So I had a chat last month (I am only just catching up) with Adam Wilder (previously aka Adam Oliver, previously Adam Taffler).
We first met at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 when he was street-performing in the Grassmarket and I asked him if he could juggle spaghetti…
JOHN: So we haven’t seen each other for ages. When last heard of, you were organising sex parties in tall tower blocks in 2017.
ADAM:(LAUGHS) No. Last time we spoke, I was running the Togetherness Festival of Human Connection, which did involve some sexuality, John, because that is a part of human connection – even for a Scottish Presbyterian like you…
JOHN: It’s the work of The Devil.
ADAM: It wasn’t a sex party. It was a Human Connection Festival…and that was really fun and, actually, I’ve been following that thread for the last three years.
The World Spooning Record at the Wilderness Festival, 2019
ADAM: No. (LAUGHS) It was about non-sexual touch, actually. It’s so good for you. When we met today, I tried to hug you and you gave me a Scottish hug.
JOHN: What is a Scottish hug?
ADAM: It’s not really a hug. It’s like: I feel a bit disgusted, but I feel like I should do this.
JOHN: It was hard for me to say No.
ADAM: This is what I’m into now. I’m teaching a course called Embodied Sovereignty. It’s about knowing What do I want? What do I not want? I want to say No. Why is it hard to say No?
JOHN: Why is it hard to say No?
ADAM: Because we don’t want to upset people and have a bad reaction. We have two fundamental needs – The need for authenticity and the need for attachment.
So, spooning… We had these 1,547 people spooning and why is that important, John?
ADAM: It’s so important, John, because it makes us feel relaxed. I feel sorry for people who have had no-one to hug during this COVID thing. It’s enough to send you mental. There is this thing now called Nordic Cuddling: you can hire someone to come round and cuddle you.
JOHN: Why Nordic?
ADAM: (LAUGHS) It makes you think of clean, blond people.
JOHN: I rather like dirty brunette people.
ADAM: I have a friend who was a cage fighter and he is really into all this intimacy work. He told me: “Adam, you know, I now realise why I was doing all the cage fighting was because I really wanted to hug and squeeze people, but I never knew how to ask for it.”
JOHN: I’ve always thought rugby players are sexually highly suspicious.
ADAM: I used to play rugby. I loved it. I loved getting the ball and people trying to take you down. It was somewhere you could actually express the anger and the passion. Normally, you’re not allowed to. It’s like Liza Minelli in Cabaret. You have to go under a bridge and scream when the trains come over.
JOHN: Well, what use is sitting alone in a room?
ADAM: I was a very angry kid.
ADAM: Because of life. My mum was doing all this spiritual stuff and my dad was REALLY mainstream. A professor.
JOHN: Of what?
ADAM: Finance. Oh my god. It was such a weird kind of oil and wine situation. I had zero boundaries with my mum. ZERO. And then my dad would get really pissed-off because I just had no boundaries. They divorced.
JOHN: They were happy with each other?”
ADAM: No. They divorced. They divorced. Of course they did. I was about… John, you’re not my therapist! We are not going there. But, suffice to say, I was an angry kid. How do YOU feel when someone’s being angry near you?
JOHN: Erm… I don’t think I ever really had trouble with bullies at school.
ADAM: Might not be bullies. Might be parental stuff.
I’m big into the Embodiment Movement at the moment and I’m speaking at the Embodiment Conference in October, which is going to be the biggest online conference ever – over 130,000 people have signed up for free. Over 1,000 speakers, including me.
JOHN: Define ‘embodiment’?
ADAM: It’s essentially about noting sensations and feelings in your body and becoming more aware of them. It’s a big deal in Business now. It never used to be, but now it is. In Leadership and Training and all that stuff. If you notice a bit more about what’s going on, you can respond differently in the world.
There was a brilliant psychologist last century called Carl Rogers. He developed the Person-Centred Approach.
With normal psycho-analysis, you’d say: “Ah yes, this is your problem and this is how you will fix it!”
