Tag Archives: tai chi

The Riches Of The East.


 a penned mystic smIt may be said that Socrates was a rebel? He didn’t wish to follow no party line and when he was in 399 BC by 3 Athenian citizens of failing to worship the city’s gods, introducing religious novelties and corrupting the young men of Athens and told to renounce his philosophy in court, unshaken from his convictions despite being denounced as foolish by a large number of Athenians, he spoke,

“So long as I draw breath and have my faculties I shall never stop practicing philosophy and exhorting you and elucidating the truth for everyone that I meet…” (See Alain de Botton who says this promised him, ‘a counterweight’ to his own ‘supine tendency to follow socially sanctioned practices and ideas’ in his book The Consolations Of Philosophy). Botton goes on to say his ‘priority was to be liked rather than speak the truth. I didn’t publicly doubt ideas to which the majority was committed. I sought the approval of figures of authority and worried at length whether they thought me acceptable. but Socrates had not buckled before unpopularity and the condemnation of the state. he had not retracted his thoughts…he had [his] rational , as opposed to hysterical, confidence when faced with disapproval.’

All of my life, at least since I began to realize I was ‘here on Earth’ aged about 10 I have fought against that ‘supine tendency’. Maybe that’s what held back my progress in many situations in English society? My lack of conformity (or was it my face- it didn’t fit? or my choice of deodorant?) meant that I had to fight for almost every inch of ground I made.

Like Socrates I’ve been a renegade ever since ‘they’ rejected me at my secondary school, (‘they’ being the powers that be/the status quo holders who saw me as scum from a poor working class family who didn’t always agree with what they said) and I rarely if ever sought approval, especially not by altering my work and ideas. so, in simple words I paddled my own canoe. and my canoe took me to some strange and wonderful places, mainly in dream but also in some of my output. one renegade, the late great Jackie Leven, introduced me to Kabir and Robert Bly through his wonderful song Inside this clay jug. A lot of my work since hearing that song has been about the mysteries of life and mystical ideas. Some folk think mystical means ‘not for me that strange stuff’ but no, if you listen to Bowie’s music, at best, it has a mystical chime. It’s like searching for the lost chord and he found it sometimes like in Ashes to Ashes, China Girl and his last songs plus vids for Dark Star etc. Mystic is when you hear or glimpse that something which emanates from a place far away and deep inside you. Namaste. Om Mani Padme Hum. listen to Van’s Into the Mystic from his astral Weeks.

The wonder-full American artist Robert Smithson, who created The Spiral Jetty, on Great Salt Lake, Utah in 1970, was a renegade & a wordsmith too as witnessed in his Heap of Language sketch:

See http://www.robertsmithson.com/drawings/heap_p104_300.htm



“Smithson becomes exhibit A for the case that an eruption of the linguistic sign into art has fragmented beyond repair the traditional integrity of the object…” Thomas Crow in Prophetic Turns In The Life & Art Of Robert Smithson.

My writing also is part of my ‘art’, equally nowadays, as always, words play a role in my performance art. My 1975 buk, Apul-One, was a ‘work of art’ in its whole = images, words and book.

This renegade never did the obvious, rarely followed the rules and always bent them even if only a titsy witsy bit. Thereby he made it difficult, by not following the trend, the advice, the latest fad etc.

I remember going into Slade Prix de Rome scholar David Wild’s ‘life-study’ night classes and seeing a day student doing (copies of) hard edge American abstract painting by using masking tape to get straight lines on his canvas while I was learning how to observe and paint the figure. I made a conscious decision there and then I wouldn’t be doing no American abstract painting then nor not ever. (In fact a couple of years later I fell in love with Barnet Newman’s work in the big London retrospective of his work and did adopt some of his techniques, but in a way which used his ideas of fields of color which I then placed my images into with ‘zips’ (gaps) separating them. My images might be mimics of other Abstract expressionists set against realist images. So you see, I even broke every rule I set myself. The come uppance was that I kept my eyes open to different possibilities and I could be inspired by many things that the ‘mainstream’ art student would not look at cos it weren’t in fashion. Similarly, I liked Roy Orbison when the Beatles were all the rage, and Van Morrison when most folk hadn’t even heard of him.

