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Focus on the Hocus Pocus December 2, 2009

Posted by markswill in Media, That's Entertainment.

Occasionally I write film reviews for our local listings magazine, occasionally I proof-read it, and occasionally I deliver the finished product to the various hostelries, libraries etc., where it’s picked up gratis by a public thirsting for knowledge of where they might shake a tailfeather of a Saturday night in the soggy hinterlands of the Welsh (Squelch?) Marches.

But unlike that grand-daddy of listings magazines, Time Out (for which I have also worked, in this case for real money), Broad Sheep – for such is it wittily titled – contains several pages of ‘Complimentary Therapies’ which I occasionally skim through and having done so, seethe over. Broad Sheep’s editor, a dear friend of some forty years standing, wisely caveats these pages by taking “no responsibility for their content”, but I wish to go a bit further and point out, with customary understatement, that generally speaking they’re a load of hokum.

I know I risk opprobrium and possibly having a rat nailed to my front door by saying this in a part of the country where employment opportunities are limited but Crystal and Shamanic Healing (?!), Starlight Essences (!?!) and Ear Candling (!?!?!) are simply ways of separating the vulnerable and gullible from their money. Ditto Authentic Movement (surely something we all do when we fall out of bed hungover in the morning?) and Colour Therapy (oh, a yellow wall, I feel better now) are pure hocus-pocus masquerading as cures for the human condition which, as we all know, is fundamentally flawed.

Not that I completely eschew complimentary medicine, for I once had my sciatica permanently banished by a nice lady who stuck needles in me, albeit at a cost of several hundred pounds over 18 months, and a post-motorcycle accident back problem cured by a fellow biker who also happened to be a hot-shot osteopath. But these are both proven techniques recognised by the NHS as effective in certain circumstances and not phony panaceas relying entirely on the questionable convictions of the person signing the cheques. I must also admit that this ire was fired by a report in last week’s Sunday Times that Boots the High Street Comedians continue to stock homeopathic ‘remedies’ despite there being “no evidence to suggest that they are efficacious”, (i.e. they don’t work) because “a large number of our customers believe they are efficacious”.

This somewhat accords with my own attempts, prompted by a well-meaning ex-girlfriend, that I try and stem my rising blood pressure a few years ago by any means possible… except drugs. This I duly did with (expensive) visits to a homeopath, cranial osteopath, medical herbalist, acupuncturist and shiatsu-ist (there weren’t any snake-oil salesmen around at the time), none of which had the slightest effect and if that was because I simply didn’t buy into their various schticks, then so be it. But I certainly wanted a cure and got one within two days of visiting my GP, the medication he prescribed coming free on the Welsh NHS (see, there are some benefits to living here).

And talking embracing mumbo-jumbo, I mentioned in my last blog a nightmare drive through rain-lashed Shropshire for an evening of “druid chanting, finger cymballing and other new-age nonsense” which I might enlarge on later, and that later is now. Not wishing to be (too) cruel, I should say that the event in Shrewsbury’s cathedral-like St. Mary’s Church was a source of wonder and not-inconsiderable-although-necessarily- stifled mirth. It was hosted by a camp middle-aged gent with a massive white bouffant and a gray lurex (yes, lurex) cape called Mystic Ed who my companion immediately re-christened Mystic Egg. Mr Egg eulogised the considerable virtues of the various performers and organisers all of whom is seemed were capable of transforming the mundane treacheries and disappointments of our modest lives into well-springs of shimmering wonderment and eternal wisdom (that’s almost verbatim, but not quite).

With the exception of my friend’s friends who’d traveled up from London as a favour to the lady who Mr Egg endlessly lauded prior to her 15 minutes of fame at the finger cymbals (and here I’m not exaggerating at all), the performers almost universally wore that look of beatific smugness which so often translates into disdain for anyone who questions their dippy philosophies, the music itself being largely Chris de Burgh for the hippie set, i.e. aimless, tuneless and completely unmemorable.

