GREETINGS FROM THE MOST SOCIABLE HERMITAGE there has been! Though we are usually a quiet pair who like a secluded green spot where only the chattering of birds can be heard, our work and travelling takes us on occasion into pockets of busy humanity to sell our wares. The last two weeks have been positively bristling with people, as we've taken our rolling house and all our wares to fairs and festivals where we've seen so so many faces and swapped many interesting tales.
Weird and Wonderful Wood was a delightful event set in the leafy grounds of Haughley Park where a knotwork of wood crafters set up tents and stalls and tables to show and sell the things they made. We were parked between beautifully painted gypsy vardos and a travelling family selling walking sticks carved from Bog Oak. There were wandering musicians and activities for children, stiltwalking and all sorts, and we thoroughly loved it. The back of our truck turned into a shop front where I hung original paintings and framed prints were displayed on a blanket below. With the door open our house became part of the display too and brought countless oos and aas and "Do you live in this?"s ... Folk tramped in an out of it and our jaws almost came loose from chatting. All the while my pictures sold like hotcakes - amongst them two originals! Tui's truck handiwork was the star of the show and the gnarly ladder and roofrack in particular prompted much praise!
We hardly got a chance to properly look at other people's doings unfortunately, though we were pleased to meet Andy the woodturner of Cobweb Crafts and several other blogging friends.
We commented after the weekend that all the people were so nice, a selling experience quite unlike our usually slightly harangued street set-up. We were met with much kindness and intelligence and were thoroughly glad to have joined in, though we did sneak in and shut the door of an evening so as not to have to do any more talking! Numerous folk offered us park-ups all over East Anglia and we heard tell of other fairs too...
*Last slightly supernatural jumping picture courtesy of Hetty who we met there :)
So rather uplifted and quite weighed down in the pockets, we headed to the next festival in Kent. Small World Festival is a twice-yearly solar-powered gathering of hippies in a beautiful rural spot in mid Kent. It's a music festival, though definitely not mainstream, and as such was to be a completely different experience from our previous weekend. There was a lovely ramshackle air to the site as we arrived and the strange sensation of pulling into a gathering of other live-in vehicles of all shapes and sizes. There were people too.. in all the colours of the rainbow and more. And so the five strange days began.
The first couple of these were quieter affairs as the site was mainly full of people working there or doing stalls.. the others would arrive later, as the weekend got madder.
We have never seen another Bedford TK on the road in real life but this little field housed four including ours! And along with those, many other trucks, vans, vardos, tipis, tents, yurts and buses.. all kitted out like homes, some of them for living in all year round, others just for the odd festival.
Festivals are strange things. I think the idea is to create an alternative sort of a world for a weekend where you can escape. So they gather colourful folk from the country round to bring their strange land yachts together and park alongside each other, not unlike a gathering of barges, moored side by side. Hedonism seems to be the aim and delight of most visitors, and in this other reality, anything goes. I find this uncomfortable. There is something in me that has always been drawn to an alternative way of life, and the sight of a field full of coloured waggons, cookpots on campfires, children with grubby faces and barefooted matted-hair parents makes me smile no end. But the hedonistic side of it all makes me shy away. So many of the conversations we had with people made no sense at all. People mostly didn't really want to buy pictures, cans of beer abounded, and people staggered around the site until well past dawn.
I do not judge people's need to celebrate or escape, just the brutishness with which it is done sometimes. It made me feel like I was hiding from school bullies again. It made me feel like I do not fit in, in the very place where an onlooker might assume I would.
So we hid again. We walked out of the gates into the surrounding (silent) fields where cows looked at us soft-nosedly and we could take time to look at grass blades. Then rejuvenated we returned to the melee. It was not so bad really, and there were wonderfully interesting things going on. It was a festival after all, and as festivals go it was a lovely little one. I found the fact that the whole gamut of sound systems and so on were being powered by wind and sun quite inspiring.. We drank chai round campfires and we met folk there with whom we hope we will stay friends. I think five days was a little too much for our world-weary souls, but in a strange way we became fond of the place and the people and were sad to go. It was indeed a small world created for a week in a field.
A last day delight was a little old lady from the locality who'd never been to a festival before who brought her home made ice-cream in little tubs and many wonderful flavours: gooseberry and tayberry, greengage and damson ... my goodness I have never tasted ice-cream like it. She sold out quickly I think. We spent ten pounds on her delicious ice-cream!
We have noticed how odd it is to settle into a particular view out of our windows, and then have it change. It makes me realise how much a part of your home the view is. The atmosphere inside a house is flavoured by what you can see out there and there. But at the same time you create a haven-bubble of candlelit serenity amid the beercans and loud music. For five days we could see a purple face with two staring eyes out of our back window (part of another display's awning). From the bedroom window we could see across the tops of tents, and from the side we could see Moroccan textiles under tarpaulins. Now it is different. And that change of view feels odd. I think our itinerant life means that change is much more of a relevant entity in what we do. Our life is lived in small chapters, where we learn to love that view, that tree, that walk to the "loo", and then we are gone, and a new fondness must grow in its place.
Our days at these festivals have taught us that we need maybe to aim more for crafty, outdoorsy type fairs and if any of you can recommend some to us, we'd be mightily pleased. We are planning to head to Cambridge's Strawberry Fair in a couple of weeks' time which we've heard is a manic rush of 30000 people but excellent for selling. Can we do it?!
Some of the festivals charge an awful lot to traders, so those are ruled out. (Also because those require such things as risk assessments, public liability insurance and form filling!)
The rain made the odd appearance at these events too as one would expect in Britain. Weird and Wonderful Wood was rained on on both days and we had to bundle our goods indoors before they got ruined, which added to the general hecticness. We shall have to look into extending our display with an interesting wooded awning type affair. Small World was blessed with sun until the last evening and the morning of packing up. So an army of exhausted hooded folk loaded vans and stuffed damp tents into rucksacks. We drove off early on the Tuesday so as not to get stuck in the quagmire of muddy tyre tracks left by folk returning to their other lives.