Which takes me onto Hermann Hesse (HH), whose book Steppenwolf I saw in a Truro bookshop window in 1970 and on the cover was a Paul Klee painting so I was intrigued enough to buy and read it, so my journey into Hesse had begun. It was his writing which led me to the wonders from the East. Now when you looks at my recent works where I do things like poems inspired by Hesse and Dalai Lama you’ll agree they’re not the most fashionable icons nowadays, butti don’t care. It’s my art. Come back with me, to a day when the Upper Class (expletives omitted) led their campaigns for King & Country to conquer lands in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, South America, Africa, to asia minor & China they were, for the most part, looking for gold or jade etc and they gottit in abundance as they stripped whole countries of their inheritance. BUT in fact they missed the real treasures which eventually filtered thru to the west via the likes of HH and scholars who studied unknown languages like Hittite & Ghandaran. The real treasures are more lasting than gold, they’re spiritual. Things like yoga, tai chi, and meditation, the religions of old (like Hindu, Zoroaster) and in Tibet’s case, new – Padmasambhava brought Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century AD. Insight into our place in the Universe is being enhanced daily by astronomy & science but we benefit from things brought to us by Tibetan Buddhism, Muslim Sufism, ancient Indian ideas about the cosmos and the place of us ubeings in it which they anchor down thru yoga, Chinese (&Malayan) Tai Chi does similar things with mind/body equilibrium. Who needs the gold that artists like Damien Hirst use?

on a better note

Here’s a lovely song of Bowies sung as a tribute to another renegade. Listen to her pre-amble, it’s lovely too


Yes am lucky

iepw clematisclematis (c) by IEPW

Yes am lucky being alive!

Cos am nearing sixty five

My generation has been able to strive

Cos our fathers were able to survive

That heinous conflict known as the second world war

And in a way we owe it to them to do a bit more.

When we were young, in our 20’s at college, we all thought we were bullet proof, we never thought one day we may get older and prone to all the challenges a human life will put in the way. Now I look around at the friends I made in college in the early 1970s and I see some have had strokes, one had a massive one, several have had heart attacks and some have fought cancer whilst I battled a nasty disease called rheumatoid arthritis. Most of us who have survived did so as a result of help from the much maligned NHS and in my case I’ve gotten so much better that I can grace the world with my dance(s). One  northern contemporary of mine was heard to exclaim on seeing my recent performance filmed at BALTIC, ‘I thought he had r. a.?’ Well he did too and you wouldn’t want it my old friend. It’s a basterd bhugga I can vouch for that. Constant medical intervention by my consultant and G.P. pulled me thru the worst part and came early enough to stem its development. My wife was astounding in her support she never stopped paying attention to my needs and she altered my diet so I ate no crap. Then at Benton hall I began to swim a length a day, then two, then more and now am quite a good swimmer but not as good as Erica. Add yoga with Gareth Chandler, tai chi with Gareth’s Master Ch’n and Zumba with the Townshend Twins, Frances, Laura and last week with Lou to the mix and that’s what has made me able to do my dance. Add to that my natural gall, my attitude that if it’s hard I want to crack it, if it can be done then I can do it has brought me through. But this blog’s not about my small discomforts I want to celebrate my old friend Ian and his battle with recovery from the big old stroke he had.

IEPW delphiniumgladiola of the most beautiful shade of peach (c) by IEPW

Ian is one of life’s obsessives, he did everything he chose to do to excess. He never drove a car in his youth then when he got one he had to strip it down to bits and rebuild it himself, most of us would have taken it to a garage or sold the thing. He abstained from sport for let’s say ten years from around age 18 to 28, then he started doing marathons and swimming hundreds of lengths. Most of us would have walked and maybe dipped our toe in the sea.

IEPW delphinium2creamy yellow gladiola (c) by IEPW

It’s OK swimming many lengths fast when you’re young but not so good as you approach your sixties and you got high blood pressure so most of us wouldn’t challenge a youngster to a race in the pool but Ian did. When they pulled him out they thought he was dead. He’d had a massive stroke. They took him into hospital for over 10 weeks and did what they did and he began to recover, then he added his natural inability to give up and his recovery has been quite remarkable even though he can’t feel the left side of his limbs and his leg feels real heavy he’s learned to use mind over matter to make them move. And he gets by. He used to run around his adopted town training for marathons and all the bus drivers and taxi men knew his face. When he didn’t turn up on the roads for months one bus driver turned up at his house and asked after his health. He did try to runs slowly around the streets again but it proved too danger-full so now he pushes his limbs on a bike machine to do more miles in a week than I would do, and I’m nearly normal! ‘Life is for living’ is his mantra.

iepw autumn leavesspringtime acer leaves (c) by IEPW

It was Ian who taught me to take and process photos, in the day when you had to do it wet. I got quite good and took some lovely photos of people but Ian did the best.

john st Field smmy sketch of john st field world’s fastest guitar slinger

Have you spotted Apulhed? He sneaked in everywhere.

