Saturday, December 29, 2012

Winter solstice

I had a relatively unmusical winter solstice trip this year, as I decided it would probably be best to not take my saz along, considering the complex travel itinerary I'd worked out. This is the first time I can remember doing something like this. Fortunately I thought to bring a shaky egg (one of a pair my mum got me with scary Sumatran demon faces on 'em). First stop was the Canterbury Tales the evening befoe (the pub that hosts Thursday night Irish folk sessions). Only Andy and Cat (the Irish fiddler) this time, I intervened on shaky egg (it's great — you can almost conduct the music visually). I crashed at the house in Wincheap so as to be near the station, got the very early first train to Salisbury, a taxi out to Old Sarum (a bit decadent, but time was severely limited), where I orbited the ramparts and stopped to drink a cup of tea before striding out over the Plain towards Stonehenge.

I found myself in the rather ridiculous situation of being "late for the end of the world"...not that I or anyone I know was expecting that, but there was to be a multi-faith bardic/druidic/cosmic/New Age ceremony of some kind at 11:12a.m. (astronomical moment of solstice and supposed end of the 13th and final Mayan b'ak'tun). I'd seen the beautiful golden sunrise from the train coming in to Salisbury. It turns out that quite a lot of people parked up and camped on the nearby byway, without any incident, and were given access from before sunrise to after the ceremony. At 11:12 I was still stomping down a muddy bridleway, the soles of my old German army boots having come loose, flapping in the mud...felt completely ridiculous, but it was such a beautiful morning and I was in such a good mood that it just didn't matter. It was definitely the end of my poor boots' world, though! And when I arrived near the Stones, I found a wonderful parade of variously muddy, sleep deprived, tripped out, rainbowed-up and beautiful, bearded and enrobed, grinning people — hobbits and trolls and elves and wizards and the whole lot. A wond'rous site. And then Pok, looking absolutely resplendent, his aura a mile across, spotted me, delivered raving, poetic, ultra-Pokkish descriptions of the sunrise and ceremony, which I'm quite sure must have been better than the original events. So I didn't feel I missed much. No saz to play a tune for the stones (I've done that before once, unhassled, in summer 2001), and Pok was instrumentless too, deciding to give his suffering shoulder a rest, but I did have a little pair of curious, battered finger cymbals which sister Amanda found in a skip in Bristol and solemnly gave me once. So we did a "ting" t'ing to bless the land, its various inhabitants and spirits.

No time to lose, I was hurrying back to Salisbury to rejoin the rail network (feeling rather self-consciously mud-spattered and generally 'whelmed). This took me out to Clunderwen, where Stef and friend came and collected me, whisking me onward to the Lammas community for their winter solstice gathering. There are a dozen or more mostly idealistic young families building roundhouses and growing lots of food as part of some Welsh government sustainability arrangment — a lot of paperwork, but they've achieved some amazing stuff already. Their communal 'Hub' building is a wonder of organic timber-frame architecture and mixed-media craftpersonship. There was a massive fire outside too, but the rain only let up briefly (the whole of West Wales felt like it was rotting...everything's so soggy!), so we mostly stayed inside. Some of Stef and Penni's Welsh folk music connections showed up for a jam — various bagpipes, drums, percussion, Penni's folk-oboe... Stef had his mandola and concertina along, and their friends Julia and Phil (who play a lot of medaevil music) were along too, Phil jamming on a sax as well as his usual peiod woodwinds. I just got really into my shaky egg. It was perfect, as I wouldn't have known most of those tunes, the saz is barely audible in a room full of pipes, drums and party-people, whereas the egg cuts through everything. I was experimenting with combining egg and finger cymbals with some success — will have to work on that!


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