EXETERA A lighter alternative for Exeter University Issue 12 | Free
EDITION CECIL THE LION HIDDEN HOMELESS SYRIA’S BODY POLITIC THEORY OF SELF-HARM BUDDHIST NUN INTERVIEW
â€œThe body is never a single thing so much as a series of attitudes towards itâ€?
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR The quote opposite appears in literary theorist Lennard Davis’s brilliant book Bending Over Backwards, and sums up our team’s approach to this edition. The diverse series of attitudes displayed in these pages challenge Leonardo Da Vinci’s outmoded vision of the body as a complete, autonomous and omnipotent Vitruvian Man. Instead, our writers present an unstable concept subject to change (p. 12), abuse (p. 14 & 16), neglect (p. 18), rebellion (p. 24) and prejudice (p. 26) in original and (hopefully) thought-provoking ways. But this edition isn’t all about quoting obscure critical theorists and dark subject matter. The usual lighter stuff is here, too. We begin by reviewing some future body modification releases (p. 8) and, in the final few pages, you can immerse yourself in fiction (p. 28), palm reading (p. 30) and our Lonley Hearts column (p. 33). Speaking of painful ends, this will be my last edition as editor. But the good times at Exetera will continue to roll, with the mutinous ambitious Michael Goodier, fresh from a year abroad in Instanbul, taking over the party. Thank you to everyone who has read and enjoyed our magazine this past year. It’s been a huge privilege to read and edit so many great contributions, and I cannot wait to see where Michael and his team take us next.
B R A I N S / B R AW N Editor
Copy Edtior Dylan Abbott
Sales and Marketing Rachel Alcock-Hodgson
Alice Anchisi / Edward Scott/ Gareth Browne / Georgina Lewis / Oli Picken
Emma Bowen / Florence Moon
Many Thanks to Our Interviewees
Terri Sutherland / Alex Douglas / Robina Courtin www.exeteramagazine.com Facebook: ExeteraMagazine Instgram: @Exetera
16 BETWEEN THE LINES 18 ON THE EDGE 8 BODY HACKS
24 REBELS WITH A CAUSE
9 INSTA-FAM 12 MIND OVER MATTER 26 JE SUIS CECIL? 28 GARDNER & SONS 30 PALM READINGS 14 YOU & ME
33 LONELY HEARTS
BODY HACKS After an accident involving a NutriBullet and some plutonium, staff writer Edward Scott remains trapped in 2059. Here he reviews the most recent releases in the body modification industry. Knee Reveral
Cool fact: the ostensibly backwards knee of an ostrich is in fact its ankle, which appears far further up the leg when compared to most animals. After paying €450,000 for this cosmetic procedure, though, Jarn Kolsburn of Helsinki, Finland, finally secured the inverted knees he wanted since a school trip to an ostrich farm. Before you viciously laugh at the ‘bald faun of Finland’, it’s been reported that Kolsburn has signed a six-figure contract with an anonymous Finnish designer, and will be modelling some outlandish new legwear in 2060. Also he’s recording an album. On a sitar. So there.
Shun millions of years of evolution and get your fingers surgically combined into one big spade, for only £100,000 a digit. That’s right - for just half a million big ones you’ll finally have an excuse not to wear the gloves grandma knits you every Christmas.
Yep. You read that correctly. Gone are the days when an innocuous flesh hole was enough for any insecure angsty teenager to join the cool kids on their next laughing gas fuelled adventure. Now they’re expected to spend their pocket money on this dangerous backdoor surgery, which leaves them resembling a giant hula hoop.
Pros: Improved high fives and bitch slaps. Also: mittens, motherfucker.
Pros: Very little.
Cons: Every single thing you will ever need to do becomes impossible.
Cons: Spinal problems later in life. Makes goalkeeping difficult.
For those who’d prefer a subtler alteration than an earful of piercings or a tattoo of Gollum on their arse, a clinic in Germany is now offering this bizarre modification. Despite the extensive fourteen-hour surgery, your ‘alternative’ friends probably won’t notice anything different about you, until you blink sideways and they all freak the fuck out and spill their soya macchiatos and you can laugh and say you finally won the cool-game.
Not for the faint-hearted. If you can stomach twelve injections over as many weeks, each more agonising than the last, you could acquire literal ball bearings to proudly display at the beach. Polish included. Just make sure you get some supportive underwear, else your perineum will end up scraping your ankles.
Pros: Discrete. Good for playing dead and unnerving bullies.
Cons: Infertility. Not that anyone will shag you.
Pros: It turns out you can run a lot faster with inverted joints. Cons: How the fuck does he sit down?
Cons: Ruins intimate moments. Risks disqualification from staring contests.
Pros: Immunity to being kicked in the goolies.
INS TA -FAM
Instagram favourite @blaowphotography (aka Alex Douglas) took time out from snapping Londonâ€™s hip, trendy creatives to talk to Exeteraâ€™s hip, trendy creative Hannah Peck about popularity, portraiture and the pursuit of perfection in social media communities.
