Issue #37 July 4th - 10th 2003
Sister Janice And The Alien Plot
Lessons In Love
The Glastonbury Experience
Sister Janice And The Alien Plot
Sister Janice is the Friends Of The Heroes agony aunt. She used to be a nun, but after becoming involved in an accident at her convent involving a papal emissary; the mother superior; the convent dog and a bottle of 'citrus fresh' bleach, she decided it was time to find herself a new career.
These days she travels through the galaxies in a converted garden shed. Write to Sister Janice Slejj care of Friends of the Heroes. She will answer your problems and questions with the insight unique to a disco-loving alternative-gardening defrocked clergy member and cosmic adventurer...
Roger is a bloke she met in a burger bar. Hewants us to tell you he's a serious, sagacious soul and poet, but we don'tknow if he's just one of those dodgy people sister janice picks up from timeto time.
Hello there my little explosions of expectancy,
It has been rather an exciting week in The Space Shed.
The poor creatures, no wonder they were sad. They came from a world with no disco. They passed alongside The Space Shed whilst I was out on one of my cosmic explorations and they heard the Grace Jones version of 'The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow' flowing from within. The silly creatures have a limited grasp of Earth dialect and an absolute ignorance of the wonder that is Grace. They heard the record and they thought it was some plan to block out their sun. Of course I was happy to enlighten them. Now they course their way through the cosmos to the strains of 'Pull Up To the Bumper, Babee..In Your Long Black Limousine...' and they practice their Hustle to teach the folks back home.
A happy ending, my dears. I'm glad I took the initiative and stopped Roger from quoting them his poetry.
Well, I can't stop this week, I have classes to plan. Apparently the whole planet will be attending. They have promised payment in kind. I only hope it isn't any more of those rocket-fuel drinks. I'm still getting telephone calls from a group of space-sailors following a long drinking session in one of the bars on the rings of saturn. They're obviously mixing me up with someone else. I'm sure I'd never do any of the things they seem to remember me doing - and I've never worn leapordskin in my life.
Here's this weeks' letter:
'Dear Sister Janice,
I'm unhappy. Please do something about it.
I don't have an answer to that.
I'm sending you a singed photograph and an invitation to one of my classes. It might help, it might not. Look, dear, I'm an agony aunt, I'm not a magician.
If anyone has a SENSIBLE problem, like being in love with a rubber glove, having a yearning to shave parts of their body into the shape of the face of God, or waking up with a spatula and a collection of soft fruit stuck in unfortunate orifices, you can write to me at this address. Othewise, you'll have to look after yourselves. I can't make you happy, I can only try and take you somewhere happier.
Until next week, my dears, be... whatever you can be.
A pagan festival asks of you nothing but your journey. “Journey with us for a time,” they say, “Come for one day or five, inhibited or free.” I packed my most life-stained skirts and I was on my way.
I am a Truth-seeker. No one has a monopoly on it. No religion, no spiritual being. Truth is the one garment you are entitled to steal. If you see it on the hanger and you want it, don’t pull out your wallet. Run shamelessly out of the store and put it on immediately.And I do. Oh how I adore those kinds of shopping trips.
I knew nothing of true paganism. Do they own stock in Truth?
“Hi, I’m Chris but my pagan name is Greggan.” I camped for five days. I was surrounded by green forest and naked men and women with the most tantalizing names: Azure. Jeluna. Lady Rhyanonia. In such an aura, there is potential for a thick batter of soul to be stirred. Energized, I went to work.
“Dance with your animal spirit,” the workshop manual read. I walked to the circle, where I observed people transform into the animal rendition of themselves. My animal spirit is a bird. I am not certain what kind, but she loves to fly to the moon and back. Her wings are confident and her face is radiant. She thrives on freedom and values the purity of wind. “Now,” our instructor continued, “think of your opposite animal, and become him.” Light chatter commenced between us. The sun shone through the trees on the sacred area where we danced. We were a dazzling sight. A man danced with a tambourine to keep the rhythm, but we seemed to be making our own music with our blend oflights and colors. I smiled to myself to witness tokens of self-expression usually mocked, instead, be literally embodied.
