WORTHY FARM AND GLASTONBURY
There is no cinema like the Electric. Even Caetano himself agrees that not even the Olympia Cinema can compare to the Electric. The Electric was our neighbourhood cinema, in the days of Notting Hill Gate. We all went on Saturdays. Caetano, Julinho, the girls, Andrew, Naná, David Linger, Zé Vicente, Juanita, Péricles, Janie Booth, the Irish guys from Juanita’s building, Peticov, Jane (with Andrew), Ken, Jody, Luciano, Verinha, Rosa, Guará, Caroline Viesnik. The cinema was in a kind of very old garage and had a broken psychedelic façade. In front of the screen there was a small stage where various musicians played before the film showings, as in ‘The Time of the Jaguar’. Gil went to play there from time to time, with Bruno (Swiss guitar) and Chris (the bass player) and Tuti (drummer). Sometimes a freak from the audience would climb onto the stage and do a freak strip-tease, making everyone laugh innocently. Inside the Electric Cinema we lived in the throes of innocence. There was a ‘birosquinha’ inside the cinema that sold tea, cakes and chestnuts. Zé Vicente loved those chestnuts and bought packets of them and always carried them in his coat pocket, so he could stick in his hand and take them out to chew them at any time of the day or night.
Zé Vicente only talked about going back to Brazil, that we could make some wonderful theatre in Brazil, theatre that that would bring happiness to the public, both theatrical and in general, a colourful and vital theatre. And he almost always managed to convince me that our return would be, above all, good for ourselves. Brazil was alive in every moment of his life there in winter in London. He talked a lot about Minas, his home state. At that time Zé Vicente was very jealous of his things and Minas was his. (Later he changed and became more open, less jealous, more giving).
We would return to Brazil, when all was said and done, because as Helena Ignez herself had once said, "staying in England is already going badly". But in spite our lack of money, our lack of comfort, our lack of a home, England had been wonderful for us and that year had been the vacation of our lives. But we couldn't live in a state of permanent vacation. And at that time we thought that it didn’t make sense to stage any theatre in England where everything had already been more than done already. The black veil of realism had descended upon our pale and insane heads. We would go back to Brazil.
And when I realised that sooner or later I would be going back to Brazil I tried to enjoy it more here in sweet mother England, as much as I needed to. One day I decided to go out to the countryside again. Ken, the American wanderer who didn't want to serve in the Vietnam war, asked if he could come with me. Of course he could. We decided to leave in two days time. And in two days we went to Hammersmith to hitch a ride. We went to Worthy Farm, in Pilton, near Glastonbury, in the land of King Arthur, Merlin, Morgana, Guinevere and Elaine, Tristan and Isolde. When I got there [to Worthy Farm] with my friend and companion Ken, a handsome and arrogant American, the door of the farmhouse was opened and a smiling Danish girl invited us to come in because it was winter and it was very cold outside, even though the beautiful Danish woman, at the same time as never having seen our faces before, had a look and a smile that was the look and the smile of old friends. Leaning against the wall of the entrance hall were dozens of muddy boots, large and small boots, all lined up. The Danish woman invited us to have some tea; our hands were frozen, we had no gloves, and winter outside was fierce.
It seemed that there was no one in the whole of the house except those who were in the kitchen, where the meals were also made. Since that part of the country had seen its glory in the Middle Ages, everything there remained as a monument to the Middle Ages. Everything made me feel really good, even the implications of looks in people’s eyes. There was a wonderful lady-mother and her son, a boy with completely white hair, who from time to time would look up from the piece of paper where he was doing a drawing of Stonehenge, to smile at us. I immediately lost my heart to his mother, and I’ll never manage to forget her as long as I may live. She was cooking us a marvellous dinner, which she was paying attention to, in that Land of Ice. And whilst she went on speaking I was transporting myself to Iceland, such were the beautiful eyes of this wonderful and serene Lady.
