Allan : the story
jumping up and down because I've just finished writing a tasty(1)
little novel, Ted Allan in Spain:
the movie, which is the most interesting and exciting story, starring
Hemingway and Bethune and
and my father, a story that should be told, and
I think I have an agent! but I'm sad, because it's raining, and cause sometimes
I'm just a lonely old man, without a dog: but this afternoon I'm with Ezra. We're
in the Market, in the rain. Ezra is chastising me:
"You are sad because you are buried in your books, and your thoughts, and
your memories. You must be here! I am here," says Ezra, "with the elements,
the rain. the earth, the life, the living. See the tree. It's living. And finally,
after all else, the light." Ezra finds God in the light. And then, in contradiction
- we are all bathed in contradictions - he says, "Write your story. It would
be fascinating. I'd read it. I'll commission it! I'll pay you
dollars, next time I'm in town.
it two years ago Ezra commissioned a painting. "Paint me "Norman
Allan as the Universe"? He paid me a pittance, but that's part of the
So this is for
Ezra: beyond Norman Allan as the Universe - Norman Allan: the story.
know where I want to go to with this story, but I'm not quite sure how to get
there, how to start. With a splash, I guess
so here goes.
One: Hamach and beyond, to hints of MAME
will me tell you of my meeting with Hamach, of his prediction of the hour of my
death: a rambling tale that winds through Chauffeur Mike.
second time I met Mike the Chauffeur was up on Cissbury Tor. (2).
It led me to Marrakech, and Hamach. The first meeting with Mike the Chauffeur
had been a year before at a "squat" in Brighton. Alan Dare, of the Open
Café, asked me to photo-document the squat so the police couldn't say the
squatters had trashed the place. But they did. They trashed the place down to
the legendary piano for fire wood.
"Mike the Chauffeur"? Because, he said, he had driven the getaway car.
at the concert on the Downs, leaving beaming Jane with an understanding that we
would be in touch, I turned and walked towards the music, towards the stage. I
think the mushrooms were beginning to bite, the fly agaric from Viking Nick.
my left, as I walked across a small glade, was a lean-to hut of branches and polythene.
Outside it stood a small group of deadbeat "heads", Mike among them.
(We hippies, we called ourselves "heads", or "freaks". "Ah,
you're nay freaks," said the young Scot in Covent Gardens.) Up on Cissbury
Tor, Mike the Chauffeur recognized and greeted me and told me that everything
was simply wonderful with him. He'd been raveling. He was in business - very successful.
He had an apartment in Rome and an apartment in Marrakech.
I echoed. I was writing my first novel, a hippy fairy tale, Pipedreams, which
was set, in part, in Morocco, in the Riff. I never got to the Riff - I let a hipster
in Casablanca part me from my money
- but Marrakech? Well, I was ready to travel; explore; new life; possibly to Canada,
to look up Linda, to inquire after Brenda. But perhaps Marrakech first, for the
sake of the novel. "Ahm," said Mike. "I've, er, left this girl
looking after the place, English girl, Helen McDuff. Ah, what the hell, just tell
her I said you could stay there. Stay as long as you like." And he scribbled
the address for me on a little scrap of paper: 1 Rue Mohammed Cinque.
this was a gift horse worth a look in the mouth, but a short while later I bumped
into Viking Nick, who had organized this little free festival, the concert up
on the Tor. I spoke to Nick of my encounter with the "chauffeur", of
his flat in Marrakech and that I might travel. "Helen, yeah. I know her,"
he said. "Tall blond girl. Ex-mate of my mate Brent. She stayed on out in
Marrakech when they split up. Everybody there knows her. The Moroccans call her
Aisha, because of her blond hair." So the address seemed legitimate. I had
a place to stay in Marrakech and a few weeks later, after my brief butterfly affair
with Jane, I set out.
I mention above that I let a Moroccan hipster talk me out of my money in Casa?
