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JULY 2003 - 05/07/2003

Silbury Hill, reality TV, ancient sites desecrated, crop circles, Loyd Grossman, sewage systems… MICHAEL GLICKMAN lets loose on those overly ‘Tethered’ by three-dimensional certainties…


The Silbury Hill shaft collapsed in May 2000. I write this in June 2003 and - as I reported a few months ago - the residue of the repair (over three years later!) is a square of industrial fencing at the top of the hill. A Crown of Thorns. The noble and elegant silhouette, which has been a presence and reassurance to many thousands over the centuries, is desecrated and vandalised by the very organization which is charged with its custody. I had hoped (dream on!) that the venerable profile might be restored in time for the tourist season. When contacted about the fence, English Heritage, the custodians of the hill, fell back on the weasel words “Health and Safety”. Whose health? Whose safety? After nearly five thousand years, what possible danger could now be prevented by this cheap and ugly wire fence?

I had hoped (dream on!) that English Heritage might display some concern (if not shame) and sort it out. Visitors will now return to their home countries with a memorable souvenir of the respect England shows for its much-vaunted “heritage”.

I have been invited to the unveiling of a commemorative plaque on the wall of the London house where lived Joe Slovo and Ruth First. Slovo and First (who was ultimately killed by a letter bomb dispatched to her Mozambique University office by the notorious BOSS) were white South African revolutionaries and members of the ANC in the apartheid years. Slovo became the only white member of the Nelson Mandela government. Mandela himself will be unveiling the plaque.

This forthcoming event has drawn to my attention that commemorative plaques are under the general management of - wait for it - English Heritage! Their “commissioner” is one Loyd Grossman. Now, for non-UK residents I should explain that Loyd Grossman is an American who has become a TV personality in Britain. He has three notable achievements. First (and resulting from a period hosting a cooking show), his face now peers at us from pasta-sauce labels on supermarket shelves, very much in the Paul Newman manner. Second (stick with it; I promise you’ll see the point later), our Loyd presents ‘Through the Keyhole’, a game in which he wanders around the empty home of a celebrity pointing out furniture, paintings, books and other features of the interior. A team, back in the studio, has to guess – from the style and the possessions - whose house it might be. This is not quite Reality TV, but it is most certainly Voyeur TV. Third, our American cousin Grossman has devised for himself a remarkable and totally invented English accent, rich in tortured vowel sounds and grinding syllables. For many years I laboured under the misapprehension that Dick van Dyke’s attempts at Mockney as the chimney-sweep in ‘Mary Poppins’ marked the absolute limit of the possible when it came to truly rotten British accents. I was wrong! English Heritage’s very own Grossman takes the prize! (There is an irony here, but I seem to be missing it.)

For a year or two I have laboured under an equally false presumption. I felt that EH’s treatment of Silbury marked the zenith of disrespect for our national monuments. How wrong could I be?

Some weeks ago, a series of adverts on Channel 4 TV started promoting the latest series of ‘Big Brother’. Again, for non-UK residents I should explain that Big Brother is a programme with a simple (but hugely popular) premise. A number of people are chosen to be imprisoned in a well-equipped, purpose-built and hermetically-sealed “house”. There are banks of cameras in every space, including the bathrooms, and the inhabitants are mercilessly observed for every moment of the day. EVERY moment.

Once a week, the viewing public (which has been gazing fascinated, as though at the behaviour of dysfunctional lab rats) is invited to select the wretched contestant who will be ignominiously rejected and cast back into the real world. This telephone voting earns massive revenue for the producers of the programme. The participants are profoundly unremarkable but there is something almost pornographic in the way we can snoop on their every action. A tabloid newspaper has offered a prize of £50,000 to any contestants who have sex. This is the quintessence of Voyeur TV.

On the Thames Embankment is an imposing bronze bust of the strikingly mustachioed Sir Joseph Bazalgette CB. He was responsible for the design and construction of the London Main Drainage System, a system which operates, largely unaltered, today. As a visionary act of urban engineering, Bazalgette’s achievement has been compared with Baron Haussman’s construction of the Paris boulevards. Sir Joseph’s great-grandson is Peter Bazalgette and he is the brain behind Big Brother. Clearly, a talent for the pumping of sewage runs in the family.