In the kitchen of that homestead-community where Ken and I were having tea and listening to wondrous stories, there were great stacks of provisions piled up against the walls: brown rice, muesli, oats, nuts, apricots, various dried fruits, raisins, plums, porridge and other fantastic fruits of the earth. Mu tea was served, and we thawed ourselves out with the warm and aromatic liquid that was melting the ice both inside us and out. It was then that Andrew Kerr appeared, a young gentleman with long silky black hair and a bushy beard, the head of the Community. He came down the stairs cheerfully, delighting us all. However he was serious, and he wanted to know who we were, who had told us about the place, and what we were intending to do. My American companion, reckoning himself to be better acquainted with the English language (than me) replied, a little between the aggrieved and the aggressive, that he was American and that I was Brazilian and that ...
"Hmm, another Brazilian!" cut in Andrew Kerr, already a little fed up, and with good reason. About two months before, and very late at night, a group of thirteen people had appeared, mostly Brazilians, turning the house completely upside down. I already knew about this, my friends had told me; so on that night I behaved better than they had – in trepidation and out of respect. "Here everyone works", said Andrew Kerr. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, I thought.
"Apart from rare exceptions, we go to bed at nine o’clock and we get up at five", said Andrew Kerr. Suddenly one of the doors opened and two enormous dogs appeared, whose breed I ask forgiveness for not knowing. Ken, the American, was overawed by the dogs and crouched down. The dogs jumped on him and he, allowing himself to be licked, asked the following question: "Are the dogs more friendly than you are?" That question seemed to me to be aggressive, and because of my feeling of guilt I received it like a well-aimed knife stab, and with it, the pain and horror. Whilst I stood there suffering, Ken was cheerfully playing with the dogs, without apparently noticing the heaviness of his words. If Andrew Kerr felt hurt, at least he didn't show it. He kept it to himself and invited us to see the place where we’d be sleeping that night. A marvellous room with a marvellous sound system and every sort of record of pop and underground music that we might want or feel like listening to. Andrew Kerr showed Ken how it worked, just asking us not to play it too loudly because everyone in the community was going to sleep early to be ready for work on the following day. Apart from that we could do whatever we liked. He showed us the place where there were some giant, soft pillows and said we could use them if we wished to. He asked what we’d like for dinner and we replied that we’d already eaten. In fact, a couple of hours ago, an Irishman who gave us a lift had offered us some ‘fish'n’chips’ in a chip shop on the outskirts of one of the small towns on the way.
"Then you will be woken up early tomorrow, at half past seven, for breakfast", said Andrew Kerr smiling, leaving and closing the door of our splendidly comfortable apartment, with books and cushions, a fireplace and all. I thought all this was excellent, but Ken was pissed off. He picked out a Grateful Dead record and put it on to listen to. He spoke badly of Andrew Kerr and the aggressiveness of people in that community – the few that we’d had the chance to see.
I was the one who’d told Ken about the existence of that farm. I knew they were accepting ‘heads’ who wanted to work in exchange for a home, food and communal life. The community was setting up a festival at which – it was said – even flying saucers would emerge from the centre of the Earth. They needed volunteers for the construction of the stage, which was going to be a pyramid. Ken had come up with the idea of offering himself as a volunteer. He wanted to spend a few years working here and there, well away from the United States because he didn't want to serve in the Army or be sent to the Vietnam war. After this brief encounter with Andrew Kerr he had given up the idea of asking for a job. "I left the States because I didn’t want to put up with any more aggression ..." he grumbled. So that night he changed his mind, he would go to Ireland. Ken was short and thin, with a chubby face, long, straight brown hair and a moustache covering his mouth. He wore a red cap on his head and reminded me of a nice but moody little mouse . I liked him a lot and when he finally went from my life, he left me as a present several drawings coloured with watercolour. Birds with long thin legs with hats and smiles. The colours he most used were blues, greens and lilacs. Yellows, reds and shocking pink, just in small details. We’d lived together for some time in London, at Naná's house (she was from Uruguay), in Notting Hill Gate. Many people passed through that house during that time: David the flautist; John, who was English; Jane, Barbara and Jody, Americans; Mossa, international; and many others. Naná had a list of more than fifty people, many of whom I’ve never met. Although Naná, herself, did not classify herself, she too could be be classified as a tropical elegancy, an English tropical. She too is of the universal-international type. Naná is Naná and that’s all there is to say, for the moment.
