We’d had a surprise call from a client in Brighton and decided to take it. So drove reluctantly back into the busy place. I dropped Oris in Hove and I went to see the client. A few hours later, I picked her up and we drove as fast as we could which wasn’t that fast due to the considerable amounts of traffic west on the A27, we made as straight a bee line as possible for the fortified town of Arundel.
We had more misunderstandings once in Arundel about a sandwich and a place to park but eventually all fur was smoothed down and the charms of the amazing little town began to take its magical effect upon us. We walked around and up and down the steep streets of the beautiful place, which didn’t take long, I had really forgotten that England is full of these jewels. The castle is magnificent, though at £20 a head we simply couldn’t afford the tour. We have noticed that the Duke of Norfolk owns a lot of property in West Sussex and Arundel castle has for the Howard family as Dukes of Norfolk, been their family home for over 400 years, so they say. All a bit beyond me to be honest, if they are the Dukes of Norfolk how come they are living in West Sussex?
We walked amongst the narrow streets, timber beams and old bulging walls of its three main streets peering and nosing into quaint shops and antiques malls, flowers were in full bloom, trees heavy with green, everywhere looked beautiful. We parked up right up on top on the town in the shadows of the French Gothic Catholic Cathedral, the Church of Our Lady and St Philip Howard completed 1873 the latter a catholic martyr and now a saint. Just across the road the 14th Church of England, St Nicolas’s with its ancient recently uncovered murals and it’s huge Sequoia tree out in front in the graveyard. We took a little time to sit in there in the stillness, just being quiet. I closed my eyes and saw myself running doing sit ups and working out in a green field, which really puzzled me, afterwards as we walked I realized I was being told it’s time to start getting in shape again. Made me smile, interesting what comes and how revelation presents itself. We are all, perhaps, looking for the prophetic and the profound, I realized later the messages was, “get back in shape, you need to be in shape” it said
Later, parked up there, we had quite a nice few hours Orsi reading in the back of Pearl and me just writing in the front, just as we’d planned. Everything straightened out, everything peaceful again. So we decided to walk into the old town again. Pity really as it had been warmer between us in Pearl. My restlessness disturbing the waters perhaps.
We tried the Kings Head but seemed to have an air or shall we say, a whiff of snobbery in the air, all a bit stuck up which was a shame. A little later though up at the St Mary’s Gate Inn, a dear old lady came past us and just began chatting on the way out. A couple escorting her, they chatted away happily too, for a while, they redeemed the town folk for us, but then, Orsi had been reading the English Book of Magic. It was laying on the table top. I saw the chap see the book and visibly recoil and hurried everyone away out of the pub, oh well.
I had a little trouble sleeping again that night. I wandered down into the town till early hours trying to walk my mind into submission and though I was really very tired the empty historic streets were quite amazing. I talked to the family as I wandered. I was heard, I am sure.
“Relax relax relax” they said “All shall be well”
As I said earlier, all that is fine, i do trust, but now i have another to consider and she is finding it a little difficult to adjust to this. She wants to make concrete plans and as we are getting used to this new way of being they are at the moment, plans for September are a little vague.
Next day we tucked Pearl away by the cricket ground just behind the castle grounds and both of us went to work out in the open space, running and stretching, it was great. A man walking his dog out there next to the Norman folly getting some space, looked wealthy. We wondered if it was the Duke.
“Morning Mr Duke” we said as we puffed away in the fresh air across soft spongy lush grass. Lush is the perfect word to describe what lay before us and under our feet. Really amazing, the earth itself was soft and gentle, green patch work land and copses al laid before us. I was still low energy and dizzy, my heart pounded with exertion but it was a good to be out there again. Afterwards we coasted down to the town car park next to the river Arun, hot water and the loos.
