I am experiencing a brief silence along with the almost welcome familiarity of just my tinnitus. Waves of rain have swept across Dovedale since just after I arrived at eleven p.m. and have been pounding on the van all night. It hasn't kept me awake, but the sound is very different from the quality of rain that hits the thicker steel of the boat. This is more trebly, scratchier, somehow more insidious and definitely less soothing. It penetrates the ear and the consciousness and during my frequent periods of wakefulness I find myself lying on my camp bed waiting for the next wave to arrive.
This is my second time here. I came here last year to meet some fellow travellers who inhabit their vans, boats and tents as they travel the roads or waterways and life in general. Some of them have made this pilgrimage for many years. I expect that some will arrive this year for the first time. We have all come to put some reality on to our impressions of the each other as we have contributed to discussions on UK Hippy, an internet discussion forum. The forum has become my destination of choice for learning how others live, sharing triumphs and disappointments, ranting, telling daft jokes, building and sharing a support network with others who also don't quite fit in. When I was fifteen a friend and I caught the midnight ferry to Ostend. Sitting on the beach the following day we were approached by a journalist who asked if "you are a 'ippy or in any other way connected wi' ze movement?" I didn't know what to say then and I still don't know that I qualify as a hippy, but last year I felt immediately at home with people who felt like members of the same tribe. We clearly share something that communicates and resonates. It's not that I am short of friends otherwise, because I have a great group of friends who make my life a rich and vibrant one. I would feel great sorrow if I lost a single one of them. My virtual-but-now-real friends however come from a broader range of backgrounds than the artists and creatives who make up so many of my associations and that is not only interesting but also very rewarding. I enjoy learning about and from others and last year I was quite shocked to discover that in some senses my life could be seen to be quite narrow. So this year, I am hoping to catch up with the lives of Wandering Gypsy, Alice's Wonderland, Enigma Rising, Enigma's Mum, Trap, Shorny (the keeper of the trivet) and others. I am sad that Mrs P has had to drop out this year - we have a number of unfinished discussions to further. I am very much looking forward to meeting OldKeith, Julian The Gypsy and others and I wonder if the troubled Darrren will accept a hug of friendship. Danann will not be here I think. If her writing truly reflects her personality she must be a wonder. It gushes and bubbles in a stream of consciousness. Each word begins with a capital letter and there is little pause for sentence structure, but her exhausting, flowing prose hints at a love of life and a compassion for her fellow men and women that is very rare in these times. This is the second time she has not shown up.
So, Sunday morning and the rain appears to have abated, even if only temporarily. I am sitting up in my bed to write this and have opened, just a crack, one of the side doors of the van to let in light, air, and the sounds of lowing cattle, bleating sheep, a lone tractor and the occasional passing vehicle. I am kissed by the air each time the gentle breeze breathes on me. Last evening I was met by a UK Pagan who opened a gate to a field further into the farm and invited me to join their gathering. In a gentle voice, he promised alcohol, drumming round the fire and association, but his eyes kept their distance. His words needed an accompanying smile. He did not smile at all, not even in response. Perhaps he has not yet learned to reflect expressions offered by others? He gave the impression of a degree of Asperger's, but I appreciated his welcome. I turned down his offer and decided to see if anyone from my tribe had arrived yet. Wandering Gypsy was planning to be here first ... Or maybe Alice's Wonderland, Enigma Rising and the children. I stumbled in the dark around the main field and between fields and spoke to other people. One group of men, including Rob from Sweden, had arrived and pitched up for one night only. They offered company, friendship, a share of the booze and music from a playlist on a huge laptop computer. Simon told me he made a point of learning one song from the sixties or seventies every year. He had not made his mind up what this year's song would be. He spoke for the rest of the group and said that his friendly approaches had been rejected by some people in the van that had set up across the road and where I had noticed a small fire burning. "You are not part of our group," he had been told. I wonder what group that might have been. I hope it wasn't ours.
The cows are making a lot of noise and a motorbike has arrived. Maybe I should get up and see what's happening.