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Hussey and The Climate Road Show - Blog 4 ‘The Band at the End of the Universe’

The road, I am learning, is a school all of its own. It brings adventures, it injects a new psychology. I came on this tour partly to see England and praise the lord I’m getting a truckload of Albion. I’ve seen motorways and grassy hedges, picture post card villages, cottages under sleepy thatch, been growled at by provincial landlords and even attended bonkers church services.

In fact since we left Sipson a few days ago you would not believe the slideshow of towns and houses that have gone by. We clop along the motorway, fifteen high viz jackets over Edwardian costume. Fat faced lorry drivers lean out of windows and scream ‘Fucking Gypos!’. We get a lot of horns too, the sound dopplering out of Volvos and sports cars. Some are toots of support, other long quacks of hatred. Wide-eyed children stare from people carriers, the sun burns our faces as we rest by the road.

The first day was hard, the horses were nervous and so were we. The group would straggle over long parts of road. Now we have a pattern, bunch close behind and send one of the bikes ahead as an outrider. We wave at the traffic to slow it down and if we can jam leaflets through open windows. Most people accept it blankly.

In truth though every day is a huge learning curve. Packing the luggage and solar panels onto the carts then harnessing the horses is more complex than you might think. Then the yellow tarps that form our big tent at nights come down and go over the carts to keep the rain off. We lash it all on somehow, have a cup of fire brewed tea then off we clop.

We walked for seven hours that first day then to everyone’s amazement pulled off the road and into the lush, rolling fields of a country manner. I have no idea what the place was called, all I know is that a woman met us at the nameless iron gate and after that we rolled into a very English Eden. That night we made camp by the green-doored stables, a line of tall oaks between the Georgian house and us. The stars were fresh and clear that night.

That was days ago and it feels a world away. So much has happened since then. Meetings, actions, whiskey round the fire, a group of strangers coming together in the arms of the road. I’m writing this in Oxford, a little café on the Cowley Road. Feeling enveloped in streets and lampposts and cars and all the architectural bumf of a city feels quite strange after a week in the hedgerows. En route we camped in fields and even on a village green right outside a church. On one occasion a glowering farmer revved his Landover into our campsite. He had a black face and a fear of squatters. I feared he would poke a shotgun out the window but immediately he was surrounded by ten pretty, smiling girls in Edwardian costume. One handed him a leaflet, the others smiled harder. He never stood a chance really and when he drove off he even offered us wood.

For me the strangest campsite was that one outside the church in Haddenham. There are signs all over Haddenham saying ‘Best Kept Village’. That about sums it up. Imagine the perfect Christmas card scene but with the snow swept up. There’s a green with wood beamed pubs on one side, a squat-spired church on the other. Jam a war memorial and duck pond in the middle and you’ve just about got it. It’s the kind of place that arouses my suspicions, being that perfect looking just isn’t normal. All through our time there I looked for signs of latent, Royston Vasey weirdness. Trapdoors to S&M dungeons in the pub, children with glowing eyes, that kind of thing.

Anyway we rolled in with the carts just as the sun was sliding out of the sky and the female vicar came bumbling out to greet us. I thought we’d be chased out of town, stick-waving villagers chasing us to the bounds and screaming ‘Tinkers!’ However our tour has God on its side. Tamsin Omond, believe it or not, intends to train as a vicar one day and was giving a speech in the church that very night. So as soon as the tents went up fifteen tired travelers in high viz and time warp costumes filed into St Mary’s Had. For an atheist this was the perfect storm. A happy-clappy style service was brewing, there was with a really weird band up the front. A truly, utterly ‘good lord what is going on here’ weird band.

This was a band at the end of the universe.

The bassist was about 108, the vicar was on keyboards and a bald, middle age man strummed an electric guitar with ecstatic windmills. What followed can only be described as terrifying. It was power ballads for Jesus. One nicked the tune of U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking For’ and the rest all sounded like Meat Loaf but with a bit more about nails and Egypt.

After that we were fed veggie stir-fry out of the back of an Espace and left to collapse into the tents. As I lay there shifting on the cold ground I wondered if this might possibly be heaven. Perhaps I thought as the gross stench of my socks filled the tent and the well-kept ducks floated silently by.

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