In the first rain in over a month, drove down to Jason’s for the first of his Spring Fest writers dinners with Alistair Carr talk on the dry Sahara. I’d bumped into Alistair on Halesworth station, the dog rather than I attracted him, and so learned he was a writer of travel in West Africa. Sara and Jay came with me, and Jason placed me at the top of the table – one of the usual 3 in his shared dining room warmed with open fires and candles and animated conversation.
Sitting in front of my computer now, I am still warmed and nourished by the conversation there that evening. His name was Eddie. His accent Eastern Europe, I asked from where.
‘Bulgaria’, he said, ‘Plodov’. So we spoke of old trade routes, the Via Egnatzia, the Silk trade route east, through Bulgaria joining the Danube river. After Alistair Carr read from his book, ‘The Nomad’s Path : Travels in the Sahel’, and spoke of his travels, (in search of pictographs), I asked Eddie how far he had travelled.
‘India’ he said. So it was the evening opened into his one trip to India in 2007, to Nanital, to a yoga teacher he’d met in Bulgaria. (He was a follower of Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, published 1946). So it was in a Suffolk room we spoke of the non dual, the troubles of separation. And later when I found out he was an Orthodox priest, and challenged how he reconciled the two apparently contradictory systems, he invited me to lift my own self serving conditioning. His answer was pragmatic. For a profession he was an Orthodox Priest fulfilling this role, most often assuaging fears (this life and after life), but his view was informed by what he’d found/seen in the east.
The food, secondary to the conversation, was delicious, cooked by Peter Harrison. So we ate our way through
Chermoula marinated cod, chickpea, red onion, parsley and sumac salad.
Badingham goat tagine, cous cous, harissa. (The Baddingham Goat farmer was a brilliant, light warmhearted northern speaking man. A small holding of diverse animals, pigs, geese, etc and a herd of goats. ‘We are not doing this to earn a living but because we want to live off the land.’ They have effectively been part of the restoration of the English goat herd – of which there are today 60 breading goats now in the UK. No we haven’t just eaten one. He has 4 of them, and the billy’s all go for the chop – so we had a billy). It was tasty,
Orange and rose water filo pastry, ras el hanout ice cream. By far the best course for my taste, or was it the mix of that and the conversation by that stage?)
Eddie’s wife is the woman who paints the icons always exhibited at Jason’s and mostly ignored by me on my visits to his festivals (Sara the same). Jason had met them both in Brighton where they were living. He liked them, invited them to a Residential to White House farm, and so they had lived there on and off for a couple of years. Like someone else, Eddie is not only a spiritual man, but also a practical one, a carpenter, and helps out practically at White House Farm. Welcomed by all.
Beside me was Sara, who’s good company and friendship I was glad of this evening. Through the mucus of a cold, I am humbled by a passing illness, as one is when a virus briefly inhabits the body you think of as yours and under your control. The journey back was full of the gentle conversations, the reminder of the east that I had forgotten.