Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Passport to the Pub
As I intimated in a recent post, my next post (i.e. this one – are you still following this?) would be in the nature of seeking out and/or covering groups dealing with anomalous phenomena (try saying that in the pub later on in the evening). Well, you’re in luck – and no, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop typing.
I remarked in my last piece that I was becoming pleasantly surprised at the amount of groups in London covering strange stuff. Upon reflection, this is an odd thing to think because – well – it is London. If the largest city in the land (and one of the most vibrant capitals in the world) isn’t going to be bristling with organisations that cover just about anything, then where will they bristle? Well, I was browsing the internet, as I am sure many of you do, when I noticed Magonia. Now, I had an inkling of where the name of the group came from. Oh, alright, quite a lot more than an inkling, actually. As the more astute of you will have noticed, my post about a letter I sent to Paranormal magazine (now under new editorial control) concerning the nature of UFOs covers the ground that the book Passport to Magonia made fertile a number of years ago now. To sum up: the author, Jacques Vallée, put forward the then radical thought that there had been sightings in the past that bore many similarities to contemporary UFO sightings, even the abductions, and that UFOs, rather than having travelled lots of miles to pester us, might originate in our back yard (albeit in another dimension). There was also the distinct possibility that such interdimensional entities were working on us as a species by being responsible for at least some of the religious sightings and encounters that took place in our history. Vallée himself reckoned that the initial visions at Lourdes and the events experienced by Joseph Smith, father of the Mormon Church, were related to UFO phenomena. As the cloud kingdom of Magonia was put forward in mediæval times as the home of people who lived in the air and visited our earth then this was chosen by Vallée for the title of his book.
Now, with most folk even today, the concept is that UFOs, if one acknowledges their existence at all, are spacecraft from far-off worlds come to probe our bottoms and do unspeakable things to our cattle (and horses, occasionally). A group started in Liverpool in the sixties as a way of trying to get to the bottom (ah – that word again) of what UFOs are. They were called the Merseyside UFO Group. They would interview witnesses and do their best to get a handle on just what exactly was going on in our skies. Consequently they produced a magazine that, as the editorial staff moved to London in the seventies and their views swung round to meet those of Jacques Vallée, they eventually named Magonia. These days, it seems that the philosophy mainly followed by them is something known as the psychosocial hypothesis. It postulates that the modern UFO phenomenon is best explained by social and cultural experiences and beliefs, and that UFOs are not actual vehicles in the sky at all. UFOs, in other words, might only exist as something in our minds and as truly unidentified, misidentified, conventional and existing aerial bits and bobs. This august organ ceased publication in 2008 but the associated websites are still in action, morphing into book review as its core raison d'être. Oh, and they also have started to meet again in a pub only two-and-a-half miles from where I live. Up until recently the nearest group with an interest in the paranormal that I knew of (if you exclude the churches, mosques and temples!) was the Children of Artemis in Croydon which is over six-and-a-half miles away and not that easy to get back from late at night.
With all of this under my belt I decided to go along to meet the UFO group who didn’t believe in UFOs. We got to The Railway, a large, refurbished gin palace now owned by the Wetherspoons group, on the corners of Upper Richmond Road and Putney Hill. We were running about half an hour late as that’s what we generally do. We purchased drinks (I believe it was the Strawby cider for us, as Wetherspoons had a Cider Festival on and we hadn’t tried it, yet) and then went on our way to find what was left of the Kingdom of Magonia. The directions given on their website were spot on and we found them where they said they would be; at the back of the pub. John Rimmer took the part as the public voice of the group and was very welcoming and avuncular. It was a small gathering, but this was a good thing as far as I was concerned because it made it easier to communicate with everyone. Lots of subjects were covered; the paranormal and psychosocial as well as gossip about the UFO-watching community – who’d have thought it! Also very conspicuous were two of my favourite authors, Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince. I had met them once before at Witchfest 2008, I believe, where they almost certainly didn’t remember me as they were signing books, and one of them was the one I purchased there. More on Witchfest another time and another post. Tonight, though, everyone chatted in this very unstructured and natural way, which I loved. I very much hope that the group grows and yet manages to keep this quality of informality. Everyone was very well informed indeed, of course, and it made things all the more galling when, due to standing on an electrical 3-pin plug (ouch) and injuring my right ankle, I couldn’t make the next one. However, I have been assiduously avoiding the pointy end of all things electrical in Pyne Towers and (all being very well) will make it to the upcoming moot, which is every first Sunday of the month at, as I have said above, the Railway pub. The meeting starts at 7.30pm until, roughly 10.00pm.