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