Who Am I? Part Seventeen


This is the building on the Kembrey Park Industrial Estate (known as “Cherry Orchard”) where I worked for the utility company in the Corporate Accounts Dept.

1998 was a pretty good year. As the months went by I decided that I wanted to move on from the call centre and I watched the staff notice board closely to see what other vacancies came up. I saw a job advertised in Corporate Accounts and went for it. I was successful in my application, so after two years on the call centre I was on the move. It meant I would be working in a different building but on the same site. My feelings were that I wasn’t getting any younger, and having wasted my education and early working years, I decided that this was my last chance of building a career. I was now dealing with my own designated list of commercial customers. On the surface it seemed ideal, but some of the accounts were an absolute mess and of course, there were accounts that were in dispute. So, it wasn’t all plain sailing but it was better than having customers screaming in my ear.

I was settled in the flat and had a very close female friend, Maggie, who I spent a lot of time with. We’d been friends virtually since I started working full-time, and became very close during 1997. We went on holiday a few times together and in the summer of 1998 we became an item! There was 15 years between us, but Maggie was very mature for her age and we had some great times together.

Another change happened as the year was drawing to a close. Within the same office as the Corporate Accounts team there was the Key Accounts team. It was a very small team of two customer agents who looked after the biggest customers. These were the big corporations whose bills would be for hundreds of thousands of pounds, or even in excess of a million pounds. As well as the two customer agents there was three key account managers who were not office based. So, the agents would have their designated customer accounts to administer and the account managers would be on face-to-face terms with the customers “out in the field”, as they say. One of the agents was taking a team manager’s job and I was asked if I would like to take her place in key accounts. I agreed to move, but I only had to move a couple of feet as the girl I was replacing sat opposite me! Things appeared to be going swimmingly well. I had more stability within myself; and sinking into the depths of darkness seemed to be a thing of the past. The job might not have been the best paid in the world, but I was now earning more money than I’d ever earned in my life. I’d also developed a taste for red wine and Gorse Hill was a bachelor boy’s paradise with several supermarkets for buying my booze and a plethora of restaurants and fast food joints.

Me and Maggie had a good thing together but we were not joined at the hip. We would go for long country walks and meals, and during the time we’d known each other we visited the Lake District, Cornwall, Devon, the Peak District, Wales, Northumberland and the Isle of Wight to name just a few of the beautiful places our travels took us to. We both also liked our own space and sometimes we would not see each other for a week to ten days. Life was good and as we entered December 1998 I was given another opportunity. The manager of Corporate and Key Accounts approached me; I had only been in my new position for a couple of weeks, and he said that the industry was gong to go through drastic and exciting changes in the coming years. In line with these developments the organisation was forming a new Customer Marketing Division, which would be based in Reading. He said that I was under no obligation to move, however, the key account positions would be moving to Reading to form part of this new all-singing-all-dancing marketing division. He painted a rosy picture of sexy new jobs, with salaries to match, and gave me the impression that all else would be swept aside by this incredible tsunami of positive change that was going to engulf the industry. I was tempted, very tempted; and also excited, but commuting to Reading presented an obstacle. An 80 mile round trip every day! It would cost me a fortune in fuel.

A few days later I went to the spiritualist church and the medium came to me with a message. He said, “you are hesitating about something. You have been offered a golden opportunity”. I will never forget those words, “golden opportunity”. Had I known then exactly what that meant I might have declined the offer of the new position in Reading. But I was only thinking in worldly terms and on Monday morning I told the manager I was up for it. It’s a funny thing in life, that the soul’s definition of things is completely different to the human definition. As it happened it was a golden opportunity that I don’t regret, but it took me to a place of great pain first in order that I could free myself from the self-imposed shackles that had been holding me back for years.

