Monday, 7 October 2013

To Love At All

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), The Four Loves

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Marijuana transformations

"Said Michael Rossman, a veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, "When a young person took his first puff of psychoactive smoke, he also drew in the psychoactive culture as a whole, the entire matrix of law and association surrounding the drug, its induction and transaction. One inhaled a certain way of dressing, talking, acting, certain attitudes. One became a youth criminal against the State."

Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain, Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond (2007).

Sunday, 22 September 2013


"Drug use, and drug abuse, are a reflection of society, its tensions, its values, and its needs. To punish drug-takers is like a drunk striking the bleary face which he sees in the mirror. Drugs will not be brought under control until society itself changes, enabling men to use them with discrimination, and perhaps in time to dispense with them."

Brian Inglis, The Forbidden Game, 1975.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Alice's Apple?

"It's no accident that the people who popularized the personal computer were Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, both barefoot, longhaired acid-freaks. It's no accident that most of the people in the software computer industry have had very thoughtful, very profitable and creative psychedelic experiences. Bill Gates, rumor has it, was a very active psychedelic proponent when he was at Harvard, before he, uhh... founded Microsoft."

Timothy Leary in conversation with Todd Brendan Fahey.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Psychedelic Fantasia

In 1927, German physician Kurt Beringer published a description of his mescaline studies in research
subjects. One of his subjects said that the remarkable visual images he experienced should be captured in film. Years later, this same subject was hired by Walt Disney as chief visualist for Fantasia.

This was reported by Peter Stafford in his 1992 books Psychedelics Encylopedia. Years later, he could not recall his source for the claim but confidently claimed the report was accurate. It certainly seems plausible, at least.


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Advice to Lovers

I knew an old man at a fair
Who made it his twice-yearly task
To clamber on a cider cask
And cry to all the lovers there : –

‘Lovers of all lands and all time
Preserve the meaning of my rhyme,
Love is not kindly nor yet grim
But does to you as you to him.

Whistle, and Love will come to you :
Hiss, and he fades without a word :
Do wrong, and he great wrong will do :
Speak, and he tells what he has heard.

Then all you lovers take good heed,
Vex not young Love in thought or deed :
Love never leaves an unpaid debt,
He will not pardon, nor forget.’

The old man’s voice was kind yet loud
And this shows what a man was he,
He’d scatter apples to the crowd
And give great draughts of cider free.

Robert Graves, October 1919 via Brainpicker

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Is LSD an evolutionary agent?

"Possibly. In the LSD state we may become conscious, in the words of Teilhard de Chardin, of the "entire complex of interhuman and intercosmic relations with an immediacy, an intimacy and a realism" that otherwise happen only in spontaneous ecstatic states and to a very few blessed people.

Agreement exists among spiritual leaders that the continuation of the present development, characterized by increasing industrialization and overpopulation, will result in the exhaustion of natural resources and destroy the ecological basis for mankind's existence on this planet. This trend to self-annihilation is reinforced by international politics based on "power trips" and the preparation of weapons of apocalyptic potential.

This development can be stopped only by a change in the materialistic attitude that has caused this development. This change can result only from insight into the deepest spiritual roots of life and existence, from comprehensive use of all forces of our intelligence and all resources of our knowledge.

This intellectual approach, supplemented by visionary experience, could produce an alteration of the consciousness of truth and reality that could be of evolutionary significance. LSD selectively and wisely used could be one means of supplementing intellectual with visionary insight and helping the prepared mind become conscious of a deeper reality."

Albert Hoffman, discoverer of LSD, 1976.
Horowitz M. "Interview with Albert Hofmann". High Times. 11. 1976.

My dissertation is endlessly fascinating.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The house where Grandad was born

last weekend i found myself* at Latitude festival in Suffolk. the festival site is near Ipswich, and i knew my Dad had grown up near there since he supports Ipswich FC. while my friend Justin drove us back to London, i was suddenly moved to call Dad and ask him about the area - just in case we were near his hometown. the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi Dad, it's me. I'm just driving through Suffolk, near where you grew up I think. We've just come from Southwold...

