Up, up and away

Richard Ashworth

Feng Shui Diaries

Solar fortnight beginning:

Friday October 23rd 2009 05.05 





metal   metal wood earth
tsun tsun gap gay
muw chou sute chou
rabbit    ox dog ox


Month:                 gap sute the wood Dog
Solar Fortnight:   zeun gong Hoar Frost descends

 Up, up and away.

In the streets there is outrage, civil disobedience, gun plots: Lucie’s out of X Factor. I’m in a gift shop in Haslemere where a sign boasts how fast their carrier bags deteriorate. The indulgent lady behind the counter shares a joke with me.

“Do they give awards for how crap your bags are?” I ask.

She appears amused: another day another, smart arse.

The door of the neighbouring shop is too close. It occupies two units and the door is in the first. There’s actually a closed-up door in the second unit. This configuration is called “long exit, short entrance” which is a terrible waste of chi. The openings need swapping around. They’d see an increase in turnover pretty much immediately. I’d be happy to take a percentage of the increase but I pass by; enough gratuitous offence for one day. As I pass, I notice that in his mob hat, the young guy behind the deli counter in Waitrose looks like Wallace out of Wallace and Gromit.

The X-Factor reference of course suggests that despite the date in Chinese above, I am writing early in November. It’s true. I am trying desperately to catch up. When I write precisely as the chi changes I can say things that are up to the minute but writing a diary every fortnight can be a big demand and usually by this time of year, as you will have noticed, I’m way behind which means I have to either short change you and skip a couple of fortnights or leave them out of sync. Or catch up of course. Thanks to my friend Suzanne for pointing this out; she works for one of those banks that usually only notice when there are eight zeroes instead of nine.

I go to a Jimmy Webb gig with reluctant advertising mogul Bob who knows everything about rock ‘n’ roll. Jimmy Webb who wrote Galveston, Wichita Lineman (million sellers for Glen Campbell) and McArthur Park among many others, is one of the greatest writers of popular song of the last century but he doesn’t actually sing that well. His own recordings of his songs are charming in a croaky sort of way but as he says:

“We wouldn’t be here today without Glen Campbell”, whose son by the way is on drums.

The band consists additionally of four of his sons and a friend. They share the vocals around. The boys sing peerlessly and the harmonies are sublime. One son Jamie (James L Webb II, I guess) has a high tenor a bit like Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys. You remember God Only Knows? When Jamie sings the 3rd verse of Highwayman (as immortalised by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson) there is spontaneous applause. His father beams.

After the show I talk with Jimmy:

“You must be very proud of your sons.”

“Oh yes,” he says.

“That Jamie sings like an angel,” I say. “I have children who perform. It’s sort of great when they can do what you do better than you can.”

I watch for ego as he receives this multi-level compliment. There is none.

“Jamie’s working on Without You, (the Harry Nilsson hit)” he tells me. His face darkens a tad. “Harry was a dear friend, When Jamie sings it, it’s like Harry’s there.”

“Some serious upper range called for.”

“Exactly,” he says. “A Badfinger song of course.”

“Yes Tom Evans and Pete Ham,” I say looking in his eyes. Bob is mouthing this credit behind me, I think.

My daughter Jessie, the film star, by the way does fabulous ba zi.

Home is where the harp is.

Home: the phone rings.

Moira is a psychic. Broadly she does mediumship by phone from her little bungalow in the Marches. She has called for an auspicious date to move house. I tell her the 8th or the 29th November*. I’m just glad we’ve sold it. The bungalow was a hard one: positioned in what the Chinese call the “hairwashing location,” most of the way up a steep slope. Everything falls away to the valley floor apart from rain which drops so plentifully here on the edge of the Black Mountains that everything is wet most of the time. Water butts overflow and the paths are forever slippery.   

* These are the correct dates. Use this information as you will. Take it as an apology for the misleading timing of these diaries.