What’s it like to be part of London’s expanding Instagram community? Secret rooftop gatherings with smoke bombs? Rap battles about lens measurements? Instagram is a tool to connect people but it can also be quite fickle. First and foremost it exists online, and communities primarily exist for the photos you get. Yes, I’ve connected with incredible people who I consider good friends, but the thing that connected us were the photos we got together – the photos we would later post. The real community is made up of those who aren’t looking for anything out of it. With any online platform there’s money to be found. But the actual community are the people who are like “let’s hang out and eat some good food, and take some amazing pictures”. These people are so talented and force me to up my game. I know I wouldn’t have taken some photos if I wasn’t immersed in that creative environment. And yeah we do buy smoke bombs. They’re on a par with a vertical picture of a flat white or the other clichéd hip things. It’s all jokes but they get the most likes. We don’t do rap battles about lens measurements [awkward pause]. Rap squats are having a moment though. I’ve never felt more comfortable while doing praying hands. So you became popular on Instagram through the community? Yes, entirely. Instagram suggested me as a user once – this only happened because I was constantly around other creative people who were plugged into the community. I was out there with them, taking photos
for the sake of the photo – not particularly for the following or showcasing my portfolio. Do you feel you have a responsibility in how you display the body on social media? I know there’s an aesthetic that people want to see. If I started posting pictures of guys with beards and girls with nice trainers and a nice bum, I’d get way more likes. It’s easy to fall into posting things purely for the response, but I’m not necessarily interested in that – I have a responsibility to the individual I’m photographing. To be honest, I never think about people’s bodies when I’m taking their photo – I’m all about capturing their face. I know many would disagree, but I think it’s the most effective way to tell someone’s story. The rest of the body is just another part of this narrative. When you capture the sadness or joy in someone’s face, it communicates something different. There are obviously people who do more explicit stuff (with Instagram’s blessing of course), but however much someone’s shape or marks or blemishes hint at a narrative, I feel you’re cutting the story short too quickly. When you look into someone’s face you can engage and converse with that story – the viewer talks back. Do you think there’s too much emphasis placed on the body in the mainstream media? I think there’s an objectification of human beings in mainstream media; I’m seeing it all the time and it increasingly comes from both sides. We’re increasingly
Speaking of identity, why do you include a short caption about the subject’s own talents and strengths in your portraits? I’m constantly around creative people and for a long time I was scared that I would never be as good as them. But when I started to push those people forward and appreciate their success, I found my own work improved and I felt happier. Writing a caption is a way of celebrating these people – the work they do is so incredible so of course I’m going to want other people to look at it. Who’s doing exciting work on Instagram at the moment? So many. Emmanuel Cole (@ecolephoto) is the King. The Godfather. Holly Cato (@h_cato) is the Queen. I met a South-African guy called Dave East in London, (@daveast) and got to spend some time with him you’ve go to check out his stuff. Issac Cambridge (@i. cambridge) is also very talented. I haven’t actually been photographing much grime stuff lately, but him and another guy called Jonny Fensekka are taking over slyly. Sticking with grime, there’s this girl called Vicky Grout, and everytime she uploads a set of photos I just want to smash my computer because they’re so damn good. I feel like I might give up on everything. Those are just a few. I also have to shout out two guys I work with - All Things Common. They inspire me all the time. Everyday I go into work and come out wanting to take a better photo the next time I’m shooting. It’s the best way creative environemnt to work in.
exposed to this impossibly edited and flawless lifestyle that doesn’t actually exist, but we also have the tools to create it. The subject is now objectifying itself in response and it’s not real. That’s interesting. Do you think this ideal stifles diversity? Or can social media actually encourage difference? I think social media definitely encourages diversity. People who might not be as present in existing and wellestablished platforms – take Hollywood for example – are constrcuting their online presence with the same tools as everyone else. Social media is democratic. We all came to Instagram with zero followers. Obviously people have started to cheat the system in the past 3 years, but on the whole I still feel it’s a level playing field. You don’t just see this self-making process in the photography industry either – we’re seeing it in other creative industries like fashion and music. All these guys are given a platform to showcase what they do best. Can you give us some examples of this diversity? Some of the online communities in New York are amazing. Groups like Street Etiquette are showing the way forward in style. What collectives like them have done for the black community in fashion and photography is phenomenal. Street Dreams too... and the In-Bloom collective. In the Uk, the likes of Hannah Faith are actively displaying and celebrating their cultural heritage in their photography and music. I love that. It’s inspirational.
mind over matter Radical Buddhist nun Robina Courtin explains how a desire for freedom and truth led her to change her mind about what it means to be happy
From an early age I wanted a view of seeing and understanding the world. I always knew I wanted
happiness, but it never translated in terms of having a house, car, career, husband or even children. I grew up as a Catholic, but was always open. I only ever wanted real freedom and truth. That drove me intellectually and spiritually.
Buddhism provided a philosophical worldview to unify everything on earth. That’s my working
hypothesis these days. Contrary to clichés about being mindful, Buddhism is actually a disciplined and structured model one can use as a reference for looking into the mind. It’s not just abstract. It’s very grounded.
Like a bird, Buddhism has two wings: the wisdom wing and the compassion wing. The compassion
wing is political and attempts to make the world a better place. The wisdom wing is more personal: it allows one to unravel one’s own mind in order to become the courageous, wise, authentic person that we all have the potential to be.
To be wise is to eradicate the negative states of mind caused by attachment. Buddha says our mind is naturally useful when it’s not encumbered by junk. Attachments – the name given to the ego’s neediness and yearning for something and someone – is this junk. It is the root cause of all suffering. We think happiness is what
you achieve when you get things and fulfill attachments. We’re driven by this craving to be seen as good by others. We define ourselves by how we are seen by others. What we mean by “success” is what other people see as success. But these are just deluded states of mind that do not truly define us. They are not innate, and therefore can be removed.
We make the body the boss. We totally follow what the senses feel. But the senses are like dumb animals. Our tongue doesn’t experience the hunger for a cake. The hand may go out to grab the cake, but not from its own side. Instead, the action is propelled by the neurotic need to get the cake in the mouth – the mental consciousness, in other words. So the senses do not experience attachment. It is a logical fact. It’s only the story about the chocolate cake – from what it is to why I need it – that clouds the mind. This is where the neurotic delusions exist. The body and the speech are just servants for our minds, so we can’t go to our minds first. Instead, we
must initially learn to discipline our physical behaviour. Discipline in this context means literally practicing control over the senses. Then you can be your own therapist and develop this amazing skill to see this insane asylum in your own head that usually controls your body and speech. And that’s when you really become a Buddhist. You’re seeing the thoughts and feelings and emotions as transient mental states that can change.
So we can radically change our own thoughts.
The first step is to understand that inner freedom is possible. We assume that “this is who I am.” So the first step has to be some kind of confidence: I might not know how, but I know that I can change my own mind. Then you must face your attachments and be motivated to alter your mindset. Every day you must say: “I want to be compassionate, I want to be beneficial.” You’re aspiring, and then you’ll act. It is no mystery. That’s how we become pianists, footballers, a cook – or a happy, beneficial person. It starts with the thought, the motivation, the aspiration. It’s organic, and it’s humble. We start one day at a time, and slowly, something develops.
There’s a clichéd view that meditation equals Buddhism. It’s a load of rubbish. How boring.
Radical Buddhism for me is putting into practise all these teachings to the best of your ability. It’s to understand that when you are abused you must take the blame; when someone assaults you to accept it; when you don’t get what you want to be grateful. That’s really hard, but it’s the ultimate aim. Interview by Ben Clarke
you & me Mental disassociation helped Georgina Lewis cope with years of sexual abuse. Now safe in a secure relationship, she is trying to put her mind and body back together again.
am a second year student who likes music, horse riding and the occassional horror novel. I am also a survivor of child abuse and domestic violence. I am just beginning to learn that my body is not an object for someone else to control and exploit for their own pleasure. 22 years old and I still need a therapist to remind me that it is now safe to listen to my body’s needs and see it as an ally. It is only now – after countless years of loss and hurt – that I am starting to rediscover my body, and understand that it belongs to me.
