It is 4.30am, and in a country lane in Wiltshire, Russell Lindsay, co-chair of the Middle-England Crop Circle-Dancing Circle (aka the alternative MCC), is trying to get his 1964 Volkswagen camper van to start; no ignition means a dawn facing red-faced, proverbially shot- gun wielding farmers, and even, if Lindsay is to be believed, members of Special Branch.
'I used to be into fire-eating and before that roller-hockey,' says the disturbingly middle- class Russell, an appropriately terrier-like figure, short, slight and hairy. 'Once, I even tried blindfold driving. But nothing has ever created as much adrenalin for me as crop-circle dancing. Not even sex. When I dance, I can feel my adrenal glands pumping it out.'
Five hours earlier, guided to a nearby village on my mobile phone, my companion and I, had come to see whether this was true. Abandoning my 1987 Ford Fiesta GTi, we crossed a field to a mud track. There we entered Lindsay's fetid van, and continued our journey.
'You can't be too careful. Farmers don't like what we do because they say we damage crops. Other people say we are satanic. Stupid things like that,' Lindsay said. 'Our organisation is a little circle. But within that circle you will find another circle. A corn circle.'.
By the time we reached our destination it was 1.30am. Here, perhaps 25 other dancers had congregated. The huge field contained three corn circles. Picking the smallest of these, the regulars linked hands around it and, rhythmically humming, began to dance. Two steps to the right, one step to the left, they began slowly, after the manner of the Greeks, but soon built up into an almost Bacchic frenzy.
After four such dances, each one over 20 minutes long, they invited us to join them. My companion wished to make her excuses but I prevented her. Bringing out clip-on bicycle lights for this final dance, they attached them to their clothing. The lights - which cynics say explain some of the strange UFO-attributed phenomena around corn circles - gave an aurora borealis effect, as beautiful in its way as a Jean Michel Jarre light show.
'It is a dance of angels,' said Sian (name changed), a PR from Bath by day, as we came to a breathless halt. Even I, a sceptic, considered it a pure and simple moment. I had felt some kind of energy and it was good exercise. My calf muscles would never be the same again.
I mentioned my conversion to Lindsay: 'You are not untypical,' he said. 'People think we must be hippies living in communes or co-operatives. We believe that these fields have an energy that is, perhaps, of extraterrestrial origin. The only co- operative I have anything to do with is the one that gives away blue stamps. It is a shame that society's opprobrium prevents us giving out an address, and denies many people joy.'
As the other revellers left, night gave way to day and poetry to prose. Summoned on my mobile, the man from the AA hoved into view in what looked like a 1993 Metro. 'You may still not know a lot about crop- circle dancing,' Russell winked at my companion. 'But at least you know a man who does.'
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