Most of you will probably think I’m talking metaphorically here, and The Scary Guy is some spiritual thing I’m going through, a fear I have that I decided to confront, I don’t know, writers’ block, therapy…But no, I’m not talking metaphorically. The Scary Guy is a real guy. I met him here in Hay-on-Wye. We were introduced by Anne, co-owner of Addyman Books, in the second week of my stay in Hay-on-Wye (at Tomatitos, the renowned Tapas Bar) and after having a general chat, Anne lent me his book and he gave me his card. As soon as I got home I checked his website as I was intrigued by the conversation and the work he had been telling us about. I was impressed by his ability to touch so many people and to make his message reach such wide variety of public, from school children to army personnel. It’s not easy to summarise briefly what he does (and as you see he puts it much better than me during the interview) but if I had to try and give you some idea before you go and explore his website and all the materials available, I’d say he talks to people about how to deal with prejudice, making sure that they understand that the best way to deal with the negative energy thrown at them is not to add their own negative energy. You cannot fight bad energy with more bad energy. The prejudice never is and should never become the problem of the victim of the prejudice. Scary uses his very personal style, his appearance, his personal experiences and his special way of connecting with people to deliver his message of love that appears incongruous at first sight. Defying conventions and challenging expectations is what the Scary Guy is about, and he’s tremendously successful at it.
We exchanged e-mails and he kindly offered to lend me a copy of the film made about him. I watched the film and I told him I’d like to talk about him in my blog but I was happy to share or post any materials he already had. He offered to do an interview instead. The more I read of the book and the more I thought about the movie the more I knew this would be an interesting conversation, even though I found it difficult to formulate specific questions. With just a few jotted down I went to meet Scary (and Cathryn Woodhall his wife, business partner, collaborator and as much a part of the project as he is). Scary and Cathryn live in a lovely cottage across a beautiful church (St Mary’s Church of England, recently refurbished and looking as good as new).
I must admit to not having much of an order set in my head and any jumping from item to item is up to me not Scary.
I told Scary I was reading the book written about him 7 Days and 7 Nights. An Official Biography of “The Scary Guy” by Mark David Hatwood. He noted that he has not written any books as reading and writing has never been one of his better skills and he learns in other ways. He told me that Cathryn is working on several books about him and what he does, because she’s “smart”. When we talked about the concept of smart he told me the considered himself rather than smart “different”. He talked about meeting young people and how they did not like to be considered “normal” and they didn’t like to be labelled normal. “Normal” has become a concept that does not work for much of the youth these days. He went on to expand and say that everybody is unique and it is improper to try and define somebody with a single word, as there are many variables that contribute to defining who we are: our behaviour, what we learn, how we learn, how we perceive things. Our minds are different and our bodies are different. He observed that there might be people who smoked all their lives and die of old age never having developed cancer, whilst somebody else might die young with fewer (on non) exposure. It is not only environmental; it is also down to one’s genes. We talked about research onto the possible effect of Nicotine in brain receptors, and how it is possible to find research stating the negatives of smoking but there are also studies looking at developing medication to act on Nicotine receptors positively. (Scary told me he smokes cigars only, maybe one a day when he is not on tour and he finds it relaxing and enjoys the ritual of it. It reminds him of the ‘old ways’ of human life, where men in the 50’s would go to the barber shop and share stories). Not that I’m encouraging smoking, I’m a doctor after all, although the comments are correct.
We discussed the nature of some of the current health and food research and how there is plenty of emphasis on the negative impact of a variety of things (sugar, fat, etc.). He told me he feels his Mother’s advice was the best, as she always advocated using common sense, and not have too much of one thing all the time to the exclusion of everything else, that the best is balance and not excess (as of course there are well known risks like diabetes, heart disease…from unhealthy diets), as the body needs variety. He showed me a box with chocolates and he told me it had been like that (full) for several weeks, and he might have two or three but would not eat them to excess.
