Suzanne, Pete, Barry, Martin and I travelled down together. After a few necessary stops - cashpoint, off-licence, petrol station, off-licence - we set off under one of the most beautiful skies I have ever seen and made rapid progress, at least until we were a couple of miles short of the festival site. In the next hour and a half we moved, by my estimate, 20 feet. Eventually we turned back and tried a different approach and, hey presto, a mere two and a half hours later, we were on site. Barry, Pete and Martin pitched the tents while Suzanne and I did the hard bit - holding the torch and handing out the pegs. Tired and drained, we all needed a good night's sleep, but saw no reason to let that interfere with our plans and headed to the backstage bar of the Acoustic tent.
You can only marvel at the scale and ambition of Glastonbury: five music stages, a cabaret marquee, a Big Top circus, two theatre marquees, outdoor and indoor cinemas, permaculture, healing, astrology, tarot, the mysteries of sacred space . . . In the morning, after breakfasting on a spot of seafood gumbo, I headed straight for the massage area.
I found a small, very quiet massage marquee. The six people waiting their turn didn't stir at all when I walked in, at which point I lost my nerve and went outside for a cigarette. Chastising myself for being so feeble, I returned to assert my right to queue, in the face of no obstacles at all. I was keeping my shorts on, though. The massage took place on some towels, lasted an hour and was wonderful. After that it was easier to adopt the festival pace, which is about half normal walking speed.
The first music I caught was in the Acoustic tent, where Sharon Shannon played a blinder. We ambled to the main stage, via the Cider tent, to see World Party. The sun was out, there was access to top-class cider, 'Put the Message in the Box' was floating across the field . . . I was having a good time.
The rumour that Ireland's World Cup game against Mexico would be shown on the giant screen beside the pyramid stage turned out to be unfounded, but we did discover that there was a telly in the backstage bar at the Cabaret tent. I bumped into Steve Bowditch from the Greatest Show on Legs who wangled some passes. The bar only served cocktails so we ended up drinking our weight in margueritas. Via the Acoustic stage bar to bed.
Personal cleanliness is, famously, the great Glastonbury problem. Intermittent would be the word to describe the showers we took next morning. Barry said he was left covered in shampoo and soap just long enough to be worrying what his next move might be should the water not reappear at all. Fortunately it did, albeit at a temperature and velocity which had bypassed the controls.
Spent much of Saturday morning feeling hung-over and grumpy and filming with Channel 4 for their Glastonbury coverage. Afterwards, picking among all the experiences on offer, I opted for sleep and drifted off to the strains of Dwight Yoakam. I was due on stage in the Acoustic tent at 8.00pm. This was the largest show I've done on my own and I toyed with writing out a set-list beforehand, but eventually decided to wing it as usual, with pleasing results. Professional engagements now completed, I renounced showering and shaving from here on.
At Glastonbury you are forever setting off to see something but getting waylaid by something else and missing it. Thus I set off to see Bjork but was distracted along the way by the Bootleg Beatles. I did make it for Elvis Costello and the Attractions, though. Just because they're old pals doesn't mean I can't turn the cold glare of critical appraisal on them, but even so I have to declare their set was a barnstormer of the highest order - manic energy, aggression, control and those songs. And so to bed, via the Acoustic stage bar.
On Sunday I got off to a late start and then friends and lunch meant I had to forgo Credit to the Nation, Jackson Browne and Johnny Cash. But I did complete my Glastonbury with the wonderful Penguin Cafe Orchestra.
Leaving on Monday, we tuned to Radio Avalon, the festival station, where someone was talking about their political party, which took as its manifesto the words of John Lennon's 'Imagine'. The idea was to establish a nationwide electronic voting system by which the people could decide anything and everything about their country. And I caught myself thinking, maybe that wouldn't be such a bad idea after all . . .
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