"And sometimes he's so nameless"

Back from the Devizes Ghosthunt

Posted in Paranormal, Uninteresting to others whitterings about my life by Chris Jensen Romer on May 31, 2009

All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head -
Lovin’ Spoonful, Summer in the City.

It’s too damned hot! I’m sitting listening to the second side of Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, exhausted beyond belief but glad to be in the basement away from the heat. And I’m back from the ghost hunt in Devizes, at the Black Swan.  So how did it go? I’ll make a few notes, but as I collapsed at TESCO from heat on my return I am not entirely coherent — I’m pretty much out of it. Still, I’ll make a few passing comments, and then try to write it up properly another time.

Becky Smith drove Lorna Keen and I down, and we met the team there. It was nice to see Dawn come along for the first time, and I hope she enjoyed it. The first and probably single most important thing to note is that the management of the Black Swan has gone – former hosts Pam and Colin have departed, and the new managers are Yvonne and Mike. Yvonne is extremely friendly,.generous, and did all she could all night to make our trip a success. She gave us access to everything, and to my amazement despite only being in the pub ten weeks has kept very detailed notes on every investigation conducted there – quite a few. A local group of interested folks from Devizes had come down to hold a vigil, and we joined forces with them.

On a previous visit we had only got to see the rooms – this time we went everywhere Most Haunted did on their visit.Frankly I was amazed at how much more of the structure there was! I had never even seen Room 12 before,and the Conference Room would probably have kept us happy all night investigating. The basements are huge, high ceilinged and expansive – so much so that I wondered if they might actually refelct the undercroft of a much older structure. Bear in mind however that I was examining the structure in the dark, by torchlight, with lots of ghosthunters sensing things ot distract me!

As always we went out and had dinner as a group – David Carter-Green, Balders, Dawn, Katherine, Beast, Lorna, Ed, Wiccandelight and of course Becky! I note I automatically use peoples forum names not real names – oh well…  The Four Seasons I think was the place we ate, as the White Bear’s kitchen is temporarily closed – good food actually.  After that we returned to the hotel: Ed and Beast made detailed floor plans, and photographed everything, the girls and DCG walked round, and Becky and Balders did some baseline readings.

After Lorna and I went through the previous groups records – and some great records kept by Yvonne – we went upstairs ot the conference room, where the locals were conducting an experiment in to table tipping, something they had done on a previous visit in 2005. Nice people, but I did not see much movement? Then Dawn went to bed – it was pretty late by this time – but she was in the haunted room 4 where at 1.15am a woman is meant to walk in and sit in a chair. So Ed, I and the Devizes bunch all piled in, and made Dawn giggle by sitting around waiting for the ghost. Eventually we heard some faint knocks, but they could easily have been someone kicking the wall, or knocking on the windowsill.  Assuming the Devizes folks were not faking – ours were too far away from where the sound was coming from – and I have no reason to believe they were, they seemed perfectly lovely folks – then it could have been a ghostly communicant – or the building settling!

We wandered in to the cellars about this point with Yvonne, who showed us around and proved to have a wealth of knowledge. I had said I’d try to help out but I was absolutely exhausted.  While in the cellar Lorna had a very strange experience, a burning sensation in her arm, but Balders careful taking of temperature readings on his skin and Becky’s to compare showed it was not reflecting any objective increase in skin heat at least. Still Lorna seemed quite puzzled and intrigued, and i understand from Balders a similar sensation has been reported by other witnesses – I wondered if some limestone or something irritates the skin, but Yvonne told us the other experience of this sort was in the conference room several floors above.

Becky had set out some boxes as a poltergeist trap after the peculiar experience last time we went to the Bassa Villa – by which I mean she was hoping they would move when the room was locked, not that she hoped to snare a poltergeist in one. All were moved, but unfortunately by Wiccan who was looking for something in the room. Becky’s car keys moved again as well, but that could have been down to Wiccan or even me picking them up and dropping them on the bed when I found they were the wrong keys for the door (unlikely, as I know what Becky’s car keys look like, but not impossible given how tired I was.)

