the morning after the night before, and the night before that.

I have, it seems, yet to grasp those priorities, which are my priorities. I am consumed in the dance between the bear-traps and eventually I will tire.

As the sweat falls on the hungry steel, I ask the oracles, that I seldom draw, for a new dance card. My current available partners have designs on my ankles..

My quest for an end to my spread of servitude, remains questioned and considered, but un-begun. My oracle’s pattern ringing in the pattern of events.

Following the thread of the same events arranged differently (or different events arranged to seem the same), I angrily approached my friend with calm contemplative breaths,having cast another such in my role to see what I thought. His problems, salved by my advice, reeking of my possible freedoms.

My assets shaded, my dominant union, hinting at love to come. Time is precious and precarious, in momentary eternity.

A pattern repeated, and changed with the same players and names. Hopes burnt guards intact,with lensed awareness.

Mrs WalkingLady

One of the things I like about my job (no I’m not rescinding my previous assertions that I don’t like it, merely referring to a modicum of saving grace), is that within it’s stultifying tedium and frustrating window into the pointlessness of decadence, it does afford me an amount of time to daydream. Sweaty daydreaming….

I’ve returned to write this having just done some hill sprints, interspersed with chins and dips, at Primrose hill. The sun is out and I’m without the requisite facilities at my disposal at Islington boxing club. If I was a boxer, I’m sure I wouldn’t give a shit about the poor state of the weightlifting area, but I’m not a boxer, so I do. An effective training area is so simple and requires so little, and everywhere gyms offer loads of dangerously rubbish kit. Hitting the bags is fun and there’s definitely some use in improving hand eye coordination and balance so it’s still a good place for me for now, but training for me is also about running repairs to my RSI riddled body. Fortunately there are developments on the horizon!

Back to the daydreams. I was sat on the side of the road, on the pavement, leaning against someones garden wall, languidly enjoying my lunch of leftover barbecued lamb merguez sausages, and home-made beef burgers, with a pot of piri-piri houmous, some cold steamed calabrese and some roasted sweet potato chips dusted with smoked paprika (I know!) when a lady cruised past and looked at me in a very pointed way while not looking at me. She was clearly in some discomfort when I nodded and bid her good afternoon. Far be it  from me to guess at her age, but she was in exercise clothing, sporting brightly coloured headbands and wrist bands and was walking with her arms swinging in no uncertain terms! There was some sort of musical headphone type apparatus attached to her as well. Her walk past, with the thinly veiled reaction to my presence, was repeated a further three times! Her efforts to hide her disgust, had the effect of clearly broadcasting her disgust on each occasion!

Returning to my lambent walls, with their malicious designs on my shoulder, I couldn’t help thinking of a series of scenarios, with myself as a villainous sarcastic hero. After walking lady’s dismal exercise program, (consisting of walking a number of times up and down her cul-de-sac at the top end of the Bishops Avenue), has been thoroughly ruined by the presence of a scruffy man, sporting a purple with green butterflies do-rag and a high visibility waistcoat no less….eating food!…..out of tupperware!…..on the pavement! Walking lady decides to make a complaint to the police.

Walking Lady-“I’d like to make a complaint!”

Police operator-“which emergency service do you require madam?”

Walking Lady-“There’s a man eating his lunch on the pavement on the street that I live in, and I want to make a complaint to the police”

Police operator-“Has he threatened you madam? Are you reporting a crime?”

Walking Lady- ” He’s very threatening yes”

Police operator-“How has he threatened you madam? Verbally or physically”

Walking Lady- “It was just his manner that was threatening”

Police operator-“madam you’ll have to phone your local police station, this line is for emergencies only”

Walking Lady goes and rants at husband about how unhelpful the police were, and what do we pay our taxes for?

Husband who hates wife more than chemical burns replies that “we don’t pay tax dear”

Walking Lady says “we are legally entitled to avoid paying tax, and that’s no excuse for the police not to do their job properly”

Walking Lady doesn’t see the man, (Me) for a few days and assumes her husband has had a word with the authorities and he has been removed.

As she rounds the corner a few days later, there he is! Sat on the pavement using a spoon (a spoon!!) to eat something, no doubt repugnant, from a thermos flask. (Lamb stew with garlic and rosemary:-)) . Walking lady walks past not looking at me, whilst looking at me with a look of horror and dismay; my presence shocking her as if i was bumming a satanic goat in front of a group of children.

