Philip Carr-Gomm is a druid, who lives in Lewes. Through Viva Lewes, I have got to know him slightly over the last few months. A few weeks ago he left a copy of a book he wrote in the office: ‘The Druid Way’, asking for me to review it. Shamefully, I didn’t even touch it. So he asked me to interview him instead.
I meet him in Caffe Nero. He doesn’t look like a druid, which is to say, he doesn’t look like Getafix the Druid. He looks like any other person, though his hair is on the very curly side, and his teeth are very slightly askew, in a way that adds, if anything, to his slightly rakish charm. “I want to start this interview with an idea of what it’s like to be a druid. I mean, what… do you do?” I ask.
He sidesteps. He wants to approach ‘the druid thing’ via the book. He tells me about it. It is a second edition. He wrote the first edition just after arriving in Lewes, over 13 years ago. He was living on Friar’s Walk, and he didn’t like it. He was finding it hard to come to terms with the place. He found the traffic very heavy and noisy. He used to live in London, but right in front of Kew Gardens. One day, after the death of a friend, on the Winter Solstice, he walked to what he calls ‘The Tump’ (the Mound in Mountfield Road) to say a little prayer.
“I had a weird experience. The Tump started talking to me. It told me to make a pilgrimage in my friend’s memory, and to connect with the landscape.” He resolved to walk to the Long Man of Wilmington and back. He did so, having a number of adventures (real, spiritual and imaginary) on the way. He did the journey in three legs, over a number of months. In between times he holed himself up in Bull House studying the Pagan history of the area.