The Hippie, the Neo-Nazi and the Exorcist…sounds like the start to a bad joke. I actually made a sarcastic comment this past weekend to a girlfriend of mine about how my next post should be about how I have a tendency to meet such idiosyncratic types. It’s no joke, I really do, and I think you’ll find it rather interesting. Here’s my story of how meeting these characters have played out over the past 6 months.
Last July I spent a weekend away to leave the hectic grip London had over me, as I wanted space to think about whether to continue with the visa sponsorship at work. So I escaped to Devon in the south western part of England. The town I visited was recommended by a good friend and had a direct train from London so was easy to travel to in a few hours. Walking down the High Street I understood what my friend meant when she described the town as having a bohemian vibe full of spiritual types, where I could find a yoga class or meditation group easily if I wanted. Organic and vegan cafés, restaurants and shops selling handmade crafts, candles and skincare products dotted the High Street. And I saw the odd billowy trouser-clad, dreadlock individual pass me on the street with a smile.
Right, I get it. “Bohemian spiritual types” = Hippies.
I stopped for a drink at a hotel terrace to do some people watching before dinner as my phone had zero reception. When one leaves London for a weekend to the countryside this isn’t such a bad thing! As a solo woman having a quiet drink, I was soon asked by a group of locals to join their table. I politely declined as I wanted to have some time for introspection. But as it is England, it began to rain, and I ended up under the umbrella with them anyway.
I was introduced to the friendly and welcoming group at the table, and any friend who was invited to sit at the table as they passed by. One friend was on his way home from a walk down by the river Dart. Dressed in an oversized Chang beer tank, hoodie, chef’s trousers and biker boots. He had a shaved head and stretched lobes, the tattoos to his back and forearms were visible as he smoked a rollie. He had a gentle sincerity and sweetness about him and expressed the care and concern he has for the people near and dear to him whilst he told me about his son, his life growing up and favourite spots for foraging and walks in the area. Raised by hippie parents, he’s grown to prefer living an unstructured life, free from the grips of convention and steadfast rules. He polishes crystals and takes photographs to make a modest income, and lived on top of a hill with the most amazing views of the English countryside, almost off the grid on a commune they refer to as “the farm” with like-minded souls. So different from my fast paced life of deadlines, luxury residential design with obscene budgets, pollution and overcrowding in London. We spoke of his travels in India and China where he lived and worked in ashrams and temples. And of philosophic subjects and esoteric spirituality I would normally have trouble speaking about with my friends back in London. It was easy and I felt understood, and I appreciated channeling my inner hippie. I admired his life so different from mine and the freedom simple living can offer. I returned to London feeling fresh and rejuvenated, mind, body and spirit all fully connected and eager to begin my own quiet crusade and fight for my own cause.
This seems like a bit of an unfair statement. Because I don’t actually know if he is a Neo-Nazi. He’s got the look of one and actually was the one to say he has.
I was out with a very good girlfriend of mine at a Dalston pub one Saturday night in November just past. The dj played an eclectic mix of experimental electronic that was difficult to dance to, although some tried. And the crowd was just as eclectic, mixed with hipster creative types…You know typical for a grimy east London joint. Holly and I were having a long overdue catch up in the corner of the pub, when we finally looked up from our conversation we saw the place was packed. I’d noticed a man with striking features looking over at me as he stood speaking with his mates. Tall, with icy blue eyes, multiple small hoop piercings to both ears, an all-black uniform of skinny jeans, boots and leather biker jacket. No beard – a rare breed of man these days, and bald – you know, like Lex Luthor.
We started chatting after a friend of his asked where I was from and introduced us saying he’s also from Canada. Lex, I’ll call him, is a well-spoken artist and documentary filmmaker and just like his fictional counterpart, carries himself with a strong and intelligent, but arrogant demeanor. To put things plainly, he was a bit of a dick that night we met. I couldn’t quite figure him out and thought maybe he was just being provocative because of the work he does. But interestingly, once in a while he would let his guard down and his natural charisma and good nature would shine through. He wasn’t able to maintain the “I don’t give a fuck” attitude all night and it gave away that he actually gives a lot of fucks. A theme that is carried through when creatively expressed in his documentary film work, which is thematically grief based. Also through the mentoring he does for artists in residence at an organization he runs – yep ambitious. Anyway, the attitude didn’t scare me and I felt inspired by his work. He doesn’t conceal the reality of grief, and take away from the significance in the difficult emotions we experience. Rather, he presents it in a way where the beauty and vulnerability in this negative emotion can be appreciated and accepted. Something, in my opinion, we can all learn from because we all experience grief at times in our lives.
