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EEL PIE DHARMA - a memoir / haibun -  © 1990 Chris Faiers



Chapter 4 - The Isle of Wight Concert

After a couple of months of unpleasant co-existence, my cousin asked me to leave, immediately.  I was flung out with nowhere to go in a strange country.  I wandered around the suburban village of Kingston upon Thames for the evening, and finally made a camp out of a suitcase and towels in a vacant lot:

Making camp
    in a vacant lot
        with outcast cats

I survived the night, and the next day I ran into Martha at L'Auberge.  Martha's parents were going to Ibiza for a week with her younger sister.  Supposedly it was ok for a few of us to stay with Martha for company.  Soon the house was full of hippie crashers.  Martha's someimes boyfriend Canadian Peter, family friend Mark Valiant, myself and assorted L'Auberge regulars took advantage of the of the Holme's hospitality.

The week flew by in a stoned haze.  One night a group of the Richmond dossers dropped acid.  One of them stabbed at the kitchen table with a knife for hours.  So much for peace and love.  A group of us trooped out into nearby Richmond Park, and cavorted in the moonlight all night.

Another memory of that week is of being awakened on the sofa by Canadian Pete sticking a huge joint in my mouth.  I toked and then fell back asleep against the expensive stereo cabinet.

The day the Holmes were due to return Mark organised frenzied work teams.  We vacuumed the whole house, scrubbed floors, cleaned out the roach-filled ashtrays, did the dishes.  For a final touch I decided to have a bath.  While the bath was running, I continued with the massive clean-up.  I was working in the livingroom when someone noticed a strange bubble forming on the ceiling.  It was like something out of a horror movie, and in our permanently stoned state we first thought it was a group hallucination.  And then the hallucinatory bubble began to drip.  Panicked, I remembered my bath filling upstairs.  I rushed up to find a foot or two of water flooding the bathroom.

I cut off the faucets, and somebody tried to lance the huge boil growing just above the dining table.

At this juncture the Holmes arrived!  All our hours of cleaning were destroyed by my forgetfulness.  In an amazingly controlled voice Mr. Holmes ordered me out of his house.  I limped off to Richmond Park, where I sat on the side of a hill overlooking a field and cursed my stupidity.

In this depressed state I had nowhere to go, no one to turn to.  I remembered hearing about a giant rock festival featuring Bob Dylan which was going to be held soon on the Isle of Wight.  Having nothing better to do, I started walking in the general direction of Southampton, the crossing point for the Isle.  I only made it to the edge of Richmond by dark.  A lot of other young people were heading for the Isle of Wight, and I hooked up with a group of guys and walked with them for a mile or so before we decied to kip down for the night beside the Thames.  We washed down sandwiches with a shared bottle of soda, and soon the fog and the darkness surrounded us.  I woke up early in the morning.  Through the dawn mist a pair of Thames swans swam majestically towards us; an omen for a better day:
Through dawn mist
    floating
        pair of Thames swans

Someone gave me a lift to Southampton, which wasn't really that far away.  I only had a few pounds left in a post office bank account, and I withdrew my last worldly assets.  I spent part of the day mooning around Southampton, trying to track down a girl I had met at the Plumpton Festival.  Her parents must have got wind of her plans, or else she had lost interest in me, because I wasn't able to arrange a meeting by phone.  So I crossed over to the Isle of Wight on one of the giant tourist ferries.

The whole ferry was crowded with young people on their way to the concert. Hippies, students, and would-be hippies like myself trying to grow their hair.  When the ferry docked, I joined the long trail of hikers winding towards the concert site.  Along the way locals had set up lemonade stands in the British tradition of combining shopkeeper capitalism and hospitality.

I fell in with two girls and another guy.  When we reached the muddy concert site, it looked like a refugee camp.  Thousands and thousands of young people were camping in open fields.  This was just after the Woodstock Festival took place in New York State, and apparently there were more people at the Isle of Wight Festival than there were at Woodstock.  However, as Woodstock took place in the United States, and was thus more important to the growing anti-Vietnam peace movement, Woodstock has gone down in history as the seminal and most important rock concert of the period.  But it also happened, on a possible larger scale, in the beautiful fields among the dramatic hills of the Isle of Wight.

We spent hours helping the girls raise their tent.  Exhausted from the excitement and the trek, we curled up inside.  The girl I was paired with rubbed against me most of the night, but she wouldn't do much more than that.  We probably both found the other only marginally attractive, and I found the experience frustrating.

The next day I wandered off on my own into the huge crowd, and I soon found a welcome place in an earthen hut which housed a whole troupe of early arrivals.  Rhino was one of the leaders.  He was a rough looking but kindhearted guy, and there was also a gorgeous blonde heroin addict from Scandinavia.  For some reason she liked me, and when I told her I was a writer and journalist, she was fascinated.  All night we sat round a roaring campfire, telling our life stories and hopes and dreams:

Talked all night
    ashes at dawn
        girls asleep

The next night was the feature of the festival, Bob Dylan.  I sat at the back of the hundreds of thousands of kids, and Dylan was just a doll-like figure hundreds of yards away, whose music barely reached me.

Crowds, dope, sleeping in the open air, smoke in our tangled hair.  Sexual frustration, still.  Weaving back in a queue of bodies miles long, past the lemonade stands to the ferry.  Back to Southampton, where I again hooked up with the gorgeous heroin addict, who bragged that she was heading to New York, because it had the best smack in the world.  We all piled into a van headed for London, and somehow I was in.  I had survived some rite of passage, and the ten of us crowded in the back of the van sang and banged time on the tinny walls all the way back to Richmond.  My beautiful heroin addict got out first, and I never saw her again.




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