Wales ’09 – WWOOF Diary
[Being a pretty full account of a two-week stint at an organic farm in Wales. If you haven’t heard about it, WWOOF (UK site) is a scheme you can sign up to for £20/year to do volunteer work on organic farms, gardens, smallholdings, communities etc. in exchange for free food and lodging. I forgot to bring a camera with me, so images in the following have been shamelessly pirated, mostly from Wikipedia (other sources: if just linking to your sites isn’t okay by you, please get in touch and I’ll take them down). The words mostly came from me though. I’ve done my best to keep later embellishments to footnotes and square brackets, but haven’t done this with complete consistency, and have done my usual completist bit of going to town on the links and literary references. Bear with me! – ed.]
October ’09, probably around the 10th
I don’t know how to value two days at D’s. I feel good about spending time with somebody who understands a lot about where I’m coming from, I feel bad about “feeling like a normal human being – not in a good way” as I put it to him after an evening watching ITV primetime and biting my tongue in their living room (the Derrick Jensen question* comes to mind – What would they (on the TV) have to do or say for you to tell them to fuck off or just walk out of the room?) I feel good about getting on better terms w/ their small ‘jack-chi’ puppy after initial terror and barking (her, not me). I feel bad that I forgot to bring jam or a bottle of wine or something for D + his pleasant family. I felt good about walking through a small patch of relatively old growth woodland, and introducing D to various plantlife. I felt bad because of the questioner in my head, continually asking “Is this enough? Can this be enough?” and the answerer muttering away with “If you have to as then it probably isn’t, it probably can’t”.
I guess my discovery builds on the one I intuited the last time we met: that a shared ideology doesn’t necessarily make for a good friendship – especially when those ideologies have actually started to diverge quite a bit and you want to talk about completely different things. I actually found myself thinking that I’d rather share the things I most care about with people who know next to nothing about them, rather than with someone who can plug straight in to the currents of your thinking, being aware of all the talking points and having already (for the most part) decided which they accept and which they reject. We all like to feel special, don’t we? (Perhaps some of us like to feel special so much that we refuse relationships even with those who we perceive to have clambered up to our little platforms, preferring to take that as our cue to start work on a new one, just that little bit further away (from the ground). What a fantastic driving force for innovation! What a gods’ honest prescription for loneliness & social isolation!) …
I have a little of the lucidity born of travel away from home. (Apparently a sprig of mugwort under the pillow (or in tea or a cigarette†) helps with this lucidity in dreaming, but I need mine during the daytime, dammit!) I was going to hitch out here, but ended up with a compromise on one of the cheap bus companies. I promise I’ll do a bit on the next leg of the journey, starting tomorrow (Monday) at 6:30am. Usually these live-in daydreams (isn’t that what A sang about me?) kick off in greater intensity (more vivid colours, etc.) when I start – just START – to record them here (I non-started my entire Summer away, for instance). This helps prolong the experience of waking, wakened control by giving my usually voiceless inner dreamer a little real-life character of his own: an embodied personality whose muscle, heart, mind-strings he can pull from afar (but a-closer each day). Then, it all starts to come so thick, so fast.
* – tracked this down to his ‘Love Does Not Imply Pacifism’ chapter in Endgame 1, p.298 – excerpts online here (search the page for “fuck you”).
[…] if dug up at midnight on Midsummer Eve and placed under a pillow, they can be used to help a girl dream of her future husband. (Lost Gods, p.79)
There were huge stands of the plant mixed with tall, seeded burdocks in a boggy bit of the local parkland.
The next day
Stupid o’clock w/ D’s dad (cliché’d goodbye the night before as I moved my stuff out of his room), setting off for Gloucester. The car thermometer went from 7.5°C to 4°C just coming out of B/S and up into surrounding high(er) country. Purple + blue hues as the dawn arrived, but never properly saw the sun come up.
Picked up from a post-Gloucester roundabout after a chilly 20-minute wait by a Hereford social worker, late on her morning commute. Talked about Tamiflu, West Counties poverty, lack of rapid-response ambulances for rural communities (who were training their own corps of 1st-aiders – not an entirely negative phenomenon if you ask me, decentralisation of medical treatment + all that), rich landowners and their estates, and the fact that neglect has recently been declared illegal when it comes to old folks. Standard lefty fare then – it’s only these people who pick me up!
Walked into H’ford train station + the bus was right there, waiting for me. I could have taken it all the way to TC, but chose to leave a little present in the station loo + try hitching instead (it was still only around 9am).
Off-duty taxi driver very kindly took me further along the A-road I’d been trundling intermittently down for the best part of an hour. A kindly old gent, he made a habit of giving people lifts for free if he was going in their direction. He didn’t tell his employers (I asked).
By SoW, on taximan’s advice, I took a small track down to the adjacent B-road which shortcuts the A-road on the way to HoW. Walked sweatily along this for half an hour, admiring a penetratingly blue sky under a bright Autumn sun and the slowly rising hills far, but closer, in the distance. Eventually an old guy w/ a transit van stopped for me and took me all the way to TC in the back with only a small lamp giving light. Felt stupid about so mind-and-heed-lessly getting into the same situation I was at such pains to escape from the last time, especially seeing as there wasn’t even the pretence of a window in this van, but laying down on my ground mat for the slightly bumpy 20-30 minute ride didn’t feel as bad for some reason. Perhaps because I had more of an idea on how long it was going to last, and because it was entirely my decision this time round. Walked the 1½ miles to V/F and eventually found P [farm] by a roadside and P [owner] on the phone in an upstairs window of an old, yellow painted building.
First impressions: nice people here. P (very quiet, sciency precision w/ well-chosen words), B (40-something worker w/ tannin-stained teeth), L (pretty Northern lass w/ a mindbending accent, I think influenced by a stay in Australia) and T (slightly older girl into reggae, tantrums and singer-songwriting). I jumped straight into helping B crate some apples (varieties: Jupiter and some others I can’t remember) for the remainder of the working day.
Afterwards, went with the two girls for a nice drive over to ‘the biggest natural lake in Wales’ where we hopped a barrier and watched the evening melt into its rippled reflection by the iron-age thatched roundhouse on a wooden jetty. B had shown me a very similar structure – they look a little like this:
– on the guided tour of P farm, explaining a little of how it went up, how the thatching keeps the rain off, and how you can have a fire in there, but it needs a chimney or other hole at the top, otherwise you choke on all the smoke.
Came back just in time for dinner, cooked by P entirely from the farm produce [later I learned that this represented more the rule than the exception] except for two tins of tomato purée and some ginger – a veggie stir-fry w/ side salad – then sat in the living room by the woodstove [Swedish? design that runs the still-combustible smoke and other gases over the flames a second time before sending them up the chimney] with L and B discussing all sorts while listening to the Pixies and T-Rex (B’s choice) on the small portable hi-fi.
