Who is Black Cat?

September 10, 2018

I recently gave this presentation at a workshop at Brunel University. The event was themed around Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states ‘Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible’. Each presenter was asked to think about the notion of what happens when a question is shared. This was my contribution.

People regularly ask me, “where did you get the name Black Cat”? But once I was asked “who is Black Cat” and that got me thinking. You see it’s a name that I’ve recently been using, I like it - yes, but it’s more than that, it’s a name that has come to serve as a remainder of a transition into this, what I would call ‘life less ordinary’. Now I call myself an ordinary person. I used to have an ordinary job and an ordinary life and life was good. The turning point was when I discovered spirituality and that’s when things began to change. ‘I’ started changing - in lots of ways, like losing interest in materialism… but the biggest change that happened, was that I started to let go of the fear that surrounds life. The fear of not having enough money, of needing long term security, I was letting go of the fear of total annihilation which was binding me to my job.  So then I retired. (age 34). 
Now I didn’t retire to enjoy sleeping in or to sit out on a beach for evermore. I planned to volunteer in a yoga ashram where spiritual seekers can do what’s called ‘selfless service’ this involves volunteering full time through teaching yoga and running the ashram in return for food/board and of course more spiritual development.

So that was my long-term plan. Soon after I left work in Feb 2015, I travelled to India to do a yoga teacher training course and there I first became acquainted with the ‘travelling scene’. I was impressed at how these folks were just happily roaming around on a shoe string budget and mainly camping on the land to support this. So I too ended up spending several months high up in the mountains in traveller communities doing the same… learning how to live on the land, make fires, build shelters and while this was happening I started to really deepen my connection to the natural world. I ended up spending a lot longer in India than I had originally anticipated and after 17 months (June 2016) I came home. When I came back I realised a lot had changed in me, I still wanted more adventures and I didn’t quite feel ready to commit myself to the ashram. So what was a going to do? Well later that year in (October 2016), I as ‘Black Cat’ decided to begin my own nomadic journey in England. Why? I didn’t exactly know at the time, but everything seemed right.

This is my current life, I go by the name Black Cat and I have one agenda, to live without spending a lot of money (because I retired right!). Now rent IS a lot of money but the good news is there are a lot of options if you keep an open mind. Where the problem lies is ‘comfort’ but that just has to be dealt with. You have to mentally work to get over that which is where spirituality has helped me a lot but that’s all I’ll be saying because that’s a whole other story in itself!

On the 14th of October I set off travelling with a couple of shower curtains for shelter. Yes two shower curtains because I deemed a tent too heavy! I started in Wales and then on to Glastonbury and after a month I decided to take some good advice and spend the winter camping on the beach in the Canary Islands, but in the interim, I had a few weeks to kill so I headed off to a protest camp I’d heard about.. something about high speed rail? – I didn’t have any more of an idea than that, so on 13th of November I arrived at the Wildlife Protection Camp on Harvil Road and pitched up (a tent was acquired).

I really only meant to visit for a couple of weeks, camp in the safety of others, play some guitar and disappear off to the Canary Islands, but it didn’t work out like that…I decided to stay! For so many reasons, because I had met amazing inspirational people who I believed in, because I felt the connection to protect nature, because I wanted to help our supporters, but most importantly because I felt fulfilled making a difference. Everybody was making a difference, no leader no plan just everyone creating and contributing in their own way. This was unity in diversity coming together for the common purpose and I loved it.

I just want to say a little bit more about the job of a resident on a protest camp because just living on the protest camp by itself is a huge contribution. To live on a camp especially in winter is extremely physically and mentally challenging and there usually aren’t many volunteers! I almost didn’t make it, but one thing which I can honestly say helped me was that there, I was warmed by the fire of friendship, comradery, righteousness and touched by the support and kind words we received. This is what made the difference, all day long seeing the smiles and hearing the cheers from the passing cars. But behind those smiles knowing the sadness and brokenness created by HS2, this is why it became important to me and why I could not leave.

I spent a lot of time engaging and building relations with the local village, Harefield. I felt this was particularly important to help prevent the camp being type caste as ‘trouble makers waste time sitting at the side of the road’. I think a lot of people use this excuse to discredit a good thing just because they don’t want to get involved in it so it was hard.

On the 14th of April after 5 months and with the long winter firmly behind me I left.

Life on camp is mainly about survival, survival of the camp and of ourselves. When every day we are working just to meet our basic needs it’s difficult to engage in much else. I got interested in writing articles while I lived at camp to help to publicise our efforts but even writing an article is pretty difficult in those conditions but since I’ve left I have been able to write and do much more.

And that’s where I am today…

This is my current life I go by the name Black Cat and I have two agendas, firstly to live without spending a lot of money and secondly to make a positive contribution in the world. And why? because I just spent the last 6 months having the time of my life. Making a real and positive contribution in society is what I’ve discovered creates fulfilment in my life and is this now the intention of my journey ahead.

There are many new projects that have been brought to my attention that I want to explore. I find there is a deep need in ourselves to feel supported in life. We go from the guidance and care of our parental homes then straight into the arms of the state who have almost perfectly contrived every possible way to keep us bound to the system, comfortable with life but truly fulfilled? Living life at camp at that basic level has also inspired me to confront issues of social justice. In my journey I am homeless because I choose not to have a job. Homeless doesn’t have to mean suffering or hopelessness and I hope to find many options of how to live a rich and fulfilled homeless life.

Final word

In the past 6 months I’ve experience many set-backs. My efforts blocked, stopped, criticised you name it. But it’s the old cliché ‘it’s from these experiences that I have grown the most’ and without them this journey would never have been the same. So if you’re going to support a good cause - why not pick one which seems ridiculously hopeless because you’ll win no matter what happens!

My journey started when I left my job and now I’ve walked a full circle because I’ve been lead back into working. I have always enjoyed work but the difference now is I am directly contributing to making positive change in the world and there is nothing more fulfilling. It’s unpaid work but in my opinion, this is the most important job I have ever held. And as for my personality well I feel like I have become a better person for it.. There is a beauty in service and I feel that a kindness in me is growing, a more understanding me but also a me who realises with each day that time is short and the time to act is now.

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