Getting back to Worthy Farm, Ken and I were sitting in our room listening to the music when the door opened and the face of the Danish woman appeared, asking if everything was OK, and even before our affirmative smile, she smiled too and closed the door. Ken and I looked at each other and pretended not to understand the Danish woman. A little later the door opened again and the face of the white-haired boy appeared; he smiled, said sorry, and closed the door. Ken made a comment that, if now I don't remember it, it’s because it wasn’t very important. The door of our room opened and closed with smiles several times, and several comments transpired as a result, both upstairs and down here, where we were. Until the door opened once more and a nice-looking blond boy came in, hairy and bearded, and invited us to come with him upstairs where a lengthy joint was being prepared. Ken said thank you very much, but no. I accepted the invitation and went up the stairs following the blond boy. In the big room there was a huge foam mattress on which a dozen people – easily – could and would sleep. And on the mattress there were already several people, girls and boys, more boys than girls, I couldn’t count because all their eyes were on me.
"What's your sign?" asked a boy in the corner.
"Taurus” I replied, apprehensively. But everyone smiled and I was accepted. We talked about the Brazilians who had been there before and they all remembered one in particular called Cláudio Prado, often referred to in other circles as the King of the Underground, because of a song by the Rolling Stones, "I know you think you're the Queen of the underground ...” The talk was lively, the vibes were very good, but I was concerned about the solitude and bad humour of Ken, my American friend alone downstairs. I went back down and in a way, I wish I hadn’t. Ken was getting ready for bed and whilst he’d been on his own he’d changed his mind again: before going to Ireland, he would travel through Wales. We got into our respective sleeping bags and slept with our feet near the fireplace because it was one of the coldest nights of the year. The next morning, at the appointed time, there was a knock on our door calling us for breakfast. There were several foods for us to choose from and I chose muesli. In fact, people were gradually coming down and when the first had already finished their breakfast, many were still coming down from their rooms upstairs. All the ones I saw were already wearing work clothes ready for working in the fields. The beautiful lady of dinner in Iceland spoke of fantastic, strange and magical things, which were happening right there, around Worthy Farm. I already knew, I had already known, someone had already told me about the cave where the white-haired boy (the Lady's son) had gone with two other boys. The two boys returned ‘changed’, and the Lady's son, whose hair had been brown like his mother's, had suddenly turned white. I would have liked to stay there and I am almost certain that they wouldn't have minded and may even have enjoyed my presence in that community, and also I’d have been fine with their communal ways, but even so I said goodbye to them, myself and Ken, and one of them, who was about thirty years old I would have thought, gave us a lift to Glastonbury.
Ken and I climbed the hill that was built by Thor. Laid out on the ground around that hill you can see, if you look carefully, the twelve signs of the Zodiac. There is a local legend that says that Joseph of Arimathea, on his journey to the West, buried the Holy Grail on that hill. Ken and I went up the hill. It was misty that morning, a fog, in a ring around the hill and around Thor. A little later, two enchanted and enchanting young women appeared, wearing long flowing dresses, in spite of the cold. They didn't see us and we hid ourselves behind Thor. One of them carried in her hand a cross made of broken branches. We stayed watching what they were going to do. They chose a place and made a hole in the ground to bury the cross. One was blonde and the other was dark. Ken had rolled a joint and he waited until they had finished burying the cross before we went to meet them. I was thinking that we’d come upon two witches, on account of the legends and the strange things that were done by those mystical bands.
