(Photograph courtesy of London Open House)
Whenever I come across photographs of this groundbreaking building - a host of memories come flooding back.
I lived there for about a year in the
1970's - in fact the family I lived with must have been some of the very first occupants - as the building was completed in 1972.

See the balcony right at the top, in the left hand corner - that was their apartment - quite a spacious two bedroomed flat.
I shared one bedroom with the girl I was dating at
the time.

Birds of prey, falcons or hawks, would build their nests up on the roof, immediately above us. Often we would see the beautiful creatures either balancing themselves in the strong turbulant air up there, as they prepared to land with food for their young - or on hotter days floating effortlessly on a warm thermal current, right outside the living room window.

I used to take advantage of the currents of air myself, flying home made kites from the balcony. I devised a system to bring snow to London, whatever the weather.
Well - not real snow of
My kites were simply plastic carrier bags with
their handles tied in a "Y" to a long reel of strong black thread.
I would fill the bags with tiny pieces of torn up
paper and set the whole thing firmly adrift in the strong gusts of wind - up, up ever higher and further away it would be carried - until it was no more than a distant speck in the sky.
At any random moment, completely at
the mercy of the fickle movement of the air, it would spill its cargo of snow - in a rapidly expanding, flickering cloud that slowly dispersed on its way to the ground.

(Photograph courtesy of keller.co.uk)

The view from up there was simply astonishing.
London town the southern horizon on a clear day was the North Downs - over sixty miles away.
We could see the snaking M4
motorway stretching all the way back to Heathrow airport, to where the sky was full of arriving planes, entering their stacking and holding patterns before landing.
From the bedroom I shared, the view was to the north. Immediately below us was the Grand Union Canal, with its occasional traffic of narrow boats and barges. A long silvery scar weaving its course eventually all the way to Birmingham, although we could not see quite that far.
In the August of that year we had a wonderful birdseye view of the Notting Hill
carnival, which would boom out its powerful reggae bass from almost every street corner, well into the night. The colourful and highly animated spectacle of the carnival procession was an absolute delight to watch from the lofty comfort of the balcony, sipping a cold drink, basking in the hot sun.
was the long, hot summer of 1976.

(Photograph courtesy of londontown.com)

t was a fascinating
area to live in, even on ground level - Ladbroke Grove, Portobello Road, with all the mystique of the mid seventies - the wholefood shops, shops filled with the heady aroma of incense sticks, arousing the curiosity with books and pictures, brass trinkets and statues - all the paraphernalia of eastern religions, antique shops, market stalls - an inviting, irresistible cornucopia that could absorb many hours, before retreating back to our own little nest in the sky.

Ears would occasionally pop slightly when ascending in
the lift - we were thirty one floors up - exiting the lift tower itself we would cross the gantries that took us across to the accomodation.
Most days there was enough wind for us to notice the
building swaying perceptibly - especially standing in those gantries.
They were joined to the main building with
some kind of sliding plates which allowed for the movement caused by the wind.
The buildings were designed to have
this considerable flexibility - which was slightly unnerving at first experience - and about which I still have the occasional strange dream.
A sort of Towering
Inferno, without the flames.
I recall that thankfully, the lifts were seldom out of order - forcing us to use the stairs.

(Photograph courtesy of open2.net)
The lift hall itself, up there on the thirty first floor brings back the memory of my very first day. Some youths were larking about up there and had managed to smash one of the narrow windows in the lift tower.
Concerned that falling glass might present an unwelcomed
rain on those below, I set about removing the loose pieces from the window frame.
It was the sort of mottled,
reinforced glass that has embedded in it a mesh of fine wire.
It had to happen - a stubborn piece - narrow window frame -
hand slips off and my knuckle gets gashed by the jagged edges on the opposite side of the frame.
It looked rather
serious - copious bleeding.
As a pianist, I regarded this
with great concern.
I still had my bags, there was no one at home to welcome
me yet - I'd arrived around noon - earlier than expected.

A short walk to the local hospital and I am informed that
I have cut through the tendon of the middle finger in my left hand - it's going to need surgery.
The staff are very appreciative of my concerns and
arrange for physiotherapy after the wound had suitably healed.

So a few weeks later I attended my first session - during
which it was decided that the best therapy for me would be to play the piano - and they offered me the use of one, right there in the hospital.
Fantastic, what could
be better than that, I thought.