I sat for a while looking out over the countryside listening to a Paul McCartney interview on radio 4 there, really just enjoying sitting still, something I can’t remember doing for a long long time. Orsi cooked something amazing again. It amused me no end as i went to wash the pots, walking through coach loads of tourists with a bag full of pans and plates and cooking utensils and the overflow car park filling up all around us. We set off towards Petersfield via Chichester the traffic was terrible so we just kept on going
We needed weights for the Dome as we’d be working on the high street in Petersfield so we couldn’t peg the dome down so we drove down to West Wittering had a coffee and took some stones from the beach. I felt a little guilty. We saw building sites and road works with loads of bags of sand all along the way. Somehow it would have sat easier with me to take a couple of them. West Wittering turned out to be a pleasant surprise with its long pebbly beach, people there just relaxing and being happy down by the sea, lots of space and swimmers riding paddle surf boards out on the calm flat chalky sea, even the coffee was good from “Billy’s on the Beach”
We didn’t stay too long as we wanted to see if we could find Kingly Vale the Ancient Yew tree groves. I had read about it and Orsi had found it again in The Book of English Magic, which gave it a great write up and legends abound about the place. The Yews are said to be over 1000 years old some say 2000. but for sure the oldest living things in Britain. Some say they were planted to commemorate a battle with a band of Vikings and the men of Chichester in 859AD and was one of the first national reserves to be established in 1952
It proved to be quite hard place to find. We’d been driving along the A 2141 I sensed the wooded hillside to our left as we drove along was the place we were looking for but there were no signs at all. So we pulled into a layby to check the map and see if we could get the sat nav going. Tucked away there, out of sight of the road under the trees we found a witty red headed ambulance man with his two front teeth missing having a sneaky fag. We asked him if he knew of the Yew forest, he didn’t, but got his sat nav out as well and we all gathered around under Pearls window and waited for the little whirly thing on the screen to stop, it took a little time but soon enough came up with directions. We then left him in peace with his thoughts and his fag and set off back down the A286 took a right at Lavant as instructed and drove to west side and the beautiful dreamy village West Stoke. Orsi spotted the sign to Kingley Vale in the overgrown undergrowth. In retrospect it seemed to be guarded, enigmatic and off the beaten path, which, is always good in my book.
A few minutes more and were simply and deeply in amongst England, Hawthorn fringed fields, crops coming up in lines, with oak tree islands in the middle of them, I always presume left alone and ploughed around on account of the spirits that livethere, beyond the fields ancient farm house roofs poking out the tops of woods. Just as we were just setting off from the car park a charming couple gave us directions and laughed warmly at my enthusiasm about 2000 year old trees
“Oh he said they seem to be getting older every time we come”
We strolled along a path through the farmlands for about 10 minutes, found the hut with history murals and information booklets. We were really enjoying this, a few steps more and there they were, the oldest trees in England. They were simply amazing to see, they looked and felt ancient and having read the legends about them a person is I supposed, set up to be awed by these ancient groves but awed we were, we stepped into the first cave live grove and both of us wowed hushed and respectful.
There is certainly an atmosphere about them as we stepped in we both felt the change in the energy there, it stopped us in our tracks, I have never seen or felt a Yew grove before, its a really interesting feeling, nothing grows under them due to their bark and leaves being highly poisonous. Their branches grow downwards into the earth and from there new stems grow, and become separate and indistinguishable from the original tree, one of the reasons the druids revered them as symbols of birth and death and regeneration and the Christians as symbols of everlasting life. They are also known as birdless groves as nothing grows under them. In Irish mythology they are known as the Tree of Ross brought from the otherworld, offspring of the tree that is in paradise. Legend has it too that the Cross was made of Yew and the bows of the English archers. The Anglo Saxons grew rings of Yews around their churches which were usually set upon older mounds, you can still see them in churches at the entrances to graveyards still
The Yew trees grow well on the thin chalky soil. Their strong roots working and gripping the earth like giant muscular serpents all across the surface. The whole area has only around two inches of soil up on the chalk hills and under the dim light starved groves, chalk pebbles seemed like sprinkled snow under the tightly nit possessive canopy and up above them the burial mounds of the ancient Kings looking out over the vale below hence the name Kingley vale. In death the old Kings gazing out across the hazy valley, out to the sea and to the spires Chichester 15 or 20 miles away.
Orsi read the booklet at each marker point, I love it when she reads. The meadows as well as being full of wild flowers were full of butterflies. Of 58 species of butterflies in the UK 39 have been recorded there, probably the very same species the old Kings had looked upon in their time 2 or 3 thousand years ago. We walked through the groves over the hills and through the meadows and grass lands for a good couple of hours, we could have spent days there, and I was loath to move on but it was getting late and we had to get to Petersfield that night.
Back at the car park Orsi cooked up another miracle in the shade of Pearl, Mashed potato, sweet potato Butter beans garlic and fried onions with an English Mustard vinaigrette. It always amazes me, it was minutes. We seemed to be getting into the stride a little more, Oris appeasing her Hungarian Communist work ethic heritage and learning to take a deep breath and trust a little more.
