Pope, Edward Christopher 1995

Names in (brackets) have been changed. 1995 the second year I picked out of a hat to write up my life. Having now discovered my diary of this year I'm in the middle of rewriting this. At the start of 1995 I was 46, I had been living about four years on my boat Tao at Medley on Portmeadow, Oxford, I had been working about ten years as part-time bookkeeper and computer programmer for care agency Oxford Aunts in George Street, Oxford, and I had been seeing my girlfriend (Dora) for about nine months. I'd been involved for about six years in pagan groups in Oxford, and  for about 18 months in the Oxford environmental direct action scene, and I'd recently begun attending the newly-formed Catweazle club (which was to become a feature of my life for the next twenty years), then at the Victoria pub in Walton Street. (Dora wasn't very involved in any of these but we shared an interest in healing, among other things).
I have a card from Guy Brett dated 13.1.1995 saying David Medalla had asked me to write a poem for a new issue of Signals magazine he was editing. My memory tells me I did write and submit something but I can't remember what (now found it) and I'm not sure if my poem was published or whether the issue of Signals ever came out. I also have a letter from my seven year old niece thanking me for my Christmas present to her, which was a small wooden figure of a man with grass seed on his head, telling me he grew his hair on 12.1.1995. A cutting from the Oxford Mail of 31.1.1995 headed "Silent protest disrupts council" described a protest I did with Paul Rogers and Dave Malcolm at the full meeting of Oxford City Council. I had applied for my right to address the Council for three minutes but instead of speaking I lay flat on a table and Paul climbed over from the public gallery to join me. The councillors waited respectfully except for John Power who said it was ridiculous, but the other councillors ignored him. Our action was on behalf of the Campaign to Keep Canal Corridor Character. We were aware then, thanks to Mike Hamblett, that there were plans for many developments, mostly of housing, all along the canal and railway from Oxford station for three miles north. Planners considered these as brownfield sites but we saw them as a wildlife corridor within the city. Most of these sites have now (2014) been built on. The exceptions have been the land behind the reed beds which was saved by becoming a town green, and the Jericho boatyard site which is still in negotiation.
Early in February I went with (Dora) to Yorkshire to stay a few days in her sister's cottage. A footpath made of slate gray flagstones and a vision I had of red eyed demons in the cottage, which (Dora) thought were ghosts of cholera victims, and lots of walks in hills and fields with stone stiles is all I can remember of it. What was happening in my love life then needs a bit of a summary of how it got there. After an isolated adolescence my life exploded into psychedelics and communal "life as art" in 1967 and in that context I had my first sexual encounters. Many others in our commune formed into couples that lasted a year or two, or lifelong, but my relationships were short lived. When it felt like the group was breaking up, I encouraged people to move on. But once it had dispersed I found myself isolated again, and for the next eight years my sex life was a few one night stands with long gaps between. I was unhappy about this, but mostly I was processing the psychedelic experience and looking for communal and spiritual connections. At first I was living on a small inheritance, then working for and in the Church of Scientology, and then getting more grounded by doing unskilled labour. Work created a deep need in me for a partner, and I finally found one and we lived together for twelve years. That was my thirties and the 1980s, we made some attempts to have a baby which didn't work, and though I was very happy in that relationship, towards the end I began to feel that I'd lost touch with my youthful ideals of free love and community. I struggled with this for two years, not telling my partner what was going on, because I knew she'd end it if she thought I was in doubt, and I wanted to decide for myself, but couldn't decide. When the truth finally came out, she decided it was over, so I set out on my second adolescence aged 42 with the idea of having some romances and adventures but not getting into a lifelong relationship too soon. By the time I met (Dora) I'd had two other six-month relationships. Apart from my long-term partner, I'd never had relationships that long or that close before. I chose to end both of them, and that was also a new thing for me, though I'd been abandoned many times. I dreaded having to do that to somebody, but the first one took it so gracefully, and the second was angry and upset but made a move on someone else at once. I had begun to see that six months was as long as I wanted and by the time I got together with (Dora) I told her all about this before we'd had sex or got too involved with each other. In the event I decided to extend the six months to a year, and she came to terms with the idea of us parting, framing it as a trial separation.
