Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A magical vision is hidden in the Irish Language - Irish Times, 14th July 2018

A magical vision is hidden in the Irish language – we need to rediscover it
A single word can unlock the richness in our lives, landscapes and ways of seeing
Sat, Jul 14, 2018,
Manchán Magan

What if we’ve been looking at Irish through the wrong lens all these years? Rather than it being a subject that causes heartache in schools might it actually be a periscope into our psyche and our souls? A path towards an entirely fresh way of seeing reality, transforming existence from a predictable and quantifiable 3-D dimension into a vacillating, multi-dimensional realm with the potential of bleed-throughs from other parallel worlds.
First, there are some truths about the language that need to be acknowledged, though the grammarians and language academics might not agree. 1 Irish derives from a world in which the unseen is as real as the seen; 2 it acknowledges the existence of other dimensions; 3 it is based on an understanding that nature and the land are vibrant, sentient beings; 4 at its most potent can be a language of incantation, meaning that it has (or might have) the potential to summon up wishes, behaviours, people and things.
These are bold claims, I realise, and whether any lofty academic linguist would agree is debatable, but let me explain with some examples of the many Irish words and phrases that can upend your way of seeing reality. Words like sclimpíní, for example, which conveys the effect of lights dancing before one’s eyes – either real light or the supernatural; those glimpses we get through the veil of what lies beyond. A single word like this can shift one’s frame of reference radically, to question all one’s assumptions and offering the potential of a more holistic and limitless way of thinking and being.
Cáithnín is another fine example of how a single word can unlock the hidden richness in our lives and landscape. It means a speck of dust, a husk of corn, a snowflake, a subatomic particle and a miniscule smidge of butter, or anything tiny that gets into the eye and irritates it. But, most evocatively of all, it also means the goosebumps you feel in moments when you contemplate how everything is interrelated and how tiny we are in relation to the whole, like that feeling when you realise, or, maybe, remember, that we are all one – all unified.

In this way, cáithnín, becomes like a koan or mantra – a single word that brings you right around the universe from the infinitesimal to the infinite. It becomes a reminder from our past about how we once related to our environment and community, and how we might do so again.
Another example is scim, which means a thin coating of tiny particles, like limewash on a house or dust on a mantelpiece. These are good practical, pragmatic meanings that any lexicographer would be comfortable with, but there are other more nebulous ones which might prove more challenging for the limited claustrophobic way of thinking that we now ascribe to in this age of empirical reasoning and narrow-mindedness. For example, scim can mean a fairy film that covers the land, or a magical vision, or, best and most alluring of all, succumbing to the supernatural world through sleep.

Just consider that notion for a while and you get a sense of the gateways, wormholes and rabbit warrens that the Irish language allows us access to, should we dare open ourselves to it. Might our world in its current state benefit from a language that allows for fairy films that cover the land, a language that offers the potential of being whisked away to the supernatural world through sleep?

Alternate dimensions
Surely children would be more intrigued if, as well as teaching them that ceantar means region or locality, we also teach them its equal and opposite, altar, which means the other realm, the netherworld. After all, this way of seeing the world is instinctive to the young, who have no problem accepting the potential of the alternate dimensions of Narnia beyond the wardrobe or Hogwarts beyond platform 9 ¾ of Kings Cross Station.
Consider the word crithir: its basic meaning is a particle or a spark of flame or light, or the tiniest portion of something, but it has other meanings that can act as a wedge to prise open perspectives that would otherwise remain hidden. For example, it can refer to the vulnerability and insubstantiality of solid objects; such as a swamp, or the trembling of the land in an earthquake, or the crumbling surface of ploughed land when dry after rain. Crithir means all these things.
This notion that our world is not as rigid or dense as we like to believe, has become more relevant with our growing awareness of quantum physics and how electrons are forever materialising, then dematerialising and reappearing somewhere else. All we really know is that our bodies, fields, mountains and stars are elementary particles, vibrating and fluctuating constantly between existence and non-existence – swarming in space, even when it seems that nothing is there. The fact that any solid, dependable mass that starts to quiver or falter can be referred to as crithir makes it an ideal term for the unpredictable and infinitesimal particles that we have delineated as the building blocks of all life.
These concepts are a bit bamboozling to all of us, but they might be easier to an Irish speaker who is already comfortable with the notion that a word like púicín can mean a supernatural covering that allows otherworldly beings appear unseen in this reality (as well as being a blindfold, a goat muzzle and a tin shade put over a thieving cow’s eyes). As an aside, the Irish for bamboozling is meascán mearaí, which also means going astray into other dimensions.
Now, with regard to this incantatory quality that Irish may possess, the best way of seeing it is through the first words ever composed by an Irishman, The Song of Amergin, which our chief poet and druid, Amergin, is said to have recited upon arriving in Ireland on the 1st April 700BC. He immediately begun uttering an incantation, summoning up the world that we intended to create here through his words. Ancient languages, when spoken by shamans and sorcerers, seemingly had this ability to not only describe an item, but help condense it from a parallel amorphous world of potential into a tangible, crystallised reality.

Language of unity
Amergin’s first stanza “Am gaeth i m-muir, Am tond trethan, Am fuaim mara”, (I am wind on sea, I am ocean-wave, I am roar of sea) clarified the interrelation between this world and all other planes of existence – physical and spiritual. It was a declaration of the unity of all things and it’s what, more or less, everything in our lives has been based upon ever since. We’re all here because of Amergin – his incantation summoned us into existence, or at least propelled us forward. And ever since we’ve been here – farming, fighting, mating and, eh, baking.
Yes, baking. As a way of delving deeper into these issues I’ve created a show called Arán agus Im, in which I summon the powers of wild yeasts and invisible bacteria to perform alchemy on milled grain and water, transforming them into bubbly universes of sourdough bread. In the show, which the Abbey Theatre is touring to Limerick, Cork, Galway and Dublin this summer, I’ll be baking bread and delving deep into language issues, while the audience get to perform their own alchemy, creating butter from cream to spread on my fresh bread made of grains grown in Ireland.
The Abbey will also be touring my show Gaeilge Tamagotchi in which I bestow rare and endangered words upon members of the public who agree to nurture and nourish them, words like lóipín, the cloth fixed on a hen’s claws to stop it scratching the earth or the pieces of jute put on a donkey’s hooves to keep them from slipping on frost. Or seithreach, the wistful voice of a mare calling for her foal, or the sound horses make when they meet after an absence.
The truth is that Irish is an ideal tool to help reorientate us back to what we have forgotten about our connection with the world around us. Its arcane structures and lack of clear rules can make it feel chaotic and uncontrollable, but therein lies its power. If we dare to dive in and escape the grips of its more pedantic gate-keepers and spirit-crushed naysayers, there are worlds of new perspectives and experiences awaiting.

