… to the Glastonbury Drenched and to the Drugged’n’drunk of Download, indeed to Festival-goers wherever and whomsoever ye shall be, and to the Go Nowheres hullo also. I hope yooz all well and hanging. I just returned from spending the solstice high up in the mountains of Barbagia, where the remote inhabitants of Sardinia’s dark interior still practise kidnapping, and heathen-improvised vocal quartets harp on about death, doom and resurrection just like it ever was. Leaving Dorian, Albany and Avalon sunning themselves on the beach at Alghero, this was my opportunity to return my Italian publisher, Simone Caltabelotta, to his Sardi roots. Childhood years spent in the uncomprehending company of his Sardi-speaking grandmother down on the wind-accosted south-western island of Sant Antioco had rightly given Simone the kind of suspicious heebies previously reserved for the Irish by my father’s judgmental generation. However, for Simone, a coupla days spent at Barbagia’s tomba di gigantis (Madau and Bidistilli) and one night spent in Fonni, Sardinia’s highest and most inaccessible village, eating wild boar and roast kid in an ancient roundhouse with fifty drunken mainland biddies and this black-clad be-shaded motherfucker… well, that was soon gonna get the poor lad sorted out. Come to think of it, I reckon I’d been visualising the place since early January, when I stayed at Doggen’s during rehearsals for the last tour. His house in Eastwood is only 600 yards away from the primary school that D.H. Lawrence attended, and I’d pass it every day on my early morning walks and think of Lawrence's simple and wistful declaration: “I would like to go to Fonni” in his travelogue SEA AND SARDINIA. As a fellow Midlander, it was interesting to note that Lawrence too yearned to see the absolute Sardi heartland; the legendary and most official interior of this island.
Ah, but to be a vegetarian in Fonni! Like the southern Italians of around twenty years ago, modern Sardinians are still so proud to earn enough to provide meat for their visitors that vegetarianism seems a self-righteous Western conceit to its Second World’ society. But as I was wearing a leather hat and sleeveless jacket, at least the paradox was at all times out on display. As our hotel’s dinner policy consisted of only one nightly serving to all of the guests simultaneously in the aforementioned roundhouse, I anticipated that the chef’s only guaranteed vegetarian option to ‘meat’ could be ‘absence of meat’. There was every chance of this meal nosing ahead of a 1993 Al Italia flight, my previous clear winner of Italy’s Vegetarians=Rabbits competition.
As the three traditional dancers entered the gloaming of this drystone walled’n’wood roofed super bothy, I must admit I was almost tempted to remove the aforementioned sunglasses. But as the rest of the party and players seemed so determined to take their role-playing to its most illogical conclusion, I figured those revellers needed me there in full regalia as a symbol of the most ardent and cosmopolitan of city dwellers. As my old ma always used to say: “To be suitably dressed is to be well-dressed” and I weren’t about to start now! One old lady, clocking the pallid anaemia of my nude and sauceless home-made pasta swirls, kept checking up on me… was this unacceptable, she wondered. But I was more than down with it, brother and sisters, I was vibing like a hooligan! However, having necked huge amounts of the good hashish along with several tankards of the local Ichnusa brew, eating by proxy had become the name of my game, and dammit if that wild boar didn’t stink up my nostrils in thee most uproariously appealing way. A little earlier, Simone and I had noticed that some local artist had his cosmic Sardi art all over the walls of some roadside caffe, and his proto-BITCHES BREW Abdul Mati Klarwein-like landscapes included prehistoric Sardinian monuments, butt nekkid women, and towering horizons of volcanic cooling-towers. The previously mute and wall-eyed barman suddenly lit up when we asked him the provenance of these masterpieces. Firstly, the barman went into a greatly detailed analysis of one 5 foot x 8 foot piece, declaring that wide open spaces symbolised possibilities, the nude bint symbolised sex (natch!), the monuments symbolised death, and the horizons represented freedom. Apparently the artist himself was just 200 metres up the hillside watching his flock, after 10 years on the run and three years in gaol for kidnapping. Simone’s eyes were a joy to behold, and - in a fit of the Joe Strummers with a Red Brigades fixation – he wondered should we meet said dude? Ixnay on the primitive says I, intuiting from the evidence the scary conclusions that could be possible when wide-eyed city dwellers on a Neo Sardi trip meet a foaming-at-the-mouth ex-kidnapper visionary/sociopath. Still, the experience of these past few days surely reminded me that, even in the 21st century, you don’t have to go further than the Med to experience cross-cultural meltdown.
Just a few days before the trip, Dorian and I had ventured into Oxfordshire to watch brothers Kramer, Davis and Thompson strut their stuff as the remaining members of the MC5. The support band Suitable Case For Treatment was a righteous cobbling together of early Pere Ubu, The Pop Group and several generic doom bands, all projected with great gusto by the singer; a bastard offspring of Mick Jagger and Joe Jackson. Brother Wayne and Co were in great form, though they made the dubious decision to invite me on stage to sing “Starship”. As I was tripping my head off and had announced to Dorian just ten minutes before that I could barely stand up straight, the performance was somewhat skanky and improvised, though at 20 minutes-plus was at least a good old barf-o-thon for those not in the audience. Moreover, I considered myself beyond privileged to hang stageside with such righteous motherfuckers.
Right, I shall quit now after first wishing you all a consistent and uplifting July, with days of sun and constant warmth.
Love a Fucking Piece,
JULIAN (M’Lud Yatesbury)