But this process of renewal is far from easy. The abuse endures. I live with PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Dissociation means switching off from conscious life. It happens all the time in everyday life: we all daydream and mindlessly glide through activities with no firm recollection of them. Abuse victims often dissociate to a more extreme degree. I did during the abuse to cope with the chaos and confusion. If my body suffered physical pain then at least my mind could exist elsewhere, isolated and unharmed. This coping mechanism meant that I could pretend the abuse was happening to somebody else distinct from me. It allowed me to function “normally” and, with hindsight, saved my life. Now, years on from the abuse, I am trying to find ways to reconcile my mind with my body. To do so feels dangerous. For so long the sharp distinction between my mind and body allowed me to manage everything around me. To suddenly feel my body is alien. It’s overwhelming. I sometimes stare at my hand and wriggle my fingers just to prove that control of my body resides with me and not someone else.
But I still don’t quite believe it. I often feel numb in at least some part of my body when I am stressed. Dissociation kicks back in straight away even if I’m not under physical threat. It’s been a survival strategy too long for it to be turned off over night. But even returning to my body often evokes feelings of shame. At times, I felt like my body betrayed me and led abusers to believe I was really enjoying it. I know my body didn’t betray me at all, but this knowledge doesn’t stop me from feeling that shame. I still scrutinise my body in the shower and feel sickened by it, scolding it: “there must be something about you that made them do it,” I think. I used to starve, cut, punch and hate my body. I still mostly hate it, but am slowly recovering. The change came when I started to realise my body was no more to blame than “I” was for what happened. I want to blame myself – I need to know that there was a justified reason for what I lived through – but, fundamentally, I know it was not my fault. It is never the abuse victim’s fault. Ever.
So how do I reconcile my mind – that is, my emotions and memories – with my body? One way is through experiencing PTSD. Flashbacks – terrifyingly real and physical – re-enact what I lived through. I can feel the abuse like it is happening again right in that moment. But, this time, I can also be soothed. I can wake up from a flashback and be held by a caring friend, or drink some sugary tea, or snuggle under a blanket to bring me comfort. After each flashback I am reminded of what my body suffered, but also what it fought through. This realisation still amazes me; I am grateful for its strength.
I am learning to listen. If I feel hunger pangs, I know my body is asking for food. If I feel tired, my body is asking for sleep. I am growing to respect these wishes, and not despise my body quite so much. My mind and my body are starting to understand and respect each other. We were both victims, now we are both survivors.
I also have a loving partner, who sees past the scars on my skin and loves me for who I am. She loves my mind and my body equally and unconditionally. I still struggle to believe her, but she is patient and encourages me to see my body for what it is: an incredible survivor, in need of love and support.
J T N F R E E A O
A H J M B D A F I
F B O A O R P E Q
R E S I V I H A U
C T B X C H A L A
O W A T H E N I P
A E N E A J D N I
C E V F O C S E N
B N I L F K G S W
E D S O A B R E A
J H A R R E I G O
Without the langauge to discuss mental health, it’s little wonder so many people resort to self-harm to express the inexpressable, argues Oli Picken
“My mind’s telling me ‘no’ / But my body, my body’s telling me ‘yes’”
– R. Kelly “I think therefore I am”
made between mental and physical health. For all the scientific and technical advancements in the medical industry, mental health continues to occupy an awkward place in our socio-cultural imagination. Problems begin at an early age. While young children are given the language to talk about physical injury, our vocabulary for mental pain is limited to the hyperbolic and parodic. Words such as “mad”, “insane” and “mental” are meant to articulate complex and distressing psychological states, but do not even begin to describe the destructive and debilitating emotions mental illnesses can produce.
Kelly’s R&B classic “Bump N’ Grind” immediately sets out a clear distinction between the body and mind. Philosophers as far back as Plato have championed this division, with René Descartes providing the most famous elucidation. The French thinker, prefiguring R. Kelly, wrote in the sixteenth century that “it is certain that I am really distinct from my body, and can exist without it.” This mind-body dualism formed the existential starting point for much Western thought throughout the modern era, and continues to shape the way we talk about illness – particularly in the distinction
– René Descartes
This gap in language can, I think, be put down to a wider structural privileging of physical health over mental wellbeing. If the quantifiable results of my own mental illness – a regular prescription, several deadline extensions and even more trips home – were attributed to, for example, a broken bone or glandular fever, then such events would surely be readily acknowledged as a necessary step towards recovery. As it is, I know that some people, by their own admission, dismiss such mitigation as sitting somewhere between a mild annoyance and an undeserved academic privilege. Even when friends express sympathy for my condition, I cannot help but detect a strong sense of suspicion. They may truly wish me the best, but, deep down, this sincerity is often tinged with cynicism. Whether I’m paranoid or not, there is no ambiguity about the result: I often feel like a fraud when asking for help in a way that wouldn’t ever occur to me with normalised, physical illnesses. It seems that suffering is legitimised in the prevailing medical discourse only when the healthy body is physically violated.
about self-harm immediately absorb and neutralise any intelligible meanings. As soon as self-harm is mentioned stereotypical images immediately spring to mind: the angst-ridden teenager with a penchant for My Chemical Romance and black hair dye; or perhaps the attention-seeking bulemic adolescent displacing one self-destructive strategy with another in a “phase” of self-loathing. Whatever the image, self-harm is usually dismissed as an immature reflex to the aging process. This reductive cultural narrative aestheticises selfharm, reading scars as little more than a fashion accessory for superficial sub-cultures, rather than as potent corporeal expressions of inner distress. While this line of thought may be true of some piercings and tattoos, cutting oneself is premised on an entirely different teleology. Rather than prioritise the finished product, the act of self-harm often finds its locus in the process of mutilation. It is through the action of slicing the skin that individuals – my 15-year-old self included – experience a moment of clarity: the inner turmoil has, for an all-to-short moment, taken a visible form. But, unlike tattoos, the
“Self-harm unites the mind and the body through ascribing inner turmoil a physical – and therefore legitimate – symptom.”
damage is not usually meant to be permanent. Instead, such fleeting acts are perhaps better understood as signalling a profound disillusion with the way we talk about mental health. It is in this vein that many troubled individuals are, in my view, forced to adopt a corporeal vocabulary to try and express the inexpressible. This includes 13% of 12-18 year olds – numbers that the Royal College of Psychiatrists warns are extremely conservative due to the immense number of unreported cases. This is not to promote self-harm as a productive way to cope with depression, anxiety or any other codification of inner turmoil. Instead, it’s a call to understand self-harm as a regressive but understandable reaction to the poverty of language when it comes to discussing mental health. Cuts and scars are perhaps best seen as a last-ditch attempt to render the inner workings of the mind intelligible. But such cries for help are ultimately mediated through a limited and restrictive body of language that is – tragically, ironically, unspeakably – all too quick to dismiss them.
