Monday, 24 November 2008

Is there anybody there?

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."
Donald Rumsfeld, chief chicken hawk and war criminal extraordinaire.

The world is a mysterious place, from the silent stone faces of Easter island to the careful precision of the Giza plateau mysterious mysteries abound.
Who among us does not have some strange tale to impart? For when the whole history and purpose of your species is a mystery one will obviously be attracted towards life's many "unknown unknowns"

It was in this spirit of adventure that News direct tasked me with solving one of life's greatest mysteries, the mystery of life after death!!!!!!
Careful research on the subject had led me unfailingly towards the bizarre practice of spiritualism, a Christian sect which became popular in the late 1840's using the writings of 17th century Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg as the basis for a new variation on the ancient Jesus death cult.

Adherents to this new form of Christianity believed that by using a human conduit one could contact the world of the dead and receive messages and blessings from long dead loved ones and ascended spirit masters.
All over the western world spiritualist churches sprang into existence and lured the local populace into virtuous orgies of spiritual communication and relentless voluntary payments. But the craze was not just confined to the new back alley temples of the dead, no dinner party featuring the great and the good of society was complete without an after dinner cigar and a quick seance.
By the late 1920's the wild fire craze of spiritualism had all but burned itself out, but here in the north of England pockets of this craze survived through into the present day and evolved into the modern day phenomenon of the celebrity medium.

To learn more about the work of these modern day necromancers I arranged to meet Paul De la Higginbotham professional medium and the star of channel five's big new Wednesday afternoon hit "The dead say the funniest things!"
The meeting was to be at Paul's newly renovated large Victorian home on the outskirts of Halifax and as I walked up the long tree lined drive past Paul's brand new collection of high performance cars I couldn't help but feel a shiver of nervous anticipation and slight nervousness that he may have a spirit tell him private stuff about "what I like" in a "bedroom sense"

I reached the end of the long gravel path stood before his huge oak and stained glass door and tried to bury at the back of my head "what I like"
I pulled the long wrought iron chain by the door and from inside I heard the chimed consequence, moments later the door creaked open to reveal the blonde highlighted, pink suited Paul De La Higginbotham.
"Ohhh hello love, you must be the dreamboat from that Newsly direction thingimy bob interwebby jobby?"
"That's right, Peter Stock Aitken Waterman.
"Well don't stand out there in the cold Peter, come in!"
I wiped imaginary dirt from my shoes and squeezed tightly past my host who was politely holding the door open for me.
"Oops! Room for a small one!" He screeched as I made my entrance into a fabric bedecked hallway that closely resembled the set from some yet as unmade harem film.
"Just go on through into that room there on your right, yes that one. No dear the right."
Momentarily lost by my need to keep the secret of "What I like" secret I had forgotten which was left and which was right. Paul closed the heavy door and before the fabrics strewn across the hall could settle down he was behind me cupping a bottom cheek and steering me towards the room he had originally told me to enter.
"Ohh that's like a little rock cake."
I swerved my hips to remove his hand from my "little rock cake" and rushed into the room, waited until Paul took his seat and then sat as far away as possible from him and carried on working on hiding the secret of "What I like"