The opposite of my bird is a turtle. She is grounded to earth, and slow. Being a turtle I sat and watched the other dancers, wondering what a dopey turtle could possibly teach a flying moon bird.
“Alright,” our long-haired teacher called out, “Now become your true animal spirit again, and incorporate what your opposite animal has taught you.” I became my bird and began my soaring. Slowly I realized that as a turtle, I observed the world around me much better than as a bird. I wasn’t so involved with the rush of flying. Turtles slow down and watch. As a turtle-instructed bird, I allowed my eyes to see more detail. I enjoyed the beauty of my flight, but I spent my time focusing more on others and their beauty. I’ve long ago asked a question that I struggle with in my life: how much can I honestly give to others, when I take so much time for my own soul? My spirit as an animal answered my question thoroughly. “Enjoy your freedom to its brim, your flight to its infinite capacity... but slow down. Notice others around you. Realize that they own their beauty, even if they don’t fly to the moon like you. Flying Moon Bird,” my soul echoed in me, “you must be respectful of others’ journeys.”
I was thrilled. One bit of Truth in the bag. Not everyone needs to go to a pagan festival to learn the same lesson I did. Journey on your path and explore for yourself. This speck of Truth was wrapped in a package and hand delivered, especially for me.
My next workshop was entitled talking with plants. Not talking about plants, not talking around plants... no. It said, Talking to your freaking plants. These words were as familiar as hearing my front doorbell.
Alright, let me have it. What will you call me... Tree hugger? No, how about granola girl. Or just plain hippie.
It’s to be expected of course, and I don’t mind. We seem so sure of our skyscrapers and air conditioned cars that a barefoot earth lover is an easy target. We are proud to remove our advanced civilization from the earth we call home. People are afraid to believe there couldactually be a voice wiser than our own. Especially if that voice is a leaf on a tree.
The instructor of the workshop and I went for a walk. I was exhilarated with the chance I had to rumble sweet stories on her that usually sit patiently untouched in me like gum balls in a coin machine. “Once when I went hiking I heard a whole symphony in a canyon giving praises to their Creator...” I started out, “the flowers, the trees, the clouds, the canyon walls... all had their own harmony...” “...And I remember another time when I was 18 I stormed out of the house in a fight with my mother. I sat under a tree to cool down. An hour later I was talking to my mom, realizing that the advice the tree gave me was working.” The instructor listened with awe and I wondered why. She finally said to me, “I... don’t think you need to come to the workshop. You are too advanced for my class.” She explained that she herself hasn’t yet experienced such a direct spiritual connection with plants. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. We exchanged email addresses and she said, “Will you teach me to hear symphonies?” She understood. Pagans worship through the spirit of the earth. Daily the chantingdrums, “Earth my body, water my blood, air my breath and fire my spirit!” Truth from nature can be collected by the gallon. Peace. Balance. Connection. May the humility of a feather continue to lay a proud man to shame. May the hidden symphonies of a canyon invite today’s unbelieving reader to listen.
Drum circles, fire dancing, soul exploding, sage cleansing. I was intoxicated. At the end of the festival, I snuck away to a sun-bursted rock in the forest. The air was cooled by its own shade. Me, the rock, the Creator...these moments are sanctified.
“Hello,” I began as I got comfortable, “Come, sit on this rock with me. I want to run this all by You. I’ve had a wonderful time. I feel so beautiful and rich! I have met so many people who have given me much to think about. Now, you know the drill. Here we go... whatparts are Truth, and what parts are counterfeit?”
The sun was setting and my hands were chilled by the time we were finished talking. I walked back to the tent a victor. I had caressed sparks of Truth, inviting them to splash like children in my veins. I rejected the un-truths, sending their slimy little bodies coweringto outer darkness.
Truth is eternal, Truth is waiting, Truth is already ours to wear.
The girl and her people, who we have been staying with, were all dressed up. I watched the girl as she coloured her face in and laughed. She was wearing her funny black shoes that make her limp a little bit. The woman was wearing bright shiny things from her ears. The man had put on his trousers which are allergic to me and I mustn't jump on in case they get my hair on them. The girl had moved my bed into the little room that they leave me in when they want to go on an adventure without me.
I looked at them and scowled.