His photos of a man we knew in the early 70s as John St Field that I did the drawing above from, who later became known as Jackie Leven, are astounding and one of the last things Jackie said to me was ‘tell Ian I want to pay him for those photos cos they were great’. Recently he photo’d prima ballerinas from Japan and wild animals at London zoo and the flowers photos are his from the flowers he grows, with the help of a strong young man who digs the earth for him.

tut close up specs smauthor artis bloke when he were studying intensely for his first degree

In about 1972 when I used to work into the night to create my early comics, something outside my college work, he came round and photo’d me with my comic of Tutankhamun reflected in my specs! It took him hours to capture the image which he had seen in a flash but had to work to capture as I continued scribbling with my rotring pen. I find a mention in my notes from back then which I am re-presenting now for my new Shrewd Idiot artisbuk.

I guess I am lucky too cos this blArt gets folk coming to visit every week and this week i had some hits from Russia, Georgia and even from Kazakstan.  I wonder how they find my stuff?  And in the first hour this one went up we had visits from Greenland, Morocco & Russia. I know who it may be in Greenland, and in Morocco but have no idea who it is in Russia. Namaste to yez all.

The Fraudulent Moons revealed




a dork on da moon

Fraudulent Moon & Me.

My self reflects from the Fraudulent Moon which shines so bright from the dark night sky lighting up all who see it, like my life work, I said to myself. Then I realised the work of ‘others’ shines far brighter than mine*. Pales mine into a dim light. Like the largeness of the moon compared to the tinyness of the stars which glitter far away. In reality the moon is rather small. And some of those glinting dots out there make our own sun pale by comparison.

*’others’ fall into two categories both shine and some of them makes more noise, like a hollow tin can rattles down the road when you kick it, some ‘shine’ like the moon others glitter like the stars, I list a few and make no judgement, you can decide which are the moonies: William Blake, Damien Hirst, JMW Turner, Tracey Emin, Frank Auerbach, make your own list.


Some of em are genius

Some of em are not

Some of em

They don’t know didderli squat


Sometimes I have a gurt notion

That I know quite a lot

But really I know littley liddle

Now strike me dumb

There’s a riddle


When you don’t succeed…

CRY CRY again!

I tried an  tried an tried


I cried cried cried

Again again again

No pain no gain

No gain but plenty pain


Even a Strictly Prancing Pixie Lot

Before she got ‘biffed off’

Had gotten farther than I

Ever did

Cos to get biffed offof it

You gotta been on the train

When a dork on a heap


Not to worry

I think I found my answer

It’s in Tai Chi

All my life I felt I needed to fight to gain any ground for fear of failure. Through Tai Chi I realised that so often I was battling when I had already won. Tai Chi is based on no force; your Yin becomes your Yang. Negative force replaces positive. No resistance wins the fight.

Instead of putting my mits up, instead of “Straighten Up and Fly a Right” my new mantra is let go, relax, come down off your perch and if there’s no resistance there’s nothing to fight.