We then took of to Petersfield, I’d had no idea just how beautiful that part of the country was. It was a wonderful easy drive, windows down the flow of heady countryside scents and perfume flowing in and through Pearl, just going easy on her clutch, through the tree tunnels, lifts, rises and bends. Though Pearls oil light is on and I am a little worried as the oil level is full, Hmm
We arrived just after 8pm I was pretty tired when we got there and glad to just pull into port. We’d wanted to check out the town and decide where to park that night and be as near as we could to where our pitch would be the following day on first glance it seemed like a nice place. The road closures were already in place, there was a covers band playing in the square “Kings Of Leon – Your Sex is on Fire” and the stewards were helpful and friendly. We checked out a few car parks and ended up in Waitrose. It was big and leafy with public loos in the middle with running hot water, Luxury.
We’d noticed another car park where we’d initially thought the other traders had parked but it turned out to be a troop of Gypsys on route from Southampton, so we were told later. The Gypsies arrival seemed to be big news in town.
We went for a walk around and ended up in a pub called the ‘Goodwill’ Orsi had spotted as we looped around the town for the fifth or sixth time, doing what i call “feeling the town” We were a little quiet but not as quiet as the pub there was only us there. The landlord called Patrick was falling off his stool with boredom. I wrote, Orsi drew and Patrick played some great music, it was nice to just unwind there a little with our own personal DJ.
Again I hardly slept that night, though I was absolutely shattered, still not back up to full strength. The last few days worries had dug under my ramparts a little and I couldn’t switch off. I went for a walk around the silent town the security guard eyeing me suspiciously. We needed the next couple of days to be good not only with clients but we needed to turn it on. I got back to the van at around 3.15am
The harp alarm on my phone broke into its mildly cheerful tones at 6am. I was honestly in shock. We stumbled brewing water for a coffee, then almost sleep walked around to the meeting point on chapel street at 6.50am, we were told cheerfully pitch 74 at the end of the high street near the bouncy castle.
We set up in around two hours, everyone around us other stall holders straining pulling and drilling, the quiet intensity of everyone working to a deadline, being ready to trade by 9.30am. We were in an ok pitch and didn’t mind at all being at the children’s end, the flow came in that way and we were away from the volume of the bands in the Square. I tied the tarps and weighted the dome down and Orsi made the inside look amazing.
When all set up and done I went to find parking for Pearl, as the organizers hadn’t allocated any parking for the stall holders which was a little irritating. I checked every car park in town and there were a lot, but I had the lay of the town by the end of it. I paid for 4.5 hours later when I went back to pick up I noticed those familiar waterproof yellow packages stuck to a few windscreens, the wardens had been thought the place.
Back at the pitch and two large Americanos down me, I was vaguely more aware now than an automaton. People began arriving slowly rather like a tide coming in, you don’t notice it at first. Julie on the basket stall next to us a seasoned veteran said it would be busy. She was right
We weren’t sure how to sell it, should we just stand there and smile at everybody flowing past us or go for the fairground approach “Roll up Roll up Hypnotherapy, get your Cards Read today, Orsi’s personal readings, have your Healing here today, Experience Michael’s Healing hands” .. what to do?
We chose the former. We stood there smiling at everybody and middle England sort of just looking back upon us and we just smiled back. “Morning, Good Morning” we said cheerfully. It was like being close up in a wildlife park and seemed startling to most of the population at that point. It also felt a little odd to have the blue dome placed there in the middle of an English high street outside a vets, under two Rowan trees
People seemed to wander to the end of the street where we were, see the signs “Healing, Hypnotherapy and Card Readings and mouths dropped open. We watched peoples eyes turn to glass and faces to stone, shutters come down behind many a thousand yard stare, even the odd tremble now and again.
After a while we just began laughing to ourselves at the shock on virtually everyone, what else could we do. I also suspected that ”The Book of English Magic” Orsi had displayed in the wicker work basket didn’t do us any favours so I changed it for “The Chrystal Bible” it seemed much easier to digest but not nearly as interesting. We remained generally cheerful though, as I’ve said before, we mean it.