With this in mind, it’s little wonder that self-harm is seen as one of the few options left to those whom language has failed. Self-harm unites the mind and the body through giving inner turmoil a physical – and therefore legitimate – symptom. Pain, in other words, is represented in a way that does not require conventional language. For once, mental discomfort erupts on the surface of the body in its most visceral and visible form. This fresh appearance of pain on the skin of the body is undoubtedly cathartic, providing inflictors with momentary physical release. The pain one feels provides an immediate corporeal reprive from inner torture. But perhaps more significant is the social signposting: self-harm makes pain intelligible without the need for language. The many forms of self-inflicted abuse – from cuts to scratches and bruises to burns – turn bodies into things that speak for themselves. In this understanding, the landscape of mental illness can be crudely mapped onto a corporeal canvas that declares: “look at me, I need help.” Nevertheless, this desperate plea is often lost in translation. Dominant cultural narratives
On the Edge
The economic boom promised to consign homelessness in England to history. But then came the Crash, austerity and Iain Duncan Smith. Homelessness soared, with visits to Exeter’s St Petrock’s charity doubling in the past five years. Terri Sutherland, administrator of St Petrock’s, tells Ben Clarke that it’s time to start treating the poorest in society as individuals with dignity rather than a problem to be sidelined.
“The portraits of rough sleepers lining the walls of St Petrock’s old church building brings one face to face with an uneasy truth: homelessness is once again on the rise”
here’s plenty to impress inside St Petrock’s HQ. The charity operates a daily drop-in centre for the local homeless in an old red brick parish church just off the cathedral square. Vaulted ceilings and intricate gothic windows immediately make a mark. But a series of portraits lining the far wall catches my eye. “They’re all pictures of rough sleepers painted by a local artist,” Terri Sutherland, St Petrock’s Glaswegian administrator, tells me at the beginning of our conversation about homelessness in Exeter. Visceral, resilient and overwhelmingly male, the portraits staring out from the church’s wall paint a poignant picture of the homeless crisis currently engulfing England. For years, issues surrounding homelessness seemed to drop off the news radar. It appeared only a matter of time until the economic boom consigned homelessness to a bad memory. Indeed, the number of “statutory homeless” households – those deemed to be in priority need by local authorities – peaked in England at 135,000 in 2004 and had fallen to 53,000 by 2009. But the portraits in St Petrock’s old church brings one face to face with an uneasy truth: homelessness is once again on the rise. According to government statistics, 2,714 people slept rough in England on any one night during 2014, doubling the 2010 figure. But the problem of homelessness extends far beyond the number of rough sleepers. It is a curious irony that most people who are homeless – in the sense of not having a home – do not live on the streets. National homeless
charity Crisis estimates that 112,330 households applied to their local authority for homelessness assistance in 2014/15, with just over 54,000 accepted as statutory homeless – a 36% rise in the past five years. But even these statistics underestimate the scale and complexity of homelessness because they omit the soaring number of “sofa surfers” who sleep on friends’ floors and sofas – not to mention the estimated millions squeezed into squats, B&Bs and overcrowded housing throughout the country. But, as Terri points out, it’s all too easy to let individual faces and their unique stories drown in a sea of statistics. “Homelessness is a very complex issue and all our clients have different but equally complex needs,” she explains. For Terri, the complicated nature of homelessness means it’s important for St Petrock’s to function simply as a “warm and dry place for clients to come and just be.” Everything at St Petrock’s – from the portraits on the church walls to the way Terri repeatedly refers to the charity’s homeless visitors as “clients” – is geared towards putting the individual at the centre of a personalising process. The charity’s first port of call with anyone who walks through the old church doors is to establish a narrative. “There’s always an assessment,” Terri continues. “We ask the same questions: ‘What happened to your accommodation? How long have you been in Exeter? Do you have an income?’ If they don’t, we’ll help them set one up.” And what happens when a prospective client refuses to oblige? “Then we’ll withhold a lot of services. Food is always free as
it’s a basic need.” But unless clients have “very complex mitigating circumstances”, anyone seeking support from St Petrock’s “must help us help them.” That specialist help comes in wide-ranging and complementary forms, and usually begins with a warm meal. Five charity volunteers prepare and serve breakfast and lunch everyday from a modest kitchen stuffed with cans and crockery. Breakfast consists of cereal, toast, porridge or a big fry up; lunch is usually something hearty and hot. Curry followed by a bar of chocolate and a cup of tea (“often with five sugars or more,” Terri tells me) is a popular combination. The high levels of fat and sugar in these foods provide energy for long, arduous days on the streets. The kitchen is open 365 days a year and runs on a meager annual budget of £2,000. That shortfall is compensated by donations from the public, church schools and businesses. The Devon and Cornwall Food Association works closely with supermarkets such as Aldi and Waitrose to redistribute unsold food to St Petrock’s and other local organisations. The charity also welcomes leftovers from parties and events. (Terri particularly relishes the Harvest Festival period in Autumn when some of the best organic produce from farmers’ markets finds its way into the St Petrock’s kitchen.) All the fresh food is kept cool in the old church’s expansive cellar hidden below a trap door down an innocuous hallway. Around the corner lie shower and laundry facilities for clients to freshen up. A hairdresser and chiropodist also visit every week or so to provide specialist
“Women will often sofa surf. It’s often safer for them to stay in a predatory relationship when they know the person rather than sleep rough. Increasing numbers of women are entering into an abusive relationship purely because it’s more secure for them than being alone”
head to toe assistance and advice on how to best deal with the unforgiving elements. Once fed and washed, many visitors to the charity are taken to a huge room out back stocked from floor to ceiling with second hand clothing. On the floor lies a mountain of freshly pressed socks waiting to be paired. Boxes of woolen hats and gloves hang off shelves. All around sleeping bags, rucksacks, thick-set jackets and pairs of tough military-grade boots (“we only accept size 8 and above,” Terri says) stuff Exeter’s biggest walk-in wardrobe. The provision of all essentials – from the meals to the toiletries and clothing – are free if the client does not possess an income. Prices, however, are modest: a fry up and laundry service cost a pound each; showers are 50p. The whole idea of charging these amounts is, in Terri’s words, “to try and instill budgeting skills. We always endeavor to implement a budgeting system so clients learn the value of our services, and how to save up for a weeks’ worth of food.” The aim here is help clients foster commitment to a regular routine and reclaim a sense of responsibility. Only then can they break the cycles that lead to repeat homelessness and once again start to live something approaching a normal life. A big part of this routine entails managing important administrative tasks. St Petrock’s assists clients in this respect, too. The old church houses around half a dozen computers for visitors to wade through bureaucratic procedures, such as fulfilling employment searches in order to maintain jobseekers’ allowance.
