a maze of words leading to …?

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Reality with a capital Ah!


Tor

“Life in Avalon” is the title of a roughly sketched gift-card to be found in Glastonbury’s shops. It shows children playing against a backdrop of the famous, seven-spiralled Tor, whilst from a nearby house a parent calls: “Merlin, Arthur, Morgana le Fey, Isis, Vishnu, your vegeburgers are ready!”

Browsing visitors, seeing the card, smile fondly at this ‘parody’, or else look baffled. Yet all would be startled to learn that truth, in this place, far outstrips pale fiction. For from the many tribes and clans of Avalonia there looms today, out of the mists and beyond the ken of mortal folk, a greater range of names-fabulous than ever walked abroad in yester-years of myth and legend.

Here, perchance outside St. John’s Church, there is indeed a Merlin.[1] This swaying, red-faced Biker-Prophet harangues passers-by with the fierce, drunk-fired-up wrath of God. Angels of Hell’s variety adorn the denim overlay of his ripped and grimy leather jacket. Suddenly he advances, blue eyes burning, wild hair astray, thrusting his face within inches of a teenage techno-raver who loiters innocently nearby with friends. Merlin, portent with omen, fixes the youth with a penetrating stare, points upwards in dire consequence and booms like a thunder-clap, “You are the truth of all that you fear!”

Judgement pronounced, he stalks off in triumph. The boy-raver, though feigning unconcern to keep his coolth with peers, is greatly disconcerted and may later ponder deeply on these words. But Merlin, the shape-shifter, has shifted to a new location, driven on by …. who can know what?

Vishnudeva also lives here. A nervous, gentle soul, he floats on the sea of life like a jellyfish waiting for the next wave goodbye. A leather amulet with photogenic guru dangles from his neck, perhaps to ward off sharks and other lurking dangers.

And Guinevere was discovered shopping for buns in Jane’s Bakery[2]. A small crowd gathered in the High Street as a pilgrim fell to his knees in homage, clutching at the hem of her dress. “Oh Guinevere, Guinevere,” he declared ardently , “at last I’ve found you!” Being the sister of Henno the Astrologer, she was perhaps more prepared than most for such an encounter, and her native Dutch phlegm flickered but little – it would, after all, make an amusing tale for her boyfriend, a Cornish smuggler.

Jah Glastafari, ever-livin’, thy tribes and clans are legion: Antares of Shambhala, Orion, Burning Spear D’Albion, Jean Morning Star, Odin the Harpist, Moses, Stella Moon, Lizzie Freewoman, Jupiter, Stanley Messenger, Dice George, Pixie, Lol Whitelion, Tree Peacock, Justin Credible and many more besides … all shall make their entrances and exits in this story of the Veil that is Avalon.

These names are not made up for effect – they’re the real names of real people. This is actuality down here: Reality with a capital Ah! So get wise, fools, and wake up to what’s going on in this neck of the woods, lest you want someday to have to deal with an acorn the size of a coconut! And it’s coming your way, watch out. It just happens here first, that’s all.

So don’t say I didn’t warn you. In fact, don’t say anything at all – you’re not equipped for it. And you never will be until you know. And that’s what I’m doing – helping you to know. I don’t expect any thanks for it, but someone’s got to tell the world and I’m the one who’s been stuck with it. Anyhow, you deserve maybe one chance at the truth, I suppose, before it’s too late.

In the Middle East they call it kismet. In Old Norse, the word is wyrd. In the USA they say, “you can’t buck the system”. In India they bow to karma. In England they talk of fate. In Avalonia, on a favoured wall in Silver Street, they have simply spray-painted “Good morning lemmings!”

 

[1] There are in fact two different Merlins – or three if you count the Welsh variant Taliesin, or four if you include middle names, and five if you count dogs. They have not so far – stay lucky – learned of each other’s existence.

[2] Later re-named, under rather mysterious circumstances, ‘Burns the Bread’.

For want of a bag ….