I went into a dream, I drempt I was with old friends from college, at some big event. We walked out onto a place and I saw a bird, the feathered kind, and my mate Lemon he just extended an invite with his hand and the bird jumped onto it, just like that. And I thought of Leo in the Hesse book called Journey to the East, one of the best, if not the best of books. Lemon was my Leo. Then I was with Lemon, Avocado and Camellia and we were walking, Lemon had written me his number in case we got separated. Just then some goofball in a BIG (1950s) American car came zooming by and I jumped in for the ride. Soon I realised I was lost. We went over a bridge and my American friend showed me his latest trick which was to spook the jersey cows that basked by the river. I was asking to be let down so I could contact Lemon who by now would have been driving ‘back home’ but awaiting a call from me to come pick me up. I had some kind of mobile phone but it must have come from a lucky bag cos it hardly let me key in the numbers from the bit of paper that Lemon had given me. Then I lost the paper. Now I were really ‘lost’. I asked to be dropped off the train I was now on by some strange logic. I was dropped off at some obscure station in Geordie land, near where me old late mother had been born. So I was madly trying to go thru all my pockets, like you do, turning out all the tut trying to find the number, ‘Ricky don’t lose that number it’s the only one you…need.’ Then I realised I had some money, I mean notes of a pretty big denomination which I never had in the early 70s when I used to hitch hike all over the country. Once I were lugging this massive case thru Accrington at about 10 o’clock at night having hitched several hundred miles from Exeter with only about ten miles to go to get home and they were spilling out the pubs and this old geezer saw my plight (I had no dosh) and pulled out an old ten bob note (that’s equivalent to ten pounds now) and said, ‘Here son, take this and get a bus’, I been a fool a long time and I said back then no thanks and walked on like a character out of Beckett leaving this generous man standing dumbfounded as to why this bloke had refused his generosity. But the fool continued his journey right up to now. At 4am in the morning I woke up and needed a cuppa tea. I went to my window and looked out to see white clouds with dark black breaks. I thought of my cloud of unknowing, ‘I’m in a cloud of unknowing, but wait a minute that’s a book by a mystic monk innit?’ So, hang on a minute can I see any stars thru the gaps? The moon was there gleaming in its reflected glory and there thru a teeny weeny gap yes I saw two minute (that’s mine-newt, not minnit) stars and I thought you know you know nuttin at all boy. And I realised if we know everything we can possibly retain and access with the human brain, like what say Einstein did in his field and Picasso did in his that is a minenewt aspect of it all. we are not capable of knowing much. But if we are lucky like me we get to try and I been very trying long time aks my wife.

After all is said and done I’m a poet and I know it. I’m a writer not a fighter. Walk away walk away. Renee. Renascence. Renaissance.


“Love, Light & Peace” was the final goodbye Spike Milligan wrote in his last letter! What more could humans ask for? Maybe a bit more genius from Spike Milligan?

I were a teacher once but am recovered now I met R. A .

As we all know that some teachers are prats but I am not talking about them, they steal enough of our time as we live thru their dross. Not a lot of people know how hard it is to become a (good) teacher. I don’t  witch to go on abArt it but it is important because a good teacher begets students worth their salt in goldust. And on rare ocassions oops occasions (get it right!)  when the teacher gets it right the pupil improves on the teacher. The pupil goes far whilst the teacher (just?) teaches some more. My friend Ian,


he taught Rob in Art in Tamworth (of all places). Now Rob has gone far, very, very farout. Ian has been happy doing his thing whilst Rob was happy doing everbody like George Lucas and Kate Bush’s tings. And Ridley Scot and Dr Whose too name a fuse. Last week I wer lucky enough to get to visit Robert Allsopp at his workshop and what a revelation.

roba an the a sm kb

It’s like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory except for props for Royal Ballet, Star Wars and Ridley Scot productions like Gladiator. All these talented folk beavering away making moulds and takes then adding soft materials and wires to give effect so they remain light weight in feel but massive in impact. Whilst the other teachers in Tamwart were telling Rob to gerra proper job IEP Woollard were saying no Rob, you do what you want to do and if it’s making masks do it, and he did, many hundreds of them including Queen Padmé Amidala in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. When you see plastic masks and helmets and plastic wings  which look more real than the real tings themselves then it’s likely it’s rob wat dunnit, well Robert’s workshop has dunnit really cos Rob cannot do it all. There’s masks for several productions of ‘Wicked; London, USA, Germany etc and that’s a whole lotta monkeys. So Rob becomes the teacher and shows others how to do it for him.  Now we all dream, us artisfolks, of getting that big break and ‘making it’ and Robert went an dunnit. Like everyone who truly made it he knows it’s more to do with graft than inspiration. And a production line for all those performances from stage to 3D movie is more like a sweatshop than a sweetchop. Am not sure how far many of my ex-students have gone? Maybe youse could let me know? One girl I taught on Canvey and gave her the only 100% grade I ever gave looked like she would go far, but you never know.