But a deprivation of skills and confidence can quickly cause problems. “Speaking on the phone to someone from a benefit agency is too much of a barrier for some clients – especially if that person asks you invasive questions,” Terri says. “It’s also expensive: without access to a mobile, you’re talking £5 to make the call.” To counter this common problem, St Petrock’s teams up with the local YMCA to run a bi-weekly “Engage Hub” in which staff members sit in with clients on phone calls and teach essential IT skills. After becoming more self-sufficient, Terri finds that “people are more willing to focus on the central part of our work: to find safe and secure accommodation.” St Petrock’s main drive has always been to help people off the street and into suitable and affordable housing. All the immediate humanitarian aid is predicated on making referrals to housing agencies with a view to secure permanent accomodation. The initial assessment, free meals and tutoring are just the first steps in this long and often difficult journey. But a rise in the numbers of clients seeking support has put unprecedented strain on the charity’s resources. The number of individuals using the charity’s services increased by 29% last year and, according to the charity’s Annual Report, over 11,000 client visits were made to advice and emergency services. These figures continue a worrying upward trend: overall visits to St Petrock’s have doubled in the past five years. Terri says the old church now sees up to 75 people pass through its doors every day in a space that struggles to house more than 20
people at one time. But all this will hardly be surprising to anyone walking around Exeter’s city centre, where rough sleepers line the high street with depressing familiarity. It’s also unsurprising to learn that 90% of St Petrock’s clients are men. But, once again, this figure is unlikely to accurately represent Exeter’s homeless demographic. “Women are more vulnerable than men,” Terri explains. “It’s far more dangerous for them to sleep rough on the streets than it is for a man, so they tend to be a bit more hidden.” This increased vulnerability leaves many women open to exploitation: “Women will often sofa surf. It’s often safer for them to stay in a predatory relationship when they know the person rather than sleep rough. A lot of women sleeping on the streets will enter into an abusive relationship purely because it’s more secure for them than being alone.” But perhaps the biggest danger facing all homeless people is more innocuous, as Terri knows all too well. “I was homeless for a brief period,” she continues. “The main thing I found was that time was my total enemy. I was always waiting for somebody to go somewhere so I could have somewhere to sleep. I was thinking ‘what do I do to waste time until I can go to my friend’s sofa?’” Time can be corrosive, and too much of it leaves gaping holes in one’s day. It’s true that many homeless people – especially rough sleepers – turn to drugs and crime to fill these voids. Just over half of St Petrock’s visitors last year
“Iain Duncan Smith’s comments and cuts reveal a wilful misconception about poverty and homelessness: that it is a lifestyle choice, something to be sought and savoured”
had an offending history. But Terri is quick to puncture the idea that homeless people enjoy idly wasting time looking for their next hit, pointing instead to the links between addiction and mental health issues. It is tempting to dismiss Terri’s defensive comments as excusing criminal behaviour, but the facts speak for themselves. According to St Petrock’s 2013 Annual Report, almost half of the charity’s clients were either disagnosed with a mental illness or were suspected of having one. A recent Salvation Army study, meanwhile, found that 90% of rough sleepers suffering from addiction did not have a drug problem before they were sleeping on the streets. If abusers are using now, the study concluded, it is generally a result of their circumstance. Of course, these challenging circumstances arise for complex reasons. It’s unwise and unfair to generalise. But during my conversation with Terri recurring themes emerge: a background in care, mental health issues, a smattering of domestic abuse, sudden job loss – all these things can wreck lives and deprive people security, control and, perhaps most importantly, a functioning family unit. It’s little wonder then that 8% of St Petrock’s clients are ex-servicemen who struggle to assimilate back into civilian life. Loss of some sort seems to bind all these different stories together. It it as this deflating juncture that I find myself wondering aloud: if such loss can often be attributed to circumstances beyond an individual’s control, then surely the government should put safeguards in place and provide more comprehensive
support for the vulnerably housed? This question prompts the hitherto loquacious Terri to fall silent. Her measured response is a case study in diplomacy. “It’s a difficult one to answer, and I can only speak from a personal perspective. There’s obviously a housing crisis in England. That’s a huge issue. I’d say that we need some more affordable homes built, and more funding for charities like ours is always welcome.” Terri’s cagey response can perhaps be explained by the delicate political situation many smaller charities find themselves in. In a precarious funding climate, third sector organisations must refrain from being too openly critical or face alienating potential backers. A charity report lambasting local council strategy is unlikely to invite future investment. But, as Terri puts it, “stating the facts can sometimes be offensive.” So it is left to other less inhibited organisations to state these facts as regularly and clearly as possible, and try to objectively explain how they came about in the first place. It’s unsurprising to learn that many lay the blame firmly at Number 10 Downing Street’s door. A recent Homelessness Monitor study offered a searing assessment of the government’s record on housing, identifying welfare reforms as fuelling England’s rapidly worsening homelessness crisis. The study found that the bedroom tax contributed to an 18% rise in repossession actions by social landlords in 2013-14; housing benefit cuts, meanwhile, played a “large part” in a third of all homelessness cases caused by landlords ending a private rental tenancy. The
same cuts then made it harder for those who lost their homes to be rehoused. These housing reforms coincided with devastating benefit sanctions that seemed intent on penalising the poor for, well, being poor. “This is not an easy life anymore, chum. I think you’re a slacker,” Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, warned benefit claimants in an interview with the Sunday Times in 2012. His comments conjured up a pool of lifelong idlers, but in 2012, of the 1.5 million people claiming jobseeker’s allowance, barely 0.3% had been claiming for five years or more. But Duncan Smith was right about one thing: it’s no easy life for those feeling the sharp end of the welfare cuts. Duncan Smith’s churlish comments and their tangible results also reveal a wilful misconception about poverty, and homelessness in particular: that it is a lifestyle choice, something to be sought and savoured. In Duncan Smith’s mind, poverty is attributed to personal failure. To be poor is to be weak and underserving. Any state assistance is dismissed as feeding a parasite. When this attitude is applied to the homeless, the message is uniform and clear: you’ve made your cardboard bed, now it’s time to lie in it. George Orwell summed up this survival of the wealthiest mentality in his book Down and Out in Paris and London, published in 1933. “People seem to feel that there is some essential difference between beggars and ordinary ‘working’ men,” he wrote. “They are a
ST PETROCK’S IN NUMBERS 60 clients on average use the centre per day
363 individuals used the centre during the year
