a maze of words leading to …?


Greenlands Farm

[See also Greenlands Farm Part 1 and Greenlands Farm  Part 2.]

The Central Somerset Gazette had a belter of a headline: “Gypsy Site ‘Horror’ Could Be Permanent”.

Permanent horror?, I mused, clutching the newspaper as I sheltered inside the shop from the rain, is that metaphysically possible?

My thoughts ran on. Surely it would only be possible sustain a feeling of actual horror for so long? Wouldn’t you eventually fall asleep or something? Or wouldn’t you get that tiny bit used to it in due course, after which it might decay into something less … like semi-revulsion, or maybe quasi-terror. Eventually – I persisted with this – it’d surely just become nothing more than mild panic, and even begin to seem normal after a while, as indeed it would be normal, by definition, if it was there permanently ….

I was interrupted in this entertaining (if pointless) train of thought by the arrival of a delivery van, which screeched to a halt outside the shop. A breathless man came running inside, dumped a pile of newspapers on the counter, ran back to his truck and sped off. It was a rival paper, hot off the press, even hotter these days since a circulation war had erupted, centred on ever more lurid headlines about the ‘traveller’s settlement’ at Greenlands Farm.

Even standing in the shop doorway I could read the block letters, six inches high, of the latest screaming headlines: “New Disease Fear as Vermin Virus Hits Greenlands.”

Nicely ambiguous, I thought. By “vermin” did it mean rats and suchlike, or did it mean the travellers? And did it mean that the travellers had been struck by the virus, or rather that they had brought it with them to the farm?

I bought a copy and read the story’s opening paragraph: “Rats found at Greenlands Farm are to be wiped out by vermin control experts following the discovery of a suspected new killer disease at the controversial camp-site.” … It later turned out that the “vermin virus” was non-existent, but few newspapers let little details like the facts get in the way of a good story.

I awoke the next day to find that this yellow journalism had brought a swift response from the Avalonian People’s Popular Liberation Experience (A.P.P.L.E.) see Avalonian Independence Party. Their “Provisional High Command” (alleged) had nailed a “communiqué” to telegraph poles across the town. This ran as follows:

“Insofar as the government has powers to remove us by social blackmail or force, let it be known that we have several sites lined up in the immediate area to move to. However we cannot let this happen whilst hepatitis, mental derangement and psychotic visionaries are running like wildfire through our midst. Our local Masonic contacts assure us that it is better to leave things as they are.

We insist the authorities approach in a spirit of reconciliation, and we will sort this out together. Otherwise 23 shades of pandemonium will break loose over the heads of honest Glastonburgers. Over the next few years the county’s mental hospitals will be emptying rapidly, and hippies are best equipped to absorb these people, but we cannot do this under the pressure of continual harassment.” [1]

Signed,

Boris, leader of the Convoy; King Arthur Mix; Swami Bharmi; Wally Hope; Bob Dylan.

The local press printed this message in full, though “hepatitis” was printed as “hippytitis” in one newspaper (later claimed as a proof-reading error).

I glanced at the signatories. Swami Bharmi was a real person actually camped at Greenlands – this much I knew. Bob Dylan was also a real person – depending on your point of view – but unlikely to be camping in the mud (though in Avalonia one never quite knows for sure). Wally Hope sounded normal enough and on that count was probably fictitious (I later stood corrected, though it wasn’t his real name and he was dead in any case). As for Boris, “leader of the Convoy”, it was well known that The Convoy had no leader, though this didn’t stop the police looking for him. That left King Arthur Mix.

Following a hunch, I opened my copy of Glastonspeak – The Essential Guide, turned to the back and scanned through the index. There it was, the entry I’d suspected. Moving to the page listed, I read:

“Half a mix” (colloquially “Arf a mix”, and thence Arthur Mix). This is a shouted public request / invitation, which translates as: “someone please give enough hashish for this next communal joint / pipe / chillum.” Though the origins are somewhat obscure, it is believed to refer to a half-and-half smoking mixture of cannabis sativa and tobacco.

I glanced again at  A.P.P.L.E’s “communiqué, pondering. So, they had nailed their colours to the mast – or telegraph poles in this case – and the battle lines were drawn ….

[1] See http://www.unique-publications.co.uk.

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