2013 REVIEW by Owen Adams





It was, by my reckoning, September 1715 or 1716, when my crudely assembled sea vessel was cast asunder into a strange storm somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean on my return from the land of the majestic Houyhnhms and the subjugated wild beastliness of the Yahoos, and I lost all my meagre possessions – and quite possibly my mind. My fragile raft was hurled into a tempestuous whirlpool within which sank my navigational measures, charts, provisions and breeches, and I clambered aboard a fast-moving log which appeared to be heading in an eastward trajectory, in pursuit of a school of eels. They were my only sustenance as I hurtled along a bizarre riptide I later discovered is known as the ‘Severn Bore’ that took me upstream from an ocean mouth up a quicksand-banked river. My journey came to a halt in a thicket. I clambered up a solid bank to my left, naked but for a skirt I swiftly fashioned from reeds, and a vest made from swan plumage. Already I had the eerie feeling I had been transported by this vicious eddy into not only a different space but a future time some three centuries hence.

Presently I encountered a field planted full of maize of twice my height. Discarded cobs had been crunched into the ground to make way for a maze of paths, presumably made by some animal, possibly Yahoos. Fatigued and thirsty and desirous of meeting of some of my own kind, I heard human voices and parted a phalanx of maize for a closer look. My heart immediately filled with dread, for though not armed with pistols or cutlass, these folk were most certainly pirates as was evident from their attire. They were herding a dragoon of children and possessed what appeared to be a treasure map.

Having checked for certain they had moved on, I entered the clearing from whence I could hear the sound of one of those new-fangled Moorish instruments called a guitar and a man’s voice singing songs about alienation and despair. “A bit like Patrik Fitzgerald,” a friendly onlooker exclaimed to me as I entered the glade from which this musique had arisen. The fellow in charge of the guitar was called Suicide Si but at the time of writing was, I believe, still within this mortal coil.

 There were perhaps 20 or so people gathered around the small canvas dome-shaped structure in which the performer, seated on a chair, strummed and sang. They were dressed in diverse attires so my eccentric dress did not appear out of place. I am a keen student and soon picked up the argot – however certain words such as ‘skonch’ I was unable to translate – and learnt the different musical concepts which had transpired in the 300 years. Henry Purcell had long been forgotten, it appeared, and the songs of the Court of Comus which proliferated in the bawdy and molly houses of my native London held sway. Songs, in this case, delivered stridently in an acoustic punk style, about living in extreme poverty aside from a profusion of intoxicating hemp.

We gathered to listen and cheer the nervous singer on beneath a gnarled old pear tree, which dropped its fruit in front of me. It was bitter, a sure sign it was intended for alcoholic beverages. In due course, Suicide Si announced he was “off for a beer”. I wandered off in his general direction and discovered a much larger gathering. I first encountered a wheeled wagon known as a bus, mystifyingly with no horses required to drive it. A fellow with a tonsored hairstyle and dress akin to one of the natives of America was woodturning; a maiden in pirate garb nearby throwing a pot on a wheel. I resolved to try and blend in to avoid being scalped, or worse.

Fortified with several glasses of Wench Quencher ale later I took a perambulation of this new land, called Something Else In The Dean. Its inhabitants either lived in the wagons or in tents, and took delight in playing drums, flutes, mandolins, performing with large hoops, or engaging in ribald revels.

Eventually, I plucked up the courage to ask one inhabitant, with hair and clothes in all the colours of the rainbow, to direct me to the king or queen or chief of this kingdom. It did appear to me that a flame-red-haired singer known as Gail Something-Else was of a majestic countenance. She was on the ‘Warren James Stage’ singing, in a beguilingly sweet voice, a song about Empathy, between a holy man named the Rev Phil Dread whose gadget was emanating a smooth flow of ‘electronica’ and ‘techno’ beats, bleeps and otherworldly sounds (a sound which I had never imagined possible). Clad in a similar bedazzling dress of red-and-black bodice and garters was a dancer who I ascertained was known as Katie.

I was astonished to learn that there was no queen, or chief! That although Ms Something-Else had assembled this joyous Elysium, we were in a republic. There was no government, nor a need for one. This was anarchy! I made haste to join the fray.

The Something Else stage was soon in thrall to Kilnaboy – a most energetic folk combo, followed by a band with the unpronounceable name of Abdoujaparov (another new-fangled word I could not translate). This splendid three-chord melodic-punk band boasted, I was reliably informed, a man called Fruit Bat, who was once half of a well-known duo called Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, whose fame had spread throughout the dominions some two decades prior. Fiery folk tradition came into play once more with 3 Daft Monkeys, a feast for all us primates.

The following morning, or perhaps early afternoon, a band with the fearsome name Who Killed The Bear brought tumult into a sea-shanty on the pirate theme, along with the thud of metal, punk and ska in one dread bouquet. Pog had vanished in a fog, perhaps, but Flutatious brought that marvellous instrument to a fruity assemblage. On the Warren James Stage, the bittersweet, yearning sound of Arcadian bluegrass from Shootin’ the Crow drifted across the mellow arena, while things hotted up with the octet, New Groove Formation – like a cross between vintage-era Madness and Earth, Wind and Fire.

Things then spiralled into an outer-spacial vortex as One-Eyed God regaled us with a psychedelic-dub foray into the transcendental. Ferocious Dog played folk like they were on fire, but it was Leatherat who turned the frenzied audience into what I believe was a first for humankind: a folk moshpit, their erudite mandolin-brandishing singer celebrating his “high friends in low places”.

The tension was palpable, a storm of storms imminent as the ska-punk kings of the post-apocalypse, Inner Terrestrials brought things to an ecstatic climax. Their rebel songs about squatting and keeping the flame of anarchy alive fair lifted the tented rooftop.

I then made the most fatal mistake – I left the settlement charmed by the notion that we were all equal, all peaceable, and in a kind of nirvana, buoyed by a mysterious drink called “bum brandy” from the tea-tent stall, and ales such as Wench Quencher, for sure, but with a kind of peace, love and understanding usually only found in the most wishful fiction. I found myself in the nearest town, Cinderford, its concrete Triangle bedecked with Union flags and it was only then I realised with some horror that I had been in my native land all this time. I learnt by means of hyper-communication known as the internet that this land was not an anarchy at all, but under the thumb of vicious oligarchs and an uncaring monarchy, with the majority expected to be enslaved to an unreachable material illusion, one which had already taken root from my time. I had been in a dreamlike enclave, a place of refuge from the nightmare of everyday life suffered from the citizens. The only thing to do was to wait until the next Something Else In The Dean in September hence, or journey to the county of Essex in May where Something Else Somewhere Else is due to release its anarchic blossom.

Until then I remain in my 21st-century bunker, waiting.

Owen Adams, with apologies to Jonathan Swift