Saturday, June 25, 2011

We Are Not Worthy Farm

Watching U2 for a while, last night, on the HD channel, I was struck by the madness of people to stand in the rain and watch a band who might have rocked the place but seemed strangely muted. But Glastonbury has that affect on people. For some it doesn't matter that you're risking your health by staying out of doors for 3 whole days at a time of year notoriously poor for summer time sun. It's the experience.

It seems that this year might be a carbon copy of my first ever Glasto, in 1982. I was reminiscing about that just yesterday and coming to the conclusion that it wasn't memorable, because i couldn't remember much about it. However, what I can remember about it was quite vivid.

I mentioned Glasto 82 a few weeks back, but I don't think I went into any detail. I was living in Shenley in Herts, living with my folks (again), while they ran the Shenley Mental Hospital Social Club. I worked there for pennies and had fallen in with a good bunch of hospital workers and spent a lot of time getting drunk, stoned and having sex. My best mate at the time, Gertie, a man mountain of a Welsh guy whose real name was Geraint Wyn Owen, suggested that we go to this new Glastonbury CND Festival as we were all into that ban the bomb bollocks and it seemed like a good excuse to take loads of drugs, which I was into big time.

Gert was already coming on holiday with me and the folks to Westward Ho! in Devon and the festival tied in nicely with that. We'd go to the festy, then get to Devon by hitching or a bus and hook up with my folks on the Monday. it gave them the weekend to themselves and I got to go to real life music festival and they were rare things in those days. Reading was a fixture, but not much else.

He was seconded to Central Middlesex Hospital in Acton, London and was getting a lift to Pilton with some of them; I, on the other hand, was going to hitch down the M4 and find my way to Glasto in the time honoured tradition. My dad was even less sure than my mum, but I was 20 years old; I was a man!

I went prepared. I had my best Falmer jeans, a tee-shirt and a denim jacket. I had a toothbrush, £50 a change of pants and socks. I had everything I needed. I was sharing a tent with Gert and my clothes and everything would be waiting for me in a chalet in a childhood holiday destination. And to be fair, everything went swimmingly. I got a lift within ten minutes from an old hippy in an even older Volkswagen saloon and he took me as far as Warminster in Wiltshire. He would have taken me all the way but he was visiting his sick mother. It's about 20 miles from there to where I needed to be and it was early, about 11:00am. I was going to be laughing!

I walked for a while; headed to Frome, which would give me a direct road to Shepton Mallet. I finally got to Longleat and found a bus stop and figured the best thing I could do was wait for the next rural bus, but within five minutes a big old farm vehicle appeared round the corner, pulling a trailer which contained half a dozen people going to the festival. And, so was the bloke pulling the trailer - result. "Jump in," he says. So I did and my prized Falmers disintegrated!

They literally self-destructed. They split at the crotch, left, right, up and down and I didn't have anything to change into. It was leave them on with my underwear showing or take them off. This was 1982; I wasn't about to do that!

I sat, rather embarrassed in the wagon and eventually at a little after 3 - we were travelling at about 10mph - we got to the gates. I paid my £15 entry fee and got my wrist band and I found Gertie and his London contingency within 10 minutes of getting there; but they only expected 15,000 people...

All Gertie had for his holiday was his theatre greens; a baggy pair of things he wore when he attended any surgeries. They were all that was on offer and I had to accept them. I don't think I had much style at the time to cramp, so I was pretty oblivious to them after a while. I looked no different than all the other strange beasts attending this show.

The day down had been bright and warm, but by the time we got the tents up it had started chucking it down and it rained all evening and all through the night and until about 10 in the morning. It turned the site into a mud bath - the first, I believe of many - and I can't remember what we did for those first 20 odd hours. I think I got mashed and fell asleep. I remember waking up at some point and hearing the rain on the tent and some music being played loudly not far from me, but it didn't tempt me from my sleeping bag - which Gertie had brought with him from London.

By the time we grabbed some breakfast and had a look around, the sun had come out and by the middle of the afternoon, the mud had turned into a thick gloopy chocolate coloured ooze. I remember seeing two naked hippies walking through the turmoil; he was an old goat, but she looked like a goddess. The other thing we found weird and almost unsettling was the amount of drugs being sold openly and the way people were just walking around with big spliffs in their gobs flaunting the laws of the land. It was awesome!

I remember watching Randy California from the top of the hill in front of the old pyramid stage and thinking that the spectacle was amazing. Watching it on the TV last night, I thought it looked like a small town. Gone is the cottage almost Tolkeinesque feel of a village powered by love and small gas canisters. We went back to the tent about midnight, smoked some spliffs and crashed out.

The Sunday was roasting. It was in the high 70s and the mud had turned to crusts. We wandered around the site, saw a few things which I remember little about and then we hooked up with another bunch of nurses that Gertie's mates knew. Among them was this girl called Christine and she took a shine to my soiled theatre trousers and I spent the rest of the day with her, doing... stuff. We congregated at the main stage about 7pm and watched a succession of people I hadn't heard of and didn't really enjoy, until Judy Tzuke came on as the final act of the gig. That was pretty amazing for its time.

With the festival over, the Monday was targeting Devon. I also needed to find a pub to get a bite to eat and have a dump, having gone three days without success. We found getting a lift a lot tougher than we thought and ended up walking to Glastonbury and eventually a place called Street, where we got a bus to Bridgewater, which allowed us to get a bus to Westward Ho! It took us all day and we didn't get to my folks until 7pm. But we did have a little adventure along the way...

Just outside Glastonbury, we stopped at this pub. It was only early, but we decided to have a couple of pints of the local scrumpy. The bar man had told us that 3 pints and it pole axed you, but after I'd had two I wasn't fazed at all; but I was sitting on the bar stool. Halfway through the third pint and I needed to deposit some of the cider I'd borrowed and promptly fell over. My legs had turned to mush! By the time we got to Bridgewater, after dozing on the bus, I needed the loo again, badly. we used some public conveniences and they had no toilet paper. Gert tried the wom
en's and they too were void of anything. I won't tell you how I managed to solve the crisis, but I had no other option...

The holiday was poor. The weather peaked on the Sunday and it rained a lot. But we had a good time and a year later was the last time I saw Gertie in the flesh. I came back to Northampton and he eventually went back to Wales. I always think about that weekend whenever Glastonbury is on. I don't think of 1982 as being that long ago, but it's nearly 30 years and that's a lot of rain.

1 comment:

  1. I thought this year's line up looked rubbish and that those who paid £200 plus to go were mugs. Then I looked back at the line up the last year I went -- in 1999 -- and that was pretty rubbish too, although at least I didn't pay £200.