Arán & Im and Gaeilge Tamagotchi tour to Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick, 20-21st July; Abbey Theatre, Dublin, 17-18th Aug, Town Hall Theatre, Galway 14-15th Sept; Cork Opera House, Cork, 21-22th Sept.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Truck Fever: a journey through Africa - Full reviews & profiles

Full Length reviews and profiles of Truck Fever, A journey Through Africa by Manchán Magan

The Independent, October 5, 2008
Review by Tom Boncza-Tomaszewski  of Truck Fever
Riding in the back of a truck from London to Nairobi, sharing your journey with 18 strangers, one of whom you have to choose as your cooking partner and another as the person you're going to share a tent with, sounds like hell on wheels. If you've read any of Manchán Magan's travel adventures before, though, you'll appreciate it's the kind of situation his writing thrives on.
A little like Jon Ronson, but without the faux naivety and tendency to wheedle interminably, Magan is an outsider: "In a more sophisticated community, it might have made me a leader, but here I sensed I was as likely to end up the runt." Under the guidance of group leader Suzi ("one of those indomitable, fiery women who had formed the backbone of the Empire during the colonial days") the haphazard travellers, including a couple of public schoolgirls and a man who claims he used to be a torturer in the British Army, encounter drug runners, missionaries and witch doctors. Somehow Magan manages to write about it all without insulting anyone.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE by June Edwards, Sept 28, 2008
In search of adventure and self-fulfilment, Manchan Magan tells of a six-month journey 18 years ago. June Edwards weighs up the pros and cons of hindsight
TRUCK FEVER recounts in vivid detail seasoned traveller Manchan Magan's overland trip from London to Nairobi in an ex-army truck shared with 19 fellow travellers, all escaping Thatcher's Britain, when he was just 20.
Fans of the Irish travel writer, journalist and TG4 broadcaster won't be disappointed by his latest offering; the only trouble with it is that Magan is now a man of 38, and recounting stories with the hindsight of almost two decades is surely problematic in terms of how we remember events. Readers might in fact prefer the reflections of maturity as opposed to the raw self-absorption of youth.
Magan is undeniably an excellent writer, and has a wonderful talent for transporting the reader into the heart of every experience, from the heavily mint-scented Atlas mountains in Morocco to the worst, intestine-churning suffering of having dysentery in Niger. He is an intelligent observer of people and places, and his writing is sensitive and engaging.
However, he has an irritating habit of being extremely judgemental, which, if this book had been written when he was 20, would be understandable. But with the maturity of middle age, readers might expect a little less black-and-white summing up of his fellow travellers.
For example, "the three nurses – Stella, Felicity and Dorothy – were all rather similar; women in their mid-thirties, each brimming with common sense and low self-esteem." In this one cutting sentence he writes off three individuals, who from there on are frequently referred to as "the nurses". He is quick to pick out everyone's flaws. Henry has spent 40 years "diligently buckled under the leash of convention." In other words, he had a job as a quantity surveyor, all a little too dull for the young Magan who had loftier plans for his life, not to mention a well-to-do middle-class family to sustain him in his adventures, albeit from a distance!
The girls on the trip, Lucy and Natasha, are treated somewhat more kindly. Young, pretty and privately educated, they come from a similarly privileged background as the author.
Personality aside - and don't get me wrong, because Magan comes across as a likeable and decent human being - Truck Fever is a great read. Even the route the travellers take across Europe, from Spain to North Africa, and through Central Africa and southward, amounts to fascinating stuff.
And Magan doesn't gloss over the fact that this six-month journey was hellish in parts, and brought out the baser side of both himself and his the Christmas Day when he beat up one of his retired co-travellers after a dispute about stealing a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream. Nor does he glorify living in tents with no toilets or washing facilities for half a year.
Ultimately, what emerges from this book is the senselessness and unfairness of the world. While the twenty travellers have paid £1,000, a lot of money in the late '80s, to endure a difficult and dangerous trip into the heart of Africa for adventure and self-fulfilment, they encounter a young boy at the port in Morocco, who has paid a similar amount of money to an illegal trafficker to get into Spain in the hope of a better life.
Elsewhere in the desert they meet children who have walked for days in search of a can of water, and it is the sensitive re-telling of these events which saves Magan from the self-indulgence which is always at the edge of his writing. 

SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, Sept 2008, review of Truck Fever
Magan likes a challenge: in 2007 he went round Ireland speaking only Irish, and his account of travelling through America, Angel’s and Rabies, was both funny and sensual.
His latest book is an account of a truck journey from London to Mombassa with a group of drop-outs. The witch doctors, drug runners and missionaries they meet en route provide plenty of good stories, but by Magan’s own admission, these are little more than a “rapid series of superficial images” compared to the stormy dynamics of the group in the truck. Magan is especially good at conveying the traveller’s feeling of isolation within a crowd.

THE SCOTSMAN 13TH September, 2008, Review of  Truck Fever
More extreme travel from the author of Angels And Rabies, in which Magan goes by truck from London to Nairobi with a group of, well, 'eccentrics' is the kind word. As you'd expect it's comic and gruesome in equal measure.

