BY MID-MORNING we’d gotten sick of huddling at camp.
Everyone was up, Charley had unfolded from the front seat of Darius's station wagon, and we could feel the lure of the Trance Zone out there, in the rain, its detonation only two hours away. So we made our peace with the weather, said to ourselves, what's a little bit of water, after all?, got ourselves organised and ventured forth.
Almost immediately we gravitated to a camp a few sites down where true house-bus-owning hippies had parked up. Fifteen of them were out in the rain in a semi-circle, drumming up a storm. We knelt before them to watch.
At the front was a little boy with corkscrewing blond locks, huge smile splitting his face as he banged bongos for all he was worth; at the back an elderly lady, sun beaten and leathery, eyes closed and ecstatic, drumming a doumbek also with wild abandon; others of both sexes and ages in-between.
Water danced on the surface of their drums and flew from their flying hair; their frenetic multi-timbre beat intercut by woodstocks, tambourines, bells, their accompanying shouts emphasising their rhythm.
I'd never seen a hippy drum circle before, but whatever my prejudices about such a thing - although who was a man wearing silver nail polish to judge? - they quickly melted away. Everything about it appealed to me: the aliveness and joyfulness, the pure-centred presentness.
In the crisp cold air something primordial stalked, some deep tribal consciousness uneffaced, and in the grey it called to the faithful, collected them, so that by the time we'd left scores had congregated, pulsed with appreciation.
"Fark that was cool," I said to Darius as we moved away.
"Fucken A,” he replied, his eyes bright. “You know if only you had enough hair for dreadlocks, Izz, you'd make a good hippy."
Allan, he of the perfect hair and the laugh like an evil dolphin plotting to take over the earth, ne-ne-ne'ed in the murk.
We pushed on, made for a track that would take us through the trees and across the ridge line and down into where the dance zones, market stalls and hundreds of portaloos lived.
Large pools of grey-green water, cold and reeking of loam, now had to be dodged, and when we reached the track, full of the soft sad chatter of rain on leaves, we used mincing steps to keep our feet on its slippery clay surface. A few wobbles and frantic arm waving caused much mirth, but nobody went for a proper skate.
Safely negotiated, we emerged into the wide-open spaces of the dance fields . . .
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