BY MID-MORNING we were 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 pull 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 drumming up a storm. We knelt down to watch.
At the front was a little boy with corkscrewing blond locks, huge smile splitting his face, banging 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 all ages running the gamut in-between.
Water danced on the surface of their drums, flew from their flying hair; their frenetic multi-timbre beat intercut by woodstocks, tambourines, bells; their accompanying shouts emphasising their rhythm.
I had never seen a hippy drum circle before, but whatever my prejudices - 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 playfulness, the pure-centred presentness.
In the crisp cold air something ancestral stalked, some deep tribal consciousness uneffaced, and in the grey it called to the faithful, collected them, stitched them together so that by the time we left scores had congregated, knelt, pulsed with appreciation.
"Fark that was cool," I said to Joseph 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." He ne-ne-ne'ed in the murk.
We pushed on, made for the slippery clay 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 olive 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. A few wobbles and frantic arm waving caused much mirth, but nobody went for a proper skate.
Safely negotiated, we emerged on the other side of the ridge and into the wide-open spaces of the dance fields . . .
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