Bo Xi Lai Nouveau
It’s raining as I walk into Godalming, the worst sort of English weather: no driving wind to give the rain character, no cold to make it sharp. It’s not even raining particularly hard, it’s just wet, the sort of wet that makes everything dark and floppy.
The walk takes me past the Church of Jesus Christ, Scientist which dwarfs the houses either side. In the front window are quotations from Mary Baker Eddy. “You are safe,” one reads. I must have been twenty before I was sure that Ms. Eddy neither sang duets with Jeanette McDonald nor played the twangy guitar on the “Peter Gunn Theme” but over the years her message has suffered worse misunderstandings than these. “You are safe,” the banner reads. Always good to know.
Certain buildings feng shui Masters call “Dragons’ Lairs” because they are equal parts bear trap and treasure house. Activating the correct spot in such a dwelling at the correct moment can be followed by unfeasible good fortune, the wrong one by a plague of boils. Only a feng shui Master would knowingly take one on. This building, part church, part reading room, part sales office, looks like just such a construction.
It’s the 23rd and after energising the downstairs loo of a period house in Berkshire between the hours of six and eight in the morning, I’m back in Godalming prior to another trip to South East Asia, the topic of study this time being ba zi in physical healing, the place where feng shui meets Traditional Chinese Medicine. This information is likely to percolate into my ba zi teaching later in the year just as Xuan Kong Da Gua has entered my feng shui teaching (commercial break: on which the Early Early Bird offer runs out next week)
As I pass the paper shop in the pouring rain, I notice that the hosepipe ban shares headlines with the skullduggery in China. The ten-yearly reshuffle of the hierarchy at the People’s Congress approaches. Sixth-in-line Bo Xi Lai is fingered as a conspirator to murder. This has nothing to do with justice; the allegation arises not as part of the slow grind of the wheels of the law but because Bo has crossed some line in the internal politics of the PRC. There is every indication that had Bo minded his ps and qs, the rapidly cremated body of apparently poisoned businessman Neil Heywood would remain under the carpet so to speak. Q is of course pronounced “ch” in Wade Giles Mandarin, btw (just as the x in “Xi” is “sh”).
However hard it rains, Godalming never floods even though much of the town is below the level of the River Wey that runs through it. This is because of the flood meadow.This Lammas Land is mostly river from November to April which is why the town isn’t. This flood plain as its Celtic name (derived from Lug, God of Light) suggests, is as old as the town itself, upwards of sixteen hundred years probably. Feng shui is wind and water, the ancient principle being to preserve the water and protect against the wind. It’s easy to forget just how powerful Water is.
One Saturday afternoon several years ago, Sheila and I were walking our dog Zusu down by the river. The level was dangerously low, the water having that dusty look a too-shallow river gets, the fish too visible. Once home we rang the Water Board and discovered that there was a stopcock located in a building on the riverbank. A wheel was turned, the level was restored.
Mary Baker’s Eddy.
The events of this watery year 2012 can be expected to reflect previous Water Dragons: a Dragon’s Lair, poison and treasure. Such years include 1952, 1832 and 208BCE, all troublesome times for China. In 1952 Tibet was the treasure, annexed and never since relinquished, long-term not such a popular move with the natives. In 208BCE, Qin Xi Huang Di, having unified China with unbelievable brutality, lit out for the Eastern Ocean on a successful search for shamans to kill him with immortality potions. 1832? China is deep in the Opium Wars. Oh and Greece secedes from the Ottoman Empire. 1712: the South Sea Trading Company buys the national debt and sells it back to investors as junk bonds. Plenty of parallels to play with.
Toxic times indeed. As I walk into town, fleeing my office where there is more going on than I can concentrate over, I notice that there are now three nailcare shops. Although there are fewer pubs than there used to be, only one or two premises are boarded up. They will become restaurants in due course or Tesco Metros or be demolished and replaced with maisonettes at a quarter of a million per bedroom. This is banker country. Recession is something that happens to other people.
