The Road Home.

The Road Home.

It’s been a long road home. To the place where the nature feels just right. Where I belong.

There’s a word for this in Welsh, you know? Cynefin.

I haven’t arrived here by the beaten path – and certainly not by the safest route – but some of life’s journeys have purpose even when you see only darkness on the way. Coming home has been the best and worst of the fights I’ve ever had and it began in 2014, when I lost the career I loved for the sake of doing the right thing.

I survived that. And the alcohol which followed. I survived starting over, then the end of my first marriage, then the loss of the business I’d fought hard to build. I even survived the darker moments inbetween, creaking rafters and rope.

After that, after the bankruptcy court in early 2016, I started to pick my way through the great wilderness of life, finding my way out of the woods and arriving with the ill effects of malnutrition etched into me, but more free than I had ever been. The only weight I carried – physically and metophorically – was this pressing need to pay forwards every ounce of kindness I had been shown.

A year later, discharged from the bankruptcy and still a wreck in many ways, desire to do something good spinning wildly like a compass which had lost North, I fell into a hybrid war as a journalist and took the knocks which come with such courses of action.

Now, at the very beginning of 2019, dues paid and scars to prove the path travelled healed, I’m standing with a blended family built entirely of love and ready to build a home which knows no boundaries, where we can all belong. Cynefin for everyone. Cynefin for good.

Every journey has a point, you see. A purpose. A reason.

Mine, as far I genuinely believe, was to reconnect me with life, with nature, with people, and to set a fire in me, brightly burning the entrepreneurial spirit – as much a part of me as green eyes and asymmetrical ears – and combining it for the first time with the ridiculous element of my soul which can’t help but try and put good things into the world.

So, here I am. Ready to do something bonkers again. Preparing to launch an environmental charity to help us preserve and understand the natural glory around us. To bring all of its beauty and teachings to us in new ways and to create more sustainable ways in which we can live with the world rather than just being passengers on a planet’s surface.

This escapade isn’t about the journey but the destination. Cynefin itself.

A new adventure for all of us starts now with one simple idea in mind: making our home the best it can be, by changing the way we interact with it for good. This is where the road home stops. This is a compass finding north. This is paying it forward.

I can’t wait to tell you more in the coming weeks and months and you will find every last detail here.

Whatever your own journey has been or still is, the door is open and the fire is lit. Welcome home.

James

Photo by Luke Miller on Pexels.com


Lion

Lion

Lion is a short, fictional story about Dave, a disturbed Briton who has been radicalised online and carries out an atrocious act as a result.

The pub was quiet, just the usual sad faces of a Wednesday afternoon huddled around the two least chipped of the tables, the quiet shuffling of cards resuming after the customary, brief silence Dave’s entry had caused. The slow turn of heads towards the door as the cold air penetrated the marginally less chilly interior of scuffed and filthy wood panelling and yellowing plaster, daubed in a variety of stains from spilt ale to blood spots on the cornice – the result of a long forgotten uppercut during a moment of alcohol-fuelled disagreement.

The landlord lifted his stout and stiff frame from a stool by the bar flap with a grunt and slopped near warm lager from a line last cleaned the month before into a cloudy glass from the lower shelf by the mousetrap. Without a word he placed the pint on the bar top, leaving a wet ring that would join the stickiness of the others by the end of the night. Dave passed him three pounds and sixty pence in exact change and the landlord grunted and put it in his pocket without ringing the till. He would be leaving soon enough, with the third month’s rent unpaid and the pub company resorting to court action without further warning, so he sat back down and continued drinking his bottle of Scotch, no longer caring about any of it.

Dave silently drank his rancid lager, catching sight of himself in the filthy mirrors behind the almost empty spirit shelves. His distorted face stared back at him, a ghost haunting him as the phone vibrated in his pocket. As he retrieved it, his van keys jingled then became silent, falling into line with the oppressive vacuum of the environment which had been his escape from reality for most of his working life. He still remembered the days when live music filled the place and the field out the back was full of tents and cars, rather than the flats which had been built four years ago and signed the old pub’s death warrant. This town was dying. The whole country. It had been invaded.