I have a letter (Dora) sent me about this, dated 20.2.1995, and my reply, which she chose to return to me. Reading them now in 2014 we seem to have both been honest and polite, so the underlying feelings are visible but  dressed up as philosophy. I think she thought I'd regret moving on, but I never yet have, even though I've been single for most of my life since  and had no relationship much longer than a year, but the adventures I did have eventually fulfilled my longings and taught me contentment with my own company. (Dora) devised a ritual to end our relationship, and I think we did that at about the spring Equinox. She brought out some marbling materials and we each created an abstract picture to describe what the other person had meant to us. We saw each other's picture and heard what each other had to say about it, but we each kept the picture we had made. We both wanted to stay friends, as we had both done with previous partners. I offered to come once a week to weed her garden, and this happened at least once, but she asked me not to come again when I told her about someone I had met. It was someone I fancied, but I could already see that it was only likely to be a friendship. Nevertheless it hurt (Dora) - I suppose because she could see I was enjoying my freedom. It hurt me that she cancelled this garden arrangement, but I don't think I made too much fuss about it.
My new friend was Alison, who died of a stroke early in 2013. In the twenty years I knew her we once had a snog when we'd been drinking mushroom tea, but she was mostly a very special friend. I had first met her at OGDOS (Oxford Golden Dawn Occult Society) meetings, when she was with a partner and they had a baby together who didn't live long, and at some point after that they split up. Not long before my parting ritual with (Dora) I went to an OGDOS meeting in the Mitre pub in Oxford and got chatting to Alison, who gave me her phone number and asked me to let her know about protests I was involved in. I told her about an event coming up on 1.4.1995 of people linking hands along the Oxford Canal to protest the planned developments along it. I think it was organised by Friends of the Earth, who I happily worked with, though Paul Rogers and I were interested in more confrontational direct action. An action pledge had recently succeeded in reversing plans to cut down Oxleas Wood in London, so we began getting signatures for a similar pledge on the day of the link-up, which was a success, with about a thousand people joining hands and fifty signing the pledge, and Alison helped us get the signatures. I had introduced her to a new world, as none of the OGDOS people were much involved in the green protest scene. It was a warm spring evening and several people including Alison came back to my boat which was moored on the meadow and we sat on the grass getting high, listening to a tall Rastafarian known as Slimmer playing guitar and singing songs. Like Alison, Slimmer is no longer with us, but this was the first time I'd met him and I was blissed out by his sweet sounds at my own boatside. When everyone had left and I walked Alison back home down the river towards Osney it was already dark, and our goodbye hug was long and intense enough to raise my hopes. Soon after that she made it clear she didn't want a sexual relationship with me, but we carried on seeing a lot of each other, giving each other healing and massage and sometimes sleeping together.
I have a letter postmarked 29.3.1995 from my oldest niece inviting me to a play called TheTravellers' Children written by my brother's wife Mary Compton, that was performed at John Beddoes School, Presteigne. I saw it on 7.4.1995 and thought it was brilliant. My brother and I ended the evening drinking beers with a traveller granny called Josie whom Mary had met in researching her play. 
I was going to the boat of my friends (Rag) and (Ash) every week for a Rainbow Healing Circle, or sometimes they would come to mine. We would pass the talking stick round a circle of five or six with no subject and people would generally say how they were feeling. I have letters from (Dora) dated 12.4.1995 and 22.4.1995 which suggest we were both at the healing circle on 11.4.1995 and she was glad for that, and we had also spent some time together on my boat which she described as not very skillful - but maybe necessary. The weekend of 17.4.1995 she visited my brother's family in Wales. We had visited them together and she saw them as an ideal happy family. She was now asking me not to come to a party at her house - where I had other friends - and that we would each go to the healing circle alternate weeks, as I had offered her, but in practice I think she didn't go back there much. She needed not to see me, as she was afraid of fuelling the hope that we might still get back together and be long-term partners.
