Since the story of my time living briefly on the road in a coach called The Wizard elicited such a positive response, I thought I’d tie up that episode with some other recollections. So, in no particular chronological order, here are just a few examples of life in and around that magic bus…
At one point during our stay on the farm in Goudhurst, we had a good few fellow travellers camping with us, most in vehicles of some sort, but some hardy souls opted for tents or Benders
One of the more eccentric of these folks was called Bible John, and as you can imagine from his name, he was somewhat evangelical in his outlook and had the Moses-like facial hair to go with it.
Not that his zealotry has any bearing on the story, it just gives a more complete mental picture of the
Now, John was more than a little strange in general, and tended to pretty much keep to himself a lot of the time, especially in the evenings. He spent the time alone in his small hike tent, muttering to himself by the light of a gas lantern, and occasionally shouting stuff I never understood.
The events of the night in question had to pieced together from the testimony of John himself, and one other person who happened to be passing at the crucial moment, but from what we could ascertain, what happened was this;
John had a small, basic gas lamp and stove, both of which were the popular blue CampingGaz™ type, which required you to screw the lamp/stove fitting directly into the top of the cylinder, puncturing the thin metal skin with the spiked fitting as you tightened it up.
The best time to do this is obviously in daylight, that way you are reminded, should that really be a necessary, that this operation should not be attempted in the vicinity of naked flames.
Although it was still gloriously warm and sunny at the time, you forgot that it was actually mid-September – lulled by the power of that Indian “second summer of love” – and it got dark much earlier than you expected, and more quickly too.
John got caught out. Unprepared, he hadn’t changed the empty cylinder in his lantern before it became to dark to see what he was doing. He managed to detach the previous cylinder from the lamp fitting, but was having trouble locating the new one onto the threaded pin.
His solution to this problem was to light a candle to provide some illumination, (not considered safe for use in tents, candles were only kept for emergencies) which he stood on a box.
He then had both hands free to tackle the difficult task of assembling a gas lamp, lying down, in a small tent, by the light of a flickering, and above all else, very close candle flame.
I’m fairly sure that, as intelligent people, you’re way ahead of me by now, but I shall continue nevertheless.
As the point of the fitting’s spike went through the skin of the cylinder, expelling that telltale ppfffttt of escaping gas, everything happened rather quickly.
A snake of fire shot from candle to lamp in a fraction of a second, engulfing John in a rapidly expanding fireball that continued past him, through the tent, and up into the dark of the orchard.
From the outside, apparently the tent suddenly lit up, expanded imperceptibly and then…vanished.
Being made of super-flammable nylon, the cloud of burning gas had virtually vaporized the tent in a split second, the only part remaining being the groundsheet, protected as it was by John.
As for John himself, he escaped remarkably unscathed, although he would probably argue with that analysis.
His beard, normally a cross between biblical prophet and unkempt hedge, was more or less gone, reduced to frazzled stubble. No eyebrows remained, giving him a permanently surprised look, and a large part of his unruly hair, especially the front, had been removed too.
He looked like a cartoon character who has been given a big ball with TNT written on it, a sizzling fuse on top, and not got rid of it quickly enough.
When we left the farm not long after, John had already gone elsewhere with some other travellers, so I don’t know what became of him.
I hope his eyebrows grew back.
If you’re particularly squeamish, you may want to prepare yourself for this one. It’s nothing terrible but, well, you’ll see…
There were, as I mentioned in my earlier post, several dogs around the camp at any given time, and they were generally well behaved, but dogs will be dogs, and occasionally things went missing.
One of these incidents involved the disappearance of a whole salami from someone’s truck, and since nobody was owning up to sausage rustling, we all assumed it was a canine perpetrator.
There was no way of proving which animal was responsible though, so it was written off to experience and people made sure cupboards were secured and van doors kept shut.
That was, until a few days later…
I forget the dog’s name, he was a mongrel, probably a German shepherd cross of some sort, and he came to his owner looking sheepish and uncomfortable, and doing the “worm bottom shuffle” that any dog owner would recognise.
Doing the necessary inspection, the owner straight away saw that there was a thin length of something extruding from his dog’s rear end.
Now, I shall spare you the details, but it was swiftly established, through a process of deduction and the observation of physical evidence, that this animal was indeed our nefarious canine sausage thief and he was now paying the price of his terrible crime.
The spiral-cut wax coating on the salami was duly dispensed in a continuous strip over the space of about a fortnight, and had to be snipped off with scissors in 3-4 inch lengths by his unimpressed owner.
This was considered to be sufficient punishment for his misdemeanour.