We were thus relieved to leave early for the Yorkshire House pub, conveniently located –in a ying’n’yang kinda way – alongside the church and home to Shrewsbury’s goths, heavy-metallists and biker hordes who were having much more fun than any of the sackcloth- or home knit-clad miserablists lapping up Mystic Egg and his chums next door. But I should say that we weren’t the only refugees from the hallowed portals who slunk into the rowdy Yorkshire House for a restorative tincture, and it was also telling to see a few flowing robed figures huddling in the porch cupping a furtive roll-up.

Not that I wish to condone cigarette-smoking of course, indeed in the absence of any paid proof-reading or film reviewing this month, I might just develop my own complimentary therapy designed to kick the evil weed with a spot of Transformative Gesture Hands-on Healing™ using empty vodka bottles and bent Lancia con-rods.

Talking of which, if perchance you watched last Sunday’s Top Gear you might’ve glimpsed my lovely Gamma Coupe shortly before it lunched in engine (blogs passim) during Clarkson’s peculiar love/hate item on classic Lancias.  More on which anon. Perhaps.

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1. WTK - December 2, 2009

Exactly why all citizenry should be armed.
Well written blog, my friend!

2. markswill - December 2, 2009

Either that, or we put cyanide in their joss-sticks.

3. baz o'connor - December 4, 2009

My son Norman, a clergyman and I are simple chapel folk, and though unburdened by worldly cares and opinions or the coming resurrection were alarmed by your investigative dip into the back alleys of Shrewsbury and the black arts that have long festered there.
Did you have no sense of the danger you were in?
Recently our Mr. Egg on entering an elevator in Glastonbury and upon the doors closing but catching on his ankle length cape, his genitalia were exposed which immediately rendered the other 6 occopants unconscious and who were then only revived with great difficulty.
It turns out our Mr Egg is a hermaphrodite climatologist and well known as such to the ever alert and watchful Shrewsbury police.

markswill - December 4, 2009

It’s spooky that you should mention Mr. Egg and his private parts since I well know about your predilection for tantric sex (taught you, I believe, by a Mr. G. Summers) and it actually occurred to me that he (Egg, not Sting) might be your father. But since I don’t really wish to further alert the authorities to your current whereabouts, I didn’t mention it.

Suffice to say I escaped from Shrewsbury unscathed, although I have developed a bit of a limp recently.

4. Frank Westworth - December 4, 2009

Did you know that Gilli Smyth, aka Shakti Yoni (OK; go google that!)(if you dare) from the planet Gong, is now 77? My feeling of synergy with MarkW is because I’ve almost recovered from having my eardrums imploded by Gong’s version of “druid chanting, finger cymballing and other new-age nonsense”. Not once but twice; the experience being so grand in Exeter that I was forced to motor over to Oxford for a slight reprise.
Uplifting stuff. If a little loud…

markswill - December 4, 2009

Funnily enough, I briefly stepped out with a Gilli Smyth a few years ago, but she wasn’t in her 70s and although she was a mean guitarist and pianist, the main problem was her uncanny resemblance to the Duchess of Cornwall. I’m not sure what relevance this has to anything at all, but then does anything in the cosmically challenging times?

5. Frank Westworth - December 4, 2009

And in a truly exciting fateful twist, I can share that I also once … ah … stepped out with a Gilli Smyth (in unconvincing disguise as ‘Jill Smith’ at the time). But she didn’t look even faintly like the Duchess of Cornwall. In fact, in another fatuous twist, she did look rather like the youthful (1975-ish) version of Bambaloni Yoni (also a Gongster of lengthy … ah … standing).
However, looks aren’t everything, as she demonstrated by ditching me and my style-packed AJS mosickle for some pimply erk with a Minivan. Hope his subframes rotted off.
Sorry to read about your limp (checks for spurious apostrophes for fear of causing offence). Hope things firm up again.

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