Sunday, 28 August 2016

Of Boats And Folk Nights Reborn

I couldn't possibly leave the story there. The journey from The Peaks to The Fens took three or four hours. I couldn't help myself and, on arriving in Ashbourne, I phoned my friend who lives in the marina at the boatyard to ask if he could see my boat. Did it look okay? He was having his new canopy fitted on his own boat as we spoke, but he promised he would send me a message when he was clear to do so. I got underway and eventually a message arrived. It seemed to be good news. I relaxed and continued Fenwards with a less anxious heart. 

Bearing in mind my main purpose in leaving my nomad friends today was to get back for the inaugural songwriters and poets night in the new venue I could not afford to be too leisurely about it. I pulled into the boatyard's car park and walked to the slipway. There was my home standing on the trolley, clear of the water shining in the late afternoon sun showing off the new coat of bitumen applied earlier in the day. The solar panels had been reinstalled and the completed paintwork was looking absolutely stunning. I think I even got a little teary. Although not exactly what I had thought I had asked for I need not have worried about the signwriting. It was a very nice job and I could breathe again. 

On to the music and poetry. I arrived after a couple of the other members of our informal committee and we set about shifting tables and chairs to make the best of the space. It was a warm evening so we would have to leave the door open. We could hear the noise of other pub patrons in the yard, but it wasn't intrusive. As 8pm arrived we not only had more performers, but also a few members of an audience, including regulars from the previous incarnation, first-time visitors and some old friends who were visiting the area for the bank holiday weekend. 

As planned we had none of the amplification that seems to give permission in other venues for audience members to chat. It is almost as though a p.a. sets off a response in the listener that the music is not real and, therefore, doesn't really matter. Between sets of songs and poems, which I introduced, I moved around the room to get an idea of the sound. Sight lines and the acoustics meant that each performer was both visible and audible from anywhere in the room. So far so good. The room felt good and was neat, tidy attractive and, even more importantly, clean and didn't smell of spilled beer or ageing dogs! This looks like it is going to work out fine. I am sorry that I didn't even think to take photographs. I shall endeavour to remember next time. During the evening a few locals who had obviously been enjoying our host's hospitality in the adjacent bar wandered in, causing a bit of disruption. One interrupted one of the performers demanding he sing something "upbeat". "Have you got any Phil Collins?" he asked. Seriously? Phil Collins (or maybe that should be "... But Seriously")?What on earth do they teach young people these days? More seriously still, though, I think we shall have to think about how we create an environment where we can head off this kind of behaviour. Perhaps a few fliers on the tables, a notice board at the entrance stating the nature of the event within. I also wonder whether charging a nominal entrance fee would help. If the local lads had to part with a pound or two, they might take the event more seriously before coming in just long enough to disrupt proceedings and walk out in the middle of songs. It was also interesting to see other audience members walking in and out to the toilet or to the bar in the middle of a song. Personally, I couldn't do that. I would have to wait until a song or a set had finished before walking through the room. The dynamics of all these behaviours are fascinating. 

For the record I sang "Grey", "In Soho", "Flying", "Blame It On Me" and read my poem, "Thora's House". 

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Of Dovedale 5

Friday was my sixth and final day. I should have left on Thursday since I had something to attend back in the Fens, but I put it off. I couldn't get out of leaving on Friday though, because we had the launch of the re-branded Songwriters and Poets Night and I needed to be back for that. It was too important to miss. That didn't stop me putting off leaving for as long as possible. Fortunately, despite torrential rain that continued through the night the day started off beautifully with bright sun, blue sky and no sign of a cloud.

