Good Reads…….Hair Pins?.......

by Bernie Bell - 08:09 on 09 September 2022

Good Reads…

A few years ago a friend recommended that I read ‘The Longest Crawl’ by Ian Marchant.  We were both at Uni with Ian -  Mart told me that Lampeter is mentioned  and that the crawl is a GOOD READ.  So I bought it - and I read it - and it is, indeed, a good read.  An entertaining and well-written account of a pub crawl through Britain which ends up in Shetland.

Recently Mart read and recommended another book by the person mostly referred to as ‘Marchant’….."A Hero for High Times" which Mart described as …”An entertaining read covering counter cultural matters in which Lampeter features” . We ordered it from Orkney Books & Prints, https://theorkneynews.scot/2020/06/21/stromness-book-shop-scotlands-only-drive-in-book-shop/  - it arrived and, having just finished re-reading  ‘Contact’ by Carl Sagan, I stepped into another different world…..

There was a time when quite a lot of people lived in old buses – some drove about in them – the New Age Travellers – while some lived in buses which weren’t going no-where and didn’t have any plans – to paraphrase a Van Morrison song.  Marchant’s book is the story of one of those people, and his bus, and how both of them ended up where they did – and it brought back a lot of memories for me along the way.

It’s a book of memories for old hippies/punks like me, and a mine of info. for younger ones who weren’t there but who think they would have liked to have been – though the reality wasn’t always as popular history paints it. 

I was having an exchange with someone recently who would have liked to have been part of that particular brand of counter-culture but who was a bit young, and here’s something of what I wrote to him…..

“As I see it, the road trips of Kerouac & Co and Kesey & Co were because they wanted  to ‘experience’ – to expand their minds.  I doubt that would happen, as they were centred on themselves – not looking around and connecting.

A person can stay where they are, live their life, and if they are receptive, aware, paying attention, connecting with what’s around them - they will…..experience.  William Blake saw a world in a grain of sand – yet he lived relatively quietly.

It’s not to do with rampaging about or taking acid, it’s to do with what’s in a person, and that person connecting with what’s in them, and….experiencing through that.  I know enough acid casualties to know it was often too much for a person’s mind.  Timothy Leary must have had the right kind of mind for it.

Mostly I don’t think human minds cope well with those kind of drugs.  Presumably  Shamans have the kind of mind that can expand under the influence  - most folk  don’t - and get well and truly messed up by taking them.

That's how I see it - mostly from observation of those around me in the early 70’s.  I didn’t indulge - I have enough trouble with ‘reality’ as it is and didn’t want to confuse myself any more that I already was…….

Rather than have a drink with that bunch of hedonists, I’d like to sit with William, in his garden, and look about us.  Imagine that.

One thing though – I’m now singing ‘Are you experienced’ by Hendrix – not a bad way to start the day.”

I must admit I did like to drink – it helped me to stop thinking.

There’s a mention of Fat Freddy’s Cat - the cat of all cats.  I still have a couple of FFC comic books - the ways of cats don’t change as humans do  ……

Punks indulged in a different set of recreational drugs, and sniffing glue can’t have done their brains a lot of good – or their nasal passages for that matter.

‘A Hero for High Times’ isn’t so much a stroll down memory lane as a trip (pun intended) in a rickety old bus down memory lane – but there were good times along the way - if you could keep your head together.   And for those who like to observe humanity, there’s some social history too.

 Compared to what’s happening now, those times have an innocence about them.

I wouldn’t want to be young now, but it was a gas being young then.

At the beginning of the book, in a message to his grand-daughters, Ian says…

“I don’t know if the world can be mended.  On the evidence of what I’ve seen, I almost want to say it can’t be.  But I still believe with all my heart that the world is worth trying to mend. The thing is to try. It is always hard, so trying may be your only reward. 

I hope you will try one day, and that your way, whatever it might turn out to be, will be better than ours.”

That’s a sound message for the young, from the once young.

I’d say it’s a book for our times – for any time of change – which is……most times.

Something from Kurt Vonnegut which I think chimes with the ethos of Ian’s book….. https://twitter.com/DannyDutch/status/1567845220032696321?cxt=HHwWgsC-rfe6jcIrAAAA

Kurt Vonnegut?  Another good read….. https://theorkneynews.scot/2021/04/20/galapagos-by-kurt-vonnegut-a-tale-for-our-times/


‘Treacle Walker’

Alan Garner’s ‘Treacle Walker’ is on the Booker Prize shortlist – so I thought I’d post this….. https://theorkneynews.scot/2021/11/10/treacle-is-medicine/


Hair Pins?

I recently bought a piece of leather with a pin to go through it to try to control my hair -  no hairdresser since pre-March 2020!

I noticed that the pin is very like the bone pins found on archaeology digs.  I’m not in the world of archaeology, so don’t know if anyone has noticed this before?  As far as I can  remember the bone pins tend to be seen as aids to holding cloaks/clothing together - and they probably were.  There’s a good example here… https://www.wessexarch.co.uk/news/return-rousay-ii-part-6

Maybe, also, they were pushed through pieces of leather to try to control thick, wild hair?

Just a thought……to which Andrew Appleby responded…. You are quite right! I have them in the depths of Skara. Combs were stuck in hair too, as were beads and bits of hollow bird bone.”

The ‘Skara’ he mentions is his series of novels about the ancient world…. https://skarabooks.com/  More good reads…..

And, one of the team on the Rousay/Swandro dig - Caz Mamwell - sent me some info….. “you are quite right, bone pins could have many uses and hair pin is certainly one of them. There's quite a bit published about Roman & Egyptian hair pins, but I found a fun piece about reconstructing Iron Age hairstyles based on pins found as grave goods:


Not just bone, but bronze pins too - extra info is always welcome!

If anyone’s interested – this is where I bought the hair-grip from….. https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1020730011/leather-hair-barrette-with-cork-top-and


Here’s one I made earlier….. https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/04/28/on-being-more-than-the-sum-of-our-parts/



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