Shockingly easy to share the secrets nobody wants to know back home. B managed to drop the Monsanto and even Peak Oil bombs without breaking conversational stride (though, while happy-go-lucky L was out of the room) and we had a 3-way discussion about the unsustainability of the nuclear family vs. Island-style remedies*. Not having a TV – what a great invention!
Lots of bedding, so should sleep warmly enough in their unheated ex-garage. No clouds in a starry sky, so we’ll see how cold it gets, here in the mountain’s morningshadow come the morrow.
* – Aldous Huxley. The kids in his utopia freely move from family to family as and when they feel the need. It’s online here – do a ctrl-f for “bad old days” to get to the relevant passage.
and the one after
V. good sleep. Unfortunately they have a daily schedule here, with a dinner bell for someone to ring when “shifts” are over. It goes 9-11, break, 11:30-1, lunch, 2-5. Any kind of routine rubs me up the wrong way, so I had quite a lot of anger to vent on a bean patch in one of the 15m-long polytunnels, whose many weeds I was supposed to clear. Uprooted quite a few of the bean plants themselves by mistake, due to trailing shoots and feelers intermixing with the dense weeds and my general impatience. P told me they don’t survive this, even if replanted right away. I felt strangely remorse-free, the foremost attitude being one of “Oh well, I probably won’t still be around if/when they all die anyway…”
Better times out in the open, clearing pumpkins and couch (pronounced “cooch”) grass from two of the raised beds. More covered-up remorse-freedom when P caught me standing on the raised beds [it hadn’t occurred to me that they might be raised for a reason, namely to keep the soil loose and uncompacted, but “Oh well, they didn’t spell it out for me, so it’s not my problem” – like I said to B a few days later: ‘If you go with a 9-5 structure you should expect to get a 9-5 mentality’]. Nice talking with T while harpooning the soil one-handed with the fork in pursuit of the long & deep, white couch roots (P’s horror story: An inch of root can grow to a metre in one year). I compared the certainty of insect and fungal death when digging to George W Bush’s responsibility for the lost lives of Iraqi children – embarking on both actions (overturning soil, invading Iraq) leads inevitably to certain outcomes even if the original purpose had nothing (or little) to do with killing insects/children. Not sure if she got it, or if I explained it that well at the time…
Collected rosehips and hawthorn leaves after 5 w/ the sky turning pink and purple again. Made a funny-tasting tea with the h/t [green and quite woody in comparison to one I made earlier from younger leaves which came out orange w/ a taste similar to the berries] and spent a long time before and after dinner halving the hips and scooping out seeds and hairs of the less mushy ones with my knife [most of them eventually ended up, rather tastily, in breakfast bowls of porridge with none of the complications – throat & stomach irritation from the bristly hairs, which I’m sure I didn’t completely remove with my brief additional rinse under the tap – that the books warn of, although see below for the tea/soup].
After-diner talk with B touching on many heavy topics, like the loss of autonomy inherent in technological “progress”, ways of portraying the sustainability movement in terms of getting something you want, rather than giving up stuff, before getting on to B’s interest in the legal system and the question of how “UKplc” are supposedly undermining it for shadowy reasons. I tried to keep my ears open and remain responsive, but it was a struggle not to dismiss out of hand a lot of his talking points (for example, things are apparently all going to change now with the creation of a “Supreme Court” not accountable to us through the monarch*). At one point, after thinking out loud on the role and origins of law itself, I got a “yeah, maybe I run too far with some of this” and an awkward silence out of him. Engaging with the ideological content of another person’s worldview is a funny business (made funnier when they don’t state their own assumptions and just sit shooting from the sidelines, *ahem*…) We had a nice finale on the connection between control over food supply and the potential for revolutionary action, though. He spoke about how he thought P farm and places like it could eventually reveal that capacity as their ultimate promise.
Big harvest day tomorrow, so I’m told.
* – there was a flyer in the living room which spoke about some of this and talking about people sending in legal declarations rejecting their state personhood and identifying as ‘free men’, or something along those lines… Unfortunately I didn’t remember to jot down their website, but this one seems to go over a lot of the same material. See what you think.
and one later
Picking salads for market tomorrow, then some guy who called himself a communist (casually dropped, mid-sentence) came round to sell T the idea of a farmer’s market / car boot sale / arts & crafts festival in a one-package ‘Village Green’ event. I gouged the seeds from a few more hips while listening to them (he asked me twice what they were good for during lulls in the main conversation, twice failing to listen to my attempt at an answer, and had a weird confrontational thing about responding to T’s mild, incidental use of words like ‘should’ or ‘ought’ with “Listen love, I’ll [x] however I want to.”)
Afternoon raking strimmed grass for a compost heap in the sheep field [they have six of a bigger variety whose name I forget. A lot smarter than regular sheep, too. Browner wool on average, up to four rather scrawny horns on their heads]. Had to repair the rake a couple of times with string, nails and a screw. The compost pile alternated layers of greens with layers of hay, so I got major sneezes off all the dust in the air when throwing the stuff around and patting it down, etc.
B made a fantastic apple pie for dinner, with a pastry apple and (on my suggestion) a smiley worm coming out of it on top. L was crazy-impressed and generally hyper all the evening, thanks (her claim) to a wasp sting to the back of the head – she, P and T had tried to upend a haybale to discourage wasps who were nesting near the bottom of one of the flat sides. They did not succeed.
Nice evening, introducing elderflower tea and chatting about herbs. Then a guitar lesson [they had two classicals and a twelve-string, plus my travel guitar] + jam with T in the living room, again in front of the nice, warm stove fire. Ears a-glow with compliments & my towel drying in the corner.
Overcast and grey all day. Girls out @ market, which immediately sucked half the life out of the place. More compost and mega-sneezing until lunch. Low point downing elderflower tea*, explaining to B how I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do upon leaving here / getting back [I forgot about the acorns waiting for my attention], and how this represented my usual sorry state of affairs. He made the standard attempts to show how it’s possible to fall into doing things you like doing if you put yourself out there for exposure to as many different things as possible [actually, pretty unusual to hear this from another person, but it has already occurred to me on several occasions], but it fell flat at that point in time.
Things picked up during the afternoon when bonfiring several big brushpiles of blackthorn and rose wood by the big oak. The heat drove any illness in me out through the pores in sweat, and even piles of wood half-buried under grass didn’t faze me (although having P reveal to me another pile he’d supposedly told me about towards the end of the day (when I thought I’d nearly finished) did knock the wind out of my sails a little).
Nice spell sitting in the oak’s lower boughs watching a caterpillar struggling on two lines, dangling in mid-air and silhouetted by the far-off sky. B says he thinks the tree must be 4-600 years old, and that it’s rare to find one that old in a hedgerow, untouched by shipbuilders during the time when Britannia ruled the waves.
