Thursday 21 June 2007

After the briefest of sojourns at the family home, today was the day I departed for Glastonbury.

The journey was uneventful, but for the observation that, as you got closer to the festival site, the number of easily-discernible idiots with wellies and huge rucksacks increased. If I were cornered by mathematicians, I would hazard a guess that it was exponential, though it may have been some kind of power law.

It was only as we came over the brow of the hill on the coach which was taking us and around fifty other loonies from the station to the middle of nowhere, that we realised quite what we’d let ourselves in for. We were presented with a sweeping vista, a sea of multicoloured tents covering the hillside like a hideous, cancerous GM-crop-gone-wrong and, at once, incredible, vast and awe-inspiring. The haze-shrouded Tor down the valley completed the mystical image of this place of pilgrimage.

We snaked down into the valley, a journey whose endearing way-wending down the thinly-forested hillside would have been the more endearing had the coach not stopped every thirty seconds due to the traffic, eventually being thrown from the coach at Pedestrian Gate A.

There were random searches going on as we approached, and I, evidently looking bearded and shifty, was stopped such that the attendant might rip all the many drugs I had brought from my bag and turn my sorry ass over to the cops. I was quaking in my trainers (having not donned the welly boots yet) as I watched the colour drain from the face of the little seventeen-year-old in front of me (I know he was seventeen because the fat, moralistic drug-finder who bagged his packet of pills had asked him); they’d caught him with a little plastic bag of what looked like something orange. I thought I heard fatty explaining how dangerous tartrazine was, and how “one pill can kill you”, but having looked this up subsequently, I think it’s unlikely because tartrazine appears to be a yellow food colouring. The rozzers ushered away the little seventeen-year-old, his girlfriend in floods of tears, but the real criminal (it’s me, you idiot, with my bag of clothes and bottles of water) got away, having only had ten minutes of his time totally wasted. Ha ha. Fuck the system.

From his girlfriend’s tears, his face snow-white with terror, and his broken confession that this was his first run-in with the police, I knew that he and his young lady were totally green. However, they were also obviously totally stupid. Were they not wearing underwear? Or were they wearing underwear so skimpy it couldn’t have taken a little pack of food colouring? Idiots. It would obviously take a hardened druggie like me to think of things like that.

Having made it through the gate, and ten-metre metal fencing, the site’s hugeness was incomprehensible, as was the signage. Almost an hour elapsed, therefore, between our arrival at Pedestrian Gate A and arrival at Tom’s Field, a hilltop campsite reserved for that special class of idiot who decides that their muddy-field music romp would be incomplete without a bit of litter-picking in the early hours of the morning thrown in.

It was significantly earlier than this point at which I realised that I’d entirely forgotten my roll mat, but the true magnitude of this blunder only became apparent when I realised how lumpy the ground we were sleeping on was. And who says strict chronology is important in storytelling anyway? It was with this in mind that we set out to shop for a roll mat.

After a while wandering, we happened upon an Oxfam charity shop tent. A good place to stock up on cheap, second-hand camping and outdoor gear and donate some money to charity while you’re at it? Don’t be ridiculous. Oxfam was kitted out with all kinds of bizarre costumes, ranging from a Cambridge academic gown (I’m afraid I’m not nerdy enough to know which college), through all manner of strange sequinned cat-suits, to jester’s outfits and outlandish hats galore. The swarm of eager punters showed that they’d pitched their goods at just the right market. But how had all this weird stuff got there? I imagined the letter going round to all Oxfam stores…

Dear sir,

We’re on the Oxfam Glastonbury Festival team and we’re doing a whip-round of all Oxfam shops. Can you please send all your weird shit to the following address? There are a load of mugs we’ve got who’ll want to roll around in the mud whilst wearing it.

Yours faithfully,

The Oxfam Glastonbury Team.

The other thing of note about Glastonbury markets appeared to be the excessively poor spelling and grammar on every single sign. I could feel my usually extremely pedantic English skills draining out of me as, finally having found a stall which sold them, I parted with a tenner to buy a “roll matt”.

I barely had time to break in my new purchase when we met our team leader. Suzanne, a stoned-seeming self-confessed Pagan with a mane of frizzy hair and eyebrows which had recently been pipped to a gold in the World Bushiness Championships by a talented privet hedge, seemed extremely keen to emphasise that our job would be “easy”. Perhaps even “very easy”.

It was safe in this knowledge that we picked up some bags (in attractive shades of green, white and black) and headed for bed. After all, some idiot had decided we were to be recycling by six the next morning. Who signed me up for this?

It was with the realisation that it was me that I drifted off into an extremely lumpy sleep.

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