I was 14 when the idea came to me. Apart from my sojourns to Germany (see my last article), my food life was just a ham special. I was convinced that even England had more to offer than a ham sandwich. All I had to do was unlock the door.

Years earlier I had read the very splendid book Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Graham, in it he extols the ‘life on the open road’.

the-wind-in-the-willows.jpg I was convinced that Ham could be avoided . Even in England, I was sure that there were small pockets of resistance to the relentless march of Ham if you knew where to look.

I had developed an interest in music, not the top ten crap but Prog Rock. There were music festivals everywhere, and lets face it, who wants to spend their summer eating ham sandwiches in a small village in Oxfordshire?

Of course there was the minor issue of dealing with my parents. Oh yes, I have a ride there and back, I have a small tent, life is great, etc, etc.

Well it was partially true, I did indeed have a small tent, well technically the tent belonged to the the Boy Scouts, a movement that had recently ‘fired’ me over a misunderstanding about the placement of maggots in fellow scouts shoes. My well reasoned argument that they were bait for an upcoming fishing trip and I needed to keep them warm, this well reasoned argument fell on deaf ears. They even went so far as to accuse me of being the kid that on a recent camping trip had hidden the dirty pots and pans up a tree, rather than clean them. This was completely untrue, the really ugly ones I had places in the stream and weighed down with rocks. As it is now almost 50 years later, I’ll bet those pans are clean!

I chose my time to ‘ask permission’ to to go to the music festival with care. As in.. when my parents were really busy.  Timing is everything when you want a Yes, but expect a No.

I packed my tent and sleeping bag, I was all set. Early the next morning I was ready. My mother offered to make some ham sandwiches for the journey, I declined. My father, in a knowing way, slipped me the equivalent of $5 with the sage words “It’s just in case”.

The only tricky question was where was I being picked up from? As Mikes dad was rarely around, and Mikes mother never made an appearance in my parents pub, I was confident that nothing could go wrong.

I had to move from my favorite Thumb Flagging spot, out of sight of my parents, I went to work. In no time I was at my destination. In hindsight I can understand my good luck on the road. Everyone wanted to talk to a Hippie, but didn’t want to have one in the family.

Thus began a lifestyle. Hippies were blessed. Harmless nut jobs with long hair and strange clothes. Some traveled with a Guitar, well at least  a guitar case. I flirted with the idea but I was pretty sure that someone would ask me to play the thing. If that happened I would be in deep doo-doo.

One thing that I had picked up early in the race to Hippie stardom was the need for the smell of drugs. People tended to be more friendly if you ‘smelled’ the part. This was fixed by a couple of dabs of Patchouli oil, a little goes a long way)! Personally I hated the smell, but to not use it would be akin to a Hells Angels guy riding his hog and wearing a $2000 Armani suit, and the female passenger on the back (the biker chick) is dressed by Dior and her purse was from Louis Vuitton.

You have to dress for success! Being a hippie had a strict code of dress. Footwear should be sandals, at a pinch you could use ‘Flip Flops’ but it was not recommended. The trick to being a successful Hippie was traveling light. Although it might seem minor, one way to lighten the load was to leave your socks at home. In fact this was the start of the whole green movement. By not wearing socks you were helping the environment. Less water and detergent were used in the washing machine.

When it came to pants, the only real choice were Loons. A really good pair would flair out at least a couple of feet beyond your feet. Loons never came with pockets, this was for a good reason. Hippies don’t carry money or keys, so who needs pockets?

Mugging a Hippie is about as productive as entering your 1970 Yugo in a drag race! Your only hope is that your opponent is driving a well appointed Moskvich. Both brands are still working on the zero to 60 question. In 2005 the tired, but dedicated drivers had (after 40 years) on the test track took a restroom break. Both exuded confidence, Give them another 40 years and the beasts could break the 60 MPH barrier.

The next clothing item was the shirt. I need to set the record straight on this one. No hippie worth a damn ever wore a ‘tie dyed’ shirt! That whole myth started in San Fran and a bunch of people called The Grateful Dead. Real Hippies would not have been seen dead in Tie Dye. Cotton and silk ruled.

The basic deal was that if you had Loons that extended two feet from your feet. Your shirt should share the same flare, but in a proportional way.  A two foot Loon flare should be matched with a one foot flare in the shirt cuff. Of course this style of shirt made it impracticable to eat. Regardless of the dish, the shirt was going to become a victim. I have spent decades pondering this question. Why were there no obese hippies, and the answer is obvious! It is all in the shirt!

Food was never an issue while on the road. I think I was Saved again by a few church groups, you just say the right thing and they feed you. On a couple of occasions I joined the Hari Krishnas, but all they ever seem to have to eat was bean stew. A bowl of bean stew a couple of ‘OM’s’ and I was out of there.  Obviously this didn’t work well with the shirts, but being a Hippie you have to go with the flow.

The good news though is not once in any of my many adventures did I ever have to face the dreaded ham sandwich!

Booze was another item that just seemed to arrive out of nowhere. In fact the only bad encounter with booze came as a result of invitation to my friend Nigel to join me as a road warrior.  Our destination was the Cambridge Folk Festival. As this was not my first trip to this rodeo I understood the way it works. Nigel on the other hand did not! As a neophyte road warrior he fell for the home made cider story. Scrumpy is as evil as it gets in the drinking world. The good news was that after a good stomach pumping, and 48 hours in the hospital he was his old self. Well apart from the twitching and strange behavior when in the presence of an Apple. …

Life on the road just did not seem to work well for Nigel.

Personally I learned lots about food. Never ask a Hari Krishna whats for dinner is a good example. I have not researched the subject, but I find it unlikely that many of them found gainful employment as chefs.

One thing that my journeys did reveal was that the there was more to England than Ham Sandwiches. Not all of the cuisine was great, but at least it was different. One also has to take into account that it was free. And free is a great price when you do not have any money.

More soon, next on the list ‘menu’ is a journey around the world to look at the great cuisines.

Simon Barrett

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