I shall never forget the looks on the faces that would
often appear round the door, attracted there by the sound of music, from the neighbouring psychiatric ward.
A wonderful assortment of smiles.

That year I found some temporary work in a take away food
Very soon I was slaving and sweltering away, late into the summer evenings, cooking a variety of simple
meals in the incredibly hot kitchen, or serving the customers by the relative coolness of the restaurant's open doorway.
I remember the radio playing and filling the warm air with the lusciously thick harmony of 10cc's "I'm Not In Love."
The local area was quite a melting pot - all colours and creeds,
some of whom still had the manners and habits of their homelands.
I can remember, foolishly, but politely
informing a young West Indian lad that he would not be served before all the other waiting customers, merely because he had swaggered to the head of the queue demanding something from the large refrigerated glass sandwich display counter, from behind which I was serving.
His response to
this was to walk outside the shop, arm himself with an empty milk bottle from the crate on the pavement, and hurl it with great force into the glass counter.
Needless to say, this caused the place to empty
rather quickly - and I was soon alone clearing up the mess.

I think I left soon after this incident and found work in
a famous music store in the Charing Cross Road. Unfortunately - after returning to the shop the morning after a bank holiday weekend - I had only been there a week - I arrived to find the gutters in the road streaming with water and one or two fire appliances parked outside the building.
famous music store had caught fire during the previous night.
The next few months were spent
shifting the salvaged stock to a new premises.

Indeed, what a host of memories that picture brings to my mind.

(Photograph courtesy of galinsky.com)

But something happened to me, one summer evening, sat up there on the balcony, gazing down. Mesmerised by a flock of pigeons - in a synchronised display of aerial mastery - all turning as one - perfectly coordinated - banking up and swooping down - beating their wings together - then gliding - for no reason, it seemed, other than for the sheer delight and exhilaration - the glorious freedom of flying.
It was so wonderfully playful and joyful - and
captivated my attention - watching these birds, with a birdseye view.

Then my focus shifted - looking through
the flight of pigeons - down to the rusty brown railway lines above which they circled - and down to the streets below. I saw what appeared to me now as a contrasting disarray - a milling throng of pedestrians - skuttling, bustling - every which way - self absorbed in their own urgency - a sight that revealed to me symbolically, yet very profoundly - a lack of direction.
A race apart, with no commonly acknowledged
purpose or destination - did we really have any idea where we were going?
I was suddenly moved to tears - an explosion of sorrow
and sadness overwhelmed me - and yet at the same time here was a vision of hope for the future.
Those moments up there held a
secret initiation for me - I received a gently whispered instruction - to guide me for the remainder of my life.

(Photograph courtesy of hawar-islands.com)

Bloggus Septimius. 1 - Introduction

We find our unlikely hero languidly supine upon damp, hard cobblestones that form the cold floor of a cell, set within walls of impenetrable thickness, isolating the prisoners captive in this Roman jail from their liberty.
Instead of the blossom-fragrant air blown in from the surrounding countryside, laced on many days with just a hint of the not too distant ocean - they breath the putrid, re-cycled odour of the unwashed, the stench of a dozen men and their calls of nature.

A little sunlight casts a long beam from a small iron barred opening, roughly square in proportion, let into one of the stone walls. Too high in position to afford a tempting view of the free citizenry that might hasten remorse, for only slightly more than their unshackled, sandal strapped ankles could be seen shuffling by. But the light streams in like a followspot and paints a tapering, golden streak through the thick atmosphere, heavy with bodily generated steam and lends a glistening to the perspiration soaked faces. All darkened with stubble or obscured by beards - living calendars of their owners' incarceration.

The year, although unbeknown to those that lived at this time, is 30 AD.
Very soon a force of light would spread around the world changing it forever and people will come to associate the Roman Empire in this context.
But as it was then, the Empire was aspiring to heights of glory and a power unsurpassed in history.

The Emperor at this particular time is Tiberius, or Tiberius Caesar Augustus, to give him the honour due.

Our hero - Bloggus Menenia Aggrippa Septimius - the seventh son of Servius Menenia Aggrippa Balba.

Servius owned a bakery, of sufficient quality to earn the patronage of the Emperor himself - such an assured and prosperous business that he was able to build a home for his family on Palatine Hill. With its views, on the one side across to the Forum and on the other - over the vacant valley in which the great Colosseum was to be built in approximately forty or so years, this was good living indeed.