New girl, J – blonde, young, pretty – chatting with L when I got back at around 5:30 (having missed the bell, but not feeling particularly bothered). Nice time preparing a huge dinner for 7 (including S?, a relation, possibly daughter of P’s). Early bed dog-tired.
* – it promotes sweating and otherwise proves helpful in averting colds & flu – scroll down from here
Nosebleed before breakfast – quick muesli with homemade yoghurt and then off to the polytunnels under a steady drizzle.
Weather brightened just as I finished clearing the last bean patch of non-bean plants. Deprived several frogs of a lot of their covering vegetation by the soggier edges and corners. One old, brown toad oozed urine or liquid faeces as she made lumbering, arthritic movements toward escape.
Nice guitar session with T during lunch, teaching chord names, a bit of theory and ‘You’ve Got To Hide…‘, then cutting more beans off their outdoor poles with B and composting them on my heap (already hot enough to give off a little steam in the mornings!) for the rest of the day.
Went on a magic mushroom-picking walk up on the adjacent hills just before a beautiful red sunset, then made a stir-fry for dinner (not with the shrooms) while L made a super-strong chocolate cake for her last evening.
Currently coughing on a rosehip bristle that somehow got through my strainer into a wonderfully soupy hip’n’mint tea. That’s got it. Forgot to mention: j – P’s equally soft-spoken other half – arrived in the afternoon from Thailand, bringing a box of “Amazing Thai Desserts” which provided much of the evening’s entertainment.
Woke up a little later (my internal alarm clock gave me a lie-in – it has proven very reliable in coaxing me out of bed always around about 8am, along with the family of sparrows living in a bush about 5m from my door), just in time to see L off with another hug and unconvincing promises that we’d speak to or see one another again. Funny girl. The place will be very different – even I can tell – without her high bursting wails of “that’s amAzing!” or “I lOove [so-and-so – most things]”.
J got stuck making bread all day – supposedly to make up for the fact she showed up halfway through yesterday, which seemed a bit off to me – and B was out picking shrooms in his secret field, so it was just me and T to go for a great little trek around T reservoir, about 1½ hrs’ drive away (her car).
Another awesome Autumn day with shocking blues in the sky and fantastic fresh, moisture-heavy air.
Did my best to sift through a few of the personal troubles T lay at my feet, offering a few in my turn, and we had the generally pleasant walking conversations that a man and woman can share on occasions. Having spent most of my current lifetime without them, it shocks the system somewhat to come into contact with people who openly take it as a given that this culture is a fuck-up just waiting to go the way of the dinosaur; people even willing to discuss this as, over all, a positive outcome! So much for a university education…
After a light lunch under a tall field oak, looking over the Southern end of the reservoir, we jumped some fences and stepping-stoned some of the streams before cutting across sheep fields to get to the road going up/down the West side. Bumping into a super-keen Welsh hiker and his wife and teenage daughter, and having him explain possible routes excitedly from his waterproof OS map avoided walking along the road all the way back to the car park. Heading back along the road, we found the small path that led up to a track higher up in the hills running parallel to the road only with better views and no traffic. Nice moments, with primeval smiles all round when I followed rushing sounds to a picture-postcard stream w/ a couple of pretty impressive waterfalls along it, and we spent a while watching it flow and having our negative ions washed away by its cleansing energy (or something).
T seemed to have some trouble getting off the high back at the farm, curling up face down next to the cat by the fire and avoiding eye contact (except for one strangely penetrating stare while I was working my way through an improv. on the nicer nylon-string guitar). B told me later (just before she came into the room again after a spell) that she “gets that way” sometimes. Maybe there’s a problem I can fix here?!!? The current idea is to figure out a few tunes to play in the local pub.
Nice talk with J and B to round off the evening. Apparently the story of the three little pigs was invented by a brick-making company trying to persuade people not to live in timber + wattle houses! [No idea where this came from, but it tastes so delicious I don’t really care if it’s true or not.] Apparently you can eat nettles raw if you fold them up with the bottom part of the leaf on the outside, and if you eat lots of them and fast for the following day, you can see the solar system when you close your eyes!
I may go on one of P’s wacky ‘Sound Healing’ projects/seminars [can you tell I was rather less than informed on this??] tomorrow. We’ll see (or hear, I suppose).
Sunday – strange one, writing now by candlelight (aromatic – because the electric table lamp doesn’t work*) after watching Donnie Darko with the two girls (B left early on).
Said no, after some indecisive covering splutter, when P asked if I wanted to join in with his sound healing session. Not sure why I didn’t want to participate. He used an odd phrasing like “will you be joining us” which put me off, but there was more to it. I spoke to J about it later, saying that I didn’t want to go in pretending sincerity when I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be something to float my boat right now. [I’ve had my fill of being in situations where I find myself constantly swallowing the impulse to say “this is all bullshit”, choosing to stick with it for the small nuggets of interest that sometimes come along, while the process as a whole deadens me to the core.] She seemed to understand, making a point about the ‘Glastonbury mentality’ that lots of people apparently buy into way too easily. She got something out of going herself though, from the sounds of it.
So instead of going to this thing (which lasted the best part of the day), I read up on forest gardens in back issues of ‘Permaculture Magazine‘, confirmatory, well-written articles on Zimbabwe and the positive side of recession in a periodical called ‘The Land‘, dipped into a book on companion planting [different edition there, but the description sounds about right], and then went to an apple-picking thing with B. Which was okay, although the guy running it was a bit of a chore, with orange wellies, green flatcap and a clipboard. Nice chatting to other local types though: P, A, E, T, t and a few others (they gave us name tags and stickers to wear, so I remembered! [Not that it helps you much after I anonymised them, haha :)]). T looked just like an older KL, was into Appalachian Bluegrass (on guitar) and has a small farm nr. H/B which she has watched revert from occasional sheep pasture for around 20 years without messing with it too much. I tried to talk about how that should be a prerequisite for anyone intent on “land management” [::spits twice with venomous disgust::] – in fact probably a bare minimum – but went off a bit half-cocked as is my habit. Nice to practice though…
Far out conversations back in the living room w/ B + J involving Biorhythmic Calendars, astral & lunar cycles, universal interconnectivity, the origins of isolationism… I tried to practice attentive listening, gentle nudging toward further explanation and avoiding the fast track back to my own hobbyhorses. As a result I heard a few things I’d not heard before. Perhaps it’s the influence of Donnie Darko (funny how I’d been thinking about scenes from it recently), but I’m getting the impression this place and the people drawn to it are full of little sprites just waiting to open their treasure-stores to me. Maybe it’s not too late to learn some valuable lessons.
