burning something sensitive and private within that person and are failing to inquire within why the hell this hostile act was so important.

‘You NEED shocking out of yourself,’ has been said, or implied, to me on countless occasions – and I have said, ‘You are SO right!’ and held out my arms and bared my chest for the wires to be attached.


Now I am beginning to get my spirit, my balls, my mojo back – and I would say this:

YOU need to look at the thin line between shocking others in this way and outright bullying, and decide what good excising a part of another’s person’s psyche in this brutal way really does!’

We use such techniques, if you think about it, upon people we consider to be weaker, more flawed, more easily tamed than us: We use them, that is to say, on inferiors, and not those we suspect will turn on us and fight back. But turning our friends and family into clients in this way is dangerous because we have not, usually, corralled the wild horses of our own stampeding egos before going to work upon another’s character – and, all too often, our therapy is driven by rage we will not admit to and a sense of superiority we would rather not face.

Offering someone the tools they need to work on themselves is, in my view, a genuine and very supportive act of love – and I thank those who have done this from the bottom of my heart.

But emotional Electro-convulsive therapy is, like its physical counterpart, both dangerous and potentially highly destructive. The thing you want to drive out may well be, and often is, driven ever-further inwards. You client’s outward compliance and failure to mention said subject again does not necessarily indicate that it has been resolved or banished.

If we are setting out to deal with others from an assumed position of psycho-therapeutic wisdom/superiority, I think it behoves us to ask, rigorously, whether we actually have the tools, the training and the self-knowledge for the job.



A No-Holds-Barred Look at my Character: Leaping over Illusion!

I have written an awful lot over the past couple of weeks. It has been impossible to keep up with me! I understand. I don’t apologise, for there is no need; I simply acknowledge that the frequency of posts has made the reading of each and every one a quest not worth pursuing! I have been facing up to, and battling, the illusions and delusions which have kept me in a state of stuckness for so long.

This morning, after a lovely meal last night with friends, I wake to blessed rain and, as I look in the mind’s mirror, become aware that this deluge of physical water has wiped clean its surface and allowed precious clarity.

What I see before me is a lovely, fierce, flawed woman: Someone who is kind, generous, giving, sensitive, thoughtful and warm; someone who nurtures others and has a vast capacity for love; someone who is intensely creative, in several fields, and talented too; someone who has infinite ability to make, and keep, close friendships.

I see also a woman who is, at times, too forgiving; someone whose boundaries have allowed the thieves of the soul to steal in under cover of darkness and take what they wanted; someone slow to stand up for herself and, as a consequence, often trodden into the carpet by the shoes of contempt.

I see a woman who has tried too hard – for admirable, but misguided reasons! – to keep False Grails all buffed up and shiny and given pride of place upon her mantelpiece; someone who has been so crunched up with fear of BEING rejected that she has forgotten her own power, her choice to walk away, to leave others behind, to reject.

I see a woman who has given others the benefit of the doubt far too often – and has, thus, created a cycle of unpleasant, near-the-knuckle comments and overtly neglectful acts by certain others; someone who, in her terror at recognising the truth, has often covered up for, made excuses for, another, blaming herself for the cruelty of other people.

I see a woman who has found happiness and sanctuary, new friends and lovely activities in this phase of her life; someone, parched for connection, who drinks deeply at the waters of friendship and shared joy; someone who understands that the barren of heart and soul create limits for those they envy and cannot be and feed upon the insecurity of need as if it were nectar!

Above all, I see a woman of Light in that mirror: Not a perfect woman; not a faultless alabaster statue; not a saint or a goddess, but a woman fired by life, passionate about so much; someone scarred and hurt; someone who can be wilfully blind and stubborn – but a woman who is coming to an accord with all that she is and is not, and wants to make a difference in the lives of others.

And this woman, looking back from the rain-cleansed mirror, understands completely that clinging on to the thoughtless, the malign, the envious, those who feast upon the essence of the vulnerable was always a choice and never an obligation; that hoping to turn beasts into beauties is unrealistic; that those who have chuntered and snarled and threatened to leave – or left an ambivalent gap as a means of control – are no longer within physical range and that it is up to this woman whether such individuals remain within emotional range: That SHE has the power, and always did, to say, ‘You do not belong in my life anymore and that is your loss…’

I see a woman who has spent much of her life hoping passively for signs instead of taking matters into her own hands and creating the signposts she needs in life! A woman who has clung on for dear life to emotional asbestos because, in her mind, it was better than having nothing to hold; who has shrunk herself to fit into the vast egos of others!

I look in this mirror and I love what I see, this gnarled old survivor; this person of compassion and quick wit; this woman who tries to see the best in people. I love the fact that she is cracked and, at times, clumsy, stupid and wrong-headed; that she does not always act in her own best interests! Goddess, how tedious it would be if we all got it right every single time! Where would be the learning, the potential for growth, in that?