race apart – outcasts, like criminals and prostitutes” and deemed “worthless in their very nature.” Yet, Orwell continues, “when one looks closely one sees that there is no essential difference between a beggar’s livelihood and that of numberless ‘respectable’ people”; it only seems that way because “money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test beggars fail, and for this they are despised.” Over 80 years have passed since Orwell’s observation, but Duncan Smith’s regressive ideology and anti-humanitarian cuts prove the governing response to the impoverished remains largely the same. A different understanding of homelessness is clearly needed, and St Petrock’s – with its research, allocation of aid and personalising referral strategy – is leading the way. “One of the faults of charities in the past has been to respond with just humanitarian aid: ‘these people are hungry; let’s give them food!’” Terri concludes, before drawing on an analogy: “For too long we’ve been occupied with pulling people out of the river of poverty as opposed to going upstream and finding out how and why they’re falling in. We need a balance between meeting humanitarian needs and petitioning both local and national councils.” But with many smaller charities reluctant to estrange potential financers, a fundamental question lingers: precisely whose job is it to champion advocacy and petition the government for social change? In an open lecture on homelessness hosted by the Guild earlier this year, Paul Cloke, Human Geography professor at the Univeristy of Exeter, argued that
small, localised organisations such as St Petrock’s form “possible places where we can start to build new public movements... where there’s potential to build networks of more progressive ethics and politics that turns a groundswell movement into a cohesive national operation.” Yet Terri, who attended the lecture, remains unconvinced. “Paul envisions a bubbling up form the surface that can impact the higher powers. Personally, I feel that the void is too big. Sometimes you do hear about success stories and you think you can influence local policies that have an impact on a wider scale. But it’s a big struggle.” With the government scaling back welfare provision, and stereotypes of the homeless still deeply entrenched, the struggle is only going to get tougher for St Petrock’s and its clients. As I get up to leave, Terri offers a downbeat summary: “there’s always things we can do on a micro level, but deeper issues exist on a macro scale.” Her words seem to capture the prevailing mood and, leaving through the old church doors, I’m struck by how all the charity’s outstanding efforts seem to be tempered by a profound pessimism. Of course, St Petrock’s will rightly keep surging upstream to provide life-saving support for those who need it most. But, to build on Terri’s analogy, the river they face is quickly gathering momentum and claiming more victims. For every client that is successfully rehoused, the sad reality is that more and more local faces are just as likely to find a home on the old church walls.
82% of clients who accessed services were single adults with no statutory rights to housing
54% had an offending history
47% had mental health concerns
4,000 hours volunteerd by staff in the charity’s kitchens
47 & 43 the respective average life expectancies of men and women sleeping rough in the UK All Statistics and images taken from St Petrock’s Annual Report published in 2013
Contrary to widespread reports, Syria’s shifting body politic is far from stagnant. Gareth Browne explores how the rise of one rebel group could be the key to lasting peace in the region.
he fall of Idlib in March this year marked only the second provincial capital to fall from President Assad’s control. The first was Raqqa, a city that now exists as the de facto capital of Islamic State controlled territory. But Idlib was not wrestled from Assad’s hands by ISIS. Instead, the city was taken by another group – or, more accurately, groups. Indeed, the fall of Idlib also marked the first time that prominent rebel groups had worked cohesively together under an alliance named Jaish Al-Fatah (Army of Conquest). The alliance’s two biggest members are Ahrar Al-Sham and the Al-Qaeda-aligned Jabhat Al-Nusra. The rise of Ahrar Al-Sham (The Free Men of Syria) has been the more significant of the two, given that the Salafist group had almost all its entire leadership wiped out in a bombing last year. Despite its Islamist credentials, the militant group have perhaps provided the most successful Sunni counter to the Islamic State. They
currently hold a 50km frontline in the volatile area to the east of Aleppo, and hold significant sway in northern parts of Syria. They also claim to have lost 700 of its 15,000 fighters in clashes with ISIS since January 2014. Despite this, they have found themselves on the end of coalition airstrikes on at least two occasions. The group has recently made attempts to reach out to the West. Its western-educated foreign relations officer, Labib Al-Nahhas, recently penned Op-Eds for The Telegraph and The Washington Post in which he affirmed Ahrar Al-Sham’s commitment to an assertive but balanced approach to the precarious siutation in Syria. The group, Al-Nahhas concluded, will continue to champion methods “that respect the legitimate aspirations of the majority as well as protect minority communities.” But rhetoric is cheap in Syria. The region’s western-backed “White Knights” have time and again proved limited in their ability to have a potent impact on the
ground. Similarly, groups such as Harakat Hazzam and The Syrian Revolutionaries Front both received either training or material support from the United States, but continue to accomplish little. A more immediate concern for the United States government is to try and understand how its current “Train and Equip” program has managed to train just 54 personnel in spite of its $500 million budget. While the West continues to throw money and resources at impotent interventions, Ahrar Al-Sham boasts a more established presence and credibility on the ground, even finding success in implementing stabilising governance programmes in places like Idlib. The group’s staunch commitment to protecting minorities is, it seems, bearing fruit. That said, the group’s close ties with Jabhat Al-Nusra continue to concern commentators observing this developing situation. Many critics have written Ahrar Al-Sham off as simply another jihadi group, with one eminent
Image Credit: Thomas Rossi Rassloff
critic dubbing them the “Syrian Taliban”. But such an assessment lacks both nuance and intellectual rigour. The ideological differences between Al-Sham with AlNusra remain vast. Last month, Robert Ford, former US Ambassador to Syria, condemned the conflation of the two factions as “intellectually sloppy”, before calling on President Barak Obama to open up a dialogue with the group. Perhaps more notable, however, is the lack of virulent anti-western sentiment displayed by Ahrar Al-Sham. The group’s rescue and release of US citizen Richard Engel – a journalist kidnapped by a different rebel group in late 2012 – puts their behaviour in stark contrast with the brutal ways in which Al-Nusra and ISIS have treated westerners under their control. Even the group’s leading voices have been keen to quel conflation and stress irreconcilable differences between the two factions. As Al-Nahas put it: “we have been falsely accused of having organizational links to Al-Qaeda and of
C A U S E
espousing Al-Qaeda’s ideology. Nothing could be further from the truth.” Why, then, do the group continue to work with other dangerous factions they claim to oppose? The answer lies somewhere between ease and necessity. Already fighting on two fronts against the Assad regime and the Islamic State, opening up a third front in the form of Al-Nusra would further strain limited resources and pose avoidable challenges. In this instance, and in spite of instinct, it’s better for the group to tolerate than hate. For the West, the rise of Ahrar Al-Sham presents a unique opportunity to forge new relationships in Syria. It provides a chance to create what Emile Hokayem describes as “positive dependency” – a situation wherein the international community can leverage the group to prevent overreach and ensure that their promise to govern a “moderate Syria” is delivered. This line of action also has practical benefits. The chances of a military solution to the
war in such a divided country are, at best, incredibly unlikely. The sights of rebel tanks surrounding the presidential palace remain a product of fantasy, and will do for some time. But dialogue with groups such as Ahrar Al-Sham offer a way to create a viable long-term alternative to both the Assad regime and ISIS. At the very least, the foundations laid in such conversations would certainly help foster a political environment more conducive to the idea of a negotiated settlement than the current sectarian hotbox ever could. Of course, there are great risks to working with any group inside Syria. But inaction on the part of western governments is likely to allow the radicalisation of the conflict’s sectarian dynamics to proliferate. Opening up a dialogue with moderate Islamist groups such as Ahrar Al-Sham not only acknowledges the reality of the situation on the ground in Syria, but, most importantly, presents the most realistic prospect for peace.