It was amongst these pine clad suburbs where Bloggus enjoyed his youth, his early romances - and where he learned of the curse which would haunt his life. This was where he spent his years of teenage curiosity, before his father had compelled him to accept a short term of enlistment as a Legionari.

Partly as a small favour bestowed upon Servius for his delicious bread and pastries, there came a tacet promise from those close to the Emperor, that Bloggus could soon receive promotion to become a Centurion.
In his father's eyes, Bloggus was a dreamer, a waster - above all then, this was a way to get his lovelorn son and the smell of adolescent testosterone - out from under his feet - and from under his proud, Roman nose.

For the unfortunate curse that afflicted and embarrassed poor Bloggus, from the night of his first adult dreams, was that of premature and often uninvited ejaculation - sometimes, purely at the sight of a pretty young thing.
Poor Bloggus, derision and mockery were his lot in life, alongside the unmistakable odour that would betray his secret and all too often, bring to an abrupt and untimely end, his efforts to find the maiden of his dreams. (Continued in Chapter II)

Bloggus Septimius. 2 - His Downfall.

Poor, daydreaming Bloggus was awoken from his distant reveries by the sharp slap of sandal leather descending the staircase that approached his dismal, subterranean prison - and the steely, metalic ringing of weaponry and iron clad tunics that heralded the arrival of the daily food.

Always precisely timed to a clatter of hooves and flickers of light caused by the slowly accelerating wheels passing by the window up above as the bakery cart resumed its long morning round of deliveries - the lock in the heavy, oak door would be turned and the whole of its ill-fitting, studded mass would be shouldered into scraping and grating across the cobbled floor - to contemptuous shouts of "By the Emperor's pleasure, he's decided to feed you today - move away from the door!"

At which the imprisoned would drag their shackles across the floor and form a ragged, restless and hungry line against the wall opposite to the door.
The wall alongside which Bloggus currently reclines - soon to be pressed upon, brushed against by foul smelling backsides and a few feculent thighs.

A wickerwork basket would then be slid clumsily across the uneven floor, with just enough force to clear the doorway itself and spill its contents about.
The door would finally be slammed shut and locked again, but generally this went unnoticed as starvation had transformed an already sorry crowd into a pack of animals, fighting and clawing at the ground and at each other, to secure as much for themselves as was possible. Stuffing great chunks of the bread, together with stems from the straw that was scattered over the floor, in between their yellowed and decaying teeth - with snorts, coughs and choking on greed.
Bread - ironically - that had been baked by Servius, Bloggus's father, that very morning - having risen long before dawn.

The memories of which flooded in to poor Bloggus's mind every day at this hour, cruelly increasing the torment of his captivity.
The other prisoners knew of this, so Bloggus himself rarely had to join the unseemly scrum for food. One of his cell mates would begrudgingly hurl one of the loaves, or at least a large portion of a loaf, directly at Bloggus - there is some honour among thieves.

Why was he here, our hero? What was his crime?

This being a time of what was loosely termed peace (ignoring the murderous treatment received by insurgent tribes bordering the vast swathes of the Empire) the Roman Army was put to service on all manner of infrastructural work. Perhaps supervising the construction of state buildings, or the compilation of maps (a thankless task in itself, as the extent of the Empire was forever expanding, requiring that these painstaking and detailed documents had to be redrawn far too often.)

And of course, another of the regular peacetime duties was the building of roads, extending the growing network that was usually augmented by the Legions while at war, as a means to get themselves and their equipment to a new battle site. It is a skill that the Romans are justly celebrated for, but it was in connection with the building of roads that led to Bloggus's first assignment as Centurion - and which led to his downfall.

The current phase of building, now concluded by the completion of a coastal road all the way South to Napoli, was the latest proud offering of its architect Marcus Claudius Caecus. Before the grand tour which would officially bring this latest phase into recognition, by deserving the blessings of the Emperor himself, Caecus had a brainwave.

Now it is easy today to scorn the simplicity of what for us is rather obvious and everyday, but in common with all manner of things, they had to be invented at some time or other. Marcus Claudius Caecus had invented the signpost.

Despite your undoubted disappointment in this mundane fact, it nevertheless did involve much logistics and organisation to put his idea into practice. Not only upon the roads and junctions that formed this new phase of building, but upon roads and junctions previously created, that lay within a limited radius of the capital itself - which hitherto, had been unsigned and required a great deal of guesswork or previous knowledge from the traveller.