Adam had person-centred coffee with me…
The Person-Centred Approach is: “I’m your buddy and I’m just here to support you and listen to you and, actually, the best person to work it out is you. I’m just going to be here and help you.”
I like to create an environment where people feel they can explore this kind of stuff.
ADAM: Oh! I loved that SO much, John! Oh my God! It’s a warning about what happens when we’re not comfortable with our anger. And I also found it a very moving and beautiful story about someone coming into themselves and their life… taking power in his own life, though in a destructive, dark way.
I think I actually burst out laughing in that scene where he stabs the guy in the head with the scissors. I think I squealed with delight.
ADAM: I just felt really happy that he was (LAUGHS) asserting himself, instead of just being a victim… although I don’t advocate that kind of destructive behaviour.
JOHN: You don’t seem to be an angry person as an adult.
ADAM: I love expressing a bit of anger.
JOHN: Ever have a primal scream like Liza Minelli?
ADAM: No. No. But I like to do a bit of shaking. That’s fun. Give a good shake. Shake your body from the top to the bottom for a good 10 minutes.
JOHN: What? Like Tom Cruise in Cocktail?
ADAM: No. It starts from the hips and knees and works up. Lets loose. Dancing. I love dancing.
JOHN: I never liked dancing. Couldn’t cope with strobe lights. The whole of the 1960s and 1970s were wasted on me.
ADAM: Nowadays it’s all about Hampstead Heath and wearing headphones.
JOHN: So what have you lined up?
ADAM: I’ve been trying to reconcile the various parts of my personality – this sort of wild happy-go-lucky comedian and this really grounded Yeah, I’m into Human Connection guy and I’ve finally got it… I am a Human Connection Coach and comedian. That’s what I’m putting myself out as now. I’ve done a bit of work with Google and Coca Cola and Accenture and some local governments…
JOHN: Doing what?
ADAM: Doing stuff around how to create a culture of togetherness where different people like hanging out with each other; giving people the skills to set boundaries and say No and get on better.
JOHN: This might not work in Glasgow, where they head-butt people to say hello…
ADAM: My friend is a sex therapist up in Glasgow…
JOHN: This doesn’t surprise me.
ADAM: …and he gets very few people coming to him, but they’re really sweet, apparently. Imagine you were in a culture where you can’t talk about something but it’s really important to you and someone tells you: “Oh! This is really normal.” It’s liberating. He does some cuddle parties up there.
JOHN: Celtic cuddle parties?
ADAM: That’s about… JOHN!!!! I haven’t even told you about the House of Togetherness!!!
The House of Togetherness in Covent Garden, in April 2019
JOHN: Tell me.
ADAM: Last year in January (2019) I saw this old yoga studio in Covent Garden which was available for six months and I thought: Fuck it! I’ll take it! and create The House of Togetherness!
So I created a venue in London where people could come together for things like Blindfolded Adventure Time… Spooning Hour… something called Sex Club… Speak Your Truth… People could come together and have these experiences of how to connect better with ourselves and each other.
We had some very Glaswegian journalists come in for Spooning.
JOHN: Glaswegian journalists?
ADAM: People who don’t find it normal to touch other people.
JOHN: Did you call it House Of Togetherness because the initials are quite good – HOT?
ADAM: No. House of Togetherness because it made sense. I’m doing togetherness…
JOHN: … and it’s in a house. I see…
ADAM: We started in January and had to finish in October because the building was being redeveloped. It was really really good fun, man. I totally burnt myself out as well. It was nuts. I was wasted by the end.
I’ve been rebuilding myself over the last nine months and now I’m developing into the School of Connection: the School of Togetherness, basically. I want to help people learn the skills I think are really important in culture right now. Things like listening with empathy and compassion; speaking your truth; being able to say No; being able to ask for what you want; the relationship between pleasure and direction.
I have two courses running online right now. One is on non-violent communication. It’s about how behind every conflict are un-met needs and, if we can talk about those, then we can resolve things.
As a comedian and human connection coach, I feel like it’s all coming together now.