Dave sipped his drink and peered at the screen of his phone, the Facebook group glaring back, almost incandescent with rage against its red header proclaiming Save Our Country, bordered on the right by a silhouette of a woman in a hijab. The posts were an increasing clamour of anger and accusation, loaded with what Dave felt were forgivable spelling and grammar mistakes and strange reversed punctuation marks he put down to the curse of phones. The very bloody things that allowed terrorists to talk to each other without the useless pigs being able to stop them. At the top of the entries was an update on the group of Muslim paedophiles who had been preying on white girls somewhere up north, and it was only being reported by the EDL’s frontman. Dave finished his drink and slammed the filthy glass down on the bar, where a small spray of beer droplets sprayed outwards to expand the stain he would leave. Nobody looked around, all of them busy with their own thoughts of the fall of this once great country.

Without a word, Dave left, trembling with fury, and retrieved his van from the car park. He had to do something. Somebody had to take a stand. He checked his private messages and saw the group chat was still talking about taking the fight back to the infidels with direct action and he knew he wasn’t alone. Across the road a group of dark-skinned students were walking up the narrow pavement, heading for the university. Dave had been there once to use the Barclays after one of his building jobs paid in cash and he had not wanted to carry the money around or keep it at home, not with all the burglaries going on in his corner of the world. All bloody foreign students, free-loaders. Invaders. Robbing jobs and opportunity from everyone, leaving them to die the slow death of the boozer in muted silence.

Knuckles white on the steering wheel, Dave understood what he had to do and took a deep breath, there was time to send an update. He would be the first, the catalyst. He would be remembered as a hero for his actions and the country would start to wake up from its long and lazy slumber. And the lion would roar once again.

Dave let out a scream of anger and drove across the street, into the group of the students, and then continued up the road, wheels squealing as he turned on to the main access road of the campus. It never crossed his mind he was a terrorist, not even as the police officer’s bullets pierced his body and stopped his heart from beating.

Hedge Funding

Hedge Funding

A week into this journey of creating a completely new film studio out of nothing and it’s been both lovely (see the comments building on the Ko-Fi page, which is how you support the project) and interesting…on a lot of levels.

There’s a learning curve with film-making, that much I’ll give you, but it’s in realising just how different Hedge Fund Studio that all the lights go on.

I had no idea, at least not at first, films are largely privately funded through an elaborate investment tax relief scheme for people already wealthy. (It’s called EIS if you want to look it up). That’s definitely not what Hedge Fund is about, which immediately creates our biggest asset and biggest challenge: whether it works or not is entirely reliant on the community it grows from.

Then there’s the whole tax relief set up, which isn’t something Hedge Fund will be structured to take advantage of. It’s all quite off-putting when you start to look into it.

Thankfully, I guess, we’re doing it ALL differently. I crowdfund, I pay my taxes in the absolutely normal way and we make films. There’s no magic, no schemes. I’ll admit it is the hard way, but what’s the point in doing anything in good heart if there’s no mild peril? It’s something every film we’ve ever watched has told us, ironically.

You can get more detail on the project as a whole here.

So far, over a hundred people have joined our fledgling community and we’re hovering around 3% of the overall budget needed to make our first feature. 

And those lovely people are already helping build the script for our first film, Naked Bears – something everyone who joins in will be able to do.

The members’ votes on the environmental project the first film will help support are also well underway, and it’s a close run contest at the moment. If you want to be part of it too, all you have to do is become part of the family.

However, there’s a long way to go and the project has been swallowed up in the week’s Brexit news cycle madness, which is a shame. I hope we’ll get it back on track now, but it’s all down to you.

So, if you feel like it’s something you want to get involved in, it would be a pleasure to have you aboard.

I’ll check in at the end of next week with an update and some news on distribution options and what we’re aiming for as a return on the first film. Until then, here’s a short video I made earlier, having a bit of quiet time.

Have a great weekend and be good to one another.

Page To Screen, Times Are Changing

Page To Screen, Times Are Changing

Hello all.

It turns out the pickle we are in, internationally, is unlikely to end well.

Worse still, it turns out the written word isn’t having the impact it needs to. Because people are turning off to it.

This is, sadly, part of what the disinformation barrage which is integral to the world’s ongoing hybrid war is for. Fighting disinformation with information in the same format just creates a tornado of white noise, rather than one triumphing over the other.