We woke up in the morning to a hearty breakfast, and set off home. It was a very enjoyable evening – my thanks to Yvonne and Mike as gracious, generous and supportive hosts, to all the GSUK gang, and of course to Becky for driving me there and putting up with me – and to Dawn who went on her very first (but hopefully not last) ghost hunt.  In the morning Balders and I discussed theory a bit – I’ll leave that for a future post, and then I returned home, was apparently very unpleasant to everyone and went to TESCO to collect a prescription for my neighbour where I finally succumbed to heat stroke. Bah! I feel much much better now though – but to lose all my senses, that is just so typically me! If I was  irritable or talked gibberish at you I apologize. :) Actually that might be me normally!

Anyway, if you have any questions or corrections do comment. The Black Swan, Devizes, Wiltshire is a lovely building, affordably priced and well worth a visit -0 and do tell Yvonne and Mike you saw it on my blog. Full details here – The Black Swan – do go stay!

cj x

Family Nights in with Satan?

Posted in Social commentary desecrated, Uninteresting to others whitterings about my life by Chris Jensen Romer on March 6, 2009

Unusually, this post began as a comment, on the Reverend Keith Hitchman’s blog.


Keith writes – “Finally the University of Gloucestershire is to take action against student sports societies that encourage new students to take part in bizzarre and degrading initiation rituals. Or so they say.  I was Chaplain to the University of Gloucestershire between the years 1999 and 2004. Every year I and other staff involved in student welfare raised this issue both at committee level and individually with the most senior figures in the university’s management structure. Every year it was agreed that the University should do something to stop it. Yet, it continued unchecked.”

I have much sympathy – but also some sympathy for the students, and a weird sense of revulsion, horror and amusement about the whole Family Night thing. Above all, I was in my fifteen or so years around the place pretty well positioned to see what was going on, and I sure as anything feel the University of Gloucestershire’s staff were not to blame.  Here is my reply, as Keith might think it unsuitable for his blog, though I did post it there and he has published it!

If you have no idea what this is about watch this short BBC news item first  –


CJ wrote in response to Keith

“Banal, stupid, macho, but adolescent not really satanic Keith? I think the closest we got to that was the Crowleyian rites practiced by one family in 1988, by some of the Rosehill bunch, and that was mainly the Wizard of the East Wing just enjoying himself to shock the Christian Union. If I had not been locked in the room with him after the door handle broke off, with the CU gathered outside trying to cast out the demons, while he waved a ceremonial scimitar and went on about the pentagram being broken, with me trapped and feeling mighty queasy on Polish vodka — well I might have been more alarmed. Ah, such happy days and not so long ago! :)

Really though the University WAS serious about suppressing family nights – it was the Student Union who were not initially, and unsurprisingly given the close relationship between the SU and the superb sports teams. I don’t recall any people dressed as Nazis and being whipped – well I do, but that was recreational and limited to the Gay Wizard’s nights in again, nothing to do with Family nights. ( I say Gay Wizard to distinguish this gentleman from myself, Hugh, Kurt or any of the other practicing occultists on the fringes of the Christian Union in ’87 to ’90.)

I think Janet was pretty apoplectic about the whole Family Night scene, and Bill and Ted certainly regarded it as a bogus adventure, if they may have turned a blind eye to a lot of traditions. In ’88 I spread the word I had dosed my freshers on LSD, Mescaline and snakebite & black and planned to lock them in the morgue overnight as an initiation – clearly I did no such thing – they actually came back to my room and drank coffee and avoided the intimidation that was part and parcel of the Family Night tradition. My attempt to shock the Family heads worked – they were genuinely horrified, and I believe reported me to Student Services, who fortunately were less credulous and just laughed sensing one of my endless wind ups.

However I honestly think to blame the UofG administration for the antics of the students is utterly unfair, indeed unjust – endless paperwork was circulated to try and stamp it out, and families were banned from SU publications, SU bars, indeed I think it was an expulsion (from the SU) offense. And the university was even more draconian, especially after an appearance in The Sunday Sport (circa 91/92) and the American hazing cases that resulted in major lawsuits. (I’m resisting making jokes about paddling Freshers and l’vice Anglais here… the Wizard’s antics are enough to reference in a man of the cloth’s blog.)

Well, I could go on for a long time about this tradition, once certainly well loved by many, though something I stood opposed to. Most male families indulged in pretty silly behaviour, but no one died, or not often, and a lot of people seemed to enjoy it. I was however turned against it from my experience in 1987, when a group of us at Rosehill declared ourselves Bastards as we would have no fathers, and refused to sign up for the Families. As I had never drunk alcohol in my life to do so would have been suicide, but on family night the families invaded, and I ended up swinging wildly in a truly disturbing and violent fight as they smashed their way in to the Common Room – and the floor was slick with blood by the end of the melee, where a handful of us held off the families.

