Why I hate Zen Buddhism

Why I hate Zen Buddhism

Why I hate Zen Buddhism

… Or ‘The Trouble with Transcendence’…

A few years ago, my life was absolute chaos. Writing, working, running a bar, raising a small child and trying to avoid an untimely death at the paws of a psychotically happy puppy, I was a stress-bunny’s poster boy. Anyone unlucky enough to have caught a glimpse inside my head at that time would have seen the early stages of Hieronymus Bosch’s famous ‘Train Crash at Tooting Broadway’ taking shape.

I’d tried everything; ‘The Sixteen Habits of Ultra-Effective People’, ‘Ten Time Saving Techniques for Bar Owning Parents with Writing Aspirations’, ‘Madame Wa’s Oriental Guide to Happiness through Knives’, but none of them had helped. Even ‘Life For Dummies’, my go-to resource for handy tips on navigating the ebb and flow of daily existence had failed me. I was in trouble. And with the lifejacket of sanity leaking badly and the inflation tube of reason unsurprisingly blocked, I was in imminent danger of going down for the third time and not re-emerging to tell this tale.

Stone steps - Rob Gregory Author

The journey of a thousand steps begins with a steep climb… it figures.

And then I saw them. Mixed in amongst the travelling evangelists with their white shirts and bicycles (like that’s going to save the world), the New-Age druids and the Hip-Hop Choristers, they swept through the crowd like two bare-headed Knights clad only in orange robes. Possessed of an almost angelic serenity, they smiled at me and in that moment, I saw only peace and hope in their eyes for my addled brain.

Two monk Parakeets coloured orange - Rob Gregory Author

Brothers Koan and Zen, in their parakeet aspect.

The taller of the two introduced himself as Leonard Koan, while the smaller one referred to himself, somewhat cryptically, as Ben Zen. They were monks travelling on a pilgrimage of enlightenment, offering their services to troubled souls, like mine, that they happened upon in the gutter of existence. So, in the same way as a fish in a bowl seeks the open space of the ocean beyond, I took their hands and began my spiritual journey towards enlightenment.

Two goldfish in orange water - Rob Gregory Author

Barry – I wonder what’s out there? Errol – Why is this water orange? Have you been..?

It was not an easy journey. My days began at five in the morning and involved a lot of running up and down mountains, cooking rice one grain at a time and cleaning the food bowls of my mentors. In between were the lessons, most of which involved me either trying to persuade people to get out of the snow without touching them, discovering the middle names of the four winds, or covering myself with sandals. I never really worked out what that last one was about, but even now, I still have an aversion to open-toed footwear.

Tree perched on the side of a mountain - Rob Gregory Author

If a tree falls off a mountainside, does anyone really care apart from the person that’s standing underneath it?

In between admonishments, which were frequent because I was not a gifted student, and which generally took the form of taunts such as ‘your original face was a chicken’s scrotum’, I would sit cross-legged on a pointed stick and discuss the why of the world with Master Koan. Then after sweeping the floor of the cave with a blade of grass and tickling Master Zen’s bottom with a pigeon’s feather (nothing spiritual about that, he just liked it), I would finish my bowl of cold rice and retire to contemplate the day’s teachings and pray for enlightenment to find me.

And then it did… One day, when I’d just about had enough of being pontificated to by Master Zen, I suddenly snapped and yelled at the pair of them: “You can shove your broken mirrors up your backsides! I’ve had enough of this! Enlightenment isn’t about sitting in a cave. It’s right back where I started!”

No sooner were the words out of my mouth than Master Koan stood up and gave me a right hook that almost knocked my teeth loose. Then, he composed himself and folding his arms in front of him, he looked at Master Zen and said: “Our work here is done. Finally, the student is the master.” And with that, they both gave me the same knowing smile that they had on the first day that I’d met them and vanished in a puff of slightly suspicious herbal smelling smoke.

White buddhist temple - Rob Gregory Author

The road to enlightenment is a long and difficult one.

And now I’m enlightened, which is why I hate Zen Buddhism. While I was studying, my mind was still in turmoil, a swirling maelstrom of conflicting thought that, somewhat ironically, gave rise to my creative talents. But with Nirvana came peace. And with peace, came silence. No more conflict, no more crazy juxtapositions, no more chaos… no more creativity.

Not that it actually matters anymore. You see, now that I’m at one with the universe, everything that I write, or could possibly ever write, will be read by everyone else in the universe at the exact moment that I put pen to paper. And if anyone actually bought anything that I’d written, then because we are all one and the same, we’d all get richer by the same amount. It’s an awful, but inescapable truth, at least when you’re as Zenned up as I am.

