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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison


As Jon walked through the woods, the path suddenly seemed unfamiliar. He knew every track, so was surprised to become lost.

He found a road and planned to follow it to a familiar landmark. Soon there was a town, though not one he recognised.

‘Hi, man,’ said a voice.

Jon turned to see a guy with an afro hairstyle; sunglasses; a coloured, fluorescent, paisley shirt; a wide polka dot tie; bell-bottomed, velvet trousers and platform shoes.

‘Where is this?’ Jon asked.

The stranger proffered the joint he was smoking. ‘This is the Fabish Community,’ he answered. ‘My name’s Zak.’

‘I’m Jon.’ Jon inhaled and returned the reefer. ‘Good shit… Fabish?’

‘You’ve heard of the Amish,’ replied Zak. ‘They live as if in the seventeenth century. Fabish hang out in the nineteen-sixties.’ He gestured towards a Triumph TR4. ‘I’ll drive you to a moon party.’

‘Moon party?’

‘It’s the twentieth of July 1969. The Yanks are landing on the moon.’

They drove along the main street. The Art Deco cinema was showing Doctor Zhivago. Next week it would be Easy Rider. Moon parties had begun: Voodoo Chile sounded from a window; Sgt. Pepper’s from another; I Can’t Get No Satisfaction from a third.

Jon noted that everyone was in their late teens or early twenties. His own reflection in the visor mirror revealed his transformation to that age – forty years had fallen away.

Zak parked.

Jon followed him inside, where a guitarist was singing the final bar of The Times They Are a-Changin’. The musician offered the guitar to Jon, who performed Sloop John B and Streets of London before passing the instrument on.

A girl wearing a Mary Quant mini skirt; heavy, black eyeliner; long, false eyelashes and pale pink lipstick approached Jon. ‘I’m Saffron,’ she said. ‘Your songs really sent me.’

Saffron took Jon’s hand and led him upstairs. ‘It’s OK,’ she said, ‘I’m on the pill.’

Afterwards they lay sharing a joint. ‘Why the nineteen-sixties?’ asked Jon.

‘Innocence and optimism,’ Saffron answered. ‘The decade started with the Aldermaston marches. Authority and government were questioned… OK, there was Vietnam and the killing of Martin Luther King, but young people found a voice; there were demands for freedom and equal rights for women, homosexuals and minorities. The decade ended, like a grand finale, with the first man on the moon and Woodstock.’ She paused. ‘That enthusiasm and hope would never be recaptured. In later years, life would never again seem so simple nor feel so good.’

There was a shout from downstairs: Neil Armstrong was about to climb from the lunar module. Jon and Saffron hurriedly dressed, rushed downstairs and crowded with the others around a small, black and white television.

The speaker crackled: ‘That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’

The group excitedly watched the first exploration of the lunar surface.

After the transmission, Saffron led Jon outside into the dawn light. She pointed to a gap in the trees. ‘That path will take you home.’ She looked into his eyes. ‘Although you’ll never find your way here again.’ She kissed him. ‘Alternatively, you can stay with me.’

Reading Lost Horizon as a child, Jon never understood why Conway and Malinson had left Shangri-La.

He was not going to make the same mistake.