Everyone has heard of Glastonbury:
Most people will know it as the mud festival where musicians of every genre from rock to folk and jazz to Dolly Parton entertain 100,000 ‘revellers’ all desperately hoping not to need a poo for three days. But all that takes place several miles away from the real Glastonbury. The town itself is completely different.
A land of magic:
Located on the Somerset Levels and nestling beneath the perky bosom of The Tor, Glastonbury is a place that doesn’t really exist. It can’t possibly. Arriving there is like entering a parallel universe and it is essentially a Brigadoon of the South, only coming to life in the presence of visitors. The reason for its fleeting existence is that it is a land of fantasy, magic and people with plastic pointy ears and if it were always here the magic would soon drain away. So what exactly does it have to offer? Rachel and I took a look.
With predictable inevitability our bladders sprang into life while we were still an uncomfortable distance from anywhere, and while I am equipped to stop in a gateway and nip into a field, Rachel is less happy to do so. Guided like a seat-seeking-missile, we homed in on the finest facilities that central Somerset had to offer and dived out of the car almost before the wheels had stopped turning. With our business taken care of we reunited outside and Rachel informed me of a couple having sex in the cubicle adjacent to the one that she has just used. Who says romance is dead?
The Somerset levels tend to be rather flat (the clue is in the name), so cycling is an easy and enjoyable mode of transport in the area, but not everyone finds it so. Making our way from the car park to the high street we noticed a gentleman of a ‘relaxed nature’ on the other side of the road pushing a bicycle and mumbling. Although alone and oblivious to the rest of the world he was enacting a dramatic soliloquy for anyone who cared to notice. The target of his mumbling was the bicycle that refused to travel in a straight line as he pushed it. Regardless of the man’s protestations, the wheels and handlebars would not maintain the desired direction and with one almighty twist it entangled itself around the legs of the man causing the two of them to fall arse-over-tit onto the floor. There followed a bout of bike wrestling until the man freed himself.
“I’m gunna kill this fuck’n bike!” He shouted with a slur as he got to his feet.
Shopping opportunities in Glastonbury are extremely limited if you are looking for anything of practical everyday use, but it is more than adequate should you require incense, a candle or a crystal shaped like a penis. Not only does every store keep the same stock, but they also offer the same atmosphere, and entering any shop in the town first involves passing through a cloud of incense so dense it could be used as riot gas. Should you spend too long in any of these shops and you will leave smelling like an old lady who has spent a week in bath salts, smoking cannabis and eating dried herbs. Conveniently, most of the shops have a sign on the counter that says ‘Incense now burning’. I assume this is a warning that your house could also smell like this. (If you were wondering, the bakers didn’t have incense and only smelled of lovely fresh bread.)
Making our way to find somewhere to eat, we saw a rustic (grubby) looking chap sitting cross-legged on the pavement. His upper body was slumped forward, and he was seemingly engrossed in something. For all we knew he could have been rolling a cigarette, but this was Glastonbury, so he could be anything from a beggar to Bruce Springsteen. I slowed my pace and paid close attention, just in case he was about to sing Born To Run. As we got closer there was still no sign of an instrument, but there was the sound of snoring and the smell of stale beer. I am fairly sure it wasn’t Springsteen.
During that one afternoon, we saw a woman with a massive white witchy hairstyle, several with wreaths of twigs and leaves on their heads and others with long pointed ears. We saw men in long velvet coats, a busker with a flute that he clearly couldn’t play and someone else dressed as a jester. The strange thing is that this is the town on a normal day, and these characters are its inhabitants merely going about their business. Welcome to the world of Glastonbury.
And you think the festival is weird.