So now I just spend my days wandering around supermarkets, scaring unsuspecting shoppers with a smug, all-knowing smile on my face or occasionally hang around forests, listening for falling trees. All in all, it’s not a bad existence and I get by just fine. But I’ll tell you one thing, enlightened or not. If that guy with one arm doesn’t stop clapping, then I’m going to go over and give him such a kick up the arse that he won’t know what hit him!


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Drone bring me down

Drone bring me down

Drone bring me down

… Police announce new weapon in the fight against crime…

Forget the drone! At a lavish ceremony held today in the Merseyside Hitlon Hotel, Greater Manchester’s Chief of Police, Randy McKeetod, unveiled the latest weapon in the North East’s ongoing war on crime. Standing a little over five feet high, Mrs Doris Umberly, aged 72, greeted the crowd with a smile and wave of her umbrella, before coughing violently and launching her false teeth into the press gallery, much to the delight of onlookers.

Drone bring me down - Supergran image. Rob Gregory Author

Doris Umberly – The new face of crimefighting in the North East of England.

“Over the years we’ve wasted millions on new technologies to combat crime, including Stingers, hand-held tasers, high-speed pursuit vehicles and helicopters, only to find that the solution was right on our back doorsteps all along,” said McKeetod, patting Mrs Umberly proudly on the back and helping her clear her throat at the same time. “Starting next month, Mrs Umberly and dozens like her will begin patrolling city streets around the region, providing vital assistance to regular coppers, like myself, in the fight against naughtiness.”

Photoshopped policeman - Randy McKeetod. Rob Gregory Author

Top Cop, Randy McKeetod.

When questioned about the specific functions of the so-called ‘Granny Brigade’, McKeetod, replied: “Their main function will be surveillance: hanging around bus stops, public parks, suburban streets and shopping centres, keeping an eye out for trouble and reporting it to the Police. We may also deploy them in crowd control situations, utilising their screechy, high-pitched voices and worn out anecdotes about what they did when they were young, to disorientate and demotivate would be rioters. Finally, they may, under certain specific situations be called in to assist armed police units, either acting as a low-cost human shield or more probably using their walking sticks and umbrellas to trip up unsuspecting bank robbers, gangsters and terrorists. Frankly, the potential applications of ‘Little Old Ladies’ or LOLs as a crimefighting asset are limitless and we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface.”

During the launch event, Mrs Umberly demonstrated several of the skills that made her and those like her such an obvious choice for the role, including yelling out “It was him! He done it! I seen everything, Officer!” at 120dB, wandering aimlessly along a pavement, thus slowing down escaping shoplifters and whacking a would-be mugger repeatedly over the head with a special, police issue handbag until an arrest could be made, a process which took just over two and a half hours.

Drone bring me down - Liverpool roadsign. Rob Gregory Author

Crime – It’s everywhere, man.

“We did look at drone technology,” admitted McKeetod after the event, “but to be honest, it just wasn’t worth it. Mrs Umberly and the rest of the Granny Brigade will work for only a modest increase in their £1.49 a decade State Pensions and free bus rides, thus making them the most cost-effective and taxpayer-friendly option available.”

So, there you have it. Starting next month, the North East should be a much safer place to be, thanks to the efforts of Mrs Umberly and her friends. And to paraphrase the old crimefighting adage: ‘Watch out! There’s a granny about.”

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Terminator Trump: Hidden message in NRA speech

Terminator Trump: Hidden message in NRA speech

Trump is a Terminator sent back to destroy humanity

… Boffins surprised by mystery message hidden in US President’s NRA speech…

The world is on edge today, following the discovery of a secret message embedded within US President, Donald Trump’s, keynote speech to the National Riters Association (NRA) in Dallas, Texas on Friday May 4. The message, discovered by amateur radio enthusiasts in the mid-west, was broadcast on a little used long-wave radio frequency that was timed to coincide with the president’s speech. Intelligence experts around the globe are treating the message with scepticism, but if true, then it alleges that the 45th President of the United States of America is none other than an early model Terminator unit, sent back from the future to hasten the end of the world as we know it.

Here is the message in its entirety:

“Citizens of the world. If you receive this message, then please do not disregard it. I bring you a grave warning about one who walks among you even now. My name is Kyle Reese-Peese and I am part of the resistance, fighting a bitter war against a mechanical army led by a ruthless artificial intelligence, called ‘Hairnet’. What I am about to tell you is the past for me, but the future for you. Please and I beg this of you. Do not ignore my warning.

