Yesterday morning, ‘Anton’ and I were putting up a Robens Prospector Tent for some bunch of glamping fucktards or other when a figure approached us through the mist that sometimes makes the Runton estate look uncomfortably like a scene from The Others. It was Graham, who handles the more complex animal culls around the estate with ferrets and dogs and so forth. Graham is every inch a son of the soil, able to tell the time by the position of the sun, whittle things from sticks, get tractors to run on cooking oil, and do that thing where you pull a small sheep out of another, larger sheep. Conversely, ‘Anton’ is a shag happy Deptford wide boy, once the terror of the Lewisham menopausal and now, like myself, little more than a grumbling Cockney in a field. Those familiar with ‘Anton’ and I’s years of trading at Greenwich Market will recall the feud between him and Keith, a fine art and photography vendor, whereby ‘Anton’ would regularly offer to nip round and give Keith’s wife Barbara ‘the full half pint’, among other horrors with which I will not trouble you. My favourite part of the feud was when ‘Anton’ attempted to convince the market management that Keith was incontinent by pouring water over the cushion Keith liked to sit on, advising them to ‘have a quiet word with him about it’, and that Keith was a proud man in deep denial and it might be a good idea to call him into the office to discuss it privately, insisting it’s nothing to be ashamed of at his age and fatness. Sadly for ‘Anton’, his ambition of replacing the words ‘A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight’, which dominated the Nelson Road end of the market, with ‘Keith is a fucking fat fucking wanker’ will now never be realised, as that part of the premises has since been demolished and lost forever. Sometimes we can just dream a little too far. Anyway, as an adolescent, ‘Anton’ used to flog zoot suits outside the Lacy Lady* and, like myself, has time for someone who knows how to dress themselves properly. Incidentally, I don’t want any backchat about not judging a book by its cover at this point, because judging a book by the cover is efficient and speeds up the judging process a great deal.
‘Are you some sort of pikey or something?’ said ‘Anton’ to Graham, now beside us and resplendent in a heavily patched hunting jacket, giving the impression that he had been standing in rain for about thirty seven years.
‘Yes’, replied Graham, a Romany gypsy, ‘I live in a caravan over there [gesturing behind him]. You’ve been there loads of times. You’ve been buying tyres off my kids since you got here, and yer man here had a dog’. This pertains to the fact that I taught Graham’s children to read, and that he gave me a dog as part payment. Also, it says much about the nature of life at Runton Hall that the only permanent residents are a family of gypsy transients, but there we are. I hate the countryside.
Unabashed, ‘Anton’ disappeared back into the Robins Prospector to ensure it was ready for glampers wanting to talk about EU Referendum recounts in, while Graham and I talked about the Summer Palace Joe has built for Sevastopol the Peacock. Sevastopol is an impressive specimen of his breed, fond of wandering around the grounds with his tail out in the summer months, and is regarded as a beloved celebrity by Runton visitors. Not by Joe, however: peacocks are loud, and Sevastopol has a habit of celebrating this next to Joe’s wigwam in the early hours of the morning. The Summer Palace Joe has built is a wondrous thing, full of stuff that peacocks like, and most importantly well away from him and his numerous children. As we talked, we waved to the Flat Earthers, who were jogging past at that moment. Most people don’t think of hard core conspiracy theorists having an exercise regime, but then most people don’t think of a gigantic ice wall stopping the oceans from sloshing over the edge of the planet and into outer space either, and that’s a tenet of Flat Earth theory. Incidentally, the Flat Earthers are off next week, to be replaced by PID believers. In case you are unfamiliar, ‘PID’ stands for ‘Paul [McCartney] Is Dead’, and the theory is roughly as follows: McCartney died in a car crash in 1966 and was replaced by a look and sound alike by the Tavistock Institute, a front organisation working on behalf of shape shifting lizards from the rings of Saturn for the purposes of spreading drug use among the young, thereby making the human population easier to control. Obvious really.
I yield to none in my love of the Fab Four – indeed, if I was any more obsessed with them I would consider myself ripe for psychiatric treatment. I collect old concert tickets and fan mail and everything. Bearing that in mind, imagine what it’s like for me hearing the Paul Is Dead theory relayed at first hand, as casually as if it was directions to Morrissons. I’ve heard it before, of course, but still. When faced with information of this kind at Runton, which is often, I just say ‘Well, I hope you get to the bottom of it’, and ask if they’ll be wanting sandwiches or anything, because not upsetting conspiracy theorists is probably the most important part of my current working life. The PID people spend most of the day playing Beatles albums backwards and saying ‘There. Solid proof. Absolutely crystal clear’ at obscure bits of garbled noise they claim proves their theory, but keep themselves to themselves otherwise. Still, I would rather have the place full of conspiracy theorists than glampers, as glampers act like they own the world, whereas conspiracy theorists act like it’s been owned since Ancient Egyptian times by hybrid lizard/human bloodlines, who probably leave less litter.
As ever, prudence is key. It isn’t for me to question beliefs which, at Runton at least, are pursued in a tolerant, good humoured and respectful manner. For all I know, there may be a conspiracy theory stating that Sevastopol the peacock is not Sevastopol the peacock at all, and that the original Sevastopol was attacked and dismembered by an angry dog given to an ex market trader by a Romany gypsy, and that the current Sevastopol is a replacement bought in to avoid upsetting guests and jeopardising revenue, but I’m sure you’ll agree it would be unfair to expect me to comment upon it.
*a famous Ilford nightclub, once the cutting edge of the British soul scene. In case you are unfamiliar, the British soul scene involved dancing all night to songs about love and then beating a stranger unconscious on the way home.
In the unlikely event that any Flat Earthers read this, I understand that it is lazy to call the Flat Earth Society a conspiracy theory. It isn’t. I think I’m right in saying that it merely seeks to question accepted scientific fact, and the ‘conspiracy’ aspect in fact pertains to Space Exploration Theory, which broadly speaking believes that space travel is a hoax put about by NASA to enable military domination of the inner cosmos. There.