The Tarka Trail, a Red Book, and a Lamp


Bike under my kitchen table

Bike under my kitchen table

This post is linked to an earlier one last year – a poem-of-eclipse (1999) about my father and his violin: see  A Tendency of Concentric Rings.

Tarka Trail

For many years, I wondered if it was possible to visit Peter by bike from Bideford in North Devon.  He was getting too old to drive, and could no longer fetch me from the National Express bus.  It is about 15 miles inland, and very hilly.

I bought my fold-up bike for this purpose, six months ago.  But National Express run only one bus daily from London:  it takes five hours, and the evenings are dark too early now, for a long bike ride to my anxious parent.   I discovered the travel timetable is much more flexible – one every hour – if I take the TRAIN to Barnstaple – another eight miles further to ride.   It costs a lot more than the bus, but who cares!

The Tarka bike trail was opened up as a conservation project along a disused rail track. It follows the coast line from Barnstaple, then bends through Bideford into the Torrington district, all the way down to Petrockstowe.  The railway was closed in the 1970s.

Tarka Trail Barnstaple to Petrockstowe (red dotted line - about 21 miles.)  The train (Tarka Line) travels up to Barnstaple along the  river - centre wriggly line, which shows the road.

Tarka Trail Barnstaple to Petrockstowe (red dotted line – about 21 miles.) The train (Tarka Line) travels up to Barnstaple from Exeter along the river and the green A377 road – centre wriggly line. Then the Tarka Trail sets off from Barnstaple station into the sky, the dunes and salt marshes of the Taw estuary and the sea.

Tarka is the name of the otter in Henry Williamson’s novel, who was born and died along the Torridge river.  The entire region is alive with the Tarka mythos.  I always wanted to see the spectacularly beautiful river region between Bideford and Torrington.  The old railway gradient ensures no steep hills!

You can hire bikes on the Tarka Trail website, or on the spot at Barnstaple Station, Bideford and the Puffing Billy.   Mine folds up, so I took it on the train.

Bike last spring, near St Albans

Bike last spring, near St Albans – with Roman ruin


23 October 2013, near Buckland Filleigh

... Nearing my father’s house on its hilltop at dusk, hot and sweaty from the climb, soft thrum of the wind in the air, and an ever changing sky like the sea.  Woodlands feather the fields; delicious the huge quiet, sweet the smell and to be the sky, the open scent of cows.    I thought of my old Letter on the Gate poem:

Above a hidden loop of the sour Torridge river 
– brown and sleeping snake – 
coppice of toughened oak and beech 
with cow parsley’s tryst entangle; 
and on high rough meadows 
the rush pricked pasture 
is dotted with dry flakes of dung. 

To Dartmoor’s wide wing 
cloud-borne in the southern sky, 
acorn tufted slow sheep-back hills 
undulate an inland sea: 
and on the road from Sheepwash to Shebbear 
I found a notice on a field-gate, 
white paper pinned: 

a local dance, skittles champion, an eyesore planning procedure perhaps:  
or addressed to the Winsford Hospital League of Friends?”

Jim Ede and ...?

Jim Ede and …?

Idly I glance;  then widened eyes – 
an open letter is posted for all to see, 
fresh in the late Jim Ede’s 
unmistakable economy script … “


The poem goes on, it was based on a vivid dream-vision in 1999, which carried many depth messages and ancestral themes.   Jim was my grandfather – Peter’s father-in-law.


Apart from that, Peter and I have an interesting relationship:  he is like a guide.  He points to my path – a book I should read, or something he is interested in – without either of us realising how significant the detail will be for me.   It  happens when I visit him, and is always unexpected.

The journey in a nice chug-a-chug local train from Exeter to Barnstaple along the single-track Tarka Line, and then by bike along the 20-mile trail to Marland, was ROMANTIC beyond my expectation.  It awoke in my memory the recalled delight.   The drivers of the up and down trains stop and exchange keys for the single track between Eggesford and Umberleigh.

Later on … the hills, the lush woods, the brown river, the legends of the otters and of Victorian engineering, the gradient of the old railway line as it rises and falls, a high level aqueduct canal the Victorians built, and their ingenuity in “ramping” the 40 foot descent to the tidal-level lock;  the song of the place names dear to Henry Williamson – all sprang to life and love again.  It is among the most beautiful and secretive landscape in Britain.

