It all ended with a group of mystical strangers descending on a small sleepy seaside town and attempting to get served food after 9 pm on a Sunday night.
It actually may be harder to enter the kingdom of heaven at the same time as passing a camel through the eye of a needle. We had to be satisfied with buying takeaway pizza and chips and eating it outside a pub we like to call The Anchor, while pretending it was still summer.
Not allowed in with our grub, we perched outside on damp wooden benches and shivered ever so slightly as the night came down. In London it had been 28º or hotter. But the promised sizzling weekend had fizzled out to a rather cool, drizzly end in the southwest, not exactly ideal for al fresco dining.
We’d just experienced satsang 3 at the home of Kinks main man Dave Davies. Though we’d all left his house at different times and tried various venues in separate groups, the town is small enough so that we inevitably bumped into fellow weekenders again wherever we went. And so we found each other outside the chip shop or in the tapas restaurant and ultimately at The Anchor.
We had grown into a cohesive group by this time (especially as all but two of us had been before), from our first meeting at a sunlit train station car park on a Friday afternoon and subsequent minibus journey to the mystery destination. On which we didn’t fail to discuss the latest additions to the ‘rules of (dis)engagement’, as I refer to the terms and conditions.
One stern new commandment concerned ‘FAMILIARITY’ and read: ‘Though one may have been to the retreat before I will not behave in an overly familiar manner as to embarrass other guests.’ It would seem that some of us must have disgraced ourselves last time around. Not all the returnees were sent terms to sign so this reduced the pool of suspects somewhat. Plus, only a select few had been to both previous gatherings. I have a strange feeling that the culprit was probably me. It normally is in this kind of situation. Did I paw another guest inappropriately or sit in someone’s lap? Did I shout ‘Oy, mate!’ at the wrong person? Don’t think I dare ask. (Also, when Dave greeted us, he mentioned that we were like ‘family’, which could be seen as a contradiction of the dictum except that of course he does keep certain family members at rather more than arm’s length distance.)
Then of course there was the old favourite: ‘All other clothes other than top coats must stay on.’ I’m more likely to get in trouble for putting too many clothes on than for taking any off. Nevertheless, I was curious to see how we would work round this stipulation when it came to the promised hot tub (an addition this time around). Luckily, the tub was not yet fully operational and we never found out what it was like to jump in fully clothed (apart from the generously sanctioned removal of our top coats, that is).
I realise I may never have explained what satsang is. Wikipedia supplied the following definition:
(1) the company of the highest truth; (2) the company of a guru; or (3) company with an assembly of persons who listen to, talk about and assimilate the truth. This typically involves listening to or reading scriptures, reflecting on, discussing and assimilating their meaning, meditating on the source of these words and bringing their meaning into one’s daily life.
That kind of was what we’d done, I suppose, although I don’t think I’m any nearer knowing the truth. Maybe the important thing is that we tried. We listened to each other, meditated, chanted, tried to control our breathing, received blessings, ate together, listened to some great music, danced, drank and sent healing out to the rest of the world.
I wondered if Dave could divine anything from our individual auras during the blessings? Apparently, one of our number was gentle on the outside but strong underneath, which we all judged an accurate assessment. My own seemed to be typically conflicted, sort of stop-start, one minute open, next closed. Also a reasonably true reflection as I find myself still a bit confused and ambivalent about most of the mysteries in this universe. I think Dave’s parting words to me this time might have been ‘You’re so prickly.’
‘One Fine Day’: I requested this early irrepressible Dave Davies composition, performed by Shel Naylor.
I was a little anxious from the start on the Saturday, as we were picked up late and I hate operating at a deficit time-wise, fearing I’ll be short-changed by the end of the day, particularly as Dave may be a bit exhausted to go on longer than the prescribed end of proceedings. Remember we have to be off the premises by a certain hour. But this rule was relaxed when it came down to it, thankfully.
Deviations from the schedule are the norm so we’ve learnt to expect them. An interesting one this time around was a short Q&A with Dave, recorded for posterity by a couple of participants. It afforded the opportunity to find out a little more about not-so-spiritual aspects of Dave. Like what he thought of the first treatment of the Kinks film and who he would want to play him and who he suggests (facetiously, I hope) should play Ray. But I won’t steal anyone’s thunder by revealing the responses. He did concede of his brother that he doesn’t think Ray’s capable of writing a bad song.
During lunch the schools in LA came under discussion. They seem to be quite rigid institutions that crack down on anything like unacceptable behaviour in a tough and uncompromising fashion.