Saw two badgers in the corner of one of the hill-fields overlooking the farm, where the forest creeps down from the mountainside. I made quite a lot of noise coming up before I spotted them, but they didn’t notice me for a while, going about their cute snuffling business in the sandy soil. Managed to walk within 5m of the first before he jerked his head up, waited a second (possibly to catch/verify my scent†), then bounded away, squeezing under a nearby fence. The second didn’t even seem to notice the hasty retreat of his foraging buddy – I stood relatively still this time, watching him slowly approach to only about 2m away before he too had a sniff at the air, turned tail and bolted. What amazing creatures!
* – I never complained, but the electricity cut out quite a few times, and for prolonged periods in my room. B said the wiring was “like Delhi over here”, and J later backed up an earlier sighting by T (which P had dismissed, or just failed to act on – T encouraged us to mention it, which we did in a nice pantomime for him the next day) of bright electrical flashes from an appliance in the greenhouse, which we thought may have caused the blown fuses or tripped circuitboards, whichever it was.
† – ‘Badgerland’ say:
In part to make up for its poor eyesight, the badger has a very good sense of smell. It is thought that the badger’s sense of smell is 700 to 800 times better than ours!
& then – by candle again, tho I did change the sheets.
Weeding, lifting the soil, manuring and covering the ex-bean bed (with black plastic) all day. Nice chatting with T about education (she quit primary school teaching in the Summer because it was “run like a corporation” – primary school!) – felt a bit bad dropping my “mindrape” theory* on her without much care to not offend or even detail it properly, so did so after lunch with a little apology for implying I thought she was a(n ex-) rapist (of defenceless young minds). She took it in her stride, so I could do my expounding as we dug at the brickred earth. We even started to come up with an alternative model for implementation in free communities built around places like P, which felt exciting. Maybe it’s time I started to do my Fukuoka† and see how theory stands in the real world.
Found a small patch of mugwort by a bend in the road to TC while I was looking for chestnuts (still not mature enough). I’m loaded with three cups of the tea, so we’ll see if it has effects on my dreaming like it’s supposed to (I’ve been having pretty vivid ones as it stands). Already noticed a perk in the clarity of my waking vision + awareness…
New girl, E, just out of uni. From Manchester but with London parents, so minimal accent. Feeling a bit overcrowded by the opposite sex now.
Bicycled to T (3 miles in the gathering dark) where they have a library w/ free internet access. Nice message from V on the blog expressing startlingly similar patterns of thought to mine: I knew these people were out there! Was interesting to cycle back at 7pm in the pitch dark with just my little wind-up torch illuminating all of three metres in front of me, and to wave at approaching traffic (otherwise I was nearly all dressed in black).
Which beloved will grace my dreams tonight, I wonder…
* – brief summary: A thing I’ve heard that makes sense to me is that the most fundamental freedom in a society is the freedom to say ‘no’. It seems pretty clear to me that children in school don’t have that option. Teacher stands in the front of the class with a curriculum s/he is required to impose upon those in his/her care. Pupils don’t have the option of absenting themselves from information which they have no use for; which they’re not ready to hear; which damages their perception of the world.
All the same, kids have minds that you might describe as naturally promiscuous when it comes to exploring and engaging with the things around them. Left to it, they develop inter-subjective relationships on their own terms with the ideas that interest them. This happens in completely different ways and at completely different rates from child to child.
The schools, however, train the corporate slave drones (*ahem* sorry – ’employees’) of the future by forcing those in their care to learn in lockstep, according to managerial demands from on high. Kids don’t have the freedom to say ‘no’ to the curriculum, so when the teachers plant their seed (of unasked-for knowledge) in the pupils’ minds, only to harvest the misshapen fruits for their own purposes (or for those of the wider system which they serve) they do so, for the most part, without any meaningful consent.
I call this mind-rape. (“Pretty intense,” as T observed…) Most likely everyone you know is still trying to recover from the trauma.
Related reading: ‘Grades: A Gun To Your Head‘ by Charles Eisenstein:
[…] we use grades not to make them learn, but to make their learning conform to a schedule, curriculum, and methodology imposed from without. Grades, or some other form or coercion or manipulation, are indeed necessary to make someone learn something or do something that they do not want to do. Perhaps society has different priorities for learning than the child has.
and (linked from that essay) ‘Back to Basics‘ by Daniel Greenberg:
But if you bother [the] person, if you insist the person stop his or her own natural learning and do instead what you want, between 9:00 AM and 9:50, and between 10:00 AM and 10:50 and so forth, not only won’t the person learn what s/he has a passion to learn, but s/he will also hate you, hate what you are forcing upon them, and lose all taste for learning, at least temporarily.
Every time you think of a class in one of those schools out there, just imagine the teacher was forcing spinach and milk and carrots and sprouts (all those good things) down each student’s throat with a giant ramrod.
† – from The One-Straw Revolution:
Nothing at All
Recently people have been asking me why I started farming this way so many years ago. Until now I have never discussed this with anyone. You could say there was no way to talk about it. It was simply-how would you say it-a shock, a flash, one small experience that was the starting point.
That realization completely changed my life. It is nothing you can really talk about, but it might be put something like this: “Humanity knows nothing at all. There is no intrinsic value in anything, and every action is a futile, meaningless effort.” This may seem preposterous, but if you put it into words, that is the only way to describe it.
This “thought” developed suddenly in my head when I was still quite young. I did not know if this insight, that all human understanding and effort are of no account, was valid or not, but if I examined these thoughts and tried to banish them, I could come up with nothing within myself to contradict them. Only the certain belief that this was so burned within me.
It is generally thought that there is nothing more splendid than human intelligence, that human beings are creatures of special value, and that their creations and accomplishments as mirrored in culture and history are wondrous to behold. That is the common belief, anyway.
Since what I was thinking was a denial of this, I was unable to communicate my view to anyone. Eventually I decided to give my thoughts a form, to put them into practice, and so to determine whether my understanding was right or wrong. To spend my life farming, growing rice and winter grain-this was the course upon, which I settled. (pdf source)
No beloveds – after the evening clarity, mugwort’s effects were limited to half-remembered dreams of penalty bus fares and cross-channel ferry journeys. Trying again tonight with the sprig-in-(clean)-sock-under-pillow method.
Picking, then uprooting rocket this morning, with accompanying thistles, chickweed and nettles. Didn’t realise quite how often and how badly the latter were stinging fingers and hands until a dull, prickly throb set in at 11ish. Asked for gloves.
