Friday, August 26, 2016

Further Reflections on the Witch Figure

The events of the last... Ooh, well, the whole of my life really, have caused me to think again about the effect that the witch has on her environment, and particularly on people, even if they don't know she is a witch.
For me a major element of the witch figure is that the witch tends to be very values-driven but that these values are not always apparent to other people. This creates an ambivalence in other people because it is difficult or impossible to read the witch's inner world and values.
Combine this with the simple fact that most witches are past masters at reading the situation around them and thus knowing what is coming next, and this is a figure almost guaranteed to cause discomfort in other people.
To take this one step on, it is only necessary to consider that the mere presence of the witch makes things happen. Now for example, I have a tendency to dig my heels in, and also one to shoot my mouth off. This means that I will perpetually be in situations where those actions are either necessities or else where I have to learn to deal with those tendencies and manage them properly.
Years of the witching have taught me that there is no point trying to avoid that. I am comfortable with this simple fact now - and surely a failure to agonise about 'why me' must be one of the most frightening things possible to the world around me. That said, the fact that the sort of situations in which I am required either to dig my heels in or shoot my mouth off, magically create themselves around me, is probably the most frightening aspect possible of the witch figure, for other people that is.
You see, it is not enough that people habitually project all their fears and insecurities onto the witch, it also happens that an encounter with the witch will involve lessons for other people. You can phrase it how you like, and I have heard it called correcting karma and all sorts of things, but this is the main purpose of the witch in the world: to do ones own work in this incarnation and enable or cause others to do theirs.
Muggles are often further surprised by the working out in the witch's life of the magical axiom that apparent polar opposites are connected to each other in such a way that they can easily become each other. For example my tendency to dig my heels in means that the lesson people can often have to learn from an encounter with me, is the apparently opposite one, that things have to come to a natural end and there is no point trying to spin them out further.
I suppose the point of these reflections is that the witch figure - and so the person of the witch - is one that is largely fated to cause discomfort in others. But that said, naturally the polar opposite is also the case. An encounter with the witch also causes laughter and pleasure because once the karma is dealt with another feature of the witch thing is that balance is to be sought. I know I keep banging on that both the black magicians and the white lighters are on a hiding to nothing, but it happens to be true! The comforting yet terrifying lesson from a witch encounter is that you can't expect life to be all good or bad, and in fact those divisions may well be the most illusory things there are.
Now if people would just stop blaming the witch for anything they don't like, life would be perfect...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Time Travel: Smallbrook Queensway