WESTMEATH EXAMINER  20 Sept 2008 - Review of Truck Fever
Take a grand apiece off  20 strangers, fling them into a truck and promise them a six month journey overland – and through Africa – and what do you get?
Well, if  you are Westmeath writer Manchán Magan, you get bihlarzia, you get your character tested, you find yourself living a ‘Lord of the Flies’ life, and, eightenn years later, you get a remarkable travel book from it.
For Manchán, who lives in Collinstown, ‘Truck Fever: a journey through Africa’ is his third travel book and since he’s now turning to fiction, likely to be his last.
The book recalls a trip he took while he was just eighteen, and still mourning the death of his father, who remains, nonetheless, a constant presence through the writer’s adventures.
This is, however, much less a book about Africa than about the dynamics of the group of nurses, post A-level students, middle-aged travellers, and their leader and mechanic/driver, who pitched their lot in together for 6 months, and squabbled and bickered along the way.
Rule with a dictatorial hand by Suzi, the leader who had led several previous such expeditions to Africa before, this was a claustrophobic experience. We spend only 8 hours a day with the people with whom we work,a nd not much more than that daily with our families either. It is fascinating, therefore to read how it works when a group is travelling in the same truck all day, sleeping in the same encampments at nigh, and having to rmain sane and civilised.
Remainng sane and civilised is less easy than it might appear, and it’s clear from Manchán’s book that ‘civility’ was one of the conventions that frequently packed up its rucksack and snuck away from the group. There is one fascinatingly tense section in which the group fetch up in a small remote village, and are told to wait for the ferry which will arrive a day later to take them up the Congo River to Kisangani, where Suzi and the mechanic will meet up with them again.
The boat doesn’t arrive; half the party have their passports stolen, and Manchán discovers in himself a set of high principles that won’t let him abandon the party members whose passports have been stolen – even though he still has his own.
A nightmare trip ensues, during which the group, now penniless without drinking water, and indeed, many of them ill, finally get to make their way back to Kisangani.
Although that incident came close to the end of their trip, it deeply divided the group. Those who had lost their passports, and the honourable ones who remained with them were embittered towards those who had decided to forge on and fend for themselves, abandoning those who been less lucky.
It’s still a mystery to Manchán why Suzi didn’t come back with the truck, looking for the group after they failed to turn up, when planned  at Kisangani.
A beautiful writer, Manchán does give glimpses of Africa. There’s a surreal story of the city of Gbadolite – a modern glass and steel oasis built by President Mobutu – but without substance.
‘It’s a lie,’ Suzi tells the group. ‘There’s nobody in the offices or the restaurants. There’s no food in the supermarket. It’s all a charade.’
There’s sadness too in his description of how Aids is affecting so many people in Africa; the young; the beautiful; the talented. He falls briefly in love with a girl, but she is honest and tells him she ‘la sida’, as its known in French.
Early in his day in Africa, there’s a magical section: Manchán is befriended by a young African called Mustafa, and it’s through Mustafa that Manchán and some of the other group have their first ‘real’ experiences of Africa.
This is a great read. It doesn’t lecture about how poor Africa is; it doesn’t slate the West for what we’ve done there; it doesn’t trot out the clichés. It provide a picture of a country that is not as backward as it might appear from here when we see the newsclips of disasters and famines there.
In ways, however, Africa is just a backdrop. We see a beautiful country, but realise that because they are tied together as an independent group, the internal politics, friendships, tensions and experiences are to the forefront, and for that group of twenty, their experiences become more about their interactions with each other than with Africa. It is, therefore, a book that will be of as much interest to those fascinated by humans as to those fascinated by Africa.
Manchán has two other travel books to his name, each as fascinating as the other. When you’ve read ‘Truck Fever: a journey through Africa,’ go looking for ‘Angels and Rabies,’ an account of his time in South America nad Canada, and then ‘Manchán’s Travels: a journey through India.’

EVENING HERALD, Lost in Africa: a voyage of self-discovery
By Tom Galvin,Sat  Sept 13 2008
YOU may remember him as the man who put the Irish nation to shame with his No Bearla series on RTE, but -- get your phlegm ready -- Manchan Magan has been around for some time, traipsing the globe and producing both films and books for armchair adventurers.
His books thus far have taken him across India (Manchan's Travels: A Journey Through India, Brandon, €14.99) and South America (Angels and Rabies, Brandon, €14.99), while his latest, Truck Fever -- A Journey through Africa (Brandon, €14.99) recounts his expedition in an ex-army truck from London to Nairobi with a group of other lost souls, on a trip that you used to see advertised in the small ads section in the back of Sunday papers.
While there are no dates to mark the year of passage through the Dark Continent, Magan mentions in the opening chapter that he "had £1,000 saved and no idea what to do with it. I was barely 20 years of age. I knew little about anything. My dad had just died. . . I felt I had to get away."
Since £1,000 wouldn't buy you floor space in a smuggler's van these days and Magan, as we know, is a good deal older than 20, we can deduce that the trip was made in the late 80s, driven by sentiments most of us of a certain vintage can fully empathise with: escape, at any price.
The danger relating a travel experience two decades later is accounting for change -- something which would have altered the book dramatically should Magan have tried -- begging the question as to the value of such a book given the number of years that have passed.
It doesn't matter. In fact, the best travel writing only improves with age, making the experience for the armchair adventurer both spatial and temporal. And Truck Fever is travel writing at its hair-raising finest.
Apart from wanderlust, Machan -- or Mocha, as his fellow travellers refer to him as -- is clearly on a personal, spiritual journey after the death of his father.
The combination of reportage and introspection is always risky in the travel genre, since readers are ultimately concerned with the exterior environment.
But Magan is a good, pacey writer and his charm and instinct afford the reader that much width when it comes to sharing his own personal travails. You do care about him, and that's a wonderful thing.
As for the other members of the group, the years may have been kind to them but Magan certainly hasn't. Which is possibly why he left 20 years between them before painting some hilarious, eccentric, gross and scurrilous characters into his tale. It adds to the dark humour and creates an incredible microcosm for the reader to observe. But I hope he's very far away if and when his former fellow travellers read it.

VERBAL MAGAZINE An African adventure to be savoured,  by  Cathal Coyle.  
Review of Truck Fever
 For the past eight years Manchán (pronounced Man-a-hawn) Magan and his brother Ruán have travelled the world making a series of documentaries for Irish Language Network TG4 titled Global Nomad.
This ‘travelogue’ precedes these recent adventures and involves Manchán travelling overland from London to Nairobi in a truck (in the words of the author “an old troop transporter”) with what can only be described as a motley crew; including privately educated schoolgirls and a locksmith claiming to be a UFO abductee.
Truck Fever is a rollercoaster of adventure, anecdote and fresh observations about the nature of Africa and what it means to travel through the dark continent.  Arriving in Morocco, driving through the Sahara and across the centre to Kenya, the six month journey contains a set of adventures that are poignant as well as crazy. In the town of Rutshuru in the Virunga Mountains the truck accidentally knocks down a Frenchman who is speeding down a hill on a child’s scooter, while another ‘hairy’ moment sees the group come face-to-face with silverback gorillas that are fortunately of a docile temperament!
Not all recollections are light hearted; when describing the attempt to avoid dehydration as water bottles had run dry, Magan records their anxiety of the risks involved in drinking water from African rivers such as the Zambezi. Purification tablets only work effectively against micro-organisms, and the travellers had to run the risk of catching disease when drinking the water.  The reader catches a glimpse of the trials of living and travelling in a developing country.
The style of Truck Fever is very personal – and not simply on the part of the author.  He successfully relays the thoughts, feelings and anguish of his colleagues to the reader.  Magan’s use of language is delightful, he quotes one of the travellers main reason for undertaking such an arduous journey as being: “my life is more or less a selfish one, and now springs up the opportunity of wiping off a little of the long score standing against me.”
Written shortly after Magan’s father had deceased, the author places a great emphasis on the dreams he has of an imaginary friend, Johan. While initially he isn’t convinced that he is dreaming about his recently deceased father, but having read Carlos Castenada in school he tries to train himself to become conscious in his dreams to discover the true meaning of them.  This voyage of personal discovery is fascinating, and Magan incorporates this sub-theme skilfully into the travelogue.
The beauty of Truck Fever ultimately lies in its narration, Magan conveys the essence of his journey to the reader, and towards the end of the book he acknowledges the people and places that infused him with experiences and helped him to develop as a person. 

