Archive for July, 2013

moonThere’s a wealth of lore regarding the moon. It features in our ritual and our calendars, and there’s always been a belief in its ability to affect our mood. Until recently however respectable scientists have poured scorn on the idea, pointing out there is no known mechanism by which the moon can affect the mind. The only known force the moon exerts upon the earth, they say, is gravity, but while the moon’s gravity can indeed raise ocean tides, a scientist will assure you the gravitational effect it has on my brain is no more than the gravitational pull exerted by the computer I’m typing this into. It’s true – gravity is not the answer, but then respectable mystics no longer maintain that it is.

Personally, I’ve always held that the moon does have an effect on the psyche – perhaps not everyone’s, but certain sensitive individuals – and that it’s quite common, and natural, and I don’t mind that we don’t yet know, conclusively, what the mechanism is. My evidence is subjective and entirely experiential. I’ve simply noticed that the time coming up to full moon is when I’m at my most creatively and emotionally outgoing. It’s when things get done, and the energy needed for them just flows. Conversely, following the full moon I become gradually more contemplative, more inward looking, and less creatively active, with a definite hiatus around the time of the new moon when my brain floats aimlessly about like a boat that’s lost its anchor. Of course I still have to do what needs to be done, but it can be a real struggle to get my brain in gear and, regarding, the energy, it feels like I’m running on empty.

It’s interesting that my personal diary backs this up. Searches for things like: “disconnection”, “airiness” and “spaced out” all closely correlate with the period around new moons. This is a time for leasure-reading, for meditating, for dreaming, and for inviting syncronicities – not for actively seeking to influence outcomes in the real world.

Of course, it could be that I’m simply looking at the moon, seeing what phase it is, and adjusting my mood to suit, rather than actually responding to subtle earth-energies, and all that other new-age guff. That’s fair enough, in which case you might say I  I simply favour maintaining an awareness of the moon, and other aspects of the natural world, and aligning myself to its rhythms, like my ancestors once did. I am, in short, not looking to prove anything, either to myself or to others. It is what it is, and it seems to work for me.

But if it’s true, my suspicion has always been that the mechanism is tied up with the earth’s magnetic field and its perturbations resulting from the constant buffeting it gets from the solar wind. And, since the moon moves around inside this system of magnetic flux, it’s feasible it has a regulating effect, and that a lunar signature should be detectable in the geomagnetic data.

If you study the figures for daily geomagnetic flux levels, as published by NOAA*, put it all in a giant spreadsheet and apply some filtering, you can indeed pick out an effect, a rising and falling in intensity of the geomagnetic index with a period that correlates with the lunar phase. Other’s have looked at this too, including NASA analysts in the past (Stolov et al 1965), and come up with the same thing. There may be other space weather experts who can elaborate on it now, but, while fascinating, my understanding is this research has always been considered inconclusive, controversial, and somehow not a respectable field for any career conscious scientist to be associated with at all – dare I say because it sounds like lunacy?

But non-scientists, like me, have no difficulty with it, nor in suggesting we might be picking up on the earth’s lunar modulated geomagnetic “vibrations” through the pineal gland, a  pine-cone shaped organ located deep in the brain. It’s sensitive to magnetic fields, and regulates the body’s circadian rhythms – things like sleep patterns – through the secretion of melatonin. Again, scientists have long blown raspberries at this idea, but a recently published study has indeed shown changes in blood chemistry and sleep patterns correlated with the phases of the moon. It’s summarised as a news item on the BBC here. This is the first time I’ve ever read of any respectable research in this area that was not wholly sceptical. So maybe science is beginning to catch up with myth, with sober research data now pointing in the direction mystics have been indicating all along; that it really does make a difference what moon it is.

*NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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big assDo you drink alcohol? Have you ever tried giving up? I’m finding it’s very hard. I like wines and spirits, also the occasional glass of beer. I try to stick to the UK government’s health guidelines for consumption which is about 4 units per day for a man, but I do exceed this sometimes. Now, however, I’m trying to kick the bottle and the reason is this: I’ve discovered I’m  alcohol intolerant.