Je Suis CECIL? The killing of Cecil the lion ealrier this year prompted universal uproar, with everyone from Ricky Gervais to Gerri Halliwell condeming the brutal act. But most people contiue to turn a blind eye to the thousands of land animals killed every minute. Edward Scott questions why we treat some animals more equally than others.
nless you’ve been living under a pile of gravel for the last month or two, you’ll have come across the story of Cecil the lion. A resident of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, thirteen year old Cecil was a popular “attraction” at the park until, in June, he was wounded with an arrow by recreational big game hunter and American human Walter Palmer. After being tracked for forty hours, Cecil was put out of his misery with a rifle, before being skinned and beheaded by the dentist, who paid US$50,000 for the privilege of killing a lion. Palmer has since gone into hiding after receiving numerous death threats; his personal details were posted online and soon after the words “lion killer” were sprayed across his garage door. The outrage surrounding Cecil’s death is not an isolated incident. In the past few years, a notable increase in the public awareness of animal rights issues has erupted, with documentaries such as Blackfish causing Sea World’s profits to drop by 84% in 2014. Celebrities have similarly used their prominent profiles to call out animal abuse. The likes of Ricky Gervais (a self-described “animal avenger”), Geri Halliwell, and Cara Delevingne have all frequently condemned examples of animal cruelty, including the Chinese dog meat festival, on their social media outlets. This eruption of animal rights in the public imagination recently led Gabriela Cowperthaite, director of Blackfish, to declare that “today’s kids are increasingly becoming part of the ‘I can’t believe we used to do that’ generation.” But is this really the dawn of a new civil rights
movement? Is the zeitgeist changing? Are the interests of the voiceless finally being voiced? It’s true that Cecil’s death was outlandishly cruel, and that orcas and other dolphins should not be driven insane by a captive existence. It’s also true that dogs do not deserve to be slaughtered in the thousands and sold as meat. But a closer examination of these assertions throws up deep-seated problems that many “animal avengers” fail to acknowledge or, worse, wilfully neglect. Here’s the fundamenal issue at stake: if we are to grant only certain beings the right not to be killed, held captive, and/or eaten, then we are condoning a prejudicial mode of thought known as speciesism. Why might Cecil’s death attract so much media and governmental attention – the United Nations General Assembly took notice and amended its illicit poaching policy days after the killing – when, according to international charity Animal Equality, over three thousand land animals like him are killed every second in farms around the world? When the killing of one lion is considered a more important issue than the slaughter of fiftysix billion animals a year (a figure which does not include sea creatures, whose deaths are so great they can only be measured in tons), it is quite apparent that the public’s outcry is not rooted in a simple desire to prevent suffering. As a large mammal, Cecil’s capacity for pain, suffering, and what we might reluctantly call “feelings” was almost certainly comparable to that of a cow, pig, or sheep. Yyet the reduction of such animals to bits of packaged and processed meat is questioned
only by “extreme” animal rights activists. Instead, Cecil’s symbolic power as a member of an exotic and ecologically vulnerable species – the fact that his brain was inside the body of a lion instead of, say, a cow – combined with the fact that he was unfortunate enough not to be eaten after his death, has lead to the vast majority of those condemning his death to do so in the name of conservation. Okay, prepare your butts for a controversial statement: selective conservation is speciesist. Still with me? Hear me out. Why should we invest so much money, time, and effort into protecting the lives of a small group of endangered animals, when our resources could prevent so much more suffering if we were species-blind when considering who to help. Would the death of the last ever panda be more of a tragedy than the death of the average pig, cow or goat? It may do to us as observers, but to each of these individuals the act of dying would mean the same thing: that they are dead. The most basic interest all species share – that of remaining alive – will have been stripped from them by an unopposable superpower in an unopposable way. This discriminatory power dynamic runs to the heart of the issue. When we strive so hard to conserve certain species, we cannot be behaving purely altruistically, as we are not interested in saving lives, or preventing suffering. We’re interested in only saving particular species, for our own sake. We want lions, pandas, and elephants to keep on existing, so
we can feel a bit less guilty about the damage we have done to them and the planet. My argument is thus: if we were to behave truly compassionately, we would not only wish to avoid causing suffering to these exotic beings, but to all animals – regardless of whether we have psychologically reduced them to food-producing machines or not, and regardless of whether they are the last of their species or one of millions. It’s for this reason that the protests of meat, dairy and egg-eating “animal avengers” like Ricky Gervais ring so hollow for many animal rights campaigners. While the ability to make millions of people aware of animal cruelty is undoubtedly a powerful tool, so too is the ability of such individuals to normalise certain attitudes. So, when Gervais joined Judi Dench and other celebrities to raise awareness of the dog-meat festivals of China, they normalised the attitude that, while it is not okay to kill and eat dogs, the same behaviour is okay when dished out to pigs – despite there being no difference between the two species as far as their interests are concerned. The truth is that the first port of call for any animal rights activist should be the dinner table, as 98% of the animals abused and killed by humans are abused and killed by the meat, dairy, and egg industries. Going vegan is the most compassionate and environmentally beneficial lifestyle change you can make – that is, unless you only care about the pretty animals.