It was agreed that the company would provide me with a rail warrant for the first six months. After that I would have to fend for myself, but I intended to use that six month period to nab one of the sexy new jobs that were being created. It all happened really quickly, two weeks before Christmas in 1998 I started the new job in Reading. The writing should have been on the wall from the off. Our Customer Services Director at the time, a lady called Jane May, took us all out for a celebration lunch to launch the new division. At that time there wasn’t that many of us, but the bill still came to £950, which was mainly for wine! Jane was a very nice lady who was always warm and friendly towards the staff, but soon after the official launch, she went off sick and we never saw her again. We were now into the early part of 1999. But I will finish with another little anecdote from the tail end of 1998.

I was still involved with the theatre productions put on by John Williams. Towards the end of 1998 he’d organised another night of theatre in Highworth. He gathered a group of actors together and we were to put on an extremely truncated production of Macbeth, to take place about two weeks before Christmas. John became the butt of the group’s jokes and it was obvious that the dynamic was not as it should be. To cut a long story short, the performance was absolutely awful, and it remains to this day the last time I ever set foot on a stage. I had made up my own batch of fake blood to use in the production, and in the dim light of the stage during the crucial moment, I’d managed to spill most of it onto the boards. On top of that the evening had ended with a distinctly icy atmosphere between John and the actors. He phoned me up a few days later; he wasn’t happy! He said he’d been given grief by the people who ran the community centre because of the fake blood all over the stage. He also expressed his general displeasure. A few months later I bumped into him in a supermarket in Swindon. There was no animosity between us, but it was the last time I ever saw him and my theatre days were over.

Soon my life would change forever!

PS See you when I get back from Nepal…

 

Who Am I? Part Six


The truth was about to come out…

When I arrived at Kathy and Joe’s place it was obvious that something had been going down. I’d no sooner got through the door when Kathy said, “I’ll leave you two to talk”. Sonja then proceeded to tell me that the whole thing was true; she really was the most stupid international criminal mastermind in the entire history of the human race. However, it doesn’t end there. My wife, being a compulsive liar, had ulterior motives for telling me the truth. It turned out that within about 24 hours of me leaving her ex-boss’s office that day, roughly two weeks before I left Germany, he set off for the UK and turned up on Kathy and Joe’s doorstep at 08:00 in the morning with a “heavy”, just as Joe was leaving for work. The heavy apparently wasn’t much of a heavy, but that’s not the point. I couldn’t believe that Sonja would bring that kind of nonsense into the house of friends who had been kind to us. But she did leave a forwarding address after all…

Somehow, Joe let them in and left for work,leaving Kathy and Sonja with the two “geezers”. Sonja was confronted with her dastardly deeds and had a piece of paper thrust in front of her, which she promptly signed! The piece of paper was her admission to the theft of her ex-boss’s money. He now had her over a barrel. She told me that she signed the piece of paper because, “I was so frightened I literally wet myself”. I was more annoyed about being lied to than anything else; had I known that my wife was a criminal mastermind I could have prepared myself. But it did explain a few things. It explained why she was always taking money from the cash box when I went to pick her up in the evening. It also explained why she’d been removed from the other job; she had obviously been stealing from her other employer too. Two things I never understood though, why we never had anything to show for her actions; for the life of me I just don’t know what she did with all the money she stole. The other thing was that I could never work out what all that working on Christmas day stuff was about. It was obviously a lie; I can only assume that she arranged to spend part of Christmas day with someone else because she did not get any attention from me.

Sonja’s ex-boss had her signed admission of guilt and was going to involve solicitors. She was terrified and looked to me for support, but I was still angry at what she’d done and told her I would stick by her but as it was her mess she needed to resolve it. She needed to engage her own solicitor and wanted me to come with her, but I said no and told her she had to do it herself. In fairness to her she did. The money owed was whittled down to £1000, which to be honest, I thought was a bit light. But her ex-boss, via the negotiating of the solicitors, said that if she agreed to pay him £1000 he wouldn’t take it any further. It broke my heart to write that cheque! I told her that if she ever lied to me again and I found out, we were over.