TrolleyI arrived at the supermarket checkout with a fully-laden trolley. “Would you like a bag?”, said the young lad on duty.

I stared at him incredulously for a moment, then smiled warmly and replied sweetly. “No thanks, I’m going to stuff it all into my trouser pockets.”

“Oh”, he said, sounding a tad uncertain.

“Or failing that”, I continued in the same calm and reasonable voice, “I could balance it all on my head and then shimmy my way out across the car park”.

“Oh”, he said again, looking distinctly uneasy now, eyes flicking down below the counter, where I suspected a panic-button might be hidden.

“Yes”, I mused, rubbing my chin thoughtfully, “the East African balance-technique will probably be best for supermarket stuff. And I’ve been practising it for weeks in front of a mirror, using tins, packets, jars and bottles from my kitchen. Twenty-eight items is my record so far … but all without walking of course.”

“Oh”, he said, nervously glancing to his left and right, no doubt hoping to see an approaching security guard.

Warming to my theme, I pressed on. “I’ve really been looking forward to putting all those hard practice hours to work … doing it for real, in a real supermarket, out here in the real world.”

“Oh”, he said once more.

But there was no stopping me now. “Yes indeed. And if the swaying column of foodstuffs does somehow come crashing down and injure another customer, well, the supermarket’s insurance will cover all that … won’t it?”

“Umm, I err, umm … I’m not sure if …”

“So”, I said briskly, rubbing my hands together, “if you could just help me with placing the items one by one on my head, we can get started.”

“Umm, well, err, I’m not sure if …”

“It’s OK”, I said, “because when we get to the last few items I can kneel on the floor, and you can climb up onto the checkout counter, and that way I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to finish off stacking them on my head.”

“Umm, well, err … I don’t think …”

“OK, never mind”, I said, conscious of the growing rumblings of discontent from the long queue of customers behind me and realising it was time to end this exchange.

And so, sighing deeply, I lavishly indicated the trolley’s contents and then pointed extravagantly to the sheaf of bags on his counter, saying, “Alright, yes, I would indeed like – not to say need – a bag. Several in fact.”

Well, I thought, onwards if not upwards.

The Chilled Aisle


Iced bunMy local supermarket has – like most supermarkets I suppose – what its pre-recorded store announcement calls a “chilled aisle”. It’s where you find the more relaxed customers hanging out and kicking back.

These are the type of people who, when they come to the end of the self-service check-out process and the machine says: “Please choose your preferred payment method”, respond by saying “Shoplifting theft, thanks very much”, then bag up the goodies without paying and saunter out.

As they walk across the supermarket car park, they might well meet Mr. Marmaduke Cyril Ocean strolling the other way … the way of enlightenment. This numinous state of being descended suddenly on our splendidly named friend at precisely 10.23am, earlier that very morning, as he bit into an iced bun.

Coincidentally – although to the enlightened there is of course no such thing – the iced bun involved had been purchased the day before from the very same supermarket from whence came our super-relaxed shoplifters.

And more, it came from very same chilled aisle that induced our shoppers to become so relaxed in the first place. Ordinarily, of course, a bun would not be kept in a chilled cabinet. But in this case an inexperienced shelf-stacker had seen the word “iced” on the bun’s label and naively assumed that it needed a cold environment to avoid melting.

Mr. Ocean had thus been startled to see this solitary bun nestling deep amongst the sparkling ice crystals. His curiosity piqued, he stood for a moment, pondering.

His decision to buy it – though feeling in any case in need of a sugar hit – was triggered by the memory of an exam paper that he’d marked  several decades ago. The geography question posed was: “Where might you expect to find a desert?”. To which one pupil had answered: “In the chilled aisle”.

This response had caused our Marmaduke to burst out laughing – a contrast to his normally sober self for which he was profoundly grateful – and he thus surprised himself by awarding the student concerned top marks.

And then, on today’s morning in question, when he finally bit into the iced bun, karma came full circle and rewarded him with its own top marks: enlightenment struck!

