Does anyone else notice the year as it turns at Lúnasa? That very day (before I realise it is that day) I notice the light and air quality change, and it happens again on September 1st. Turn towards autumn.
I’m in Devon, SW England, held here all summer by lush valleys, safe parking and interesting folk. Wild swimming and weaving the sea some more.
Then conceptually to the South of France weaving a lavender field blanket at the behest of an artistic Californian who sets me a challenge with plenty of essential creative freedom:
There’s a remnant for sale in my shop if anyone wants to make a cushion (I can supply filling), hanging, bag or small curtain?
Some of the leftover warp lends itself to bluebell wood:
And another handful of new poncho listings:
And I go to Sidmouth Folkweek, which brings many heroes to the Regency bit of coast. Young ones with young tutors from Halsway share fresh ideas. Ninebarrow are gently magnetic with delicate guitars, crystalline harmonies and two harmonia. Josienne Clarke sings like Innana’s guardian angel. Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer spin yarns with theatrical virtuosity in a time trip to great halls bursting with Purcell. Stonehenge morris fiddler John Dipper shares a sombrely mysterious processional march to the stones. Leveret do their mesmerising thing again. (As someone with a horse bred for haute école and a hound whose action is similarly stunning, I ache with admiration for the suspension and elevation in their Playford and other tunes. They even play the Italian one at my request.) Sam Sweeney does a one-off for a second time with Martin Carthy and it’s Aquarian in character, his viola as surprising as he says is Carthy’s approach to tune-playing.
Monbiot does his final powerful gig with Ewan McLennan – words for the age of loneliness and songs for the cause. (I weep.) As I leave I hear someone shouting my name and a dear man I knew from my days in HE is manning his Network of Wellbeing stall and continuing the valuable work of active community-building.
And so many other heroes in marquees and pubs that I have to choose not to see. As I get ready for bed on my last evening, schoolmate Seth Lakeman’s unmistakeable verve strides down the hill to my van from the Bulverton Marquee. I’m in a leafy car park near the beach with twenty other campervans, though most of their occupants are still out partying.
And in the hours between all this, like a moth to the light or a traveller who knows they just have to detour but not why, I keep going back to the music fair, talking accordions with a number of fantastic nerds, learning intensively, trying all the best ones, getting back ache, and falling in love… but she’s expensive and the van is so laden that the steering is light, and there are already two others…
My official home is near the counter-cultural hub of Totnes. Many of us both love it and hate it: all the erudition of Dartington Hall; all the music of Britain’s finest; all the conservatism of farming England; all the ideas of hippies and revolutionaries; all the smack addicts of a desperate city corner; all the wealth of the South East; all the deprivations of a rural town. Every other person is an artist or a therapist, and people come here to get healed but find a community that indulges their idiosyncrasies. The market is the best I’ve encountered in Britain, and ditto the buskers. The norm is to have children from a number of different partnerships. It is not surprising to see someone dowsing whilst jewellery shopping. Many have settled the surrounding land in communes. Plenty have ascended high in the enlightenment competition. If you’re stretched thin on the treadmill of normality it is threatening and hard to join in. If you’re sceptical you’re wary of the uncritical. If you struggle with your inner zealot, you have to make peace with everyone else’s happy clapping.
Local resident and award-winning Radio 4 poet Matt Harvey sums it up hilariously, astutely and compassionately, in a satire of the Totnes Hug, the particularly Totnesian challenges of choosing curtains, and the rivalry from much straighter neighbours from Torquay. And here’s a poem a bunch of us made with him at a Green Party fundraiser last night.
And here’s a song that came grabbling out with a few others that had to tell themselves to me in a tumble last week:
It doesn’t yet have a melody; anybody?
Meantime the Green Cloth community mushrooms over at Nettles for Textiles if you want to join us (it’s a fascinating gathering), and aforementioned inundated host Allan Nettle Man is currently mulling his worldview to share on my blog at some time hence.