Then the damn burst and somebody went for a reading with Orsi and the gates opened. There is no greater advertisement than seeing a reading on progress, ‘the full restaurant’ syndrome, We ended up having a good day. A lady we’d met on the way the day before turned up and had a session with me which went really well, she then had a reading with Orsi. People were leaving the dome quite surprised and very happy with where they’d been to in their past and how they’d now dealt with those old feelings and everybody thanked Orsi and the accuracy of her cards and her straightforward manner. Both of us felt we’d done good work and we made the pitch fee back with a little extra on top
At the end of the day we had to dismantle everything and would have to reset up tomorrow. But we did it uncomplainingly, we were working for now and it felt good to be doing it. It was all done in just over an hour. Oris had noticeably lifted, she’d done well, getting into her stride, interacting and communicating. Back at Pearl later at the far end of Waitrose the car park she cooked something great as usual and we sipped red wine sat on Pearls steps in the shade of a big hawthorn tree. Then treated ourselves to a few halves round at the Goodwill. The place was packed, it seemed like a completely different place to the night before. A band was playing covers, were quite competent, but seeemed very very serious
We were in a silly mood so we left them to it and went to have a look around the town, it was a happy place, we were liking Petersfield very much. In the main square a young band were playing Oasis covers. Everybody seems to be playing covers these days. I haven’t heard an original band now for a while except for “Giuda” in Camden, what is going on? We wandered through the crowd watching the sights and just just relaxing in the glow of the warm friendly town. We eventually went back to Pearl. Happily tired. A good day and an indication of what we can do, though we had dropped our prices today but it had worked.
We sat in the front seat that night the two of us sipping red wine and listening to radio 4. Then the calm of the car park was shattered by we though a Bangladeshi or an Indian guy who had come out to a private place to have an argument with his girlfriend over the phone. We were pretty sure it was a girl because he got really really upset his voice reached operatic pitches and it went on and on and on, I reasoned that if it had been two guys arguing he’d have hung up after maybe 10 -15 mins max, but this went on and on for a good hour. He was well into a flailing arm move, body leanin forward stance when he looked up and saw us smiling benevolently down at himhe straightened up as if scalded and just vanished. But the emotion and the passion must have been too much and he forgot about us or the street was too full out front of Morrison’s and he gravitated back to a more private less intrusive audience. We sat there chuckling giving a running commentary something on the lines of
“Oh oh, he’s going in for the kill again” as he bend double, his fist rained down onto imaginary things and screaming. Then he’d recoil and pull at his hair on the back of his head
“OOOOOhh look at that, she got him there, it’s definitely a girl he’s talking too”
We reckoned if she’d been their in front of him she’d have kicked his ass.
He eventually stumbled off and we carried on chatting about what had happened that day, and what and how and with who. A definite lift of moral, we can do this.
Next day up at 6am, again we were both absolutely shattered. But at least we’d slept. Oris had made breakfast the night before so had the cold savory oats with a hot coffee sat on the side step. There was no one around just the birds singing in the snug leafy green canopy above. We were looking forward to the day. I rolled Pearl onto chapel street and down to our pitch. One or two stalls had decided not to come that morning, and it set the tone really, yesterday had been windy but today was definitely a little more overcast chilly morning. We had a little more space and so we moved the pitch across the road opposite Julie and her baskets. Everybody had a little more space.
Julie was a down to earth lady if ever there was one, and a real pro. She was a worker doing her own thing and doing ok thank you very much
“Nobody tells me what to do” she said “and that’s how I like it”
She had broad features straight dark hair, something earthy and authentic about her. Some other stall holders had parked their cars in the street. Julie was onto them. From the other end of the street as you approached where we were the cars made it look as if there was nothing happening at our end. We’d not noticed. She had a word, got me to have a word and eventually the cars were moved and it did make a big difference.We are learning a lot about the stall life
The guy from the bouncy castle came to chat and he sure could chat. He seemed to be on some sort of wave. If I mentioned something he would have an answer and it would be on his phone. He gave us an avalanche of useful information
He was called Danny and owner of the largest bouncy castle in the UK. He’d been doing markets with various kids rides, coconut shy’s and hook a duck type of things for 4 years. He had expanded massively with in 4 years on the road. He talked like somebody who couldn’t quite believe that a decision he’s made had turned out so well, so had done it again and the good luck had doubled. It flowed out of him unstoppably. I’d noticed him every time he’d passed our dome as he had a limp from dropping a hundred pound weight on his foot. After an hour I had to break away as I was overloaded and we needed to cast out the line again.
Then there were the local open-air heated swimming pool people. Who’d come up with two ideas to promote swimming in the town as it was run as a charity and barely keeping it’s head above water. One was a drain pipe fixed onto an inclined skirting board. A young girl I think the manageresses daughter who was holding a grey or brown sock, filled with gravel I think, dropped or popped it down the top end of the pipe, it slip down, popped out the other end and the person stood there tries to hit the sock with a club. It was called “Spalt the Rat” and without fail everyone laughed every single time, £1 for 3 attempts. Hilarious. But the best thing was 50p for three wet sponges you got to throw at another member of their staff dressed in a cartoon monkey outfit sat on an exercise bike.