I had very little sleep on Thursday night. During the evening we gathered round the fire under umbrellas, ponchos and other attempted shields against the deluge, so it wasn't that I stayed out late. The battery on my phone drained during the week and Shorny had kindly charged it up for me from his solar resources. Somehow, despite no phone signal and no internet access it was recording five missed calls. Naturally I spent the night musing and fretting over what they might be. I suspected it may have been the signwriter or the boatyard. It could have been a member of the family. Then my mind turned to wilder fancies. What if it had been a member of P's family trying to let me know that he had been taken ill or someone in my family had had an accident. I don't receive a single call most weeks and now I had missed five of them. I tried to convince myself that they were more nuisance calls about my "recent accident" or PPI (tell me again what that stands for), but that didn't really help. It was about 7am by the time I think I fell asleep for an hour. I had resolved I was going to walk as far as necessary to get a signal and sort out whatever needed sorting as soon as it was decent to disturb someone. 

I donned my boots and set off upwards. Anywhere else from the camping site is upwards and I was heading towards a guest house at the top of a hill. I guessed correctly that a phone signal would be available there. Hello again, outside world! Checking the voice mail service, four of the calls were indeed about the boat and they had started arriving last Monday - four days ago. Friday (i.e. today) had apparently been designated as the day the boat was due to come out of the water for re-blacking.  Before then the signwriter needed to ply his trade while the boat was still in the paint shed and he needed to discuss details. In the end, not being able to get hold of me they had made an executive decision and gone ahead. Now I was really worried. What if I didn't like what he'd done? Had I made the call and the decision, I had only myself to blame if I didn't like the result. I would have to live with that, but I do hate the feeling of having an opportunity to blame someone else. I do not like how that makes me feel. There was no other option, though. The journey back for Songwriters and Poets Night would now definitely have to be via the boatyard. 

I didn't want to pack the pavilion away wet, so I pottered about finding places for all the other paraphernalia. By mid-day the pavilion was mostly dry so I packed that down too. I'm getting good at this.

I wandered the field saying my goodbyes. What lovely friends I have on UKH. I shall miss them all, but I expect I shall be back next year. Who knows, we may be able to meet somewhere else during the months ahead. So to OldKeith, Marion, Alice's Wonderland, Enigma Rising and the children, Fire Tree, Uncle Jhad, Rainbow Momma, Real Nutter, Yaz, Zendaze, Trap, Man From Manchester, Wandering Gypsy, Parrot And Crow and her amazing menagerie, Moon Cheese, Rachel, AndyVW, Enigma's Mum, Mad Pete, Two Wheels Good and specially to Shorny (the keeper of the trivet who kept the fires burning) thank you for love and friendship. I have had a great week. Inevitably, by naming names, I have missed someone out. Please accept this is a function of age and not a deliberate slight. Likewise if I missed saying farewell before I left I apologise. 

May your travels take you all to fair places. 


Of Dovedale 4

Wednesday and on my fifth day here in the chilling field I feel I have been somewhat virtuous. As a favour to my fellow hippies I showered this morning. Had it just been us I would have got on with it, but since the arrival of yesterday's trailer tent family with children, teenagers and dogs running here, there and all around the tents I showered in yesterday's underwear. The inconvenience was balanced by the knowledge that I have now achieved some rudimentary laundry chores. The warm sun and the gentle breeze has pretty much dried the clean(er) trunks and I am ready for one more day than I thought!  There are also now more nomads than members of the family despite the fact that they have also attempted to build a small village with the addition of two smaller tents and increased numbers. The original trailer seems to have expanded a lot. Their Jack Russell, although inquisitive and invasive is not noisy, thank goodness. 

The facilities on this site are basic by any judgement. There is an outdoor toilet in a lean to behind the farm house and another lean to at the back of a barn where a leaky tap dispenses cold water, mainly over the concrete floor. The walk to either facility takes a few minutes. Carrying water on the way back takes longer. There is nowhere to wash one's hands and campers who have commandeered the smaller field across the road seem to imagine that the bare concrete floor of the toilet is actually a bin where it is okay to dump water bottles, plastic bags, used tissue, bottles and cans and, today (shudder) a disposable nappy in a bag. I know from experience that when our group leaves this field it will look a whole lot nicer than we found it when we arrived. At the gate is a plain notice reading, "No fires". It seems perfectly clear to me. Again, despite that there are small patches of scorched grass all over the field. We have our evening fire in a bowl sitting upon a trivet made from old horse shoes welded together. 