Now that I'm two and half years old, I'm fairly worldly wise and I was quite certain they were about to abandon me. I flopped to the floor awaiting my fate.
That is when something quite unexpected happened. The woman started to cook! This was a good sign. She was cooking a lot, which not only meant that they would be staying in a little bit longer but their might be a little bit too much for the people to eat and the would have to give me something,
I slowly wagged my tail. I still didn't trust them.
I prowled up and down keeping track of their activities. It was very strange, they had moved the table in the dining room so that it was against the wall, and chairs had appeared from nowhere which were standing quite out of place.
The door bell rang and two people arrived.
"Great these must be the ones who are taking my people on the adventure" I thought to myself.
But they weren't. In fact instead of getting ready to go out these new people sat down and started eating some crisps, and drinking some drinks. My tail was wagging even more and I decided to introduce myself properly to them by jumping all over them licking their faces. They stopped eating crisps after that for some reason.
Then the door belle rang again and 4 more people arrived. Then some more, and then some more until their were more people than I have toes and it was impossible to keep track.
Everyone went out to the garden and sat around the table eating crisps and talking and laughing. That is when I started to enjoy myself because there were people everywhere! As soon as someone got bored of playing with me or ran out of crisps to eat I moved onto someone new. As soon as I had been around everyone the people had got bored of eating crisps and moved onto chicken and potatoes. There was so much going on. And so many people prepared to feed a small hungry dog that I just didn't know which way to look.
When the woman brought out the chocolate cake I thought I was going to explode with happiness. I made my way around everyone spending longer with the more generous of the people. Pretty soon I realised that happiness wasn't the only thing I was in danger of exploding from.
By the time the people all left my stomach felt as though it would burst, and I was starting to feel quite funny. That is when I lost my food. Some of it went onto my bed, some of it I hid under the table, and some of it went into a corner of the kitchen. The girl saw what had happened she did not look happy. She didn't even offer me any chocolate cake to replace what I had lost.
I could have been sad but I wasn't. I fell asleep with my stomach rumbling and thought to myself:
"its better to have eaten and to have lost than never to have eaten at all"
Lessons In Love
I should have known. I should have known after she signed off the first e-mail she ever sent me with the words ALL MY LOVE ALWAYS (yes, the capitals were her emphasis, not mine), followed within the hour by a studio portrait lovingly handcrafted in the shape of a heart, large enough to take up the remaining disk space in my e-mail account, and another e-mail that ended with her already by now frighteningly customary ALL MY LOVE ALWAYS. And kisses.
Thirteen of them.
One for every hour that I had known her.
What sort of person was I dealing with here? In my head, I narrowed her down to one of three things. She was either a) A born-again Christian, a Methodist of some such ilk who, having 'found' God, finds that they suddenly have at hand an as yet untapped reservoir of unadulterated and unconditional love, and so bestow it in magnanimous globules on any poor soul unfortunate enough to be within cyber-breathing distance of them. Me, for example. Or b) She was mad. Not the buffoon-at-work, lark-in-the-pub, funny kind of mad, but the living, breathing, friendless, obsessive loner kind of mad, starved, for whatever reason, of affection, where to say hello is tantamount to a proposal of marriage. Now, this kind could, I am sure, were I to put a foot wrong, a word out of place, mix up my nouns with my adjectives, well, to put it bluntly, this kind would kill me. And they would take great pleasure in doing so. Then again, she could be c) My mum.
