It was 9.49pm. I was at Westcliff station. I was hungry, but my train back to London was due in four minutes so I couldn’t really go anywhere to buy food. There was a vending machine on the platform:
REAL Handcooked Jalapeño Pepper Flavour Potato Crisps. B8. £1.
I reached into my pocket and pulled the change that I had. 88p. Bollocks. Oh well, I still had a packet of Walkers Worcester Sauce in my bag, purchased as part of a £3 Tesco meal deal alongside a bottle of Tropicana orange juice and a Chicken, Bacon & Lettuce sandwich which (as well as a coconut-heavy flapjack) had been the only thing I’d eaten all day.
I’d woken up at 6am to get to Fenchurch Street in time for the 8.20am train to Southend. A few weeks earlier, my friend Neil had sent me a link on Facebook. The Truth Awareness Group were organising something called the Interdimensional Minds Of Awareness Conference. Did I want to go? Yes, of course I did. I bought a ticket. £35.
About a week before the conference, I sent Neil a Facebook message. I wasn’t entirely sure if he’d been serious about attending or if it had been a joke, but it was too late now, I’d bought my ticket. Neil hadn’t been joking and had intended to go, but had forgotten about it. His parents were meant to be coming over that weekend and so wouldn’t be able to go. Fortunately for me, his boiler suddenly broke a few days before the conference and so his parents decided to visit some other weekend instead.
I met Neil at Westcliff station just after 9.30am.Tickets were no longer available online and we weren’t sure if he’d be able to buy one on the door. “There might be one or two available” a member of the TAG (Truth Awareness Group) Team said when we arrived at the venue. The 100-capacity Balmoral Centre was around 70% full, and so Neil was very lucky to buy one of the remaining thirty tickets.
The day consisted of a series of talks of varying quality about a range of subjects. Andrew Collins made an interesting and quite convincing argument that the Christian idea of “angels” is actually based on a group of vulture shamans who were based in Gobekili Tepi (which he believes to be the site of the Garden of Eden) ten thousand years ago. Although his argument was undermined slightly by his view that these earthly, human, shamanic “angels” were distinct from “celestial angels” (“We all believe in celestial angels” he said quite matter of factly at one point). I had hoped that he would explain why he stopped doing the podcast with Richard Herring but he didn’t even mention it.
Malcolm Robinson demonstrated his fondness for PowerPoint transition effects with his talk outlining a small selection of paranormal and conspiracy subjects including 9/11, the Moon landing and the Robert Taylor incident. In 1979, forest worker Robert Taylor was walking through Dechmont Woods near Livingston, Scotland, when came to a clearing and saw a large, round metallic object hovering in front of him. The object would occasionally turn transparent before becoming visible again. Two smaller spheres descended from the object, these spheres had projecting parts emerging from them, making them resemble sea mines. The two spheres approached him and grabbed him by his trousers, ripping them (Robinson had the actual trousers with him on display). Robinson described David Slater’s theory that Robert Taylor’s experience might have been caused by a belladonna-induced hallucination influenced by a recent episode of Doctor Who which had featured an alien spacecraft very similar to that described by Taylor. Robinson was not convinced by Slater’s theory and had tried to establish whether or not belladonna is present in the local area. Unfortunately, the local wildlife centre wanted a £100 fee to survey the area, which Robinson was not willing to pay. I found this quite disappointing. It’s only a hundred quid. It’s not that much. Malcolm Robinson has apparently been investigating strange phenomena since 1979, you think he’d show a bit more commitment. I’m sure if everyone in the audience had a whip-round, we could have raised the money quite easily.
The next speaker was Andy Thomas who talked about crop circles. Of course, some crop circles are known to be man-made, Thomas argued, but there are some which are too complex and which appeared too quickly to have been made by “men with planks of wood and garden rollers”. Some of the examples Thomas showed certainly were extraordinarily complex and apparently appeared very quickly indeed, but surely this just means that they were made by very organised men with planks of wood and garden rollers. Thomas also pointed out that despite the large number of crop circles which appear every year, very few people have ever been caught creating them. This is not a particularly convincing argument either. There aren’t any confirmed photos of Banksy at work, but that doesn’t suggest that his street art is evidence of some higher life force attempting to communicate with us through the form of heavy-handed political satire painted on the side of shops in Hackney. Ian Crane then argued that fracking is being used as part of a deliberate attempt to toxify the environment in a “war on terra” led by the New World Order who soon plan to charge us to breathe fresh air. I wouldn’t go quite as far as Crane, but I do think that perhaps pumping huge amounts of water mixed with carcinogenic chemicals deep into the ground at high pressure isn’t a great idea.
The final speaker was David Boyle who explained that reality is just vibrational energy and that the “key to light is 19.47” and the “key to sound is 666”. Using these two numbers, he then “decoded” a crop circle which revealed that we are all orbs and there’s a sphinx on Mars with a face which is half lion and half ape (and what do you get if you cross an ape and a lion? Humans, apparently). We all have twelve bodies, he explained. 10,000 years ago there was a thermonuclear war which destroyed the highly evolved civilisation which existed at the time. The Great Pyramid of Giza is a time capsule telling us that the universe was built by inter-dimensional beings. The moon was created to produce stress which helps us evolve and reach the seventh level of consciousness (which he described as being surrounded by a green energy field and when it happened to him, left him incapacitated in a state of bliss for eight hours, “better than any orgasm”). Boyle was assisted in his talk by his wife who seemed about twenty-five years younger than him and had been chosen for him by the spirit of his previous wife shortly after she died. “I wrote down a list of a hundred things I wanted in a wife, and she matched every one of them,” he explained, “I forgot to include cooking skills.”
Eventually, at about 8.15pm, it all finished. I went to the pub to have a pint and think about what had just happened. I needed to re-absorb myself into normal society. I walked to the station just in time to miss the train back to London. I needed the toilet, and seeing that the trains were every fifteen minutes, decided to sacrifice the next one if it meant I could go to a pub, nip to the toilets, and maybe even have another pint. As I finished my drink, the barman came over and asked if I wanted a free pint of Fosters. I didn’t understand why, but I had a train to catch and so had to decline. He went over to another table and gave it to someone else instead.
I walked back to the station and waited for my train. Four minutes. 88p.
A thought entered my head, “Check the coin return slot”. I flicked it open. Inside was a 20p coin. A gift from a higher dimension? Who can tell? I could see the train approaching. I quickly inserted the money and the crisps were mine.
As the train pulled into the station, I had another thought. I reached into my pocket again and took out the 8p I had left over and dropped it into the coin return slot. “Pay it forward” I thought. Maybe another person will find themselves in a similar situation – ever so slightly short of change and unable to buy some over-priced crisps. The universe had helped me in my moment of need, I should return the favour for the next person.
The train arrived and I climbed on board. I took my seat and as the doors closed and the train pulled away, I was struck by one final thought. The vending machine doesn’t accept coppers. That was a fucking waste of 3p.