Wandering Gypsy accidentally left his inverter on overnight and his starter battery discharged on the truck. He managed to jump start the engine from his trike. Enigma's Mum arrived today and I did a couple of hours practice in my corner of the field. I try not to play or sing loudly enough to be audible to anyone else. This is in contrast to the people who turned up and parked in the field yesterday. Families with lots of children spilled out of cars that had gathered in a circle like wagon trains in old cowboy films. Car stereos were turned up to distortion levels and the men started to dance. It was very intrusive and inappropriate in such a peaceful place while at the same time being quite charming and utterly compelling to watch. These day visitors seemed totally unaware that some of us were sitting in groups trying to hold conversations. Clearly there was a cultural divide, but it was the intrusiveness of the noise I found difficult. I would have found it interesting to talk to them, but I was somewhat busy being self-righteously angry. I wasted an opportunity. Shame on me. 

I was able to have a chat with Parrot and Crow this morning. It turns out we know some of the same people, despite never having met before and living in different parts of the country, through her corvid connections. Small world. As we chatted Chucky, her white cockatoo, made his way down her arm and walked over to me. She had already said his behaviour was unpredictable and he packed a vicious bite, which he could inflict without warning. He nestled into me and made himself quite at home. "He's never done that to a man before," said P&C. I felt very honoured and we spent a long time with him snuggled against my neck. 

My new best friend.
I realise that the pictures so far show very little detail, so I shall add some of people with their vehicles. The pictures I include are with the full knowledge and permission of all parties. Obviously some were not comfortable with being on display, while others were simply not around to ask, so the following shots do not include all the lovely folk who are here, or their amazing homes.

AndyVW

Shorny


Yazz and Real Nutter


Wandering Gypsy outside his new door.


Parrot And Crow with her animal companions


Just another man with a van ...


Addendum:
The list of achievements continues. Amazingly I have managed a couple hours of practice each day. Thanks to Rainbow Momma, who arrived today with Uncle Jhad, I now own a flute. I have toyed with the idea of buying one for years, but have never got round to it. I shall have to acquire some knowledge and technique and play something next year. In the evening I went out for a walk. It was crazy to be in this beautiful place and not have been further than the farmhouse. I set off and a while later I was on top of Thorpe Cloud, the hill where I had become one of the tiny dots I had been observing all week. Now that really was an achievement! I had not gone out with any destination in mind. I had simply followed my feet and the trails worn into the field by the sheep. The top of Thorpe Cloud is very narrow, not quite Crib Goch, but narrow enough for someone who has little tolerance for heights. I had to sit down to get my balance. From there the view is rather amazing. What a pity I didn't have my phone or tablet with me so I could take a few photographs. The battery had run out on the phone and the tablet was very low anyway. Now though, I was the giant and the dots were the people down below on the campsite. 

A view of Thorpe Cloud in an unusual moment of sunshine.
I climbed this!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Of Dovedale 3

So today, the fourth day of my stay in the Chilling Fields at Dovedale I can't believe it is mid-day and since five o'clock I have been reading (still on "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" which is reaching an even more polemic stage with Owen's lecture - it may well be his first of many), thinking about getting up, washing and pampering myself with a shave, preparing and eating breakfast and looking for my spectacles. Despite moving pretty much everything in the van I couldn't find them, so I'm using an older, less powerful pair I keep in the van for emergencies to write this in Pages on my iPad - I am using a large font though. Because I have 34% battery left I'm saving whatever power I can apart from using an external keyboard. 