I still believe the traditional structures of news delivery are failing us and I still believe there is a better way, in spite of everything.

Subsequently, for me it’s time to try something different. So, I’m making my first feature length documentary. It’s not going to be rushed, not going to be bodged, and the intention is it will be the first of many – which will become self-funding.

The script is written, the production company has a name (Bedsit Genius), and the equipment is all in place. What I need to do now is make the film, working title “Malware For Humans.”

To do this, and do it properly, there are a few things which need to be paid out up front – such as location fees (for disused bunkers, etc) and weapons hire (because bringing this topic to life in a way people will “get it” is quite a challenge).

The budget for this is £5,000 and I’m trying a new way of raising this: through cups of coffee…

You can visit my Ko-Fi page here and contribute to this project through cups of coffee rather than fixed amounts. It’s fast, secure, and doesn’t charge any fees so everything goes to the budget.

Unlike any of the other crowdfunders I’ve done, there’s no time pressure or all or nothing, but without the funds I have to adjust the end product down and the topic deserves the best shot I can give it.

I aim to be shooting in September/October and working on post production through the winter. I’d like to be able to have it released in February, ahead of the UK’s looming destruction. But this depends largely on you.

In terms of how people can watch the film when it’s done, I’m leaning towards distribution through Prime for international streaming and downloads, with an option for DVD’s here in the UK. Mainly because it appears to be the easiest route to the largest audience, without having to unleash YouTube’s adverts on the finished film.

I intend to give 10% of any net proceeds to charity, and will pick one when the time comes with the help of the good people of Twitter.

I hope you can see some potential good in this project and can throw a coffee at it.

Much love,

James.

Come Home…Part 2

Come Home…Part 2

…I didn’t have a lot of anything in the spring of 2017. Well, with the exception of love from a soulmate who not only believed in me, but who stood by me through the damage and panic attacks and self-loathing which was the legacy of the old life’s grisly end.

And the reason my love believed in me? Beneath all the rubble, a light was still shining through the cracked fragments. That promise I made to myself was about to be broken by that cursedly curious mind of mine, abetted by the same defect which meant the whistleblowing was possible in the first place.

And so I turned my attentions to disinformation, elections, the far-right, and Russia.

Starting from nothing, I battered my way into journalism. Gathered a following and crowdfunding at Byline, and eventually managed to scoop the story which changed everything: Russia had engaged the West in hybrid warfare and won, destabilising its long-term adversaries with electoral interference planned over years. Deploying the most ruthless of all psychological weapons to drive wedges into every seam of our society, creating chaos. The installation of malware for the soul. A virus for the human mind.

When Alternative War was first released as a public interest project in 2017, barely anybody believed it. The trolling was intense, tasked, and incredibly damaging. I was dismissed and disbelieved at every step, leaving me burnt-out and demoralised.

And worse still, because I had started to come around to the idea of people being better than I dared believe, some other journalists laid into me to. From their privileged positions of stable jobs with nothing to lose.

This is only a shadow of the privilege which affects billions every day, and it was soul destroying.

Though the security services eventually caught up, and the media sneering was replaced with growing acceptance, I had seen enough. And the echoes from my time before the truth came out in the parliamentary inquiry were too much. Old scars had been re-opened – because in this world you can’t really do right until it also suits somebody else’s agenda. Or circulation figures.

We truly deserve better in this world, but we don’t have better yet. And who knows if we ever will. Battered and bruised, exhausted, I resigned myself to near defeat.

But that soft voice was still there. That love of mine. Whispering to me carry on the journey home. Smiling at me gently as she told me to take as many people along as possible.

And so I opened more doors. And now I’m opening them to you.

Because we do deserve better. And they only way we can get there is together…

Come Home continues tomorrow.

 

 

Come Home…Part 1

Come Home…Part 1

I once made a promise to myself. Lying in a ball on a rug, hoodie pulled up over my face, panicked breathing refusing to ease.

It was a fortnight after I left the police on the tenth anniversary of my starting in the service, and I was broken. Blowing the whistle to Parliament on the national failure to record crime properly and the manipulation of resource statistics had taken years but, by May 2014, it was done and I’d forced things to change for the better for victims of crime. The price was a heavy one: the loss of the career I loved, the loss of financial security, the unemployability which comes with doing the right thing.