Dad: If you're driving back to London from Southwold, you'll be on the A12 right? You're about to drive through Yoxford, where I grew up.

Me: Oh wow!

Dad: But before that you'll drive through Darsham - over a railway crossing, up and down a hill and then you'll drive right past where your Grandad was born.

Me: Sorry what did you say? We're going to drive past where Grandad was born?

Dad: Yep, he was born in a lodge just off the road. You'll see it on the right as you go past...

...and we did. Justin kindly stopped the car in a serendipitous lay-by, and we walked back to the house where, on Hallowe'en 1925, my Grandfather, Peter Crane, was born. i can't really explain the feeling i got from seeing for the first time (that i can remember) the house Grandad was born in. and how everything had come together - Justin's very kind offer of a lift to save me the hassle of the train, the sudden inspiration to call Dad and the convenience of our journey home being the exact route to the origins of my family.

Grandad lived here with my great-grandfather Crane, my great-grandmum and my four great-uncles until he married my lovely Nanny in 1949 and moved to the neighbouring town of Yoxford. not very far, as you can see from the map...

View Grandad's house in a larger map

the Crane family lived in the lodge because my great-grandfather was a groom and gardener for the big house nearby. Grandad also became a gardener. he died when i was seven, so i don't have that many memories of him, but i do remember his house when the family moved to Westhumble in Surrey, and all the beautiful flowers in the garden. Nanny loves flowers, and i do too... i wonder if that's what drew her to Grandad. strangely enough i was recently very attracted to a man whose job involves gardening...

it's all just a little bit of history repeating.

*huge thank you to Robin for my unexpected Latitude adventure. check out his own current (and crazy) adventure in South Africa, here.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Conscious v. Unconscious

"Dr. Will Menninger has a single illustration of the Conscious v. Unconscious conflict. The mind, he says, is something like a clown act featuring a two-man fake horse. The man up front (the conscious part of the mind) tries to set the direction and make the whole animal behave; but he can never be sure what the man at the rear end of the horse (the unconscious) is going to do next. If both ends of the horse are going in the same direction, your mental health is all right. If they aren't pulling together, there's likely to be trouble."

Time, October 25, 1948, pp. 65-66.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Women of 1926

Mother’s advice, and Father’s fears,

Alike are voted—just a bore.

There’s Negro music in our ears,

The world’s one huge dancing floor.

We mean to tread the Primrose Path,

In spite of Mr. Joynson-Hicks.

We’re People of the Aftermath

We’re girls of 1926.

In greedy haste, on pleasure bent,

We have no time to think, or feel

What need is there for sentiment

Now we’ve invented Sex Appeal?

We’ve silken legs and scarlet lips,

We’re young and hungry, wild and free,

Our waists are round about the hips

Our skirts are well above the knee

We’ve boyish busts and Eton crops,

We quiver to the saxophone.

Come, dance before the music stops,

And who can bear to be alone?

Come drink your gin, or sniff your ‘snow’,

Since Youth is brief, and Love has wings,

And time will tarnish, ere we know,

The brightness of the Bright Young Things.

by James Laver (1899-1975)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


"There are fates worse than death. Longevity drags if you have buried your children. Poverty, loneliness, incontinence, dependence, and dementia are some of the final rewards. Not everybody hopes for a long life followed by death from boredom. Plato in The Republic recalled the gymnastic teacher Herodicus whose skills enabled him to reach old age in a prolonged death struggle. Hesiod’s golden race died swiftly, as though in sleep; they had no old age. Why be afraid of sudden death from coronary heart disease if you cannot regret it the day after?"

Skrabanek, Petr. "Preventive medicine and morality." Lancet 1, no. 8473 (1986): 143.