For the first time since I've been here, the sun has shone all morning and looks set to stay for a while longer. Maybe I'll get some things dry. Towels and over-clothes are hanging over the back of my chair and over the sides of the van. By the sound of it another van has pulled up. I have no idea who it could be yet. There are young voices ... Very loud and shouty young voices. They are very close ... I am considering ways of being anti-social - maybe it is time to deploy the Hozelock Porta Shower that P. bought me as a gift and which has proven so useful on the boat ... Dammit, they are not only playing on the rope swing over the river, they are setting out a tent next to me, very close to me. In the distance, people are throwing themselves from from the top of the hill and gliding for short distances attached to hang-gliding parachutes. Earlier, a microlight and a helicopter buzzed noisily overhead and two emergency vehicles have charged by.  The structure being erected before my eyes seems to have been born from a trailer. Bits are being unfolded and locked together. It looks like they are staying. Maybe we shall become new best friends ... My view of the hill is being obscured.

Yesterday it was still only Shorny, Fire Tree and me here. We didn't know for sure that we were going to stay in this field following incomplete and inconclusive conversations Shorny had held with the farmer. It seemed likely that we could use the field across the road. The downside of that was that, while somewhat less in the public gaze, it was lower-lying and more of it was prone to becoming waterlogged. Although I had already spent two nights here I had still not set-up properly in my spot. There had been little point if we were going to have to move to establish UKH camp Dovedale 2016 somewhere else.  By afternoon, hopefully before I had bored Shorny and Fire Tree to death with my limited topics of conversation (and following another confusing consultation with the farmer) we decided we were going to stay in this field. I set up my outdoor pavilion and my kitchen. At least now I could make some food other than the hunks of bread I had been tearing off since I arrived. Shorny moved so we could commandeer more of the field and he began the intricate work of setting up his awning too.

Trap arrived in his splendid van. He really has done a good job on both the inside and the outside. By the end of the day Wandering Gypsy, Moon Cheese and Rachel, Zendaze, Man From Manchester and Two Wheels Good were here too. Fire Tree mentioned that she was expecting Raffi and Darrren. She had been instructed to save them places on either side of her van. They haven't shown up yet and those places have gone. (Unfortunately neither arrived during the time I was there. I hope they are both okay.) I do know that others have said they will arrive today. Alice's Wonderland still isn't here and I think it may be time for concern. Given that it takes him days to set up camp from the contents of his TARDIS he will have to use time travel capability to re-arrive so he can set up before he leaves. The bubbling stream, the shouting of children at play and Shorny's music player are being punctuated by occasional traffic sounds, bird calls, cattle and sheep. This is a beautiful place. The new arrivals have a dog and it is pissing right by my shelter.

Last night we sat round a fire and mardled. I stayed till about 2am. Only Shorny and Zendaze were left after me. Conversation drifted and wound around many of the usual petty importances that open fires tend to inspire, but I made the mistake of comparing something to the referendum result. Clearly there are differences amongst us too. At that point the conversation took a deeper, more intense and philosophical turn. Despite some alcohol-aided diversions we discussed a new world that could be better ... maybe. 

There were two highlights yesterday. The first was Fire Tree's unexpected ascent of the hill over the road. It is certainly higher than anything we have in the Fens, but obviously not comparable with the Alps of recent memory. Congratulations to her.  She didn't expect to attempt it and was surprised when she achieved it. My personal highlight was a ride on the back of the hand-built motor-tricycle Wandering Gypsy had towed in behind his lorry. He used bits of a 1970 Reliant, bits of a Polo and all sorts of other stuff he had lying around. It passed an MoT test too. My admiration knows no bounds for such skill and imagination. 

The iPad is now showing 8% battery. Time to finish this essay.

By late Sunday afternoon there were three of us.



On Monday we decided this was going to be our field, so we spread out.



By the end of Monday others had started arriving.