WESTMEATH EXAMINER PROFILE  -Forever on the road less travelled by Eilis Ryan
Once upon a time, there lived a man, in Collinstown, in a house made entirely of straw bales.
And the wind huffed and it puffed, but his little straw house stayed standing.
Manchan  Magan, writer, documentary maker, and now novelist, was living a what sounds like a complete death-trap, although he denies that that’s what it was.
“The reason I moved to Westmeath was to learn how to write. So I needed somewhere cheap, so I could build this..’nest’, so I built this house out of bales of straw, as I’d learnt to do in Africa, where they were building out of whatever was lying around them.
With his own self-taught electrical and plumbing skills, the house had in place a necklace of electric sockets and a stove with a back boiler. Despite how it sounds, it was safe enough, and cosy enough, and that was Manchán’s home for five years, until a crack came in the walls Eventually, he wound up building a “conventional” house – albeit with a grass roof.
Not entirely conventional is Manchán, a tall, youthful and studenty-looking 38 year-old who can be seen regularly flying around the roads of North Westmeath on his bicycle, after his day’s work has been done.
In fact, he says, he is a hermit, although probably only as much of a hermit as it is possible to be, if one wishes also to earn a living as a documentary maker and writer.
“I now have the balance. I did the going out once or twice a week to some sort of social occasion, and the more I do it, the more I yearn to get back to my house.”
He is disciplined, sitting down to his desk at 10 a.m. each morning, and writing until 3 p.m., before setting off on his cycling spins, and that discipline has – after, he claims, six years of rejection slips – seen him publish three travel books, and have one fiction book – in Irish - placed with a publisher, so watch out at Christmas for the arrival in the shops. He’s currently working on a screenplay.
The third of those travel books - Truck Fever: A Journey Through Africa – is about to hit the shops, bringing to an end, Manchan says, his writings about those big trips of his youth.
Writing is all he ever wanted to do.
“So, I decided to live in Collinstown for as long as it took me to learn how to write,” he says – although he has long outstayed that deadline, and has no inclination to move on from there in the foreseeable future, not while there’s a newly-planted 18,000 tree forest planted on his land there, in which he delights.
In his early days, when he wasn’t making any headway in his attempts to get published, it was tough going, he recalls.
“I’d get so depressed, and a local farmer, Billy Connelly, he’d try and keep me sane. I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do but write. On TV, you couldn’t get the ideas across the way you wanted to.
“I’d much rather not being able to eat than not to write,” he says. “I want to get so much better until I do write a book that is worthy of a big audience.
“Normally, people want a family and kids, and I have never been materialistic, and there’s nothing in the world I particularly want, as I noticed when I went to Africa, except finding a way of expressing my thoughts.”
“I wanted to write those three books, about that period travelling. And now I want to try to get into fiction.”
That travel trilogy began with “Angels and Rabies” in which he wrote about his experiences in South America and Canada; and was followed up by “Manchan’s Travels: A Journey Through India”, an account of his time living in a shed in India, his somewhat involuntary role in helping a young gay Indian youth make it from his village to city life, and his (Manchan) earliest forays into documentary-making.
This latest book recalls Manchan's earliest big trip, when he signed up, in London, for a six-month trip overland by truck through Africa, along with twenty strangers.
last travel book (see review on page 3 of the “Examiner Plus”).
Truck Fever: A Journey Through Africa is, like the other books, nothing short of startlingly confessional.
On that trip, that there was bullying, Manchan admits. That he didn’t disassociate himself from it, he admits. That he didn’t stand up against it – partly out of fear that he would, as he describes it, “become their patsy, their pliant bitch”, he also admits.
But then again, he says too that the one thing all twenty travellers had in common was “low self-esteem”.
While others might have been tempted – eighteen years on – to “gloss up” their own heroism, Manchan doesn’t.
“There’s an onus on a writer …you have to be honest,” he says, admitting that some of it makes for uncomfortable reading.
He was, however, just 20 at the time, but having kept a diary for the entire trip, can say what happened where, and when. But to focus on that early, naievte, that fear of being the “runt” of the group, and of keeping his head low to avoid being assigned that role, is to catch just a glimpse of who Manchán was at the start of that trip.
Much more significant is the time when some of the group found their passports stolen, and who were, consequently, unable to leave the village from where they had been due to catch a ferry upriver – which incidentally, didn’t turn up when planned. Feeling responsible for their predicament, Manchán chose not to take the easy option, and leave with others who had secured a way out, but to stay with those who were suddenly faced with the nightmare of being stranded in an isolated African village with little money, no passports, and no way way out.
That decision, and that experience, changed him.
“I did have money, and I could have escaped, but that completely idealistic decision I made – ‘I’ll stay with these people; these are my friends’ – I felt so vainglorious and proud of my decision at the time.
“I decided: ‘I want to live a life which isn’t dictated by fear, but by high ideals’. If I had pushed onto the boat I would have got out with the others, but I was thinking: ‘This is who I want to be. I want to be the person who doesn’t react in small ways, and doesn’t react out of fear’.”
He knew then he wasn’t going to come home and get a “normal” job, and he has, still, pretty much lived his life to the ideals he realised in Africa.
“I have turned down a lot of opportunities,” he says.
Manchán had never been back to Africa since that trip until May of this year, when the Irish Times sent him to Zambia.
“It was a really important trip: it got me completely hooked again and realising Africa had got under my skin, and wouldn’t let me go.
“There’s a lot of stories I want to tell. I want to do a trip maybe looking at sustainable tourism. We have to start understanding Africa more, and that it has so much to offer.”
Although he writes all the time, Manchán is perhaps better known to the general public as the face in front of the camera on the host of travel documentaries he made with his brother, Ruan, who until just a couple of weeks ago, lived in Castlepollard.
It was Ruan who got him involved in documentary making, tracking him down to the shed he lived in in India, and persuading him to join him in making a travel series for TG4.
There followed several others, mainly in the Irish language, but with English language versions filmed simultaneously and sold on to t.v. stations abroad.
Last year, he was back on the t.v. screens with “No Béarla”, a series in which he attempted to travel around Ireland using only the Irish language. He has also made a a couple of historical documentaries, one of which is blurbed by Mancháhimself thus:
“Sighle Humphreys, society belle and crack-shot Irish rebel, was my grandmother. In her house on Ailesbury road was a secret room in which the Irish rebel leaders, Michael Collins, de Valera, etc, hid out,’ explains the presenter, Manchán Magan
“In Nov 1922 the house was raided by Free State Soldiers and the IRA leader, Ernie O’Malley came out shooting. In the ensuing gun battle my great-grandmother was shot through the brain, yet survived. One man died. Who killed him – my granny or Ernie?”
It’s credentials like these that have got Manchán the few nice steady writing jobs that keep him going at the moment. He writes occasionally for The Guardian, he has a regular travel slot on the RTE news show “Drivetime” on Wednesdays, what he describes as “an enthusiastic guide to travel destinations – as an enthusiast rather than an expert”; and a weekly column in the Irish Times’s Saturday travel magazine – “Magan’s World – Tales Of A Travel Addict”.
He is also about to guest-edit the next Midland Arts magazine.
In addition, he has done readings at The Electric Picnic, and at writer Pat McCabe’s “Flat Lake Festival” in Monaghan.
He’s involved locally with the “Co-Motion” film festival for young people, and with Shawbrook School of Dance as well as with the Midland Young Writers’ group in Kilbeggan.
He loves kids and young people. Although he is currently so focused on writing, and because his natural inclinations are hermetical, he isn’t in a relationship. But he’s going to miss having Ruan’s kids so close by, after years of being able to see them whenever he wanted, and have fun with them. When people find out that he lives alone and has no wife or children they ask does he have a dog or cat.
“I don’t want anything too dependent on me,” he says.
Voices from the past
Since word came out about Manchán’s new book, he’s heard from some of those who were on that trip to Africa. It freaked him a little at first, even though he’s changed everyone’s names, and the lawyers have scrutinised the book. Because they now know it’s coming out, some of the members want to have a reunion.
Manchán won’t go though.
It was a different time, a different life – and judging by the book, there were guests at that party one would rather not bother with again.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Manchán's Travel: a journey through India - full reviews