Walking lady phones Golders Green police station-“I thought you’d spoken to my husband”

Police operator “who am I speaking to?”

Walking Lady-“It’s Mrs WalkingLady!

Police operator -“so madam you believe us to have spoken to a Mr WalkingLady?”

Walking Lady-“Dr WalkingLady actually”

Police operator-“Hold please”

several minutes later

Police operator-“Mrs WalkingLady?”

Walking Lady- “this is completely unnacceptable! You left me on hold for over an hour!”

Police operator-“6minutes and 32 seconds Mrs WalkingLady. We haven’t spoken to your husband”

Walking Lady- “I can see that because he’s back!”

Police operator-“You didn’t want him back?”

Walking Lady-“No! He’s very threatening!”

Police operator-“Have you asked him to leave?”

Walking Lady-“No, I’m too afraid.”

Police operator- “I’ll send the domestic violence unit over Mrs. WalkingLady. Try not to antagonize him in anyway until they arrive, and hopefully the situation can be resolved peacefully”

Walking Lady- “Thankyou, you’ve been very helpful”

At various intervals my mind added a scene where the police removed her husband, and then I was called as a witness in a court case against Mrs WalkingLady for wasting police time.

I’m sure my absurd imagination could be put to good use…maybe some sort of a building site sitcom “Eyesaw construction-turning your dreams into nightmares”?

Whitmore and I had an idea for a fictitious divorce firm- ‘Taylor and Whitmore’-“You fuck’em, we chuck’em”?

 

 

 

 

Swallows and Ambitions

I’ve had a busy few days. Just over a week ago, I went to see Ralph Fiennes play the titular role in Shakespeare’s “Richard III” at the Almeida. The play was alright, and Fiennes was very good indeed. I did rather think that the saviour of Richards’ victims, Richmond, was a bit lacking in depth? The actor did a decent job, but I think he needed a deeper voice and a heavier physical presence. He looked good, but I didn’t believe his character was strong enough. It was lovely to venture out for a little culture however. Also, should they have had a disabled actor to play one of the most prominently disabled acting roles ever written? I’d have thought the theater would have been a bit more mindful of diversity, but perhaps that’s less important than selling tickets?

I have of late been finding it difficult to sleep soundly. I shift position often to alleviate the pain and stiffness in my right shoulder – the result of an 11 year career in Italian polished plaster. With the sudden demise of the Villain Barbell Club, which I have spoken of in my previous blog posts, I had missed 8 days of training and my shoulder became very uncomfortable. My training seems to serve as a daily rehabilitation for the wear caused by my job, and with out it I was struggling. There has been a silver lining though! I have had to begin dealing with this issue with a new level of understanding of both cause and effect. I have resumed training; now at the Islington Boxing Club, but have devised a number of new mobility drills to mitigate the vicissitudes of my livelihood. As an adjunct to this I am receiving treatment every Saturday at the hands of Selena (a protege of the inestimable Errol Lynch) at the Touch Tuina centre in Chalk Farm.

http://www.touchtuina.com/

The other night – Wednesday – I had a dream, and woke up feeling unusually refreshed. It was a profound and profoundly enjoyable dream, which came about for no particular reason….

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was sailing a boat with Whitmore (Whitmore starred in my previous blog entitled “Whitmore and I” https://bloggingtoids.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/whitmore-and-i/ ). The boat was a Swallow –

I could feel the fresh breeze of a summers day, with a few fluffy clouds over head, I could smell the salt spray, and we laughed as we lunged forward, riding the pitch and surge of the waves. We overtook toiling gondoliers who were rowing regular boats (not gondolas) and looking frustrated and uncomfortable, and we were for some reason sailing pell mell down a street in a mostly submerged Venice; or so I imagine Venice having never been there.

I awoke exhilarated, and fascinated by the potential meaning of this wonderful dream. I rolled the dream over in my head all day at work, and started to realize what I might take from it?

I have been a gondolier, rowing a boat, grafting hard, staring frustrated and uncomfortable at my past, toiling with my back facing the future, escaping the submersion of everything I didn’t really get to know. In my dream I was in a boat, planing into the future, with fear and joy, because I had raised a sail and caught the wind. The journey from the sinking past the same, but seen from two different perspectives. So how do I raise a metaphorical sail and catch the wind in my waking life?…I think that is the allegorical point anyway… How do I float on a depth-less sea of emotion, carried by the inspiration of a thought?