Sometime that spring I had attended an inaugural meeting of The Land Is Ours at Wolfson College which was addressed by George Monbiot. Their first action was on 23.4.1995 at an undisclosed location which turned out to be Wisley Airfield. I got a lift there with Andy Letcher and his then partner Groovy Su. I don't remember when I first met Andy, I know I had briefly met Su a few years before, but I think I first got to know them both from the back seat of that car. Wisley Airfield was a bit of land then known as "setaside" - the owner got paid for not farming it. It was a half hour walk from St George's Hill, where the Diggers had worked the land in 1649 and which was now a golf course. There was a big talking circle, a good sixty people must have spoken in turn. Talking circles seem to have somewhat died out in protest movements since those days. There were two main points of view, one lot wanted to set up camp where we were and begin cultivation, the other lot wanted to walk to St George's Hill and occupy it if only temporarily. There was no compromise and everyone had to decide for themselves which to do. Around a hundred people including Su enthusiatically and me reluctantly went on a long walk to St George's Hill, while Andy stayed with a smaller contingent, not to get digging but to play his mandolin with some other keen musicians there. With the likes of the Spacegoats and Seize The Day music was a key part of the road protest world. I remember we danced on St George's Hill, annoyed a couple of security guards, and somebody planted a tree in the golf course, but there was a great spirit of elation at what we'd done.
Andy Letcher, like me, was a member of Dragon, founded by Adrian Harris, a network of green pagans and "eco-magicians". I had been to their moot the previous summer at Wheatstone in Herefordshire, and there was due to be another moot there at Beltane this year. My friend Alison had recently acquired a car and wanted to go on an adventure, so she drove Andy and me there. We set out a day early as I wanted to spend a night on a hill fort called Caer Caradoc. A pagan priestess had told me that a friend of hers had slept a night there and had a vision of Merlin (or something like that). We parked the car in a tiny lane and walked up to the hill fort, pitched tents and lit a fire. Dusk on that hill after a fine day was truly gorgeous. The circular wall of the fort was covered in gorse, and by the entrance I saw a flame-coloured spark flickering in a gorse bush. I'd never seen a firefly before and didn't think they were found in Britain. Could it have been a spark from our quiet fire twenty yards away, or some spontaneous combustion as the weather had been warm and dry? It vanished and remained a mystery but stuck in my memory. Alison didn't have a tent, I offered her to sleep in mine but she said Andy's looked more comfortable. We were woken quite soon after daybreak by a policeman. It turned out someone had taken the number of Alison's car and reported it to the police, who had woken her mother the other side of England in the middle of the night. Andy asked if I'd had any visions and I said I'd dreamt about a black dog. We went on to the Dragon moot at Wheatstone. Apart from a general impression of feeling marginal to the various groups of people who knew each other already, an experience I have frequently had at such events, only one memory of it sticks in my mind, and that was that Alison was feeling distinctly unwell on the first morning we were there, and I gave her some healing, laying on off hands and letting perceived energies flow. I was aware that I felt a sexual attraction for her, and that some healers might advise against practicing healing under those circumstances, but I felt like I had put my surplus energy to good use as she recovered completely.
I was going to the Catweazle club in the Victoria pub most Wednesdays but don't have that many memories of it. Two evenings have stuck in my mind but I can't place when they were, probably both in the first half of 1995. I had learnt the song I Am Stretched On Your Grave from Jane Greenoaken's album An Unkindness of Ravens and I sang it one Catweazle which led to mutual compliments between me and a young woman who had sung there that night, Sarah Halmarack. She and her father Philip (I met them both independently) were to play a part in my life over the next two years. The other night was after Matt Sage the founder and MC of the club, had gone elsewhere but the Catweazlers decided to carry on by themselves, for one week anyway. I told a potted history of Walton Well, from the middle ages through the Civil War, the building of the Victoria pub, to the Gipsy Davey folk club which was there in the 60s when Donovan played there. My story ended, "of course he became rich and famous, but I hope none of you ever become rich and famous, unless it's rich in friends and famous in love".
