21 June 2005

A Weekend in Essex Among the Idle and The Crass.

This is a message to all germ operatives from the person once known as Moore. I have thrown off the shackles of commercialism, exorcized the satan money god, and embraced anarchist gardening.
Well almost. Had a splendid weekend at the Idler retreat, at The Crass Commune. I think it is about the most beautiful place I've ever been to. It's paradise. Mystery gardens, painstakingly landscaped, reclaimed and nurtured for forty years. Forget Alan Titchmarch, the Crass gardens are England's green and pleasant land. Secret spaces, hammocks, all manner of places to sit and ponder the meaning of life - or it's lack there of.
Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher - our hosts - although they would flay me for conforming to capitalist notions of hierarchy, were fantastic. Buggers. They've got it just right...and all so close to London. For anybody associating Crass with crusties, dogs on chains and glue sniffing cider punks with super glued dreadlocks, you couldn't be more wrong. Penny is about the most urbane person I've ever met. Looking like a cross between Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris and Ian McKellan, he was constantly fascinating, and incredibly funny. One of Britain's real treasures...and still a thorn in it's arse.
I will be going back there at the first oportunity, and if I do start expounding the virtues of the Compost lavatory and Guerilla gardening, it's because I've actually learnt something. I fully intend to plant a disused bath tub in my back garden and turn it in to a pond. This is not one of Penny's tips by the way, but from an organization called Permaculture, who nipped over for a glass of wine.
Anyway, look Crass up on the net and refamiliarize yourself. Buy Gee Vauchers art books. She is the one responsible for the Crass artwork. Have a look, then think about Brit Art.
So, enough of the rant. The weekend's Idling was more informative than I thought it would be. As one of life's natural loafers, I just went for the ride, but I actually did glean a few things. Mainly, that what I'd taken to be a lifelong sloth and disgust at activity is in fact a brave new philosophy, which makes me a harbinger for the new revolution. I always knew I was special.
I slept in a tent, and was woken on Saturday morning, by something alive, moving beneath the tent. It kept prodding me, but I was 'Half Awake' so ignored it as best I could. Now I know how many women feel in the mornings. Anyway, eventually, I saw a serpantine shape slithering away. A bloody snake. Later on we found the skin that it had just shed. A quite large grass snake. I was delighted.
The people on the course were very inspiring. People who had given up jobs, and took Idling very seriously. For me, it was never a choice, but these people had something to lose and were brave enough to go for it. I expect they were very enlightened by my musical performance, which in a perfect world, would have been worth the price of admission alone, and certainly worth giving up the day job for. I played in a specially constructed nook, adourned with fairy lights...Having thrilled them with a selection of my wry observationally confections, I attempted some...rock'n'roll...and a bit of wiggling once the sherry kicked in.
Honourable mention must be made for Tom Hodgkinson, who attempted a few songs himself. Well, perhaps not honourable, but it needs to be mentioned to somebody.
The Saturday was attended by The Times and a photographer, so expect an article on silly middle class types lazing in hammocks and being Idle because they can afford to be. Still I must admit, I looked not too bad in the hammock, dressed in white suit, straw stetson, shades, and a Black Triangle - the symbol, worn by idlers in Nazi Germany. My complexion has rarely looked so good. My secret? Waking up in a baking hot tent, sweating like a pig until every impurity had washed away. Better than a sauna, because you can have it in bed.
The Crass place is fairly close to an airfield, which was having some kind of a show. Every now and then, our reveries were interrupted by Spitfires and Bi-plances flying in formation. It felt like being in a film, set just before the war. Tea on the lawn, cricket on the green and war in the air. Our light summer clothing soon to be replaced by military uniforms and shrouds.
Anyway, I'm off now to buy a bigger tent. There are family Glastonbury manoevres in the air, and my tiny little sweat box won't do at all. I'll need a collapsible wheelbarrow as well.
Pip pip.


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