There’s a guy works down the chipshop, swears he’s Elvis

Welcome to Imperial Feng Shui

Richard Ashworth

Feng Shui Diaries

Solar fortnight beginning:

Wednesday May 5th 2010 23.29 

Hour Day    Month         Year
fire    wood metal metal
bing yute tsun gung
tze muw Si yan
rat rabbit snake tiger


Month:                 tsun si the metal Snake
Solar Fortnight:   lap ha Summer begins

There’s a guy works down the chipshop, swears he’s Elvis

No disrespect meant to Monkeys or Dogs last time. We are all a great deal more than our Year Animals and we all have choice. Some of my best friends are Dogs. And Monkeys. And Rats and Pigs and Roosters and er….let’s move on.

I find myself driving to Tesco to pick up vegetables as there are no more greengrocers in GU7. In the car park a middle-aged man is collecting up the trolleys. He smiles as he works. He is part of the supermarket’s admirable policy of employing adults with special needs. Stacking trolleys seems to be the lowest assignment on the food chain but he’s doing a great job and he appears to be having a fun time on this sunny day.

I go to the coffee shop and start to write up my report for a big surfing store in the West Country. We have recently moved house and for the time being I don’t have an office. Actually I like working in coffee shops anyway.

The store is suffering from the reluctance of  Devon women to see surfer gear as couture. It is also suffering serious Electro Magnetic Stress from the transformers in the spotlights and an office in the very worst possible location. I have just one day to turn this business around. I hope I have time to make a difference. For a variety of reasons Dave needs the business safe and sound by January. Retaining me would be smart but we all have budgets to work to.

Riding the microwave

EMS can be exhausting, in extreme cases it can lead to cancers and tumours. The most common source is mobile phones which someone compared to holding a microwave oven to your ear. Since we could not be hurt by it if we did not feel it, on some level the Devon shoppers will know they risk grilling. In a Tiger Year this will tend to show up in the South West and North East of the shop. One is where the changing rooms are and the other just inside the main door. I breathed into both spots to move it on, we placed crystals and I got Dave, to keep the offending spotlights off as much as possible. More can be done yet.

Through the coffee shop window now I spot, also parking trolleys, a bloke I have noticed before. He must be in his mid 60’s. If I know anything about ba zi, he is a 1944 Wood Monkey. I might be wrong about the year but there’s Monkey in there somewhere. In the Tiger year of course, the Monkey tends to have a hard time. The positions of the two Animals on the compass are opposite, the Monkey is Yang Metal and the Tiger Yang Wood. Metal fights Wood: this is a menu for conflict. So 2010 is unlikely to be his year.

I’ve seen this guy in the village off and on for ages. He worked for a while in one of the off licences – now mostly gone, thanks to Tesco – and in one of the newsagents (some survive because supermarkets don’t deliver, I guess or hold the smaller fiddly items). He’s all there and whether he’s putting the Sunday magazines into a pile of red-tops or carefully putting paper between bottles of Merlot (three for a tenner which is precisely the number that fits into a carrier bag) he has always made each task look as if he’s been doing it all his life. He’s a bit macho about this, a bit rapid. Not married I imagine, not a homeowner, not an obvious success story, I can only guess at his history. At the end of each transaction he says «Much obliged,» as opposed to «Thank you,»  ©Clint Eastwood, Rawhide, 1959, I think.

I watch him puffing and grimacing in the car park. It’s not necessarily my view but it seems to be his that he’s hit the bottom of the pile. I think he might be called Cliff.

Surfin’ so far

Dave, the surfing supremo, is modest about his management skills. He has lost good people he thinks, because he has over-managed. This clearly hurts. I can feel it while he is silent for a moment and on my advice takes a deep breath. Any problem can be solved by correct breathing. When we breathe correctly we feel and there is nothing more real than feeling.

Also a Monkey, he is a thoughtful, gifted and compassionate man. His ba zi suggests someone torn between the examples of a dynamic mother and a more subtle father. He is beating himself up before my eyes; he’s a big guy and I imagine when he beats himself up he stays beaten. This man of all men, needs a smart committed woman.

«If staff move on because you are on their case, they should probably be encouraged to go,» I offer. «Everybody has to adjust to get by in the workplace and at the end of the day, you’re the one whose life savings are at risk.»

I find myself wondering if the end of the day is a good time to surf. I think it must be.

«I’m more hands-off now,» he says.

In my room.

We’re standing outside the shop unit. It’s beautifully fitted out: high ceilings, a beachside theme with beach huts as changing rooms. We’re watching elegant B+ shoppers drive pushchairs past his door towards John Lewis.

The hands off policy has involved occupying a bare box room at the end of the shop beyond the stock room. His desk is the sort of thing you’d get in an auction job lot and it faces a wall. The room is small, square and stuffy and without natural illumination; energy-saving sensors turn lights outside on and off every time someone enters the stock room from the shop as if there were a very small, very quiet discotheque just out of view. It’s quite distracting.

The Flying Stars indicate that the chi pocket here is 5:2. This means he’ll get sick if he stays and it’s no place to achieve anything. But there’s still time, it’s only May. Facing a wall suggests he has turned his back on important information and the scrappy desk implies he is not in charge. He is smart enough and modest enough to admit all of this. He is desperate to succeed and learn. I can only respect that. He talk engagingly of «footfall» and «tribe».

One corner of the stock room holds the 9 Star of future wealth. I recommend he moves out there, and orients his vdu North West to tap into the leading energy of the year. Conveniently he will be backing onto a wall and facing his own t’ang lung (that is acquisitive) direction.

«Spend some money on a really nice desk, put pending work into units behind you – keep them visible – so that the desk remains clear. Make the decor as red and white as you can.»

Red and white means money as any Chinese bank can tell you. Just look at the house colours of HSBC and the Bank of China.

We mumbo and jumbo in the neglected areas of the shop and I leave him a long list of tasks. There’s more.

We had lunch with his wife-to-be. Once invited, she had plenty to say and much of it was very insightful. Their ba zis connect in an interesting way: his Day Animal (Earth Pig, since you asked) appears in her Year and Month. She will understand him well. Above all Dave needs someone to bounce ideas off, someone smart and female who loves him is ideal. Choosing her has been one of his better decisions. That is if you believe men ever choose women as opposed to the converse.

As the ba zi indicated, they had broken up briefly a year or so ago. He tells a farcical story of winning her back by failing to impress with his boat and breaking her father’s nose.

«There was blood everywhere,» he says.

«You slick operator, you. »

Back at Cafe Cohen, I complete the report and drive home.

Feed a man a Fish

On Saturday I return to Tesco. This time we need fish and of course the fishmongers are long gone. I’m a vegetarian but I eat fish. Call me wrong headed but there you go.

Cliff serves me. His barcode reader will not read so he swings briskly round to the neighbouring till as if he has been borrowing barcode readers, man and boy, for decades. I feel a wave of compassion that is close to tears as he swipes my loyalty card. I can see that the barcode reader has been working all along, he only needed to aim it straight. He was just a bit hasty, a bit macho, a bit Clint Eastwood, Rawhide, 1959. He tries so hard.

«Much obliged,» he says, handing my card back.


Visit Taoist China in 2010

My friend Master Howard Choy is taking another group to China this year. Stops include the holy mountain of Wudanshang which I visited with him in 2005. At its summit, the jade-green Taoist temple receives the homage of the 72 lesser mountains in the range, stretching out to the horizon in three directions. Howard is a feng shui and tai chi Master as well as a Native Mandarin speaker who knows and loves the territory.

Details from:

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