Friday, 19 April 2013

the nineteenth of April

today is the day my brother died. we don't know when, exactly, but the landlord found his lifeless body in the communal hallway around half past ten. nobody knows what was going through his mind then. he didn't leave a note. just two empty vodka bottles and a body that ran out of breath.

i remember quite clearly the phone call. i was walking past Dream beds on Tottenham Court Road when the nightmare began. "the inevitable's happened. Paul's gone." i think i squeaked something out before a strange, impassive sense of calm descended on me.

i met my boyfriend at Warren Street and greeted him with the cold, hard words: "Paul's dead". we hugged for too long and then walked up Hampstead Road to get back home. past the old alcoholic's treatment centre, of all ironies. past flats full of alcoholics like Paul, i expect.

when i got home my housemates asked if everything was alright like they already knew it wasn't. i don't know if they did. i know i didn't want to upset them so i just said yes, with a fake cheerful smile that i stuck on my face over the coming black weeks. then i went home to my mum.

i don't remember anything of that weekend.

on Monday i called my boss into a meeting room and told her with what i thought was the appropriate tone of voice that my eldest brother had died last week and i would need exactly two days off for the funeral and no more because i was absolutely fine and i wouldn't need to take any more time off from work at all.

i don't remember anything of that week.

until the funeral. i wasn't sure whether to wear trousers or a skirt. but i couldn't ask my mum because my voice had disappeared. maybe it was visiting Paul's soul to say the last words i never got to say. i didn't visit his body.

Jason cried in the car park. it was the first expression of grief i'd seen. it just made me more like stone. i wasn't upset. i was relieved, and guilty that i was relieved, and angry about feeling guilty, and ashamed because i couldn't cry. my Dad did though.

i read a poem. well i tried. the congregation gasped as my shell-shocked vocal cords straining at the sounds a normal person would make. but i wasn't normal and i never will be again.

at the wake, Jonathan played Paul's music and distributed copies of his poems, "because they should be seen." shame no one saw that while he was alive. i was angry again, but only on the inside.

it took a long while for my anger and guilt and shame to reach the top of the bottomless pit of deep dark despair that i didn't know existed in a hole in my heart. once that happened i started leaking. it wouldn't stop.

it doesn't stop.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

How the Wellcome Trust once thumbed their noses at Margaret Thatcher

On the day of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher's funeral, it seems appropriate to flag up a wonderful story from the history of the Wellcome Trust. I first came across it while researching interesting aspects of Wellcome's history for their 75th anniversary project, when I was seconded to the public engagement team. My job was to tease out a dozen tales from Wellcome's history that demonstrated its impact, influence and achievement.

In 1989, Margaret Thatcher pulled funding from a survey run from UCL that would assess the state of the nation's sex lives and attitudes towards it. She believed the survey was "an invasion of people's privacy and did not want her government to be associated with it." Sir Donald Acheson, the Chief Medical Officer of the day, saw its importance and went to the then director of the Wellcome Trust, Peter Williams with a plea. Anne Johnson, lead investigator of the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL) sent her original grant application to Williams and nine days later Wellcome's scientific committee recommended to their Trustees that they provide the full funding for the survey: £900,000. The Trustees unaninmously agreed that same day.

Journalist Mike Durham with his Sunday Times story about Margaret Thatcher blocking NATSAL funding. 
Credit: Wellcome Library, London

Some involved in the decision were concerned that Wellcome might appear to be "thumbing their noses" to the Prime Minister. Fortunately, they also believed that politicians should not have "a veto on a well-designed study that many saw as key to the tackling of a looming medical emergency."

And it seems Wellcome's scientific committee and its Trustees made the right decision. The rest of the story is published on the Wellcome Trust's website, as written by Nic Fleming following mine and Benjamin Thompson's initial research.

Monday, 15 April 2013

And The Winner Is...

Early morning, never sleep
Enough to have a dream.
Dreads bathing mother, fears
That no-one will be
Her selfless friend
When the time draws near
That is misnamed 'the end'.

The postman nearly visits,
On the mat a letter
Sealed in dumb reply
To her only ever
Rush of madness -
"Why you should have a holiday
In twenty words or less."

