Saturday and I’d spent most of the morning keeping an eye on the weather as we had been promised our seasonal blend of sun, showers and thunder storms and, finally judging it safe to head for the fields without a wetsuit, I strapped the dogs into their harnesses and hit the road. Naturally, as soon as we arrived at a wide open space devoid of any cover, the sky assumed the quality of the inside of a biscuit tin and the rain came down in stair rods, thereby putting paid to any chance of a future career as either a psychic or meteorologist. On reflection though, the latter may not be entirely out of the question as, in 1987, Michael Fish famously dismissed the approach of the hurricane that flattened most of the south east and left me with somebody else’s shed in my garden and a bemused looking sheep outside my garage. That kind of meteorology I can manage.
Of course the biggest clue to forthcoming weather conditions is the open air music festival calendar and this week it’s Glastonbury where the mud is traditionally at chest level and after about half an hour nobody knows what gender anyone else is because of the layers of variously baked on and reapplied primeval loam. Liberally mixed with E.coli and various exotic herbs, this stuff is guaranteed to expand the minds of sleep deprived and over-indulged punters or at the very least peel off a few layers of alimentary epithelials and chuck them over the fence into next door’s tent.
There’s something remarkably special about Glasto; it’s not polished, it’s not slick – well it is if you’re up to your fundamentals in sludge and you take a run at something – it’s raw and intimate, personal and communal. Back in the day when I was spritely enough to leap about in a field with several thousand other people to a band of unwashed youths at a headline gig rather than sofa-bopping in front of the telly, there weren’t any such shindigs to go to. Hendrix pretty much started it at the Isle of Wight, and Glastonbury followed with a hippy, folksy, medieval fayre event that got entirely upstaged by Hendrix himself who’d had the bad grace to pop his clogs twenty four hours earlier. These days we have multi-acre swamps for the hardy young creatures of the twenty-first century who are willing to queue in the rain for the privilege of taking a leak in an oversubscribed and thoroughly dispiriting portaloo. Probably the wacky baccy and litres of Stella Artois go some way to knocking the edge off that particular experience while, curiously enough, enhancing the rest.
Back in the fields, there is a bit of a ruckus going on up ahead. Apparently a large swan in an ugly mood is attacking another that has got in the way of him and his mate who is sailing majestically down-river with her flotilla of tiny cygnets. People on either side of the river are doing what people do when two large entities start slugging it out – they are standing back and shouting ‘Oi!’ One group is smiling; they think the birds are mating. We give them a country look as we pass by; ‘stoopid townies’ it says. It’s Saturday.
From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck. Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018.