It was not a fun fight – is there such a thing? – I genuinely feared for my life,  and intended to sell it dearly – and some of the people I put down rather hard in my terror (and my weapon was improvised, furniture, unlike some we faced) turned out to include SU types. I think the whole fight lasted the length of Zepellin’s Immigrant Song, and there must be a lot of people whose bodies still bear scars from that night – the police arrived as ambulances were involved. The uni came down hard – and once again, the students continued – off campus.

I recall my mother asking me how my week at uni had gone, and I replied “It’s ok mum, a bit like the Somme on a quiet day, only more hand to hand.” Luckily she never asked what I meant.

With nearly two decades gone, hell more than two decades,and Paul and Mary turning in to CGCHE, then UofG, sure Family Night is a vile, bacchanalian tradition of wild excess, intimidation and senseless drunkenness – but it takes place mainly off campus.So what can the university actually do? If a member of Trinity (“now-with-less-Holy”) was to commit an offence in the car park opposite, would it be the churches business? I know not, but these are not easy questions…

Oh well, happy days.
cj x”

I hope this will amuse a few people, and I suspect alumni of the institution in question will laugh and understand!  However I will reiterate – Family Night is not in my opinion the responsibility of UGSU, the University of Gloucestershire, or anyone but the students who choose to participate – and with the university many times larger now, I’m guessing 90% of University of Gloucestershire students first knowledge of the family night antics were when they saw the reporting in the papers. I thought it rather tame and a storm in a tea cup – but if you read this blog post you will see why! I would certainly have absolute confidence in sending my son or daughter to this fine institution, which after all produced me and Beast Rabban – which is pretty good surely? :)

cj x

Let’s pray for Jade

Posted in Social commentary desecrated by Chris Jensen Romer on February 26, 2009

OK, I don’t exactly do Big Brother. Not in a “I’m too elite for pop culture canon” sort of way; though I once told my mother that “I do not engage with popular culture” when she asked if I had seen something on TV, and her reply was uncharacteristically unprintable. My mother does not swear, so I learned my lesson – even if you don’t intend to be a pretentious f*ckwit, and are pretty sure you are not, it is best not to give the appearance of being one.

Anyway it’s my middle class friends (unlike working class heroes like me ;) ) who actually watch BB- either with genuine pleasure, or with fashionable ironic something-or-other that I’m just too thick and proletarian to get.  Still I understand that is where Miss Goody made her mark. I knew nothing about her, till her infamous remark about “East Angular being In North Africa” reached even those of us who are too absorbed in the 13th century to pay much attention to the 21st — well those of us from Suffolk at least.  (Bits of Suffolk, mainly the farming communities, are probably more feudal now than the thirteenth century ever managed*…)

Not of the Brightest

So she was badly educated, and not so bright, a bit like that American lady , a singer or some such, who thought Chicken of the Sea Tuna might be Chicken. So what? I might make the same mistake, and I have plenty of education, and can think. I still sometimes wonder if County Durham might be in Northern Ireland (of course I know it’s not) and I frequently make tragic mistakes while shopping that make Miss Jessica Simpson, for such I think it was,  chicken/tuna quandary look quite sane. Supermarkets are another country: they do things differently there.

Then I heard from Beast, and he likes Jade Goody.  What does the mighty browed Mekon, the most academic thing ever to walk across humanities, social sciences, engineering and natural sciences, probably the most intelligent thing on the planet today,  see in Miss Goody, sorry, Mrs Tweed as she now is? (Sincere congratulations!)  No idea, but he likes her, and thinks she is pleasant and was annoyed by the criticism of her. There is nothing “fashionably ironic” about beast. Fashion and Beast are not just separated: the divorce was the trial of the century.   He is to cool what Hell is, and I mean in the usually prevailing climate, not when it’s frozen over. That is what makes Beast so awesome.

What’s so wrong with Living TV, hey?