Bloggus Septimius was elated with pride as he heard news of his election to be in charge of this task. He personally designed the look of the new signpost and studied the suitability of many combinations of materials to be used in its construction.

Accompanied by twenty or so men from his Century, equipped with carts, materials, tools, food and wine for man, food and water for horses, he set off on his maiden commission, certain that upon completion, success would redeem not only his self esteem but his sagging reputation, both amongst his peers and within his family. He was in sole charge - and his word now carried the authority of the Emperor - with a determination to set an example of strength, wisdom and intelligence - to make his mark as a leader at the head of these men, a portion of his new command for which he had now been promoted to the rank of Primus Pilus.

Poor Bloggus, always ahead of his time - always out of synchronisation with ideas. He had consulted no one, he had thought that it would please the Emperor, by appealing to his sense of pride.
After all, it was a commonly used phrase - All Roads Lead to Rome. But the chaos that ensued on the grand tour, the utter embarrassment brought upon Marcus Claudius Caecus by finding themselves hopelessly lost and bewildered by the plethora of roadsigns - each one of them proclaiming "To Rome" but pointing in every conceivable direction - the confusion wraught upon that multitude of Senators, Statesmen, the Emperor's household, the cavalry, the carriages and Tiberius Caesar Augustus himself - ensured that they found a scapegoat in our poor hero.
When Rome was eventually rediscovered, Bloggus was immediately escorted to the jail.


Please do not propagate my mediocrity,
Resist the artificial hastening
Of my fifteen minutes of fame,
Do not digg my daily dalliances,
Stumble not upon my Stygian stupidities,
And I shall avoid the agar of optimisation
Lest my uncultured concerns become a plague.

Already severely pruned
To bonsai proportions
By living's stealthy ransoms,
I am quite familiar and content
That only ants and beetles
May benefit from
My reduced capacity
For shelter and shade.

Besides, is there really
Infinite room for expansion?
A never ending dilution
Of my essence.

Photo courtesy Bonsai-trees-biz

I have finally understood - the penny has at last dropped - gee, I'm so slow.
Nobody told me - the secret was well concealed, but through exploration, discovery and deep thought, I now see the light.

Blogging actually has a purpose, a mission to fulfil, it is the critical part of the social jigsaw, that up until recently has been missing. A large, vacuous gape - waiting to be filled.

I kick myself for not realising all this before, but here I share with you my valuable insight.

* Like a road that doesn't actually lead anywhere, the important thing is to have traffic. Traffic that constantly circulates, traffic that is searching, enquiring, never settling for long, but just enough to leave a trace of a visit, a calling card.

* The first thing to start writing about is how to increase this traffic. There are so many secrets, well - I should say they were secrets - what readers want is not substance, but simply knowledge of ways to increase traffic. So it stands to reason that to reveal these secrets will attract traffic. Write posts all about keywords, anchor text, contests, SEO, page-ranking, linking, back-linking, 3 way linking, bloggers' social communities, the annual Bloggers' Ball - learn all about leaving comments, leaving shouts, widgets, blogrolls - that's the stuff we want to know about.

* Earning money from traffic is the goal - so to increase the variety of posts on your site even more why not allow yourself to become an extension of the already ubiquitous blight of consumerism, by writing advertising copy.
If you can't write it yourself you can even purchase generic appraisals which simply need some minor modification (copy/paste) to suit the particular product or service that you have chosen to support. You don't even have to think, or in fact have any genuine interest at all - make it up. Why not, in fact, become a catalogue, a cyber-mall, a hoarding - if it earns you some cash.

* Learn the art of concealing tripe behind hype. It's those keywords - the sound bites - that will hint of the gold at the end of the rainbow. As long as you get a visit - job done.

* You are now an integral part of the cogs and wheels of consumerism. But as they whir and spin, they spit out dollars at you - why should you worry.
There's infinite room in cyberworld - what difference does it make.
Your avatar, your username, may achieve a fame that you personally could only dream of.

If blogging held any merit, any promise - I fear it is gradually being dissolved away by the acidic drips of need & greed - so blatant that it reveals itself around every corner.

It lends it a bitter taste - that hints at nobody having anything to say - and that they are only writing at all to gain traffic.
Isn't this some sort of infernal, self serving, pointless cycle going on here?

It reminds me of the story of the life cycle of a particular variety of grass.
The seedlings had to be protected from direct sunlight and needed covering with a matting, suspended over them as they sprouted and grew.
On reaching maturity, the grass was harvested, threshed - and woven into matting - to cover the young seedlings as they grew.