Reviews  & Profiles for  Manchan's Travels: A Journey Through India (Brandon 2007)

Review by Shelley Marsden, The Irish World, Sept 2007
From maverick Irish documentary maker and professional dreamer Manchan Magan, this rioutous travelogue follows on from the critically acclaimed Angels and Rabies: A Journey Through the Americas
A crazy, entertaining and ultimately thought-provoking adventure through the mad masala of modern India, we follow the eccentric Irishman as he attempts to make a documentary in Gaelic, while commenting on things like cremations taking place on the Ganges River.
The story begins in the serene Himalayan mountains, where we meet Manchan (Mocha), taking a break from his travels and contemplating life from a dark, smelly cave. His introspective journey is interrupted, however, when his handsome and popular brother Tiger tells him he’ll be presenting a new travel series for Irish TV.
The mismatched pair come across sex-obsessed yogis, eunuchs, mad maharajas and nutty Norwegians on their travels around the continent.  The best part of this book is not the unique stories told (though they are fascinating and present you with an India you’ll never get in your Lonely Planet), but the way the Westmeath man recounts his experiences. 
Mocha proves to be deeply funny without even trying, and he lays his soul so  bare you could die of embarrassment at times.  Mocha ‘on the road’ makes for one unforgettable adventure. 

Manchan's  Travels, review by Tom Rowe, Village Magazine, Oct 2007
Author, documentary maker, gaelgoir and intrepid traveller Machan Magan talks to Village about his new book, an account of a journey around India.
Manchan Magan credits his youthful appearance on the cover of his new book, A Journey Through India, to his Peter Pan existence. Now in his mid thirties, the Dublin born writer, television documentary maker and international traveller has studiously avoided the trappings of adulthood such as a mortgage or children in favour of “getting to know the world”. This endeavour has been aided by his willingness to live in a house built of straw-bales for a several years, and also his endless globetrotting.
Having escaped the concrete drabness of UCD, he lived in Africa (the subject of a book he is currently writing), then Europe, South America, and India, where he was living in a hut in the Himalayas when he received a call from his brother “The Tiger”. Through a mixture of bluff and bluster, the Tiger had wrangled a contract from the newly created Irish language television station TnaG to make a documentary on India, with Machan as presenter.
The making of this documentary is the theme of A Journey Through India. The blurb makes it sound like an acid-fuelled journey through the sub-continent, a kind of Fear and Loathing in New Delhi, promising murderous environmentalists, sex-obsessed yogis and mind-reading children. The introduction of the book does little to dispel this impression, with our narrator talking about the places his mind had reached through life as a hermit in the mountains – “the no-man’s land connecting grasshoppers to blades of grass to the wind that blows on both”. We are quickly introduced to one of the main protagonists of the book, a sexually confused local boy called Tara, who Manchan decides to save from his violent family by bringing him to Delhi, where things get even stranger. The other inhabitants of the Himalayas are either lost Westerners or hardy locals, all high as kites on the local cannabis or the opium in their tea.
In conversation with Village, Manchan wondered what would have happened him if his brother had not called him away from this place. While many of those around him had dropped out, he was expanding his consciousness and enjoying life, ensuring he was open to all experiences, such as drinking his own urine, for medicinal purposes. He was totally unemployable, but had no intention of changing. Not realizing he needed to be saved, along came his brother, and the Irish language.
The documentary was to be presented wholly through what Magan describes in the book as “an awkward, inexact, barely fathomable, semi-dead language”. While a true Gaelgoir, he feels Irish makes sense only when he speaks his dialect in its context, in the Dingle peninsula. In Dublin for example, he feels alienated speaking his Irish. When making the documentary he was worried about using Irish to describe India, as for him it is an earthy language that focuses on depression and oppression, not much use for speaking of the enlightenment and new-age experiences he had had there.
Magan has since gone on to make several documentaries for TG4, including one where he tried to travel around Ireland using only Irish, an entertaining but largely unsuccessful endeavour. In 1996, when making his first travelogue for the fledgling station, he foresaw the possible rejuvenation of the language through this new medium. While TG4 has been successful, he now feels that Irish must find “a new context” if it is to prosper, and sees hope in Irish children, who do not associate the language with hardship.
These feelings about Irish did not prevent him and the Tiger from documenting everything from the Indian metropolis to the scorpion infested deserts, interacting with Indians who feel that all humanity is one, leaving little room for personal space. The variety they encounter, from goat herding nomads to Gucci-clad teenagers, the sexually ambiguous hijra to the high-society dames, is investigated by our guide with an open attitude, as he tries to understand the whirl around him. This occasionally results in rambling paragraphs on topics like gender or globalisation, but they never last long, and we are always quickly brought back to the melee of the Indian streets.
The book is more focused on people than places. Magan tells us that he always tries to discover the “national consciousness” of a country he documents. In A Journey Through India he does this, to such an extent that the book could scarcely be used as a travel guide to the physical side of the country, but is a fascinating introduction to the minds of the people.