The mass spooning event organised by Adam Wilder at the Wilderness Festival last year…
Teddy bears now think humans are a dangerous virus… (Photograph by Daniele Levis Pelusi via UnSplash)
MONDAY 23rd MARCH
I woke up with the same very slightly hard-edged cough I had last night but it was, again, difficult to know if this was real or a slight variation on my normal lifelong dry cough…
I emailed a comedian to see if they were OK and got this reply:
“Yes I am OK, John. But it’s a war crime against humanity. It’s phycological warfare.
to distance humans from each other
the fear is a virus
take away the self-employed sector of society and devalue them in one fell swoop
force everyone on to Universal Credit
the scrap heap of society
using war language like front line
next up forced vaccines and 5g
It does feel like we’re fucked.
This is crime against humanity.
Someone else (not a comedian) told me that her spiritual advisor had told her the whole coronavirus thing had been a purge by the spirits. They had decided to wipe out Mankind but had changed their collective mind. Now it is pretty-much over because the spaceships which were seen over Goa at the weekend and over Peru the previous week have gone away.
In the evening I went out for a one-hour walk – the government says we are allowed out once a day for exercise. When I got back home, I was a bit light-headed and had – I think – the tiniest hint of little headaches, but I could have just been imagining it.
TUESDAY 24th MARCH
We are supposed to keep 6 feet or 2 metres apart, unless we are living together. Thank heavens UK social distancing rules do not apply if you share a household…
A comedy performer has posted on his Facebook page:
I called it yesterday: Pandemic Panic gonna be over by April 6th. Only 28 people died in the UK yesterday.
Around teatime, again, I went out for a one-hour walk. And, when I got back home, I was very slightly light-headed and ever-so-slightly woozy but, again, I could have just been imagining it.
WEDNESDAY 25th MARCH
I feel back to normal today.
The comedy performer who posted on his Facebook page yesterday that the coronavirus outbreak and ‘panic’ would all be over by April 6th today posted:
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” (HL Mencken)
Conspiracy theories are sometimes – for some people – easier to understand than reality. And so they are strangely comforting. Because we have all seen the twists in Hollywood movies where the government turns out to be the ultimate ‘baddie’. The devil and plot explanation you know is better than the devil and plot development you don’t know and can’t predict.
Prince Charles has announced he has tested positive for COVID-19 and will self-isolate for 7 days.
My chum Janey Godley, the much-lauded Queen of Scottish Comedy and nemesis of faux President Donald Trump, posted this on her Instagram, headed: Day four of self-isolation.
The bad news (for them) may be that her husband, daughter and dog all have to self-isolate with her
When I do my daily walk to get exercise in Borehamwood, everyone is very polite and keeps their distance. If you see someone coming towards you on the pavement, one of you moves to one edge of the pavement – or sometimes into the road (which is mostly devoid of traffic) and the other person moves to the other side of the pavement. Sometimes, the two people acknowledge each other with a smile or a nod of the head to say Thankyou. It feels like I have been transported back to an Agatha Christie novel set in a 1930s English village… and the killer is still on the loose.
Other views are available. Someone I know of Indian origin posted:
Walking down the street and having old white people cross the road when they see me… Now I know how my dad felt when he came to the UK in the 1960s. No Blacks, no dogs, no virus.
Two metres is the distance we are supposed to stay away from strangers during this coronavirus outbreak… I only understand feet and inches, so I have no idea what 2 metres is.
But I heard a useful explanation on BBC News today. If you imagine the body of an average-sized dead man lying between you and the other person… that is about it.
That I can imagine.
THURSDAY 26th MARCH
Who knew communes still existed? (Photo by Elias Arias via UnSplash)
Someone I know lives in a commune in North London. Who knew such things still existed? He tells me:
There was a minor drama in my house yesterday… The conspiracy theorists who live here actually went to the local hospital to prove that there was no such thing as coronavirus. They went to the chest unit!
When they got back, they talked loudly about it in the garden – about how the doctors weren’t wearing masks. They talked very loudly so everyone could hear because they thought then everyone would realise it wasn’t happening and it is just a conspiracy.
You can imagine the response. Everyone else started freaking out… I’m surprised they weren’t lynched.
