Samhain, and unexpectedly Bob

Here’s the official version

Time awaiting for the personal.

Nothing like being ill for making some space in the life. Here I am, a few weeks later.

Philip Carr Gomm, said Kevin in the wood, talking to someone. I know this person, I said, from way back in a past. My hero, said Kevin. So it was born on a June day in the wood, the invitation to Phillip Carr Gomm and Stephanie to join us for Samhain.

It was Stephanie who linked us. A friend of Bobs and for 20 years a scenery artist for Glynbourne, we stayed with Stephanie and Philip when Bob took us to the opera. For a working class Irish lad, he loved his upper middle class opera. Somewhere in my library of books is one Philip gave me, I can see in my minds eye, a copy of this book The Druid Way, published 1993, so may be around that time. I cannot remember the operas, but I can remember Philip and Stephanie.

There was another connection, Pam Allwood. Somehow she spoke of Carr Gomm homes, homes for disadvantaged people which she supported. Richard Carr-Gomm (1922-2008) was the founder of various societies providing care and housing for disadvantaged and lonely people.

Philip and Stephani accepted our invitation. They’d discovered the joy of local adventuring in the UK since lockdown restricted their overseas travelling, and were attracted to a visit to Suffolk. Put up in Station Road, they had the run of the place to use as a base.

For Kevin, we had dinner the evening before, to which Naomi invited herself, and was a natural star. Kevin, Naomi, Philip, Stephanie, Michael and myself. (Mell unwell to make it). Philip taught us how to say Samhain. I cannot remember much more, the planning mind to dominant .

Weather was not in our favour. The wind blew, the sail came loose, and led by a determined Mell the team arrived early to tie it down. We could not allow people in until the wind died down. Internet and Met office said 2pm and they were spot on. It gave us time to have Philip and Stephanie to ourselves, and Kevin wisely asked Philip to lead us in a gathering to find our own ancestors, to ground ourselves, before the brave arrived. He reminded us that we are like trees, apparently stand alone but all connected through the underground magic of mycelium – the network of fungal threads or hyphae – that link and feed and correspond.

It was around this time, as I was busy with busyness, that Stephanie and I talked, for the first time. We talked about Bob. I think I asked how she’d met him. Julie’s wine bar, Notting Hill. Of course. They’d stayed in touch through all the years. He’d liked the no relationship part. (I’d tried for the same, I said, and failed). Of Caroline, she said, she always had him in her thrall and it was clear to me then that was how it was. Caroline had won her battle. With this out of the way, Stephanie spoke of how Bob was then, clear thinking, strategic, funny, and so it was that Bob came into the day, unexpectedly, the day of our ancestors. The old Bob who I first met and not the Bob, warped with alcohol who ‘deserted’ me at the end. We spoke of our common relationship with alcoholics, Stephanie’s first husband had been one such and she did not even hear of his death until long after.

The brave gathered, and the day began with the ritual – Stephanie the enabler providing the bread, wine, salt, honey to gift into the fire.

A ceremony performed through space and time, around the world, the hailing of the dark time, Diwali, our ancestors. We all said Awen, Welsh for ‘Inspiration’, a great out-breath of a word. We invited our ancestors in, to eat cake with us and enjoy the day.

Here’s a video taken by Mell, showing people gathered and the music, played by Pete and Vicky that made the thread of the whole event.

They day itself is outlined best here. I have sparse notes, moments caught then and after. Like when Virginia said I looked like a nun, going around with my gong saying ‘All Change’, or recommended Michael get a stick with a spoke at the end for forest walking. In a conversation with Dominic, we are quick to find connections, his offering of handfasting. Naomi arriving with Dean or rather Dean with Naomi the elder, saying Naomi 2 was behind. Naomi 2, declared her hand, this is not my sort of thing, not my tribe of people. I introduced her to a woman from Cambridge come just to see Phillip. But she came back, at the end, she pulled a card from the pack of Philips cards. A white hind. Oh no, she thought, the one who betrays. No, Philip said, the bridge between the material and spirit world, beyond the superficialities of life, toward the heart of things, toward the realm of causes rather than effects. Her face looked softer.

I am a playful otter. I was delighted. I thought instinctively of my father, the man I never knew, who I imagined as playful, a counter to my mothers nervous seriousness. That’s why they fell in love of course, I imagine.

Theo the wild cat, Jo the wise salmon, Virginia the faithful dog.

Food was an important part of the day, the sharing of food, sharing with our ancestors, and the ending of food, bidding our ancestors farewell. Time to go now. I was glad for this moment, the saying goodbye. It reminded me of the Nepali tradition of chasing the servant away who had lived with the family of the dead person for a year.

After a debrief around the fire with Kevan, and hats off to Kevan. He is playful, as well as determined, and a pleasure to work in partnership with. I saw him look across and see me talking with Stephanie, as we smoked a complicitous cigarette, and he smiled. After our debrief, Michael called to ask if I’d like him come and collect me, yes, I said, as there is stuff to take back. So he came, we packed up the car, and I declined a lift, saying I’d walk the dogs – who’d been inside all day. Theo and I walked down the track.
‘What an amazing day’, Theo said.
Crash. I knew it was Michael, but didn’t know the outcome. He’d driven into the neighbouring land and stopped just before an oak tree. Unharmed but unable to get out as the barbwire pined his car. Surrounded by the capable practical Forest School girls, Mell, Dianne, Shona, he was immediately assured, finally released by Theo with wire cutters. We walked home.

Back at East Lodge, Michael was not only unhurt but game to continue the evening. Kevin and Theo with us, we ate leftovers before driving off to the Rumburgh Buck for the first outing of Old Glory. We were late, I missed Nelson’s revenge. Philip, Stephanie and Kevin all there to behold the East Anglian tradition. I was too full, too full to take more in, and just let it wash over me.

The day – which started with a tempest and ended with a dance – was over. A Samhain to remember. Later Philip remarked, he’d seen and taken part in many Samhains, but this one involved community. Yes, that’s what it did.

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