 A passage through India, with his brother - review by Padraig Kenny, Sunday Tribune
THE travel book has become something of a debased genre in recent years. Where once it used to be about the collision of cultures, now it has become a vehicle for egoism and smugness; very often reducing the society encountered to the status of a mere sideshow. This usually takes the form of a collection of anecdotal quirks served up to paint the self-regarding narrator in a pseudo self-deprecating light. With the insufferably smug and superior writer able to unpack their suitcase, put their feet up, and smirk about the idiosyncrasies of the natives.
Thankfully Manchan Magan's new book is different. When we first meet Manchan he is drinking his own urine in a decaying stone hut, halfway up a mountain near the Indian village of Almora, while experiencing what he calls the "inner realms". His main contact with the outside world is provided by helping out at the local leper station. It's an inauspicious beginning to a travelogue that soon develops a subtle and steely narrative grip from early on. He confesses that "the whole reality set up had never been enough for me . . . I had always wanted more", and at this point it looks like he is about to drift dangerously away from reality until the unlikely intervention of his brother, Ruan, who phones him with the news that he is about to arrive in India with nothing more than a camera, and the blind faith of a newly-established T na G who want him to film a travel documentary.
It's this phone call that becomes the catalyst for Manchan's journey. A journey upon which he manages to gently re-discover himself without any of the traditional navel-gazing and attention seeking which can tend to mar the genre.
Manchan becomes "the last Dodo", the unlikely and reluctant saviour for what he calls "an awkward, inexact, barely fathomable, semi-dead language" as he and Ruan try to encapsulate India through the medium of Irish. His boyish openness leads him to allow a street vendor apparently poke around the inside of his brain with a wire, bargain with the hijras, India's all powerful hermaphrodite and gender nonspecific underclass, and attempt a dangerous descent of a mountain in a rickety van, with only the dubious pleasures of a cassette of Phil Collins' greatest hits for comfort. Each encounter is marked by open-mindedness and honesty. The humour is subtle and pleasantly unforced, and the effect of all of this is like having a close up experience of his TV documentaries with added bite.
The brothers Magan set to work, each in their own unique way. Ruan is energised by charm and a passionate attitude that gets things done. Manchan's approach is more oblique and reflective, and there are inevitable tensions. During one typically heated moment, Manchan, lost in a characteristically introspective moment, riffs along with a lovely reminiscence that perfectly encapsulates the big brother, little brother relationship, as he describes simply, and beautifully, moments from their childhood when Ruan showed filial concern for him.
What's most refreshing about this book is the lack of egoism. Manchan steers clear from heavy-handed preaching, and the lure of sweeping statements on Indian culture. Instead he poses questions and theorises without falling back on pat answers.
There is a tremendous sense of being immersed in a culture without being swamped; a sensual panoply which ebbs and flows through a narrative that is vivid without being showy. The effect is of being brought along for the ride, and having your eyes opened without feeling alienated.
It's Michael Palin as gaeilge; gently determined, inquiring, and refreshingly free of narcissism.

The surreal deal - review by Hannah Davies, New Statesman
We first meet Manchán Magan in the Himalayas, where he passes the time by drinking his own urine, hallucinating visions of angelic choirs and inadvertently instilling gay pride in a young leper. Then he is asked to present a Gaelic-language travel film, and so begins a surreal journey.
The book’s scope embraces the sublime and the ridiculous, taking in the crumbling palaces of the maharajahs, Hindu funeral rites and an aggressive troupe of hermaphrodite dancers. What saves this account from absurdity is the writer’s respectful handling of his material. While the narrative is often humorous, at times hilarious, Magan never opts for a cheap joke at the expense of the situation he is describing. Moreover, there is no breathless backpacker prose: he has an evocative and elegant turn of phrase, whether describing the “police-issue moustaches” of border guards or the courting rituals in a western-style cocktail bar in Delhi.
Most intriguing are the sporadic discourses on Irish history and the Gaelic language. While these may seem jarring in a book about India, the two cultures are in fact skilfully interwoven. The ability to bring together disparate elements with such lucid conviction is key to Magan’s skill as a travel writer.

Mad for the Road - Clare People,  Nov 2007
From Urine-drinking to battling rabies, travel writer Mancháan Magan has lots of incredible stories to tell, writes Christine Breen.