Afternoon, a heavy rain started to pour after the morning’s indecisive drizzle, so I got stuck in the tomato polytunnel, pulling up dead, blighted, fungus-ridden plants and winding up their crawl-up strings to the bars on the ceiling. Saw a toad and a butterfly and sang some a-cappella Belle & Sebastian to myself, but otherwise it was a pretty grim way to spend 3 hours. I wonder if the best way to get to know plants is through the process of killing, or otherwise doing great violence, to them. Talking to B later helped me out a lot, what with his descriptions of planting time and all the fruit they’d born despite the blight (which kept B and T busy for ages, pulling off leaf after infected leaf before – especially with the potatoes – it could reach stem, root and soil [apparently if the fungus gets into the soil it can affect next years plants too]). This conversation went off in an interesting direction with wild, robust vs. domesticated, disease-susceptible varieties, and the parallel evolution of the human palate: did people cultivate bigger, juicier specimens because they liked the flavours, or did they grow to like the flavours because they had cultivated these varieties? Then we dead-ended a bit on the many virtues of hemp and the business/government attempts to smother its potential (hmmm…) If it weren’t for these folks and these pick-me-up interactions at the end of the day, I think this work would already be driving me crazy. But maybe that’s just today.
E turns out a lot more interesting than 1st impressions let on. Great talks about her experiences with climate activism and the jokey undercurrents of the more “violent” possibilities therein, given numbers and/or willingness. She’s made seedballs (regularly collects seeds for sowing in gardens and for giving to friends as gifts), went on the 350 walk from Oxford to Totnes, has been “living outside” since the summer, plans to squat later on in Bristol and claim dole creatively. Again, where have these people been hiding??
Challenging plans to make a wild food meal with J at some point this week. We were going to hunt for burdock root today but the rains deterred us.
Dinner was great tonight. P and j were absent so talking could run looser. I think blogger, ‘A Rat In The Walls’ might’ve been onto something when he [I assume] described the potential of a future feudal society based on WWOOF-like volunteer work for tenant farmers*. [Excessively harsh comment omitted, replaced by footnote†]
Great music-playing with T, J and E in the living room. Introducing them to slide guitar, blues tunings and finger-picking techniques. T, it turns out, is pretty skilled with the djembe. 11:30 by my watch: time to sleep.
* – read ‘The Land Grab‘ where he writes:
[…]we’re seeing a “friendly land-grab” in the scramble among liberals for more and more and more organic farms and gardens, and the proliferation of organizations like WWOOF to provide labor [sic – for] them. […] happy-go-liberal Trustafarian WWOOFing, propertarian permaculture, etc could in fact represent incipient feudalism.
† – P farm certainly hasn’t done away with workplace hierarchy, although it has softened it considerably. Maybe I brought some of this baggage in with me, but I still got the strong sense – even from such a brief stay – of having to know my place (literally in the case of several ‘no-go’ areas in the main building for us dirty, smelly workers), having to recognise physical and conventional boundaries over which I wasn’t permitted to step, having to speak differently (more politely, more guardedly) with the owners of the place … at the end of the day I still had to do what the boss said or else I wouldn’t get fed. That was my impression. Having said that, feudalism or no, I far prefer the way of life I experienced there to anything else currently on offer (that I’m aware of) in the culture, and I don’t see a reason why these situations couldn’t ameliorate over time, as industrial civilisation goes deeper into its global collapse. As I’ve written (personal correspondence, but I spoke a little about it back here):
when an inhuman system hits the rocks, that’s the time when space opens up for systems truer to our ontogeny to come into their own.
Great morning for clear, after-rain weather, with the sun poking brightly through at around 10. Planting rocket and winter purslane seedlings, sorting carrots and onions, weeding with J (topics ranging far and wide, slightly too much effort to get to the super-interesting things, I felt) and later with E. Animist perspectives inhere in the young; without protracted trauma or ‘training’, no ‘progress’ to more deadened evaluations of the world. I almost feel bad at the amount of work and unlearning I’ve had to put in, just to get roughly back to what they take for granted. But then I remember what a cool journey it’s been…
More thinking of the things I should or might have said, and the question of how deeply or eagerly I should plunge into that stuff with the uninitiated, or the too-polite-to-say-‘no-thanks-let’s-talk-about-something-else’ while I was pruning a willow hedge.
A harrier jet (lots of military planes about, must be an airbase nearby) came really close with a shattering roar as it turned its exhaust toward us. Now I know something of how the Palestinians feel under the sonic assault of Israeli jets*…
[Not my video]
Dug up some fat burdock roots during lunch, and gave a brief lesson and taste test to J & E near the end of the break. They come up much easier with a fork than with a spade, trowel or digging stick (the roots, not the girls).
Nice walk up on the hills and through a bit of woodland, again with J & E, around dusk. No badgers in the previous spot, but loads of bats flitting above our heads, and a great plateau of blues and deep purples deepening slowly toward the South-Western horizon as we walked back in.
Reading more of Fukuoka’s One-Straw Revolution – they know their Tao, these Japanese natural farmers! Teaching J some of ‘Guaranteed‘, which she heard me playing one evening and said she was a fan of, drinking Yarrow tea† and amusing myself with Cohen and Buckley covers after she and E went off to sleep.
* – from John Pilger’s Freedom Next Time:
Since the settlers’ departure, a new terror has begun. The Israeli air force is attacking the people of Gaza by releasing deafening ‘sound booms’ that cause widespread fear, induce miscarriages and traumatise children. Flying at low altitude after dark, aircraft create sonic booms that send shock waves across the territory and sound like earthquakes or huge bombs. The UN refugee agency said the majority of patients at its clinics were under sixteen and suffering from anxiety attacks, bedwetting, muscle spasms, loss of hearing and breathing difficulties. At Gaza’s Shifa hospital, the number of miscarriages has increased by 40 per cent.
One sonic boom was unintentionally heard in Israel. ‘It was like a heavy bombardment,’ reported Ma’Ariv, the Tel Aviv daily. ‘The noise that shook the Israeli skies was frightening. Thousands of citizens leapt in panic from their beds …’ For this error, the military was forced to apologise to the Israeli public – while continuing its terrorism of Gaza. (p.209 – Guardian source)
Earlier on in the book he interviews a pregnant Palestinian woman in Gaza:
‘People ask me when I am expecting the baby, and I say, well, it depends on Sharon. Will he allow me to continue the pregnancy peacefully? He even controls my fear, turning it up when he wants to. Waiting for his invasion is worse than the invasion itself. In these high buildings, we are a target for the F-16s. You hear them flying low right through the night. You hear them coming in and you wait to hear the missile. You hear them going round again, looking for the target, whatever it is. The first time they bombed in Gaza, all the children in my building started crying. The electricity was cut, we lit candles and sang to the little ones.’ (p.173)
† – probably my favourite wild brew of those I’ve tried so far – nicely aromatic with a pleasant hint of bitterness – made from flowers and leaves snipped/stripped from the stalk. I picked them from the car park just by the T reservoir and dried them on top of my tupperware box in the kitchen
J + T at market in HoW today (even though I’ve been here longer, J gets to go cos she’s prettier to look at – B explained the rationale to me previously, and P didn’t talk to me about the market at all, so the possibility of me going fortuitously never came up) so quiet day on the farm. Lots of time spent with E in the polytunnel – laboriously uprooting more couch grass (a real yoga exercise / stress-position torture by the edges and in the corners where you have to do everything from a crouched position), manuring, digging in, planting salad seedlings. She has the demeanour of someone unfussed but centred and quietly determined.