We over-stayed our welcome at Kathy and Joe’s; it’s not really relevant to go into the details, but various things happened and I decided that we could not impose on them any longer. I went out one day and drove the 15 miles or so into Swindon and rented a house from a dodgy letting agency (you must be thinking that I use the word “dodgy” quite a lot, but it was just the way things were then). The rent, including rates, or whatever it was called back in 1986, was £300 per calendar month, which was a hell of a lot for that era. I didn’t realise until we’d moved in that I’d rented a house smack, bang in the middle of Swindon’s red light area…

Somehow, amid all the chaos, I’d finalised all the necessaries in regard to my job with Sun Alliance Services, and I’d been on a two-week training course in Wales. We were residing at 80 Gladstone Street, just off the town centre in Swindon and my marriage was just going further and further down the tubes. We still had some stuff stored in Kathy and Joe’s garage, but Joe’d had enough of us and during a visit to Lyneham, without Sonja, he told me he wanted it out as soon as possible. I should also mention that the “Adams Family” had moved to Kent when Doug got posted back to the UK, and Sonja had been communicating with her mother via Kathy and Joe’s phone. This was during the days before competition when BT had the monopoly and call charges were still high, especially during the day. I’d used their phone a few times, so just before we left I wrote Joe a cheque for £5, which would have more than covered my usage. However, nobody really anticipated just how much Sonja had abused the amenities, and when the bill eventually arrived Kathy and Joe nearly had “his and hers” heart attacks! Luckily, we were tucked up in Swindon by this time. I bumped into them in Swindon town centre one day. I was on my own and Kathy launched into me about their phone bill; that was when I first found out about it. When she calmed down I told them about our “lovely” house and invited them round. They said they had to go off and do something but if they had time on the way back they would pop in. They didn’t, and I never saw them again.

When Bobby had been with her husband before Doug they had lived in Wroughton, which is a tiny town just on the outskirts of Swindon. He had also been in the military, so Sonja was already familiar with Swindon before we’d gone there together for the first time. One day she was in town when she bumped into a long-lost friend from her time spent living in Wroughton. So, Sonja took to hanging out with this friend and all her mates. As a result, I’d come home and find the house half-full with kids of a similar age to Sonja. It was at this time I suppose, that I realised I’d grown up a bit; it was probably because of the responsibility that came with being a Hi-Fi salesman. We also , against my wishes, had the sister from hell move in with us.

At some stage I found that Sonja had told me another blatant lie. I knew that she’d been in my briefcase because, yes you’ve guessed it, she left evidence, but she denied it. Other things happened and it was apparent that we couldn’t go on. Now, this is where I had great respect for her. Me, being a bloke, I just let things go from bad to worse without really saying anything. But it was her who actually said that maybe we should think about a break.

I went to London, supposedly for two weeks for some breathing space, but after about a week my dad said that it was pointless me being in London if there were things that needed sorting. I knew he was right, so I came back unexpectedly. I’m sure by the look on Sonja’s face that she’d been into all sorts while I was away, but I didn’t care. We agreed to split and I said I would sleep in the spare room.

In a few months time my life would change forever.

 

 

It’s Nearly That Time Of Year Again – Part Three


002Well, we are now into December and the juggernaut that is Christmas is heading towards us in all its vulgarity at a rate of knots. What’s that I hear you say? You’re sick of mince pies already? But we’ve still got over three weeks to go! Never mind, put your feet up, relax and peruse my latest blog post.

It has occurred to me that religion actually contradicts religion. Although, I don’t know why it has taken me so long to see this as yet another wonderful paradox of the zillions that make up our world. I would further add that the arts are more religious than religion. Why? Well, to recap for newer readers, the word “religion”, can be broken down into two parts; “re” (meaning “again”) and “ligio” (meaning “to come together”). So, the true meaning of religion is the process by which the individual soul can realise its truth and merge (come together) again with the One Eternal Self. But the religion we have today, being man-made, relies solely on the presence of ego for its existence; and as I’ve written umpteen times throughout the pages of this blog, it is not possible to experience Self-realisation when the ego is present. You see, all religious practice is actually designed to prevent Self-realisation, because all religious practice involves the mind (ego) being engaged. This means that the practice of religion, can at best, be nothing more than a stepping stone to Self-realisation. The practice of religion generally means that one has to be indoctrinated, therefore the boundaries set by the indoctrination prevent the practitioner from looking beyond their particular chosen religion. The only way to break free of the restrictions is to become a rebel (be creative), which religion does not want.

