Wednesday 27 May 2009

A Carnival of Caravans

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.


The Clever Pup said...

How wonderful for you. I wish I could have gone. I love things like that. Canada is not conducive for gypsy caravans. Just Dodge Caravans.

Did you meet any gypsies named Rollo?

Anonymous said...

Another post full of fascinating things! The Weird and Wonderful Wood sounded good - and more family friendly? There's nothing nice about being surrounded by heavy drinkers - but at least you made the most of it. I'm afraid I can't give you any heads-up about craft fairs - I don't know of that many, and the ones I do know are in Northern Ireland :)

custardfairy said...

I wish I could be at one of these lovely places and chat a bit. Silly ocean, always getting in the way.

Snippety Giblets said...

Wonderful pics, Rima, and glad the selling went so well. You are so a woman after my own heart. Your comments on hedonism summed up my own feelings exactly in a way I've never been able to articulate so clearly. I have the similar problems with the modern Pagan movement:
"It made me feel like I do not fit in, in the very place where an onlooker might assume I would." That's it exactly.

Hugs to you both from the family McFee x

Anonymous said...

I can't help thinking that the Festival at the edge might be a good fit for you ( Nice and different from the norm - its a storytelling festival.

Katie said...

I have strong hippy tendencies too that I rarely get to explore but Im like you rima much too antiquated for rainbow festivals! I think you are just such an antiquary you would not fit anywhere perferctly except in a time portal.:-)

Shell said...

I do enjoy your posts. I feel I'm right there next to you and your partner experiencing it with you.

erin gergen halls said...

it was becoming,
and seeing
festivals and faires
through the eyes of a mother,
that changed my perspective.
while there were many wonderful families who loved and thrived with their "alternative lifestyle" i think there were too many others who seemed to be looking for an "alternative-to-living"...a wholly different creature!

as a result, the view from my windows doesnt change much
(save for the four beautiful seasons)
but my eyes see everything differently!
though i still miss a view just like your last one an awful lot!
peace and bright blessings...

Amanda said...

Yay, sales. The WWW sounds like an amazing fair. As for not fitting in where one might appear one should....I suspect "fitting in" has not been a goal in your lives for quite some time now :) I rarely feel like I fit in anywhere I "should." To always feel like an observer rather than a participant is a strange sensation. I'm surprised I'm not more used to it by now!

fairiemoon said...

Rima, what fun to be a part of the festivals in such a real earthy way. It sound like such a vivid experience. I am with you on the hedonism though. I love experience and indulgence to a point, but then it starts feeling a little like disillusionment to me. It gets a bit grubby and less sincere and more morose and even dangerous and then it is just not fun anymore. Plus, I am a pretty private kind of person, so I get tired of the up close and personal.
It does sound dreamy for a time though. Thank you for sharing.

Erin :)

Anonymous said...

Given your love of the quiet life you did well to venture so deep in "a different wood."
And I, not caring for crowds, am thoroughly enjoying my vicarious journey! Thankyou.

Kim said...

What an amazing adventure :) The Sustainability Center in Hampshire has a Spring Fair (for next year) and they charge nothing to vendors, or at least they didn't used to. They have a field to set up in and there are a few other things going on throughout the year. Good luck with the Cambridge one :)

Kim x

laoi gaul~williams said...

i am exactly the same as you with hedonism, it scares me and makes me uncomfortable

Arija said...

When my soul seeks solace, I wander your blog and can always find it in the gentle aura that surrounds you.
The season of nettles is a wonderful time. Two meadow and brookside soups I adore in the spring are made with a handful of pearl barley, a goodly quantity of meadow sorrel before it flowers, or nettles, a potato or two, some salt, to serve, a chopped hard boiled egg, as much or as little as you like, and a little cream.
Filling, delicious and findable.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about fests they can bring out the worst in some people who are determined to escape their lives whatever it takes for that weekend.

Great that you sold so much. Congratulations.

Lunaea said...

Rima, have I mentioned lately how much I love your gentle spirit? "...a new fondness must grow in its place" is going in my little journal about the meaning of Home, and about moving (too often) from one place to another.

al hayball said...