I’m telling you every single kid up to the age of 6 or 7 who saw the Monkey, their eyes lit up. We were positioned about 50 yards up from them, so we saw the kids see the monkey from way down the street and they would just freeze and go wide eyed virtually every time, then drag their parents across going
The idea was to knock a rubber swimming ring of the monkeys head with a big wet sponge that they dipped into a bucket of cold water. Can you imagine the person in the suit and how many times that day they got splatted in the face by a big cold wet sponge. I wondered if who ever it was really hated children, but you couldn’t tell as the monkeys face was of course always smiling. It was probably the busiest place on the street apart from the bouncy castle at the far end about 300 yards from us. It was eye opening and eye watering funny. Every time I saw it, it made me laugh. I suggested to Orsi that what we needed was a monkey outfit with a sign that said “Cheeky Chimp Card Reading” or “Monkey Business Tarot” and “Come and have your cards read by Orsi the Monkey” “or “Chimpnotherapy” and “Primate Healing” I thought we were onto something. Orsi wasn’t convinced.
There was also an old time entertainer too called David Weeks who came past all day long in sequined blue jacket and a different hat and bow tie every time we saw him. He was just a constant flow of old time music hall patter, a personality from a time gone by, a Bruce Forsyth in sequins. He’d had metal segs put in the heels of his shoes so that with every step it seemed to make him skip, every click would throw throw his legs out to the side with that old time panache. A real surprise and somehow quite intimidating at first as you knew he just had the patter for “Any and all occasions” he was absolutely impregnable and I was in awe of him. No matter what was said he had a return to suit the occasion. Really quite amazing to see all this stuff from the vantage point we had when I thought about it later.
I had two clients that day both healings which was nice and Orsi I think did 4 readings, they were as usual towards the end of the day. It was quieter than the day before, we’d expected it, we’d done ok but we could have done more. As the day went on I realized just how tired I was, Orsi too. We were last to pack down at our end of the street, the bouncy castle and the monkey were long gone, but all done by 5.30. We went to put the rocks from the beach on the local lakes shore. We saw so many driveways which we could have put them in I reasoned that they must have paid good money for all those stones and we’d be doing them a favour Orsi’s eyebrows reasoned and we resisted, besides it was daylight.
We then had a little half in a pub that looked better from the outside we did some chalk drawings of the seeing’s we’d both had over the last few days, good feeling is flowing again, it felt nice to both have a satisfied relaxed feeling. Hats on and a bag of chips and a walk around the lake and heath, where the traveling fair on the banks of the lake were in the middle of taking down the dodgems, carousels rides and side shows. It was quiet a remarkable sight to see them stripping the fair down unhooking sections, pulling great steel pins out, folding huge panels pushing cars into compartments. It looked like really hard work. They looked like a tough team, all seemed unsmiling, all working hard, It didn’t seem like they’d had a good weekend, in a small way we felt we understood them, we had covered just about, I wondered if they had. We’d not even realized they were there till the last night
“Now that is hard work” we said. as we wandered by in our easy peace
We walked across the heath around the lake just enjoying each others company chatting and being silly. We discovered that Petersfield heath was in fact quite a famous archeological site. In the trees and bushes surrounding the place were at least 22 prehistoric burial mounds from the early Bronze age dating back to around 2000bc right there all across and around the golf course and the lake. We didn’t really have time to go and explore and only happened to notice the information on a notice board as we were leaving the park. But it spiked quite a bit of thought in us. Quite remarkable the land we walk across.
Back at the van we sat again listening to the radio, a great blues program playing stunningly good tracks I’d never heard before. We watching the fat wood pigeons bonding in the car park beside the van. As we sat there noticed a blue tits nest in a tree right beside us and in front a hawthorn tree in full white bloom, swaying and rocking and trembeling, a wind coming up that night, the hawthorn looked amazing as if it was trying to reach out to us and Pearl. Even as I had travelled across the US I had been in a constant state of movement. I only had myself to contend with and so my quiet times there had been in the car moving or sat at my lap top, not really still at all. This is a whole different thing, I cannot just switch off and dive into that pool as freely. We have a lot to do. Orsi dozed off there and so I took the opportunity to do some writing. Lovely the two of us unwinding and a feeling of love is back in the cab again. Seems the panic is over, for now.