Of Dovedale 2

Somehow I managed to turn up up seventeen hours early. This is definitely contrary to my normal style. Since I arrived at night I wasn't sure I was in the right place. There had been discussion on the web forum about using another of the farmer's three camping fields, so I simply headed for the field in which we gathered last year. I patrolled occasionally to see if anyone else had arrived and set up in one of the other two fields I could see. Not knowing our final settlement, setting up, at the moment for me, simply meant parking. I couldn't set up in the "comfort" sense, because I did not want to have to dismantle my pavilion (it's hardly a "pavilion"  in the sporting sens though. It's more of aa medieval concept, I suspect, being no more than a free-standing shelter with detachable walls) and kitchen arrangement to move elsewhere. As with the night, the rain continued on and off throughout the day.

Having time to myself was very pleasant. I went into Ashbourne to find somewhere to have a cooked breakfast, buy some supplies and find the wi-if I used to post the previous two blog entries. On returning to the field I chose the spot I thought would suit me best should that be the place to stay. I had a lot of choice. There had been five or six other parties when I arrived on Saturday night. By the time I got back from town the "not-one-of-us" van had left. Unfortunately they also left a stack of refuse by the wall, which spoiled rather the view of the otherwise attractive bubbling river. Eventually everyone else left too, so I was actually alone for several hours. I chose a spot in the corner leaving space to set up the pavilion should that turn out to be where we were going to stay. This time I made sure that, although I was next to the river along with bushes and trees, there were no overhanging branches or telephone wires or power cables to allow maximum guano targeting by the local wildlife. 

I took out my folding chair and settled to read some more of Robert Tressell's harrowing "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists". I couldn't settle. Out of the corner of my eye I began to see flashes of unnatural colours in the grass. Previous campers had managed to leave a lot of rubbish. It was mainly, sweet wrappers, crisp packets, bits of cellophane wrappings and lots of soggy tissue, but I couldn't leave it looking like that. I have a compulsion to pick up litter. That's why I bought a litter picker and have it permanently available, clipped to the inside wall of the van. Unfortunately this was a cheap plastic one I bought last year and a few months ago I managed to snap the handle so that it now flops about rather unhelpfully. I leave it in the van in the hope that it will remind me to buy another of a more robust variety - or, of course, mend itself, but so far I haven't and it hasn't and, armed with the plastic refuse sack I had bought for my own use and donning my working gloves, I set about the area round the van. Inevitably the area increased as I laboured to removed the offending flashes of colour from the grass. Given all the recent rain, the tissue was disgusting and had to be drawn out of the grass in disintegrating clumps rather than simply picked up. There were several bottle tops, empty beer bottles and cans, a used disposable barbecue, tea bags, plastic straws, a broken bucket, discarded plastic drinks containers in those garish colours that manufacturers think children find attractive ... I could make a long list. The great British public can be disgusting. My stomach churned on several occasions and I was glad of the gloves, even though they quickly became very soggy. A couple of hours later I had nearly filled my sack, but my quarter of the field looked much better. I did consider donning wellingtons so I could wade into the river to get the stuff that was stuck there too, but without my pavilion I wouldn't have somewhere I could comfortably leave them to dry out. That would have to wait. 

