It was late afternoon – a slight haze bestowed a certain wistfulness to the working day. As a sales rep working for a producer of products for professional photographers, I had probably made a call in Somerton, or perhaps Street, I can’t remember which. Now I was making my way home through Glastonbury which had recently become a centre for the New Age (as it still is) with many ‘alternative’ shops. Passing through the town I became aware that the high street was very crowded. There seemed to be even more hippies crammed onto the pavements than was usual – rainbow colours were in the ascendancy.
I was intent on getting back to the room I rented in the Eastville area of Bristol from a friend who everyone called Washboard, so-called because he played the eponymous ‘instrument’, bedecked with various addenda such as cow bells and a small battered cymbal, with legendary gusto and dexterity in a well known local band called the Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra. Pressing on towards Wells I was still puzzled about the reason for the concentration of New Age folk in the town. Suddenly it came to me. I turned the car around and headed back to Glastonbury. I parked with considerable difficulty and walked to the high street. Everyone was heading towards the Tor – the prominent, conical outcrop of Blue Lias sandstone which rises majestically from the surrounding Somerset Levels. I joined the throng of hippy fellow travellers making for its lower slopes.
Halfway up the steep incline I began to realise what an incongruous spectacle I was presenting. While everyone else’s attire was, needless to say, colourfully laid back - a cacophony of hues from every part of the spectrum - there was I scrambling up the Tor in a grey pinstripe business suit, black shoes and a tie. There was not much I could do about it, I wasn’t going to ‘blend in‘ – however none of those making the ascent treated me with the derision I feared; indeed many were interested to learn why such a besuited individual had chosen to be here.
The date was 7th July 1977 or 7/7/77 in numerical nomenclature. Numerological theories have always been attractive to those of an unorthodox persuasion and the general feeling among my new acquaintances was that it would be foolhardy to ignore the possible significance of the numerical alignment inherent in the date. Consequently the word had spread that one should seek to get as close to the godhead as possible on this day. And of course what better place to attain the sought after altitude than this towering eminence, part of one of the most spiritually and historically significant sites in the British Isles – the location of Avalon, the legendary burial place of Arthur and Guinevere, the site of a great abbey – home to an abundance of legends and myths.
Breasting the top of the outcrop, the medieval St Michael’s Tower, guarantor of this singular hill’s special significance, provided adornment to the spectacular scene. There before us extended a majestic view – a vision of the English pastoral idyll, laid out in a vast patchwork stretching across the levels to the sea and to the bounding hills. The sun was moving lower in the sky, picking out the details of hedge, tree and undulation with its raking shafts. Above, towards the east the sky morphed from pale to darker azure. No cloud besmirched the perfection of this cerulean realm and no shadow passed over the opposing land. If this seventh day of July 1977 was indeed a momentous slice of time, then some conjunction of unknown powers had undeniably provided a glorious backdrop to whatever might unfold over the evening hours.
Gathered in groups on the grassy, flat summit were perhaps two or three hundred New Age devotees. I sat and drank in the pleasures of the waning day, moving my alignment around the degrees of the compass the better to benefit from this extraordinary vantage point. A faint murmur of speculation and wonder arose from the coterie of dreamers and seekers amassed here. I doubt that many were expecting a magical epiphany or that the secrets of the universe would be revealed to them. It was enough to be present here at this particular location on such a day. The world did not shift on its axis but a random sequencing of numbers had induced a gathering to witness the congruence of time, beauty and history evoking an undeniable sense of the spirit of the place. That was something quite moving – you could call it spiritual if you want.