‘I just want to express myself,’ saying Manchán Magan sitting across from me in Kiltumper on a perfectly blue autumn morning. We’re discussing writing in general and in particular his new book on India in the series of Manchán’s Travels published by Brandon in September. It is the morning after the night before when 15 members of the Clare People Book Club interviewed Manchán for a couple of hours. As one member said, ‘I could listen to him all night!’  I think he looks a little weary but he assures me he slept well. ‘Must be the wide walls of this old cottage. It feels like a cave.’ I tell him that’s exactly what we refer to it as, and many a visitor has slept well and long there. He is only the second writer the book group has had the good fortune of interviewing. I admit to him in the morning that I had been anxious, that often out group can be very vocal in their opinion and that rarely have we all agreed on a book. ‘Well I think they let me off easy then,’ he says with a self-deprecating smile that is part waife and part sage. He admitted that being interviewed by the group was intense but also stimulating. ‘It was invigorating,’ he says. ‘You usually know after half an hour what the interviewer is about. What angle they are coming in at. So this was fresh and latent with different energies, each from a different part. Like mind candy. They didn’t just ask me about my whacky past.’
It’s his whacky past or his whacky way of looking at the world that does grab everyone’s attention, especially interviewers. But we were a full hour into the interview the night before when somebody finally asked him, ‘How do you feel about urine-drinking now?’ It’s inevitable that this subject will come up as Manchán has made no secret of having used this ancient form of self-healing and he answers unabashedly.
‘I’m glad I’m open enough to it,’ he says. ‘it’s called ‘shivambu kalpa’ in India and has been a principle of ayurvedic medicine for 2,000 years.’ That’s the thing that is most striking about Manchán. It’s his way of looking at the world and his knowledge of it. I am reminded of Mark Twain’s An Innocent Abroad. He’s game for anything. He wants to experience as much of the world as possible and he is unafraid of it. If you’re happy to live inside your own head for weeks, even months at a time, and if you believe as he and the Hindus do that reality is an illusion, then there is no reason to be afraid.
The other striking thing about Manchán is his curious mix of ego and non-ego. As he says himself, he’s a bit of a go-between. He lives in the world but at times one does wonder is he of the world – I mean the world we ordinary folks live in. He’s built himself two houses – the original one, made of straw bale and plaster, needing to be replaced as it was cracking, as they do – and he now lives in the second one, with a grass roof and plenty of light surrounded by the 36,000 trees he has planted on his 10-acre stronghold in the midlands. You could spend an hour just talking about building construction and the environment. He nearly suffered a life-threatening disease, schistosomiasis, which he got from the blood flukes (nasty worms) and another time needed to find a quick remedy for rabies having been bitten for a rabid dog. You could spend another hour just on healthy traveling, healing and urine therapy. He’s written several books, done 30 television documentaries, and he’s not yet 40. Although he is happy enough to talk about himself and admits to being somewhat self-obsessed, he says  he isn’t all that comfortable in social situations. Or, more accurately, he will retreat into his grassed roof abode in Westmeath and re-gather his energy. One thinks of a cheetah, admired for its exuberant agility but respectful of its need for rest after burning too much energy. The image of the cheetah has been likened to that of gifted children, and I imagine that was what Manchán was, or rather, still is.
No doubt about it, he has boundless energy. ‘Will there be another book?’ (I should have presumed the answer.) ‘Just finished the one on Africa, in fact,’ he says.’It’s the next book in the series, the third.’ It’s been 10 years since he was in India but even longer since he was in Africa. He explains that he kept diaries and they were the source of his material, as well as his memory. He believes he needed that much time and distance in order to write what he felt. ‘It’s a condensation of everything that happened to me. I wanted to write impressionistically. There are so many concepts that overwhelmed me at the time. SO many ideas in my head. It’s like finding a myth or a fable to express it, which is what I’ve done with the character of Tara in this last book.
And, I wanted to write, in a way, for the mainstream. Something that was easy to read. I wanted something on every page to engage with. I didn’t want to just write about what I saw in India, I wanted to get my feelings about it across.’
With so  many ideas in his head, his projects are many, with his radio show ‘The big Adventure’ continuing on Monday nights, and presently filming the next series of ‘No Bearla’ which airs in January. He is currently writing a love story in Irish, but on the horizon he would very much like to take a group of teenagers to Africa and witness the experience of it through their eyes, believing that we adults are a bit too deadened to be trustworthy interpreters. He wants to work with young people because of their fresh, unadulterated take on things and is currently doing writing workshops with a group in the midlands.
There is no end in sight for this lad who is mad for the road as we say in these parts, but he’s staying put . . . for the moment.’