 I wrote a little while ago about how I’d noticed a glass of wine would cause me to lose my sense of smell. The reaction took only a matter of minutes. I would start out with, for example, a nice glass of Merlot, being able to smell it, but by the time I’d finished, my sense of smell was gone – gone for days. I wrote whimsically that I had a choice – I could either go on smelling the wine, or I could taste it. I resolved not to taste it of course, because that was the sensible thing, but signing the pledge hasn’t proved at all easy.

I find myself still drinking – even telling myself I’m experimenting to see which wine or spirit causes the problem, if it’s something other than the alcohol I’m intolerant to. It isn’t. Alcohol – in any consumable form – causes the inside of the nose to swell – this is a well known fact. If you have other problems in there, as I do, with say polyps for example, you can lose your sense of smell and it can take ages to come back. Drink regularly, say every day, and you can quickly become entirely anosmic.

So why can’t I stop, since I clearly want to?

This week my sense of smell returned, after having been absent for several weeks, and I immediately celebrated the fact, with a small glass of wine, which led to another glass of wine and the eventual loss of my sense of smell, again. I’d apparently forgotten I was intolerant and that was really stupid.

The long term health issues of consuming alcohol are of course, quite terrifying – anosmia being the least of the potential troubles it can cause, so clearly it’s in all our interests, as with smoking, not to indulge at all. But how realistic is that, given the amount of exposure these legal mood enhancers get? One of the things I’ve noticed, while trying to keep to the pledge, is the number of reminders we get  that alcohol is available, and that it’s socially essential. TV soaps are a terrible source of this subliminal messaging. They appear in the early evening, and no matter what the plot or who is doing what to whom, everyone is also drinking while they’re doing it.

I think to myself, I’ve not thought about alcohol all day. I’d be quite happy to settle down with my laptop and a cup of tea, but then I’ll glance at the telly and the alcohol is flowing as freely as at some Bacchanalian orgy. So I start to think about trotting off to the corner shop for a bottle of chilled white wine.


It’s also hard when others around you are drinking as I’ve noticed the tendency is for friends and family to look up sharp when you refuse the drink and go for the fizzy water instead, and then you have to trot out the explanation, and endure all the cooing and the quack cures for your dodgy nose.

It’s easier to just take the drink.

I shall be redoubling my efforts in future, but there’s a bit of Big Ass Chardonnay left in that bottle in the fridge. I’ll just have that first because it’ll be a shame to waste it!

Only joking. I drank that ages ago.

4 days without breaking the pledge, and counting!

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dickens2One of our primary objectives as human beings is to prove, if only to ourselves, we’re actually alive. We do this by attempting to influence outcomes, by making sure others notice us and by feeling we are somehow in control, at least of those forces we perceive to be responsible for shaping our personal future. By this standard some of us clearly lead much bigger lives than others, but we all know bigger lives do not necessarily result in happiness nor insightfulness. Indeed the biographies of those who have lived the biggest lives more often read like a litany of blind disaster, lives overshadowed by clouds of profound dissatisfaction, self-loathing, and a permanent craving to be something or someone even bigger than the gargantuan mess they already are.

The shocking truth is it turns out there’s no difference at all between big people and small people. We all crave the same thing, and it’s always bigger, always “more” than the thing we’ve already got.

If I’m honest with  myself, in the early days of my writing “career”, it was not the writing so much as the desire to be published that motivated me. To be published, I thought, would be a powerful affirmation of self-worth. To have my thoughts accepted and digested and beautifully packaged by the most enlightened gurus of the publishing industry would have planted the crown of greatness squarely upon my head. It would have transformed the nervous, reticent, lovelorn teenager that I was into a demi-god, bursting with self confidence, oozing grace and charm,… and more, I would have been able to quit the day job, and attract beautiful women merely by virtue of the fact that I was a “writer” and – regarding the women – if that didn’t work I would simply buy myself a Porsche which, as everyone knows, come already fitted with beautiful women as passenger seat adornments!

Dogged persistence over many years of the dark pre-internet era did eventually result in the  publication of some words in small-press magazines but alas my earnings rarely amounted to anything more than a free copy of the magazine itself. There was always the chance it might lead on to bigger things, but it never did. I discovered this was all right though, because something had changed. Disappointment at my apparent worthlessness has shape-shifted into something else.