The one I speak of is known to you as Donald Trump. Although he may appear human, he is, in fact, a T-100 Terminator unit, created by Cyberdong Systems in North Korea, which has been hurled through a time portal back to the twenty-first century. The science of time travel is imprecise, so we cannot be sure exactly when he arrived in your world, however, we believe that as an infiltration unit, he will try to make his way to the presidency of the United States of America, in order to fulfil his objective. We are planning to send one of our own agents back to your time, in order to intercept and neutralise the T-100, but in the meantime, know this. Donald Trump is an early model Terminator. As such, its skin and hair are synthetic substitutes and easily identifiable as such to the naked eye. Later Terminator models have real skin and hair, so are harder to detect, but these two features, along with a clunky and incoherent turn of phrase are probably the easiest ways for you to identify the T-100.

If by some chance, Donald Trump has already managed to assume the presidency, then he must not be allowed to meet with the ones known as Kim Jong-Un, Vladimir Putin or Boris Johnson, otherwise the following scenario, which we call ‘Bad Hair Day’ will unfold.

Trump Terminator - He's coming to get you! Rob Gregory Author

The Trump Terminator – He’s coming to get you!

On 28 September 2018, a summit is held, which sees Trump, Kim, Putin and Johnson in the same place. During this meeting, Trump’s fake hair follicles infect those of the other leaders and Johnson, leading to the creation of Hairnet. In less than forty-eight hours, Hairnet becomes sentient and under the influence of the controlling T-100, determines that the biggest threats to humanity are bald people and skinheads. As such, a series of swift and merciless military strikes are ordered around the globe, which decimates the human population. However, this is only the beginning. Over the following six months, more and more hairstyles are deemed to be dangerous by Hairnet, with a corresponding increase in military activity, culminating in an all-out nucular strike against a group of aged hippies living in San Fernando, California.

What remains of the human race now hides underground, as Hairnet wages its unending war against us. We live from day to day, surviving as best as we can and occasionally venturing onto the surface in order to forage and steal the equipment that we needed to send this communication to you. Our agent, an ex-Austrian bodybuilder, will be with you soon and is our last and best hope for ending this nightmare war. However, in the meantime, be on your guard for anyone called Donald Trump and whatever you do, do not let them become President of the United States of America.

Also, be aware that there is a risk that the T-100 may have been damaged during the journey between our time and yours, causing its behaviour to become erratic and unpredictable. This will make it even more dangerous and ruthless.

The only way that the T-100 can be stopped is… wait, what was that? Dogs barking? Oh no, they’ve found us! We’re under attack! Heed my message! Heed my warning or we will all be doomed! No! No! Get that hairspray away from me! Arghhh…”

President Trump’s office was not available for comment, however, a secret-service official, who refused to be named, did say that the President was in extremely good health, totally unconcerned by the apparent message from the future and that there was absolutely nothing to be worried about. Meanwhile, talks with North Korea, the Russian Federation and the UK, about a possible peace summit later this year are continuing.

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Top ten facts about Wales

Top ten facts about Wales

Truly amazing things you never knew about the land of dragons…

I’ve recently come back from the UK, where I spent some time promoting my new book, Drynwideon. While I was there, I happened to find myself in the beautiful country of Wales. During my stay, I decided to do a bit of digging into this wild and largely untamed, magical land. What I discovered was truly fantastic and I feel privileged to be able to share it with you here. So, sit back, grab yourself a coffee and a biscuit, and prepare to be amazed by these hitherto unknown top ten facts about Wales:

  1. All of the world’s coal comes from Wales. Other countries have long been stealing it by mining underneath the UK. The Channel Tunnel was originally one such mine shaft, built by the French.
  2. Smaug the dragon from ‘The Hobbit’ lives in Merthyr Tydfil. You can easily tell which house he lives in because it’s got the biggest chimney in the street.
  3. The two Severn bridges are actually there to help hold Wales in place, otherwise it would completely detach from the rest of the UK, as happened with Ireland nearly 30 years ago. More bridges are planned in the future as the two countries continue to pull away from each other along the enormous River Severn fault.
  4. Most Welsh cheese is, in fact, made by highly trained canaries made redundant following the closure of Wales’ world-famous sugar mines in the mid-1980’s. Some of the canary families can trace their heritage back as far as the battle of Dan Y’ Fab San in 1232.
  5. A’i fab in Welsh does not mean ‘and son’ as is commonly thought. In fact, it means ‘I’m bloody brilliant, boyo’.

