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Crasken hell, part 1 - John and Skippy

When I arrived, all were accommodating; I was out of the way in the ‘drove’; somewhere to hunker down and get my life together. Duncan was cool about me using the facilities and was happy for my post to go to the farm. Whenever there was a function on, or a party, I would muck in, helping with the set up, parking, serving from any of the bars, fire watch, clearing up, etc.

The parties there were famous in West Cornwall. They had a reputation for being somewhat wild. Some great bands played there, too.

John lived in a yurt that he had built himself from scratch. When John first arrived at Crasken Farm he paid a rent to live in an old dilapidated coach. Glass was missing from some of the windows and practically all were covered over with board. The door didn’t close very well and of course, there was plenty of rust. The coach was covered with various bits of tarp and cammo nets.

He lived in that state for some years while he painstakingly sourced, cut and built a base, sourced all the wood he needed to create the lattice wall, the roof poles, canvas for the coverings and textiles for furnishings, along with all the various fixtures and fittings. He built the door, along with its doorframe and the ‘roof wheel’ by hand using only hand tools. We calculated that he had hand-stitched 3.5 miles of Kevlar thread in making the canvas cover!

By the time I had moved into the ‘drove’, John was living in his yurt. It’s a magnificent thing. It’s tall, unlike a traditional yurt. He was thinking about putting in a mezzanine at the time. (Why it didn’t happen will become evident.) He had a huge burner/oven in the middle of the yurt. That thing didn’t half knock out some heat. All around was John’s life and art. (I wish I could link you to his work, but he’s useless with anything like that, though he can use a laptop, to a fashion.)

The yurt was put through a serious test one night in the depth of Winter. The wind speed that night was officially recorded at 92mph at the naval airbase next door. John was really worried, but I wasn’t. I was amazed by the way the roof poles were moving with the wind. All of a sudden there was an almighty ripping sound. John rushed outside to investigate. After a moment, I could hear John calling for help. I darted out and found John struggling to hold the canvas covering as the wind was tearing it from the wall. The wind had managed to find a weak spot. I grabbed the canvas. John rushed off to find something to temporarily hold the canvas in place. Another really forceful gust caught hold of the canvas that I was holding on to, turning it into a big sail, which simply took to the air, with me still hanging onto it. John reappeared with planks of scaffold board and rope. We pinned the canvas down with the boards and roped them down in the hope that the wind couldn’t work the boards free. It worked. John was later able to repair the damage and improved the way it was stitched.

John and I are of the same generation, though I’m a few years older. We were both skint and cooking for two is easier and cheaper than cooking for one. So, we shared meals. Sometimes, I spent hours watching John paint, not talking for long periods. I found it therapeutic watching him create beautiful images.

An Australian bloke moved into one of the mobile homes. As he was in his sixties, John and I took him under our wings and invited him to join us for meals. We learnt very quickly who he is! And it’s not pleasant.

I had had dealings with him before. He was a regular member of security staff hired for the parties. One morning, I was asked to drag a van out of the ditch. This plonker had somehow driven into a drainage ditch running along the wall of the granary.

He introduced himself as Skippy, a not very imaginative knick-name for an Australian. (Of course, if you haven’t heard of the ‘60s/70s Australian children’s programme, Skippy, you won’t understand.) Besides the security work, he claimed to be a dog whisperer! He had seen some TV show about some-one who claimed to be a dog whisperer and thought he could do likewise. He had no idea about dog psychology. In fact, he had a dog that bit Hairy Rich’s daughter. Instead of apologising and showing any form of remorse or concern, he told her not to tell her father! Inevitably, the first thing she did was tell her father. Shortly after, the dog bit another person. As a result, the dog’s life was ended.

Another thing that became evident very quickly was that Skippy loved to spread gossip. As soon as my back was turned, Skippy would be telling John tales about me and when John was absent, he would be telling me rubbish about John. John and I naturally conversed on what was said, hence coming to the obvious conclusion. We also deduced that his behaviour stemmed from his childhood. He is one of seven, not the oldest, not the youngest, but somewhere in the middle. He appears to have spent his childhood in competition, trying to find ways to gain favour with his parents. He is also an oaf and a racist; makes lewd jokes, farts for fun and has sterotypically Australian bigoted ideas.

If that’s not enough, he’s a pervert. He once informed John and I that if the curtains in his home were closed, he was wanking! He had a habit of peering through the windows of caravans, vans and mobile homes. It happened to a girlfriend who was startled by Skippy peering into her van. It wasn’t long before the complaints from punters staying overnight in their vans, etc. started mounting up.

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