You don’t just tell strangers you’ve been taking that naughty old heaven’n’hell drug
WRITTEN BY DEREK TAYLOR
As we rolled away from the South Midlands and approached the Northern Home Counties the acid really started to bounce. It was late afternoon and if there was a heaven to be found on this soil, then I reckoned it would be found this evening, in the green and gold of this divine countryside.
‘Would you like to swing on a star, carry moonbeams home in a jar?’ ‘Yes’, said Peter Asher. ‘Where would you like to go?’ I asked. ‘AA Book,’ said Paul. ‘Pick the most beautiful name in Bedfordshire,’ I said, ‘that’s where we should go.’
Peter looked at the map for what seemed like two hours or more.
‘Harrold,’ he said, after fifteen seconds.
‘Harrold?’ said the driver, naturally knocked out with delight to leave the M1 and crawl down B, C and D roads to a village no-one in the car, including himself, had ever heard of. We wound through Bedfordshire checking off the signs steadily until we reached the village sign: Harrold. Oh, it was a joyful Sunday sight.
It was the village we were supposed to have fought the world wars to defend, for which we would be expected to fight the third when told to, but won’t. It was a Miniver hamlet on the Ouse and there were notices telling of the fête next Saturday, and a war memorial which made me weep. Thrushes and black-birds sang and swallows dived into thatches and a little old mower wheezed as we walked down the only street there was past the inn which was closed, past the church which was open, nodding to a sandy man with a 1930s moustache and khaki shorts as he clipped his hedge and stared at these city people with funny hair and clothes.
It was seven o’clock and acid or no acid, it was opening time and I steered us into the most beautiful village inn the world has even known and there were three or four people in there, or more or less; magical antique villagers with smocks and shepherds crooks and also there was a fruit machine offering Jolly Joker tokens. Through the dancing lights, past the sparkle of the green and tawny bottles, I saw the sandy man with the khaki shorts.
I went to the Jolly Joker and stared at him as he spun past, parallel lines of leering jokers circling the globe, mocking my greed, never stopping at the same time, matching with lemons, cherries, apples, half a striped plum, never the jokers met to jackpot me into the problem of cashing twenty jokers behind a bar which now seemed a thousand miles away behind the sandy man and his knowing smile.
‘Welcome to Harrold, Paul,’ said the sandy man, the local dentist, downing the rich gold beer he had earned with his shears. ‘I can hardly believe it, in fact I think I’m dreaming.’
We next found ourselves in his house, below dipping oak jewelled salads, new bread and cakes, chicken and fruit and wine; and the dentist’s wife, a jolly lady, still young beyond her maddest fantasies, bringing out her finest fare. Paul McCartney was at her table in the village of Harrold.
Hiding at a turn on the crooked staircase stood a little girl, shy and disbelieving. But she had brought a right-handed guitar and landed it in Paul’s (left-handed) hands but the wizards were producing this play by now and floating with the splendour of this, the strangest Happening since Harrold was born, the dentist and his wife, and the neighbours as they crowded the windows and the parlour, and the children, all caught their breath as Paul McCartney began to play the song he had written that week and which he said went: ‘Hey Jude, don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better.’
I sat peacefully, full of the goodness you can find within yourself when goodness is all around and the dentist’s wife picked up on it and asked why life couldn’t always be like this and I told her there was nothing to fear, nothing to fear, nothing at all and the dentist brought out the wine he had been saving for the raffle at the fête next Saturday and we drank that to celebrate the death of fear and the coming of music to Harrold and then, and gradually, the dentist was freaking and he asked me what I thought I was talking about and for a moment it was very tough, very. Ah, but Dr Leary’s medicine was good that day and we came back to a good position again, but I didn’t feel quite right about the dentist after that, and I don’t think he felt quite right about me, but how was he to know and what was I to do? You don’t just tell strangers you’ve been taking that naughty old heaven’n’hell drug.
It was eleven p.m. Paul had The Look on his face, the ‘do we don’t we?’ I nodded: tonight we should. The pub was absolutely full. The whole village was here. Paul played the piano until three o’clock a spastic stood and sang The Fool On The Hill and he left the piano to dance with her and kiss her on the cheek and then I went and sat in the little garden and cried for joy that we had come to Harrold. It was the most beautiful garden, with hundreds of old-fashioned flowers, lupins, foxgloves – that sort of thing, and Alan Smith came out, pissed as a newt and said ‘Why so sad old friend, why so sad on such a night?’ ‘Not sad’ I said, ‘not sad old pal, just happy to be alive.’
We left then, waved away by the Harrolds, by all of them, and we never went back and I never looked at the map again, not even to see if Harrold was there.