I realise that it’s something of a Glastonbury cliché to talk about the mud, but I think it would be remiss of me not to mention it.
Strangely, I have seen mud this bad before. Even more strangely, it was at a venue which shared almost nothing with the Michael Eavis’s garden party—the muddiest place I’ve ever been is The Nantwich & South Cheshire Show. In fact, they’ve had the foresight to cancel that this year due to the inclement weather we’ve all been experiencing. But it’s not so many years since I waded through butter icing (see below) and we had our 4×4s (we were selling plants there) dragged off the showground by tractor.
I have been particularly heavily subjected to it at Glasto this year because of the nature of the recycling team we’re on. Rear of Markets A, as is our catchy moniker, gets the dubious honour of being one of the few teams whose remit has not been specified geographically. Most teams do the front of this or that stage, or a small area of the site. Our team recycled stuff behind all of the seventeen (I think) markets scattered around the festival site. So our job was as much a swampy trek as it was a litter pick. It’s this that differentiates it from the Nantwich showground. This place is fucking huge.
Urban legend has it that the Inuit have seventy different words for types of snow. A mud taxonomist could easily develop such a wide-ranging vocabulary for different types of wet soil which has been trampled to differing degrees. It ranges in consistency from standing water, turned brown by containing a suspension of tiny particles, through diarrhœa-like gloop which slurps as you wade, chocolate cake mixture, butter icing and then, gradually, up to the rarer and more solid types of mud in the unusual areas which were either unmoistened or unpummelled.
The worst kind is somewhere between cake mix and icing. A little more water gives you a pleasant gloop which, as long as you watch your speed, take care not to flick your shoes as you walk and avoid sprinting, mud-splattering knob-ends, is quite navigable. A little less moisture gives you springy, sodden but largely solid ground. It is the terrible icing mud, this year found mainly around the Circus and Cabaret tents, which grasps at loose footwear and tries to suck your very soul out through your feet with the satisfying slurpy glug of a plunger unblocking a drain. The only answer is to run. Run for your life. If you can run fast enough you’ll barely sink into it, but your range is limited to about ten metres because you’ll be too knackered to keep going after that. By the time your foolhardy non-runner friends have caught up though, you’ll be thoroughly rested and ready to proceed on another mad dash. It’s a bit antisocial, but it’s better than a disappointing set from The Coral.
The most annoying thing about Glastonbury is how slow everything is. You even have to build half an hour’s contingency into brushing your teeth and going to bed, because removing your waterproof trousers, flaking with mud which was once icing and crawling into your tent, having navigated up to it over a field of paths comprising largely diarrhœa-mud sparkling in your torchlight, is more of a surgical operation than you might think. Throw in unexpected queues, the regular quests for a portaloo and the fact that there are about a billion people per square foot, and your whole daily routine becomes a catalogue of waiting about.
In that way, the whole experience is crystallised in muddy metaphor: getting anything done here is like wading through treacle. Which, come to think of it, is a type of mud I missed.