And I saw his point: here was a woman not unlike the guys I grew up with, indeed not unlike some of my friends now.  Sure she worked on a lot of Living TV shows – er I’ve appeared on a couple myself, and have a great deal of respect for Living TV.  Back in the days when it was run by Richard Woolfe and Jane Millichip it was a great place, filled with ideas and energy, a sort of televisual Woman’s Realm. I miss those days…  Anyway, Jade is OK. One does not have to be Archimedes to have a kind heart, and what is this gnosticism that denies value to the simply thick? Why do you have to be bright to be worthy? What a stupid idea! I’m pretty bright I think and I can be an utter tosser.  In what way should moral worth be equated with intellectual achievement? Are we really trying to outdo the Americans is sheer inanity here, with their curious notion that dollars make you worthy, and we in the UK are just substituting academic ability, or how articulate you are, or the ability to do crossword puzzles, for this? That’s obscene – completely obscene. I don’t care fi your IQ is 40, so long as you are pleasant, kind, loving and thoughtful. I might well prefer you!

Class war?

Now it might be that Jade’s crime is to be working class, in a post-Thatcher “classless” Britain where 95%  seem to see themselves as middle class. I call myself working class and my friends laugh – they point out I’m underclass, as the one thing I seem to rarely do is actually work.  Yet there is no crime in being working class as far as I know, and the people who seem to be  the most vicious towards “chavs” are those who only in this generation have escaped that sort of background. I don’t think anyone would call me a chav, but I’m definitely working class. Maybe “chav” really was a huge experiment in psychohistory, and Jade was manufactured to enforce the “do not be this” message — I have often suggested as much.  In a society which prides itself on egalitarianism and having finally dismantled class prejudice that would have kept Jade hidden from us in even recent decades – a form of segregation in broadcasting every bit as prevalent and vile as that practiced in the USA in the same period, that is well in to the 1950’s – Jade still had the power to offend. Why? We are still unconscious racists snobs?

Am I racist?

Then came the racism thing – Celebrity Big Brother. Amusingly I managed to offend a lot of people myself, when I said Jade was a bully, not a racist. I may well have been wrong, I did not watch the footage, but Shilpa Shetty and her were both of the same race surely?  How could this be racism?  Both are Caucasians, as am I – Shilpa from India, Jade from the UK – and part-Indian. There is a difference in skin tone, and that is all.  Shilpa is of the same race as probably most of the readers of this blog, in as far as race has any meaning.

Mind you, I still get in to trouble for refusing to call myself “white”, instead preferring “pinkish grey”. I see very few white people on the streets as it happens, though there are a few.Most people range from pinkish to copper to chestnut to a few who really are black. Maybe we should base peoples race on Dulux colour charts, if skintone is all that counts? Anyway,  Jade was culturally ignorant, bullying and dumb. She was not as far as I can make out racist.

Slaughtering teenagers endorsed

Next time I heard of her was when her boyfriend set about a teenager with a golf club. I know nothing of the rights and wrongs of that incident, and shall say no more – the courts decided I believe, passing verdict on the fellow. “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”; when it comes to maiming teenagers I refuse to be hypocritical, but I suspect that if my opinions were widely adopted the bridges of most cities would have a lot of pikes with gobby brats heads, which would be a lot more useful and some might argue decorative than Britain in Bloom.

This is so not funny

So, then the tragedy. Jade find out, on TV, she has cancer. And now she is dying. And people makes jokes about it, and seem to think somehow being famous make sit all so deserved. We all hate some celebrities, and wish they would die I suspect – and indeed often say so – but when they do, should we not reconsider, just for a moment?  This is an appalling tragedy. All over Britain, women are ill with this disease. 2,700 a year. Now we have a great screening programme, and a new vaccine which will reduce it – but Jade’s plight is that of many others.  And no, Jade is no more important or worthy or tragic than any one of them – but she is no less so either. She is rich and famous – but she is also I guess scared, unhappy and hurting. And I feel for her,  I really do.  She is too stupid, too fun filled, too happy, to die.  A lot of people are. They lose their kids, their boyfriends, their folks, and pass in to the unknown. Jade should not die – no one should die, not at that age. (Unless gobby teenagers, obviously…)

So I’ll pray for Jade, that she should recover, that she should get better, and that if not, that her final moments she be joyous, and that she should pass in to a happy hereafter peacefully. But Jade, get better. I’m sick of people moping and mocking – I don’t know if it will help or not, if prayer can work, but it costs nothing, and if it might help, well why not try it? There is no point condemning, analyzing, or berating: the comedy has turned tragedy upon us, and I really think in all decency all there is left is for us all to pray for Jade…

cj x

* I shall rant on this sometime. It will not be pretty.


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