We are satsang and spiritual retreat sophomores now so it no longer feels like we’re embarking on some surreal adventure, more like we’re returning to a safe harbour. Not sure if this is entirely a good thing, though, as we thrive on the unexpected. And that’s certainly what we got last time.
What definitely is a good thing is that we’re no longer such novice fans and now know heaps more Kinks songs, as well as much of Ray and Dave’s solo material. Still finding great new favourite tracks all the time (recent discoveries include some fantastic songs from Ray’s 80 Days musical, particularly ‘Let It Be Written’, ‘Just Passing Through’ and ‘Be Rational’), still in that deliriously happy honeymoon period. But I have a notion it will last a lot longer with the Kinks than with other bands.
Preparation-wise, last September, we’d only read X-Ray and not Kink (don’t tell Dave). Perhaps just as well because the scales were rather lifted from our eyes by the latter as far as its author is concerned. Maybe if we’d read the whole of that before booking last time, we’d have been too disenchanted (and a little afraid) to take the chance. As it is, we’re fairly confident that today’s Dave isn’t likely to attack the furniture with an axe or defecate in a handbasin. Having said that, you do very occasionally get a glimpse of his more volatile side and have to respect the undeniable fact that he may seem like a pussycat but it’s one that may at any moment bare its claws. Exercise caution at all times.
On a fine Saturday morning in April we are collected from our hotel lounge by Dave’s partner and manager Kate, who leads us through the deserted streets like a particularly undisciplined church-school crocodile, some of the party lagging behind on the sharp ascent to a second hotel. Here we gather up some other satsangers, take deep breaths, admire the view of the town and allow the stragglers to catch up. From there it’s only a short hop to a garden gate and a familiar set of winding steps down through luxuriantly verdant shrubbery and we suddenly find ourselves on the gravelled area in front of the house. The effect, and maybe what was intended, is as if we’ve escaped the streets of the town on a mundane Saturday morning and stumbled into Shangri-la, as the lush garden descends in further steps and terraces below us.
Kate rings a bell at the front door (alerting the occupants to our imminent arrival) before leading us round to an anteroom at the back. On entering Dave’s domain, things get momentarily more prosaic. After the handing out of the laminate ID badges, there seems to be some demonstration of how to open windows that I must admit to forgoing. Some orientation probably follows – where the toilets are, where you’re not allowed to go and so forth.
When Dave emerges from the living room to greet us this time, with a blanket round his shoulders, I think he’s dressed in purple or maybe lilac and black and looks healthy and happy. At one point he’s in a black t-shirt emblazoned with the ‘om’ sign (I have to ask someone else what this is – seems I still haven’t picked much up).
We settle into a circle of chairs, with Dave on his plush scarlet throne the obvious focus (like a minor god entertaining/auditioning an audience of would-be believers), for an introductory chat, after which, if I remember correctly, it takes us a while to get down to some 3-4 breathing. I haven’t explored the spiritual aspect as much as I have the music since our last visit so it’s handy to have a recap. It becomes apparent that some members of the party are far more au fait with various teachers, techniques and significant dates in the Mayan calendar (watch out for 21 December this year) but I suspect it’s quite new to others so Dave has his hands full with a mixed-ability group.
With Rosina, Dave’s right-hand woman in a spiritual sense, absent due to walking pneumonia, the morning’s structure borders on the unstructured, not that I’m any big fan of structure. And there goes the structure of the blog too as my memories seem to disintegrate into fragments and incidental observations from that point on.
I notice that in conversation Dave still occasionally flicks a lightning tongue round his lips in that characteristic (unconsciously sexy?) manner you see in old footage of him on stage. I remember that I forgot to look at his eyes to see if they’re green or they’re blue.
Young Canadian Molly Robertson takes us in hand for yoga. She goes easy on us the first day, lulling unsuspecting participants into a false sense of security, linking the practice into the meditation we’d been attempting that morning. So that we’re all feeling relaxed and a bit self-congratulatory, stretching and thinking ‘Well, that wasn’t so hard.’ But then she really puts the screws on us the second afternoon. That’s what they’re like, yoga teachers, they take no prisoners.
At lunch on the first day, as I tuck into food piled inadvisedly high on a flimsy paper plate,I ask Dave how long he’s been a vegetarian. Apparently since he was 25 and was eating a dish of some meat or other, maybe pork, when he suddenly got the feeling that he was eating his auntie. I can see how that would be a little disconcerting.
I’m an on-and-off vegetarian – I do my best to follow my principles but it’s difficult when you have absolutely no willpower. The Smiths’ ‘Meat Is Murder’ is what did it for me. I don’t think I’d have much objection to eating other human beings though, you know, if they were consenting and chopped small enough.
Interestingly, brother Ray Davies is also vegetarian. Not sure how long he’s been one. I don’t think it’s mentioned in his ‘unauthorized autobiography’. On the bus ride back to the station a fellow satsanger says something about Ray that sounds like ‘His cat cooks his vegetarian meals’ but which actually translated to ‘He’s patented his vegetarian meals.’ Even after such an otherworldly weekend, the first interpretation sounded a little implausible to countenance.
Re. the Rayster and any potential Kinks reunion, I don’t hear anything myself, although Dave does touchingly dedicate ‘Get Back in the Line’ to his brother. But another weekender heard intimations about them possibly doing something together in the near future.
On the subject of family, I find it moving, as the scion of an alienated clan, whose older relatives have long abandoned me to my fate without shrugging a shoulder or batting an eyelash (godparent aunt and uncle hotfooted it to Australia when we were small), that Dave still appears a bit indignant and angry that their sister Rosie upped sticks and did the same, breaking up the family. They must have all been so close, with Ray evidently experiencing the same sense of desertion, witness ‘Rosie Won’t You Please Come Home’ on Face to Face. And let’s not forget cousin Terry, from whom at least one brother craved a kiss on the long-awaited reunion.
And on the subject of the Kinks, when I mention that I’d seen his old bandmates, Mick Avory, Jim Rodford and Ian Gibbons the month before, Dave seemed genuinely interested in how they were doing and had nothing but good stuff to say about them. It would be a lovely gesture if he were to guest with the Kast Off Kinks for a couple of songs on the Pete Quaife fundraising day at his old school in June.
I’ll promise I’ll get down to the gigs and any further incidentals that come to mind in the next blog. And for an account of the previous musical weekend, held in tribute to Jackie Leven, see
PS Also booked for the Big Star tribute show at the Barbican on 28 May and really hoping that Raymond Douglas will favour us by playing something.
 I have to say that the catering is excellent and we are well fed and watered throughout the day.
 On the bus ride to the undisclosed location, the roadside fields were full of lambs and ewes. How could anyone take a lamb away from its mother to be slaughtered? It doesn’t bear thinking about. Think of the outcry if we did that to people.
 When in the hall area, your conversations are punctuated by interjections from Rosie the Parrot, putting in her tuppence-worth from upstairs.