Brilliant walk at the end of the day up to a nearby waterfall w/ J and E, again, as it was beginning to get dark. J took her shoes off and waded into the splash pool, and we followed suit. In the end, after I gave them a quick foxwalking tutorial (we must have made quite a picture, the three of us practicing it by walking around and around in a tight circle on the banks of the stream as it made its way through the grooved rock to the sheer edge), they were buzzed enough to want to barefoot it all the way back, through mud, gravel, chilly puddles and everything. I mentioned where I heard about it from, related my experiences and troubleshot a little on issues like ‘forward’ posture from hips and lower back, looking ahead rather than down (‘seeing with your feet’), with them actually volunteering some of the deeper implications (like the literal connection to the earth and how messed up that severance – through shoes – is, and the freedom and sensuousness of the experience as compared to walking with your feet encased away from the elements) – by the time we got back, after a slightly clumsier segue into ‘rewilding‘, population issues and the numbered days of farming, there was a really wonderful energy flowing between the three of us.
[It felt good to share some of this stuff after incubating it within me for so long. After I explained this and received a number of encouraging words, I felt a great sense of gratification and eagerness to share more, coupled with a sense of ‘Why did I never try this before?’ I wonder how much potentially life-enhancing information never gets transmitted because of people never asking the right questions and always finding reasons to not ‘impose their point of view’, no matter how favourable the circumstances…]
B made a chilli bean dinner with just the right amount of heat, and we retired for more fireside chat, with us once again comparing mythologies (thanks LC) – B with his “get to know legal lingo so you can deal with cops and be a Free Man, unless we all get DNA databased”, E with the benefits of protesting and (nonviolent) direct action and me biting my tongue or butting in with Jensen-inspired snippets to see how that stood with them. J seemed the most open of all of us. She managed to take a shine from what any of us was saying and connect it to her experience through any number of entertainingly torturous ways.
Earlier I told her about my dream about having my footsteps dogged by an old teacher until I turned the tables on the fucker, finally telling him what’d been on my mind all these years and banishing him from my experience for good. Don’t know how she managed it, but she seemed to take such an in-depth confession in her stride. Better was finishing the evening by telling her the [Arundhati] Roy quote of “I’m tired of being right. I want to win [approx. citation needed]” – in reference to the dubious efficacy of protest marches and how lots of people go on them to salve their consciences and make a losing situation seem acceptable. I like making people light up!
Friday – another spent mainly with E, talking about family and university, finishing with the seedlings, getting nibbled by midges, weeding the tomato patch and uprooting the dead & dying plants, collecting slugs to feed to the ducks (we ‘deliberated’ long and hard about the ethical dubiousness of this) – they snaffled them down with glee off a gourmet wood-plank platter – and digging up root after skinny, pointy white root of couch grass.
Helped make dinner with J + E – slicing up beetroot, carrots and other root veg – including burdock! – to roast with oil in an oven dish. People said nice things about the burdock (sliced, dunked in cider vinegar*) but it was hard work to chew on. We agreed that smaller chunks would work better. Made a funny about feeling a heavy, downwards-pulling sensation in my belly, and worrying about waking up fastened to the floor after eating such a quantity of root foods. Some laughed…
Nice talking to B, who was a picture working on the blade of his shipbuilders axe [forgot the actual name, but it’s a long-handled thing used to plane wood across the grain from a standing position] and testing it hunched over a small piece of wooden board. I read bits of Fukuoka on weeds† out loud and he supplied the anecdotal evidence from his experiences. Apparently he’s leaving tomorrow to go up to G, and probably won’t come back before I leave. Funny man – many mannerisms remind me of JP [who’s that? – you’ll never know!], albeit in a much milder form.
Rest of the evening passed mostly quietly listening to the easy back & forth between the girls. A nice even-weighted rhythm has developed in the way we speak since being here. I like it a great deal.
Late one tonight, playing fingerstyle ballads on the travel guitar.
* – to stop it discolouring, as per a half-remembered Eat Weeds recipe (I forgot the part where you dilute the vinegar)
† – read the chapter, ‘Four Principles of Natural Farming’ (from p.33) back at that pdf source. Here are the relevant bits:
Weeds play their part in building soil fertility and in balancing the biological community. As a fundamental principle, weeds should be controlled, not eliminated. […]
When the soil is cultivated the natural environment is altered beyond recognition. The repercussions of such acts have caused the farmer nightmares for countless generations. For example, when a natural area is brought under the plow very strong weeds such as crabgrass and docks sometimes come to dominate the vegetation. When these weeds take hold, the farmer is faced with a nearly impossible task of weeding each year. Very often, the land is abandoned.
In coping with problems such as these, the only sensible approach is to discontinue the unnatural practices which have brought about the situation in the first place. The farmer also has a responsibility to repair the damage he has caused. Cultivation of the soil should be discontinued. If gentle measures such as spreading straw and sowing clover are practiced, instead of using man-made chemicals and machinery to wage a war of annihilation, then the environment will move back toward its natural balance and even troublesome weeds can be brought under control. […]
[W]hen you cultivate, seeds lying deep in the soil, which would never have germinated otherwise, are stirred up and given a chance to sprout. Furthermore, the quick sprouting, fast-[growing] varieties are given the advantage under these conditions. So you might say that the farmer who tries to control weeds by cultivating the soil is, quite literally, sowing the seeds of his own misfortune.
Missed B’s takeoff, and began the experience of being the only man around [apart from P]. T being laid low by a cold, me E and J set out on a day walk through the sleet and the general grey to the eventual destination of a waterfall just outside T.
The best bits were the lovely beech/oak, and then oak/ash woodland we walked through, leaves snowing down their Autumn multicolours. Generally we spent too much time consulting the OS map that j had left for us – there were a few stages when it seemed that the more we consulted the thing the more lost we felt. This led to out-loud-wonderings about sat-nav for walkers (“at the next stile, turn left” etc.) and more private thoughts about technology manifesting as theft of autonomy.
Just before reaching T, we came across a churchyard with blue plastic tape around many of the tombstones and wooden support frames behind them for no immediately discernable reason. I read the dark poetry aloud to the others from the sign on the gateway. The tombstones in the yard had been ‘surveyed’, and some of them had ‘failed’ to meet a health & safety standard, and so were deemed a potential ‘hazard to the public’. Most of those with the supports didn’t even reach knee height, with no obvious tilt or instability. You couldn’t make this shit up.