My bike ride – with frequent stops to admire the view and the river – took nearly four hours, and by the time I was climbing through the old woods near Torrington to the hilltops and a familiar view of Dartmoor, I was very tired.   But I cheered up again with the gradient descending, and reached Dunsbear Halt – more scruffy than in the online photo.  A remote lane on the map crosses it – the line continues down to Petrockstowe.  I turned off to the right just after 5 pm, to toil the open hills.  In Devon just when you think you are reaching the top of a hill, it tosses its head.  It was heart warming to begin to recognise the lie of the farmland around my father’s care-home – the little tower beacon at 500 feet on a nearbye skyline curve, a fringe of larch forest, a dip of fields and zinc-roof barns.   Then, with dusk about to fall, the familiar lane towards Buckland Filleigh – I had found it!.

I rode into the farm – now a care home for the elderly, and for “supported living”, staffed by local good-wives, and the long root-runners of regional gossip.  The young entrepreneur who runs it, lives like a creeping buttercup.  He and his family are established in farms and cottages throughout the district, and thrive.  The care home has an excellent reputation, and runs on bio-fuels.  They had a very poor alfalfa harvest this year, so the place is running on wood-chip at present.

Later, I went up a ladder in one of the barns, to look at the process.   It moved, alive and warm in the vast woodchip pile, like a dragon!   A half hid wheel with wings slowly turned and rustled in the depths, as it laboriously ate the collapsing fuel:  the whole pile in slow motion:  warmth and sound – the serpent moves.

the old piggery

Peter’s self contained cottage is a converted piggery with a pitched roof, skylights and attractive timbers.   His arm waving in his kitchen window – his shout, Hooray!    A dyed-in-the wool Capricorn (like myself), he was waiting there for the last 15 minutes.   I rang him from the narrow lane at Dunsbear Halt.   I arrived just in time for tea.   He is nearly 91, and his heart weakens steadily and gives him trouble and anxiety.   But he looks well.   He is less puffy round the eyes, than when I saw him last.   His facial contour emerges in a different way, it has refined.  He might die at any time.   How will that feel?   We didn’t discuss it till the end of my visit.  He said for him there is no death.  One becomes “everything” rather than the single imagined “particular”.  But the physical body gets instinctively panicky.

“Listen to this,” he said again.  “One night I was told – I had to get out of bed and find my glasses and go to my desk and write it down – I was told by a Voice, very clearly – I am … You are … a particle-ar expressing of the Universal energy.  There is no separation.”

Then he reminded me, he joined a London buddhist Sangha back in 1957 or so, when we were living in Surrey.  He went to the Sangha leader, tense with questions about enlightenment and how to live.  The Sangha leader had a little room with nothing in it at all. He sat in his robe, looked up and said, “The Past is Over.  The Future has not come yet.  The Present is Now.  DO NOT WASTE IT”.

Don’t waste it.

To travel the contour satisfies the soul.  In modern high-speed trains, I feel nothing and I am cocooned and cut off, and I just want the journey to end.  The faster it goes, the longer it seems to take, and I only want to arrive.  In local bone rattlers I am in the present with the journey, and I see and feel everything: the wheels, the rails, my body, the passengers, the view;  there is no time.  The sun came out in my inner life, with an amazed smile.


I didn’t think to take my camera.  Perhaps this is just as well, because my journey would have taken twice as long.  These online images of the trail must suffice.  The rest of the photos in this post, are my old ones.

Impressions – non-chronological, but just as they come – of my ride:  a hire-bikes cafe deep in the woods called The Puffing Billy.  A lean youth in a hat and curly hair, broad Devon, potters affably, and his spaniel chews a rubber ball with ecstatic expectancy.  Here I enjoyed a tub of Cornish ice-cream and a flapjack, while admiring the power of the swollen brown river below, through steep forest.  Not far off is the titanic roar of the small falls, where salmon sometimes leap.   It was lovely to keep hearing the swirl and shout of the flooded brown waters.   The river winds and twists in a bewildering series of steeply engraved ox bows and sudden emerald meadows.  Wherever you come upon it, the current runs now to the left, then to the right.  Peter says the whole geology lifted while the river was carving its alluvian bed.