Utterly relaxed, full of laughter, our hero smiled and nodded as he passed by the shoplifters … on his way to the chilled aisle.

Greenlands Farm – Part 3


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.

Fro Zen Moments


Fridge1  Fridge2 

Ice Date 1.1.0

Suddenly, after many problem-free years, the plastic bottles of milk no longer sit comfortably on the fridge-door bottom nor fit neatly under its middle shelf. Instead they must be forcibly wedged in, causing the middle shelf to bulge upwards in a way which suggests that, very soon now, SOMEONE will be to blame!

There are only three possible reasons for this situation:

  1. The milk is now being supplied in taller bottles – possibly due to an EU ruling called the “Taller Bottles (Milk)” directive. [See front-page headline of last Monday’s Daily Wail.]
  2. Someone – without the slightest consultation, by-your-leave or even a circular email – has lowered the middle shelf.
  3. The fridge has shrunk.

I’m suspecting reason number three. It makes sense. The fridge is old: advancing years cause shrinkage in humans, so why should a mere electrical appliance be any different? The fridge also feels colder than before, which of course causes further contraction … just as heat causes expansion and eggs are eggs (unless they happen to be infected with salmonella, in which case the latter is by far the most important element to note in the eggs’ makeup).

So, old and cold … does this mean we need a new, young and warm refridgerator? Call me old-fashioned, but I think not.

Even more shocking than this fridge-shrinkage is the existence of the “Overflow Freezer” (as it’s apparently called). I didn’t even know that it existed until today, despite the fact that it’s three feet high and forms the entire bottom half of the fridge. I’ve never used it and so have never looked at it and so have never noticed it: nils utilisi, nils videonta, non-existum per io. And that goes for everyone else in the office too, judging by the bulging wall of frost that stares defiantly back when you take up a crowbar and force open the outer door.

But what can be inside this cemented-in compartment? Sadly, we may never know … just as we may never know what really lies beneath the Antarctic ice-sheet.

Anyway, this is Reff Ridge switching off for now. So until the next Ice Age or Fro Zen moment (whichever never comes first), stay frosty!

The Glastonbury Assembly Rooms (1)


Assembly Rooms

Soon after becoming a voluntary worker in the Assembly Rooms (on the High Street), I answered the phone to someone from Glastonbury Men’s Group. The caller wanted to make an appointment to discuss support services for their intended hire of one of the smaller rooms downstairs.

Glastonbury Men’s Group. I pondered on this afterwards, having previously heard mention of groupings connected to someone called ‘Iron John’, though I’d only a rusty idea of what he was all about. And I’d also heard talk of “the New Man” and so wondered if it was him that I’d been speaking to.

When the appointment rolled around and I actually met the caller, he explained to me how his group usually operated. He began by saying, “The Glastonbury Men’s Group works on cycles.”

A circus act?, I mused, but he quickly pressed on.

“We call these the full moon sweat-lodge cycles. The first part of the cycle consists of between eight and ten men, meeting to discuss how the sweat lodge on the following Monday, which coincides with the full moon, will be arranged. The outcome is that everyone will agree to meet at Chaos Corner at between 1 and 2 o’clock so that everyone can go wooding, and set up the fire and the sweat-lodge in preparation for taking off all our clothes, sitting in inches of mud and sweat, and then throw freezing cold water over our bodies.”

“Sounds fun”, I said. Fun if you’re a nutter. “What happens next?”, I inquired brightly.

“Well”, said the man, clearly pleased by this interest, “then we retreat to the dome and get ‘out if it’.”

He paused for effect (though what effect I’m not sure), then continued his exposition.

“The next Monday we put all of this into action, except that only three or four people turn up to get enough wood. Everyone else turns up to take part in the less arduous taking-off of clothes and climbing into inches of soon-to-be-sweaty mud, later throwing freezing cold water over themselves, and then retreating to the dome and smoking dope.”

