After 23 hours in the air, I got off the plane at Christchurch, New Zealand to be informed by the walls in the airport that I was in Middle Earth. I was groggy enough not to care where I was, so long as I was somewhere (actually I still wasn't; only in transit to Wellington on the other island). I was sick with lack of sleep, lagging a day ahead of myself, and Middle Earth seemed as likely a place to be as anywhere. Time travel had to be involved, though, because Middle Earth was, as I knew it for a few moments in 1969, somewhere in Notting Hill, I think, and was a place for the ingesting of quantities of hallucinogens, watching the recombinatory adventures of hot coloured oils projected onto screens all around and listening to the pixilated lutes and whines of the Incredible String Band. I'd have preferred to be on the moon, the Sea of Tranquillity, say, which seemed just as probable, but I have learned that passive acceptance of life or death is the only way to survive long-haul jet travel. It took a few moments for me to remember I was in New Zealand and that the dreary sourcebook of my drug-crazed hippie nights had been filmed there and won a regiment of Oscars. There being only about three and a half million people in the country, everyone had either been in it (there were calls for extras, apparently, that invited only those over 6'7"; or under four feet to apply) or been inconvenienced by it, so it was a cause of great national pride. It's not for me to judge.
LRB 5 August 2004 | PDF Download