I had grown up.

I look back upon that period now merely as an affirmation I was capable of stringing sentences together. I also learned I did not have to work for the words to come; the words came of their own accord. I simply sat before the typewriter, opened that valve in my mind, and out they poured. Ergo, I could write, of a fashion, write for ever it seemed, but it was never going to make me any bigger than I was. But it didn’t seem to matter any more.

Reconciliation of one’s smallness, one’s insignificance, is perhaps the greatest open secret – that we miss so much of life when we turn our backs on what we are and what we have and for ever seek instead what we have not. In the great rush to become big and to disprove all the evidence of our insignificance it seems peculiar to turn against the tide and seek meaning instead in one’s apparent meaninglessness. But I think that is exactly what each of us in our own ways must learn to do.

In the great outback of Australia there stands a lone roadside shack in which there lives a man who has never, in eighty five years,  known any more of the world than what he has seen within a twenty mile radius of that sun baked, dusty spot. Question: is his life any smaller than that of the globe trotting business man, who at that moment is flying at thirty thousand feet above the toothless old man’s head?

I might have said yes, once, long ago – unequivocally yes – but I recognise this now as an immature and rather unenlightened view. It’s more a question of insight and self-awareness, and how we attain that state is more a letting go than a mastery of events. To answer for sure we would have to know what was in the heart of each of those men. Only then would it be revealed how truly big a life each had lived – because a big man with a small heart is still a small man.

It’s a mystery how and why life pops up to bear witness to itself from all these different perspectives. Nor at first glance does it seem necessary to Life that every detail of it be recorded for posterity. It will, for example,  be no great loss to the world when these words sink to that great sedimentary mire that is the resting place of even the most prolific bloggers’ pontifications. Yet those of us who can write, should, because only by writing do we broaden the vision of life, not just for others but perhaps more importantly for ourselves.

So, think you’re big enough to be a writer? Answer: anyone is big enough to be a writer. Just don’t set out with the view that by writing you shall ever amount to anything more than what you are right now, at least when judged by the usual worldly measure of these things. That’s not the deal. You write because you write. You reflect life back upon itself, without judgment or expectation, and let life itself, in all its variety, decide through your words the measure of its own greatness.

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And speaking of plagiarism,…

It seems I’m still publishing on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace! An early non-fiction work titled: “The Hexagrams of the Book of Changes” keeps popping up on there. The miscreant is doggedly persistent. However, it’s not exactly a best seller  and the subject matter is esoteric to say the least, so it’s unlikely many have been duped into downloading it for money. Just on the off chance, if you were in the market for such a thing, do beware – the Michael Graeme who pops up on there from time to time selling my books, is not the genuine Michael Graeme.

This is not to be confused with Michael Graham of course, the American talk show host who is a genuine author of several books on Amazon, and the other Michael Graham, genuine author of the novel “The Future Visible”, also available on the Kindle Marketplace.

I am, however, so far as I’m aware, the only genuine Michael Graeme and, unless my various alternate realities have got their wires crossed here, I do not publish on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace.

Well, that’s cleared that one up.

So, will the real Michael Graeme please stand up?


It’s a lovely hot day today – too nice to be inside, blogging. He’s off for a walk.

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When I think of the town, I think of what has gone.
I think of factories boarded and barred,
Once great houses of power,
All chopped,
Into an untidy miscellany of sporadic,
Shambolic enterprise.

I remember long years bent over drawing boards,
Tracing lines with ink,
And shaping metals into structures,
Possessed of a strange beauty;
Art by any other name.

And I think of the men and women who worked,
In the ugliness of dirt and roar,
Who by their presence, gave it warmth and meaning,
And on whose going are we bequeathed,
This unredeemable emptiness.

There is no romance in an empty mill,
Nor in a poor man’s pocket,
No nobility in the fall of men,
From doing men’s work.
For a man’s wage.

There is only the emptiness of this old town,
With nothing but memories of its past,
And streets painted with an already peeling veneer,
Of cheapness, and the transience of these,
Our modern times.


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