Gardner & Sons Funeral Parlour
A short story by Alice Anchisi
rancis Gardner regards the dead body lying on the table in front of him, illuminated by the harsh light overhead. His eyes pass over the white skin looking for any imperfections he may have missed. They slide down the small, supple frame and rest on hands clasped neatly on top of a stiff blue jacket picked out by the mother in a frenzy of mourning. Tasteless, Francis thinks to himself. He leans over to observe the side of the boy’s head. It is nearly impossible to register the precise, clean hole just above the temple, lurking dark and deep like a lock without a key. Hard to imagine that not six hours ago there was nothing but a mess of blood-matted hair and bits of brain. But now, lying doll-like in silence, the boy looks perfect. Francis is pleased; a smile of satisfaction crawls over his lips. The whole process had been rather simple. Francis swiftly settled on the standard procedure, one that he’d performed countless times on the old wrinkled bodies that had begun to decompose long before their final breaths. People didn’t usually die in old towns like these; they were absorbed by the landscape. Faces crumbled like dry stonewalls. Varicose veins sprawled, ivy-like, over saggy skins. Bones rusted. When someone did eventually let go, it always felt like they took part of the architecture with them. But this boy was different. He was still shiny and new when he arrived in Francis’s hands. His edges were not yet worn down to fit the confines of this town, his face not yet weathered like stone. The customary stiffness and flaccid texture were, for once, absent. The boy’s silky limbs were pleasingly smooth to the touch. His joints moved seamlessly, as if they had just been oiled. For a moment Francis was tempted to place two fingers underneath the jawline to check for a pulse. Then his eyes met the hole staring out from the side of the boy’s head. Francis coughed up a chuckle. He couldn’t believe his luck. Francis moved through the whole process with care, taking his time to wash the body with warm soapy water, massaging the skin vigorously until it shone like brass. Then he took his small knife, the blade of which he sharpened each day, and made a small incision along the collarbone, relishing the ease with which it cut through the strings of muscle like a cobweb. After that it had been a simple question of embalming.
For hours Francis had sat on his wooden chair, watching the boy’s blood drain off through a tube. He watched as the colourless quality spread through the boy’s limbs like a procession. The skin shimmered pearl and blue. Bloodless, the boy lay frozen. Cerulean bruises emerged on the surface, bubbling up from within. As each inky blotch appeared Francis felt rising waves of anticipation wash over him. His eyes had moved along the lines of the body, savouring every detail. He’d be the only one to see the boy this way. The only one to enjoy the unadorned alabaster. He rolled the thought around his head like a child sucking on a sweet, growing accustomed to the taste. Now Francis once again looks down to regard the dead body lying on the table before him. The overhead light dwindles as the morning sunlight creeps through the windows. He neatly stores the lotions and creams away in shelves and drawers. The knife is wiped and rested on the tabletop. In less than an hour they will take him away, loading him clumsily into a rented hearse stained with the well of old cigars and spirits. Then moments later Francis’s work will be on display for all to see. They will witness his magic, marvelling at the way the boy’s full lips mask the bruising. The only stain will be the suit. Francis takes a deep breath. He knows that his ears will soon ring with the noise of thousands of questions, each more probing than the last. He can almost feel the flood of pleasure gathering above, ready to break as their anticipation swells. He will bask in the slow reveal of his answers, keeping them hanging on his words until he has had his fill. But there is still time. Francis goes to one of the cupboards at the back of the room and takes out a halfempty bottle of gin and two glasses. He sets them down next to the body and fills them to the brim with amber liquid. He clinks the two glasses lightly together, before taking one in his hand and drinking it down with a gulp. A fire alights in his throat. Satisfied, he slinks back in his chair, watching the delicate body in front of him hover like a lily bud ready to flower.
Palm Readings by Edward Scott
We here at Exetera are as sceptical as Richard Dawkins’s trousers when it comes to the claims of the supernatural. But we’re also open-minded folk. That’s why we turned to experienced plam-reader Palmen Mirhanda for this issue’s mystical-based madness...
Hello! I’m Palmen Mirhanda, and I’m crazy about palms. Yes, you read that correctly - palms! We’ve all got ‘em, right? Wrong. Try and be more considerate in future. For those of you who are lucky enough to have them, though, I’ve put together a handy guide to reading the lines etched upon your hand-faces. Take it from me, these gripping hieroglyphics will tell you more about your personality, destiny and taste in wallpaper than you could ever imagine.
THE MARRIAGE-LINE This line stretches from below your forefinger across the top of your palm towards your pinkie. It doesn’t tell you much because marriage is a social construct and is therefore fundamentally meaningless, at least as far as the universe is concerned. Even if it said something like “Kevin is having an affair” or “You really should go to that councillor” I wouldn’t pay the slightest bit of attention. Load of tosh, the marriage line.
THE MUSIC-LINE The deep line that starts below your pinky. Resting the needle of a record player on the music-line will reveal a secret hidden track encoded into the very fabric of your being. Mine is “Teardrop” by Massive Attack.
THE CENTRAL-LINE Like the tube line, this line runs straight through the centre of your palm. Unlike the tube line, it’s not bright red. If yours is bright red, contact your local GP.
THE LIFE-LINE The line that encircles the base of your thumb is your life-line. Think of it as nature’s heart-monitor - as long as you can still make out this line, you’ll always know that you’re conscious, and therefore alive. Interestingly, the life-line looks exactly the same in dreams as it does in real life, meaning that, when you look at yours, you’ll never know if you’re awake or not.
THE DEATH-LINE As conspicuous as it is rare, the death-line takes the form of a large, black mark on the back of the hand. A close examination of an individual’s death-line will usually reveal that its owner is under the influence of ancient malevolent forces, and may soon start to screech in Aramaic, before launching into the sky and spontaneously combusting. If you think you or someone you know may have a death-line, enlist the help of a Priest or a Master of the Dark Arts - preferably Severus Snape.
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Homelessness / A Theory of Self-Harm / Syria's Rebels / Interview with a Buddhist Nun / Je Suis Cecil?