It kind of doesn’t matter which way the wind is blowing, as long as you know the destination. When you put up a sail, you know which way the wind is blowing pretty quickly anyway. And even if the wind is against you?..sailing is awesome fun. It is an adventure in itself, and a pathway to other adventures, but how do I put up my sail. How do I catch the wind?

Maybe I should write to a casting director or two, show them my show-reel and coerce them into paying me to do some acting?

http://www.castingcallpro.com/uk/actor/profile/joss-taylor

Perhaps I should make a point of sharing the next part of my physical evolution, and tell as many people as will listen how i eat, work, train, sleep etc? Maybe both?

Maybe there are other “sails” that have yet to inspire me, but for the record; it is my intention to put up a sail, and journey as far and wide as the wind will carry me…… Maybe I’ll just buy a fucking boat?

 

 

 

Just when I thought…

18 days ago, when I made my previous entry into this blog, (entitled “Temple, Sanctuary, School”), I was basking in the possibilities presented by having entered a perceived training nirvana. A place where I felt a sense of peace and focus, and where I was gaining a demonstrably greater level of strength and athleticism. Within a week of my last entry, the closure of my beloved and long sought training facility was announced. I won’t speculate on why this happened. It is what it is. Already I have observed love turning to bitterness as my fellow members come to terms with their loss.

For myself? I take many lessons from this experience. I have a more profound understanding of how to strike the right training balance, which i will continue to refine. I have also noted how important simplicity is in a training routine. Becoming reliant on specific equipment means less flexibility in where one can train. Bar-bells and calisthenics are  reasonably ubiquitous…. Now follows the decision of where I will train after the end of this week? It is a thing about which I am somewhat anxious..

Lifting weights and doing athletic conditioning drills, where one tracks progression objectively and subjectively, is a worthwhile endeavor for gaining both mental and physical acuity. Correctly applied and performed it can illicit a state of calm and readiness, or put another way, a state of heightened adaptability. Here is the dilemma! Readiness for what? Am I waiting for life to throw distracting challenges at me, that i may deal with them from my state of readiness? Am I reacting rather than revolting?(?) Is reaction the enemy of revolution and perhaps also creativity. How does one illicit a state of creative readiness? How does one hone a sense of creative acuity?

I have for a long time circled the conclusion that expression, through disciplined practice and active pursuit of a goal is the key to creativity for me. I sat last night watching a Tony Robbins documentary, with his enormous hands waving about, in the company of my two oldest friends. Amidst our astonishment at the amount of plastic surgery on display in his audience, and our surprise at the pseudo-religious mania of his adherents, something stuck with me. The gravelly voiced giant intimated that he tells himself what to think….Eh? He actually instructs himself,( fiercely )to think things. He berates himself with statements such as “I am enough” and “I am decisive”. Interesting….

I am pathologically opposed to being told what to do. It may be a Sagitarius thing or it may not. It may be a me thing? I am quite comfortable to discuss and argue a point, but it is anathema to me to be told what to do or think. I like to arrive at a conclusion in my own time; because then i can be responsible for it. So the idea of telling myself what to do could go one of two ways:-

  1. I rebel against my own instructions? or
  2. I direct my own thought process rather than reacting to external influences

Worth a go i think, because perhaps this is where my standards of rigor have been insufficient. I have often had a somewhat clouded sense of purpose,  from which my perspective has robbed much of my day to day activity of energy or drive. I am a capable person. I am quite intelligent, and quite athletic and quite strong and…I don’t have one particular superlative, but I am good at most things I try- except dancing….. I also don’t have one specific desire. I’m not particularly obsessive. Many concepts capture my imagination, but my devotion to them can be somewhat ephemeral. It occurs to me that in my state of physical and mental readiness, that my next step is to commit to a path and see it through to it’s end.

So, physically and mentally it is time for a new discipline, but professionally there are changes I will make too. My current career path, born of necessity, has obfuscated my efforts for a long time. I have physically exhausted myself many times for a profession that I neither enjoy or care about, working for people who neither enjoy nor value the work I do for them. The reason I chose this avenue was partly the freedom it represented. I like flexibility. I want to work so that I can explore things that are not work. As a Venetian polished plasterer the math doesn’t add up. If something is going to be too much work and not enough money, it must at least be something I enjoy doing for it’s own sake.