The sun put in an appearance and in the distance I could just about make out the specks on top of the hills in front of me that were the people who had spent hours getting to the top, presumably so they could come back down again. I briefly thought about trying it for myself and dismissed it. The trek would take several hours and I'm not the fittest of people. MaƱana. I had packed a guitar so I thought I would do some much-needed practice. This guitar is an Ovation Celebration made in Korea. It's one I take into schools and it is often the cause of much concern and many questions, the main comment being, "Your guitar is cracked!" I wonder why children think I may not have noticed this. It is indeed very cracked. It carries the scars of the accident that explained how the instrument came into my possession in the first place. I had gone into a small village school one day and after my workshop the head asked me if I knew anyone who could make use of a broken guitar. 'How broken?" I asked. She showed me. It was the Celebration which was indeed in a sad state. During a Christmas service in the parish church it had fallen over from the pillar it was leaning against. Landing string side down it sustained the damage that was so sadly evident. "I can't keep it," she explained. "I claimed it on my insurance and I have bought another guitar. Do you have any use for it?" I didn't need to think hard about it. I had been considering buying another guitar for a while. I was uncomfortable about carting my vintage Guild around Norfolk's schools, but I had no other guitar that was anywhere near suitable as an accompanying instrument. Although the strings had all slipped on the Ovation and were slack I wasn't sure the cracks had gone through the layers of very shiny varnish and into the belly. I took the guitar with the intention of taking it to a local luthier to see what he thought. At worst I would have another addition to my resources for recycled sounds. At best I would have a jobbing guitar. Some days and £140 later I had a jobbing guitar that would have cost me two or three times that amount had I bought it for myself from a shop. The cracks turned out to be cosmetic. To be honest, I would have been unlikely to have chosen this guitar, but I can't deny it has given me service well beyond the price I paid for repair. Although rather quiet and unexpressive it plays, and generally stays, in tune. It actually comes into its own when plugged in and amplified, but I never use it that way. I took the guitar out of its case and started to play. It sounded horrible. I knew it would, but I couldn't continue. That was the reason I had brought with me a new set of D'Adarrio phosphor-bronze 12s and my string winder/clipper tool. Annual maintenance was required. Considering the love and replacement strings I lavish on the Guild the Celebration had every right to feel hard-done-by ... had it feelings, of course. 

I started to play guitar when I was fourteen. One day, my father came home with a Zenith 6-string cello guitar my uncle had loaned him. He never learned how to play, although many years later he asked me to show him some chords. He never actually got a look-in with that guitar at all. It found its way into my bedroom and never left. It was a total pig to play, having an action as high as St Paul's Cathedral, but I persisted. At some point I acquired an Eko Ranger 12 before my father took me to Guitar Village in London's Shaftsbury Avenue for my seventeenth birthday to buy my first "proper" guitar. I tried Gibsons, Martins and others, but it was the Guild that called out to me. It was the start of a beautiful relationship that flourishes to this day. Considering I have been playing for nearly half a century I have never felt I understood how best to change a set of strings. Obviously over the years I have acquired a technique, but it had always been a bit hit and miss. For instance, I was never sure whether it would do any harm to remove all the strings simultaneously or how many winds round the post was best. YouTube recently came to my assistance when I stumbled over a YouTube video which I may add later. 

I took all the strings off and began to clean the nut and around the frets as advised in the video. I replaced the strings with the new set, tuned it up and in a mere couple of hours I was practising. I am the master of displacement activity. Having left so much time since my last foray into practice I was horribly rusty and forgot some of the words and my fingers were getting sore. However, I was really enjoying playing and singing quietly to myself. That zone is a great place to be. Some of my songs are much harder to remember than others. I am sure I have practiced some of them hundreds of times and still they slip and slide in my memory. I could probably have gone on for at least a couple more hours, but a familiar van turned into the field. It was Shorny. We hugged and greeted each other and began to catch up on the news since last year. An hour after Shorny arrived, FireTree turned up in her Transit, which I also recognized from last year. Practice was over. We chatted round a small and welcome off-ground fire until the rain began to pour with persistence. FireTree had no wet weather clothes, but she did appear with an amazing black, full-length witch's cape with a pointy hood. She seemed intrigued that I had more than one coat with me. She also seemed a little affronted that I see her pixie cape as a witch's one. No harm or insult meant, Fire Tree. 

So here we are. 3am and I'm writing a blog entry. Apparently we are due to move into the pagans' field later today when the last of them has left. I suppose that will be when I finally make myself at home here. Raw food it shall be until then. 


