Miles Kington: We're all first-class passengers, sometimes

Bringing your wellies made all the difference between a good festival and a horrible festival
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The Independent Online

On one side of our house we have a small flat roof from which the rain runs off into a pipe, which goes down into a big water butt at ground level. At the bottom of the butt there is a tap from which I can withdraw small helpings for the watering can. The butt got pretty full last winter, and has remained full ever since, full of supplies for the summer watering, so I was very cross with myself last week when I left it running into the watering can and then forgot all about it.

"The path is very wet," said my wife, later that day. "Have you by any chance let all the water out of the water butt?"

Well, I hadn't, actually. A bit of it had gone into the watering can. But all the other nine billion gallons had indeed soaked into the path. What a fool. All that water, saved over such a long period. Now I would have to start all over again, in the middle of a dry summer. Fat chance.

The next day it was the start of the Glastonbury Festival, about 20 miles from us. We had exactly the same thunderstorms and torrential downpour as they did. When it eased off, later in the day, I remembered to have a look in the water butt to see how it was starting to reload. It was full again. Not just full, but pouring over the top. That's how wet it was at Glastonbury. That's how wet it was at my house as well, but I didn't have thousands of bedraggled music fans in floating tents on my lawn. Just a cucumber plant begging to be watered.

Despite it being so close, I have never actually been to the Glastonbury Festival. Nor have I really been tempted, not being one for swanning around in large crowds. Sometimes I look forward to being by myself – which is why, for the first time in years last Monday, on a whim, I bought a first-class rail ticket to go to London. Don't often go to London. Give myself a treat, I thought. Pay extra to get some peace and quiet, in a sparsely occupied carriage.

So I got an early train from Bath Spa station and had the carriage more or less to myself. For 10 minutes anyway, until first stop at Chippenham where hundreds of people got in. Into my carriage. All on holiday, it seemed, as they had backpacks. All young, all rushing for seats. Not enough seats for all of them. So they lay on the floor. Not enough room on the floor for all of them, so they went to sprawl by the doors. They didn't look like first class passengers to me.

Then a light dawned.

I leant forward to the two girls opposite.

"Just back from Glastonbury?"

They nodded.

"Been travelling since dawn," said one of them. "Got to Castle Cary. Got the train. Train stopped in the middle of the country for hours. It was awful. Just got to Chippenham in time to change."

She didn't seem too worried about it. They'd had a good time at the festival. There had been a lot of mud, but a lot of fun. They had eaten well, and had only descended to buying burgers twice. What had made it all worthwhile was that they had remembered to take their wellies. There was a deep murmur of agreement from the people listening nearby. Bringing your wellies or not bringing your wellies made all the difference between a good festival and a horrible festival. More than hearing Van Morrison or Coldplay or anyone.

What a nice lot they all were. The ticket collector must have thought so, because he came in with his serious I-hope-you're-all-genuine-first-class-ticket-holders expression and surveyed the mass of humanity before letting it change into more of a hell's-bells-I'm-not-even-going-to-bother-looking-at-your-tickets smile, and then he drifted on down the train. By the time I got to Paddington, submerged in their post-festival talk, I almost felt I had been to Glastonbury as well.

I was late for an appointment at the BBC, so I rushed for a taxi. Crowds of tanned, strong, backpacking women were in front of me as we went through the passage out to the taxis. My heart sank. But in the passage they all turned right into the ladies' toilet and showers, and left the taxis to me. It was cleanliness, not mobility, they were after. God bless you all, ladies.