a maze of words leading to …?


Greenlands Farm

Soon after moving to Avalonia I bought a copy of the local newspaper, intending to scan the “Accommodation To Let” adverts. But I got no further than the front page, which expressed shock, horror and outrage over the arrival of “The Convoy” [see Medieval Brigands] at a place called Greenlands Farm.

I almost fell over. It couldn’t be true! No! I’d just escaped from all that [see Molesworth Green Gathering]! It was done with, finished! I’d only been in Glastonbury a few days – surely these people weren’t actually following me around the country?

It had to be a mistake. Maybe a cub reporter had got it wrong? Perhaps it was only a couple of gaily-painted, horse-drawn wagons arriving in Glastonbury at the appointed seasonal moment, gently following the ancient route of the Gypsy Switch, just as their forebears had done since time immemorial. A few cooking pots, the curl of wood smoke and two freshly-skinned rabbits. Surely that’s all there was to it. And in the hysteria surrounding Stonehenge and the recent “Battle of the Beanfield”, some local resident, newly-retired from Surbiton probably, had maybe panicked, picked up the phone and yelled, “the Convoy are coming, the Convoy are coming – I can see the snow on their unlaced boots!”

Needing to find out the truth, I set off to search for Greenlands Farm and check out this wild story.

Having walked through shady Wick Hollow and skirted the Tor to my right, I passed a couple of local farmers who were leaning on a fence, anxiously chewing straws and clearly agitated by the news, apparently just in, that a mysterious Swami [see Swami Bharmi’s Ashram Acolytes] had elected to join the burgeoning encampment.

“Whatev’r be ‘e thinkin’ arv”, said the grizzled sod-buster to his neighbour.

“Eee bain’t thinkin”, replied the other, “tain’t thinkin’ ad aowl, an tha’z the poind zee …. ‘eee bain’t thinkin’ o’ nuthin’. They hippos caowls it ‘no moind’, or zum zuch narnzenze.”

“Ar”, said the first, “tha’z the buggher. Oi rairck’n you’m roit there.”

As I drew closer to the hamlet of Wick itself – and thence Greenlands Farm – my thoughts wandered back to my first encounter with The Convoy, when I was living in the city of Bath. They’d arrived out of the blue, occupying the rugby fields on the edge of the city. The local paper reported outbreaks of hepatitis, the rugby fixtures were cancelled, the city council met in emergency session and the populace seemingly teetered on the edge of panic: Genghis and his Mongol hordes were poised outside the city walls, ready to sweep down upon us.

As dusk fell, I had walked out along Bath’s London Road to see for myself. Getting nearer, I heard the sound of voodoo drum beats … dum dum dum Bah, dum dum dum Bah, dum dum dum Bah. Smoke trailed upwards. The light from what seemed like hundreds of camp fires flickered in the sultry gloom. I continued onwards. The drums were very loud now. Dum dum dum Bah, dum dum dum Bah, dum dum dum Bah. As I turned onto the Rugby Field track, there it was – a huge sign in lurid, dripping red paint: “Welcome to Doom City” ….

With an effort I snapped back to my present surroundings. The birds were twittering, the hedgerows were ablaze with flowers and the winding lane led over a cattle-grid towards the entrance to Greenlands Farm. Here, to my huge relief, was no Doom City, but instead a run-down 43 acre farm, including sun-dappled apple orchard, clucking hens, a small, peaceful scattering of benders and buses, and the portable ashram of His Holiness Sri Ananda Jacaranda Swamiji Bharmiji Ji …

The original aim at Greenlands had been to establish a semi-monastic, land-based Christian community (the first near Glastonbury since the dissolution of the Abbey under Henry VIII, 450 years ago). The farm was run on the principle of kindness to animals. And the owner, being short of labour and farming expertise, had opened the farm to anyone – ideally pilgrims to Glastonbury – able to help on the farm in exchange for a place to live.

This, by a long and tortuous route, had eventually led to the midnight arrival, in twos and threes, of Rainbow Fields (Village) on the Road [1] and a few other assorted “Convoy” types. The fuse – or Wick – had been lit. What became known as ‘The Hippy Wars’ had begun, and with it a 24-hour police watch on the farm.

In the next 26 weeks this titanic struggle was to feature no less than 21 times in the front page headlines of either (and usually both) the Western Gazette or the Central Somerset Gazette. It was indeed an epic saga, a bit like The Archers[2], conveniently serialised in weekly parts: “The Greenlanders – an everyday tale of country folk”.

Initially, at the time of my first visit, there were only a small number of travellers at Greenlands. The Swami, however, from his long years in the mountains, had learnt to think big. Quickly adopting the appropriate lingo, he announced through his many acolytes a “Children of the Rainbow Gathering” in the “Free State of Avalonia”. The news spread like wildfire. A further 300 travellers arrived and the town was gripped by hysteria – or was it the other way around?

Seizing the opportunity, one of the new residents at Greenlands announced a “Festival Organiser’s Forum” – although soon afterwards, and given the number of anti-organiser ‘anarchist- travellers’ by then arriving at the farm, this event was hurriedly renamed “Festival Forum for a Future” … but it was too late. As the initiator later wrote (by then a broken if wiser man): “… we opened with a session called Organisation & Anarchy. This was perhaps a mistake.”

Sri Ananda Jacaranda was content to let the chaos flow around him. When pressed by reporters he smiled serenely and described life in the Greenlands’ orchard as “muddy fun”. When pressed even further, he raised his hand to quell the general hub-bub and said, “If you push something hard enough it will fall over”. The assembled press scribbled furiously, evidently expecting more, but His Holiness stepped into the ashram and would not come out, despite repeated cries of “Please Mr. Jacaranda, give us a statement”.

This stand-off continued for some hours, but the Swami’s aloofness only added to the density and fervour of the media pack outside, especially since news had now reached them from the slopes of Glastonbury Tor of his earlier pronouncement (i.e. “Nothing Once Known is Never Forgotten”).

Eventually, just as the sun was sinking, a folded slip of paper appeared from under the ashram portal. Whooping with excitement, the nearest hack scooped it up. “What’s it say? Read it! Read it!” came the cries. In the gathering gloom of dusk, the reporter cleared his throat and stood up straight, trembling slightly. A great sense of history and drama washed suddenly over him. He unfolded the paper and, peering at the single, scrawled line, his voice rang out across the hushed ranks, “Everything You Know Is Wrong” …

But all this and more was yet to unfold as I meandered through the orchard, where the tranquil whispering of leaves gave no inkling of the dark passions to come … [see Greenlands Farm Part 2]

[1] The name adopted by remnants of the ‘Rainbow Fields Village’ following their eviction from Molesworth air base [see Molesworth Green Gathering].

[2] A long-running radio drama series here in the UK.

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