Friday, 24 January 2020

Tales From the Past: Pungent Effulgent, The Serbian and Nightmare on Watling Street

Pungent Effulgent

We've just passed the thirty year anniversary of the release of Pungent Effulgent by Ozric Tentacles. It's epic.

I've seen Ozric Tentacles live twice, several years apart and both times on their "last ever" tour. Once in Cambridge and once in Northampton.

On the Northampton occasion I sneaked out of the commune, against strict orders and with no money to go and see them. My "shepherd", the one to whom I was accountable, demanded I didn't go with a command "as if from the Lord". I told him I didn't see it like that and cadged a lift with one of the brightly coloured minibuses taking volunteers from the farm to the various town commune houses.

A lovely woman who liked me bought me the ticket. After the show I told her I wouldn't go out with her (I had already told her that!) and had to find a different lift back home to the commune.

The first occasion, Cambridge about 1994, was at the Corn Exchange, when I was at university and prior to going mad. There was no ecstasy around at the time so I swallowed an eighth of hard slate hash in order to get high. I'm pretty sure it went straight through me. I didn't get high but Ozric Tentacles were good.

The Serbian

We're en-route to Croatia. Still a hundred miles to Turin where we're stopping for the night.

I don't think I've ever met a Croatian, not a memorable one anyway. I worked for several years for a charity, which mainly helped the homeless and disadvantaged, run by the cult I lived with for ten years. There I met people from many Eastern European countries, but not Croatia.

I've met a Serbian. She was very attractive, a sharp kind of beauty that I admire but am not particularly drawn to. I was high on LSD at the time, this was some years ago and at the Niagara Falls. Night may not be the best time to see the falls, all lit up like cotton candy, but you can feel the power of the place and it makes for a great trip. I was with a couple of friends, this was the expedition of the Delaware biting flies. One of my friends was coming to terms with a hard thing, which is not best done on LSD, so we drank whisky too. In large enough quantities alcohol will eventually overpower acid. I had no money, nor access to money as I'd left my wallet on a train on the way to the flight, so I drank on other peoples' dime.

In the bar we met an old friend of one of my companions. She lived and worked in the falls and took us to a dive bar where the few locals drank. There we watched two transexuals fight in the street and get barred from the pub. I made friends with the father/mother of one of the transsexuals.

Many of the locals, friends of the friend of a friend who brought us there, were Eastern Europeans traveling and working in America for as long as their visas would permit. I played pattacake with a pretty Hungarian, at furious pace, and then we settled round a table to play "I have never" and drink vodka shots. I sat next to the Serbian beauty and managed to spit most of a vodka shot straight in her face.

So I know I've definitely met a Serbian. I'm not sure if I've met a Croatian person though. I guess I will soon.

Nightmare on Watling Street

This road, the A5, has haunted me for most of my life. Well, not this road, this is the A5 in France.

In the UK (how much longer will there be such a thing?) the A5, also known in parts at least as Watling Street, is a Roman Road which goes from London to Wales. Along the way it goes through Towcester (Lactodurum) and St Albans (Verulamium) both of which I've lived near.

As a youth I lived in Harpenden and went to school in St Albans. Veralum School for boys. Or the torture house as I called it. Every day I would walk along part of the A5 to get to school.

Doing GCSE English Literature we read a book called Nightmare on Watling Street. A short and distressing (much like my stay at Veralum) story of a truck driver in the days before speed traps, when the word of a cop was enough for a speeding conviction. This driver is one conviction off losing his livelihood and is plagued by a mean cop the truckers despise. The trucker deals with the cop in a tragic and ingenious way. Anyway, it takes place on Watling Street is my point. The grey and gruesome tone of the book matched my experience of life at the time and it stuck with me.

Fast forward a bunch of years and I'm living on goddam Watling Street, just past Towcester in a cult commune called "River Farm". Two nightmares on Watling Street in one lifetime.

And now I'm on a different A5, in a different country, homeward bound and reminiscing.

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