What wonders would we weave in our world if we would only heed the name with which we were blessed at birth? — WynnAlice, New Year 2011
Once, in a time that was, and was not, a time of transition, there was a town that was not too big, and not too small, with a river running through it, and a steep, steep high street, with a castle on the top.
T’was a very ordinary sort of town, for those days; people bought their food from huge Super Markets which they reached by driving brightly coloured metal boxes they called Cars, and drove their children to school, and themselves to work by means of those very same Cars. Yes, t’was a very ordinary sort of town … for those times.
Now came one day to the town, that was not too big, and not too small, a man, a man they knew as Rob, Rob of the Great Renown. Now Rob came to the town with a tale to tell, and t’was a tale that not many understood, at first.
T’was a tale of something called Peak Oil.
“Peak what?” asked the people, perplexed.
“Is it a mountain? For they have peaks”
“No, t’isn’t about a mountain”
And the people in the Peak District, when they heard the tale, got quite worried and confused “but what have they done?” they asked, for Peak Oil were their local oil distributor.
Oh dear, oh dear, the people didn’t know what Rob of the Great Renown was talking about, but Rob knew his tale was an important one and continued to tell it whenever he could; he told it at the school gates as he waited to collect his children, he told it in the local tavern over a jar or two, and little by little the tale became known, and then finally, one day, he told the tale to a man who understood.
The Great Blessed Farmer listened and breathed a sigh of relief; here at last someone to talk to, and together the two men redoubled their efforts to spread the tale across the town that was not too big and not too small.
But what was this tale they were so keen to share?
Well, it seemed to have something to do with the thing called Climate Change, and his relative Global Warming, and at first the people struggled to understand what any of this had to do with them, but, little by little, the ones who listened began to realise that something was amiss, very amiss, and then to think; well, what if it were true, that the oil that they had become accustomed to, the oil that fuelled the cars they drove, made the plastic that encased the fruit they bought in the huge Super Markets, and made the electricity they used to heat their homes and cook their food, would not last forever and ever, would, as every child in school had to learn when spending their pocket money, start to run out and have to be eked out if it were to last, or choices made about just what the precious commodity should be best spent upon.
The more the people who listened understood the more they began to feel concerned, and slowly began to see why it was that Peak Oil was related to Climate Change and his relative Global Warming, and if this were true why then were those other monsters of old; of Poverty, War, and Pollution related too, one big horrible family of scary, unpleasant creatures?
They suspected, but were not sure, for these monsters were familiar, in fact so familiar that they had become almost comfortable, for after all hadn’t the powerful War been around as long as History Books could remember, and hadn’t Poverty also been a familiar player, rearing her miserable head whenever Great Wealth got out of hand, throughout History, and across the Globe. Pollution was a younger monster, it was true, but now the trails of his presence draped all familiar places; plastic bag, banana skin, coca cola and beer can, squashed plastic water bottle and brightly coloured bits of hardly identifiable plastic lined the seashores, the high streets, parklands and playgrounds, so that it was possible to create art forms from the pieces found in a way that their ancestors might have used chips of brightly coloured glass and pot, or pieces of discarded bone and tooth.
Pollution too, they knew, did other, terrible, things, he spilled out the precious oil into oceans which choked the seabirds, filled the air with his noxious breath choking sensitive children, and sending the Earth’s delicate eco system into disarray, and coated rivers and buildings with the unpleasant smells and rashes of his diseased state. Yet familiar he was, and his siblings Poverty and War too. Their relation Climate Change, some suspected, had been around For a Very Long Time Indeed, but in their times it did seem he was particularly active, and appeared to have spawned a new child, the seductive Global Warming. Now here was a monster to be wary of, encouraging as he did a love for his effects, dreams of bikinis in December in these northern parts did little to make people fearful, in fact was quite enough to have some turning their heads from the floods, the hurricanes, the earthquakes, and tidal waves that were happening in other parts of their world; the more extreme symptoms of having allowed so many monsters free rein for so long.
It was not, however, until Credit Crunch reared her ugly head, stretching out and touching on the lives of many that the terrible truth that all the monsters were related, one large, monstrous family became truly apparent. For Credit Crunch did not concentrate her efforts only locally, or only in far off distant places, nor did she target only those who suffered already, no, Credit Crunch was no respecter of society, class, ethnicity, nor birth, Credit Crunch attacked all those vulnerable folk who worshipped the great god of those times; Money.
Peak Oil was the monster Rob of the Great Renown and the Great Blessed Farmer had first identified, seeing his relationship to Climate Change, but pretty soon as Credit Crunch insidiously and relentlessly held those in thrall to Money in a stranglehold grip, the story the people had been living, one of artificially creating the Abundance they wanted but didn’t quite believe in, of avariciously plundering the resources of the Earth, creating the monster Debt as a way to keep their god Money in plenty, all the while believing there was not quite enough to go around and fiercely protecting their own little piles like so many ferocious dragons sitting on their hoards, became visible, and the people awoke… as if from a long and dreadful nightmare.
From out of the story that “there is not enough to go round” had come the horrific monsters that had so plagued them all for so long. From not really believing that Abundance was truly possible a strangely unbalanced way of life had developed, that valued resources so highly it put a price on their heads that not everyone could afford, whilst all the while wasting large quantities of the very same resources, and it had become such a tangled web of a tale that it was a wonder anyone could find their way out the other side at all.
“So,” said the people, to Rob of the Great Renown, “what is to be done?”
“Well,” smiled Rob, of the Great Renown, “we are going to have a lot of fun.”
“Fun?!” exclaimed the people.