Rima & Tui,
Love your philosophy!
Know what you mean, sometimes festivals can be intimidating. Found that at Glastonbury in the past, but ended up going with the flow.
A good rustic awning would be good. As for craft shows/ I do the main ones over the south of england. you can see my list here:
If you need any advise on what I've done, please do contact me.
Looks like you had a great time anyway and well done on the sales! We all need to sell our wares at this moment in time!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

The first one sounded wonderful. The second, a bit more like the Quidditch World Cup! I do seem to find a raucous crowd overwhelming and would no doubt be much more comfortable in the field with the soft-nosed cows myself!

I am thrilled you sold lots, and had enough for Greengage Ice Cream!!

Giallo Antico said...

Wow! that is so surreal! i wish i could also go there...ever since i also want to go to an art fair. Umm...can i also have a little favor? can i request a drawing of a bunny with an eyeglasses. it is for my beloved girl hannah, and it is her birhtday.please... i will be glad if you accept my request, thank you very much1 <:)

tracy said...

Wow you have been so busy since we last met. Which seems a lifetime now. The wood festival sounds good and refreshing next to all the other festivals. I'm glad I gave the small world one a miss. Might be too much for Troy as he's not keen on drunk people. A glass of wine and I'm drunk in his eyes.
Keep moving and looking, the views change and inspire, even the not so good views.
Much love to you both
Tracy and Troy

Anonymous said...

Inspiring little tales..

Mokihana Calizar said...

The freedom of your journey comforts me. Our vardo on the ledge is more permanent than your world on wheels and yet it must be in the smalling of a home and the mobility of wheels that reassembles ones philosophy.

In times past the festivals and the hooligans have been my history ... I have partaken of both. Yet your hiding from the bullies sense has always painted me, too.

We are in love with the woods, the owl who only allows us her voice to hear, froggies and their choir and views through the five windows that are indeed a share of the world that is special five ways.

Thanks for keeping in touch with us Rima. Care and joy to you both.

Mokihana and Pete

Heather said...

Wonderful post Rima - I'm so glad your work sold well and that you enjoyed the festivals you have been to. Hope the next ones are as good and that the weather holds for you - it must make a difference.

Giallo Antico said...

You could email it if you want to. But... really?? you will grant my request? whoa!I cant believe it! My beloved hannah is also your fan and i know she will be happy if she receive the drawing from you. By the way,this is my email add:

Again, thank you very much! :)

Jess said...

We were lucky enough to do festival selling at a time before form filling and ridiculous rents. I'm not sure if things are any better for all this risk assessment nonsense. Oops! given away my opinion!;)x

BT said...

What a wonderful post Rima and lovely atmospheric photos too. It all sounds a bit hectic to me! I'm so glad that you sold well and 2 originals. Wonderful. I did ask you to do a clock for me a while ago - is it still ok? I know you had a backlog to do.

Love to you both and good luck at Cambridge,

Barry said...

The craft fairs in Ontario tend to be lower key affairs and I don't think there are any that meet your description.

However, after reading your post, I wish there were!

mama p said...

So very glad that you got a good dose of camaraderie and friendship at that first fest...and, that your work was so well appreciated!! May you have many more of those. (The storyteller's festival mentioned above sounds like the right bill.) I agree with your insight that what's outside also defines a bit of home's character... I constantly feel as though I'm in a new home each week, the forest around me changes so much! Sometimes I think it's what makes "home" so alive.

Anonymous said...

I can see how these festivals could have a shadow side. But any place with wheeled homes and people playing music outdoors and lots of art and craft can't be all bad!

I can't tell you how much I would love to be on a continent where I could perhaps stumble across your home and its artful display!

Must revisit your Etsy shop least I can do that :-)

zoe said...

i love your paintings and all your websites, you are so creative in so many ways... but i am especially in love with your clocks, the highest compliment from someone who has no use at all for their actual purpose...
thanks for everything that you do!

Ciara Brehony said...

Ah Rima, what memories you have conjured for me!

It struck me that you have beautifully painted a picture for us that shows the two sides to festivals. Glad to hear things are going well for you! May the coming summer bring abundance and sunny smiles your way.
C x

Josephine Dubois said...

I love LOVE love your work. Thank you for the inspiration and the beauty. I suppose I will have to leave you with that. I feel very grateful to have stumbled upon your site.

I wish you endless adventures,