My first task then is perhaps to establish a minimum. What do i want to earn in how many hours, doing what? What is the minimum amount of time I’ll accept for travel, intimacy, family, friends, recreation, education per day of my life? It seems very easy to say “I want a big fuck-off house, with a pool and I want this car and this bike and this much money, and a holiday villa, and a helicopter and this and that”. These are all maximums. They are all limits on abundance. The extent of an imagined reality of wealth. What is the minimum return I expect from my investment in life?

By focusing on the minimum, I have to be specific about where the line is, between scarcity and abundance, for me personally. In aiming for maximums, I’ve been disheartened and vague; perturbed by my seeming lack of progress, my dedication has quickly wavered. For how long will I continue to invest in something that doesn’t meet my criteria before I move on? If I’m unconscious of these boundaries, evidence thus far is that I’ll flog a dead horse to powder before I’ll get the message (14 year relationship, 11 year career, both irksome from start to finish etc.). So consciously setting out the terms and conditions with myself is key. Stopping in a timely fashion is as important as pushing on when times are tough.

How to finish? My gym is closing. It is neither good or bad, and it has given me a timely opportunity to grow in a different direction. Yet again, the gym is a microcosm by which I find truths in my macrocosm. Next I will seek to tackle the process for deciding what to commit to…..

Temple, Sanctuary, School

In my late teens, having mostly been a tall, athletic, but slightly chubby child, I first went into my local gym in West Sussex, and generally started plonking about with dumb-bells and resistance machines. I did a fair few sit ups and a bit of cardio to boot. I had once or twice been into my school gym, but nothing consistent or particularly relevant had occurred. I generally did as much as i could for a few reps on everything, and was advised by gym staff that training with Bar-bells was only for advanced lifters(?)

My reason for being in the gym? Apart from thinking I wanted to be in better shape, I had hurt my back. I had been playing rugby since the age of 11, and while my rugby was very good, my fitness and conditioning were fairly woeful. At about 15 I’d started smoking whenever i had the opportunity,( and wasn’t under the supervision of parents and teachers), and was a generally unhappy and stressed young man. Looking back, my lack of understanding of nutrition and training, meant that injury was inevitable in some ways.

At 18, I moved back to London, ostensibly to attend Drama Center London, but mostly to escape the awkward and depressing relationships I endured with my Mother and Step-Father; my relationship with my father had become more and more intermittent, and for a long time I had felt strongly that he disapproved of me and thought me too much influenced by my mother. So following a disastrous audition, the Drama Center offered me a place on their 3 year degree course? I really didn’t care why!

This meant that I had a hitherto unprecedented amount of autonomy. I was broke all the time, but I had my own place and I was living around the corner from my best friend Dominic. Dominic was the next stage in my training evolution. Through him I was to discover Arthur Jones, Mike Mentzer and also Ayn Rand, and my first real training was in the HIT, one set to failure style that Jones’s adherents propagated. As I got stronger, and moved in and out of shape, and my body became less functional and stiffer, I held true to the idea that the simplicity of applying a purely logical and theoretical approach to training was the right thing to do.

Fast forward 10 years, I’m 28, have 2 children, and am in a stressful and horribly dysfunctional relationship, I’m 21stone (132kg) and I’d had enough. I’d been travelling accross London 2-3 times a week to train at Physical Culture in Putney, because they had Medx machines (designed by Arthur Jones), which were apparently, all but essential, to safely add muscular size and strength….

For whatever reason I decided to tune into the bro-science leaking out of the burgeoning internet training scene. Maybe there was something I had missed? Maybe all these ripped looking guys weren’t idiots who used gear instead of training properly, as many of the HITers would have it. I’ve since discovered that many of them are, but what I started to look for was results rather than persuasive arguments and elegant theories. My mind opened to new possibilities, and I tried out some new diet strategies. I dropped down to 18stone in 6 months using a low carb, alternate day fasting protocol, and I experimented with different training approaches. I even went back to playing rugby occasionally.

One way and another, through all the mistakes, and regardless of results, lifting weights has been a constant in my life. I have given time to things which proved to be unhelpful. I’ve learned lessons that I’ve only been able to apply many years later. Sometimes I’ve followed the right path in the wrong context, but it has been my meditation, and my sanctuary, and the microcosm in my day to day experience, by which I understand the macrocosm of my life.

