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

Chapter 27 - The Rich Hippie

My brother Jeremy visited me in the early summer of 1972.  We retraced part of my earlier trip to Ireland, and after returning to Britain by ferry we stayed overnight at a bed and breakfast in Anglesea to clean up.  Then we began hitching south to visit Devon and Cornwall, the beautiful southwestern counties.

Our ride took us past Stonehenge.  The driver seemed very knowledgeable about the ancient druids, and he finally confessed that he was one himself.  "You've both invited to attend the druid festival on the Stonehenge site on the night of the summer solstice," he told us.  "There are still hundreds of practicing druids in Great Britain, and we gather around fires on a plain near Stonehenge for the solstice every summer.  Druids come from all over, and both of you would be most welcome."

A few more rides and we reached Devon.  For a few hours we didn't get any lifts, and we were content to roam down the quiet country roads, surrounded by fields and forests.  As we passed through a hamlet, a police car suddenly pulled up beside us.  He wanted to see our identification, and we pleaded that we had to go to the washroom.  Inside the washroom of the closest garage, Jeremy flushed an ounce of hash he had been carrying in his shoe down the toilet.  We returned to the police car, and after the officer made a cursory check of our passports, he bid us good luck with our hitching.  All that dope down the drain for nothing.

We continued walking, and nothing eventful happened for several hours.  A speeding Rolls Royce limousine sailed by, and then came to a stop and began backing up.  "Hi, you guys need a lift?"  A young long-haired guy with an American accent was the driver.  We climbed aboard the luxury car, which must have been worth ten or twenty thousand pounds.

"I'm Thomas.  Say, you guys don't know where I could score some hash, do you?"  Thomas's benevolence had a practical side.  He was a university student on vacation, and he was nervous about scoring dope.  "The car puts a lot of heads off.  They think I'm a narc," he explained.

Jeremy still had a little hash hidden somewhere, and he offered to share a smoke with Thomas.  "Why don't you guys come back to my place, and we'll smoke it there? In fact I could use some company.  Where are you guys from?"

We exchanged brief life histories.  Thomas was from the northeastern U.S.  His dad was a high ranging diplomat assigned to Great Britain, and Thomas was visiting for the summer.  The Rolls whisked along the country lanes, almost bruising the hedgerows.  We had to slow to ten miles an hour to negotiate the final drive to Thomas's 'house', which was a gorgeous mansion.

It was getting dark, and Thomas invited us into the huge house and fixed us some dinner.  Then we retired to his room, where we lounged on the floor while Jeremy rolled a hash joint.  Thomas even had a TV set in this remote country setting, and the programme was interrupted by a bulletin that George Wallace of Alabama had been shot.  We were stunned, and then we cheered.  Wallace was one of the most notorious racists in the American South, and his shooting seemed an omen of the changing times.

We resumed getting stoned, and Thomas told us more about his life.  He had won a Rhodes scholarship, but then he added, "Maybe it had something to do with my father, or my neighbourhood.  Lots of kids from my neighbourhood won scholarships."  When he got really high he began leafing through a catalogue of used Jaguars and Rolls Royces.

Thomas was a good host, despite his lack of grounding in reality.  We were all longhaired brothers who smoked dope.  It was just that some of us were richer than others.  When we mentioned that we were planning on going to St. Ives, the legendary fishing village where Donovan had written many of his songs, Thomas volunteered to drive us there the next day.

We arrived in St. Ives in style.  We made quite a hit, driving down the main street to the docks, where we said our farewells.  Jeremy and I immediately began hunting for a place to doss for the night, and we soon met some hippies who were crashing in an old concrete bunker left over from World War II.  The bunker was on the edge of St. Ives, and on top of the cliffs that led up from the village.  Below us the Atlantic crashed into the rocks of the coast, while we spread our sleeping bags on the floor with about five or ten other dossers.  In the flickering candlelight we could make out the graffiti carved or burned into the roof of the bunker, a history of the hundreds of dossers and men of the road before us who had slept in St. Ives on this spot.  We searched for a message from Donovan among the scrawls and smoke writings of 'Dosser Dave from Newcastle' and the like.

The sun woke us early in our exposed position on the cliffs.  Jeremy and I found some wild leeks, and cooked them up with eggs in our skillet, which we shared with the others.  Early morning in St. Ives, with the sun shining over the sea and the day at our feet.  A different style of castle from our lodging of the night before, but no less satisfying:

Leeks and eggs
    smoke drifting over
        Cornish cliffs

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revised 8 March 2007