Imagine what it would be like if the world’s artists, musicians, dancers and singers could only perform in accordance with a particular doctrine? Where would we be? Painting and performance art would be mechanical and pointless. All the great artists and performers get completely lost in their craft to the point where they virtually don’t even feel the presence of a body. In that time they have allowed themselves to become empty, free of mind, in order that the creative force can bubble up through them. In those moments the artists are performing from the soul, not the ego; therefore they have merged with God again, therefore in those moments they are pure religion. Not fakes, not carbon copies, but pure originals straight from the soul. People who perform a type of art or craft are closer to source than philosophers. The philosopher always has the mind engaged, otherwise the philosopher would not be able to philosophise.

We all have an abundance of gifts already. But if you want to give yourself a gift this Christmas… Be creative!

It’s Nearly That Time Of Year Again!


It most certainly is nearly that time of year again; when the Christian Church dusts the cobwebs off its story and peddles it once again to the unsuspecting masses. I must say that I do find the whole “epic” just a tad ironic. First of all, let me just mention that I have no doubt in my mind at all that Jesus Christ actually existed; and I have no doubts at all that he was a truly incredible soul. However, the story that organised religion wants us to believe just does not stack up.

Jesus_144_smallWe have to understand that Christ was not a Christian; Christianity is the man-made religion founded by unscrupulous religious leaders in an effort to control the naive and the gullible through fear. Christ was strictly non-religious, however, if you really had to pigeon-hole him, you would have to say that he was a Buddhist. He studied the teachings of Buddha in the monasteries of the Himalayas and he also hung out with the Essenes and the Nazarenes, who were religious sects that practised a form of Buddhism. Christ was attracted to these people because their religion was non-violent. It was common practise in those times for live animals to be sacrificed in the temples, and Jesus was against this (and made his feelings known in no uncertain terms). Christ was the original hippie activist and was considered to be a subversive by the religious leaders of the time.

It’s worth noting that it is because of his association with the Nazarenes that Christ is often incorrectly referred to as, “Jesus of Nazareth”. Historically, Nazareth was nothing more than a tiny hamlet that Jesus may or may not have passed through at some time or other. So, why do I find the whole Christmas story a tad ironic? It’s because the church peddles their messiah as being, “the one and only begotten Son of God”. According to Christians, God is an all-powerful entity that is separate from us mere mortals, and Jesus is his son. This theory completely contradicts the Buddhist teachings, amongst other belief systems, that Christ followed. Buddhists do not believe in a deity as such, rather in a Creative Force, or infinite consciousness that permeates the whole creation. Christ’s message was simple. He said that we are all the same as him, we are all Gods and that we will find the Kingdom of Heaven within ourselves; it is not a place we can go to.

So the Christian messiah is marketed by the church as something that he would never have considered himself to be. I also can’t help thinking (cynically perhaps) that the reason the church marketed their messiah as a meat eating wine drinker, which he wasn’t, was simply so that they could justify their own gluttonous desires.

Merry Christmas!

Synchronicities; don’t you just love ’em


BlackburnSynchronicities never fail to amaze me and I’m going to share with you one such synchronicity that occurred in the last week. I had been visiting a friend in Swindon for a couple of days, and just prior to setting off on the journey home, my friend and I had a brief conversation about my nephew, Steve. However, before I carry on it will be necessary for me to give you some background information.

