EEL PIE DHARMA - a memoir / haibun - © 1990 Chris Faiers
Chapter 6 - Meeting Eel Pie
I caught the double-decker bus to Twickenham, and quickly found the arched footbridge which led to Eel Pie Island. It was about two hundred feet across the little bridge, with a beautiful view of the Thames. When I had reached the island I felt I had entered a special place. A footpath lined with neat little cottages wound through the centre of the island. There was no missing the old hotel at the end of the footpath. It was derelict, and I just walked in where the grand front entrance had once been.
Without any problems I quickly located the founder of the commune. Cliff was an artist/cartoonist and an anarchist. He was living with his American girlfriend, Ame, in a large room on the second floor of the hotel. Cliff was a big bear of a man by English standards. He had long, strawlike brown hair and an unkempt beard. With his granny glasses he looked like a professor gone bad. Ame was an All-American girl - fresh-faced and clean limbed with glasses - a professor's wife gone bad.
Cliff's easel and layout table and supplies spilled over one half of their large room, and in the other half was a big old mattress on the floor covered with quilts and blankets. The scene was artsy and cozy and there was the musty smell of Thames dampness pervading.
It looked like an enticing way to live, very bohemian and independent and countercultural. As I introduced myself to begin the interview, I was compelled to say, "I'm really a poet, not a reporter."
"What kind of poetry?" Cliff wanted to know. "Mostly haiku poetry, it's a Japanese style," and I dug into my dolly bag to give them a copy of Cricket Formations.
"We want to build a commune of artists, especially politically conscious artists," Cliff explained. "Why don't you pick out a room to use as a study and you could live here as part of the commune. Only a couple of people have moved in so far. You'd have your pick of rooms."
This was too good an offer to resist. I dashed around the hollow building. Too Much! There were no flats available in the Greater London area. I had been turfed out of two bedsitters in a week, and here I was being offered a room of my own in this picturesque setting. Thoughts of the interview were forgotten. I was a poet again.
Eel Pie Dharma is protected by international copyright laws. Individuals may print off a copy of this work for personal use only to facilitate easier reading.
Eel Pie Dharma - contents | previous chapter (5) | next chapter (7)
Eel Pie Island (words & pics) | Agraphia / Cliff Harper | Cliff Harper - The Education of Desire
below: me poking my head thru the galleyway of China Tea Steam Navigation Company
I lived on this boat, moored near Richmond-on-Thames, for about a week in the summer of 1969. Then I moved into the Eel Pie Island Hotel (as told above). While working at the Twickenham Cemetery as a gardener & gravedigger, I saved enough money to buy this boat for Q Paul for 30 pounds.
double-vision now, just like back then : )
p.s. we used to swing on willow branches from the embankment to board CTSN
Wikipedia site for Eel Pie Island Commune: