Saturday, 27 June 2009

Surfin' Saints No, No, No

As I look out at the thunderclouds building in the swampy heat, there’s a song in my heart, it goes like this: Lord, I’m So Happy Not To Be At Glastonbury. Last time I went was in 2007; a rainy year. With only a handful of benches on the whole site, the entire population of this tented city were trudging, trudging through the mud, always trudging, with nowhere to rest. It was exhausting, like being a fleeing refugee rather than a music lover. I can’t even remember what I saw other than trench foot inside my socks. My main memories are of the flags and of a notice board in Journalists’ Tent backstage that had a list of festival facts that went roughly like this: Population: 148,000.
Furthest distant between tents: 8 miles.
Medical Aid Administered: 1,200 [mostly fall injuries: slips/strains]
Tent Robberies: 58
Drug Busts: 156
Noise Complaints: 1
I would like to have listened in on that complaint.

What these statistics cannot convey is how astonishingly benign it is, given its England and the crowds are all somewhere between slightly & phenomenally wasted. This would normally be the perfect equation for an almighty ruck. Yet, it doesn't happen. On the whole, people are kind to each other, especially when we're all drenched and carrying 6lbs of mud on our shoes.
However, I can’t abide listening to all that more-Glast-than-thou stuff people churn out. All those stories of ‘Yeah, after our tent got washed away in a torrent of human ordure, we slept upright in the crook of a tree, then the money got stolen by a Viking biker on acid, so we ate sheep droppings for three days.
Our weed got blown away in a mini tornado, so we smoked grated nutmeg through a bong made from an exhaust pipe.’ Unless you can trump them with a more putrid tale, you've somehow failed to have 'done' Glastonbury.

I would like to say here and now, I've only ever 'done' it in maximum luxury thanks to my friend Carol, the Texan mermaid. Actually, if there is a phrase beyond maximum luxury, it's that. And it's the way to go, believe me.
Perhaps it is this comfort that has clouded my judgement & taken me so long time to realise that I don’t really enjoy Glastonbury, even when it's sunny. I don't like seeing bands from miles away; I can't connect. I might as well be watching it on television
In fact, I've just switched on the tv to see what's going on...oh look there's Neil Young looking like an angry Gandalf - he's has snapped off all the strings from his guitar and is making a truly hideous racket over a cacpophany of feedback...for quite some time, like he's gone stark raving psycho and thinks he's in Slipknot...maybe I missed the artistic build up to this...maybe it's the acme of musical expression...but sounds like a load of horseshit to me.
Here's what I like best about Neil Young: other people singing his songs.
[Checking this out on itunes, I must add that the Boney M, Marie Osmond & Johhny Hates Jazz covers are exceptions to the rule]

Mercifully, the cameras leave Mr Young and his plank spanking madness for a montage of clips making Glastonbury look like fun, uh oh I'm going to turn it off before I lose my head and delude myself that I might enjoy a next time.

Anyway, I have to stay at home - I have a whole garden full of
delicate things that rely on me and as their guardian, my shortcomings are many. I am aware I don’t even really know how to water properly. I fill up the watering can and stand over plants and try to imagine I am a raincloud. I've moved into vegetables this year. I have carrots the width of a hypodermic syringe. Very chic.
I peer at strange little growths wondering if they are weeds or not. Is it a weed due only to my disapproval? Sometimes weeding becomes such philosophical torment I have to lie face down in the daisies and hum.

I was invited to Cornwall for an alternative to Glastonbury weekend, but whisper it softly, I don’t really like Cornwall either.
I can’t get over the feeling that I’m staying in a corridor.
And if there’s a phobia of garden walls which feature wagon wheels, I have it and it finds its full expression in the southern peninsula. Cornwall’s a long way to go to get that passagey feel, especially if you go by train and experience it all the way there. Beyond that and the gruesome recent architecture, it does have some lovely beaches, but crammed ones. The alternative is a hinterland crammed with caravan parks and churches commemorating obscure Celtic saints. Who are these guys? St. Blaise, St. Austell, St.Cuby, St. Erc, St. Winwaloe anyone? No doubt all claiming visions after too much grated nutmeg. In the space of a mile or so there are churches named after St. Endelion
the virgin recluse, St Teath, Endelion’s hardly more outgoing sister and another named after the joker of the pack - their brother St. Nectan, the hermit.
How times change. In the 21st century we observe asthma and alcoholism running in families, while in 6th century Cornwall, beatification was the hereditary strain. What kind of conversations did the parents of such children have about them? ‘Endelion and Teath are helping Nectan moves caves, but it’s young Ogbert who's really worrying me; that boy's turning out to be merely good.’

So, I don’t want to go to Cornwall, no, no, no.
I know, I know, wagon wheels be dammed, Cornwall’s good for surfing and yes, yes I like surfing - it’s not that hard. Or rather, it’s not hard to be quite bad at it and attract people who can annoy on a Glastonburian level, with all that 'gnarly dude, I spilt some port' jargon.

And then there are those who turn it into magnificent, physical poetry. Surfing is a perfect example of man’s intrinsic joyfulness. Given the sight of waves crashing onto a beach, we rush off, find a flat plank, race back, plunge in and gyre and gimble until we are exhausted. It is a watery reminder that life is not after all, just a vale of tears, but for the tiniest span of eternity we have the sweet privilege to exist.
Or as your average surf twerp might say, ‘Cowabunga and amen.’

Meanwhile, from the peace of my toolshed, I am plotting my summer break: a whistle stop tour of the world's pariah states.