How Arthur Pendragon Met John the Baptist And The Author Slept In A Bin
First published in The Big Issue, 2003
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You may have thought that writing was a genteel sort of trade, scholarly and sedate, involving little more effort than a few quiet hours with a book and a pen. Well, yes it is. Unless you happen to be writing a book with Arthur Pendragon that is. Being the co-author of a book about ‘90s protest culture with someone claiming to be the reincarnation of a dark ages battle chieftain was anything but quiet.
I won’t give the story away. Suffice it to say that it’s the true story of a man calling himself King Arthur, most often seen dressed in a white nightie with a circlet round his head, and that it involves Stonehenge, various protest sites, Druid rituals, some court cases, an extended stay in Bullingdon Gaol and that, if it has any purpose at all, it is to encourage you to rebellion. As Arthur says, "if I can do it, anyone can." Not that he’s asking you to wear a white nightie to do it. Clothes are not the issue here. Self-empowerment is.
My original conception was that Arthur and I would spend time together taking part in various protests, and that, out of this, the story would emerge. I imagined various contemporary events with flashbacks telling the tale.
I hired a car and we travelled up to the anti-nuclear rally outside Faslane Trident Submarine base in Scotland. There was me, Arthur, and Mog Ur Kreb Dragonrider (who deserves a book to himself, if only to explain what his name is supposed to mean.) We were going to meet a man claiming to be John the Baptist. It’s obviously a trait of mine, hanging around with people with strange names claiming to be someone else.
On the morning of the protest we went to pick John up. You have to imagine the scene. John the Baptist is, in fact, a football casual, a Celtic supporter - he’s so neat he even irons his underpants - whereas Arthur is basically a hairy biker. John is a teetotaller, whereas Arthur loves his cider. It was six o’clock in the morning. Arthur was groggy with a heavy-duty hangover, whereas John was all bright-eyed and sparky. John is a Christian whereas Arthur is a pagan. They distrusted each other immediately.
So there I am, at the wheel of the hire car, with the two biggest egos on the planet in the back: a man who thinks he’s King Arthur Pendragon, and another one who thinks he’s John the Baptist. It’s a wonder the car could pull the load, so overburdened was it with maniacal, self-proclaimed glory.
John has this habit, what he calls "booming" someone. He comes up very close and fixes you in the eye and then rants. He has very startling, electric blue eyes. Once we had parked the car I left Arthur and the Baptist on their own, waiting for the sparks to fly, which they duly did. John boomed, closing in on Arthur‘s drink-fogged face, blinding him with his expositions; Arthur got bored and then, to get away from the onslaught, promptly got himself arrested. He saw a number of policemen protecting a line, walked across the line, and was carried away to the waiting meat wagons and the local police-cells.
The word went round that Arthur had just been arrested.. He was dressed in his usual gear. I over heard someone talking about it. "What’s he been arrested for?" they asked. "Bad dress-sense?"
It was 24 hours before I saw him again.
After that, not wanting to be outdone, John was angling to get himself arrested too. He was trying to urge me to drive the hire car at the police lines and through the gates of the base. "Call yourself a revolutionary," he said when I refused.
So that was it. My first attempt to get material for the book. I’ve lost Arthur and I’m left with a ranting football-supporting, Old Testament prophet frustrated that he can’t ruin my future career on a revolutionary whim.
Needless to say that particular story never made it into the book. I mean, where could you take it? I only tell it now so you know what traumas I was subjected to to get this story into print.
Trials of Arthur print edition
Here’s another one. This happened a few weeks later. I met Arthur in Amesbury, near Stonehenge, where there was a meeting with the Department of Transport about the proposed bypass around the monument. Arthur had been invited as an interested party, and I was invited as his prospective biographer. I’d still not managed to get a single word onto paper.
After the meeting Arthur and I went to the pub to discuss the book. We had a few drinks. I had return tickets, and was about to leave, when Arthur grabbed hold of the tickets and ripped them to pieces. "Trust me," he said, "I’ll get you home." We spent the evening in the pub drinking away the advance money before making our way to the Countess Services on the A303 to start hitching home.
Well that was all very well, wasn’t it? It was early in February, and freezing cold. Arthur - who’s famous for this sort of thing - promptly fell asleep. He sort of crumpled into a swaddled lump on the verge while I was left stamping my feet against the cold. After that it was a night of sheer hell, with a biting wind searing through my clothes and an unconscious Druid for company. I went looking for warmth. The only place I could find it was in a waste bin full of cardboard. I climbed into the bin layering the cardboard around me and tried to rest. Well it was better than standing by the road.
So Arthur now has a new story to tell. He’s the man who got the author, CJ Stone, to sleep in a bin. I won’t tell you what else he says about me. You’ll have to read the book to find out.
- Chapter 1: The Turning of the Year: Samhain
This is the first chapter of the revised edition of The Trials of Arthur, available now
- The Trials of Arthur
Read another sample chapter from the book here.
- CJ Stone: Why I (re)wrote The Trials Of Arthur; The Big Hand
- LoyalArthurianWarband - Coming Home
Loyal Arthurian Warband website
- Arthur Uther Pendragon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Arthur's Wikipedia entry
- Is Arthur Pendragon the Reincarnation Of King Arthur?
King Arthur is this ex-biker, ex-soldier, ex-builder who had a brainstorm back in the eighties and decided he was King Arthur, after which he donned a white frock and a circlet, and has been causing various kinds of trouble ever since.
- CJ STONE
Stone writes with intelligence, wit and sensitivity" Times Literary Supplement
Buy CJ Stone's books here
- Amazon.co.uk: CJ Stone Storefront
Signed copies available. Click on "collectible".