Dave revealed that he had to remove his daughter Lana from the LA system and find a more freethinking alternative school for her in the UK, settling on a private one that sounded reminiscent of A. S. Neill’s progressive model Summerhill. Even as a child, learning about this 1920s prototype, where kids got to choose what they studied, if anything, I didn’t like the sound of it. Children don’t necessarily know what’s good for them, especially when it comes to education. This kind of indulgence runs the risk of breeding a race of spoilt brats who want to smoke, drink, have sex and ponce around being arty. As Supernanny Jo Frost often tells us, ‘Kids need boundaries’ even if they are just something to rebel against. But Dave has always had an adversarial attitude to schools and authority generally, perhaps a consequence of being the spoilt youngest child.
Spiritual healer Rosina Mostardini was unavoidably absent but she and Dave still seem to meet on a psychic plane, in a machine they have jointly imagined and created. I know, it sounds a bit loopy and I wonder if they’re not somehow inducing shared hallucinations. He also recalled what may have been an astral projection episode (I’m not sure of the details) where he was prevented from crossing a bridge to enter somewhere (a higher state of being, perhaps) because he was holding his wand (he does have an actual, physical wand, adorned with crystals and suchlike) in the wrong place, close to his crotch, tellingly, when he realised it should have been next to his heart. The memory of this mistake and his subsequent failure to cross over made him quite emotional.
After a relaxing and not too taxing yoga session, we were treated to rough mixes of three tracks from the new album, due for release January/February next year. Only one was familiar from previous satsang gigs, ‘Remember the Future’, a liltingly winning country-style ballad. I think the Jayhawks (great band) may have been playing with Dave on this one. It was only a first listen and I initially preferred the more stripped down arrangement I’d heard at the gigs. The other two tracks were much rockier – ‘In the Mainframe’ and Kate’s favourite, which I didn’t get the name of. I’m calling it ‘Exotic Erotic’. Jonathan Lea’s band The Jigsaw Seen have backed Dave on a couple of tracks, including the numinous-sounding ‘Healing Boy’.
Then, once we were done rounding up invisible spirit guides, it was time to let our hair down at the evening’s gig. We were sadly missing bassist David Nolte this weekend (so no ‘Milk Cow Blues’ for a start) but Dave had the backing of the always charming Jonathan Lea on guitar and the unfeasibly good-looking bearded Frank Rawle on cajon.
The setlist for Saturday 8 September as far as I remember was as follows
- All day
- [part Visionary dreamer]
- Good times
- Set me free
- See my friends
- [part One fine day & Father Christmas]
- Creeping Jean
- When I first saw you [new song]
- [part Rats]
- Too much on my mind
- Are you ready
- [part Muswell hillbilly]
- [medley of cockney singalong songs]
- Death of a clown
- The lie
- Living on a thin line
- You really got me
- I’m not like everybody else
- Flowers in the rain (played acoustic as a special request after gig finished)
‘They stripped away my innocence’: Dave performs ‘The Lie’ in 2001.
More miscellaneous observations on the music and weekend to follow.
But, to digress, and on the subject of Dave’s brother, he generated my first (and probably last, given the unsatisfactory outcome) experience of waiting outside a stage door after his concert at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury. Who knew they actually had ‘Stage door’ emblazoned on them? Encouraged by tales of RD’s gracious behaviour toward fans on previous occasions, I joined a select few of the faithful clutching memorabilia in patient hope while scudding clouds soft-focused a full moon and the floodlit cathedral gazed impassively on. After about half an hour our number had dwindled to six and we made it four by abandoning the endeavour, only to discover from others that our quarry, sly old fox that he is, had sneakily slipped away through the car park much earlier. Now that’s not really playing fair. We returned to inform those remaining that they were on a losing wicket. Don’t like to think how much longer they may have waited in vain. Still, at least I know now not to hang around after the Royal Albert Hall gig on Thursday.
 I’m all in favour of strict discipline now though I remember railing against it as ridiculously draconian while at school.
 I was particularly worried about there being no uniform and how my meagre, unfashionable wardrobe of ill-fitting hand-me-downs would compare to what everyone else wore. My grammar school used to be absurdly strict on the point of uniform but nowadays the girls all seem to sport skirts that barely skim their bums. All females under eighteen could easily be mistaken for prostitutes, a development that I’m sure the Davies brothers would approve.
 This is coming from someone whose middle name, as most of my previous employers will attest, might as well be ‘insubordinate’.