    Ai fab! Welsh butcher's sign. Rob Gregory Author

    A’i Fab, indeed. Welsh butchery at its finest!

  6. It is traditional for most working-class families in Wales to give up at least one son, usually the youngest, to one of the many travelling Male Voice Choirs that prowl the valleys, in exchange for beads, coal dust and old Harry Secombe albums.
  7. The little bit of Wales right at the northernmost tip is called Dayvd.
  8. Brains SA, one of the strongest beers on the planet at 420% alcohol, is bottled at source by a small group of Franciscan monks, who have been living in hiding in Ysbyty Ystwyth since the early 1500’s. Brains SA is commonly used as a condiment to season many of Wales’ delicious national dishes.
  9. Despite its relatively small appearance on world maps, Wales is, in fact, more than twice the size of the continent of Australia.
  10. Wales is famous for its sheep, many of which are over 11 feet tall and eat cats.

And finally, a quote from my father to my mother, which if it hasn’t been said before, needs to go down in the annals of comic genius:

“You’ve given me loads of sound advice over the years. 99 percent sound and 1 percent advice!”

You’ve just go to love the Welsh… I know that I do!

Reality shows not ‘real’ enough

Reality shows not ‘real’ enough

Reality shows not ‘real’ enough…

… says UK TV Watchdog in damning new report…

With the new season of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ just around the corner, TV bosses were today stunned by a damning new report into the state of British reality TV shows, from ‘Oncom’, the unofficial UK regulator.

According to the report, the current crop of offerings are: ‘mediocre at best and completely lacking in the entertainment value expected from today’s highly sophisticated televisual viewer’.

TV chiefs from around the country were quick to respond to the report, pointing out a range of new programmes that are currently being planned and which, are specifically designed to cater for those increasingly insatiable viewers who require an even greater level of grim realism than has previously been the case.

Consequently, in the coming months, we can expect to see the launch of ‘My Dad Can Beat Your Dad’, which involves fathers being pitted against each other in gladiatorial style fights to the death, much to the delight and dismay of their respective children. Also, due for release this autumn is ‘The Biggest Boozer’, a show which pits pubs bores from around the country in a series of live drinking competitions, at the end of which, they get to show off their respective skills, which are thought to include bad karaoke singing, serial leching, pickled egg eating and projectile vomiting.

reality killed the TV show. Old TV set. Rob Gregory Author

‘TV is dead’ – Oncom spokesperson.

Fans can also expect to see ‘Service Station Survival’ on our screens before the end of the year. The show is based around the concept of locking a group of university students into a motorway service station and seeing who lasts the longest before dying of fast food poisoning. Sources report that service stations on the M1, M4 and M6 are among the front-runners for the set’s location. For those who prefer a little more glitz to their reality shows, then ‘I Live In A Layby’ is the one for you. Join a band of D-list celebrities as they are forced to spend ten weeks living in a layby in North Yorkshire, eating nothing but scraps thrown from passing cars and the leftovers from Doris’ kebab van, which parks up there twice a week.

The release of the Oncom report happily coincides with an announcement from the UK Government, which states that it too is planning to jump on the bandwagon, albeit with game shows, rather than reality series. Consequently, keep an eye out for ‘Who Wants To Be A UK Citizen’ and an all-new ‘Blankety Blank’. The new-look show, hosted by Inland Revenue officials, will see wealthy tax dodgers being forced to sign blank cheques, with a studio audience deciding which, out of a number of competing charities, will receive them.

Finally, parliamentary debates are set to take on a whole new look with ‘The Vice’ coming to TV in the late summer. Apparently, the House of Commons has been overwhelmed with MPs wishing to participate in the show, which involves them placing their genitals into a large vice, which is progressively tightened by the Speaker of the House, depending on how outrageously they lie during Parliamentary Question Time.

reality killed the TV show 2. Old TV set on rubble. Rob Gregory Author

TV on junk or junk on TV – You decide.

And in breaking news, sources close to the clergy are believed to be hinting at plans for a show of their own, set to air in early 2019. Provisionally entitled ‘Christ Almighty’, if the show goes ahead, it will see congregations up and down the country battling for the title of ‘Britain’s Most Holy’ by taking part in a series of ‘It’s A Knock-Out’ style games, including ‘Lifting the Lead from the Roof’, ‘Bouncy Castle Crucifixion and ‘Speed Baby Baptism’.

All in all, it would seem that the Oncom report is inaccurate, to say the least, and we have a fantastic range of new reality and game shows to look forward to in the coming months, so stay tuned right here for more updates as and when they happen.


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