The room seemed to be a continuation of the harem theme I had encountered in the hallway. I gestured at the room with a nod of my head and said "Nice, you decorate it yourself?"
"Yes, decorating is one of my little hobbies"
"You're very good, I haven't seen this much purple velvet since I saw Barry White live."
"I wanted to create a environment my clients would feel comfortable in."
"Zebra skin can be very reassuring."
"So Mr De La Higginbotham..."
"Oh please call me Paul, you're not my bank manager."
"No I'm a reporter." I said puzzled.
"What dear? No you misunderstand me all I was saying was there is no need for the formality, we are all friends here sweetie."
I concentrated harder on hiding the secret of "What I like" and nodded at him. He smiled a sympathetic smile and we sat for a while in silence as I struggled and grimaced trying to bury the secret of "What I like"
He folded his delicately manicured hands across his already folded knee and ventured "So Peter my love, do you want to start this interview now?"
I uncrossed my eyes, shook my head, checked the secret of "What I like" was still buried and asked "Are oranges really not the only fruit?"
He looked somewhat taken aback and managed "Pardon?"
I cleared my head and then my throat "What?"
"What do you mean?"
"You asked me if oranges aren't really the only fruit."
"Did I?"
"Yes you did lovey."
I shook the puzzlement from my face "Well I didn't mean to say that out loud, what I meant to ask you was how do you go about contacting the dead."
He made a visual effort to forget my verbal faux pas and said "Well ever since I was ten years old I have had an old Indian spirit guide who has become my channel to the other world and taught me the ways of the dead."
"He speaks English?"
"Do you find it hard to understand his accent? Mr Patel who runs my local corner shop has a very thick accent some mornings I just nod at whatever he says, actually thats why I have a five year subscription to dog care monthly, the professional dog groomers trade magazine. I don't even own a dog."
"No you misunderstand me lovey, he is a native American, not an Indian."
"Oh ok, whats his name?"
"Squatting beaver."
I laughed.
"Squatting beaver!!!"
"Yeah, that's his name it's a very old traditional name for native American healers."
"You sure he isn't taking the piss?"
"I don't think so why?"
"Well beaver! Squatting beaver!"
"Well beaver is a euphemism know."
He looked as blank as a new blackboard "No, what?"
"You know....lady parts."
He pursed is thin lips "Well I can assure you I know absolutely nothing about those!"
I nodded sympathetically in agreement with him "Yeah I suppose you don't."

At this point I felt I was losing him so I employed the old interviewers trick of pretending I was actually interested in what he had to say and asked "So this Indian fellow, crouching pussy, does he sort of line the dead up in queues and sort them out for you?"
"It's Squatting beaver!"
"Oh yeah sorry, I have a lot on my mind." I checked the secret of "What I like" was still safe and asked "So is he sort of like a feather strewn dead secretary?"
"No he isn't! And I would ask you to show an appropriate level of respect to a great teacher and healer or I'm afraid I will have to ask you to leave!"
My trick hadn't worked as well as I'd hoped so I used the trick that works very well with angry women "I'm sorry please forgive me I have been an idiot, you are of course right."
His eyes softened "Ok but I would ask you please to show more respect for me and my spirit guide."
I became a picture of contrition "I'm sorry I honestly meant no offence to you or Crouching....."
His eyes narrowed into slit of suspicion, I verbally checked myself and after a quick check of the secret of "What I like" I continued "......Squatting beaver, It's just I'm new to all this and I'm always uncomfortable round minorities, I don't want to commit a racial faux pas and upset Mr Beaver."
He looked at me unconvinced "Squatting beaver isn't actually here right now."
"Oh where is he?"
"He is in the spirit world."
"The new off licence near the McDonalds on Equator street?
"No! THE spirit world!!! The place where all our souls go post mortem."
"Post what?"
"Post mortem!!!!!!"
"Third class post?"