Ken became shy, all of a sudden, and didn't know how to offer them the joint. I approached the blonde girl and said something that now I can't remember. She had her back to me, crouching, and her long hair fell covering her face. I called to her and she turned round. Her face was not strange to me. A gust of wind lifted her hair to the heavens and I noticed that in one of her ears, the left, she had a crucifix hanging. She smiled and I smiled. Ken was already lighting the joint in the lips of the dark-haired girl, who asked if Ken had any hash that he could sell them. He didn't. We stayed for some time, talking of things apparently absurd and magical.
Some time later, in one of those coincidences, in another town, Salisbury, a friend of mine took me to a house on a little street called Woodstock Road. We knocked on the door. Who opened it? The same blonde girl with the crucifix in her ear, carrying a baby.
At the beginning of this book I intended to say, I don't know why, that the action of this book took place in the author's mind. But now I confess that everything that has happened so far has been true. There will be, perhaps later, many pages of pure fiction. But those that have just passed and those that are next are pure truths.
I went to go for a walk on my own and I said goodbye to Ken and the two lovely witches. They stayed there on the top of Thor's hill, sharing with Ken some community addresses in Wales – where they said that the scene was even stranger than it was in Glastonbury. I went down the hill and into the town. I felt envious of the men who painted houses, who were planting flower bulbs that would appear and take colour in spring. I felt envious of those simple workers because they all bore serenity in their faces. I walked through the streets of the small town and I saw a pair of high-heeled boots in the window of a little shoe shop and later I came back to buy them, squandering almost all the money I had left. I met a gypsy who reminded me of a friend I had in the town where my family still lives, and who was called José Francisco (my friend). The gypsy must have been about seventeen years old, and he smiled at me in awe when I said I came from Brazil. He thought I was a little crazy and wanted to know what it was that I, a ‘tropical’, had come to do in the Middle Ages. I replied with a naively malicious smile and we said goodbye. The gypsy assured me that our paths would cross again there on that same corner. And he went off making the symbol of victory, or of peace, with those two fingers of the right hand. A little later we did meet again; I had just visited the Abbey ruins and he was coming down the street with his girlfriend, a plump and rosy gypsy girl, cheerful in her fifteen years of age. It seemed like I had lived near her too, my whole life. She was called Bernadette. The couple asked me if I couldn't buy them a cup of tea, to which I replied "Of course, this is not an invitation to turn down.” We made for a tea shop that was called ‘The Queen's Head’. There was nobody in there, neither customers nor anyone to serve, for a while, until who should come in? Only Madame Mim herself. Madane Mim was the waitress, the one who served the tea, and she didn’t want to let Bernadette stay in there because she was convinced that Bernadette had a puppy under her dress. And wasn’t Madame Mim quite right? Bernadette took from under her wonderful coloured dress, a tiny, frightened little puppy, with slobber dripping under its nose. But Madame Mim showed herself to be have abandoned her witch’s heart by not resisting Bernadette's pleading smile, which implored her to let us stay there inside the tea shop; we stayed. A good while later the puppy peed on the floor, causing Madame Mim to grumble, "Don’t tell me! Don’t tell me!”
Suddenly more gypsy folk appeared in the tea shop and one of them was the physical incarnation of King Arthur, from the painting by Thomas Archer. He was brought there by an impassioned gypsy girl who kept on saying, "This is my beautiful friend”. King Arthur lowered his head shyly and uttered several blasphemies in a low voice. They were all talking about a black magic gathering that was going to happen that night. I paid for the teas and said goodbye, saying that I would meet them again some time or another. And I went back to the hill of Thor. I went up the hill and in the face of so much beauty and serenity I felt like masturbating and that's exactly what I did, much to my own surprise. Even in that open place I felt that no one was watching me. I felt a bit bad at my weakness and I decided to go back to London, making my way to the road leading out of town to try getting a lift. It was already nearly nightfall and that place scared me a little with its medieval beauty and serenity.
