I went looking for my youth but lost my purse: Elisabeth Winkler found Glastonbury a bit much for a middle-aged mother

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Every time the Glastonbury Festival comes round, I grieve like Cinderella that I'm not at the ball. As a working mother of three, I just can't justify the time and money.

I don't know if it was hitting 40, but this year I was determined to go. My husband was supportive, albeit bewildered, by my urge to take part in such adolescent pursuits. I wasn't so sure myself: was I in the grip of a mid-life crisis, trying to recapture my hippy youth?

Then we discovered that Glastonbury clashed with my brother-in-law's ruby wedding, a major family celebration. But by this time I was booked to perform with a girlfriend in the Poetry Tent. I had to go.

So on Friday, 8am, here I am at the turnstile of Europe's biggest outdoor festival - the Glastonbury experience awaits.

Many hot and tiring hours later I'm on sensory overload. In the vast fields of Worthy Farm, 80,000 human beings are letting their hair down. It's like Euro Disney gone mad, a hash-smoker's fantasy world.

Night-time and I'm with my three friends in Cafe Pharaoh, sitting on a damp rug and sipping spiced milk out of a polystyrene cup. One of the hardest things about Glastonbury (apart from the stinking toilets) is the range of choices: which band to see, which tent to enter, which stall to eat at. I feel as pressurised as ever.

The Glastonbury experience is like Christmas - it promises a dream but doesn't deliver. I expected transformation and feel flattened by ordinariness. Just to underline this, I find I've lost my purse. We retrace our steps, but I know I'll never find it. I trip over a plank in the dark and sprawl on the ground. I want to cry.

The next day I have recovered enough to make an appointment with Vadan Darleen in the Healing Tent - perhaps her cosmic connection to the Great Mother and Father can sort me out. While I'm waiting, I visit the Sacred Water Healing Space. A woman with untidy, hennaed hair is purifying her healing stones beside a makeshift pond full of stagnant water.

What happens next involves intimate female business. I realise as I'm sitting there in the Sacred Water Healing Space that I've come on. Suddenly the hennaed one jumps up: 'Could you look after these stones for me, my period has just started.' We are both staggered to discover our menses have come at exactly the same moment. I look at the healing stones with awe. Hey, this is the Glastonbury magic.

Vadan Darleen turns out to be exceptionally intuitive. As I lie on a Lilo in the Healing Tent, I'm putty in her hands. I spill out my problems, including this split in my personality between dutiful wife and adolescent gypsy. She prays for a miracle. So things are that bad . . .

Sunday and it's time to go. I catch the bus back to Bristol with a young woman who'd spent a nightmarish four days searching for her friends and her tent. She confessed that she had been thinking of leaving her Welsh village for the outside world. The prospect scared her, she said, but after Glastonbury she knew she could survive by herself.

Perhaps Glastonbury doesn't give what you want, but what you need. Look at me; I went off in search of my crazy self but came back feeling solid. I'd had my magical moments, but my feet hadn't left the ground. Perhaps it's called growing up.