The first work I did for Moira was to clear her house of stuck energies. Some people call these energies “spirits” or “ghosts.” Which is just a question of choice. I prefer to talk of “energy” or chi because that gives me more options. Once we’ve decided it’s your Gran or Napoleon Bonaparte, the options become limited.

There is always plenty of stuck energy around Moira of course. A fortnight after I cleared the bungalow, she rang to tell me that business had gone suddenly very slack. Her new house will be on the NW/SE orientation I recommended, away from sharp inclines.

“I’m glad,” I say.

“You’ll have to come and look at it when I’m settled,” she says.

“Of course.”

Tea Lights and Cheese.

Next day I visit Deb on the Derbyshire-Cheshire border, cheese country. I wonder idly how far Wensleydale is. We spend a hard day positioning the front door very precisely in the North West. It has been in the West for a century and I could write a book on how wrong that is for this house. Her husband Sam is respectfully sceptical. I like that. The only sensible approach to anything is the floating vote isn’t it? He wants evidence. So after suggesting they move a huge cattle trough in the vulnerable North East as soon as possible and ensuring they know where to put water to avoid a plague of boils I ask them to buy some tea lights.

We place one due South, one to the South East and one to the North West.

“Keep these alight all day and for at least three of the hours of darkness, until December 5th*.” I tell them, “I’m expecting you to notice an increase in opportunities.”

“Do I need to be clear what I want?” he asks.

Good feng shui does not actually depend on whether you believe in it, agree with it or even know it’s going on. Watch this space.

“Not especially,” I say. “Just be sure to use the breaks as they arise. I can get the ball to the penalty spot but you need to kick it.”

As she drives me to Macclesfield Station, we talk about Deb’s Dad. Her ba zi shows that their relationship is kun/choi, which you might call “attack”. It’s certainly been turbulent; he may not be seeing his grandchildren this Christmas.

* This is real too. And discussion of the North East from anyone who knows a bit about the subject is very welcome.

 “It looks like you win,” I say.

“You’ve got me going,” she says, “Just like that.” Her eyes are full of tears but she looks only at the road. “Never seems that way to me.”

“Through the prism of the tao,” I say gently. “Everything is its opposite. Often when we simply change the pronouns, we see what might really be going on. My own father by the way, appeared to me to be a very difficult man. He was admirable in many ways but I seriously doubt I could do what I do if he were still alive. His sneer within me was too much. He thought I blamed him for all sorts of things. I didn’t. But I declared myself competent to charge grown-up money for feng shui the day he died.”

She is quiet but she is gripping the steering wheel very tight.

“So when I think he is attacking me, I see it as my attack on him?”


More tears.

“Never seems that way.”

She is quiet again.

“Yes I can see that.”

I know how much courage that takes and although my book the Feng Shui Diaries comes with a health warning (Caution: this man may make you cry.) I never take this for granted. I see tears shared with me as a gift and a privilege.

“Just make sure that when the ball comes onto the penalty spot you kick it.”

It’s a long train ride home: by Virgin Pendolino, the grown up’s Vampire Ride, to Euston, then across town to Waterloo, a commuter train to Haslemere and a short drive.

The fact is that when Lucie Jones hit the word “stay” in My Funny Valentine, it was the single most powerful moment in the whole series of the X Factor. Watch it on youtube. Only someone with no feeling for music could miss that. After drilling all those hiccupping grace notes into legions of impressionable hopefuls, I guess those judges can no longer hear singing.

I refuel on my way home. On the pump they are advertising coffee.

“Grande latte for the price of a medium,” it says. I don’t even know what Moira charges.

 Richard will be teaching ba zi again in 2010 : four weekends starting February.

Stop Press : Book of Changes Day Saturday November 28th

It’s the oldest book in the world and it’s at the heart of every aspect of Chinese Culture: from cookery to kung fu, from Ken Hom to Yuen Hom. Richard will be hosting a day long introduction: Opening the Book of Changes. Learn how to consult the oldest oracle in the world and how to make sense of the answers. No knowledge of feng shui required. 

Join us by contacting Sheila at : admin@wingsagency.co.uk 

Richard Ashworth © 2009

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