Suddenly I heard someone calling my name, from behind me. I turned around and I was face to face with Terry, Irishman, ex-Hell-Angels, a friend whom I’d met in the community in Salisbury, a few months ago. "I saw you in the distance and I recognised you by your walk" said Terry, friendly, surprised, even euphoric. I was less surprised, full of suspicion, believing that that meeting had something to do with a magic of coincidences that was confusing me quite a lot lately.
"Where are you going?" asked Terry.
“To London," I replied. He laughed.
"You were going in the wrong direction, let's go together." It was Terry who had already decided my life for me and I, astonished, didn't reply at all and said nothing. "I was going to Salisbury, but could I go to London with you?" he asked.
"Sure." I replied.
It was getting dark by now and everything was too beautiful for me to describe here in just a few lines. We walked at least a couple of miles before we managed to get our first lift. Terry didn’t agree with me about the fantastic circumstances of our meeting. He was in high spirits. I made a certain effort to be able to join him in his happiness. To tell the truth I wasn't really used to that climate, that atmosphere of magic, that winter. Yet being Irish, Terry was much better prepared than I was for that kind of setting and had far more energy than I, who, besides everything else, carried in my conscience the guilt of having masturbated up on the hill. It could even be that Terry (hidden) had seen me do that, and it could also be, I wouldn’t doubt, that my masturbation had something more to do with magic than just a simple wank.
But even with all this I was still very happy with Terry's company and whilst we walked I started imagining how he would he be received by Naná and her guests, at the house where I myself was staying. On his neck, Terry had a dotted line tattooed, in the middle of which was written, "cut here”. One day, when we were already at Naná's house, he called to me to talk to him whilst he was having a bath and that was the first time that I had seen him naked. His chest and his arms were all covered in tattoos. There was a huge coloured eagle on his chest, dragons and other beasts and several women in bikinis. In the middle of a heart there was a blank strip where a woman's name had been written, which he had erased. After his bath, Terry dried himself and came into the room wrapped in Naná's towel, she having not yet come home from her job at the BBC. Janie, the American girl, was amazed. She wouldn't believe that Terry's tattoos were real. And she exclaimed all the time, "Really!" Terry fancied Janie, who was pretty and petite but unfortunately ‘that rabbit didn’t come out of the bush’. One day Terry wanted to scare Janie and he put his tongue in the roof of his mouth and pushed out his false teeth. Janie almost fainted with fright and disgust, like all young and healthy Americans. From then on she stopped being charmed by Terry, who days later told me that he had lost his front teeth in a fight between Hell’s Angels, where chains, iron bars and knives were used. But let's go back to Glastonbury and to the road ...
"Where did you sleep last night?" I asked Terry.
"Up there.” Terry pointed to a hill.
"And where's your sleeping bag?" I wanted to know.
“I slept on the grass and used my bag as a pillow” he replied.
"And the cold?" I asked.
"I don't feel the cold, man", he replied and continued, "I woke up this morning soaking wet with dew."
Terry told me of a number of his exploits. He said he’d exhausted most of his energy one night when he and some friends from the community in Salisbury had made a stream of vibrations around the Tor, to pacify America a little. Two months later, at the end of the Rolling Stones concert at the Roundhouse in London, they threw ping-pong balls at the audience, and a month after the concert, there was the famous United States v China ping-pong match. Coincidence or the arts of magic? That’s what I still ask myself today.
Terry was happy and full of certainties. On the way to London, in a pub in Andover, while we were having some beer, he looked me in the eyes and took from his neck a rusty silver chain with a St Christopher medallion. He slipped the little chain over my head saying, "You need this more than I do”. Many months later I forgot the chain and the medallion and left it on the bedside table belonging to the lovely Mercedes Rubirosa, in her apartment in downtown Buenos Aires, nearly missing the bus that was to take me back to Brazil.