Ok, I know that this option has probably got the religious zealot option choking on her Gideons, and probably earned me a couple of brownie points for obsessive Oedipal weirdness with the madwoman option, and I, too, am highly dubious about this option, but think about it; there is an essentiality about a mother's love for her children. Your mum will always be blessed with an almost biological impulse to love you and, short of common genocide, will forgive you almost anything. Now, as I, to my knowledge, hadn't committed heinous crimes armed with a funny walk and a Kalishnikov (though as a child, I had often instructed, or, I'm ashamed to say, forced, my younger brother, to 'borrow' the odd Mars Bar from the local Co-op, but that's another story…) it is remotely possible (given the fact that, aside from being a rather affable and giving son, I am also living 3000 miles away on the other side of the vast Atlantic ocean) that this was my mum's way of telling me she loved me. I mean, the e-mails themselves contained little in the way of content other than "I hope you're well, ALL MY LOVE ALWAYS", and then a signature and a few kisses. The signature! 'Kate'. My mum's name. And you know what? I began to convince myself. But it was still too, too weird to believe. I mean, for one thing, if you hadn't seen your mother in nearly 3 years, you would surely feel a little aggrieved if she wrote more on a note to the milkman than she did to her eldest son. The actual e-mail, too, depends upon her either purchasing, or having access to, a computer. Which, as far as I knew, she didn't. Of course, if she did she would tell me in her e-mail, wouldn't she? And I spoke to her on the phone every couple of weeks, so, aside from telling me dad's gone grey, grandad's mowed the lawn, and they had a joint of beef for Sunday dinner last week because my cousin got it cheap, well, aside from this veritable cornucopia of information, I am sure that, were she to even as much as fart near a computer terminal, she would tell me.
Moreover, and most damning of all, there was a picture, the picture- There's no way on earth that that was my mum. The girl in the photograph was younger, she had different coloured hair in a different style, her nose was a little less pointed, her lips a little fuller, as was her figure- There's no way, no way that was my mum. Unless it was an old picture. A very old picture. I mean, the person in the photograph had, I thought, a slightly retro appearance about them- the jeans were flared, the blouse was garish, flowery, maybe it wasn't a retro look, rather a retro photograph...I sighed. I needed to get out more, I really did. What was wrong with me? Too much time on my hands, that's what. I mean, my mum, MY MUM. I just wasn't thinking straight. I wasn't thinking properly. Logically, all I need do is ring up my mum, and just ask her. But ask her what? If she has been sending me weird, sentence-long e-mails, and was she fatter with big lips and a not-so-pointy nose in her youth? Correction to the point made before about a mothers willingness to forgive their offspring almost anything: mum is, after all, a woman too, so, as well as the aforementioned genocide of millions, we ought to add criticism, fundamentally of their physical appearance, although, to be honest, you're walking a tightrope dare you imply anything remotely approaching criticism of any aspect of them at all. This, at least, is something I have learned, an invaluable frisson of enlightenment to pass on to future generations of spotty adolescents feverishly intent on sowing their not-so-wild oats. The best thing to do, boys, is nod. Agree with everything she is saying, or at least, look as though you agree with everything she is saying. The only time to disagree with her (and I cannot overemphasise the biblical-like importance of this) is when, having spent the best part of two days getting ready to go out, she utters that immortal phrase, reverently passed down through the ages of humanity, from mother to daughter, generation to generation: 'Do I look fat in this?' Boys, if you want to outlive your pockmarks and pimples, if you want to walk more than ten yards down the high street without getting an erection at the sight of a scantily clad mannequin in the window of 'Top Shop', if you want all this and more, then please, please, please remember to shake, not nod, your head when this sensitive issue is raised, tell her she looks beautiful, REALLY beautiful, convince her of her own beauty, and SMILE, boys, SMILE. Follow these simple rules, and you will be more than halfway to achieving your goal. Trust me.
The Glastonbury Experience
Despite the fact that it is one of my ambitions,along with winning the lottery and being in a band (preferably Belle and Sebastian)I didn't go to Glastonbury this year. I've never been to Glastonbury in fact. But what exactly am I missing out on? Can it possibly be as good as I imagine?
I found some lucky people who attended this years festival. "Tell me about your Glastonbury experiences!" I asked or rather demanded
So they did...
"I wandered lots on my own, got lost and was happy to be lost - people watching, stall scouring, pear cider quaffing, and sitting around in the forest of flags that slap in the wind in front of the One World stage. At least, I think it was the One World stage - my sense of direction in that place was really, really bad and I put it down to the fact that wandering aimlessly was just so much fun." - Aicha (read more)
"Sitting on the massive bench, swinging my legs, at midnight on theSunday night, covered in my blanket and sheltered from the rain by theGin Genie's brolly; while the Gin Genie sat beside me, with the whiskeybeing passed back and forth. The pair of us people watching and waitingto see if everyone else had got our text message before my phone died onme. Beautiful moment. " - Jo (read more)