IN A WORLD GONE MAD,  Sunday Tribune, 2 Sept 2007
Pioneering nomad or plain mad?  Whatever people think of the globetrotting gaeilgeoir Manchán Magan, Padraig Kenny find it hard not to be impressed by his fearlessness and self-possession.
If you were to listen to other people's opinions, Manchan Magan is either an irritating intellectual twerp who is all "lentils and tweed" or the strident gaeilgeoir fascist of No Bearla with no regard for people's sensitivities. In private, however, Manchan Magan is a lot more personable and grounded than some people give him credit for.
Talking to him reminds you of the lost persona of his new travel book on his time in India. It's a story which details his "rescue" by his brother Ruan, who arrives with a camera to convince him that making a travel documentary for a fledgling Irish-language station would be a good idea. The documentary became the first of many critically acclaimed pieces for what was then Teililfis na Gaeilge, and an unlikely TV star was born.
As Magan sees it, Telifis na Gaeilge and the Irish language saved him. When we first encounter  him in the book he is skirting the realms of insanity in a hut halfway up a mountain. Looking back now he realizes how important Ruán’s intervention was. ‘If that hadn’t come at that point I don’t know what would have happened. I was completely unemployable. All I had is what I call a useless degree in cretinhood. I was determined not to use it and not to get any other job.’
India was probably the final chapter in a personal trilogy which had taken him straight from the Leaving Cert to Africa, the Americas and finally to working in a leper station by day and dangerously descending into the self in his hut – where he transcribed ‘angelic messages’ and had the frightening ‘early stirrings of a messianic complex’ – by night.
But what becomes obvious is that he was different from the great mass of backpackers in the early to mid-90’s, a lot of whom were motivated more by personal vanity and a sense of being hip, rather than the urge to explore and understand other cultures.
‘It wasn’t a sense of wanderlust that sent me traveling, I was basically fleeing. The reason I went traveling initially was because I was just so disillusioned with life growing up in Donnybrook. And all these expectations of a mortgage and a nice job in some sort of consultancy just had no interest for me. I just couldn’t identify with any aspect of it.’
Others paid lip-service to this urge to escape the middle-class confines of society only to return to the job, the mortgage, the suit and tie – but Magan realised his own mortgage-free idyll by first building a straw bale house in Westmeath in 1997. This has since been replaced by another self-built house on a piece of land which he calls ‘my own little world.’
He describes his first year in college as ‘disillusioning’. Fully expecting the world to open up he found it restrictive and stifling. Fortunately it provided just the spur he needed to go traveling. “‘Severely disillusioned with life and depressed, I went to Africa. I saw things no kid ever should, getting so near death, facing appalling things, and I came out just thinking: ‘this is actually the most ecstatic moment of my life,’ so it informed everything, I thought, ‘if I’m not Afraid of death, then let’s just live life.’”
What he calls this ‘child man, Peter Pan sort of thing,’ of being open to experience led him down some very strange paths. On arriving in India he was given a book on urine-therapy, an essential component of ayuvedic medicine. Needless to say he took to it with gusto. He confesses in a low voice at one point that he is ‘afraid to admit to it it’ but this doesn’t stop him discussing its positive advantages with the kind of unaffected enthusiasm that has made his travelogues such compelling viewing.
He also describes a typically spontaneous moment in the book where he allowed a man put a wire into his ear, in a mesmeric feat that convinced him it was traveling into his brain. ‘Itls like when you’re faced with ice cubes in a foreign country, normal tourists will not drink the ice cubes. If you see someone wanting to put a wire into your brain in India you just say no. But I don’t.’ It makes for an interesting experience but probably a more dangerous one.’
His bookish appearance hides a tremendous fearlessness which has brought him to the edge on many occasions. All of this stems from a desire to oppose the ‘conditioning’ of society and a resistance to being labeled. He doesn’t care what people think of him, going so far as to present himself even further outside the mainstream when I bring up the subject of how close he came to insanity in India. He makes no excuses for his freeform moments of metaphysical introspection and postulating the kinds of theories about existence that might make others nervous.
‘I am mad. According to every convention set in the western world we’ve got to accept that I am mad. But if I choose to see that the Western world is mad, the conditioning and conventions of our society, that’s my choice. But it does mean that it put me at odds with the rest of the world so it makes me by definition mad.’
He believes offering himself up in such a way prevents him from going down the route of being a guru-like figure. For him it’s a mechanism, a means of making sure he resists both glib expressions of absolutism and becoming a tiresome, preaching, proselytizing type. ‘It’s so much better to present is as the ravings of a fool.’
He believes the line between really using your imagination and insanity is very thin. ‘There’s a different type of insanity, very often insanity in the west is considered as fear and deep depression. But one of the reasons I went to India was because I wanted to face the whole depression thing, and the whole fear we have of being alone and of trusting our minds. It was something I always wanted to do. I didn’t know what would happen, would I just go deep into a spiraling of negativity and depression or would I just come out the other side.’
He came out the other side and now seems to have a great degree of self-possession and a freedom from many of the tics and neuroses which can afflict other creative people. If anything the contradictions of being both a reclusive global traveler and an intellectual ready to push the boundaries of sanity have contributed to his fearlessness and his ability to immerse himself freely in any culture. So much so that it’s hard to imagine anyone else who would have had the nerve to continuously speak Irish in a Loyalist bar as he did in an episode of last year’s No Béarla.
On the surface he is calm and rational, and yet there is an urge to explore both physically and spiritually, which might express itself as unease in others. But there it is again, that sense of self-possession and self-knowledge, as he talks about this need ‘to see beyond the conditioning and have new horizons;, with a real sincerity that allows him to side-step the old backpacking ‘searching for myself’ clichés that can so easily become a default position.
As far as his preference for isolation, it seems to stem from an early age. He describes being a happy baby and remarks on his ‘good fortune’ to have been born with this tendency towards being positive. For a man who once described himself as an ‘isolated loser’ forever on the edge of things, he is remarkably well-balanced.
Neither was he a typically miserable teenager. ‘I went through my teenage years as an isolated outsider, but actually more or less confident and happy in that.’ Now, he feels well-qualified to comment on the ‘sad miserable existence’ of all those bachelors living on the sides of mountains in our past. He describes them as people who were hiding. Magan, on the other hand, at least has some contact with the outside world through the internet which he claims is ‘almost creating tiny utopias the whole time.’
‘In the past you had to be a citizen of Ireland, and so you had to share all the ideas that Irish people had, the interests like going to the pub and being interested in the latest hurling game, and now weirdos, isolated people on the margins of society, can form their own societies online. Even if it’s just people obsessed with Paul Auster novels and rare types of apple trees. They gel, and meet up if necessary, but nobody feels isolated anymore. And yet you don’t even need to, by definition, throw yourself into the dominant community outside your door.’
He sees this as being more selective and it appears he is now practicing what he preaches, as he describes himself ‘just taking different elements of what I want from the world and ignoring the rest, and basically living this almost hermit life in Westmeath where I have a huge lock on my gate and plant thousands of trees around me.’
But choosing to lock himself away from the outside world doesn’t mean he has to stop engaging it with it altogether. In fact he has a huge interest in Ireland and the latent promise of the Celtic Tiger years. ‘I’m really excited about our potential and how we might define ourselves in the future, rather than defining ourselves as a culture under hardship and repression.’
 He is pragmatic in regard to our consumer culture, particularly after seeing the effects of Western consumerism in India. ‘Every country that went through hardship and suffering is going to have to go through a period of conspicuous spending. And it looks garish, the nouveau riche thing, but we need to be able to buy as much Coca Cola and as much bling as we want to for a while. Again it’s probably rosy-eyed and optimistic but I hope that it’s a natural pure stage and that something evolves beyond that.’
He hasn’t been traveling for two years and now writes every day. The next book will be about his travels in Africa. He has no television, just his books, his music and the internet. He’s hoping to do a follow up to No Béarla, and redress the ‘car crash television’ nature of the first series with something much more constructive. The idea of having such a unique special language as Irish, and the idea of throwing it way with ‘absolute foolishness’ is something which breaks his heart. ‘If as a nation we want to throw it away then we should come and say it openly and just stop the hypocrisy.’
Although he doesn’t say it outright he seems happy and content in his little world of his own. All the travel has been about celebrating cultures and changing his perspective. He was particularly taken with Indian spirituality and its emphasis on oneness and unity, and the idea of it’s liberating quality, which he says ‘allows you to free yourself from this small box, the limited view, the frame of the body that you’re given, back to this oneness and realizing that it’s all an illusion.’
But for all his received wisdom he still can’t bring himself to preach. ‘the one thing I’ve realised is that I’ve no idea what anyone should do.’ He laughs, ‘I barely have an idea of what I should do from day to day.’