Towards the end of the Sixties people were talking about getting back to nature. Simon and Samantha bought a nice little cottage in the Cotswolds. Good move. They got in there just before all the advertising executives and TV producers. Simon kept the Chelsea mews place of course.
I did it a bit differently. My girlfriend at the time was Suzy Creamcheese (not her real name). I met her in Portobello Road. She was promoting something or other outside Lord Kitchener’s Valet. Nice girl, from California, half-Mexican, long black hair, bit like Joan Baez, or Stevie Nicks. She had become detached from a Frank Zappa tour she thought. She wasn't sure. Free spirit, tambourine, one hand waving free, that kind of thing. For me it was lust at first sight. She talked me into buying a farm ion the Welsh border.
Being a city boy it was a new world for me. I’d gone out of London before of course but living on a farm was a chance to commune with nature, to reconnect with my pastoral heritage and get some good olde Englishe mud on my wellies. I became a member of the landed gentry.
The place in Herefordshire was an old stone farmhouse in a valley with a view of the Black Hills in the distance. Bit rundown but that was OK. What I didn’t learn till later there was a pair of manic rural preachers with a farm up the hill at the back. Twin brothers they were who lived together all their lives. I could write a book about those two. Real nutters. I heard they slept in the same bed. They had a pig farm on the hill behind my place. I had to put up with the smell. Not to mention the effluent.
One day I wandered up there with Suzy Creamcheese to introduce myself. What a pair. Identical tweed suits and shirts with studs but no collars. Welsh miners boots. Oh you’re the new hippy are yo, they said in unison. We’ve yeard about yo. Doing music is it? Bands from London is it?
They showed us round their pigsties and introduced us to some of their favorite swine. They’d all got names. ‘This ‘yer be Boy George. And that be Phil Collins, yer’s little Cyndi Lauper, and this be the Foin Young Cannibals...Culture Club and Talking Heads are on their way to the slaughter house.’
I sensed they were making oblique references to the sounds that emanated from my property. Because I’d lived through the sixties and knew John Peel I became something of a guru. People I knew (and lots I didn’t) came to visit from London. Girls were always showing up on the doorstep looking for spiritual enlightenment. I got lots of free drugs and nooky (Suzy Creamcheese was very broad-minded) but not much peace and quiet. It was alright I suppose but the bastards kept on coming, more and more of them, camping in the fields and digging up my carrots. If I said anything they just stared at me like I was fucking Moses or something and complained about having nothing to do. Sod them I thought but it wasn’t that easy. There was another bunch who brought their electric guitars and amps with them. I thought of putting a fence round the place and selling tickets but Glastonbury was just getting started and I didn’t want to put them out of business. Somebody started converting one of the buildings into a recording studio. Everything was out of control...total anarchy...wasn’t my idea...just happened...
The people around didn’t like it much. Tell the truth they treated us like aliens from space. If we went in the pub the locals all huddled in the snuggery. And we got visits from the local plod...just sniffing around sir. Having a look see isn’t it?
So I’m leaning on a gate one day as rural folk are wont to do, wearing gumboots and a kaftan over Arsenal kit, chewing on a grass stalk and savouring the aroma of pigshit being wafted down the valley on the summer breeze (hey nonny, nonny, no) when along comes this bloke in khaki shorts and a rucksack on his back. Cheerful little chap, blonde hair and bright blue eyes. “Hallo,” he says, “I’m Bruce. I’m hiking through the area making notes for a book. You must be one of the local characters.”
“Yes and no.” I said, “I’m Dick Headley, one time Arsenal hopeful turned felon, sex fiend and occasional drug user. Promoter of quality punk rock, pornography, currently in the organic carrot business. At your service”
“That’s interesting,” said Bruce, “I have a friend who collects vintage pornography. Haven’t got a first edition Fanny Hill by any chance have you?”
“No sorry. But I’ll make a prediction. One day there will be a book called ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ It will be hugely popular and sell in the millions.”
“Tell me more.” said Bruce.
“Well, it will be published by Vintage. The hardcover edition will be 514 pages and the ISBN number will be 0345803485. One day there will be a company called Amazon selling books online.”
“Excuse me a minute while I write that down. I must say you certainly look rustic Dick. And something of a prophet to boot. I’m looking for local colour to put in my book.”
So we chatted about this and that and I mentioned how I’d crossed the Sahara Desert with William Burroughs.
“Really?” he says, “that would make a fascinating travel book. Why not write it?”
“Why not?” Well I could think of a few reasons. But talking to Bruce did get me interested in the fiction process especially the myriad ways in which reality and the life of the imagination become interlocked. Reality, we both agreed, tended to be untidy, unresolved. It needed fiction to bring out the meaning.
I told him to drop in on the Pesticide Brothers, which he duly did. Naturally I was curious to see what he made of them.
“So how did you get on with the twins Bruce?” I asked upon his return.
“Very interesting pair aren’t they Dick,” said Bruce, “They didn’t show me the bedroom but I met some of the pigs. In fact I gave Phil Collins a pat on the head and he almost took my hand off. The brothers had a good chuckle about that. It was one of those Howard Hodgkin moments Dick. Oh, they did say if you do something about the noise they might do something about the smell. And I got a mini-sermon on the evils of organic farming. Should be good for a chapter I think.”
Case you’re wondering things got out of hand on the farm. My fault for not being firmer. Should have established some guidelines instead of letting it go to pot.