British salad is a dismal affair. Everything out of a can. Beets, once-frozen corn, soggy carrots, spinach, with a pathetic drizzle of straight balsamic, or something out of a bottle.
We had pulled over Jo's parents' Mercedes station wagon to get breakfast in the tiny town he grew up in. It took us half an hour of dazed, non-committal searching to find a place we thought suitable. We passed up a meat and cheese shop with low slung ceilings and thick wood beams, where the shopkeep called us 'gents', and went for a more generic small town cafe, just next door to the Roald Dahl museum.
On the way back, Jo pointed out where Dahl's grave was, just up over a hill.
"Is it fantastical and weird?"
"Uhm, no, it's quite simple really."
Fitting - a simple grave in a simple town. Strings of quaint two-story buildings with white shutters, streets with no traffic lanes where drivers just pull aside respectfully to let you pass, and a flock of schoolgirls, all in white tights and red skirts that looked made out of table cloths.
I ignored the tragedy that was my salad, and we ate Cornish pastys, a particularly British concoction of mashed up meat and spices baked into a pastry, while the schoolgirls bought candy. We should have eaten at the Roald Dahl museum. Apparently, Roald's grand-daughter became a supermodel, Sophie, and she lives right down the street from Jo's parents.
The Dudderidge's house was described to me as "a castle". This is only an exaggeration insofar as it sits on a suburban street, flanked by other houses. Otherwise, everything about it speaks to an understated, contemporary mansion. A driveway separated from the road by a row of shrubs taller than me led us to an open front door, and a kitchen that unfolded horizontally, giving a full bay window view of the perfectly manicured skate park sized lawn, like the house was sticking its striped tongue out at the hills around us.
'You wish you were as gorgeous as me.'
A half naked man with long blond hair was the first of Jo's bandmates to present himself, introduced as 'Uncle Spenny', bare in foot and chest, grinning widely. A warm spirit. Then there was Joanna - a sweet, shining blond in the midst of a pack of boys - Jo's little sister, freshly moved back from London to do a little life sorting.
Jo took me up to my quarters, which really can only be described as a wing of the house, with it's own staircase leading up from a glass conservatory to a separate living room set up, with a fold out tempurpedic sofa bed, and its own kitchen and desk, overlooking the garden.
'The Duds' dad makes recording equipment, and he's done well for himself. Mr. and Mrs. Dudderidge were 'flitting about France at the moment', on vacation, leaving Jo to bring in his whole hippie band of six troublemakers here, to borrow dad's equipment and record their second album. Within fifteen minutes of arriving at the house, the boys set a velvet curtain on fire, that's going to cost them £500 pounds to replace.
We went on a tour of the house, the sprawling expanse of it, where Adam emerged, a sweet, petite, mustachioed man, also smiling, who looked like he had popped out of a bottled message someone had thrown into the Thames in the 60's. We went on through the dining room, a den stacked with shiny boxes that make indecipherable musical magic happen, and through to a great living room, which was littered with instruments: a baby grand, numerous guitars, a full drum kit, all the trappings of a dream retreat for a gang of merry strummers, threaded together by a cobweb of cables thrown haphazardly across the floor.
We went outside, past Joanna in her pajamas, over the great lawn, and into the well kept gardens and the eventual hillside behind that. All this I can now see from the window of my wing/room, but having my feet entrenched in it was incomparable. As soon as we emerged through the cherry and apple trees, Jo spotted a deer down at the bottom of the hill.
Uncle Spenny appeared back at the top with a frisbee, wearing nothing but some track pants.
"Frisbee is, hands down, my favorite sport." Jo squealed.
We marveled at the beauty of it all while tossing it back and forth, sniffing the rind of a lemon Jo had snapped of a tree. The three of us came back up a different way, past a pond, and out onto the main lawn again, where Nick, a bandmate I'd just met in his slumber on my house tour, who was still yelling about his dreams of orange soda, was lying out in his tighty whities, full package on display, on a lawn chair in the center of the lush green. As we began to toss the frisbee qround again, he talked, still drunk, about how it must be a professional sport - some event sponsored by Aero, where it is the athletes' duty to eat off their frisbees as plates. Adam came out, wearing shiny suit pants that looked like he'd gotten them from a Pakistani father of three boys, circa 1976, and the sun made an appearance too.
Eventually, I passed out for a couple hours - I'm not sure how many because I've intentionally not brought a clock with me. When I woke up, Jo and Adam wanted new haircuts. Adam pulled up a google mugshot of Brian Jones and his epic bowl cut/mullet, and we hopped in the Mercedes again, off to town.
We got pints at a back yard picnic table at a local pub, and I talked to the boys while they got their respective summer do's ("for the festival season"). Somehow I managed to sit behind the only dykes in town and say something about gayness to alert the radars hidden beneath their spiked bleached blonde mullets, earning fans and smiles all around.
Back at home Uncle Spenny and Mugger were starting up a barbecue and cooked me a steak, which I nibbled bites of between spells of watching Jo lay down a piano track on one of their songs.
By the time we started our second frisbee game, everyone was lightly sauced, and we quickly discovered the joys of wild diving and reckless leaping into the majestic high shrubbery surrounding the main lawn. When Mugger, in his big, loping, barefoot style would lazily toss the plastic disk and get it lodged somewhere impossible to reach, Spenny, still bare chested in nothing but track pants, would tear across the grass, mane flying, and leap madly into the bushes, dislodging both the toy and his ankle simultaneously.
Come dusk, my only measure of time, I'd shot three rolls of film, played the drums, and resigned myself to the fact that the best thing I could hope to get out of British cuisine was home cooked steak, and brotherly mixed G&T's.
CALEB STEIN - * Photo by Andrea Orejarena NAME: Caleb Stein LOCATION: Poughkeepsie, New York MISSION: To photograph, and to be better WEAPONS OF CHOICE: Canon 7D Mark II...
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