It started at St Albans, a quaint and historical village a good half-hour drive from Wiseman's Ferry. Me and the boys, a.k.a. Cranky Franky, had been offered a few gigs at the St Albans Folk Festival. We'd been the year before, and had camped near the pub. Big mistake. Big mistake in the form of redneck insomnia. At 4am someone had been heard to utter: "You wouldn't fucken believe it, but the pub's run out of fucken bourbon!" Various utterances were made in reply before the utes were revved and driven away at speed.
On that occasion we'd decided that the following year, if invited to perform at the festival, we'd seek out the hippies. "Look for the kombies," someone had suggested. "The longer they stay up, the stoneder they get, and the nicer they become."
Sounded like excellent advice, which we followed. Upon arrival at St Albans, we went in search of kombies. We followed the smell of sandalwood incense and soon found them -- orange ones, purple ones, khaki-green ones, spotty and flowery ones, pop-tops, fun-tops, no tops at all. No wait, that last one was the women. But we'll get back to that.
It went swimmingly until about eleven o'clock that night. Two gigs down, a couple of beers under the belt, instruments safely away, a quiet cigar and into the tent. To sleep. Or so we thought.
Off in the distance, over near the pub, we heard the rednecks singing. "You shook me all night long," they sung. "Back in black." "She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie... cocaine." "The last train out of Sydney's almost gone."
"I'm so glad we decided to follow the kombies," JG said. "It's a lot quieter than last year."
There is such a thing as speaking too soon, and at about one o'clock it began. The guitar, that is. And the drums. Sorry, the djembe. Before that we'd just had quiet conversation drifing through the tent walls, the gentle tones of hippies in their natural habitat, smoking a bong by firelight, content and grateful that their kombie had got them there safely this time.
Then the torture really got going. I mean, Chinese water torture has nothing on hippie-drone. One of them could play a bit. She was in fact almost good. She played a couple of pleasant tunes. I think I even heard a bit of DADGAD tuning, which was very nice after a day of bad folk-festival dross.
Then the djembe. Followed by the singing. En masse. Drone drone drone. Earlier that night we'd been trapped in a crowded pub with a hurdy-gurdy player. I wanted back in.
"You know, you're so talented, man," I heard a woman say.
"Yeah, I like feel so grateful that I've been given this like gift," came the reply (from someone who wasn't even a man.)
More guitar. More djembe. More fishing for compliments, all successful. This went on until God knows when. Finally JG had endured enough. Calmly he unzipped the tent-flap, pulled on his boots and went over. "Hey guys," said the ever-pleasant JG. "The guitar's fine -- in fact it's quite nice -- but do you think maybe the drums are a bit much?"
"Oh, sorry man," someone said, and that should have been the end of the matter.
Cue forward to 7am. It's hard to sleep past 7am when you're camping. Sun, hard bed, hot-house tent, you know how it is. But you'd think that after turning in only three hours before, with a bit of blood in one's THC system, the average hippy would be pretty keen for a bit of a lie in.
No, that is incorrect, gentle reader. "Hey man, great morning!" was the greeting as we emerged beery-eyed into the daylight.
Maybe it was a great morning. I don't recall. I do recall breaking camp in about ten minutes flat. The tent and all the other gear was thrown into the trailer unfolded and unpacked. We were moving. We didn't know where. We didn't much care, come to that.
Pete had an idea. He knew a friend of a friend who owned a couple of caravans on a block just that side of the ferry. "I got the key from her, just in case," he said. "I've got the key to Bonny Doon."
"Bonny Doon?" we cried. It was a dream come true! What were we waiting for?
Let me describe this place. Swampview Mosquito Farm might have been a more accurate name. On a south-facing block (this is good in the USA and Europe, not so great in Australia), two wheel-less caravans faced off across a slab of cracked cement. There was a mission-brown outside toilet, a view between powerlines to the Hawkesbury River mudflats, which steamed beyond an expanse of swamp, and more mosquitoes than you can imagine. We slept there that night. It was hot, there was no breeze, and the mosquitoes could smell our warm blood from the other side of the screen. I've never met insects like them. We knew that they would not leave us alone until we caught the dominant male, which I managed to do the following morning, as Pete was cooking breakfast.
It was as we were sitting there disconsolately on camp-chairs, beanies pulled down over our ears and hands deep in pockets to save ourselves from those damned mozzies, that Dr Hobbs launched into his diatribe. You'll have noticed that up until now I've not mentioned Dr Hobbs. That's because most of the time he's a pretty reserved kind of chap. Laughs at jokes, makes the odd pithy contribution, but is generally fairly quiet. Until now.
"Bloody hippies!" he suddenly spat. "What is it with bloody hippies?"
We all looked at him in surprise. A mosquito the size of a pregnant grasshopper settled on JG's cheek, for the moment remaining undetected. Was the world coming to an end? It seemed a distinct possibility.
"Bloody hippies!" he went on. "It's their fault I had two shitty nights in a row. What is it with hippies? Everything they do is lazy. Their cooking is lazy -- chuck some lentils in a pot and dinner's up. Their fashion's lazy -- does that go with this? No, but who cares. Besides, I'm a hippy, so my tits don't need any support. Their parenting's lazy -- just let them be and they'll raise themselves through communion with nature, like the Native Americans. Their hygeine's lazy -- that's what patouli's for. Even their music's lazy -- bang a couple of objects together and suddenly you're a fucking musician. Lazy, lazy, lazy! I'd say it's pathological, except they're too lazy to look it up!"
We looked at each other in stunned silence. Dr Hobbs had spoken, and who were we to argue? I mean, the man's got a PhD, so he knows what he's talking about, right?