John Atkins suggested that we go and drink our tea upstairs, in the room he shared with Bruce and with Derek, a former West Coast Hell's Angel, a character from San Francisco, California. Derek couldn't put up with that scene, he couldn't stand the laws and organisation of the Hell's Angels in California and, like me, he came to take refuge in the tranquility and serenity of Salisbury and ended up in the house full of young magicians at 63 Saint Ann Street. But whilst I was there with my tea Derek still hadn't appeared in that scene that I was so beginning to enjoy. He only appeared later, causing me a bit of fear at first. Brilliantine in his hair, shirt sleeves rolled up
almost to his shoulders, tattoos on his forearms and arms, knife at his waist, and always accompanied by his inseparable Tara, a huge dog as big as she was tame (and with many good hugs). Besides Tara (the dog), Derek had another inseparable friend: Roy, who was one of the Hell's Angels-Drago, of Salisbury. Roy lived at his parents' house, nearby. But he was always appearing (with Derek) there at the friendly house on Saint Anne Street. As for Tara, I even started taking her for walks on the streets, in the days that followed, whilst Derek was having a bath. Because if someone didn't take Tara for a walk she would destroy the house whilst Derek was shut in the bathroom. She barked very loudly and with all the force of her paws she almost knocked down the bathroom door. And Tara's canine teeth? Wow!
In their bedroom Bruce, John Atkins and Derek had three mattresses on the floor (where they slept), an old record player, some blues records, an ancient Rolling Stones record and several records by the Incredible String Band (the favourite group for most of the community). The house still had several other rooms, two more floors, and the ceilings in all the rooms were low and crooked, looking like the ceilings in a house made of sweets. There were several other residents: the tall, pale and beautiful Veronica, with straight hair, long and dark. Veronica was in love with Don, the most handsome man in the house, a prince. There was also the sweet, sweet, delicate, angelic and aristocratic Andrew Lovelock, whose blond hair had not seen scissors for six whole years. Andrew Lovelock wore blue jeans more ragged and repaired than I had ever (until then) had occasion to see on anyone's body at all. There was also Andy, the taciturn. But he was always out, always on his own, always preoccupied with something private, exclusively his own, some particular problem that he never shared with anyone. Andy never confided in me. And there were many others. Besides the city freaks who used to frequent the house there were visitors from outside, like the two snobbish girls who came from London and couldn’t put up with the "discomfort" of the house and left the next day, finding the atmosphere of the house too "weird" for their liking. And there was also Sue, the cheerful Sue, Julie’s friend, small and dark-haired.
The house was a constant coming-and-going and it took me several days at least to understand how the community functioned. I was confused, lost and dazzled. I didn't know how it was, who was with who and who was with no-one, who lived there and who did not, who was from Salisbury and who was not.
Some of them worked at night (Bruce was one of these) in a factory making nuts and bolts, and they only came home in the morning and slept in the middle of all the people coming and going. Autumn was already nearly winter and no one could stand staying out and walking in the streets for too long, because of the cold. The Cathedral was very popular during the day.
One night we went out, in a group, to the edge of the city and we went to a garden called Churchill Gardens, which was on the bank of the transparently clear River Avon. On that beautiful night Veronica (she didn't like the name and was called Ronnie by everyone) wore a beautiful nightdress of pale blue satin, down to her beautiful feet without shoes. John Atkins, the angel, was happy. Everyone was happy. Pete Davey and his girlfriend had shown up at the house and when he (Pete Davey) heard that I wrote plays for the theatre and that I was writing a musical, he offered to compose the music. Pete Davey was part of a Salisbury combo called Marble Arch, in which he played the organ. One of these nights the group would be appearing in Portsmouth, a city not far away.
The five of us went for a walk to Churchill Gardens: Veronica, John Atkins, Pete Davey and his girlfriend, and me. It was the night of the full moon and it was cold and windy. But we went without cover, without overcoats, without anything. In front went Veronica and John Atkins, and I followed with Pete Davey and his girlfriend. Pete Davey was excited about the idea of composing the music for my play. He was sure it would be a success and I've never seen so much optimism in one person. Pete Davey didn't seem very much like the type of people at the Saint Anne Street house, but he was a regular.
The trees in the moonlit night were beautiful, as was the grass (not to mention the five of us too). The waters of the Avon river sparkled in the moonlight, as if all the stars in the sky were floating in the river. We played hide and seek and in the end no-one could find Veronica, with practically no clothes at all, who was missing. Suddenly she emerged from out of the icy waters of the Avon, with her beautiful pale blue satin gown completely soaked and clinging to her slim sixteen-year-old body. She sprinkled water (as if it were little stars) on all of us. John Atkins came running out behind her, the two of them plunging in and out of the water, vanishing and reappearing here and there, at various points on the river, in a bubbly and joyful noise of clear water, laughter and soaking wet hugs. Andthe full moon smiled at us there from the sky. Pete Davey told me that the name of the moon was Lady Astaroth, according to the mages.
There was no one other than the five of us in Churchill Gardens. Veronica and John Atkins finally left the waters of the Avon and returned to the riverbank and to our company, soaked from head to foot. Together the five of us strolled through the gardens and played on the swings that we discovered in the moonlight, until we saw a figure in the distance, in a place where there were three leafy trees. From where we were we couldn’t tell whether it was one of the boys or one of the girls from the community, but certainly it was one of them. We went walking over there. It was my friend Bruce, ‘the sage’. The others talked a little bit with Bruce, something or other about the beauty of the night, the water, Veronica's soaking wet clothes and John Atkins, et cetera, and kept walking, Veronica and John Atkins up front, the good Pete Davey and his girlfriend a little bit behind. I stayed a little longer with Bruce, who was standing on the sawn-off stump of a fourth tree. The trees formed a circle and that severed stump sent a chill through my whole body. The cruelty and vandalism didn’t seem to match the scene at all.
"This is my favourite spot," confessed Bruce.