Updated: Nov 25, 2018
Occasionally I'll write a digression, which is a story that's not in the time line but is interesting. To me, anyway.
When I was about 16, myself and my pals were invited to a house party on the posh side of the Stray in Harrogate where we lived, in a 70s style glass and teak modernist house with some woodland at the back. As we were callous and unthinking young people, the idea that our genial host's parents, who had gone away for the weekend, might not like a massive, out of control teen freaks party in their lovely home didn't occur to us nor would we have been bothered if it did. A party was a party. All we were bothered about was what to wear. I believe I stepped out in a thick black cotton embroidered hooded djellaba, black ankle strap round toe wedges and more khol than the entirety of Marrakech on a holiday weekend. I no doubt reeked of patchouli and had braided my long hennaed hair the night before into 20 plants which I then released on the evening of the party so I resembled someone who had just stuck their fingers in a light socket. I would have been clanking with silver. I felt confident I looked especially cool.
The party was the usual druggie affair. Harrogate at that time - the 1970s - was swamped with dope of all types as it was alledgedly the biggest drugs clearing house in the North of England. I remember a perennial weasley pallid character called Malla - he who's mother legendarily leant out of a bedroom window and screamed 'don't you be smoking that acid again, Malcolm' when we once picked him up from home - had a fag packet sized lump of hash. In an actual fag packet. There would have been a lot of real Sandoz acid, its pale blue tablets promising 8 hours at least of solid tripping. A bit of whizz, hash oil, that kind of thing. Nothing untoward. Cheap Tetley Party Cans for anyone so uncool as to drink.
As parties go it was fairly standard - I believe Harvest got played on repeat on the parental high end record player. Malla tripped and ran into the woodland to be at one with nature, then was terrified by the local barn owl who he firmly believed was the ghost of his grandfather reproaching him for his wicked ways. Much hilarity ensued. Trysts were formed in the various bedrooms as young love will always find a way, even when impeded by being out of your gourd. My two friends got kissy with some local dudes, occasionally surfacing groggily to have a toke. As per usual I got stuck in the kitchen with the fairly sober dregs and Malla, who's eyes were like pale dinner plates as he recounted his brush with the supernatural. At length. I found the teapot so I brewed up. I say this because it's useful to know I was not entierly bolloxed.
Around dawn the party wound down as the parents were due back the following afternoon and cleaning and repairs needed doing. My friends and I set off in our unsuitable shoes to walk the 4 miles or so home, which would sober us up while the fresh air might hopefully blow away the dope smell from our clothes. Arm in arm, singing, we walked across the open grassy expanse of the Stray, a parkland of huge lawns and trees that forms the centrepiece of picturesque Spa town Harrogate. A low white mist wound through the trees as the sun rose in pastel shades of lemon and rose, like a box of Turkish Delight.
Suddenly as we walked, a vast dark shape swooped low overhead and we fell screaming to the floor. There was a loud swishing and we clutched each other in sheer terror. Then we heard a man's concerned voice from a few yards away asking if we were ok and apologising. I looked up as my pals cowered on the grass and saw a chap with a falconer's gauntlet, on which rested a Golden Eagle. The huge bird was jigging in its tresses and turning it's head sideways in that inhuman avian way. It was utterly beautiful. I scrambled up as fast as my dress would allow.
I'm so sorry lasses, the man said. I tek him out for a bit of exercise when it's quiet, you came out of the trees sudden like, are you alright?
Ignoring the blubbering girls I was with, who were now staring wide-eyed at the eagle, possibly believing it was an hallucination, I asked if I might come closer. The man smiled and said sure. So there I was. The hippiest hippie chick in my dark and glittering boho finery and the Golden Eagle, a legend, a creature of myth and wonder, in the dawn and mist, staring at each other.
He's beautiful, I said lamely. He is, said the man, that he is - well sorry to have given you a fright, best be off now. Goodbye, I said, more to the beast than the man. Goodbye. And I felt then exactly what Malla had been on about when he said he'd wanted to be at one with nature. I knew suddenly and entirely that all the silver rings and pretty dresses, the cool scenes and hip dudes, all the music, art and drugs in the world did not matter an atom in comparison to this magnificence and glory. I waved, then pulled the girls to their wobbly feet.
And we walked home.