I asked Scary who he looked up to. He told me his mother. He described her as a “closet genius”. Scary told me he didn’t find out how smart she was until she died. He told me he always felt she was different and they had a somewhat disconnected relationship with her when he was an adult. She was intelligent and humble, very private and quiet. She was also ahead of her time, in the way she thought about food, behaviour, religion…
Scary told me that he only discovered after she died that his mother had been interested in Astrology and had become an expert, that nobody knew and they found that she had done astrological charts on a lot of people. He felt he only discovered how his mother really was after her death and maybe he never really knew her before. His mother would never say anything negative about anybody. He noted that, ironically, he was now living just across a church (Church of England) and recalled how his mother would never make any negative comments about any religion. Scary’s mother was born and bred a Baptist. His mother took him and his brother (they were 6 and 5 years old) to the Baptist Church three or four times and never again. “She quit.” When he asked her years later why she had stopped going and taking them she told him that she did not like what they were telling her to do with her kids. He didn’t ask for an explanation at the time but in reflection he thought she referred to the way they did not encourage them to do things or to take responsibility for their behaviour.
To illustrate his mother’s character Scary told me that when they would go out he would “egg her on”, encourage her to make fun at people or make comments about them (if they were fat, or looked peculiar…) but she would always tell him: “Stop it. Stop being crass.” He never managed to influence her to behave in such a negative way. He never had a chance to ask how she had come to be like that. Scary told me that his challenge was to see if he could do the same, to stop being negative about people. His mother died March 16th 1993, 21 years ago.
I asked him what he found most difficult when trying to change his behaviour. He told me he found quite difficult to stop judging people. He said he finds that kind of behaviour in others too all the time. As an example he told me he had walked into Hay’s chemist, where he knows the people working there quite well and there were two female customers at the counter talking and when they saw him they laugh out loud. Sarah, from the shop, didn’t laugh and said, quite loudly: “That wasn’t me. And it wasn’t any of the others who work here either.” Scary commented to the two female customers who had laughed, how of the 7 billion people in the world at least 6 billion would laugh at him, and the 6 billion who laugh would also be the ones to end up hiring him to get over their stuff! Scary observed that his comment might be initially lost on them!
Scary said that he used to be always quick to judge and make decisions and at the time he would have thought of himself as “good at categorising and stereotyping.” He would put people in neat boxes so he believed he would know how to deal with them and on many occasions he’d be wrong. Now he does not do that and he observed such behaviour might cloud people’s perception and interaction (putting as an example what he might have thought I’d be like based on the information he had about me).
Scary is a man with many tattoos as you will have noticed in his pictures and the story of how his tattoos came to being is well detailed in the book and movie. I wanted to ask him if there was a particular plan or an overall design he had been working towards at the time of his tattoos (although it did not seem that way, at least at the beginning). He told me he enjoys tattoos and that is one of the reasons why in the past he had 3 tattoo parlours, because he didn’t have space left for more tattoos so to carry on enjoying them he decided to tattoo other people. He told me there was no specific design he had worked towards, and he would decide in the moment, depending on what felt good at the time. He told me that due to his problems with reading and writing he did not learn by reading books, and he would mostly learn by observation in an experiential form. He would do whatever felt appropriate in real time at the moment, based on his perception. He gave me as an example a tattoo in his wrist; a barcode. He told me that a long time ago, as long as 20 or 30 years ago, he went to the supermarket and as he was queuing to pay he noted the woman at the till passing a tin over the glass register panel and as she did the register would speak: tin of bins so many cents. He was fascinated and asked her how it did that and she explained that the reader read the code and it could retrieve lots of information. He was fascinated by that idea and designed his bar code tatoo based on a Campbell Soup Tin, but he added the lettering ‘Generic Brand’ in reverse that he could only read if he looked it up to a mirror.
Scary talked about how fascinated he had been at the time with the possibilities of such a system of codifying information and how he could see microchips being used for all kinds of things, including on humans. This topic got us talking about government controls, IDs, etc. He told me he accepted that the government, any government, would have to have access to certain data and observed that due to the kind of work he did he had had to send his data to the FBI to check that he had no criminal records. He acknowledged the importance of background checks. He said that he is not pro control for control’s sake but there is also the fact that some people are criminal and psychopaths and can cause plenty of harm to others and so having background checks can at least minimise such instances. We briefly discussed the latest controversy about Facebook and their experiments controlling people’s moods and interactions and he observed that it goes to prove, as he believes, that people are mostly reactive to the environment.
Scary and I were talking for quite a while so we decided we’d bring you the interview in several parts. But, if you want to find out more about him, you don’t need to wait until the next installment here. I leave you links so you can explore by yourselves.
Join Scary on his Facebook Fan Page
Scary’s Biography: 7 Days & 7 Nights
Thank you very much for reading, thank you to Scary and Cathryn for their kindness, and help, and if you’ve enjoyed it, you know what to do: like, share, comment, and of course CLICK!