- a long story. I hitchhiked to Marrakech to find that the Rue Mohammed Cinque
is the main street in the new French city. One Rue Mohammed Cinque is the address
of the main mosque, the Katubia.
and near penniless I wandered into the main square, the Jamal F'na. There were
rows and rows of booths filling most of the square: baby "souks". (A
souk is a shop and "the souk" is the market.) One of the awninged kiosk
shops had a hippy flare. Several longhairs were sitting there with the young proprietor.
Standing outside it in the North African sun, I inquired after the blond McDuff.
The proprietor shook his head, he didn't know, and then beckoned me, inviting
me in to sit and drink mint tea and smoke kif with them, in the Moroccan pipe,
English, the proprietor, Hassan, made me welcome. The cool, the hip, stopped and
gossiped in his stall as they passed from the old town, the Medina, to the new
city through the square, the Jamal F'na. Of each new arrival I inquired after
Aisha, after McDuff. Hours passed. Hassan and God, Allah, were patient with me.
a tall, superhip, young Moroccan stopped with us a while, another Hassan. There
are incredible numbers of Hassans and Mohammeds in Morocco. (What made this Hassan
"superhip"? He was relaxed, completely at home in his skin.)
I can help you," said superhip young Hassan. "Meet me tomorrow, at four."
the shop keeper, directed me to a cheap, honest, "hotel" where for a
small price I got a small, bare room and a rush mat for the night. There was no
lock on the door. I stood a litre coca cola bottle, in which I had water for the
night, behind the door, to fall and clatter if anyone opened the door (as would
Chris Pasha, the hero of my hippy-tale, Pipedreams). No one disturbed us.
Hassan's friend was, indeed, Helen, but she was not actually called Helen McDuff.
She was McDonaugh. And Helen did not know any Mike the Chauffeur. "He must
have crashed in the pad sometime, but I don't recall him." And further, she
had lost her apartment a few days before (I don't recall the circumstances). She
was staying with friends. But she took pity on me. "Wait here. I will make
some inquiries." An hour later she returned with a solution.
friend, Nicole, put me up. The hippy-go-lucky seventies were sure different days.
Can you imagine taking in a stranger today? (Then you are probably some latter-day
Nicole was a colleague
of Helen's, a teacher at the English school. She was older, but with a young man.
Her teenage daughter, a student at the school, helped to tie her to the younger
set. She lived in a bungalow, by no means small, in the new city. And there I
was ensconced for a week or ten days till Helen found and rented a house in the
was having an affair with one of her students, Nasari. Why mention this? Narasi's
friend, Yves, will figure in our story, in a moment.
else to tell of Marrakech? That it was hot? Forty degree, a dry oven. That I was
in culture shocked, you bet, beset with beggars every time I ventured abroad till,
perhaps ten days after I arrived, I went the campground and sat and smoked with
English and Dutch and French heads, some moments in a familiar European enclave,
and that settled me. I arrived. After that, having recovered from "culture
shock", I no longer attracted beggars, would-be-guides, and kids, like flies.
I acquired acquaintances and friends.
and the money. I had read that Anthony Quinn was in Marrakech shooting "Mohammed".
My father had worked with Quinn on that project. I wrote Quinn a cheque for a
hundred dollars. "I may not cash this," he said. But he did.
should find another space to tell you of Aram and Azezza. Before I had settled,
while still in culture shock, I had visited them in their house deep in the Medina
and spoke of feeling lost. Aram said, "Wherever you sit, that is your space."
should speak of Etienne, and Etienne's garden
I should speak of the musicians in the Jamal F'na, the Gnua people, dark skinned
from the south, with their three stringed bass, the gimbri. The Gnua musician
would sing and thump out a powerful music, while a friend would clack the metal
clackers and dance. A circle 'd formed round them. How honored I felt when I was
invited into the musician's space, to sit in their inner circle in the hot North
African timeless night.
