Wednesday, 28 July 2010
I bumped into an art dealer acquaintance of mine in South Ken this morning. I was tottering out of the French Institute where I'd been struggling to eradicate my mono-lingual ignorance. He was sitting in the sunshine enjoying a coffee with what I took to be his boyfriend. He asked me how business was going.
"Tough", I said, "but on the up side, I've decided to give up chasing non-existent business and enjoy the summer instead".
He smiled sagely into his latte.
"Likewise," he said and further announced, "any art dealer claiming otherwise is lying."
Which all made me feel much better about my recent slothfulness. Until that moment I'd been silently rationalising to myself that summer isn't the time for stressing. What a great thing rationalisation is. Will my running round like the proverbial chicken sans tête alleviate the financial fix we collectively find ourselves in? Of course not.
So last week, instead of phoning round five hundred prospects just to hear them tell me what I already know – ie that business is tight, I decided to push off to what my friend Fi likes to amuse herself by referring to as 'Bev's hippie convention'. It is true that I don't think I've ever before seen so many rainbow trousers, guitars or dreadlocks in one place. I'm a bit ignorant about the whole hippie thing - it was after all before I was born – but the 2010 version was pretty groovy.
Unfortunately it got off to a slightly ropey start when we had no choice but to pitch our tent in a force nine gale and accompanying rain storm. I left my rucksack under a tree thinking it was waterproof. It wasn't. Not even a bit.
Half way through putting the tent up we realised we'd put it so close to the tent next to us that we couldn't get the guy ropes in. So we took the tent down. Then we put it up again. By now I was soaked to the skin in a crappy fuscia Moschino shower proof jacket that was totally inadequate for the job - what had I been thinking of at the packing stage?
Then we realised we'd pitched it on a more or less vertical drop and we wouldn't be able to sleep without all rolling down into one corner. So we took it down. Again. And put it up. Again. By now a sense of humour failure was looking imminent, but I slept surprisingly well after a hearty supper of vegan bean stuff with a solid mass of brown rice, and by morning the sun had come out and things were looking a lot jollier. Hearing that some people's tents had blown clean away during the night made one grateful for small mercies. And there's a lot to be said for a blow up mattress. Worth every penny of £8.99.
In the wake of the accommodation debacle and its subsequent resuscitation some fairly eccentric stuff went on. If I name a few you might get a taste: 'Shamanic Trance Dance'; 'Ecstatic Dances for Universal Peace'; 'Taoist Tai Chi Gong'; Yoga; Meditation; 'Non-violent communication'; 'Hedgehogs and Buddhism' (yeah huh!); 'Raphael's One Love Rastafarian Songs'; 'Gong Therapy' - check it out - wherein you lie with your head 3 inches away from a gong with a circumference of 2 meters whilst some guy bashes away on it relentlessly for half an hour - Lord knows what it achieves other than temporary deafness. I gave that one a miss.
What I did have a go at was the tantalisingly titled 'Sacred Intimacy – Living Love' (subtitle: 'be the love you're seeking'!) wherein you choose a partner of the opposite sex and then sit opposite them on the floor for twenty minutes staring into their eyes. Initially you feel uncomfortable, then you get the giggles, but eventually you get past all that and you really do start to feel deeply compassionate towards this fellow being, which in my case, luckily enough, was a handsome Germanic blonde yogi in fisherman's pants and green eyeliner, somewhat reminiscent of Lady Di circa 1980, only a little bit more out there.
After that there was "the tantric zone". Oh yes, hot tubs in the buff. Six strangers squashed into a receptacle roughly the size of a wheelie bin, into which shoots boiling hot water every few minutes. That was something.
And all the while, everywhere about the place, tonnes of people partied in wild costumes. Many people in no costumes at all. One particularly spectacular fellow in only a pair of knee high pink furry boots and a bum bag, dancing away as though his life depended on it, right in the middle of the main thoroughfare. Even one of my friends completely divested himself of his kit in a state of ecstatic joy on the dance floor. Apparently there's few things more liberating than flinging yourself around a heaving dance tent "with yer todger flying about." I can only take his word for it.
A strict no drugs and drink policy made the whole love-in thing feel wonderfully safe and somehow not at all inappropriate or mad. Just sort of charmingly outlandish and rather lovely. I can only think of it as being akin to visiting a different planet for a long week-end, wherein societal norms are completely unfamiliar, but once you've acclimatised, prove to be far more appealing than those one's used to.
Driving back into London felt strange, not unwelcome particularly, just strange, as one witnessed people charging down crowded streets, eyes glued to the pavement, as though there was no-one else about, each locked inside their little bubbles detached from the world around. And all these clothes. Fabulously bourgeois it suddenly seemed. Oh for the great outdoors. Mud between your toes, love in your heart and group hugs every twenty minutes. You don't get that in South Ken. Not even at the Institut Français.