The Banker's Niece

Read exclusive extracts from my new novel The Banker's Niece. Click here for Chapter 1.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Where I was last week

I was brought up a Christian, in the Church of England. That is to say, we read the Bible in classes at school and had prayers first thing. As a family we went to church at Christmas and Easter and occasionally in between. Christenings, marriages and funerals were religious occasions as well as social ones. My father served as a church warden. We never talked about religion however and it didn’t feature in our daily lives.
            When I was thirteen I joined a church youth group, not because of my religious beliefs but because I attended an all-girl school and wanted to meet boys other than those introduced to me by my parents. The group was evangelical and the leaders kept trying to get us to ‘commit’ to Jesus. But I couldn’t. I loved everything that Jesus said but the Christian Church stuck in my throat. It was just another straitjacket (and I had too many of those already).
            When Frog and I first met, thirty-three years ago, we decided for some reason (I can’t now remember why) to do a course on ‘human communication’ at our local Grail Centre which had a vegetarian cafe where we sometimes ate. The course should really have been called ‘human development’.
Humans develop through seven levels explained David, the leader, each of which takes roughly seven years, and each of which can be related to a colour of the rainbow. As we pass through the first level, red, we are learning about the physical world and about our family, our tribe. Then at the age of about seven we start to relate to others, to friends and teachers. The yellow level, ages fourteen to twenty-one, when we are at school and maybe higher education, is concerned with the intellect, with using our mind. Green is emotional and blue the level of responsibility, organisation and institutions. Indigo is intuition and violet, the last level, that of creativity and spirituality.
I was captivated. Here at last was a framework that made sense to me. I too put creativity and spirituality at the top. British society, said David, was stuck at the blue level, and I could see that so clearly. That was obviously why I felt at loggerheads with just about everything I saw around me, and in particular my father, who kept going on at me about ‘duty’ and ‘financial security’.
There were eight of us on the course and we analysed each other. We had to talk about ourselves and what was important to us and bring in pieces of music to play. I was pronounced a ‘tentative green’, to be expected given my age and the stage I was at – finishing education and thinking of marrying. Even so, I knew where I wanted to end up, and it wasn’t blue.
Each of the levels has of course a bad side which we have to learn to deal with. The negative side of the yellow - intellectual - level for example is to be unable to discriminate between ideas, unable to make our own minds up, or to be hell-bent on ‘experience’ for its own sake. (The typical student in other words.) Those grappling with the indigo level may live in the future and be unable to act. ‘Everything will be all right. Everything will get done in its own good time, even if I just sit here and let everyone else do the work.’ (The typical hippie.)
This colour model, I later learned, comes from yoga and its ‘chakras’ – points on the body where energy is taken in, processed and given out. Ultimately, we reach the white level, we become ‘enlightened’ as the Buddhists say, able to function on all levels, just as pure light contains all the colours of the rainbow.
My flaws have followed me through the spectrum, taking different forms at different times in my life, metamorphosing from anorexia in my teens and early twenties to migraines, through a host of other symptoms which I won’t bore you with at the moment. At best I see the flaws as the grit that forms the pearl. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been looking for healing. It is my flaws that drive me forward. At worst, I think I’ll never be rid of them. I’ll always be a dysfunctional human being. I’ll never be happy.
One of the downsides of the violet level is depression. As ever, Tolkien has been there. As Frodo says, ‘No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark, Sam, and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire.’
Writing is my last weapon. I have tried everything else, or at least that’s what it feels like. So when I don’t know what to write, when inspiration has gone, there is nothing left.
David knew about that too. ‘The inspiration, the connection to spirit, is always there,’ he said. ‘You just have to believe it.’
As I walked a disobedient puppy in the cold drizzle early (too early) this morning, on a Monday, at the end of a holiday (yes, that’s where I was last week, on a canal boat), having read Roselle’s blog about her writing course on the magical island of Iona, I didn’t believe it. Everybody was inspired but me.
          But I feel better now I’ve written this.
          As they say, we don't see God because s/he's everywhere, even in the bad. And even the bad - or maybe especially the bad - is grist to the writer's mill.


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