It's not cheap being a hippie. It's not just the colon cleansing: every holistic therapy costs an arm and a leg

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The Independent Online
Testimonials: they're important to any business. Here are some testimonials for Arise and Shine Herbs Ltd's "Clean-me-out" programme. "A large cyst, very painful, had been growing in one of my breasts for seven years, it dissolved by the end of my first seven days... painful, swollen areas of my colon got unblocked. Four inches vanished from my waistline... lots of goopy, strange (chemical odour) green stuff came out at 1.30am. My menstrual periods are now perfectly in time with the New Moon... I'll keep cleansing until I'm totally renewed."

The boys were fascinated by Arise and Shine. They stood there, staring at the stall and reading the literature for half an hour, jaws hanging loose, going "my God" while I tugged at their sleeves and whined about wanting to go and get my aura photographed. Boys and bowels. They just can't get enough, can they? I blame Geoffrey Chaucer, myself.

The stall was certainly an arresting sight. Sitting in a white-painted corridor at the Festival of Holistic Living, among the palmists and Indian head masseuses, its displays grabbed everyone who came within 30ft and stopped them in their tracks. It was the photos that did it. The photos were fantastic. I swear, the Saatchi Gallery would pay six figures for them.

What you do to get your own artwork is pay A&S pounds 198. They give you a huge box full of pills. You take the pills, and after a bit, black stuff starts coming out of your backside. It's called something like "intestinal mucoid substance", otherwise known as "bowel slags". According to the literature, you can have anything up to 48ft of the stuff sitting there in your colon, a legacy of all those hamburgers. Cordelia Gummer will have a lot to thank her old man for in later years. And this is where the photos come in: some of A&S's customers were so excited by the results that they put on rubber gloves and took photos of themselves holding them. Which were pinned to a noticeboard for us all to see. Damien Hirst, this one's for you.

It's not cheap being a hippie. It's not just the colon cleansing: every holistic therapy costs an arm and a leg. I'm not entirely sure what a chakra is, but it must be something big because getting it cleaned costs as much as having all the carpets in my flat done did the other day. I don't mean to sound cynical. Obviously everyone feels much better with a shiny chakra. But once you've laid out pounds 49.99 on a tie-dye T-shirt which cost pounds 1.70 when it left India, you're not going to have a whole lot of cash left over for incense.

The Battersea Grand Hall had a strange air of school fete about it: not the school I went to, where fetes consisted of little girls sneering at each other's non-uniform clothes, but the school I want to send my children to. They'll certainly get an education. Along with a tarot reading, an energy ball and a nice reflecting bookmark which tells you all about your numerological personality. I am a 12, which means that I love to travel and will gather a hugh (sic) variety of knowledge over the years.

I wandered on. A woman came up and started rubbing me with a ladybird. Well, actually it was a lump of wood with six little prongs, but it had been painted red with black spots and it felt very nice. "That's nice," I said. "How much are they?" "pounds 6.95," she said. "And the little ones are pounds 4.95. Or you can have the two for pounds 10." Hah, I thought: it can't work, it doesn't cost enough. "I'll think about it," I said, and went over to finger the incense. A couple of hippies drifted up next to me. The number of rings in their noses made me start wondering about my own wimp factor. "You know, I was thinking," he said, "about that geopathic reverser. I bet there's a load of polluted energy flows at your mum's. Maybe we ought to get one."

"How much are they?" she asked. "pounds 39. But you don't need to plug it in or anything. It works off crystals." "Hmm. Maybe. Let's go back and look at them again."

Then I met Lynda. I liked Lynda. She was a psychic and she only cost pounds 25. I sat down and committed a terrible faux pas by trying to pay her first. She took my hand. "Hmm," she said. "You're very attractive to foreign men, then." I was hooked. Absolutely. "You've got to stop striking things out," she said. "You do that all the time, and it's a really bad idea. And that guy. I know he keeps coming back, but you're letting him get in the way. Don't worry. He'll always be part of your life, but you're going to be able to push him to the side soon and look at other people."

When I left Lynda, I felt all glowy. Went to find the boys. They were still standing by A&S Herbs, reading a book called "Cleanse and Purify Thyself" by Dr Richard Anderson, ND NMD. "How was your reading?" said Nicky. "Lovely, thank you. I'm going to sleep with someone foreign." Nicky's eyes rolled to heaven. "And?" he said. I took the book from his hands, started reading the blurb on the dust jacket. "I discovered this course after an initial period spent on another colonic cleansing programme," it said. "After two weeks, I dropped it like a hot potato."

At which point I had to sit down.

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