There is talk of redevelopini ng one of the modernist buildings on Smallbrook Queensway (formerly known as Ringway until the Queen misunderstood what was meant by opening the Queensway and the whole inner ring road became the Queensway). It is the first part of the Inner Ring Road to be completed and even manages to get an honorific mention in the Birmingham Pevsner:
‘From here [Holloway Head Roundabout] Smallbrook Queensway runs E. The best piece of mid-C20 urban design in the city, and the only stretch of the Inner Ring Road built as a boulevard, rather than an urban motorway. Much of the effect is due to the S side. First the plain former Scala House, offices and cinema by James A Roberts, 1962-4. Then a single six-storey block by Roberts of 1958-62 runs as far as the Bull Ring. Grand urban scale, and a good balance between the thin concrete mullions, bands of windows, and relief panels. Projecting concrete trough uplighters give it excellent relief. In the centre a glazed section bridges Hurst Street on raking concrete pillars.’ (Andy Foster: Pevsner Architectural Guides: Birmingham. Yale University Press, New Haven, 2005, p. 201.)
Architect Joe Holyoak has waded into the battle (it seems that the fans of modernist architecture are becoming more alarmed at the rate at which Birmingham’s 1960s buildings are vanishing, girded by the fate of the Central Library):
' Roberts' Queensway building is a grand and elegant urban gesture. Its curvature on plan and sweeping horizontal lines, its rhythm of vertical fins, together with its characteristic projecting concrete uplighters, make it still the most impressive piece of modern streetscape in the city, even 54 years after its completion.
It is directly comparable with the work of John Nash in the early 19th century, when Nash cut the curving new boulevard of Regent Street through a tangle of lanes and alleys in London and lined it with elegant neoclassical commercial buildings.
But the Smallbrook Queensway building is now threatened">by a redevelopment proposed by its owners
CEG (Commercial Estates Group).
CEG proposes to demolish the section between Hurst Street and Horse Fair, including the bridge over Hurst Street, and to rebuild it as residential apartments. A tower of at least 22 storeys is proposed on the corner with Hurst Street.
'The section of the building between Hurst Street and the Bullring is proposed to be stripped back to its concrete frame and rebuilt, with two additional floors of offices added on top.
'Nothing of the original character of Roberts' building would survive this redevelopment. The architecture of the proposal is bland and unexceptional, lacking the distinctiveness of the existing building.
'The developer claims the continuous sweep of Roberts' building is maintained in the new proposal but this is not so as can clearly be seen in the published images.' (
I don’t dislike it, myself. I think that probably Norfolk House over the road is a better building architecturally, less fussy and more effective. SBQ 1, 2, and 3 (as the building is now known, see below for its original names) is effective from a distance. Close up it is rather repetitive, and when seen from behind, it is apparent that the fa├žade is (as we would say locally) all kippers and curtains. There is the additional drawback that it is best seen from below the road level, and now that the subway into Hurst Street has been filled in, it cannot be seen in its most effective light. It has also been incredibly neglected, and what first made me look up the building in the books was overhearing a mother say to her daughter that the place was very neglected.
Be that as it may, this is a time travel post, and so as usual the Hound has turned to his Kelly’s Directory of 1967/8, since I find it fascinating to know what buildings were used for in the past. Of course that would have been well before the building’s architecture became unfashionable, and there were continual advertisements on it of offices to let. It is not completely clear to me what is where, since the names used for the buildings have changed, so I shall post the whole of that side of the Ringway after Scala House and up to the steps to the Bullring. The uses of the buildings start off in style:
…Here is Holloway Circus…
Locarno Ballroom (entrance)
21 Eastern Moon, restaurant
23 Ying Wa, Chinese restaurant
25/27 American Express Company Inc. (The), travel agts
29 Midland and Western House entrance
31 Nunn’s Barber Shop
31 Brooke Opticians (hearing aid dept)
31 Brooke Opticians
33 Bruno, ladies’ hairdrssrs
35 Government Bookshop, booksllrs
39 Pantheon Espresso
Laing John Construction Ltd. Bldg.. cntrctrs
1 Beekes Shoe Repairs
2/3 Thorley S. R. grocer
4/5 Comfort Shoe Warehouse Ltd. Shoe fctrs
6 Sewing Machine Shop (The), sewing machine dlrs
Withers (Tobacconist) Ltd. Tobccnsts
Leeson J. H. & Co. Ltd. Newsagts
… here is Hurst st …
Ground floor.
Lloyds Bank LTD
First Floor.
British Railways
Second floor.
British Railways
Third floor.
Initial Laundry Birmingham, laundries
Interior & Structural Cleaners (Midlands) Ltd. Office cleaners
Union of Shop, Distributive & Allied Workers
Fourth floor.
Shell Chemicals U.K. Ltd. Distributors
67 Powe Hector Ltd. Tailors
69 Sodazone Ltd. (Wimpy Bar), restaurant
71 Stylo Shoes Ltd. Shoe rtlrs
73/75 Paling Ltd. Outfitters
77 Collier Phillip Ltd. Tailors
79 Lewis Separates, ladies’ outfitters
81/83 Young’s Dress Hire, dress clothing hire
First floor.
Selwyn F. Maitland & Co. estate agts
Paling Ltd. (office), outfitters
Brittain Thos. & Co. chartered accntnts. Midland 4646/7/8
Jacks William & Co. Ltd. Metal mers
G.K.N. Steel Company Ltd. Steel mfrs
Woolley W. B. & Co. Ltd. Steamship agts
United States Lines, freight agts
National and Local Government Officers Association
Dictaphone Co. Ltd
Second floor.
Satchwell Appliance Controls Ltd. Thermostat mkrs
Satchwell Control Systems Ltd. Thermostat mkrs
Midlands Computing Centre Ltd. Computer bureau
Mann (Handling) Ltd. Conveyor and elevator mkrs
Tower Shipping (B’Ham) Ltd. Forwarding agts
Berisford S. & W. (Northern) Ltd. Sugar imptrs
SHAW, GILBERT & CO. F.A.I. Chartered auctioneers T.N. Midland 9125 (5 lines)
Capitol Motor Finance Ltd. Hire purchase financiers
E.M.I. Ltd. (Computing Services Division)
Third floor.
Planned Music Ltd. Music relay service
Bramley Oliver L. & Co. estate agts
Oakley, Vaughan & Co. Ltd. & at Lloyds, insur. Brkrs
English Steel Corporation Ltd. Steel mfrs
Renwick, Wilton & Dobson (Fuels) Ltd. Fuel distributors
Whitecroft Designs Ltd. Commrcl. Artists
FIRTH-VICKERS STAINLESS STEELS LIMITED, stainless steel manufrs. Telegraphic address, “Noncrode, Birmingham”; Telephone, Midland. 6877/8/9 (& Staybrite works, Sheffield 9)
Turvey B. H. & Co. accntnts
Midland Silicones Ltd. Chemcl. Mfrs
Fourth floor.
Ford Motor Co. Ltd. (design offices)
87/89 Stone T. & F. Lighting and Radio Ltd
91 Johnson’s (The) Jewellers (B’Ham) Ltd. Jewelers
95 Howard Hudson, optician
97 Scholl Foot Comfort Service
As is to be expected, these time travel posts always illuminate the past of a site, and even though this is only going back fifty years (the trouble with Brum is that if you go back even a decade beyond that the streets are unrecognizable) it is apparent that the building has fallen on hard times. Rather than the predominance of takeaways now, the businesses in the ground floor are relatively high class. Incidentally this proves how there were shops in the underpasses, and that shopping underground was normal for Brummies from the 60s up to the 90s!
The businesses which occupy the offices also include a high proportion of prominent large businesses, suggesting that this row of buildings was very desirable at the time. What has really changed is that there are only three telephone numbers (I have a feeling there may have been more, but that it required a higher payment to get it into Kelly’s, which of course was separate from the telephone directory. I also love Firth-Vickers’s telegraph address.
Anyone my age (I’m looking at you, Inexplicable) will automatically be taken back to their childhood by the Wimpy Bar. Anyone for a Bender in a Bun?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Urban Grimoire: Incantation to Resolve Workplace Disputes