But back to the adverts. The Big Brother logo is a stylized eye, simply constructed with a radial geometry. We saw this logo drawn huge in the sand on a beach, as a crop circle (you see, we’re getting there!), and finally - shockingly - painted onto the grass right by the Uffington White Horse.

The Uffington horse is the most ancient and most mysterious chalk-carving in Britain. Its custodians are not English Heritage, but an equally feckless organization, the National Trust. There was an outcry when this famous and elegant symbol was used for such a crass commercial purpose. How, people demanded, could the National Trust stoop so low? Well, they replied, we were paid £2000!

Two thousand rotten pounds to allow this marvelous artefact to be hijacked by advertisers!

You will not need to be Sherlock Holmes, or indeed Inspector Clouseau, to work out who were the contractors charged with making the series of logos. Why, of course it was none other than the usual suspects, the appropriately named ‘Team Satan’ [responsible for most TV crop circle demonstrations]!

There can be little doubt that this enterprise definitively marks Team Satan as the highest earners in crop circle history. The inflated tales of money paid by Rockefeller to the self-promoting World’s Leading Crop Circle Authority (or as many prefer, the World MISleading Crop Circle Authority) pale forever into insignificance against Team Satan’s score.

The National Trust said it took seven hours to set out and paint the logo on the ground. Team Satan, anxious as always to surround their activities in a miasma of confusion, said it took them four hours. Clearly, one party is lying. Guess which.

Both Silbury Hill and the Uffington Horse are familiar to crop circle people as favoured sites for formations. We have seen how little regard their guardians display for them. Does it end there?

You might not believe this one! Stonehenge (presented to the nation to by Sir Cecil Chubb with a condition that entrance fee would never be more than one shilling, or 5p) was considered for REMOVAL during the Great War. The ‘authorities’ (that word again), having constructed what was in those days called an aerodrome at Thruxton, not far from the henge, applied for its demolition as the stones “constituted a dangerous hazard to low-flying aircraft.”

Does your jaw drop? Has your brain turned to scrambled egg?

OK. So what might we learn from all this?

First. There seems to be no limit to the defacement that the authorities are prepared to visit on the precious sites and monuments in their charge. Perhaps, also, it might teach us to beware of those who characterise themselves as “an authority”.

Second. We must learn to distinguish between the hoax, that which is intended to deceive, and the man-made circle, that which is intended to make money. It is my view that there remain few hoaxers and fewer hoaxes. (Many will find it painful even to consider this idea!) What we have is a bunch of second-rate commercial artists who will, like whores, do whatever is required, wherever it is required, whenever money is waved at them. It is another irony that the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful mystery has generated, like the scum in the wake of a great ship, a team of trivialisers and deceivers utterly devoid of discernment or ethic.

The famous Axiom 1 is useful here. EVERYTHING TO DO WITH HOAXING IS A LIE. Check factoid 5.

I believe the crop circles, in some as yet only faintly understood way, are endeavouring to help us through the shift from the Third to the Fifth Dimension. It is a scary time and I see the crop circle community as an air balloon club which has split into two camps. Part of the group is nervous but curious. They want to rise as high as possible into the sky and allow the balloon to take them where it will. The other part is fascinated but too frightened to risk the leap beyond existing reality, beyond the Third Dimension. They will ascend, but only so high and only in balloons firmly tethered to gigantic concrete blocks. The blocks have comforting labels such as “The certainties of scientism”, “The comforts of hoaxing” and “Newtonian reality forever!”. Firmly anchored to their favorite block (and there are dozens), a safe little jaunt can be experienced. But don’t worry! The cable is strong. You won’t go up too high or see too far.

Unbelievably, there are still those who seek wisdom in hoax studies and the relentless examination of Team Satan’s website. Their greatest nightmare would be the destruction of their security blanket, the “hoax” block. They waste their time and ours. Above all, they show that they still need to be firmly tethered to the ground.

The final six letters of “Tethered” are an anagram of Three D. What a coincidence.



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