In the end, the opinion of others does not matter. It does not change the person she is if other people choose to sneer at, disrespect or be unkind to her. If names are called, she does not have to own them! If insults are thrown, she can ignore them or return the arrows to sender! The blueprint of this woman was not drawn up using other people’s negative opinions!

Going fully into the first person, I am proud of the funny, at times infuriating, resilient and ribald old bag I am turning into! I am delighted that I have finally realised that my worth is completely separate from any other human being and does not depend upon being liked, admired, loathed or looked down upon!

I know me! Taking as an analogy my battered and much-loved Tigger (the felt tiger I received on my first birthday!), I can see the floppy areas, the places where my stuffing is seeping out, the kinked tail, misshapen ear, felt-pen marks all over; I can see that my colour has faded and my whiskers are now sparse; I can see the marks, all over my body, where heedless children have experimented upon me. But, fifty-nine years on, I am still recognisable as a tiger!

People are, of course, perfectly entitled to disagree with the view I have of myself – but it doesn’t dent the reality! As I say, I am well aware of my flaws – but I am the best at being Alienora Browning there is!


Arrogant? No. Overdue? By some decades!

Commit – Gardening: Unexpected Gift to the Spirit…

I was able to commit to the idea of ‘birthing’ a garden well before I saw the actual thing. That commitment has deepened and diversified in the subsequent months.

To my great surprise, gardening has become a real joy since I arrived here six months ago. It is so wise and dispassionate somehow, and it teaches you so much – both about the earth beneath your feet and, at one remove, about human nature.

As soon as my ex-husband and I put our house on the market, and I started looking for something I could afford to buy, a small garden – even if it was little more than a square of grass – was important. My reasoning, at that stage, was little more than instinct. I have never been a gardener – and, although I love colour and scent, have never tended plants in any serious way.

Then I found a little house I liked in Wrington. It had a little garden, a tiny patio and, wonder of wonders, a summer house. I was hooked – and, although this abode was sold before I had the wherewithal to put in an offer, the vision of a garden of my own became even more strongly incorporated in my search.

I first visited this house almost exactly a year ago – with my son. In fact, we saw two places in Glastonbury, this one first – and both agreed that this was The One. Although I only peered outside on that initial visit, something drew me to the garden instantly. It was bare then and almost devoid of grass. Several of the fence panels were in a parlous state (and, in fact, succumbed to Storm Doris some two months later) and there was no colour to be seen. But I sensed potential lurking beneath the soil and in the water-starved plants which dotted the place in small arid groups.

The whole place had a good energy – and I could envisage light pouring into it. I was right. It does, and is a continuing delight. I could also see growth, in nature and in myself, lying ahead. Oddly – or perhaps not – I could see this garden thronged with people; it seemed to whisper of social gatherings, of happiness, of shared food, of magic and the imagination, of love, of tribe.

Initially, I left it to its own devices – other than replacing the rotten panels back in February. But, drawn by curiosity and the nurturing urge, I started to engage with the space in a more physical and pro-active way. My son and his lass did the first planting for me. I did not, at that stage, have the confidence, feared I’d get it wrong. The Young Things dug in the raspberry canes (now proliferating with ripe fruit) and honeysuckle (which has now twined itself round my apple trees and is beginning its soon-to-be-perfumed ascent).

I then bought herbs in pots, lots of variegated flower seeds in packets, tomato seeds – and, in a frenzy of joyous naivety, started to arrange them around the garden. Of course, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing – and now cannot even remember exactly what I planted! In a way, this is lovely: Constant surprise and delight! When the first yellow Freesia opened its bud yesterday, I was beside myself with happiness. The orange Nasturtiums also gave me a frisson of sheer energy and triumph, while wholly un-expected small pink roses brought tears to my eyes!



But then, the truth about the new and the old, weeds and flowers, began to dawn on me. Much space was taken up by withered, dying, diseased plants, or pretty weeds which were strangling everything around them and dominating the garden. I knew I had to cull, fairly ruthlessly, for the good of all plant-kind!

This I have now started to do. My old philosophy of, ‘If I nurture you for a bit longer, maybe things will turn round and you’ll flower/fruit for me…’ has been replaced with a far more hard-headed attitude, a kind of, ‘Your time in the sun, in the bed, has passed. Now you need to go in order to give way to new growth, different colours, more subtle scents.’

The herbs, now freed from their pots – other than the mint which has a deserved reputation for spreading itself generously! – are, as of yesterday, dug into the small beds in the front garden. They have replaced a load of tall, pink-flowered, weeds and a decrepit wallflower plant! Another honeysuckle has been planted in front of the back fence panels, so that their wooden rawness becomes softened by trailing plants and my life soothed and enhanced by that wondrous smell. Clematis, planted next to the small rose bush, should add texture, covering and colour in that part of the garden.

A life-long creator with words, this movement – in late middle-age! – to an entirely different form of creation is tremendously liberating and exciting. I am, if you like, ‘writing’ an extended poem with soil and seeds, flowers and fruit. I, an Earth Sign, am expressing something of myself, my tastes, my philosophy, my hopes and, longer term, my gift to the future, in the space I have been so lucky to call my very own garden.