Plumbers, bank managers,  and now employers are the subjects of my urban Grimoire spells. They're only slightly tongue in cheek, since all acts are magical acts, and after all a lot of spells hinge on words being things and indeed actions. This is a very simple spell with incredible results if you have a spot of bother at work.
Just as background, I have changed my long-term policy of advising people to join a union. I am not convinced that today's trade unions serve any useful purpose and when the shit hits the fan I think you are better off if your employers mess it up.
Many years ago an employee of my organisation did something which was unquestionably wrong. He only escaped criminal charges because of a lack of evidence. He went through the usual disciplinary investigation and was dismissed. He unfortunately made the mistake of having a union represent him in this, and they protested that the organisation had not carried out his dismissal correctly. The organisation reinstated him and dismissed him again, this time properly. In his circumstances he'd have been better off being wrongfully dismissed and making a claim at a tribunal, instead of the union crowing that they'd forced the employer to dismiss someone fairly.
Thus we come to the incantation. Even without union membership you can get very good employment advice from the CAB or ACAS (obviously this applies to the UK only). You must prepare for this spell by seeking their advice and following it.
You are then ready to utter your incantation. Don't wait for the phase of the moon or whatever, because employment tribunals have time limits. Approach your manager/HR person and fearlessly introduce these words into the conversation :
'ACAS has advised me that... And so I am going to...'
The effect will be to stop them talking and make them listen. If they don't even do that, I discern it's time to get out of there for your own safety.
Of course this is the exact phrase I uttered myself this week. The director I posted about in my last post showed she is quality by actually asking what ACAS said and agreeing with it.
The upshot is that the manager who was supposed to be investigating me has had it taken out of his hands and we're doing it the director's way. He's also in for a good rap over the knuckles for doing it wrong and since he's spent his annual leave writing a report into me, my only problem now is that I can't sleep because every time I close my eyes I picture how annoyed he must be. Another one to me.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

I'm Out at Work

...out of the broom closet, that is. I don't really need to come out of the other closet, although the wonder is that as one of the world's more obvious homosexuals, I am such a c!nt magnet. As the time comes ever closer when I will be away from Zippy my last manager permanently and transferred to the team I was forcibly moved to, I'm settling in and actually feeling a member of the team.
With that comes feeling more at home, and I read the admin manager's tarot cards actually on the premises. Hidden in a back office, of course: I'm never knowingly appropriate but can be discreet when it suits me.
I was joking to a friend that I might even come out as a witch at work. Then the other day found me completing the organisation's LGBT questionnaire with one of the directors breathing down my neck as I did it.
'Don't fill it in bitchily, ' she said, 'i don't want to end up with an action plan because of anything you've done. '
'I will fill it in honestly, ' said I.
The first snag was where it wanted to know my religion. I put Witchcraft.
'Will you stop taking the fucking piss,' said the aforementioned director of the organisation I work for.
'I'm not taking the fucking piss, ' I said.
Since the whole office was now involved in my LGBT satisfaction questionnaire, somebody suggested that I put Wicca. So I did.
It's just my luck. I go around dressed in deepest black, am continually surrounded by controversy, then when I actually come out of the broom closet, people don't believe me.
What else can I do?
Actually I love that director dearly. It does look as if I'm going to get a warning as a result of the complaints about me by my enemies, but that is something to relish. The opposition have scored one point only. I have exposed two of the most sociopathic colleagues, forced their cronies to show what they're about, shown up Zippy's lack of management, managed to move to a great team, which works closely with the police (I'll admit, he forced me to kiss him on the cheek, but obviously it didn’t take much force), am in line for a promotion, have obliged my erstwhile colleagues to do some work because of my absence. I reckon that's a score of eight to start off with. Plus I know for a fact that Zippy has been crying in her office, and that is priceless. And if my former colleagues think they've caused me any inconvenience, I now have online access to every team in the organisation and can see at a glance that their turnover is too small to sustain them, so it's only a matter of time before the plug is pulled on them.
As a friend put it, in an incredibly envious voice, 'You've fallen on your feet again. '