Great energy in the SSSI reserve SE of T – got the impression the land hadn’t been much messed-with for a long time [aside from a nearby rail track leading to an old quarry] – huge oak and ash trees swaying in the groaning, growing winds, lush green vegetation thriving in the humid air. We lunched on leftover quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wa’) and root veg by the waterfall (another pretty one, grooving from sandstone to mudstone, according to the sign).
Got stuck in a groove of my own on Xtianity vs. native spiritual traditions [more of this stuff] after we tasted a couple of yew berries (on J’s suggestion*) by an oldish-looking church building. Felt bad about bumbling through my repertoire in this way without much prompting (aside from polite encouragement) from the other two, so discontinued in favour of psychedelic experiences and E’s vegan politics (moral purity vs. mass production).
Back at P after a good 6½ hours. I felt worse after letting J in on a little of my personal shit (in this instance, my comparison of feeling like a severely pruned tree, tentative to reach for the sun) only for her to hit me with a load of advice I hadn’t asked for, about the need to “get out there”, “jump the river” and other b/s about “grasping confidence”. I fought my corner as best, and politely as I could, but felt a sourness creeping into the whole experience. “Even the best of them don’t actually listen to what you’re trying to say” – I grumbled to myself on the way back to my room.
Much better though after dinner and off, with T included, to the H pub for a blues/folk/kazoo night with lots more switched-on people to talk to, and a new atmosphere in which to appreciate the people I’ve spent this time with. Couldn’t find them anywhere else. [Earlier reservations firmly aside then … T later mentioned how healthy it was to get out of the place once in a while to see other people and escape from the inevitable goldfishbowl tendencies of living and working with the same small group of people day in, day out.]
* – she said she’d nibbled on them several times in the past without ill-effect, and that you just had to spit the stone out or swallow it whole without crunching it in your teeth first. I’d read conflicting info about this, with one page that had some especially memorable lines like ‘Regarded as one of THE most poisonous and deadly plant materials around’, but which talked about the ‘slightly sugary gloop’ around the seed which you could eat if bothered to ‘VERY GENTLY’ squeeze it from the berry. Her story checks out with PFAF though:
When eating the fruit you should spit out the large seed found in the fruit’s centre. Should you swallow the whole seed it will just pass straight through you without harm. If it is bitten into, however, you will notice a very bitter flavour and the seed should immediately be spat out or it could cause some problems. (link)
Nothing bad happened to me after one berry, except that I suddenly became aware of a pain in my left shoulder (which was incidentally where my shoulder bag had been pulling all day).
What a great day! Lazy dreaming in the early morning under a subdued patter of rain on the ceiling, lots of Fukuoka in the living room after breakfast, dandelion foraging for a stir-fry lunch (including thin-sliced burdock for the first time à la Japonaise & quite crunchy too, in a nice way) with the girls.
Sitting and chatting away (J had a dream in which a group of us recounted our mugwort dreams. She had dreamt (in the dream) of Sainsburys. I had dreamt of killing a bunch of people!), playing spots of guitar and singing while they made a great little carrot cake – soon it started to get dark, but not before we 3 went on a massive forage for all kinds of seeds to put in seed balls/bombs for general use in guerrilla gardening. Like I said, E had made them before, fairly simply: you just collect your seeds, press them into mud (with compost if you choose – we didn’t) and roll into a ball ready to dry and get thrown somewhere that looks as though it could use an explosion of life.
Then 3-way guitar lesson on Green Day’s ‘Time Of Your Life‘ which I wrote out (lyrics, chords, even a short tab) for them + helped bring into shape. The whole experience felt really good, with a freedom to express much of the things I’ve learned, but at an unhurried pace, as each came up in turn. Their individual difficulties with rhythm, right hand patterns, etc. helped me focus on and fully articulate previously unconscious aspects of my own playing. They showed a load of appreciation as well, which added to the glow.
Quick talk with T and a guitar jam along with a pretty Eminor piece of hers, before beans on toast for dinner and an incredible film: ‘Julliette of the Herbs’* about an English lady who spent time with gypsies and European peasant cultures from the mid-20th century onwards, learning about plants and healing animals + humans. Some important stuff about learning to listen to your own body’s instincts (above expert opinion) when developing relationships with plants – if other animals can do it, what’s our problem? Why don’t we trust ourselves (anymore)? Amazing people recede into the distances to dance in a gypsy sky… We drive them away. They drive us away. So sad to see the loss in such a short period of time.
* – a film about Juliette de Bairacli Levy. Here’s a page of info.
Clocks forward, so more light in the morning to wake me up, whereupon to look at my watch which has stopped about 10 hours previously…
Early breakfast, a bit of packing, rolling a few more seedballs under the pale yellow morninglight. I will miss this.
Working day with E again in the polytunnels. Weeding, digging, manuring, overturning, planting the over-winter salad seedlings, bi-carb-of-soda-ing the inside of the tunnel plastic. At one point, by the manure pile, I told her “you’re the boss”, and we played that game for a while (the line from TY came to mind: ‘I’m a dog, I’m a dog, I’m a lapdog, I’m your lapdog, yeah’ – in more a self-mocking than S&M-type way :o ) – I felt aches and pains where she complained of them, and got angry at the midges after her example. Oh, the insatiable vacuum*!
Taught J/E ‘You’ve Got To Hide…’ and ‘Karma Police‘ plus a few more tricks of the trade, had abortive one-on-ones with J who seemed to be plumbing her own depths to watch for my reaction, and a little too keen to chop + change when what I said in return didn’t quite fit. She later spoke about wanting an all-knowing, all-wise condensation of energy just out to the left and above her [she gestured], letting her know the rights and wrongs, the certainties of every word and action. I came up with a response to that a bit later to the tune of: ‘I prefer the idea that many energy centres have their own perspectives on goods and bads from their own point of view – their personhood – and that mulling through these many ambiguities might just prove a more satisfying way to spend a life’. I thought she got the distinction, or that maybe she would later on – either way I flashed and she did too, even if she immediately flitted on to talk about karma and other boring – because relatively impersonal – stuff.
After dinner we’d all gone to a sound/voice-healing session in the mud-hut sound chamber at the North-Eastern extremity of the premises. I quite enjoyed the hoeing improv, the getting in touch with the dark Celtic crone for the winter, the overtoning, and the free singing in memory of a friend of j’s. Couldn’t relax properly or feel much of anything during the chakra openings, but settled forward into a closed-off posture and enjoyed the loose melancholy of it. Some huge spiders creeping along the ceiling rafters.
I did feel a bit ‘healed’ by the end of it – I guess mostly through the moving bits where I could shake out / smooth over my accumulated bodily tensions, and the always nice experience of finding a spot in the music where I can help really sit things in place. P invited us to blow out a candle if we wanted to give someone a blessing. For some reason M popped into my head while I was leaning forward to have the candle mark my retinas all the deeper. So I blessed her, blew out the candle, and, as an afterthought, sizzled the ember out with my fingers to sit there rubbing them together for a while with a strange smile on my face. Don’t know why it felt appropriate.