It is in some ways appropriate, that at 35 years of age, I found Villain Barbell club. It is more a lifters social club, but the members are made of such stuff, that walking in there can be intimidating at first. The owner is a quietly spoken, unassuming strength and conditioning genius, who lives and breathes his training philosophy. You can hear more from him here

By training in this place, i have become more flexible, stronger, leaner and fitter, and more adaptable to, and embracing of, new training environments. Another key point, is that I am making progress without feeling destroyed for days afterwards, which is a concern given that my job is physically demanding. My training is concise and focused, gleaning more results, but taking less time. I’ve even begun adding a little Brazilian JiuJitsu to my weekly schedule, such is the enthusiasm of Villain’s co-founder, Daniel Strauss, for his chosen discipline. His podcast is well worth a listen, whether you are interested in martial arts or not

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-raspberry-ape-podcast/id1120266837?mt=2

So, now my microcosm is heading in a direction I like. Now I have found my Temple; my training sanctuary, and I carry the Villains’ philosophy (or my version of it) when I occasionally train elsewhere, what things are still holding me back? Where does my life not reflect my philosophy and training practice?

It is again a question of paths and contexts. I work in a niche manual trade, which becomes less and less lucrative year on year, and exacts more and more long-term physical toll. It makes me tired, and it is harder and harder to pay for my life, which according to my birth-certificate; I rent from the Queen. I spend more time polishing rich peoples walls and sitting in “Health and Safety” inductions than I do with my children, trying to pass on even a fraction of what my oft absent father passed on to me.

My father, worked shifts and over-time and went to the pub, and still I managed to pick up basic carpentry, motor mechanics, electrics, survival skills and also to listen to his stories. He had fabulous raconteurial skills. My mother described him as an absent father, and she was right to some extent. Alot of dads in the 80’s were even more involved in their kids lives. Such is the high cost of basic living, I have had much less time to spend teaching my children, and involving them in my life, than my “absent” father did.

My Mother was one of the  final generation of housewives who embraced the idea of making a home and teaching and encouraging her children, not because it was socially taboo to do otherwise, but because she believed in it and such a thing was possible on the income of one parent. I learned alternative thinking from my mother. While my father was wantonly controversial, my mother was a revolutionary thinker in the way she cooked, the way she approached health (physical and mental), and I owe much of my inquisitive mindset to her, because she dared to think differently before thinking differently was really allowed.

So my standards of rigor in the gym are high; I am inquisitive and industrious. My standards of rigor in my personal life leave something to be desired. With the goal of spending more time with my loved ones, particularly engaged in activities from which we all benefit, my endeavor must be to find a smarter solution to how I generate my income. The trap of spending more time working, to earn more money to be able to afford more time later is a dangerous one indeed. It is self defeating in every way. In 10 years the theory has not brought me the results I looked for, so it is time to formulate a new theory, and open my mind to different ways of thinking

In my last blog, I wrote about beliefs, and the need to dismantle these structures regularly. This is also a standard of rigor. I want to leave the planet, and the people on it a little better than when I found it, rather than a little worse. I’d like to start by making more time to do things I think are important, rather than things which make money. I want to give my children the chance to be capable, creative adults, rather than well educated obedient workers. It seems to me that so many of our standards have slipped so low; egged on by money, media, religion and politics that we will soon deserve the collective comparison to a virus. I hope we still have a chance to remember and revive what it means to be uniquely human.

With my own eyes.

 

 

 

On Monday 27th of June, I was witness to a lecture given by the former Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. I sat in the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries’ great hall, surrounded by medical doctors, philosophers and historians, and felt a bit of an ass-(not my girlfriend’s arse, because that just wouldn’t do in such company; I’m referring to feeling like a donkey….a sense of foolish shame).

The media, throughout my life, has frequently conjured such images of public figures, that I would be hard pushed to name one who was not in some way a buffoon, or worse, an out and out bastard. In  my mind, Dr. Williams had undergone such a make-over. A bumbling, irrelevant, Church of England (professed belief in any god of any type is always a poor start with me), Gandalf wannabee (what is it with the robes?), whose comments have been mentioned dismissively on many issues. Instead, Dr. Williams is a hyper-intelligent man, who has mastered eleven languages, and has an inspiring depth of knowledge of the universe from both a physical and meta-physical perspective.