Stephen was my older brother’s second child, but the first by his then wife; and also his first and only boy. Steve and I had a magical relationship when he was young. But for reasons that are not relevant to this story his childhood was neither stable nor happy. We continued to be close and then in 1976 I joined the army. We saw each other sporadically whilst I was in the army, and it was apparent to me during my visits, that his living conditions were less than ideal. The army, however, was not for me and having bought myself out just before Christmas in 1979, I went off to work in Germany in March 1980. By the time I came back to England in 1986 Steve was a teenager and into drugs. I was quite disturbed by what I saw; mainly the changes in him, but I had no idea back then as to what would eventually transpire. I had also gone through a drug period but I’d never taken anything serious and I was quite saddened by how my nephew had evolved from a beautiful baby smiling up at me from his pram, into someone I didn’t even recognise.

Now it is also worth mentioning here that I was always considered to be a bit of an oddball in the family. The Holmes’ have never been that close anyway, and as time has gone by, it’s now reached the stage where I have no contact at all with any remaining family members. It was difficult enough before, but once I found my spiritual pathway I was considered to be even more of an oddball. Steve was always my closest ally, but in the mid 1990’s things changed drastically. He had a promising career as a footballer and was on a Youth Training Scheme at Blackburn Rovers, who at the time were in the second tier of English football. He even played twice for the first team, but having been caught with drugs outside a night club in Blackburn, they let him go. He then returned to London where he drifted from club to club in non-league football, playing for some famous old clubs along the way. Then in an effort to get away from the London drug scene he moved down to Swindon, which is where I was living at the time; my mother was also living there. It turned out to be a bit of a disaster, because all he did then was swap the London drug scene for the Swindon drug scene. During this period he was playing for Marlow Town, another famous old non-league club; he even appeared on BBC Match Of The Day once, after Marlow had been drawn against Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup. At one point things seemed to be going well. I thought he was off the drugs; he was getting paid by Marlow and also had a full-time job. He met a girl and they ended up having a wonderful Christmas baby. However, things took a dive just prior to the baby being born.

Steve broke his leg playing football and was never the same again. He did recover but he was not able to play to the same standard. I had no idea that he was still heavily into drugs until 1996 when things came to a head. He had a serious mental breakdown and ended up in a place called Seymour Clinic, a well-known Swindon mental institution. It was an awful depressing place, which I am happy to say no longer exists; in recent years it has been replaced by a more modern facility. Over the next few years he would periodically find himself in Seymour Clinic and another similar establishment, not always on a voluntary basis.

During this period he fell into the clutches of a Swindon based Christian Fundamentalist group that had a reputation for preying on vulnerable people; with a mental illness Steve was an ideal candidate. As a few more years passed by Steve relapsed into his illness a number of times. Also, because of all the medication he was on, his weight ballooned and he became very disheveled; a shadow of the athletic young man he’d been just a few years prior. Unfortunately, when I found my spiritual pathway he decided that I was “in league with Satan” and we ceased to have regular contact. In 2003 I moved to Wales, but when my mother became ill in 2005 I moved back to Swindon. I saw Steve sporadically during this period but since my mother’s funeral in May 2009 I had bumped into him just once, one evening in a shop in Swindon, whilst on a visit to the same friend I mentioned at the beginning of this story.

Steve lives a very short walking distance from my friend, and she was telling me that she had seen him a couple of times recently from a distance, and had indeed seen him that morning whilst on a trip into town. We both agreed that for all his troubles and faults, he had done a fantastic job with his son. The relationship with the child’s mother had broken up back in the 1990’s but Steve was a doting father and he made every effort to support his son over the years. My friend and I agreed that he had learned wisely from his own childhood experiences and had done his son proud.

Soon after we finished our conversation I said my goodbyes and set off on my journey home. I had only driven a very short distance when I saw an unmistakable figure, yes it was Steve. My first reaction was just to carry on with my journey, as I had no way of knowing how he would react to me. But something told me to drive up to the end of the road, go around the roundabout and come back. This I did, and as I drove past him again I tooted the car horn and noted that he recognised me straight away. I took the first right and pulled over by a bus stop. Steve was really glad to see me, he jumped in the car and I drove around to where he lived. We only had a short chat in the car but during the course of our discussion he told me that he was now working full-time with???? Yes, you’ve guessed it, people with mental health problems. I was so pleased for him; it’s the first proper full-time job he has had in some years.