The analogy with humankind is exact. We all, at some time or another, have to prune back our relationship plants, making often difficult and heart-breaking decisions about which ones can stay and which need to go. It takes ruthless honesty and the aid of a dispassionate trowel/fork/spade. It takes another skill utilised in gardening: The ability to predict, to look ahead, to sum up the likely outcome and the bigger picture; to know, in other words, which plants are worth nurturing for another season and which would be better uprooted and recycled!

I think this can be done gently. We can, in effect, say, ‘You have enhanced my garden for a while, and helped make it beautiful, but now you are poisoning plants around you and dominating the space with your our-of-control growth – and you need to go. Thank you. Goodbye.’

Yes, I have come naturally to the world of the garden – and love it with a passion!

Trust Your Instincts…


This is something I have learned through bitter and physically excruciating experience. Too often, we over-ride that gut-instinct – and listen instead to those who are adamant that we are over-reacting, imagining things or attention seeking.

But our bodies cannot lie the way our tongues can. Our bodies cannot hide the immediate response the way our minds can. And our guts are especially ‘perceptive’ when it comes to wrongness, whether it be within a person or relating to the atmosphere surrounding a place or situation.

Nausea. Urgent need to go to the loo. Intense tummy pain. Or, in my case, severe epigastric pain., Any or all of which comes on suddenly and with little or no warning – until, that is, you look back at what you have been trying to deny for hours, sometimes days, weeks, months or even years.

I am not going to delve into the specifics on this occasion because I am still working through them. But six or seven times, since early last October, I have had very very negative vibes (which I have tried to rationalise into something far more benign) and, soon afterwards, have been felled by this epigastric nightmare: My gut fighting my attempt to ignore its warning message; its clear and urgent siren; its, ‘For Fuck’s sake, LISTEN!’

Trouble is, feelings can be so nebulous, can’t they? We get these vague intimations of something not being quite right; we feel uneasy for no reason we can discern; we hesitate before reading an email or answering the phone or opening the door, suspecting, often rightly, that something unpleasant or unhelpful or draining is waiting for us to invite it in one way or another.

And then we undo all the good our inner warning system could provide by over-riding its system with logic and psycho-therapeutic jargon and this absurd notion that failing to face up to everything counts as cowardice!

On all the occasions mentioned above, and despite sensing something was amiss, I opened the metaphorical door and let the Lords of Chaos in.

We are so easily influenced by the ancient promptings of guilt. We feel we have to be fair, decent, kind, welcoming, cheerful, hospitable. We are told that we must take nothing personally. We are advised to turn the other cheek. We are trained to see insults, acts of cruelty and aggressive stances as US getting the wrong end of the stick.

But why is it a sign of neurosis, or weakness, or over-reaction to strive to protect ourselves from harm? Why are our attempts at protecting ourselves from psychic attack given such bad press nine times out of ten? Why are we seen as weird or antisocial because we take pains to preserve a hard-fought-for sanctuary from malevolent invasive forces?

Why are we so often told, in the face of all the evidence, ‘No! I wasn’t attacking you! You just chose to see it that way!’

I mean, it is such condescending bollocks, isn’t it? We would not dream of saying to someone with, say, cancer, ‘No! You haven’t got cancer! You are just choosing to live your body that way!’ And yet instincts – seen in some quarters as fey, alternative, hippy-type-stuff – are sneered at so regularly that many of us hide them through shame, and then learn to our cost how incredibly helpful they ARE when an ignored gut allows a nasty through.

We do ourselves a lot of harm by this whole, ‘Oh, I probably misinterpreted that!’ faux-kindness and tolerance.


Because nine times out of ten, we interpreted it with devastating accuracy – and our throttling back on that instinctive understanding gives the other person the green light to  do or say more of the same at a later date.

If another says or does something unkind and hostile to us, and we do not react with anger or disbelief, we have, tacitly, just signed our names at the bottom of the ‘Abuse me…’ form. If we do not lay down boundaries of behaviour we are willing to accept, no one else will do it for us.

Too often, we are unable to make ourselves say, ‘That was bang out of order…’ or, ‘This is not for me..’ or words to that effect, because we are afraid: Afraid of being seen as Politically Incorrect, or paranoid, or in need of Anger Management or lazy or making excuses or mad.

Did I, on any of those gut-wailing occasions, put my foot down with a firm hand?

No. I am ashamed to admit that I did not – and still have not. The Ghost of ‘Are You Sure You’re Not Imagining It?’and his twin brother, ‘Are You Sure You’re Not Being Over-Sensitive/Hormonal?’ occupy the thrones at every ‘feast’ in my life – and their presence makes it hard for me to respond even to direct insult, inappropriate choices and calculated verbal assault.

Listen to your gut! Do not let the platitudes of a religion you no longer subscribe to, or the sibilant whispering of the expert Mind-Gamers, or the smooth words of those who think they know better detract you from what your body is trying so hard to tell you.

The body remembers. Hearken to its tale…