Snow: plough on?

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The Snake Year: what you see is not what you get. Overarching concerns include human trafficking and the treatment of women.

Snow: plough on?

Tiger month. First thing Friday, a demanding week. I’ve been preparing for the first weekend of this year’s ba zi training, conducted four or five ba zi sessions, a couple of surveys and a third day one-to-one with a very linear-minded Southern European billionaire. I have to step up to the plate to work at this pace.

And this morning we may have hit a new low as grandparents: Mr Levi (7) is playing Nazi Zombies on the X-Box and wants last night’s cold pizza for breakfast.

Sheila and I are agonising over whether to postpone the first weekend of the 2013 ba zi course. Snow has fallen and the meteorologists say there’ll be more. On the other hand there’s a reason the weather forecast appears next to the astrology in the papers. So I place a coin at ding (S1) where the underlying causes for things may be revealed, and ask the universe:

“Should we cancel?”

The powers-that-be reply pretty much right away. My attention is drawn to the window. The first thing I see is a car number plate: BU 56. Hexagram Number 56 in the Book of Changes is Lu, the Traveller  and “bu” means “not” or “don’t”. That’s clear; don’t travel. Thanks, universe. We postpone. Again.

Mr Levi assures me the world is once more a safe place for the living.

Nearer my God to thee.

The Snake, Pig, Tiger and Monkey are sometimes called the “Four Stations”. This means they are to do with mobility. In each such year we can expect issues to do with travel: airline strikes, unnecessary delays, cancellations.

I’m sitting on a train from Clapham Junction to Haywards Heath, packed tighter than a lifeboat on the Titanic. These are not commuters hanging from the straps and apologising for putting their elbows in each other’s eyes; the train is going the wrong way for that: that is to say it’s going South out of the metropolis away from the banks and the City.

This is what South West trains call their “Extreme Weather Service”. What does that mean? Fewer trains for the same number of passengers. Don’t start me talking about privatised industry but in the year of the Snake, I’m unlikely to be the only one. I look around at the people hanging onto seat backs by their elbows.

Some sort of peak is likely in the Tiger and Monkey months ie February (hello!) and August and some sort of resolution in the Pig month of November. These concerns will be live the world over. Pay close attention to events concerning newer and faster trains.

The harassed guard explains in stumbling Central European English that the delay to this train and the cancellation of the previous three is down to a passenger being taken sick earlier. There’s grumbling but this is Britain. We summon the spirit of Dunkirk. A lady coughs. There are rueful grins.

“Pretty sick of it myself,” someone says. There’s a ripple of laughter.

Like the guard, just doing what he does in order to pay the rent, a young banker is talking loudly on his iphone. His first call is to a client. Words such as “offshore” and “arbitrage” and “cap app” stud the dialogue. He advises whoever it is not to be distracted from his core business by the prospect of gains on currency.

“Stick to what you do,” he says.

His second call is to arrange dinner and a show. Sounds expensive. Bristling turns to mumbling.

“That’s the worst movie ever made,” he laughs to his date.

Around him there are more mumbles. I imagine this is as close as I’ll get to Mississippi during the time of the Freedom Riders. We’re British. We grin. We bear it. We don’t care about anything enough to cause a fuss. 1.5 million people who protested through the streets of London against the invasion of Iraq in 2003 went home and lived with it. Austerity, that is to say the systematic shifting of wealth from the poor to the wealthy, proceeds within us and without us. We’ll accept it. We may even believe we’re all in it together. It’s a comforting thought. Neither Les Miserables nor Battleship Potemkin is about to happen here. I read that even China has enacted laws that make big corporations pay their dues.

The Snake year: travel issues, resolving November. I’ll put into a sealed envelope what I think may occur. Here’s a question: why aren’t passengers on trains required to wear seat belts? Answer: because then no one would be able to stand and there would be fewer paying passengers per train.

Travelling Northwards or South, also North West and North East is pretty sound this year. Avoid travelling West or South East.

Snake year: what you see is not what you get.


Our return flight delayed by the BA/Iberia airline strike, Sheila and I are in Barcelona a couple of days longer than we expected. We visit the extraordinary Gaudi cathedral Sagrada Familia. Antoni Gaudi was a pioneer of the Modernista school of architecture. He spent much of the latter part of his life living rough in the grounds of the cathedral, his final project. When he died – hit by a tram – he was mistaken for a tramp. Gaudi’s work is often called “mystical.” One building of his in central Barcelona features tiling meant to imitate the scales of a Dragon. The walls shine; they look like they might actually be sticky.

We walk from our hotel. It’s about 10′ Celsius. This may be Spain but it’s February and nippy. We arrive at the cathedral whose uniqueness is never quite rendered in photos. Up close it looks like something between a termite mound and Sleeping Beauty’s castle: magnificent. And weird.