Sunday, 21 August 2016

Of A Night In A Chilling Field (Or Dovedale 1)

I am experiencing a brief silence along with the almost welcome familiarity of just my tinnitus. Waves of rain have swept across Dovedale since just after I arrived at eleven p.m. and have been pounding on the van all night. It hasn't kept me awake, but the sound is very different from the quality of rain that hits the thicker steel of the boat. This is more trebly, scratchier, somehow more insidious and definitely less soothing. It penetrates the ear and the consciousness and during my frequent periods of wakefulness I find myself lying on my camp bed waiting for the next wave to arrive. 

This is my second time here. I came here last year to meet some fellow travellers who inhabit their vans, boats and tents as they travel the roads or waterways and life in general. Some of them have made this pilgrimage for many years. I expect that some will arrive this year for the first time. We have all come to put some reality on to our impressions of the each other as we have contributed to discussions on UK Hippy, an internet discussion forum. The forum has become my destination of choice for learning how others live, sharing triumphs and disappointments, ranting, telling daft jokes, building and sharing a support network with others who also don't quite fit in. When I was fifteen a friend and I caught the midnight ferry to Ostend. Sitting on the beach the following day we were approached by a journalist who asked if "you are a 'ippy or in any other way connected wi' ze movement?" I didn't know what to say then and I still don't know that I qualify as a hippy, but last year I felt immediately at home with people who felt like members of the same tribe. We clearly share something that communicates and resonates. It's not that I am short of friends otherwise, because I have a great group of friends who make my life a rich and vibrant one. I would feel great sorrow if I lost a single one of them. My virtual-but-now-real friends however come from a broader range of backgrounds than the artists and creatives who make up so many of my associations and that is not only interesting but also very rewarding. I enjoy learning about and from others and last year I was quite shocked to discover that in some senses my life could be seen to be quite narrow. So this year, I am hoping to catch up with the lives of Wandering Gypsy, Alice's Wonderland, Enigma Rising, Enigma's Mum, Trap, Shorny (the keeper of the trivet) and others. I am sad that Mrs P has had to drop out this year - we have a number of unfinished discussions to further. I am very much looking forward to meeting OldKeith, Julian The Gypsy and others and I wonder if the troubled Darrren will accept a hug of friendship. Danann will not be here I think. If her writing truly reflects her personality she must be a wonder. It gushes and bubbles in a stream of consciousness. Each word begins with a capital letter and there is little pause for sentence structure, but her exhausting, flowing prose hints at a love of life and a compassion for her fellow men and women that is very rare in these times. This is the second time she has not shown up.

So, Sunday morning and the rain appears to have abated, even if only temporarily. I am sitting up in my bed to write this and have opened, just a crack, one of the side doors of the van to let in light, air, and the sounds of lowing cattle, bleating sheep, a lone tractor and the occasional passing vehicle. I am kissed by the air each time the gentle breeze breathes on me. Last evening I was met by a UK Pagan who opened a gate to a field further into the farm and invited me to join their gathering. In a gentle voice, he promised alcohol, drumming round the fire and association, but his eyes kept their distance. His words needed an accompanying smile. He did not smile at all, not even in response. Perhaps he has not yet learned to reflect expressions offered by others? He gave the impression of a degree of Asperger's, but I appreciated his welcome. I turned down his offer and decided to see if anyone from my tribe had arrived yet. Wandering Gypsy was planning to be here first ... Or maybe Alice's Wonderland, Enigma Rising and the children. I stumbled in the dark around the main field and between fields and spoke to other people. One group of men, including Rob from Sweden, had arrived and pitched up for one night only. They offered company, friendship, a share of the booze and music from a playlist on a huge laptop computer. Simon told me he made a point of learning one song from the sixties or seventies every year. He had not made his mind up what this year's song would be. He spoke for the rest of the group and said that his friendly approaches had been rejected by some people in the van that had set up across the road and where I had noticed a small fire burning. "You are not part of our group," he had been told. I wonder what group that might have been. I hope it wasn't ours.

A view from my bed
The cows are making a lot of noise and a motorbike has arrived. Maybe I should get up and see what's happening.