During April or May I wrote and produced a small pamphlet called Sexual Community. It was A6 size, just 16 pages on alternate pink and blue sheets, and expressed my thoughts on the communal aspects of sexuality. I gave copies away to various friends, one of whom caricatured me as a furtive purveyor of pornography which I found deeply hurtful, since my intention was the opposite. making a clear and open statement of something which could easily be misconstrued in casual conversation. I don't imagine it had any positive influence on its readers but I was pleased with both the format and the content as creative expressions of myself.
Some time in June I went down to Zennor in Cornwall for a coincidence of two events one after the other on the same campsite, Cornish Dragon and a pagan camp. I don't remember how I travelled down, or back, perhaps I went with Alison again, but I remember the campsite well. One morning I went for a swim in the sea, it was a grey day and the sea was quite rough and cold. No-one was around and I swam naked, I generally abhor swimming trunks like I do spectacles and for the same reason, they turn our sensory energies back to our bodies instead of flowing out in harmony with the world. What I remember most vividly was the burning sensation like my body was on fire when I came out of cold water into cold air. My other chief memory of those camps was of a beautiful woman whose name I've now forgotten, she lived in a cottage a few miles inland but when she drove us there it took half an hour round all the winding Cornish lanes. She had a son and a daughter aged somewhere in the five to ten range, both beautiful like their mother. I remember the daughter talking about Chinese zodiac signs with me, I said I was a rat and she said her father was too. He was separated from her mother but was coming to the camp and she requested me to say to her dad "You're a rat". When I met him I did exactly that in her hearing, and watched him go red before I said "So am I, in Chinese astrology." He was handsome too.
Some notes I have suggest that I took part in a summer solstice sweat lodge at Wolvercote gravel pit, a favourite illegal swimming and fishing place, a beautiful calm lake surrounded by trees and beaches, though dangerously deep in the middle. I can only vaguely remember that sweat lodge, I might have expected (Rag) abd (Ash) to have been there, but I have a postcard from them in the Scilly Isles postmarked 26.6.1995 in which they wished me Happy Solstice. I also have a vague feeling that I brought along my acquaintance (Lionel) who was trying to get custody of his infant son from the Social Services, who had taken the baby from his mother at one week old because they considered her unfit to look after him. Most of my friends found (Lionel) difficult and disturbing, but I was trying to treat him without prejudice. What I remember better was the following Friday 30.6.1995 when as part of National Gridlock Day, Oxford Reclaim The Streets invited people to have Fun in the Streets. I think I made the flyer which I have a copy of. Will Saunders, a daring and imaginative activist I'd worked with the summer before on the Broad Street cafe action was involved among many others. The day began by hanging large pollution warning signs at entrances to the city, then a five-minute bike blockade of the Plain roundabout in the morning rush hour and a slow bike ride up the High Street and down St Aldates, where we took our bikes into the foyer of the County offices and a lively conversation ensued with the County Engineer. After a break for breakfast, tables and chairs were set uo in the road by Martyrs Memorial (where there was not much traffic in those days) and iced drinks and tea and coffee were served to passers-by. The police arrived and threatened us with arrest but we sat our ground and kept one bit of road closed for an hour. Paul Deluce seemed determined to get arrested and became our sacrificial lamb. Later we moved the cafe onto the pavement but we had made our own roll-out zebra crossing complete with Belisha beacon and many passing pedestrians enjoyed walking back and forth stopping the traffic. My contribution was to tape a mask of John Major onto a football and kick it around in protest against that prime minister's initiative to ban street football. It was a hot day and quite a few of us cycled off to the Wolvercote lake for a swim. In the evening we closed the top of Princes Street next to the East Oxford Community Centre and had a street party with live reggae and the zebra crossing. A couple of middle aged local residents got very angry and deliberately drove their car twice through our party. I remember mocking them to their faces for being sexually repressed (I didn't know them but that's how they seemed to me) and Will quite correctly chastened me for being so rude.