High on the facade is a 4×4 lo shu – or magic square – like the one we use in classical feng shui, except that Gaudi’s has 16 squares. The Chinese diviner Yang Hui (Yuan Dynasty, contemporary with Kublai Khan) constructed a similar square in the 13th century. And Albrecht Durer engraved one in wood two hundred or so years later. In both cases the figures add up to 34. For Durer this – handily – placed the numbers 4&1 in the bottom corners as a kind of signature (A=1, D=4).

In the gift shop there are replicas in the form of key rings, coasters, badges and postcards both of the cathedral, the lo shu and the Fibonacci curve whose application I can’t see in the design at all. But what do I know?

The numbers on a 16-square lo shu should add to 34 in every direction but Gaudi’s has been doctored to add to 33. This arrangement appears to be referencing the age (33) of Christ at his death as well as doubling the numbers 10 and 16 which may reference the 10th and 16th letters of the alphabet: J and N: Jesu Nazarenus, Jesus of Nazareth, I guess.  He was a deep one that Gaudi.

To make it even more confusing, the Barcelona lo shu is the work of the sculptor Josep Subirachs and was added years after Gaudi’s death. Just how it connects with Gaudi’s vision is unclear. Gaudi’s biography tells me Subirachs was born precisely nine months after Gaudi’s death which is clearly considered almost literally pregnant with significance,

We have a decent frittata for lunch and return to the hotel to puzzle.


I’m working with Coleen whose beautifully maintained home in a Manchester suburb has recently housed a well-paid footballer. There are one or two of these in Manchester. United are a huge business of course. When they are playing at home, forget about driving anywhere.

This player appears to have been absorbed with football training to the exclusion of house training. When he left, the house was Colleen tells me, a tip. Now she has restored it and taken in two fresh lodgers. They appear lower-maintenance: one is a young man who is currently suffering unrequited love and the other a recent divorcee. She’s obviously fond of both and has taken up a role as a kind of surrogate mother.

She is at a crossroads; she wants to work in making people happier, healthier and wiser. She’s qualified in psychotherapy but can’t seem to get her practice off the ground.

The young man’s bed linen is predominantly black. Not a winning colour scheme. Black, for his ba zi is draining. Red and white is more like it. Red & white, fire and metal, means something like success but also relationship, passion if you will: liquid currency and other fluids flowing as they ought. These are the colours of the Bank of China, of HSBC, the only clearing bank not to need a bail out. And of course Manchester United. Arsenal too. And Liverpool.

“Does he ….er….entertain?” I ask.

“I won’t let him,”she says, a little affronted.

I look at her. She knows what I’m going to say:

“You’re not his Mum. It’s not really your business.”

She sniffs the air.

“Not more than three times a week and I’ll charge rent if it’s more often than that,” she says, not that strictly. She knows she’s programmed to be a Northern caricature but she’s far too smart to actually be it.

“Fair enough.”

That and some red and white linen might do the trick. The room is in the North West which is the ruling location in this house. He’ll be fine.

We look up at the divorcee’s window overlooking the South East at the front.

Something to do with the church.

“You’re right,” she says approvingly. “How did you know?”

“I don’t know,” I say baldly.

I used to expect applause when insight came to me. Now I realise that a sober response is actually more respectful.

Colleen is, as I say, at a crossroads. What is this handsome and perceptive woman going to do with the rest of her life? She’s not troubled about relationship; her eyes mist over touchingly when she talks about her man. She obviously loves him. There’s a win. She’s turned her home into combination haven and healing centre for the unlucky in love partly because she is so certain about it. Lucky lodgers.

She has talent and skills, behind her a career in change management. She wants to work with people: healing and transforming their lives.

“But what has my experience got to do with healing?”

I blink.


We talk about the process of change.

“Essentially miracles consist of two things,” I say taking my life in my hands: “Knowing the problem and knowing what we want. To put it another way: telling the truth about what’s so and about what we want. Solving it follows.

You don’t need me to tell you that. You’ve been doing it for years.”

She listens intently..

“Telling the truth about what we want is a yin, heart, lunar, passive feminine process. Essentially it consists of feeling what we feel. Clarifying what we want is a question of vision: a yang, head, solar, assertive masculine process.

Two clues: feel what you feel, celebrate the good stuff (whatever that means btw) and dare to experience the bad stuff. There are no absolutes: some people find tickling painful and some like to be whipped. Make no attempt to feel good until you do.

Second: when you feel pessimistic, feel it but don’t think it. Be disciplined enough to hold onto your dreams.

“Taoist thinkers see three kinds of energy, fortune, process: Heaven which may mean how it is, Earth which may be what we do about it and Human which is perhaps the choice to act.

One down, two to go. Now let’s do some feng shui.”

Next we plot the energies in the house and make a series of changes in the mysterious process of turning choice into action into change. What connects these procedures? Damned if I know.

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One Response to “Snow: plough on?”

  1. Natasha Says:

    Thank you Richard. Your Diaries are always enjoyable, and most engaging.
    With Best Wishes Natasha

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