My Week

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Next week Ysenda Max­tone Gra­ham

HOMER,’ ex­claimed my wife, ‘you’re jeal­ous.’ We were on a prowl around the fes­ti­val camper­van area. My eyes had nar­rowed as we passed a herd of gleam­ing pan­tech­ni­cons of plea­sure, teth­ered in the vasty field of Glas­ton­bury.

Pav­il­ioned in such splen­dour, the own­ers were as you would ex­pect: de­signer-la­belled, white­teethed, clean-limbed and gold­en­haired. They slouched un­der wide awn­ings, flipped ostrich burg­ers and drank cock­tails erupt­ing with eth­i­cally sourced boscage. We’d just driven for 14 hours and 600 miles in a cramped, an­cient Volk­swa­gen camper­van on the hottest day of the year.

Even St Simeon might covet an air-sus­pen­sioned, air-con­di­tioned, eight-wheeled man­sion af­ter that. Other than suc­cess­ful even­ters or rac­ing driv­ers, I won­der who can af­ford to run one of these things and where they park it. It wouldn’t fit un­der the car­port.

In her Clas­si­cal al­lu­sion, my wife was, I be­lieve, mak­ing a cul­tural ref­er­ence to an episode of The Simp­sons in which Homer suf­fers from Re­cre­ational Ve­hi­cle Envy (RVE). His an­noy­ingly smug neigh­bour drives up in a truck called The Ul­ti­mate Be­he­moth, bought on tick. Homer tries to buy one even big­ger.

‘Satel­lite TV?’ says the sales­man. ‘Not just the Tv—it’s got its own satel­lite. And four deep fry­ers, one for each part of the chicken.’ For­tu­nately for Homer, his credit rat­ing is zapped, wreck­ing his chances of be­com­ing a sul­tan of the slow lane.

‘I re­mem­ber when it was just the counter cul­ture who came here,’ I mut­ter grumpily, ‘not the over-the-counter cul­ture.’

Ispent so much time in the al­ter­na­tive green heal­ing zone that the Volk­swa­gen wafted back to Scot­land on a cush­ion of pos­i­tive vibes and lentil-and-bean stew. By the time I’d con­torted with yoga, in­toned an om, sipped through a ca­cao cer­e­mony, been acupunc­tured, opened my chakras, joined some de­vo­tional chant­ing and tossed around some the­o­ries on para­psy­chol­ogy, I was that Jeff Bridges ‘Jedi war­rior’ char­ac­ter Bill Django in The Men Who Stare At Goats.

I drew the line at a third-eye tat­too be­tween the moobs and I did a run­ner from a top­less old witch with one yel­low tooth and a gnarled claw curled around an ash plant. She tried to pour evil­look­ing green liqueur down my throat in re­turn for a ‘do­na­tion’. Heaven knows where I would have wo­ken up.

The stand­out suc­cess was the gong bath. Colin and Olive, both togged up in baggy white In­dian style, laid me on my back on a long, nar­row stool sur­rounded by three great discs of sound­ing brass. Colin ex­plained that it was im­por­tant to think of noth­ing dur­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence, but not to try too hard to think of noth­ing be­cause then you wouldn’t be think­ing of… noth­ing.

Olive placed her hands on ei­ther side of my head and Colin knelt at my feet. I closed my eyes and, af­ter a pause, the gongs be­gan, quite softly. To be­gin with, I thought of food, as any nor­mal per­son of my vin­tage would. In our youth, the sound of a gong meant a sum­mons to a meal. I won­dered, were I ever well enough off to em­ploy a but­ler, whether he would agree to gong train­ing so that he could ser­e­nade me as I lay in the bath­tub, Tot­ter­ing style.

Grad­u­ally, these worldly mus­ings dis­persed as the wax­ing and wan­ing waves of sound ab­sorbed me and the vi­bra­tions from the in­stru­ments trav­elled up and down my body. There were dark pas­sages, when black wings beat over Mor­dor, and glo­ri­ous lighter ones in which I floated among ce­les­tial spheres. Then came a pe­riod that I can­not re­call, other than as a sen­sa­tion of be­ing co­cooned by layer upon layer of sound that seem to stretch out into the uni­verse. Just as I’d got close to liv­ing only in ‘the now’, my 30 min­utes were up. If the but­ler never ma­te­ri­alises, I have the CD. It may turn out to be a sov­er­eign rem­edy against RVE. When it comes to my turn to slip away into the next room, I shall in­con­ve­nience my near­est and dear­est roy­ally by de­mand­ing a gong bath as my ex­treme unc­tion. It may alarm other pa­tients and Ma­tron may not ap­prove, but it will surely ease my de­par­ture.

‘They flipped ostrich burg­ers and drank cock­tails erupt­ing with eth­i­cally sourced boscage’

Talk­ing of en­ter­ing an­other di­men­sion, my friend Lucky Lupin sent me an ex­tract from a book to which his mother (im­mor­talised as Nidnod in Dear Lupin) had sub­mit­ted her recipe for a Cham­pagne cock­tail. Fas­ten your seat­belts for Cyn­thia Mor­timer’s take on a drink that is, even in the ac­cepted en­trylevel ver­sion, ro­bustly re­fresh­ing: ‘1 bot­tle Cham­pagne; 2 sherry glasses wine brandy; 1 liqueur glass Coin­treau; 1 sherry glass of dry Mar­tini; dash of bit­ters. Taste while mix­ing and keep off the road for 24 hours.’

Cyn­thia’s sherry glass was akin to the av­er­age tankard and ‘taste while mix­ing’ was one of her lodestar max­ims, God rest her soul. Joe Gibbs is re­cov­er­ing from his own fes­ti­val at Bel­ladrum, his home in In­ver­ness-shire

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