The promise was a simple one, a child’s almost. I’m never doing that again, it’s just too much.

Just under two years later, I was lying in a bedsit in the dark, listening to the night-sounds of the sink estate and the alcoholic Scotsman screaming to the dark in the room above, stopping to urinate on the floor in elongated blasts. I had been bankrupt for a fortnight, after a road closure of several months killed off the pub I’d managed to renovate and restore.

Life really can be peculiar, because it’s there I found peace in myself for the first time in many years and started to write Forever Completely, a catharsis in fiction. An escape. Oddly, this running away had the effect of opening the door on a journey. A road home to a place where I belonged. A place I could build for my family. The Welsh word for this is Cynefin.

And so it was, in the most miserable of circumstances, Cynefin Road was born. A small, independent publisher working to make book magic on a wing and a prayer.

But this wasn’t intended to be some vanity project, nor a money making escapade. Just a place for beautifully written stories which gives authors a fair deal – a 40% royalty – though advances are still well beyond reach. And it’s slowly building into something wonderful.

My soulmate works full-time while we face the precarious nature of my work as a publisher and crowfunded journalist, but that’s part of the path to building something truly special and, though it causes its stresses, we are committed to the long term dream.

Cynefin Road now has a growing collection of titles, from a wonderful authors, from children’s stories, to sci-fi, to non-fiction – it’s a privilege to have writers like Stephanie Shields, Lu Thomson, Thomas Heasman-Hunt, Soledad Osraige coming home, with others on their way. And then there’s our fabulous house illustrator, Kathleen Day. Best of all, we are receiving new submissions all the time.

But what is home without people to share it with?

And that is why I want you to come home too.

But, I suppose, I should probably explain why things need to change from how they are now, especially as the things I’ve been writing about as a journalist take new turns and the tide seems to have turned. And I have to do that before I explain exactly where we are headed.

It all started because the promise I made to myself on the floor, laying there with palpitations, wasn’t one I kept. And after the door was opened an unexpected trip began…

Come Home continues tomorrow.

 

Flying.

Flying.

It’s not a great time of year for me, or should I say it hasn’t been in the historical sense.

My mum passed away on February 6, 2001 and I’ve missed her every day since.

Lord knows there have been times when I genuinely believe one cuddle could have changed things but, just as you have to let go of pain, you have to let go of dreams of unrecieved hugs too.

You make peace, when you stop falling. You breathe.

Then, of course, March looms. The 17th to be precise – and ironically what would have been mum’s birthday.

It was this day, in 2016, I walked into Colchester County Court, broken, and was declared bankrupt after a three month road closure saw to the end of my pub – a business opened to claw myself back from the brink after whistleblowing and losing the career I had loved in the police.

But you make peace, when you stop falling. You breathe.

I was left with nothing – selling even childhood posessions for food – and served my time in a “shared house.”

The soundtrack to my nights were the shouts and screams of the man upstairs as he fought his alcholic demons and urinated on the floor above my head in long, deafening streams. My days were filled with the sharp, omnipresent headache and perma-tiredness of malnutrition while doing a physical job. I was a wreck, living on rationed biscuits.

But you make peace, when you stop falling. You breathe.

Knowing that there are people who will never forgive the loss of money is something which simply takes time to get over and there is no easy reconciliation with your sense of self-worth, I assure you. But I found happiness after the horror, once shame faded away and all the emotional pain stopped.

The social leprosy of a court ruling does its work in this.

But you make peace, when you stop falling. You breathe.

I was discharged from Bankruptcy a year on, on mum’s birthday, and soon it will be another year down. In four years I will have served my credit sentence and return to being a financially acceptable human once more.

It is a relief, the weight of a quarter of million of debt being lifted, but nobody must ever think this comes for free. The worst of it isn’t the public record, the sneering, or the assumptions, either. It’s what you do to yourself.

But you make peace, when you stop falling. You breathe.

Rather than spiral to terminal velocity, I stopped the sharp descent and even fell in love, real love. Which was just coming home in truth.

One day, I may even be to soften up on myself too. Because once you can breathe again, and you come home, you can move.

And I haven’t stopped moving since.

I’m flying, I suppose. Completely free for the first time in almost forty years of life.