Talking to Paul, ‘the Loud-Speaker’:
‘The real hippie places are much more saccharine, much more happy-clappy than here. They’ll be talking all day about their spiritual experiences. But Pilsdon just gets on with it. No one ever talks to you about God or your soul. It just works. I don’t really ever go to the Church except to pray. I like the praying, you know.’
I ask him how important the Christian side of things is.
‘The bottom line here is about not trying to live some magazine lifestyle. That’s something Christians know how to resist. But you need to dehippify the concept of community. This place isn’t a commune, it’s just a village, part of a village. We keep animals, cook our food and eat it. Some people are Christians, most aren’t.’
Everyone comes together at the same time each day to eat, but attendance at the church or chapel is never mentioned; there is simply that bell if anyone is interested. … But attendance is expected at the meals. People are missed if they aren’t there. Being present for the sharing of food is almost the only condition of living at Pilsdon. That and, obviously, the renunciation of alcohol. At each meal, someone gives thanks for the food and company before everyone sits down. It is the only public prayer ever said with the whole community present.
It feels like a much more rugged place than those we had been to before. … And yet it is also a soft, gentle place. It feels as if there is an unobtrusive magnet at its centre, moving those who felt its pull.