The ride goes through a tunnel or two, which was fun.  The beautiful oval bricklaying is illumined by regular lamps – the darkness, then the russet, ochre and olive splendour of the curve, the detail – like an alchemical secret in the bowels.

There are stopping points, with maps to illustrate the wildlife, the human history and the source – near the waterfall and the raised canal – where Tarka the Otter was born and began his journey.  The water, the stone and the woods are incredibly atmospheric.  There are footpaths away from the path, to climb, stalk and dream along.   Further down the trail  are startling sculptures of seated souls – or conversing otters? – decorated in lively mosaic by local school children – a strip-cartoon Henry Moore series, among the alder and the oaks.


More memories:  Setting out from Barnstaple against the wind, the dead straight lane into the enormous question of sky-weather, estuary, marshlands and the bumpy brown Burrows of Braunton across the water, was rather formidable with my long, unknown journey ahead.  As when beginning to climb a rock face, you don’t give up with one hold.  One leads to another.  You just keep going,  until you are the whole journey:  the flow and knowledge of each ledge and hold of the rock face.

So I keep pushing the pedals round and round until the landscape and horizons are embodied.   It is my life.   Being nearly 65, an instinct in my body is fearful, and protests.   The instinct is frightened my bike might break down, or I might be very late, and my father will worry.


Path near Buckland Filleigh

Yarde is the last old station before Dunsbear Halt.  I was told at Puffing Billy back near Torrington, there is a really good cup of coffee at Yarde.  But the cafe was closed;  a middle aged hairy hobbit busy rebuilding some steps … a round-house in the garden (they put up travellers) … a remote and tender furred flow of landscape … a slight fall of the gradient just ahead, to rest in top gear, after a long slow climb.

The lane is metalled and smooth from Barnstaple to Torrington, but by Torrington where it enters the old woodland, it is a path of dark gravel, puddles and old leaves; and discreet posters at each crossroads or historic halt, proclaim the North Devon Biosphere project.

Passing Bideford – a strange North Devon “Riviera” with its terraced small city, elderly bridge and boats – was enchanting, as I left the coast and went into the unknown interior.   From the direction of far-off Marland came huge rain clouds against the sun, and a spattering drift of shower here and there;  yet they seemed to disperse and break up, on meeting sea currents.   Light spilled, glowed and was veiled.

I passed hikers, bikers and dog walkers.   Every single person smiled.

The Tarka Trail and its maintenance is part of a project to promote a conscious ecology.   It transformed the old railtrack – which began to close in the 1970s – into a sylvan liberation, a new way of life.  Some landowners along the route at first refused to allow the way to be opened, so there was a tussle, which the Trust won.   In its full length the Tarka Trail is the longest maintained bike path in Britain, off the road all the way.   It links with cross country hiking trails almost as long, to the west and towards Exmoor in the east.

Young cattle near Buckland Filleigh.  Buckland Filleigh is a curiously sinister grey mansion and chapel on a wooded hill.   In it, conferences and training-courses are held.  It would make a marvellous centre for a whodunnit series.

Young cattle near Buckland Filleigh. Buckland Filleigh is a curiously sinister grey mansion and chapel on a wooded hill. In it, conferences and training-courses are held. It is a splendid location for a whodunnit series incorporating the gossip-lines all over the countryside; the old peoples’ care home nearbye – where the prime suspects are! – and remote farms in frost-pockets off the grid.


24 October  Red Book

The dew is heavy this morning, and spiders covered the frames of each window with perfect jewelled webs that blow in the breeze.  Last night we walked out and saw all the stars come out, including two shooting stars, the tail end of a meteor shower, as the sky deepened to darkest night.  First we spotted Cassiopaeia, then the Plough and the North Star;  then the Little Bear;  then the long smudge of the Milky Way as the gloaming deepened to black … a diamond-studded galaxy.  But no sign of Orion!  Perhaps he was still climbing from the horizon’s haze.   My daughter rang up and sounded happy and said she wants to do this ride with me, to Grandpa’s.  We shall have a beer when I get back.



Yesterday I visited another resident, who lives in the converted barn. He is bipolar, and said he has been ill for 40 years. We talked about his condition and how frightening it gets when he is high, and how he misses Dulverton.  I liked his landscape paintings on the walls of his spacious quarters – he is wealthy.

We discussed Jung a bit, and he cheered up with my company and made me a good cup of tea –  and fetched his copy of THE RED BOOK and lent it to me while I am here.

