IS PRINCESS MICHAEL A BONA FIDE VISION?
a Welsh mountain to find what the future holds in store for us
MICHELANGELO had visions on top of a mountain, and we ended up with the Sis- tine Chapel. Moses had visions on top of a mountain, and we ended up with Ameri- can evangelists. There are easier ways to have visions, but they rarely produce any- thing as truly astonishing as Billy Graham, no matter how much you take. And any- way, they're illegal. We were on top of a mountain, trying to have visions, so this should have been a consoling line of thought. It wasn't. It was midnight, our tent had all the warmth and charm of a small freezer compartment, and I was lying next to a, semi-naked vegan mystic who wouldn't stop talking.
`The fairies are as big as my nose.'
`I have wrestled with goblins and I am a Knight of King Arthur.'
`Have either of you got three nipples? I have.'
This sort of thing is almost impossible to respond to, at least with anything print- able.
It was the middle of December; 1995 was lurching into sight, and astrologers trying to forecast its events were proving yet again that astrology is an exact a sci- ence as worm racing. Cam Ingli, a small mountain in Pembrokeshire, sounded rela- tively promising, if you believe in visions. It was redolent with history. It was sur- Mum — what's E471 potassium sorbate lecithin and anthocyanin hydrogenate?' rounded by legends. It had several interest- ing topographical quirks, most of which we fell over on the way up. And it had Lau- rence, a 50-odd-year-old footpath-guide writer who had appointed himself its unof- ficial guardian. Laurence spent practically every week- end on top of Cam Ingli and was, as a result, something of a legend in tree-hug- ging circles. Over the last year, thanks to word-of-mouth PR, 60 similarly minded people, lured by the prospect of a visionary experience, had trecked up Cam Ingli to spend a night with him. It was, he had said on the phone, a very special place. PenPle see visions. They see the future. I d°111 want to say any more in case you and your friend get influenced.' Shortly afterwards, a map arrived, together with instructions not to bring jewellery as the fairies tended W take it. `You're not just going to make fun of it, are you?' said my friend suspiciously, as we drove into Wales and left cynical civilisa- tion somewhere behind the Severn Bridge. And it did all sound oddly like New Age old baloney. We would climb to the summit of Carn Ingli. We would somehow managed to go to sleep on the summit. We woul have dreams, which would be visions. AndLaurence would wake us at intervals, inter- rogate us about them and record them for posterity. Around 60 people had dreamt on top of Cam Ingli over the past year, and we could thus compare our dreams about the future to their dreams about the future, like a game of psychic snap. The closer we got, the sillier it all sounded; and the slow- er I drove. By the time we got to Cam Ingli's near- est pub it was already dark. Inside, th. e clientele spoke as if the Welsh Tourist Board was paying them by the cliche. `Not Cam Ingli,' they began hissing dud" fully, as soon as we told them where we were going. 'You don't want to go up there, heavens, no. Not at night. Not on your own.'
`You can't be serious,' we said.
`Oh, yes,' they said. 'People have seeonf lights up there at night,' added one them.
`Torches, possibly?' I suggested. No. Strange lights,' he insisted, manag- ing not to laugh at all.
There must, I decided when we finally reached the summit, be some kind of international visionary's handbook, because whether they're Indian fakirs or footpath-guide authors from Oxfordshire, they all look the same. Laurence was unmistakable. He was standing in the pouring rain wearing only a beard, a pair of hiking shorts and the sort of saintly expression guaranteed to infuriate. `The angels must have guided you here,' he said, as we crawled into his tent. hope you're good at dreaming,' he said an hour later. 'I've had some very good dreamers up here recently. They've seen astonishing things. I can always tell when people are dreaming,' he continued, until I finally fell asleep. I was woken up by Laurence prod- ding my head and waving a tape-recorder under my nose.
`What were you dreaming about?' he asked dramatically.
`Princess Michael of Kent,' I said truth- fully.
There was a short, embarrassed pause. `In a cream suit,' I offered. 'And she was carrying an umbrella.'
Laurence turned off the tape-recorder in silence.
Sarah, though, turned out to have an endless supply of visions, or dreams which were indeed so peculiar they should have been visions. According to Sarah and Lau- rence, they were visions about a fairly minor Welsh goddess called Rhiannon. Muttered exchanges kept drifting over to my corner of the tent. Sarah: 'A baby with a woman's face, and black hair.'
Laurence (interpreting): `Rhiannon.' Sarah: 'Another baby but I don't think it was mine.'
Laurence: `Rhiannon,' Sarah: 'A long dark tunnel with an iron door.'
Laurence (getting overexcited): 'The pri- vate parts of Rhiannon!'
And so on. But while this was going on, and after congratulating myself for being the only sane person in the tent, I had a vision. Or something, anyway. It was a small, curiously striking, image of futuristic fighter planes hovering over a dark ridge.
`Oh yes,' said Laurence. 'Lots of people have dreamt that dream. And the planes are always futuristic looking. I think,' he added, 'that it means World War Three.'
And I believed him, which shows Carn Ingli had an effect after all — probably mild exposure, someone suggested after- wards. For a second or two I almost believed everything Laurence was telling us about the future. It didn't look good for 1995, even leaving World War Three out of it. Hundreds of houses would be bombed in a terrorist campaign. The streets would be filled with rioting civilians, again. And Prince Charles would have a fatal heli- copter crash (a popular dream, that one, added Laurence). It was all very convinc- ing, because after a night up a mountain I wanted to be convinced. I could feel a tree- hugging credulity start to creep past my cynicism and settle in my frontal lobes.
Then it wore off. We were stuck on the side of the mountain, cold, tired and with- out a loo in sight. Laurence was pointing out a line of rocks, which he said was one of Rhiannon's arms but which still looked like a line of rocks, and telling us that wolves came out of that bit of ground over there at nights. 'You'll come back here,' he was predicting, as we walked down the mountain. He said it quite confidently, and, like everything else, he probably believed it. It is, after all, no worse than believing in newspaper horoscopes, just a different, more ingenious sort of eccentricity.