“I see”, I said non-committally, thinking it the wisest course of non-action at this delicate stage in proceedings.

He cleared his throat, perhaps to dislodge any mud-shot bits of sweat-ridden, smoke-cured and frozen debris.

“Then the week after that the group will meet to discuss at great length the sweat lodge and certain people who abuse the men’s group by turning up for sweats but not meetings and who can tell everyone else – from previous experience in America with REAL American Indians – how to build the fire, build the lodge, where to collect wood and so on.

“Interesting”, I said, “sounds like you’ve got a real cyclic cycle on your hands there. Been doing this long?”

This was all very well, I thought, people can do what they like – it’s a free country, apart from Kent. But, since the nights were starting to draw in, did they now intend to hold this sweat lodge downstairs in the Assembly Rooms? In my grockless state, I assumed so.

I wondered vaguely if such a booking needed to be cleared with the rest of the management group. But no, this seemed like a routine that had been going on for ages. There was, of course, the question of clearing up afterwards, all that sweaty mud and so on, but I imagined they’d bring a plastic sheet or something with them. Even so, they would definitely have to leave a hefty deposit against damage to the carpets. I’d insist on that.

With a sigh, I pulled out the Bookings Diary, the one that said on the front cover, “Rollo, don’t write anything in this book”. I turned to the date of the next full moon and examined the list of available rooms. “As long as it’s just a small fire”, I said, “with not too much smoke”. The New Man stared at me in amazement ….

My street-cred was at rock-bottom for quite a while after that. Luckily, no one discovered that I didn’t even know what “street-cred” was, else my street-cred would have plunged even further …

Greenlands Farm (2)


Greenlands Farm

In the town of Glastonbury, paranoia about the travellers’ camp at Greenlands Farm – see Greenlands Farm – Part 1 – was reaching fever pitch, for the “Children of the Rainbow Gathering” was now gathering pace.

As far as stout Glastonburgers were concerned, Woodstock II was imminent. As far as the police were concerned, the Monmouth Rebellion had returned to haunt them and nervous reconnaissance patrols fanned out across the Somerset Levels, seeking anything suspicious … such as crowds of peasants waving pitchforks.

The next day, in a muddy Sedgemoor rhyne[1], a police scout found a book by John Michell called Stonehenge, its Druids, Custodians, Festivals and Future. It listed an exotic medley of mysterious groupings that claimed a behind-the-scenes “involvement” with the annual Stonehenge Festival. With this discovery, a frisson of fear tingled through the higher echelons of the local constabulary. Their colleagues in Wiltshire had only recently suppressed the Stonehenge Festival, and the suspicion now was that these hitherto unknown groups might also be coming to Greenlands, bent on revenge. Their anxiety was heightened when forensic examination of the book revealed minute traces of Bronze Age burial-mound.

The orders were hurriedly changed. Smock-wearing peasants were now to be almost ignored. The new search was for any and all of the following: the Magical Earth Dragon Society, Polytantric Circle, the Ancient Order of Pagans, Pendragon Circle, the Union of Ancestor Worshippers, Devotees of the Sun Temple, Mother Earth Circle, the Family, the Tibetan-Ukrainian Mountain Troupe, the Church of Immediate Conception, the Tipi Circle, the Wallies, the Free High Church and the Rainbow Warriors.

Most of the constables griped and grumbled at this. How were they supposed to spot such people? A peasant is easy to recognise, but what might an Ancestor Worshipper look like, or a priest of Immediate Conception? Some muttered darkly that the only “Wallies” to be found were those in the rank of Chief Inspector and upwards.

Trawling books on everything from the Arabian Nights to The Fabulous Legends of Chimera, police artists issued streams of fanciful drawings based on what were called “mytho-type profiles”. Jungian psychologists and professors of anthropology were flown in by helicopter to give advice; and two junior constables went missing, lost on the moors, never to be seen again until much later (in fact several years later, but that’s another story). However, and as history records, it was all to no avail.

(more…)

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