The mysterious – The Red Book is my Miracle manifested.  It is a great slab of pure red gold.   He bought it on Amazon a year ago, but hasn’t been able to look at it much.  It cost nearly £100.  I shall buy one as soon as I get home.  It is every bit as important as getting  new specs to see properly with.  Isn’t it amazing to touch, and see Jung’s paintings and inner mosaic – his alchemical journey from the dark into the light – and to have that process to read and absorb, as I begin my new work.   I had heard something on the grapevine, but didn’t know it is published in full facsimile, with translation and history.

Jung & his house at Bollingen

Jung is so much more than the founder of Jungian psychoanalysis.  He is a Paracelsus reborn, and the composite of many great medicine sages before that.  He is depth.  He embodied the twentieth century Conscience, with all its Shadow;  he holds the medicine-Staff.  As I knew well during my 1980s odyssey, I stood on his shoulders, and where I went was because of where he had been.  He faced Baphomet and illumined the Way.

One of the paintings in the Red Book is a great face, mosaic’d in graded squares of blue and violet, with down turned mouth and great inward eyes, like many of Jung’s interior Companions.  The expression is how my old friend Elisabeth looked:  the down turned “jungian” intensity is classic – a medieval priest embodies a path of Awe in the other realm.  Without a doubt, Elisabeth today steers me to this treasure, and to learn to become an art-therapist, like she did when she was my age.   She met Jung when she was much younger.

The above drawing was done after Jung visited and spoke to me in a dream.   In my dream, we met in a secluded garden near a house.  I showed him four drawings arranged in a square;  at least two were new portraits of him – (which I hadn’t ‘done’.) He looked at them carefully, and asked me would I please xerox him a copy?

Thus prompted, I drew it “for him” the following day.   Here it is, above; and here is another.

Jung with pipe

He visits me again, and nudges.  Carl Gustav Jung you teach me, as I want to learn to guide others.   There are some unmistakable signs and symbols around at present.  You, the 20th century in full, come from deep history, a greater and wilder depth and breadth than is generally realised on the surface … greater than even you were aware of, in Yesod.

I knew just one thing about the Red Book, as described in Memories, Dreams, Reflections – it is the abyss, the ferment from which your life’s great work, and all the academic studies, emerged.   The Red Book and the Seven Sermons to the Dead (which I have) are your creative foundation.   It is the crucible:  the rest is for linear consumption.    Elisabeth Tomalin gave me her copy of the Seven Sermons.

Elisabeth Tomalin

The Red Book is the painstaking aesthetic completion – in hand script and with all the illuminations and paintings – of what was scribbled down in Jung’s Black Books.   The Red Book was an artist’s great labour to build a monument, a Gothic cathedral.  It took decades to finish, and it is not complete.   It breaks off mid-sentence.

It seems to have begun during the Great War.  It was born from a black depression which Jung feared was psychotic;  during which he continued his clinical work, and to support his family.   His capacity was to travel, to imagine, to visualise and to remember, profoundly.  The Great Archetypes of the Styx cohered into sub-personalities, psychopomps and sages.  I remember how impressed I was in the 1980s, to read about his deep, deep dives into the ocean, at his desk – into the collective Unconscious, opening the way.  He tumbled backwards into it, like a diver, down and down:  then he painted and wrote it forth.

The Red Book emerges as the secret Fire from the great black slabs of his depression, and from the two great Wars of that era.

fountain of life

fountain of life

I used to imagine him sitting at his desk, his study, and closing his eyes and descending from there into the collective unconscious, as he journeyed.  He might be in the Underbeing for hours – his family would not disturb him.  I think it happened as he wrote.  He wrote and painted it forth.  Like Paul Foster Case touching base with Master R, Jung in his black and red books and the Seven Sermons, laid the psychic foundation … on which he would build and fill in all the volumes of his academic work, shelf after shelf, room after room.

When a house is built, a concrete foundation is poured.   When a new psychology is developed, the contact is poured, a serpentine drift of luminous colour and profundity:  the seeing in the dark.

Jung’s artistic cliché is a Celtic-christian ornamentation, rather serpentine.   These curly motifs appear in nearly all his work.   The colours and their intricate labour and subtlety are extraordinary, like medieval stained glass.  They are serpentine.   Some of the images are wonderfully disturbing.  My father took a look, and said they are phallic.   Jung began having visions of the European Fate when he was a little child.