A Papanikitas, Emma & Joss

(Above) -Dr Andrew Papanikitas, Course Director for the Diploma in Ethics and Philosophy of Healthcare at the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London, chatting with me and his lovely wife Emma about the Lecture and Terry Pratchett 😌

My revelation came as I realized that despite my staunch cynicism of mainstream-media and their dubious objectives; I have been duped on many occasions into forming an opinion of a person, with no factual evidence. I have not researched their character, nor seen them with my own eyes, and yet I have judged them from the lazy position of a second, third or fourth hand opinion. I resolve that henceforth, my practice will be to reserve my opinion on those in the public eye until I have met the subject in question, or divined as many facts about them as I may, sifting through the slurs and blurs of others’ opinions.

I won’t repeat the lecture, but an absence of reference to his god or his opinions on Brexit from his subject matter, impressed me enormously. It would have been a serious lecture that I struggled to take seriously, had it been infused with gods. Though  he did not say it in exactly this way, I  was encouraged to take my beliefs outside and beat them, like a dusty old rug on a sunny day. I am goaded to re-evaluate and re-invent my relationship with the world.

I hadn’t written anything more than a few words on Twitter or FB for a couple of months. A quick fix to a financial issue in my own life had absorbed me, and when that played out to an unsatisfactory end( leaving me worse off than before), it seemed my creativity and ability to reflect had gone into hiding. The struggle to make ends meet had consumed my tired consciousness; and my body, longing for respite, has now manufactured a cold, for which I am very grateful. It has provided me with the time to unleash and solidify the thoughts that have been blunting themselves, rattling around in my head.

Overwhelmingly, it continues to be made apparent in my own experience, that responsibility is key. To engage with life, money, humans, creativity, it is essential that I take personal responsibility for my thoughts, my choices and my actions. It is essential that I take charge of my own beliefs, lest my beliefs are dictated to me by those who would use me for their own purposes. The media are the selfish, petty, manipulative gods of this age, and this trend filters down through the layers of society. I dislike being made a fool of intensely.

Here is the podcast of Dr. Williams’ lecture.

http://www.apothecaries.org/society/news/john-locke-lecture

 

A Cat who spoke with the Wolves

And so it was that there was a cat. He was just an ordinary cat; quite large and tabby and strong, but with eyes that looked far and deep from beneath his whiskery brows. His paws were strong and skilled and he was well liked by those he knew, and approved of by those he worked for. Let us suppose that our cat was called Mallach.

Mallach was known for his skill and experience; in making the homes and places where cats go look beautiful and warm, and feel smooth and comfortable. His reputation took him far and wide, to the places that wealthy cats lived; and he saw many things.

In the desert, he saw fat cats with long necks and lazy paws, who lived in sandstone palaces, and ate the finest fish and softest meats. They were served in all ways by the little brown cats from the east, for the fat cats controlled the riches of the desert, and did not wish to call the little brown cats, “cats”. They did not give the little brown cats enough food, but they told them that the cats in the North were their enemy. Mallach’s eyes saw far and deep, but the little brown cats needed to hate on account of their hunger.

In the North he saw fat cats with rich fur of single and double colours, who counted and added and subtracted. The tabby cats of the cities and the plains did not know what the numbers meant, but the rich-furred cats told them that the grass would not grow and the rain would not fall, and the rabbits and the mice would die if the numbers were not added up, and then the brown cats would come from the East and the South and take all the food, and make nests in their homes. So the Tabbies bought food and worked hard for the the rich-furred cats, who kept all in check with their numbers; and they looked out for the little brown cats. The Tabbies’ eyes were dull with their work, and they didn’t think to ask, but Mallach’s eyes saw far and deep, and he saw straight through the numbers to the fat beneath the rich fur.

The cats in the West, were like the cats in the North, but madder and badder and stupider than dull. They postured and fought, and pontificated their grandeur. They made all cats their enemy, while they became ever more enslaved to the same breed of rich-furs that stultified the North and made wars and told lies to all and themselves.

The greed of the Fat Cats of the Dessert and the North and the West grew and grew. The Tabbies and the little brown cats feared each other at their master’s behest. They hunted and changed the land to feed the appetites of the Fat ones, who added and controlled. The kittens were slim and learned the ways of service not of hunting.They learned to value the favour of the  Rich-furred, fat, lazy cats above their natural skills, and the lands began to lose balance. The plains grew quiet.

