365 Days on Tor (part 6)
This is part six of the fictitious journals of 50-something layabout and 2012 skeptic James Gladwin-Turner.
These posts take the form of edited highlights from the imagined author’s imagined book ’365 Days on Tor’, in which the author climbs Glastonbury Tor every day for a year, and attempts to understand what the Hell the 2012 phenomenon is all about. Here’s all the previous entries.
May 1st 2012
My phone chimes. A new text message. I prise one eye open – 8.30am. Early for me. Who sends a text this time in the morning anyway? I open the other eye and silently watch the dusty spears of sunlight poke through my toilet paper-thin curtains. It’s already warm. ‘Just one look at you, and I know it’s gonna be… a lovely day’ I mumble tunelessly. By Merlin and all his happy gnomes, it really is going to be a special Mayday. I debate whether I should get up or doze for another hour or so, then remember my text and fumble for the phone. ’I'm coming. Don’t try to hide ‘cos I’ll find you.’ That’s all it says. I sit bolt upright. Who is it from? I don’t recognise the number, and that makes me panic. I immediately think of the journalist friends I’ve contacted, offering the exclusive story of how I invented the Glastonbury 2012 doomsday phenomenon. But no-one was really interested – apparently there’s far more serious shit going down elsewhere in the world, so it’s unlikely to be from any of them.
Stumbling into my dressing gown whilst lighting a fag, I wrack my brains; who do I know who would actually be prepared to come all the way out here? Who might seize upon the opportunity for a scoop when all others have rejected it? Only when I’ve made it downstairs and brewed a triple-caffeinated mug of sludge do I realise. My blood runs cold. Oh dear God. No. The Grootmeister. The Grootmeister is coming to Glastonbury. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Glastonbury town centre is thronging by the time I manage to leave The Shack. A large crowd has assembled at the market cross, including various folk dressed as green men, plus two home-made vaguely Chinese-looking dragons – one red (for summer) and one white (for winter.) This is the start of the Mayday celebrations. There’s a police presence too, probably in case anything kicks off between the locals and these 2012 doom-puppies. After some preamble, the crowd proceeds up the high street and the red dragon makes a big show of chasing the white dragon away. Symbolic, see. Then everyone peacefully climbs the route to Bushy Coombe, where a maypole awaits. As I trudge along under a cloudless sky, someone grabs my hand. I look up. It’s Ligeia; radiant and marvellous as always.
‘Where have you been all my life?’ I say.
She smiles. ‘I’ve never seen a crowd this big for Beltane’ she says, looking around.
‘No doubt a few of your doom-mongering mates are along for the ride’ I say.
She shrugs. ‘You still don’t believe?’
‘What about Lars’s video?’
She grabs my other hand, stops, and looks me in the eye. ‘It’s a shame. You should be more open-minded. People all over the world are discovering the power of these holy hills and mountains.’
‘There’s nothing to believe’ I say. ‘I made it up. You should stop being so bloody gullible.’
I don’t hang around for the maypole dancing. A bit too Jethro Tull for my liking. The procession will end on the Tor with a blessing by various pagan types later, but I feel listless and worn out; tired and disillusioned with all this 2012 crap. It depresses me that so many apparently intelligent human beings are unable to accept the blatant truth (especially Ligeia): the world will not end because of some bullshit prophecy; humans will not suddenly evolve to some utopian state. Things are never that easy.
I grow more and more angry, to the point where, upon reaching The Shack, I bellow my frustration at the back door: ‘what the fuck is wrong with you people?’
Surprisingly, the back door opens. There is a man standing in the doorway. A big man.
‘I’ll tell you what’s wrong’ he says, in a ripe London access. ‘You’ve run out of booze me old mucker.’
Yes, the Grootmeister has found me (although I’m not sure how he got into my home.) Arnold van der Groot to be exact – a third-generation Dutch immigrant, born-and-bred within earshot of the Bow Bells, occasional session guitarist, sci-fi novelist, semi-professional wrestler and jobbing tabloid hack. Also, a bear of a man with prodigious appetites for the worst things in life. We have been friends for over 30 years, although I haven’t seen him for the last three; he’s the sort of bloke who disappears off the face of the planet and then re-emerges much later as though he’d just popped down the shops for a pint of milk.
I step into The Shack and see a veritable mini-bar of alcohol arranged on the dining table. Arnold nods at it like a grinning chimpanzee: ‘Thought you might want something to drink.’
We sit outside in the full glare of the afternoon sun, drinking Gold Label and chain-smoking, catching up on the last three years. Turns out the Grootmeister has been in India, where he’s acquired a bit of a spiritual side, which goes some way towards explaining his interest in my project. Plus, he reckons he can sell my story to a red-top tabloid. I tell him all about my terrible lie and he laughs his head off.
‘So you think the whole thing’s total bollocks?’ he asks, smoothing a mop of blond hair away from his big, wide baby face.
I nod. ‘Yup. Made up the entire shebang.’
Then the Grootmeister says something surprising: ‘when I was on the Nepalese border, there were dozens of yogis – wise men, who’d take groups of tourists up the mountains to meditate. They reckoned spirits lived in tunnels there and if you were lucky, in the right state of mind, you could sort of commune with ‘em. All I can say is, I went up those mountains a few times, got right off my tits and saw some very… trippy things.’
‘Don’t tell me you actually believe all this rubbish’ I say.
‘Definitely mate. I reckon there’s something in it.’
‘Oh god, not you too.’
Arnold reaches into his bag and pulls out a large glass bong. ‘Your head is in totally the wrong place’ he says, filling the contraption with water and packing the gauze with something green and pungent. ‘Always has been. Too uptight. You need to chill out mate.’
He lights the gauze, takes a hit, and passes it to me. ‘That’s why I’m here. Jem told me what you were up to; I knew you’d be a cynic.’
I ignore his reference to my ex-wife. ‘You were as big a cynic as me once’ I say. ‘Now you’ve gone all George Harrison.’ I inhale a lungful of acrid smoke. Haven’t used the stuff in a long time, but it takes more than bit of weed to get me communing with fairies.
We talk some more, passing the bong back and forth. By mid afternoon I’m feeling wrecked. More than wrecked. Something isn’t quite right.
‘This is pokey gear’ I mutter. ‘What is it? Some kind of super skunk?’
The Grootmeister blinks his red eyes through the smoke. ‘Yeh. Well, it’s a mix actually.’
‘Weed and DMT.’
And then everything goes pear-shaped.