8n Stone and Jung

One of the volumes: “Modern Man in Search of a Soul


Depression is a great slab of confinement which either captures the soul in its dream for forty years or more, OR releases the Keys to travel and liberation under the slab.  Eventually they grow up and through and crack the slab like flowers.   The Keys are always offered, but few have the ability to accept and use them.   Depression is a locked-in creative potential, not really an illness.

Jung’s Great Keys are of fluid iron, and wrought into floral patterns.  I am sure he began his visionary paintings and mandalas by doodling first, these patterns behind his eyes, and slowly, obsessively colouring them in;  he descended into the dark;  the mandalas and the statements grew into colour, organically, expanding outward into Themes, Archetypes, Great Shadows and his guide, Philemon.

The Key is the devoted precision in outlining the strange shapes behind the eyes.  It was the way I worked also.   It is the way I shall try to follow again – my signature – and encourage others to follow their own, in due course.

Another similarity is that in some of his paintings are made-up hieroglyphs.   They resemble my made-up hieroglyphs.  The fascinating pressure – of ancient forgotten languages – is engraved in the Subconscious Stone.

outgrow the gods

outgrow the gods

Underbeing & topsoil

Underbeing and the topsoil person 1988


Suddenly I have the secret of his Sermons to the Dead:  the contact he called up:  the neglected mythos.  The living stone awakens through the grave.   Tolkien did this, too, in The Return of the King.

Discovery such as this, is ongoing, day by day:  the state of discovery tends to overlay and conceal its items, as it steams along.  It is a level of living:  the passion swiftly leaves the past behind.   But in the quiet hallmark of the Red Book and the converging Jungian hints recently, and the fact that my father introduced me to Jung (though it isn’t his way at all) – (he gave me Laurens Van der Post’s biography of Jung for my 37th birthday) – is a gathering together of threads.  For me, Peter tends to be a Messenger where major signposts stand.   He is there at the crossroads.   When he dies, I will find him still welcoming me at the crossroads, and passing it on.

Peter – whose process is somewhat more Zen:  he attends to the NOW –  observed rather stiffly that Jung seemed unable to escape Christianity.  Paradoxically, the items Peter passed over to me were usually Christian – like Jung … and the sacred geometry of Notre-Dame … an article in Resurgence about quantum-physics alchemy.   Peter was raised a Catholic and rejected it during the war.


26 October     Return

Home again.  Another equally wonderful long ride yesterday – Petrockstowe to Barnstaple, stopping from time to time, to read the history, talk to people and look around at where Tarka was born – near the waterfall and a little downstream from the stone canal-viaduct bridge:  also to understand the ingenuity of the architecture in the raised canal, its ghostly remains, and the steep inclined bit at Rolle where the clever Victorians cranked the watery conduit and its traffic up and down 40 feet between the woods and the riverbed.   The young guy mending bikes at the Puffing Billy told me one of his mates saw an otter today – they are coming back.  Salmon leap up the falls sometimes;  the otters like to eat them.  My daughter saw the leaping salmon once, when Peter took her for a drive/walk up the Torrington valley.

The weather all the way averted the sharp showers around Buckland Filleigh – just a faint spatter here and there, from far off;  warm blue sky and swift cotton clouds.   It was an easy ride up the line from Petrockstowe to Dunsbear – hardly any gradient.  I pretended I am on a Kabbalistic journey, and I “went up the Tree”.   I have the map in my body and being.   I am an old train.

I stopped at Bideford Station on the trail, for a bite – where a retired railway carriage is parked.  An elderly lady from Manchester runs the cafe in it;  she made me a delicious bacon bap and coffee, and I basked in the nostalgia of the crafted older trains with proper seats and windows (the modern cattle trucks insult their passengers) and took away two free Bideford newspapers.   Bideford is the Riviera-regatta of North-west Devon.   The revisit is enchanting.    I crossed the river and rode around the bright old town.   It was the gateway towards our family holidays on the Hartland coast, fifty years ago.

At Instow sands, I walked out across them to the water’s edge, little waves.   The brisk wind knocked Bike over, and nearly blew away my shoes – I had to run after them.