To satisfy the lust of the number-counters; as food became scarce and the land rotted, the cats ventured into the edges of the great forests, and even into the high places. They hunted and preyed, but they felt the eyes of the wild on them. The wolves watched silent and still, as the cats began to spread the sickness of the land to their woods and mountains.With their long eyes the wolves followed the cats to their cities and told all to their packs. The Alpha wolves howled in the dark of the sorrow that befell the world. They howled of the evil and the ignorance of the cats.

When the wolves trotted into the cities of the cats they spread terror and destruction. They hunted and savaged the cats they found, whether Tabby or long-necked, or rich-furred or brown. The wolves worked hard to cleanse the plains of the cats so the world might recover.

Mallach watched with his farseeing eyes. He watched the cats driven into the shelters they once revered. The wealth of the cats turned to squalor and hunger and fighting and betrayal as the wolves cleansed the land. Rivers and animals and grasses began to return, but the cities were filled with death. For all their foolishness and short-sighted greed, Mallach wished he could save the cats, in the hope that their lesson would be learned, but he did not know what to do.

And so he set out over the mountains, across the ice, and far into the great forests of the West, for there he had once met a rare and wise cat. She was a little cat with dark red fur, and delicate, dainty movements. She was a cat who cared for cats who were dying, in a comfortable place far from the great cities of the West. She had eyes that looked wide and true, filled with the light of distilled memories. Mallach hoped she would help him.

His journey was long and difficult, with trials of weather and hunger and the threat of the wolves, but at last he stood at her threshold.

“Erran?” he called, for that was the cats’ name.

“Erran, it is I, Mallach! who once helped you to make this place comfortable and warm”

He saw her eyes glint in the darkness, which shrouded the entrance to her home. He felt her assessing him, and he wondered if he was foolish. He returned her gaze, with respect and honesty, and she bade him enter.

“What do you wish of me, Mallach of the North who is not dying? Your journey has been long and difficult, so what dread purpose drove you?” she spoke softly as she circled him, tail twitching, “I have little time for the living”.

Mallach told her of the fate of the cats, and the terrible justice exacted by the wolves. He told her of his wish to save the cats, in the hope they would learn balance from their ordeal. She watched him carefully as he spoke.

“would you forgive the cats?” she asked,

“No” he answered, looking down, “but perhaps they have been punished enough?”

Erran’s brow furrowed in thought, “perhaps you are dying Mallach, for the the Wolves remember the time before the cats, when the humans almost destroyed the world”

“Humans?” Mallach questioned. “They are a legend, are they not?” his eyes narrowed in confusion? “What happened?”

“They destroyed themselves. I don’t know how, but it was by their own doing; long ago…..so long as to become a legend.” She whispered thoughtfully. She turned and looked him in the eyes, “The wolves remember the time of great suffering, and they see those times returning, I cannot blame them for their retribution.”

“Then what can I do,” sighed Mallach, feeling defeated.

“You must speak to the wolves, Mallach. Speak to the Alpha of Alphas, even if it means your death, ” she moved closer to him so her whiskers brushed his and her voice whispered in his ear and her scent and touch filled his head. “I hope you come to no harm, though I do not know if I can wish you success. You are a better cat than most of those you would save, whether greedy or blind”

Mallach rubbed his head gently alongside hers, and took his leave.

“how will I find this Alpha of Alphas?” He asked looking back.

“He is at the center of the forest. You must track the Wolves there!” she called after him in her soft, small voice.

Mallach thought about how to track a Wolf, and how to find the center of the forest. He decided to follow the scent of Death. He began his journey back to a city.

The Wolves did not live in the city, they raided it. They came day and night, slaughtering and hunting, but only for a short time before they loped off back to the forest. Mallach hid himself on the outskirts of the city and waited. The reek of Death strong on the breeze. Sure enough six Wolves trotted by, their sad watchful faces scanning the buildings as they passed.

Suddenly, in a blur of speed, two grey and white shadows, were on him as he watched the Wolves. He felt teeth and claws rip into his skin, and saw the flash of mad eyes and felt the scabby skin exposed in patches beneath the once rich fur. In anger and pity he had ripped out the throats of the two feral, desperate Rich-furs in the blink of an eye. As his hackles eased, he heard a long low growl; the Wolf pack had returned.

