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

Chapter 26 - Wales

I walked most of the winding road from Galway to Dublin.  By now I looked like a real man of the road, to the extent that a gypsy family living in a caravan invited me for tea like a long lost uncle.

A businessman driving a van already loaded with hitchhikers picked me up, and drove me the final ten miles to Dublin.  I found my way to the docks, and learning the departure time for the next ferry to Wales, I spent a few hours watching the lawn bowlers in a park.

When we landed in Wales, I was held for questioning by a police officer.  I did look suspicious, or at least unusually dirty, even for a hippie.  I asked why he was questioning me, and he made up a story about someone fitting my description skipping out on bed-sitters.  It was just a pretext for questioning me, and when he was satisfied I was a harmless hippie wanderer, he pointed at the high wire fence surrounding the compound, and told me to go.  Not wanting to hang around, I scrambled over the fence and into Anglesey, Wales.

And so began another trek.  North Wales was a favourite with British vacationers, none of whom wanted a scruffy hippie for company in their already overloaded little cars.  So I walked and walked, only getting two short rides in three days.  The first night I met up with two students and shared their tent for the night.

The second night I slept in a field by a stream.  As soon as I settled in for the night, it began to pour.  Having no tent for shelter, I spent a miserable, soaked night.  When I awoke early, the first thing I did was pluck the tick off my stomach, which had joined me for nourishment.  After the terrible storm, the day broke fresh and clear.  I had slept, or tried to sleep, in a beautiful country meadow, with a picturesque trout stream winding through.  A man was flyfishing for his breakfast, and the world seemed bright and clear and alive again:

A tick for company
on my starving belly

My money and food had long run out, and I hadn't eaten anything for three days.  Awakening in another field after my daily twenty mile hike, I got a lift from a sex-obsessed male driver, who wanted to know if, "all these hitchhikers need fucking or sucking or what?"  As soon as we reached the next town, I bailed out, leaving the pervert driver to his fantasies.

I was literally starving.  Two trendy young guys, with expensive hippie-style clothes and long but manicured hair, were hanging around the downtown area.  Realizing only my pride was coming between starvation and food, I panhandled them for change.  They gave me a few bob, about 50¢.  I dragged myself into the local supermarket and bought the most nutritional food I could afford, a small jar of baby food.  When I came back outside with my baby food, the students were still there.  When they saw what I had bought, they took pity on me, and invited me to go back with them for a real meal.

James and Ron were university students working as waiters for the summer in a local hotel.  They smuggled me a delicious meal of roast chicken, potatoes and gravy, and milk.  It was the first solid meal I had had since the lady in the little Irish town had fed me over a week before.  They put me up for the night in the room they shared in the old staff building, which had been the original coach house for the hotel.  They were pleased to have a real travelling hippie for company, and lots of other students joined us in their room.  James was a very accomplished guitar player, and we smoked dope and sang along with his playing until late into the night.

The night porter had just quit, and the next day I applied for the job.  To my surprise the hotel manager gave me a trial job of cleaning up the kitchen, and I eagerly went to work scrubbing and polishing.  I passed the test, and was made night porter.  It was mid-August when I arrived in Llangollen.  James and Ron delighted in showing me the sights of the famous town, which every year hosted an international music festival known as an Eisteddfod.  Llangollen was ringed with hills so high that they were almost mountains, and the River Dee rushed through the centre of town under an old stone bridge.  On our days off we would go swimming in the rapids above the bridge.  Other days we trekked up Plas Newydd to the ruined Welsh fortress perched on the summit.

September arrived, and James and Ron departed for university.  I stayed on, enjoying an Indian summer.  I had become friends with some of the local lads, and often had a pint with them at one of the pubs before I started my all-night shift.  A group of them were interested in rock music, and they were pleased to have a world-travelled hippie introduce them to the hippie lifestyle.

They all decided to try LSD, and so a bunch of us took the bus into Chester, an ancient city just inside the English border.  A crumbling Roman wall still guarded the city's circumference.  We managed to score some purple micro-dots from a nasty American dealer, who kept insisting that I swallow the whole handful of acid, a dose that would send anybody off the deep end.

Five or six of the locals camped the next night in the ruins of a monastery.  I didn't want to drop acid, still feeling dislocated from all my travels.  They had a great time, though, tripping all night in the haunted ruins, although one girl got so nervous she pooped in her pants.

The leaves were turning, and I spent the nights cleaning the old hotel, and the mornings wandering the rugged countryside.  I also met Mary one night, a very horny eighteen-year-old who sometimes worked as a maid in the hotel.  One night she stayed on after her duties, and we ended up necking in the library of the hotel.  I hadn't had sex for months, and so I risked my job and took her back to my room in the coach house.

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revised 8 March 2017