I had to stop teaching because of my  r.a. condition and when that condition improved  I decided to return to my own education, which I been doing ever since but it started with a master’s degree course in Art & The Book under the watchful eye of David Jury what became my tutor.

portrait o DJ smkb

DJ, as we’ll refer to him from now on, had mastered the book in several differing ways introduced me to the ‘artist’s book’ what despite my 30 yearns in teaching I knew not a lot abArt, in fact nuttin atall. He shewed me how to do layout and typesetting using Quark quack, I say quack now cos Quark seems to have fallen behind in the race to capture the market in Engerland for design packages. But now I do my book designs on Quark as I cannot afford t’other one.

cover of six mystics intro
cover of six mystics intro

I wrote, designed and published a book (G Batch) to help folk understand all the ideas in my MA project about ancient writings in pots and on tablets. In it I had written a rather complex poem about ‘Six Mystics’ and after I became a (little) matster of bookish arts I decided to do some readings and nobody knew what I was talking abArt so I decided to re-write the darn tings so folks can understand em and I did and folk say they can. Then I decided to do them in the shape of pots, poems as pots not pots in poems, I know that sounds potty or poetry or prose. Call them what you want I don’t mind and everything I do is influenced, has precursors. My writings and my arts have both been inspired by folk who were inspired by folk like Jarry and Maxt Ernst, I like to call him Maxt cos a friend of mine called Chris(t) Lennard is a cockney fella and he always put Cockney ‘t’on the end on Max when he said it and I found that quite endearing so Max is now Maxt, tank yez Chris…t.

chri len maxt

Chris was in fact the person what made me do the first ever Apulhed ‘comic’. T’wer his Enfield mafia ting i couldn’t refute.

 But when DJ saw them he was writing a book about concrete poems, shaped poems and all. So he took a big interest in what I was doing and read them carefully. He loved the words and said could he do a letterpress version. Those words were heaven sent to me as I was wondering how I could ever get it done in letterpress. So now we are doing a collaboration. David’s print enhances my writings and my writings may help david to use wood letters he has collected but never used. And so it goes on, the student master ting.

So over the years this teacher (and it took 4 yearns on no pay to learn to teach badly some may say but I kep going on ‘in-service training to keep up and refresh although truly I been so immersed in seeing art and making art I didn’t need any art courses) has always made ‘art’ and stuff as an example of the creative process.

And it’s the same with Ian and David, they both do their art ting. Ian, what also taught me wet photography back in 1971-72 before he became a real teacher bloke, has taken some immaculate photos recently of the Japanese prima ballerina at Birmingham Royal Ballet and more recently of mountain leopards and tigers in zoos. David (DJ) does letterpress and writes books for T&H and udders and Artickles fer others and is presently working with his ex-student (what is moi) on a new letterpress book.

And then there’s my latest teacher bloke, Master Ch’n, Tai Chi Defence man http://clstaichichuan.co.uk/venues-classes/witham/ where I go to in my spare time when am not learning Ashtanga Yoga with Gareth Chandler, Vinyasa Yoga with Sam and Zumba what is taught by a load o young women, no, I want no sympathy, somebody’s got to do it.  Master Ch’n probably the most patient graceful person what I have ever met so far who is teaching me the ‘form’. Very meticulous he is. Starting again and again and again with the first steps. You repeat and re-peat  then re-pete again and again and again then some more. Now I never been into repeating myself (repeat pete, no!) except for football skills like kicking the ball against a wall fer hours and hours alone cos nobody else wer around, kicking against next door’s wall interminably, then heading it back and forth with the same wall, trapping it. I forgot I did do that. Master Chen is 69 now, looks about 50, has strong muscular back but no big strenuous musculature. He is calm and quiet. He smiles all the while and watches. Seems to have eyes in the back of his head. He teaches facing away from you, one to one, and he knows when you are standing wrong or getting the feet wrong, he knows without looking, seemingly. He has a permanent smile on his face, possibly cos he knows more than you’ll ever know about tai chi and all that stuff like push hands swords and sticks. I’m 63 now and I don’t tink I’ll ever catch up with Master Ch’n, in fact I KNOW I won’t. Cos a good teacher always stays one step ahead of the best pupils and I am nowhere near the best, that’ll take weeks. In Master Ch’n’s case it’s more like one lifetime ahead I tink, or should I say ‘tinker’?

Talking about Tinkers, me ole mate DW took the image featured at top o this blArt on the day the BIG old moom came closer to Earth than for many years.