After we finished P and j thanked me for coming, T thanked me for playing guitar so ‘cleverly’ and singing, and I mumbled my in-eloquent thanks in return, saving the real stuff for a poetic remembrance which I put in the guestbook later on.
Will hitch out tomorrow morning.
* – an explanation (of sorts) back here
Relaxed all through the night (bade J “keep the evil thoughts at bay” as I returned to my room after another great guitar session – ‘I Got Shit‘ pinged all over the place and hit all kinds of new emotional resonances in a slower, less deliberate form – as she was writing a letter [it turned out] in her room). Good dreams of I-can’t-remember-what. Anyway, I eventually lost a lot of that good, slow, grounded energy in the usual frenetic packing. [I didn’t even have a train to catch FFS!]
Nice goodbye hugs and dubious ‘keep in touch’ promises (“you’re not on facebook, are you?”), and j drove me to a roundabout outside B, where she was taking a computer to get it fixed. Fairly long wait before a guitar shop owner and his wife stopped for me and took me as far as Abergavenny [he recognised my guitar just from the look of the case]. Then a nervous, talkative ex-air traffic controller (who now lives on a small bit of land in the Brecons, quit the RAF when he was still young because of all the callous military “bull shite” [and because of a motorbike crash], and has lots of trouble with an “environmental terrorist” farmer neighbour and his son) took me to the M4 junction by Newport.
A student who’d never picked up a hitcher or done it himself before (hence a minority) took me over the new Severn Bridge to a junction outside Bristol, which turned out badly when a highway services crew spotted and detained me for being on the motorway. Before I knew it they’d called the police to shunt me off half a mile South to the closest A road. I caved in after an “it’s nothing ominous – we just have to make a full report” and gave them my name and address in the back of the car.
Got stuck by the roundabout where they left me for 1½ hrs at least, with the sun shining full in my face and wankers swearing at me from their windows and giving me the finger, before a nice man in a flashy BMW/Audi convertible stopped and drove me to just outside Swindon.
Thenafter a really cool working class guy – self-employed in building/insurance – took me up to Wokingham, while telling me all his entertaining work-related stories and about the horrors of traffic accidents which go uncompensated when one feels too claustrophobic to spend 20 minutes in an MRI scanner. His car was a mess of various equipment and bits of paper, some of which came flying out as I opened the passenger door.
The hitch from W to G looked daunting so I took the train, paying for a ticket from A to S when the ticketwoman came just before G. Dutifully got off at S to find that there’d be no more trains for an hour, so stuck my thumb and a small sign optimistically by an A-road near the station (it was around 5pm and already nearly dark at this point).
Crazy-funny end to the journey (all the way home from Wales in one day!) when a cool young builder guy stopped for me, changed vans at his nearby workshop and attempted to drive me to D. ‘Attempted’, because ten minutes after he explained how, after 18,000 miles his Nissan truck had run out of battery on this very stretch of road, leaving him stranded and paying £600 to have it fixed, and five minutes before getting into D, the battery cut out again, leaving us in the (for me) entertaining position of having to push it along the road in a slow-moving line of cars, trying to restart the engine, and then pushing it up onto the (luckily quite wide) grassy pavement when this didn’t work.
Unfortunately, he was supposed to be picking up his Irish girlfriend and taking her to the airport on her way to her uncle’s wake (!) in around 20 mins, and he’d left his mobile phone (with her number in it) in the other truck! Eventually he found an old phone bill with her landline number on it, and we walked hurriedly into town, where I found J and C and a few others in the S [pub]. C leant his mobile, and the guy managed to get through and talk his girl into driving down to D herself, whereupon the plan was for him to get in the car, drive to and from the airport before arranging pick-up for the truck. Felt like I’d cursed the thing.
After the guy shot off to rendezvous with his girlfriend, I drank a bit with J and C, had a pasta dinner at J’s (with bacon and salmon – animal protein!!*) then for-went his offer of a final lift back home in favour of a jam session at C’s place a short walk away. So not quite all the way in one day – but I could’ve made it if I’d wanted to.
Coming back here feels a bit smutty; my relationships with people here already a bit tawdry in comparison to those I found so briefly, so far away. Don’t know how easily I’ll acclimatise to homelife this time.
* – apart from one fish’n’chip takeaway and the occasional duck egg I’d been on a vegetarian/vegan diet for the duration of my stay at P. Man, does that stuff give me gas!
I’ve told people I’m “back for the winter”, and have begun the painful contractions of mind and spirit necessary to fit back in these various shoeboxes.
The day after my arrival in D, I spent a morning with C and a few future gig-providers (a disabled woman with the most beguiling smile, and her pointier, blonder, Scottisher carer/friend) in the ‘cosmopolitan’ area of town. Felt slightly good about myself after the blonde sucked an explanation out of me about what I wrote in my blog. Not that I explained it particularly well – picking The Social RPG as the latest item, and letting them all run away with their own eager misunderstandings – just it felt good to string a few relatively “unthinkable” statements together in ‘respectable’ company.
Decided to walk the last distance back home. Plantlife doing well along the river. Odd moment saying hello to an edgy stallion by the stables. He came ambling over for food, absently flapped his lips over my knuckles on the fence, and then pretty much stood there towering above me, while I eyed my unkempt reflection in his huge brown eyes, trying to find something in there to recognise and/or share something with. Meeting failure and empty silence, I muttered some inconsequential nothings, patted him on the muzzle and walked on.
Threw a few of the seedballs onto the grounds of the old mill and beside some of the riverside bunkers, imagining explosions of diverse, colourful life and the gratitude of the land. This stuff comes with all kinds of politics of its own to muddle through. I figured a general rule to stick to, while stumbling through the early stages of active ecosystem-repair, might go something like: “Learn to STFU and listen to what the land wants – don’t throw indiscriminately, start out with the really dead zones where you can do no wrong, observe and proceed from there”.
Parents seemed pleased to see me, acting in a slightly different, more respectful manner. Brother had another episode on the way back from the station. I figure I’ll have to look up some stuff on the i/net if I’m to make a connection with him on this.
The S [pub] was fun on Thursday. S [person] was there and played a great original about an unfolding ribbon with a very easy, direct manner that I’ve not seen from her before. Nailed a bunch of solos for P, B/P, and J, feeling skittish but into it. Played ‘Down‘ (‘And if hope could grow from dirt like me, it can be done…’), ‘Partisan‘ and E. John on the house steel-string, with IPA lulling my tongue and eyes roving more freely. Not ‘arf bad.
Things begin again. We pick up, we leave off, we bait our own traps and sink our teeth in. What did this thing mean?
Sadness when I see their faces, remember their movements.