“Who are you tabby-cat? Why have you returned to this place? The sickness does not sit upon you” the six Wolves circled him moving and crossing.

“I would speak with the Alpha of Alphas” his voice was low and he circled keeping his eye on the Wolf who had spoken.

“Only a Wolf may speak with the Alpha. If you would become a Wolf, you must face one of us as your challenger” the Wolf’s teeth were bared. “or you can run?”

“I will face you, though I mean you no harm”

The Wolves continued to circle, but the Wolf speaker approach head lowered, eyes fixed on Mallach. As he rushed towards him, when Mallach could almost feel his teeth on his neck, he leaped, and twisted and his fore-claw ripped through the Wolf’s right eye. The Wolf yipped and snarled.

“Will you take me to see the Alpha of Alphas”, he asked “I do not wish to leave you blind”

The Wolf rushed in again, Mallach dodging and rolling, maddening the enraged Wolf. He sprang and gripped the Wolf’s neck holding his claw on the eye of the Wolf, the tip just announcing it’s presence.

” I mean you no harm, Wolf. I mean no harm to any Wolves.” he called raising his voice. “I beg you to take me to the Alpha of Alphas, so that I can speak to him”

Mallach dropped off his back and stood his ground, facing the Wolf with the ruined eye.

“Very well, brave tabby-cat, my name is Shen. Follow me, and I will bring you before the Alpha of Alphas, and tell him you fought me honorably and with mercy.”

So Mallach ran with the pack, until his paws ached, and they reached the center of the forest, and there were so many Wolves and young Wolves, and all their eyes were on him. He stayed close to Shen on the side of his good eye, and though he walked with his head up, he met no Wolf’s gaze.

The Alpha sat on a large-rock, like a table in a clearing and i the sunshine his coat shone like pale grey fire. He was taller than most of the other Wolves, and he had powerful shoulders topped with thick white fur around his neck. Scars criss-crossed his face and muzzle and his left eye was milky-white.

“Shen, you have brought a cat into our presence and so your life is forefiet” the words were deep, and softly spoken, like distant thunder. There was no anger, just the weight of fact.

Shen shuffled forwards on his belly with his head up and his snout down.

“Mallach the cat challenged me according to our way. He took my eye, and could have taken the other one, but spared me that I would bring him to you. I chose death over blindness, for I realized that he could not and would not kill me”

Shen turned his head towards where Mallach sat, watched by the Wolves, and said, “Mallach fought me with honour and mercy, and I say that in his heart he is a worthy Wolf. I beg that you will speak with him, Lord Kerrain”

“Approach little Mallach, whose eyes see far and deep. Shen has offered his life that we may hear your words, and his brothers agree that you fought with honour and mercy. What would you have of us before we decide your fates”

Mallach approached the Alpha of Alphas, Lord Kerrain of the Wolves; with respectful grace. His tail was high and his head and eyes looked slightly down. For a moment he met the lords gaze, seeing both justice and fairness, and then he bowed his head.

“Lord Kerrain,” he said, his voice feeling dry, “while i would wish to beg for the lives of the cats, I fear it must not be so; so why have I come” he said thoughtfully, and partly to himself.

“I understand that the cats have done great evil on the land, and they are all to blame for their greed and ignorance and must share in your retribution. So what I ask, is that you may spare some cats. Those whose minds are not gone, those who would go back to being cats and hunt in the wild. The cats who have lost their way, will not find it again. You do them a mercy to speed their passing. I would offer to help rescue the cats who can be rescued, but first, I must request that Shen be spared. If it must be so then I will give my life for his, if that is worth anything.”

“You offer your life for a Wolf who failed to kill you” an amused light was in Lord Kerrains eyes. “Very well; Shen and Mallach have three turns of the moon to rescue cats they deem worthy. None shall leave the cities save the ones they save. I have spoken and it shall be so”

Shen and Mallach searched tirelessly for cats who had honour and dignity, even in the hell of the cat cities, and they both acquired many new scars. They gathered them in the forest where Erran, the cat who cared for the dying cats lived; and taught them to hunt and survive, and not to be noticed. The wolves left them alone, but often Shen and Mallach would walk in the moonlight, and the wolves still watched for their memories are long.