Thursday, August 11, 2016

What I Need

This post will be my usual ramblings inspired by a number of unconnected thoughts. My first inspiration was thinking how heart-rending it is to see a homeless person with a teddy bear. The tales that are probably attached to those bears, of love, hate and abandonment. Whatever, the bear must have significance to the person, even as a comfort.
What are the things that I couldn't live without if homeless, as least in my persona of witch? I'm honestly not sure, since the next reflection prompting this post was that I find as a freeform sort of witch, I don't need very much. Even the Book in my own hand of write consists of things which I have rather internalised over time and thus don't tend to refer to the book that much. In fact I find the universe brings new things to my attention all the time.
As a witch I believe that I embody and contain all things in a sense, and thus have a connection to everybody and everything which I can call upon as needed. I was certainly influenced in this approach by an exercise in one of Phyllis Curott's books where you are yourself the altar and ditch the tools for a time. It was so successful for me that I never really picked them up again. This is perhaps the extreme of the witch figure, and in fact has ancient precursors, perhaps best embodied by the classical motto discussed in this passage from the website of a scout troop (once again things come full circle since the Scout movement was one of the movements which fed into modern witchcraft):
' Omnia mea mecum porto       
    "All my things I carry with me"
'    Our Latin Credo carried a dual meaning. The obvious meaning, “All my things I carry with me,” is very appropriate for it describes our minimalist backpacking philosophy and desire to rid ourselves, physically, of burdensome impedimenta, extra unnecessary camping equipment, etc. Our traditional version of “Playing the Game of Scouting” requires that on every outdoor event, each Scout carry all of his own equipment, as well as his share of patrol and troop equipment. This requires the Scouts to decide what is absolutely necessary and what can be done without, and necessitates cooperation, adaptation, invention, in using only the equipment that can be carried.
'    But this credo has a deeper meaning, perhaps not quite as obvious, as explained in the following excerpts from classic Romance and Greek philosophy:
"Cicero, in his Paradoxa Stoicorum 1.1.8, tells a story about Bias, one of the "seven sages" of ancient Greece:
I shall also often praise that famous sage, Bias I think, who is included among the seven. When the enemy had captured his homeland and others were fleeing in such a way as to carry many of their possessions with them, and he was told by someone to do likewise, he said, "I am indeed doing it; for I am carrying all my things with me."
"nec non saepe laudabo sapientem illum, Biantem, ut opinor, qui numeratur in septem; cuius quom patriam Prienam cepisset hostis ceterique ita fugerent, ut multa de suis rebus asportarent, cum esset admonitus a quodam, ut idem ipse faceret, 'Ego vero', inquit, 'facio; nam omnia mecum porto mea.'
'Valerius Maximus 7.2.ext.3 seems to follow and elaborate on Cicero:
"When enemies had invaded his homeland Priene and all (at least those whom the savagery of war had permitted to get away safe) were fleeing loaded with the weight of their precious possessions, Bias was asked why he was carrying none of his goods with him. He said, "Indeed, all my goods I carry with me," for he was carrying them in his heart, not on his shoulders, things not to be seen by the eyes but to be valued by the spirit.
'In his Epistulae Morales 9.18-19, Seneca tells this story about the Greek philosopher Stilpon (c. 380-300 B.C.):
"    For when his homeland was captured, his children lost, his wife lost, and he was walking away from the public conflagration by himself and yet unconcerned, Demetrius (whose nickname was Poliorcetes, after his destruction of cities) asked him if he had lost anything. He said, "All my goods are with me." Behold a strong and stalwart man! He was victorious over the victory of his enemy. "I have lost nothing," he said: he made Demetrius doubt whether he had actually conquered. "All of my goods are with me": justice, virtue, prudence, the very fact that he considered nothing good that could be snatched away.
'Just as these classical sages acknowledge that all of their most important “possessions” are carried within, we as Scouts also understand that while the uniform, equipment, knives, axes, compasses, tools, flags, banners, etc. are important game pieces in the “Game of Scouting,” the real important acquisitions, such as the habit of living in accordance with the Scout Oath and the Scout Law, and the fundamental  principals of  Honor, Respect for the beliefs of others,  Duty to God and Country, Duty to others, and duty towards oneself, are those that we carry with us, always, on the inside.' (
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