“You know Prince Harry’s here? I just shook hands with him at the bar.”
My friend hands me my drink.
But of course Prince Harry’s here.
We’re at the after party for the Henley Regatta (always held here), and I am watching the next generation of prime ministers and hedge fund managers dance to early-noughties pop.
The day had begun bizarrely enough when we arrived in a marquee in the grounds of a stately home for a £300 pound a head lunch that I had not paid a cent for.
The programme on our table opens with a note from the Queen:
I send my grateful thanks to the Chairman and the Stewards of Henley Royal Regatta for their kind message of loyal greetings, sent on the occasion of the Sixtieth Anniversary of my Accession to the Throne.
In return, please accept my good wishes for a most memorable and enjoyable Diamond Jubilee year.
Holy shit. Talk about set points. The last time somebody left a note on my table it said cash bar ONLY.
The tickets came randomly through my partner-in-drinks and fellow Nottingham survivor.
By some margin, we are the youngest people in attendance, which actually makes fellow guests interested enough to come and speak to us. Of course, when they find out we’re originally Australian they look around themselves, hoping to find some kind of comically oversized, Monty-Burns-hounds-releasing button before slipping away in a passing crowd of Tories.
As we’re sailing up and down the rowing course, I have a lot of time to think.
Forty percent of the time I am thinking about Captain Jack Sparrow, because I am on a boat. (Although, alarmingly, this happens quite often on land, too.) It’s still my opinion that Captain Jack is the best cinematic embodiment of the trickster for decades… possibly even ever since Bugs Bunny.
And, naturally, such thoughts lead immediately on to chaos magic, as if I were about to make the fantastically outré -and as far as I am concerned apocryphal- decision to invoke Captain Jack in lieu of Elegua right there on the top deck.
In Shadowlands, Anthony Hopkins says “we read to know we are not alone.”
A few people around our internets have said some rather nice things about me recently (on their way to much more interesting points).
And so with tremendous respect to Hopkins and a begrudging respect to CS Lewis -whom I cannot stand- I’d like to add that that’s also why we write.
C’est comme ça:
Sailing down the Thames, eyefucking college rowers, I attempt to square a particular circle.
Yes, I’m associating with billionaire interdimensional lizards at no personal cost… but I’m also wearing a blazer that has to double for a Miami Vice party the very next weekend because I can’t really justify buying two fancy dress jackets in the same month that I will never wear again. Especially after sinking money into this monstrosity. (I consider “Tory” to be fancy dress… or more accurately Halloween dress.)
(Sidebar: I would wear that hooded sweat again. It’s just I’ve been specifically banned from doing so by everyone in London who has ever seen it.)
Thing is… everybody’s favourite apocalypse is approaching the end of its second act. Things are getting proper interesting. And I know that part of what has me standing on this boat is the extreme fluctuations that come with the most severe economic disruption in the history of modern money. (Check out this graph.)
But some of it is also my magic. My sigils. My bargains. My summonings.
And I can’t tell you which is which.
I won’t ever be able to tell you which is which because this is the new normal.
Chaos fits this milieu like a lycra bodysuit on the rowing team from Brown.
Because, as Dave Lee points out, chaos is “a meta-view of magic, it’s about magic, rather than being a system of magic“:
…So through those experiences, amongst many others, I sought and succeeded in proving to myself that, at the very least, the universe is a lot weirder place than science gives it credit for. One reason for doing magic is satisfied. I had re-enchanted the world – at least, under certain, very special circumstances.
What remains to do, is of course the hardest work of all: to transform, to become, to transcend – to extend this occasional consciousness of embeddedness in a living cosmos right into one’s everyday world, to transform and transcend until that becomes possible, and indeed inevitable.
In that quest, practical sorcery is the laboratory of your personal, esoteric philosophy, the bench on which you test the metaphysical ideas you encounter and embrace.
I leave my friends at the party and catch a cab back to the inn we are staying at in the next village. Earlier in the evening I have had to play wizard for them as they careen inevitably into marriage and parenthood and need a third party to freak out at after ten hours of free champagne. So I am tired.
Besides… I’m not all that interested in Princes of the Realm except as signifiers on the road to… Somewhere.
And Somewhere, my darlings… is precisely where we’re going.