Instow sands looking across to Appledore - a Victorian painting

Instow sands looking across to Appledore – a Victorian painting


The hardest bit of the journey is the Barnstaple estuary because it is very exposed to the wind, and endlessly straight.  Footpaths off it invite you to the wild life sanctuary along the water-lands, which was reclaimed and nurtured by a Gaia society since the war.   This is an exploration for next time.   Along this five-mile part of the route, you have to be the sky and keep plodding.


When I arrived at the station, there was a train waiting, the guard said “Come.”   Bike and I hopped on, and off we went, back up the River Taw and down the River Something-or-other to the Exe and Exeter.  All the rivers were brown and swollen with huge rains, the trees waded in them, almost spilling into the bright green fields.   More rough weather arrives this weekend.

At Exeter there was only a ten minute wait for the Duchy of Cornwall to London, which was full up, everyone standing and disconsolate.   Here I discovered I had lost my purse, containing memory-stick and dongle.   The only place I could have dropped it was at the train cafe in Bideford when paying for my bacon bap.   Trying not to fret, during the long stand-up two and a half hours to London … how to contact that nice old woman in Bideford through the Tarka Trail management …

At home I cancelled my debit card, but at the end of the evening I FOUND my purse in the blue rucsac – where I had searched before, unable to see or find it in the hugger mugger cattle-express.




An Old Man and a Lamp

I know a young woman who got trapped in a broken lift with a powerful persuasive personality.  The P.P.P. installed his voice and his beliefs in her Systems Preferences.  Now the lift is getting repaired …

Mixed metaphor of being trapped in a lift with a maniac – and of the way a programme installed in her operating system is being gently de-installed; for re-programming.   The System board on our computer is where we have all our settings of time, memory, security etc.  Doesn’t this happen an awful lot in difficult relationships?

When I wrote “trapped in a lift” up there, I mistyped “life” – life with a maniac.   Most of us live with our Inner Maniac in some form or another;  and fine ideas get nowhere.  The Maniac might be projected grotesquely onto our environment;  when we meet and fall in step with someone who is abusive.   The inner Maniac is a negative archetype – something we came to believe in.   Now comes a working insight:  going back long before the pattern of abuse manifested …  what, in the soul’s hinterland, brought to the foreground this particular Maniac?

I got a feel for it just now, like the wind on my wetted finger.    Psychotherapy can touch the place, by feeling and holding that interior thread as it comes to life; and becoming response-able to it.   The language may be a past-life memory, or it may be existential, beyond speech.  Therapy with a wise counsellor, is as transmutative as the Alchemy which self-hears.   It is the same process.

Jung sat down with his clients, and they investigated the subconscious together, like two old philosophers.

If you begin to feel safe with someone, there are lurching episodes when you don’t;  and that is where the living thread – the fishing net – is tested.

Something profound in my subconscious, born to receive the Laws of Karmic justice, welcomed the presence of a Maniac in my life, and in someone else’s.   I see that influence now, and I see its victim, not as someone I think I know, but as the greater part whose history I don’t know, the part which entered my life stream with its own burden and agenda.   The confluence made me the richer in understanding, and broke many shells.

I speak enigmatically.   Insights arise, which I want to share right now, but confidences are kept. The bearing of a heavy Karmic burden is yet a centre of gravity and truth, and it inspires respect and affection.

oak and ivy


I am reluctant to write about people I am close to.  I am shy to, without asking them.  I select matters of common interest – things which happen to us all.

We had a really good relaxed time together.   His lungs are a bit watery.   We took the keyboard action out of the Basche piano – it is a Petrof baby grand, made by his Czech grandfather for a wedding-present to his wife – and filed the small knobs of lead in between each wooden key inside, with a nail-file, so they won’t stick.   They tend to swell in damp weather.   Then I gave the whole inside a good clean – a century’s small dust and lead-particles!   My great-great grandfather positioned the wood sections under the keyboard, now clean and good as new:  his handiwork, his touch.

The whole task required concentration, especially our accurate coordination together to lift the heavy action back into the frame.  Concentration on the job at hand, third eye focus, is really a simple key to everything.   Skill is wellbeing;  and skill is application.

