Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Glastonbury Festival 2007: Muddy

Us Glastonbury folk (I think I can say "us", this was my fourth festival in succession) seem to like to place each festival in order of quality. My best was my first in 2003. This, by no small coincidence, was also a year in which the weather was perfect. It was sunny but rarely so much that it was uncomfortable. The weather has got steadily worse every year since then. Last time saw a deluge of biblical proportions, literally more rain than I've ever seen, let alone camped in. It made life difficult but by the Sunday, when Brian Wilson played and made the sun come out, the ground was pretty dry. This week saw one decent day, Wednesday, followed by four days in which it rained until around 3pm every day. The entire site was a quagmire. There was no escape. It wasn't my worst Glastonbury but my second worse and I don't know how I'll deal with it next year if the weather is the same. I've had enough wet and muddy Glastonburys.

However, like a dog's feelings towards its often cruel master, my love for Glastonbury Festival is unconditional and this will always be so. I have moments of happiness there that just can't occur anywhere else. There exists an atmosphere that I don't believe can be found anywhere else. It's a city where people approach life with an open mind, where they can express themselves in whichever way they feel knowing that they won't be judged. It's somewhere you feel anything could happen, something completely wonderful and unexpected. All you have to do is go look for it and you'll find it. And if all you want to do is get whacked out on goofballs or drunk on gallons of magic monkey juice then so be it.
Good things that happened this year include:

  • Seeing Arcade Fire at their spiritual home

  • Having our biggest and best camp ever - 12 of us! And managing to get camp fires on three consecutive nights

  • Enjoying a few communal breakfasts of sausage sandwiches washed down with cider

  • The Park - an excellent new area

  • Seeing the Hard-Fi secret gig

  • Having a group discussion on the fact that centipedes shoes would be in the style of those worn by Mr Noisy.

  • Seeing Super Furry Animals at last
  • And loads of other things that I can't remember right now

There were also gripes but most of these revolve around the weather and underfoot conditions. I can't complain about those two as a great deal has been done to improve drainage and the weather is under no-one's control, not even Michael Eavis'. There are just two things I believe he needs to address and that is that there are too many people now onsite and that there is no supervision for those leaving after the festival. Some people were in the car parks waiting to get out for up to ten hours with no idea of when they would leave. I, on the other hand, was out of the car park in around six hours. It would have been less than one hour but my idiot sister lost the car. We trudged around in the driving rain for many hours before she finally found it a mere 5 hours after we first left the site. I would have been angry with her but she was too distressed and I was too tired.

It's a shame that the weather has caused some of my friends to claim this is their last Glastonbury but I understand. I've decided to get a ticket next year but I won't go if the weather forecast is as bad as this year's. The amount of work you have to put in compared to the fun derived is becoming a bit much. I want to be able to sit where I please and feel the sun on my face. I don't like walking around the site having to look at the ground in order to not fall over in the mud. I don't like being muddy but I'll always love Glastonbury.

Monday, 11 June 2007

The Monkey on my Back

I intended writing this post last week, probably about four days ago. It was to be about something that I've discovered and become hopelessly addicted to but, due to my addiction, it's taken this long to get around to it. Even as I sit here I'm thinking about when I'm next going to use it. But I'm going to be strong. For about half an hour anyway.

I've drunk heartily from life's chalice and even taking into account my compulsive nature I've never been addicted quite so quickly to anything as I have this. The only thing that keeps me from using it all day is the fact that I can't use it at work. Thanks goodness. But I start using almost as soon as I get home from work. First I make sure that I get changed and do any tasks that can't wait. I know that once I start I won't be doing anything else for a while. Before I know it, night has drawn in and another evening has passed. I go to bed feeling the remorse of a true junkie: that I've wasted another evening but I know that tomorrow I'll start all over again.

So, how did this all start? It started how these things always start. Someone, a friend, tells you all about it. Then another invited me to join their group. Try it, they say, it's fun. They often do this out of spite. Yes, it is fun for a while, but what they really want is to feel less alone. They want others to share their addiction as if this somehow validates their own or lifts some weight from their shoulders. Neither of these things happen. All that happens is that one addict becomes two addicts.

It turns out that users are everywhere. In the week that I've been using I've found that loads of people I already knew are also using. They had previously never spoke of it. Indeed, you don't ever know whether anyone is a user until you join their world and start using it yourself. And it's the social aspect that is most enjoyable. So long as your friends are using it then you will always find some enjoyment, regardless of how fleeting and empty that enjoyment is.

So, what now? Well, I've acknowledged my helplessness. That's supposed to be the first step but, to be honest, I don't really care. I'm addicted and I don't care. I'm going to continue using it when I get home from work and maybe even before I go to work in the morning. As long as there are others there with me I'm going to continue using it and damn the consequences.

My name is Ian and I'm addicted to Facebook.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Whole Days Throwing Sticks into Streams....

Towards the end of my previous post I listed reasons why the media might want to keep Madeleine's story prominent. One reason I forgot to include is that our media likes to scare us. This is clearly a tactic that sells. We don't see headlines such as: "Public healthier and living longer than ever" or "Our kids have never been safer". These headlines don't sell, despite their undoubted truth. It seems that people are largely interested in hearing about how dangerous the world is; it's as if this information gives some us perverse sense of security. We want to believe the worst and we can't be happy unless we're in a collective state of agitation.

I'm an exception to all this. It's true that I believe that we, as a race, are screwed. But this relates to the self-immolation that we will surely provoke in a short while by refusing to treat our planet with the respect it deserves. However, all that will happen with or without my permission and I'm quite relaxed about it. When it comes to safety on a local level I firmly believe that, in my part of the world at least, we are better off than ever before.

Okay, that's easy for me to say. I'm an adult male and although my demographic is more likely than any other to experience the effects of crime I'm confident enough to walk the streets without worrying. Maybe if I had a child to worry about then I'd think a bit differently. Well, it's true that I'd certainly be vigilant. But I'd like to think that I'd give my children a bit more freedom than is seen to be acceptable today.

This study really upsets me. I live next to an infant school and am well aware of the large amount of parents who take their children to school (often in SUVs but that's another matter) but I was astonished to learn that only 9% of kids walk to school on their own compared to 80% in 1970. There are loads of reasons for this but one of the main ones must be fear. If it's not fear of what might happen to one's child then it's fear of being labelled an irresponsible parent for letting that child out of one's sight for a few minutes. This is very sad. I can't find any official figures but would be very surprised if children were in any more danger from being attacked or abducted than they were 35 years ago. And there are half as many children killed in vehicle accidents every year than there were in 1922 despite there being 25 times more traffic on the roads.

It's now early June. It's warm outside and the sun doesn't go down until late. Next month the schools break up for six weeks. It's this time that was so fantastic to me as a child. I could play football in our close (no through traffic so the only danger was grazed knees and elbows and this happened frequently) or go cycling with my friends. We might meet at someone's house in the morning and spend all day doing exactly as we pleased. We would explore our environment and discover things and have the kind of fun that only a child can have and be home in time for tea. This no longer happens because their parents are scared. This means that there is an entire generation of children that are growing up having missed out on some of the most vital of formative experiences. Children no longer go out to play.

At some point there has to be a backlash. When today's kids get older and realise that they were cheated of a proper childhood then maybe there'll be a greater understanding of what children need. Maybe the next generation of children will consequently have more freedom. Yes, there are risks. But there will always be risks and these risks are minuscule compared to the rich experiences and life-lessons that can be learnt if children can just be given a little more space. A life spent wrapped in cotton wool is no life worth living and the climate that children are brought up in right now isn't a place to which I'm in any hurry to introduce anyone.