He placed a pale hand across his red brow "I think I have a migraine coming on."
I needed to get him back on my side quickly "Isn't cro....Squatting beaver a healer? Why don't you summon him up and we can kill two birds with one stone, I can get a look at how you ....sort and while he is here he can have a go at your migraine."
He fluttered his eyes "Very well, I shall summon him from beyond the darkened veils of time and bid him to come forth into this veil of tears and so enlighten our mortal darkness with the brilliant light of his age old wisdom."
"And bring his "spirit pills" for your migraine don't forget don't want him getting here and then having to go all the way back because he forget his migraine medicine.
Paul had closed his eyes and was now gently swaying side to side while letting out a low pitched "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.......OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO"
I watched his performance open mouthed, checked the secret of "What I like" was safely tucked away and said "Blimey!"
"Blimey he's changed tone now!"
"OOOOOOOO.....Is there anybody there???? OOOOOOWWWWWWW"
I looked around "Yeah me, I'm here!"
"OOOOOOOO...Is there anybody there??? Knock twice for yes......once for no...OOOOOWWW"
I looked around me again, shrugged and knocked twice on the wall. Paul squinted open one eye and hissed "Not you you idiot! I'm trying to contact the other side!"
"Oh Sorry."
"OOOOOOOOOOO...Reveal yourself to me oh great Squatting beaver!!!! Use me as your channel into this world!!! Make me your spirit bitch!!!!!!!!!OWWWWWW"
As these last words dropped from his spittle flecked lips a strange calmness descended onto his face and a disquieting stillness filled his body. I looked around me, leaned forward and poked his knee "Paul? Paul?"
Paul placed a steady hand on each knee and in a strong manly voice quite unlike his own said "Paul is not here now."
"Who are you? The answering machine?"
"I am Squatting beaver, medicine man of the Lakota and fellow traveler of the great spirit bear."
"Oh right...errr.....cold out.....said on the news we might have snow."
The spirit Indian inhabiting Paul sat silently unmoved by my attempts at small talk. I decided to play along and question the Indian, after first checking that the secret of "What I like" was quite safe.
I put on my thinking face and after a few moments I said "So......Crouchi...errrr Mr beaver, How's the ..errr spirit world?"
Paul's beaver filled face didn't flinch and his lips hardly moved as he said "The spirit world never changes it is the one constant in this universe of eternal flux."
"Oh.....get out much?"
"What is your question for me."
"Oh I didn't really have one."
Paul sat impassively silent so I searched my memory banks for the eternal questions that plague man "Can Arsenal win the title this year?"
"This question that you ask can only be answered in the negative, to win this title you speak of they must first acquire a man who will stand firm and be as a wall against the tides of the sea."
"A defensive midfielder? That's a tenner wasted then, I knew 16 to 1 was to good to be true."
Squatting beaver fell silent again.
"Oh here's one, why did the chicken cross the road?"
"To get to the other side."
"Oh you've heard it."
"Yes I'm dead not daft."
"Soooooooooo....can't really think of nowt else I wanna ask you....unless you wanna give me the lotto results, do ya?"
"Thought not."
Paul's face twitched rapidly and let out a long sighed "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO"
I looked around.
"OOOOOOO" his eyes opened slowly and as they focused weakly on the room he weakly whispered "Was he here?"
Paul gave me a confused look "Squatting beaver? Did he come unto this plane of existence?"
"Oh him? Yeah."
"What message from beyond the thin veil of reality did he impart to us ignorant mortals?"
"Errrr...he didn't say much really."
"What message did he impart?"
"Nowt really just said Arsenal need a defensive midfielder. which, pardon my French, is more the realm of the bleeding obvious than the mysterious realm of spiritual knowledge."
"He didn't say anything else?"
"No not really."
"Oh he usually has some deep spiritual wisdom to impart."
"Must have been having an off day."
"Yeah maybe."
"Anyhow...I think that will be all I need Paul."
"Are you sure? I could get out my crystal balls and let you rub them."
"Errrrr....not right now thanks, I have a train to catch at a quarter past."

Paul walked me through the satiny silkiness of his hall and prised open the huge door for me "Well thank you for your time Paul and please Thank Squatting beaver for me."
"Oh don't mention it lovey, the pleasure was all ours, you just make sure you tell the world that we are here to help them along life's rocky path and to bring a little comfort into their grey pain filled existences."
"Will do." I stepped over the doors threshold and into the bracing afternoon wind. I turned back to thank Paul once more and was greeted by the sight of him holding his red tense forehead in one hand and speaking as though he was on the telephone.
"Ok....yep...ok I got it ...ok thank you Squatting beaver...yes I'll tell him...thank you lovey."
He removed his hand from his forehead and opened his eyes "Squatting beaver wants me to tell you to stop doing what you are doing, it's filthy and possibly illegal, so don't do it!"
As the shock seeped from my face I whispered in a hoarse voice "I don't know... what you're talking about."
"Yes you do you filthy sod!" And with that Paul closed the mysterious door of the spirit world and left the world with one more confused soul late for an early train.