I had a few happy hours with some new favourite bits in the Beethoven sonatas.   Spell them carefully, concentrating with the finger detail, and sometimes getting it nearly right;   climb the amateur mountain towards the astounding spiritual beauty of Beethoven’s musical thought.  He jotted it down as he walked and shouted in all weathers, among wet trees with an open coat.   I  dreamed once I met him too, in an underground room.  He had a small daughter, who had already lived so deeply it was beyond telling, in her eyes.

The Basche Petrof is a lively beast – the action takes some mastering;  the bass octaves growl;  a lyrical voice is coaxed forth surprisingly, dusky with the depth and song of old Beethoven.   This piano had a hard time when it lived in the damp Pittbridge valley:  it does a lot better on the hilltop with discreet underfloor heating.

Allegro from the Funeral March Sonata opus 26

Allegro from the Funeral March Sonata opus 26

The Petrof


My father calls the care home where he lives, “the community.” It has a lush green garden, a couple of stunted old oaks, and a few young apple saplings drop fruit.   Around the main farmhouse live three or four elderly and independent folk in their barns and piggeries.  Inside the house is a convivial bedsheet chaos of the demented, the bedridden, and the lonely dying.  The place prospers with friendly root fibres all over the region, linking to farms and villages.  They have good cooks, and a cheery Devon staff, and the architectural conversion is excellent – but carrying my father’s dinner tray back to the kitchen in the main house, I skidded on mud and the dishes went flying!    When Peter first moved there, the manager rigged up a video link from a nest of young blackbirds in the garden to all the TV sets – it was rolling news.   But the residents in their armchairs dozed.   When Peter was stronger, he helped with the garden roses, and pruned fruit trees in nearby farms.


lamp outline

We saw his neighbour again for tea.   He got out a pile of his watercolours to show us.  He also read out some poems he wrote when he was high.

When it is acute, it is indeed incommunicable.   Depression is an obsession with oneself.   Depression is an inability to concentrate on anything else, and the sufferer gets shut out from humanity.

I found the poems authentic, deep and interesting.   But for a tiny neural imbalance and the ignorance in medical and family conditioning, the sad old poet had access to The Path.  He said that during his “episodes” he starts to “save the world”.  I know that feeling, and  the intense sorrow of its non-viability.  Nowadays the drugs knock it down:  a culture of addiction and isolation, which knows no other way at the moment.  I gave him my address to keep in touch.

It is astonishing to find the red book in the barn.  Before the barn was converted, and the poet came to live there, it was full of old zimmer frames, spare walking sticks and puddles from a leaky roof.   The red book glows and shines forth from within the depression, just as it came forth from Jung’s dark night of the soul.   The depression is a slab which covers the secret fire, until it is ripe.   The depression is a charcoal burner.   Inside it there are pictures …


The Secret Dakini Oracle 37 represents TWO fires.  The fire in the background consumes the Earth (planet).  The flame in the foreground is a crucible of the Self, observing the other.   There is a radical letting go – a burning up – of past confinements and attachments.

Lamps get rubbed and release genies.   Dark,dirty lamps.

Most of the old poet’s landscapes are Devon and Exmoor scenes – knotted trees, fields and the colourful personalities of cattle.   He did a farming life.  In some of his more manic and radiant watercolours, he sketched a lamp of the soul – an oil lamp, clear and lit.  He fetched from another room the lamp which is their model.  I remembered the sound, the glass and chink of old oil lamps in cottages which didn’t have “the electric”.   Such a lamp with its glass amber glow, took us upstairs to bed.

The poet’s lamp was spotless clear and clean.  It is dormant.   It is in his life.

The issue of rubbing old lamps, and releasing the genie, is interesting.  The image was in my Watershed dreams from time to time, in the 1970s.   Old lanterns! – a pile of them – and old water-jars;  and changing the light-bulbs in hell.

The lamp is covered with Karmic smoke, and when Aladdin rubs it, out jumps an unknown genie in a snaky whirl of smoke and light, who asks him what he desires.

The genies are denizens of the soul.  Their first appearance can be very scary and unpredictable.

butterlamp - Version 2


Secret Dakini Oracle 27 – The Magic Carpet – takes us to the Arabian fables and Tales of the Lamp.

When I discover the Treasury of the Self, as Aladdin did with his Lamp, I then decide and learn how I will handle it for the rest of my life.   Learn the psychology of my wishes, and what they bring forth.

self portrait, 1975





My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

aquariel link – posts about Master R and “What is Love?”

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