“Indeed” replied Rob, and proceeded to tell the new story, the tale of how it was that when lots people work together to create WellBeing and Happiness a lot of fun is to be had, and when those same people understand how it is that their place is related to the adjoining places and how those relationships can be a lot of fun too, that suddenly why then there IS enough to go round, enough resources, enough time, enough wealth, not Too Much, but Enough, Enough for Everybody: Abundance.
Well, that got people thinking, and stopped them wondering about what the mysterious “They” who were commonly called upon but were rarely effective, would do about it all, and instead had their very own ideas, and the more they thought the more ideas they had, and the more ideas they had the more they did, and the more they did the more fun they had, and the more fun they had the more people joined in, and the more people joined in the more ideas they had, and the more ideas they had the more they did, and the more they did the more fun they had … and so it went on …
What do we do, thought they, if the giant metal boxes on wheels stop bringing food to the huge Super Market, if people are not kind to one another, and if fuel gets so expensive we cannot drive to school and to work anymore?
Pretty soon the town that was not too big and not too small, with a river running through it, and a steep, steep high street with a castle at the top, had its very own Food Group, who mapped each and every farm, smallholding, shop and cafe that grew, produced and sold local food, soon the great Garden Share had been born so that those who had no land could grow food on the land of those who had no time to grow, and people began to try out growing leeks in their front gardens, and spuds in the rockery, and it was fun. The Heart & Soul group got busy, quarrelling at first, till it found its purpose, to support the ones who needed it, by listening, not talking, for it was that the people grew to realise that there can be no healthy relationships without healthy individuals, and healthy individuals are those who are enabled to do what they truly love best of all, don’t do much or too little, and have enough support for what they do, and who don’t blame others for their situation.
Meanwhile the Transport group were busily ensuring the cycle paths didn’t run out just at the point where the road got busy, the Energy group disappeared into a little huddle to emerge at a later point in this tale, the Housing group started to look at what cheap affordable housing for all really meant, and the Totnes Pound was born too, in a slightly wary fashion it launched itself on the public; is it really allowed, they wondered, to have again, as once we had, our very own local currency? Nonetheless three hundred Totnes Pounds were created and given out, and their descendants thrive to this very day.
And so it was that life in the town that was not too big and not too small began to feel interesting and interested perhaps in a way it had not felt for quite some time, and around this time came to the town another man; Ben the White Raven.
Now Ben the White Raven happened to hear the tale that Rob of the Great Renown told, and he was inspired.
“What can I do?” said he “How can I help you, for this is what I have been waiting for my whole life”
“Hmm,” said Rob, who really wasn’t quite sure. He scratched his head, and thought a little. It was a bit much, he realized, for one man, one town, to spread a tale as grand as this, but he couldn’t quite see what to do next.
“Perhaps you could clone me” he joked.
And then Ben the White Raven knew what it was he had to do. So off he went, to tell the tale to a friend, of a friend, of a friend who he knew had a big heap of gold pieces.
A little while later he returned, with a small bag of gold coins, and so it was that Rob of the Great Renown with the help of Ben the White Raven, founded the story telling web of all storytelling webs and the tale, the new story that wanted so to be born into those times, was spread, far and wide across the land, and across the oceans too.
The story spread, and people in villages, towns, forests, universities, and cities began to Have Fun, in all sorts of ways, and new tales began find their way back to the town that was not too big, and not too small.
Now there was, in that town that was not too big and not too small, a storyteller, name of WynnAlice, and she heard the tales that were pouring in almost daily now from villages, towns, forests, universities, and cities, and she was curious, and we all know what happens when we get curious, do we not?
— Steph Bradley, prologue from Tales of Our Times
Steph is a story teller, she had a dream, and like Santiago in The Alchemist, she decided to follow her dream. Her dream was to spend six months walking around the country, telling tales, listening to others peoples tales, shod on her feet with a pair of red flip flops from Brazil, and carry only the stuff she could carry on her back.
In many ways Steph was like one of the many pilgrims who walk El Camino de Santiago. When you walk El Camino de Santiago, you have a life changing experience, at the end, you give something back. With Paulo Coelho, whose experience of walking The Way can be found in The Pilgrimage, he wrote The Alchemist.
Tales of Our Times, is her account of her travels.
The prologue is beautifully written.
Tales of Our Times is available as a hand-produced first edition, limited to thirteen copies, only one left. It is also available as a limited edition hardback, only 200 signed copies.
Steph is currently working on a second book, Flip Flop — A Tale for Our Times, funded by crowd sourcing, community supported art.
Steph will be writing Flip Flop — A Tale for Our Times a chapter at a time. It would be an excellent idea, if she published on leanpub, chapter by chapter, as this was how all the great classics were published. Those who pay, get regular updates, and gives the opportunity for feedbacks, typos to be corrected (I have corrected a few in the prologue to Tales of Our Times). Then go a stage further, turn into an audio book, chapter by chapter on soundcloud or mixcloud (which I have not come across before), release an audio book on bandcamp.
On both leanpub and bandcamp, set a low minimum price, pay what you think it is worth, encourage sharing, to bring to the widest number of people.
For 2014, Steph is hoping to take her story telling around the country.
I will write every day at my home in Devon to finish the book by May 2014, when I plan go on tour ,with my original book, telling the stories of the heroes and heroines of our times, that’s you, me ; us. Some people have already paid for their book in advance. One of these is a wonderful elderly gentleman called Arthur, who is in his 90's. I have promised to finish the book by this summer, so that he can read it.
A few suggested venues:
- Stokes at The Collection, Lincoln
- BookStop Cafe, Lincoln
- West End Centre, Aldershot
- Café Mila, Godalming
- The Barn, Farnham
These are all small intimate venues, opportunity to mingle, sign books.