I am going to have to try to talk to them again. But it’s really stressing me out because I’ve tried before and now they hate me because I don’t agree with them because that’s how groups work.
A little later, I got an update:
I feel better. I started shouting at the conspiracy theorists about fuck knows what and now I feel better. I had kinda let them chat before because I don’t want to be right about everything, but I had to say something now they’re running around hospitals and are trying to organise a flash mob of young people to meet outside Parliament to defy the ban (and no doubt give each other corona that will kill their grandparents).
I spilt oats on the floor during the row in the kitchen, but not milk – and there’s no use crying over spilt oats.
FRIDAY 27th MARCH
Yesterday, 181 people with coronavirus died in the UK.
Boris Johnson made his health announcement via Twitter
Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced they had tested positive for coronavirus and each would self-isolate for seven days.
And I found a message in the spam folder of my email account. It started:
Here is Great News. The UK Government website has downgraded the seriousness of Corona Virus. The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) is also of the opinion that COVID-19 should no longer be classified as an HCID.
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SATURDAY 28th MARCH
Nick Adderley of the very under-pressure Northants Police
We are allowed to go out only once a day to exercise and you are allowed to travel in to work if your job is deemed essential, but anarchy appears to have broken out in Northamptonshire.
The BBC reports Nick Adderley of Northamptonshire Police saying that the force’s control room has had “dozens and dozens” of calls about people ignoring the order to ‘self-isolate’.
“We are getting calls,” Nick Adderley says, “from people who say ‘I think my neighbour is going out on a second run – I want you to come and arrest them’. We would not want to discourage people from making us aware, but we have to set expectations. We won’t have police officers crashing through garden fences to check the ID of everyone who is there to see whether they live at the house or whether they should be self-isolating… If people think we will be descending on these houses with blue lights, then we won’t.”
Superintendent Ash Tuckley, who leads the control room, says other queries have included someone asking if it was illegal NOT to cough into a tissue and a man who asked: “My wife doesn’t think her job is essential but I do and she’s working from home. Is there anything I can do?”
260 people with coronavirus died yesterday in the UK. The victims were aged 33 to 100 with at least 13 of them being healthy adults with no other underlying health problems.
Echoing what was said around a couple of weeks ago, at the beginning of the outbreak, the medical director of NHS England, today said if the number of deaths can be kept below 20,000 the government will have done well.
MAGGY: Yes, Isis and Mary represent the Great Mother, because it’s all one Great Mother and one Great Father. The idea is she stuck her husband’s body back together after he was all carved up and she managed to conceive a child from it.
I studied New Testament Greek and really got into it and then I met a Jewish guy and he was at the end of his rope with Judaism and I was at the end of my rope with Christianity and my teacher of healing sent us off to this guy in London who was teaching Kabbalah, which is Jewish mysticism. So I started studying that.
MAGGY: No. There are two sorts of Kabbalah. Hers is based in the 16th century and takes the theory that, when God created the Universe, he made a mistake.
Mine is based in Biblical times, which is that, when God created the Universe, it was all perfect and we screwed up. Well, not even that, because Jews don’t believe in Original Sin, so how could Jesus?
Independent Maggy marries a Sikh man & a Christian woman
Anyway, there I was, doing this New Age stuff, doing funerals and my now-husband’s best friend was murdered in London and he and I were members of the same Kabbalah group. He asked me to do the funeral for Jon and my (Christian) bishop was in the congregation and phoned me up the following week and said: “OK, God told me we need you and you need us.”
I told him: “You must be out of your mind.”
But he was a guy after my own mind who was saying: Christianity has lost EVERYTHING. It’s all meant to be about love, inclusivity, kindness, simplicity. So I decided I would train. And I did.
JOHN: The Old Testament and the New Testament appear to me to have totally different gods. The Old Testament teaches “an eye for an eye”… The New Testament teaches “turn the other cheek”.
MAGGY: One thing is we only have one Hebrew testament. There used to be dozens and dozens and dozens of versions of it. But they pulled it all together into one after the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. So we don’t know what the original text was.