If you have enjoyed this article - and even if you haven't - Frigg it, Sprigg it, TripOver it, SlinkBack it, Blogroll it, TechnoSmarty it - and visit our sponsor and read more of the same.


Have you ever lain on the ground, it's a beautiful, cloudless summer day - and instead of looking up at the sky - just for a moment, imagine that you are looking down at it . . .

e spend the majority of our time with our individual awareness focused on the world that appears outside of us.
We receive information through our sense organs, eyes, ears, our sense of touch, sense of smell etc.
The picture we have built of the world in our minds even makes its presence known during dreaming, so steeped are we in that particular sphere of existence.

This world reaches out from the surface of our bodies into the infinity of outer space.
However, infinity, if you think about it, as well as stretching out to the infinitely large, must also stretch the other way, to the infinitely small, the microcosmic, the subatomic.
Into the world of energy.

We can explore that world and the only instrument that we need for our journey into inner space is a Human Body.
In order for us to discover about our inner world we need to experience it for ourselves.
In this context, experience is the only means of gaining real knowledge about ourselves.
To experience is to know.

I could describe to you the taste of ice cream, but unless you had tasted it for yourself, the words I used would be meaningless - and a very poor substitute for the delicious taste.

So this inner world is explored, using our awareness, by turning it within.
Instead of being saturated with the exterior world, we start to tune our senses in to what's going on inside ourselves.

Documented evidence exists on this subject reaching back to really early civilisations.
Some, no doubt, disputed by science.
Science generally requires quantifiable proof before anything is regarded as being true, but as we've discussed, the only quantifiable proof with regard to experience, is experience itself.
It's impossible to allow someone or something else to share an actual experience, so a lot of this subjective reality stuff is unfortunately dismissed as mumbo-jumbo by the scientific community.

I have noticed that there seems to be a major division of thought in one area particularly.
The area of consciousness, or awareness.
Not in the general sense but in the precise nature of its existence.

Some tend to lean in the direction of consciousness evolving over time, parallel to the evolution,
the development of the human mechanism, the brain, central nervous system etc. and that it only exists as a direct result of these mechanisms.
Others share a belief that consciousness is a subtle form of energy and that it has always existed.

Strange that we are divided about something so close to us all.
Something that is the key to everything we think or do.
Something, without which, we wouldn't even be aware that we were here at all.

So what do you think?
Do you think that awareness, that ineffable quality of knowingness, that which is so personal to us in everything we do, that sense of self, of "I-am-ness", do you think that it is just an accidental occurrence resulting from having sense organs and a brain?
Something which is evident in every life form, from the simple cell, through the insect world,
plants even, right up the ladder of evolution.
Can something as profound as consciousness just evolve?

Just think of the idea of consciousness.
Consciousness as a concept.
How incredibly bizarre it is.
The ability to know, to feel a whole spectrum of different things, from colours, tastes, sounds, emotions, thoughts.
All the time, these phenomena only exist because we know that we are experiencing them.
Irrespective of the meaning we attribute to these phenomena, they surely do exist.
Or are we dreaming it all?
But we are aware of the dream as well.

I propose a different hypothesis.
That consciousness has been imbued into the very essence of the universe since whenever it was that it started.
That consciousness is the most subtle form of energy.
It cannot be created, cannot be destroyed and that it dwells at the heart of every nucleus of every atom.
It is every where at once, is all knowing.
It lives in the quantum world, if you like.

Now, I know nothing of quantum maths or physics, but the little I have gleaned on these subjects certainly doesn't contradict the hypothesis.
But I suggest that science will never be able to discover consciousness because it is only accessible to consciousness itself, being infinitely subtle.
The only way to "discover" consciousness is to be it and for it to experience itself.

Consider this.
The only value judgements that we make are relative.
That is, we can only value something, or give it a measurement in relation to something else.
We have no idea whatsoever how large or small the universe is because the only values used, be they light years, miles or inches, are only a set of relative values that we have invented purely for convenience.
Likewise, neither have we any real notion of how old the universe is.

Is up really up, or could it be down?
There is no such thing as an absolute value.
Consciousness is the only thing that is absolute.

To be being is to know being.
To know being is to be being.
It is at one with itself.
It is beyond duality.
Beyond question, beyond words.
It is never absent.