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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.

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…)

Greenlands Farm (1)


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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