'I can feel it sorting out my brain,' said the middle-aged man, who had been through this kind of thing before. He adjusted the plastic band. 'The magnets are sending good vibes to my head.' He sat back, nestling into the ethnic print of the armchair, his fingertips resting at his temples.
We all lay on the sofas that skirted the room, drinking red wine, talking about the healing properties of rubber pin-soled shoes with navy PVC uppers, which we were all made to try on, and the rechannelling and charging of the energy of one's soul. It all seemed slightly improbable, but at the same time the group's conviction was contagious. This was the generation that had missed out on Woodstock but whose experience of foreign travel, drugs and music made them want more from life than a leather-bound Filofax.
Each person had a project involving either India or something green that they talked about endlessly. The boy from India was going to import things. The man who had invited me for the weekend was going to put sculptures in woods. The others had more nebulous ideas that they had not quite thought through. Financial backing would not be a problem as they had friends or inherited money or were certain it would come from somewhere. No one seemed interested in what I did for a living.
Their subjects exhausted, in the early hours of Saturday the party finally left Fulham, west London, for the quiet of the Home Counties and a spot of communing with nature.
Saturday morning in the large, half-timbered house at the top of the hill was greeted with a loud blast of Techno that continued relentlessly throughout the day.
The first to rise was a smiling boy dressed in a brightly coloured jumper who proceeded, between bouts of chopping wood for the huge fire, to bop around the stereo decks until suppertime. 'I always record tapes at weekends,' he yelled, grinning and shoving one of the earphones in his right ear. And so, it seemed, did everyone else. Each had a tape and a very good reason for recording, urgently and immediately. 'Well, I'm DJ-ing at a gig next week,' shouted a large boy in blue jeans.
He and my host had lived in the half-timbered house all week, while the others were either liggers, like me, or tenants who rented rooms for weekends.
The second to appear on the narrow stairs, with its slippery carpet, was the girlfriend of the smiling boy. She had shoulder- length, blondish hair and went straight into the kitchen, where she remained the entire weekend, churning out food for the unappreciative crowd.
The third was a pale, silent and glum boy dressed entirely in black, who spent the weekend on the sofa, smoking joints and staring at the television with the volume turned down. Occasionally he stirred to make himself a cup of tea.
Finally, our host shuffled down the stairs. He wore purple jeans and an orange waistcoat and stood scratching his hair. 'Can I have a bath, man?' asked the boy in black.
'Yeah,' replied our host, nonchalantly. 'But you'll have to wash it out and we don't have any cleaner. I normally use washing- up liquid.' He stalked off to take his dogs for a walk. I followed. He marched ahead, gesturing dramatically right and left as he talked about nature. We walked down the hill, following the line of the hawthorn hedge. I kept to the edge of the field as I had been taught as a child; he pounded along towards the middle. 'That, of course, is an oak tree,' he announced as we approached some woods. 'Over there you can see the rejuvenation of the forest after the great storms; it needs thinning out.'
So he went on, as we hiked across the countryside. He ignored the birds, preferring his own monologue. Finally, we returned to the house, where the windows rattled and the walls continued to throb to the sounds of Techno. 'I'm going to have the whole house powered by solar panels and the wind.'
Inside they were communing with television. No one had left the house. Everyone developed TV headache and eye-strain and tempers began to fray. The music played on. The girlfriend announced that supper was ready. We ate in silence, with the occasional comment on the potatoes.
Sunday, and 'flu attacked me. There was not a tissue or a loo roll in the house. After a 10-minute search, my host returned with a piece of stiff African material that was large enough to cover a sofa - which, I think, is where it came from. I declined.
The conversation had dried up and red wine and pot became the central prop. A general wave of lethargy flowed over the room. Someone suggested a game of backgammon, but then they could not be bothered to find the board. The girlfiend toiled away in the kitchen and eventually at 8.30pm lunch was served. 'It makes me feel so much better to know that this bird had a nice life,' said our host, tucking into some breast. 'I couldn't eat it if it wasn't free- range.'
I had to get back to London. I had work to do. I waited and waited, feeling more and more horrible, my eyes streaming and my nose running. There was no escape. I tried to hire a taxi to take me to the station, or persuade someone to ferry me back to London. No one seemed to hear.
Eventually, the boy in the blue jeans announced he had to drive to London; a friend was going to India the next day and he wanted to say goodbye.
Sprinting up the stairs of my flat, I raided the bathroom to dry my streaming eyes and blow my nose. I had to get better for Monday morning.Reuse content