And so the weeks passed.
is having a party," said Helen. 'He told me to invite you."
party in Etienne's garden was a farewell-bash for Teresa. Teresa was blond and
young. She had a beautiful, noble face. She walked with a crutches. "Polio"
she said. She had spent her teens in Marrakech - she was the princess of Marrakech
- and now she was returning home, next week, towards Poland.
can I meet you again," I asked.
in Etienne's garden. Come tomorrow at noon."
spent the afternoon and evening together and meet the next day and the next. Teresa
invited me to travel with her to Avingon where she would spend a month, at the
Avingon Festival, on her way home to Poland. We arranged to meet in Paris a week
On my way home to Helen's
house in the Medina that night, I stopped for a moment in a souk. A real souk,
not the kiosk in the square. As you left the square and entered the Medina, the
old city, the first shop you'd come across belonged to another Mohammed and Hassan.
I've written of them in a short story, The Lady with the Boots (2).
I'll not speak of them further here, just to say that they suggested I go back
deep into the shop and met there their country cousin. Perhaps he was rolling
Deep, deep in back of the
souk was a simple young man entertaining two local teenage girls dressed in jeans,
tees, running shoes, each with can of coke in hand. The young man was slim, mid-twenties,
nothing remarkable about him. He sported relatively short, curly, dark hair, and
again, jeans, tee-shirt.
Norman," I said, or was I Pasha then? I was Pasha quite a while in the seventies.
Whoever I was, the poor country cousin, in answer, started to mirror me, each
twitch of the eyebrow, each quiver of the jaw. That's a very challenging thing,
to be mirrored anywhere, but particularly by a stranger and in a foreign country.
And it went on and on, well, not an eternity, but a thorough test, before he broke
off from mirroring and, in stilted English, said, "We are brothers. You call
me Hamach. Don't use this word with a stranger. Is bad word. Hamach mean crazy.
But we are brothers. Friends. You call me Hamach." He paused, then said,
"Give me your hand," and before I could offer, he took it.
studied my palm for a moment and, pointing to the small calluses, he said, "There
is much money."
no great thing to be told by a poor Moroccan that you are, or will be, rich, for
indeed, relative to the third world poor, we are fabulously wealthy, so I was
not impressed with much money. "How much life is there," I asked.
hesitation he answered, "Thirty years, one month, one day, two hours."
thought a moment, calculated: Wow! If he was one year out, mistaking thirty for
thirty one, then that would make this very moment exactly the half way point in
Then Hamach took a
piece of string from his pocket. He measured the collective length of my left
fingers and compared it to my forearm. "Love will not go well," he said.
told him that my marriage had come apart. "That is good," he said, and
took my other hand. Again he compared the finger length against the forearm, and
beamed. "There is a woman who loves you bazzef." (Bazzef is one of those
first words that one first learns in a foreign tongue - beaucoup, mucho, bazzef.)
Then his face clouded. "There is someone who watches you. He is not big,
not little. He watches and he is very jealous." And it was this jealous,
envious watcher that most impressed itself on Hamach. He returned to it three
or four times emphatically. He also returned with enthusiasm, to the woman who
loved me bazzef - and this right after Teresa had invited me to travel to Avingon
- but he returned again and again to stress the one who watched with envy.
left the shop around ten o'clock and stepped out right into Helen McDonaugh's
path as she walked past from the Medina towards the square. "I was looking
for you," she said. "We need to talk."
went to a café on the Jamal F'na. "Yves going to rent a room from
me. He's paid me the rent and he's moving in tomorrow. And he wants you to leave."
spent my last few nights in Marrakech back at Nicole's. As you might guess, I
was greatly impressed with Hamach's reading. He saw my failed marriage. He saw
Teresa's love. (Teresa was a classmate and a close friend of Nicole's daughter
and, in that, part of Nasari and Yves' circle.) But he saw loudest the event I
would walk into from his reading: Yves envy. How could I doubt that he could also
see my death: that I would die this coming August, August sixth, 2005.
while ago I was round at Teresa's for her fiftieth birthday. We've been separated
- divorced - for years and years, but we're closest of friends. In some context,
that evening, I started talking about Charles Darwin and I put Darwin on the Bounty!