I could see the face of a man racked with guilt, pain and sadness because of the past. He is obviously still in a great deal of pain because of what he experienced when he was growing up, and I’m sure that was behind him going off the rails. It is also apparent that he feels a lot of guilt for the way he has conducted himself over the years and let his life go the way that it did. But it was great to chat with him and I felt the connection there once again, albeit briefly, and I was happy to be able to give him encouragement. He was also pleased for me with what I am doing and he took my telephone number. I am still waiting for a call, but it has only been just over a week. Synchronicities eh! Don’t you just love ’em?

Christmas With Baba


On Saturday 17 December 2011 a very special event took place at the Punjabi Community Centre in Swindon, Wiltshire, United Kingdom.  It was a Christmas celebration and carol service organised by the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation UK.  Nothing so special about that maybe, except that in the past all the SSSSO UK Christmas celebrations have been on a regional basis.  2011 was the first time it was ever held as a national event, and it was a blessing that it just happened to be held in region 7, which covers the area where I live.  So, it was with great anticipation that I set off on that Saturday morning and drove the 22 miles or so to Swindon Punjabi Centre.

The wonderful stage at the national SSSSO UK Christmas celebration in Swindon 17 December 2011
What never fails to amaze me whenever I attend a Sai event is the amount of sheer hard work and organisation that goes into them.  Every minute detail is covered, and this event was no exception.
Because Christmas is, by and large, a Christian celebration, the organisers enlisted the services of two Christian Ministers to conduct the service AND we were also blessed with a gospel choir who travelled all the way down from Leicester.  The event started with some devotees singing songs based on Christian Taize chanting.  This was followed by the carol service.  There then followed an interval for lunch where we feasted on traditional Western Christmas vegetables and stuffing, washed down with non-alcoholic red and white fizzy wine.  Once again I feel I have to mention the tremendous hard work that was put in by the volunteer chefs and food servers in feeding the hungry hoards.
During the second part of the proceedings we were treated to the singing of the gospel choir, and the hilarious antics of “Santa” who blessed us by making a surprise appearance.  Our wonderful Omnipresent Swami, Sri Sathya Sai Baba made his presence felt throughout the afternoon, and I for one had great difficulty joining in properly with the singing because our Lord constantly filled my heart with his love and my eyes kept filling up with tears.
I also feel that I need to mention here the amazing Patrick (of whom I have spoken in a previous post.  Please click on the link to view this post https://richardfholmes.wordpress.com/2011/09/10/sri-sathya-sai-baba-never-forgets-his-children-part-one/ )  As usual, speaking to Patrick was a great inspiration, but I was also amazed yet again at what he told me.  If you look at the photo of the stage (above) you will notice the white figures.  Well, dear Patrick, noted for his stagecraft skills, was asked at short notice if he could come up with something for the event; and he most certainly did.  This amazing man made those figures, working late at night and early morning because he also has a day job.  With another colleague he set off from Bath very early in the morning whilst most of us were still in dreamland, in order to arrive in good time at The Punjabi Centre so that the stage could be erected.
I know that it is not Sai policy to single out individuals for special praise, and this is why I want to end this post by mentioning once again the incredible work that all the organizers and volunteers put into this event.  As well as the lovely food we were also kept supplied with as much tea, coffee and soft drinks as we needed and there was also the usual sweets and cakes.  The Sri Sathya Sai Book Shop, based in North London, also sent some representatives to set up a makeshift shop.  I personally acquired two wonderful photos taken from Swami’s final darshan and a fantastic book of spiritual quotes taken from the religions of the world.
Dear friends as we get ready to celebrate this very special time of the year and then welcome in 2012, we should bare in mind that for all of us as individual beings of spirit, our own personal Christmas day will be the day we awaken the Christ Consciousness within ourselves.