Despite the wealth of manicure options, there’s no Starbucks in Godalming as yet so I head for Costa which like approximately half the shops on this East-West High Street, faces due South and so enjoys a Flying Star pattern called “String of Pearls”. To cut a long story short, shops change hands but nobody goes bust. There’s always someone else ready to open a haute couture boutique as a tax loss. Or a coffee shop.
Unlike Starbucks, the coffee at Costa tastes like coffee, something I’d generally consider a disadvantage. That doesn’t matter however as I don’t drink it anymore. Coffee tends to desensitise when I need to be sensitive and we can’t have that, can we? These days I drink green tea for the most part. So what am I doing in a coffee shop? The truth is that I am drawn by the buzzing energy, the comings and goings, conversations that I half-hear, activity that demands nothing of me. I can be involved and not involved. It’s a place to hide if you like.
As the shop fronts due South, till, bar, coffee machines and staff are all in the South East. This means that in 2012 till, bar, steaming coffee machines and in the recent unseasonal heat wave, steaming baristas are all in the wu huang or Five Yellow as well as the tai sui, the direction of the year energy. These annual spots of sat chi or Poison Stars are not places to linger.
So I’m unsurprised that things appear to be going wrong around the engine room of the cafe. The flow from the boiler tap is down to a trickle. It takes the pretty young barista several minutes to pour enough boiling water onto a Twinings Green tea bag to fill a large cup. She’s studying law at Guildford Law College and reported for duty at 6:45 this morning, she tells me. And today, according to her young male colleague (Film Studies, Manchester) the till is not taking cards. He’s a bit hot under the collar. I’m not surprised. There’s no room behind the counter which itself is piled with enough confectionery to render the staff close to invisible. The counter is designed for all sorts of things but serving coffee is not one. It’s okay, I say, I’ve got cash and I can wait. Then all of a sudden he asks exasperated, of nobody in particular, “When is this going to be sorted out?” and I blurt out without thinking: “About six weeks,” and he looks at me as if I am criminally insane. Not the first to do that of course. Mouth open story jump out, as my first mother-in-law used to say.
I find a quiet table and make my tea bag last an hour. Every now and then someone I know walks in, greets me, we talk, I explain myself. Then I return to making sense of the Xuan Kong Da Gua material I’ve brought back from Thailand. This is powerful stuff.
Xuan Kong means “Mystery of the Void,” and the story goes that it was used in mediaeval times to hide armies in plain sight. The general who employed a XKDG Master could appear from nowhere right in the face of an unprepared enemy. I have been using this material for more than a decade now but the new slant I am working with gives the whole thing a fresh edge. While I work, the wife of my current problem client, an unemployed banker, emails to tell me he may have landed the job he wants. Thank God for that. XKDG properly measured, located and applied, should make a difference that quickly.
Having studied for ten hours-plus most days over there, I have mastered the bulk of the theory but there are three bits I don’t understand. They’re like an ache. I can not bypass them. Classical feng shui is like mathematics; there’s no point approaching stage two until you’ve mastered step one. By three pm, I’m deeply frustrated. I persevere. By five, two of the three problems are making sense. Thank God for that too.
It’s still raining on my way back and I want to ask the Water Companies some more questions. Just how wet does it have to get before I can water my sunflowers? What proportion of the lost water is due to leaky pipes and poorly secured reservoirs, what proportion overuse of river water by industry?
Finally, the last few windows before I’m out of town, I pass the hand-care shops. Expensively engraved upon the glass of one is:”Proffessional Nail Care.” I’m a Virgo. I was straightening up the pictures on other people’s walls long before I was paid for it. Two f’s where there should be one is almost as distressing as failing to understand Xuan Kong Da Gua. I have to look away.
You can get hybrid nail replacements now apparently. I’m frightened to speculate as to just what that might mean.
But of course we are safe. There is little to which the appropriate response is not a smile. Come hell, high water, death or the taxman, but especially high water, the Tao is both beyond control and worthy of trust. Not that the Tao gives a damn. It just goes on taoing its thing. So thank you Ms Eddy. We are indeed safe.
Richard Ashworth April 2012.