"The Beagle," Lynn, a mutual fiend, corrected.
a little later, I spoke to Teresa H. about my perception of Teresa A. and my cat,
Sativa's, behaviour when we broke up. "No, it wasn't like that," said
Teresa A. (I've written about this in a short sketch, "Three Takes..."
(3) .) And that got me thinking
how I have now and again, and again, misperceived the world. And all of a sudden,
after thirty years, I was back in that souk in Marrakech asking, "How much
life is there?"
years, a month, a day, and two hours," Hamach said, and that was precisely,
to the minute, the amount of time I had lived up until then. "How much life...?,"
I had asked, and he answered telling me how long I had lived.
easy to misperceive the world. You can never be sure.
came to my office to see me as a chiropractor, for her low back pain, which we
helped, but she liked some of the "CranioSacral" work(4)
(part of the treatment), so she came back for more. So, I was sitting with my
hands over and under her right thigh (you may have to read my brief article on
CranioSacral Therapy to see why). So... so many
"so"s. So,like I was sitting beside her, she's lying on a massage table,
with my hands on her thigh when a thought arrived which I felt called to voice.
(Now, I've never said anything like this before or since to a patient.) I said,
"It's as though there's a microfilm embedded in your thigh."
my God!" said Marsha. "I dreamed last night I was in a submarine. I
was a spy and they were looking for the microfilm. It was hidden in my left thigh.
They tied me to the periscope."
had forgotten her dream after waking and during the day, but she had never repressed
what it alluded to. She told me that from the age of three till she was five her
mother used to take her down into the basement, tie her up to a round pillar,
a cylindrical, metal floor support, and whip her thighs with electrical wire,
or a coat hanger wire. From the age of three Marsha knew that her mother was mad,
crazy. She was still looking after her mother, at twenty-five, but about leave
home to travel east. She sent me a happy postcard from Katmandu. She had never
forgotten the abuse, but she had never spoken of it (so "spirit" engineered
a dream and something like telepathy so that she would speak).
points of discussion arise out of this:
is that "telepathy" if it was not conscious in her mind? Not exactly.
Two: if you are going to go on
to talk about homeopathy
. and I am. I was involved at your "world class"
with homeopathy research, into its reality
homeopathy has been demonstrated,
actually again and again, and it's never actually been refuted. Oh, we haven't
understood till now the mechanism, the physics. That is what I am going to talk
to you about, in a while, the ground, the science, a whole new field of a science
of pattern and resonance. (Beyond chaos, there is pattern, so the mathematicians
have found. It's a fractal, it's a Mandelbrot world.)
is a most amazing story that I'm going to tell you: not of fractals, but of homeopathy;
and it may take a little while to get there. Ah, but, if that's where we're going,
why go by eerie leery things like telepathy and "spirit"? Well, that's
where my life has taken me. I'm not here to hide my "reality". We are
here to explore it.
were "materialists", for better or worse "dialectical materialists".
And then, at twelve years old I was plunked into psychoanalysis , and thereafter
I might say I was raised as a Freudian! So, my adolescent ambition was to understand
the mind. In my teens I had to choose between art and science. The mind, the mind
surely that's science. But my mentors said, don't study psychology at University.
You'll end up a Behaviourist in a Skinner box. Ah, there's a story
get to that.
also thought to start each chapter with a poem: but I don't think I dare. I'll
dare to finish this chapter with a poem
reaching back towards our beginnings.
night wind breathes a hush
upon our brow.
sun lies now
behind our dreams:
and our losings
in the seed
from which the future grows.
is the bewitching hour.
2: Spirit: an athiest's guide to the divine
or you might
want to read the first chapters of :book
two: secrets ...
and third, towards
and then follow on as you will...
book one : Beyond
1: Hamach and beyond to hints of MAME
Chapter 2: Spirit: an atheist's
guide to the divine
Chapter 3: bafflement, the mind (and homeopathy)
Chapter 4: evil: the devil at large
7: painting.... and conceits
Chapter 8: disappearings
Chapter 9: errors
Chapter 10: full circle