When I write away from home I prefer to stay away from the typical café or coffee shop. I don’t like to do what’s expected. So I find a pub. Pubs in Toronto are different than the ones in London and generally don’t get busy until well after 10pm.
One Friday, late afternoon, I went to the local at the end of my road. It’s a dingy and quiet place with wooden furniture and carpet so old and flat from years of spilled beer and wear, trodden down to a matted sheet and it smelled as you would expect a place like this would. It looked like the kind of place you would hide when you didn’t want someone to find you. It was perfect! A great place for me to get some work done.
There was a rowdy group of people at the front of the pub, and a few solo men sat at the bar so I stuck my headphones on and got busy writing in my journal at a table off to the side. After some time I was about to leave and grab some food elsewhere when a very tall man with a cane wearing a clerical collar and long black coat approached my table and asked me for some paper. He sounded as if he was going to ask me something else and seemed to be stumbling over his words. The clerical collar made him seem harmless enough so I invited him to have a seat at my table. As we chatted, I noticed he had tattoos on the inside of his wrists and a wedding band… I don’t know much about different sects of Christianity, having been raised Catholic I’m only familiar with the strict rules of the clergy under the Catholic faith. So I queried the tattoos. He rolled up his sleeves to reveal more tattoos to the inside of his forearm. He described the meaning of the symbols, names and Latin phrases on his forearms and indicated other places on his back and shoulders he’s got more tattoos. Not that I know much about ancient symbols, but I couldn’t help but think the visible ones looked pagan and the mix seemed to be ones you’d get for protection…. So I asked what his story is.
He is an Anglican priest – which explains the wedding band – and said he attracts or is sent people who need help clearing invading demons from their heads as if the sender was a higher power…Oh my god, you’re an Exorcist! He nodded with a half-smile and unclasped his hands with palms turned up as a gesture to indicate he welcomed my conclusion. I then thought, why is he sitting here?? Do I have a demon attached to me?? He said I’m fine. Oh thank god. Ha! He sketched as he explained that a lot of his job is to decipher whether the individual requires the help of a professional to help in the realms of mental illness or if the “demon” is of a metaphysical nature. Looking at his sketch, I saw what I think are a series of pagan symbols called Runes, they were arranged in a connected way on the paper. Once he realised what he was sketching he seemed surprised and put it away. He never told me what those symbols meant, and I kinda wish I’d snapped a cheeky photo of it. I could tell he was a rather secretive man, he also found it curious he was opening up to me.
This encounter seems to have initiated more questions and may make more sense when analyzing all encounters as a whole versus on an individual basis…for now at least. From the outside I understand the overall weirdness of these encounters, from my point of view the timing of them seems to have some significance. Meeting each of them at points when I’m going through changes and seeking clarity in my own life.
What I do know is that I’m curious and I aim to understand even the most un-popular of subcultures whether they are judged on their looks, way of life or beliefs. But you know these men have a common thread in them that I think is very important. They are of service to the overall well-being of the earth and its inhabitants. It’s achieved through the work they do or way of life. They promote and encourage healing in different ways. Whether it’s gentle and within their community; passing on kindness and compassion for their neighbours and leaving a small ecological footprint on the earth. Or shining an artful light on the reality of negative emotions and creating something tragic and beautiful. By doing so, spreading therapeutic propaganda with documentary films. Or helping people sort out their “demons” that plague them physically, mentally or spiritually. These men have found their purpose in life as healers in their own rights working with the light and dark or grey areas helping us to make sense of these complexities.
One comment stands out for me as write. The Exorcist said, “I don’t look for clients, they are sent to me.” In terms of these encounters I’ve just written to you about, I can relate. I certainly didn’t go seeking them. I believe that people and situations are placed on our paths for a reason, whether it be to forgive the past, for enjoyment or to strengthen us. So the question now becomes, why have they been placed on my path? We’ll see what happens next.
Thanks for reading, until next time.
Much Love peeps xxx