We DO know that there are an awful lot of edits. And also, in ancient days, they read the text on four levels: the literal, the allegorical, the metaphysical and the mystical. If you take the texts out of the literal sense, they’re all about the psychological development of the soul.
JOHN: You don’t sound especially Christian to me; just generically religious.
MAGGY: I am a very passionate follower of the teachings of Jesus… But he never once asked us to worship him. He said: “Follow me.”
JOHN: Buddha tried that. It didn’t work. I am not a god. I am not a religion. Do NOT worship me. But now loads of people clearly worship him as an idol.
“90% of people can’t be arsed to go to Finchley”
MAGGY: Of course it doesn’t work. The thing about faith is… If you like the look of it, you’ve got to go on the journey, go through all these Road to Damascus moments.
Let’s say The Truth is in Finchley. If you are a proper seeker, you travel to Finchley. But 90% of people can’t be arsed to go to Finchley, so they will find somebody who HAS been to Finchley and worship them. And, if they can’t find someone who has been to Finchley, they will worship the signpost… And that is what religion is.
I was Church of England, but now I am an Independent. We have been associated with part of the liberal Catholic Church, but I am actually ‘an independent’.
JOHN: If you don’t follow the rules of a specific recognised branch of Christianity, surely you are a heretic?
MAGGY: Of COURSE I am a heretic. The Methodists in West Devon use me – I’ve got two services this Sunday – 11.00am and 6.30pm – which is very decent of them. They heard me on BBC Radio Devon: I did a year there as a presenter. But my local rector, who runs the Anglican area can’t use me, because he would get lynched.
JOHN: Not literally.
MAGGY: Not literally.
JOHN: So you are only really recognised as a proper person by the Methodists?
MAGGY: I’m not really recognised by them, because I can’t do communion for them. I just showed up, lay on my face on the floor in my white robe and got my hands and brow anointed.
JOHN: Ooh! A white robe. Sounds kinda Druidy.
MAGGY: I COULD be Druidy. The wonderful thing is, if you do this mysticism, this direct experience of what you perceive to be the divine, you can converse with anyone of any faith and none – And that’s what it’s about.
Maggy’s first book – about a different type of journey
MAGGY: I’m writing a new book at the moment: Kabbalah and Healing. I have to deliver it to the publisher by the end of September; published the beginning of next year.
JOHN: I suppose we should mention you doing stand-up comedy as, supposedly, that is the bloody reason why we are sitting here chatting in the first place. How did you get into comedy?
MAGGY: I do spiritual workshops and events and things like that to make a living. People kept saying to me: “You’re very funny; you should do comedy.”
There was a comedy course in Birmingham half a mile from me that cost £50. I went along and I was the oldest person by 35 years. At the end, there was a showcase and, a week later, I was asked to back Hal Cruttenden on an Edinburgh Fringe preview at Kings Heath in Birmingham.
I started doing unpaid gigs after that. But then I moved to Devon. Six months later, I got cancer – non-Hodgkin lymphoma. That was a massive Road to Damascus healing journey too.
JOHN: Edinburgh Fringe?
MAGGY: I did one Edinburgh run in 2014 when I had only been performing comedy for 18 months and I had the cancer at the time. I went to Edinburgh as a bucket list thing. I had to rest all day, do my hour at night, then go back and rest. So I didn’t really get the Edinburgh experience at all.
JOHN: Will you go again?
MAGGY: At the moment, I am trying to get together four priests including me to go to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019 – There’s Ravi Holy, a rector in Canterbury; Kate Bruce, who’s chaplain to the RAF at Brize Norton; and Mark Townsend, who’s an ex-Anglican but still a vicar who is a magician.
Maggy performed at the Monkey Business comedy club in London earlier this month
JOHN: So where else do you go from here? Another Road to Damascus?
MAGGY: I have no idea where I go from here. I basically thought: I will give the comedy five years and see what happens. That is almost up now.
I don’t know where I’m going.
I am writing the book; I am doing spiritual workshops; I am pottering along quite happily in comedy.