Monday 27 June 2005

Dusty brown boots in the corner by the ironing board

Hello. It's taken me a few hours of queuing in a field and then some more queuing on the M5, but I am now finally home from the best festival in the world.... and I haven't even had a chance to get into the shower yet, so you might want to hold your nose whilst you read this.

It rained a little bit, but nothing too bad....

It all started so promisingly. We arrived on the site at about 22:30 on Wednesday night to find that the gazebo was already up. 2 seconds later, our tent was up and the cold beer I had brought in the cool bag had been cracked open. Nice. Thursday was absolutely brilliant. The festival site is something like 900 acres in size, and there is so much to see and to do. It was really good to have a whole day with no bands on to have a good wander around. Plus the weather was fantastic. Really brilliant. People were burning. You can worry too much about the weather in the run up to a festival, I reckon.... I got all worried about the poor forecasts for last year, and it turned out to be muddy, but it wasn't really all that bad, and you just get on with the serious business of enjoying the festival.

I'd survived a muddy Glastonbury before, so what could go wrong?

Well. How about a month's worth of rain falls in the course of about 4 hours on Friday morning in the middle of the longest and most violent electrical storm I have ever been witness to. OK, actually I slept through some of it, and when I woke up, I had that kind of warm cosy feeling that you can only get when you are tucked up inside your sleeping bag in your completely dry tent and listening to the sound of the rain smashing down onto the canvas and the thunder and lightning crashing overhead.

It wasn't until I got up that I really began to appreciate what was happening. About 10m from where we had pitched the tent, and across the metal walkway, where there had once been nothing but tents, now there was a river. As we walked down into the site from Pennard Hill (where we were camped), things just got worse. Toilets had been tipped over into the water, presumably filling it up with raw sewage that people were wading through wearing flip-flops.

Hundreds of tents had either been washed away or were completely immersed - in the same water that the toilets had tipped into. The queue for wellies was already massive. Luckily I had thought to bring some with me. Unfortunately, it looked as though someone had walked off with them, and I was going to have to spend the day in my walking boots.... especially as the largest wellies on sale seemed to be a size 7, and I needed at least an 11.

The sheer volume of water that collected on the site was amazing. It doesn't take much for 125,000 people to churn wet ground into mud, but this was something else - there were lakes.

Joe Bananas took a delivery of some wellies a little later on in the afternoon, and they needed to have a police escort.... but on the plus side, it turned out that my wellies had only been tucked away in someone else's tent after all, so I was able to breathe a big sigh of relief and leave the crowds to fight amongst themselves.

It turns out that a couple of stages were hit by lightning and the stages were all shut down until the storm finished. None of this really affected me, as I spent most of the morning trying to take everything in and make sure that everyone in our party was sorted out with a pair of wellies/big boots or whatever they needed. As a result, I missed the Undertones, and didn't really get to see anybody on stage until I checked out Elvis Costello (so, so), Bloc Party (fantastic), The Killers (pretty good) and The White Stripes (just brilliant - such a compelling live act).

Things looked a little bit brighter on Saturday morning - the whole site was absolutely soaked, but at least it had stopped raining. As I made my way down to the main stage at about 07:30 to watch the British Lions surrender tamely to the All Blacks, I took the opportunity to take a picture of the ground around the Other Stage....

This was where I was planning to spend about 6 hours that afternoon watching a run of bands. Nice, isn't it?

As it turns out, it's amazing what you can put up with. From this rather comfortable position (bar just out of sight on the left-hand side), I watched The Stands, KT Tunstall, Athlete, The Futureheads, Echo & the Bunnymen and Interpol... all of whom were fantastic.... before heading over to the Pyramid Stage to watch New Order and Coldplay.

New Order played like the legends they are. I've not had the pleasure of seeing them live before, but they looked really up for it, and played a fantastic set.... including a storming 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' dedicated to John Peel, and the slightly bizarre sight of Keith Allen and a pantomime horse joining them on stage for a rowsing rendition of 'World In Motion', the official song of the England Football team for the 1990 world cup. Sadly they didn't bring on John Barnes as a special guest, but I suppose you can't have everything.

What can I say about Coldplay? The set was the highlight of my weekend, I think. Amongst other things, they played a pretty mean version of 'Can't Get You Out of My Head' as well, dedicated to Kylie, of course. They were magnificent. Nice planet. They'll take it.

And on Sunday, the sun came out again. Wellies and shorts weather. More bands: James Blunt, The Bellydance Superstars & the Desert Roses, Brian Wilson, Rufus Wainwright, The Las, The Beautiful South.... All excellent, although I think I'll spare you the detailed reviews for now, except to say that Brian Wilson's set was a real highlight: he played hit after hit as the sun blazed down on the crowd. At one point, and I swear I'm not making this up, a surboard appeared at the front with a guy balanced on it, and he surfed across the front of the crowd. Seriously.

It's not just about the music either. Much of the joy of Glastonbury is to be had from wandering around the Green Fields, Lost Vagueness, the Stone Circle and places like that. A particular highlight was witnessing a wedding taking place (between Sponge & Susie, in case you were wondering) in the Chapel of Love & Loathing. When the ceremony was complete, the bride, groom, vicar, congregation and nuns in stockings and suspenders danced away to 'Highway to Hell' by AC/DC. More ceremonies should be like that I think. I also enjoyed a lot of the sculptures around the site (some of which will no doubt be appearing on Stand by Your Statue in the near future). There was a giant griffin, an ant made from an old motorbike, some whicker men, a sculpure made from wellies, some cows, some elephants.... but I was especially taken with this cut-down Range Rover.

The food was ace too: square pies, cous cous, a Dimbleburger, noodles & sweet chili sauce, donuts, treacle sponge & custard.... but my favourite this year was the bakery down by the Pyramid Stage. I visited that stand a couple of times over the weekend and enjoyed a variety of pastries, breads, flapjacks and iced buns. Nice.


It was as brilliant as it always is, and I won't know what to do with myself this time next year when the festival takes a year off. Perhaps I can repeat the experience by pitching the tent in a paddling pool in the garden and have someone follow me around the place with a watering can held over my head?

Right. Must shower and try and get my head back into the real world for work tomorrow. Dropping out of society and living in a tent without showers or proper toilet facilities for one weekend in the year is great, but I don't think I could do it all the time. I haven't really got the hair for dreadlocks, for one thing....


In case you're interested, I watched 10 of my 15 Glastonbury Earworms being played, which I don't think is too bad, all things considered.

And yes, I did spend much of the festival wearing a santa hat.... I don't know why.... but when you are the best part of 2m tall, it certainly makes you easy to spot in the middle of a crowd, that's for sure.

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