Excitement lasts a gulp
Then stood one foot upon
The pristine pedal of the bin
The thought that if she'd won......
If frightens her to laugh;
The unopened letter gets dropped in
And she goes to run the bath.

Paul Maddocks (1969-2007)

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Tubes and Flaps of Modern Medicine

I'm reading James Le Fanu's account of "The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine". It's a gripping whistle-stop tour of how medicine changed dramatically from the era of the First World War onwards. Le Fanu pulls out such glorious gems of whimsy in these tales of triumph, I just had to share one here:

In 1973, reports of the first "free skin flap transfer" gave hope that the old style "tube pedicle" transfer -whereby a portion of skin is removed from a healthy area and conjoined to skin that has been damaged (namely from burns) until this skin tube, or bridge, naturally gains a blood supply from the new site, is removed entirely from the healthy area and then sewn as a flap of healthy skin over the damaged area - could become a technique of the past.

The first of the new microsurgical free skin flap transfers involved the complete removal of healthy tissue from an Australian patient's groin area and subsequent transfer to the area of damaged skin on the ankle. This technique made use of the newly-invented operating microscope to enable grafting of miniscule blood vessels between the skin surrounding the damaged site and the healthy skin graft. The tension lay in the skill of the surgeon connecting these pin-head sized vessels, and the question of whether they would immediately carry blood through to the grafted skin.

In this case, they did. And here is the gem:

"After 17 days the sutures were removed and a few luxuriant pubic hairs were noted growing on the ankle."

Le Fanu mined this quote from the original paper in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery*. It is the appearance of the word "luxuriant" more than "pubic hairs" that really makes me smile. I can imagine authors Daniel Rollin and Ian Taylor enjoyed inserting that into an otherwise standard technical account of an extraordinary technique that transformed the treatment of skin burns.

*Available to subscribers only, sorry.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Just So

There's no harm in asking
Why everything should be just so
There's no harm in dreaming
That someday I'll know all there is to know
I just want to know
Perhaps it's true that some surprises
Are much better left untold
But there's no harm in hoping
That one day their secrets

Why does the ostrich have feathers that grow in a plume?
And why does the hippo have tiny red eyes
When there's so much room for eyes to bloom?
Why do camels get the hump?
Why does the crab play with the sea?

Why does no one seem to be bothered by questions but me?

In these High and Far-Off Times
There must be reasons behind rhymes
There must be answers to every question
And puzzle, I propose
Though I've asked all of my cousins
Aunts and uncles in their dozens
The only thing I've learned
Is no one knows
No one knows...

There's no harm in asking
Why everything should be just so
(I like his young, inquiring mind)
There's no harm in dreaming
That someday I'll know all there is know
(A joie-de-vivre...?)

Perhaps it's true that some surprises
Are far better left untold
But there's no harm in hoping
That one day their secrets
(One day their secrets)

There's no harm in asking
(No harm in asking)
Why everything should be
Just so

Anthony Drewe, from the musical Just So based on the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

if today were the day you had to stop dancing…

these lyrics are from A Chorus Line, a musical i have a dance chorus part in, but will likely have to drop out of because i have fractured my foot. i broke it in July when i fell off the fence i was peering over when i was lost taking a shortcut home. i have been dancing on it since then, not knowing it was fractured but feeling something wasn't right. the pain has been overwhelming at times, but it's worth it. just for the sheer joy of dancing.

Kiss today goodbye
The sweetness and the sorrow
Wish me luck, the same to you
But I can't regret
What I did for love, what I did for love

Look, my eyes are dry
The gift was ours to borrow
It's as if we always knew
And I won't forget what I did for love
What I did for love

Love is never gone
As we travel on
Love's what we'll remember

Kiss today goodbye
And point me toward tomorrow
We did what we had to do
Won't forget, can't regret
What I did for love

What I did for love
What I did for

Love is never gone
As we travel on
Love's what we'll remember

Kiss today goodbye
And point me toward tomorrow

Point me toward tomorrow
We did what we had to do
Won't forget, can't regret
What I did for love what I did for love

What I did for love
by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban