Glastonbury And Trench Foot

Some things are just meant to go together; albeit some are more readily appealing than others. Peaches and cream. Lemon drizzle cake with, uh, taramasalata icing. Glastonbury and trench foot is the classic formula, of course; as well known an equation as E=mc2:


[ Or … Rain + Mud + Music = Glastonbury ]

I honestly couldn’t believe it, though, when the inevitable Glastonbury torrential thunderstorms duly arrived after an entire month of unbroken sunshine and lightly baked earth.

I’ve never been quite unhinged enough to actually attend the legendary Glastonbury Festival, even though I’m only a relative stone’s throw down the road, but its appeal is very close to my heart. So… why aren’t I standing in the proverbial field? Well, I went camping. Once. “Never again”, I told my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder therapist while crying in her lap. Scarred me for life. But that’s another story, for another storm and tempest of an English summer’s day.

However, thanks to the BBC and my newly acquired flat screen television and sound plinth, Glastonbury 2014 still comes flooding into my living room… without the raw sewage. But it just didn’t feel quite right. So, determined to experience it fully, in the relative comfort of my home… I pitched a tent in the corner of the room and began peeing behind the couch.

As Friday evening drew in… I pulled on my wellies, filled up two big buckets with 1 part water, 1 part mud, 1 part bodily fluids, stood in the middle of my room, one foot planted in each, and gazed at the televisual marvels of the digital age. Well, I say gazed at it… To fully realise the authentic atmosphere I planted a few meaningless flags, hoisted an inflatable alien on a stick and erected some cardboard cut-outs of people’s heads who are just a bit taller than me and plonked them right in my eye line… So, in reality, I can only just see the top right hand corner of the screen. Perfect.

Later, after watching Friday night’s main headliners, Arcade Fire [and their one known song about Waking Up or something] – on my smartphone propped against the kitchen window while I stood squinting at it from the bottom of the garden – I grew increasingly hungry. Ideally I would’ve loved something hot, but couldn’t be bothered with imaginary queuing for some cow’s spinal cord in a baguette and still hadn’t quite worked out how to light the camping stove, so plumped for opening a tin of tuna with the rough edge of a stone and eating it with muddy fingers. Mmmm…

I wake up Saturday morning, cold and damp, to find some bastard has stolen my wellie boots from outside the tent! It’s a few minutes later when I realise that my wife has actually put them outside the back door and is wearing a disapproving expression. I thought she was staying at her bother’s for the weekend. She completely misinterprets the presence of the girls in wet T-shirts… It’s been raining! But the fact that I also persuaded them to wrestle in the mud is harder to explain away.

I finally cajole her into getting with the spirit of the weekend over a shared cup of cold tea and some damp bread, and we busily set about building a Solar Powered Wishing Tree in the garden. I hang up a cardboard sign that reads Healing Field and persuade her to give me a massage after spending a bit too much time aimlessly wandering around the house with a ridiculously heavy backpack all Thursday afternoon. Finally, I dig a rudimentary chemical toilet in the greenhouse and fill it with a dozen eggs that have been fermenting in its low heat for the preceding balmy month: the pure odour of authenticity.

And now, as the sun threatens to break through the clouds, and I sit here in my pants having neither shaved nor washed for three days while flicking bits of peanut shell out of my navel with a toothpick, I can only imagine how amazing Metallica will be tonight… singing along to all their classic songs. You know, the one about Nothing Mattering and, uh,… the other one.

I can think of no other place I’d rather be.

England, My England

If you’re not English. If you’re not old enough. You might be forgiven for not knowing when England last won the World Cup. So, I’ll tell you… 1066. No, hang on… that was the Battle of Hastings. [We lost that, too, by the way.] Nope, it was 1666. [Pardon? Oh, the Great Fire of London, of course.] Then it must’ve been 1766.

Uh, at least that’s what it feels like! Actually, no! What am I saying with my chucklesome historical reference points… the fact that it was 1966, and I was 3½, means I have absolutely no recollection of that heady nationalistic home-of-the-game fervour. I vaguely recall the subsequent disappointment, aged a tender, yet football fever emotionally phlegmatic 7½-year-old, in the boiling Mexico heat of 1970 and a glorious defeat to the Pele inspired Brazil.

Since then England have served up a seemingly endless catalogue of temptation. That is, a glorious flattery to deceive… before the bitter reality bites home like chomping down on… not just a lemon. Oh, no. But an unripe lemon! World Cups, European Championships… endless, endless sweet cherries dangled before my eyes, then chomp… always the unripe lemon, er, painted a sweet cherry colour. So, not even just lemons, but a mouthful of paint! And most probably a lead-based paint! Which might account for much of subsequent emotional instability in the field of football. [Just don’t talk to me about penalties outside of a secure psychiatric unit.]

Until… this World Cup. Everything was calm; realistic; the lowest expectations ever. An England side essentially appearing vulnerable from the start, yet bristling with youngsters for the future. [Yeah, we’ve heard that before: the golden generation. One that subsequently delivered… lead-based painted lemons by the bucket-load!] So, what do they go and do in their first group match? Lose to Italy. But can they just lose and we all offer a hapless Bless ’em collective shrug. Oh, no. They play really well and lose. The worst kind of loss. Why? Because it raises expectations again. A very decent Italian side were considered fortunate to win, and we’ll breeze past Uruguay [after their lamentable first match performance] and Costa Rica… then who knows what worldly riches might lay just around the corner? [As the draw lines up, another glorious defeat by Brazil, probably! But that’s not the point!]

So, I sit – with my dear old dad [possibly for our last World Cup] – perched on the edge of promise. And what do we get… the sound of a large lorry reversing up the driveway, and on its side a mouthwatering image of luscious ripe cherries… which someone has roughly spray painted over with the word ‘lemons’. The bitterness never tasted so… er, sweetly predictable!

It feels genuinely lousy; like something of great anatomical importance has unexpectedly and alarmingly prolapsed. My dear old dad limps away into the night like a wounded, aged animal, muttering how he won’t be back for the entrails of Costa Rica. And I’m left watching the highlights… alone, knee deep in the detritus of shattered hopes and lemon peel.

So, some things never change. Or, apparently they do: it seems we’ve never enjoyed the particular misery of losing both our opening games in a World Cup before. Which must mean I now have the full England Football Misery set. [Panini take note – a special edition in the waiting.]

On a final serious note… [I’m used to hiding my misery well with gallows humour! 😉]

I was genuinely astounded to hear, having taken the eminent sports psychologist, Steve Peters – the man credited with underpinning the incredibly successful British cycling achievements of recent times – as the game kicked off last night we were informed that Steve Gerrard and Frank Lampard [the epitome of the lemon deliverymen of the aforementioned golden generation] had given a pre-match speech on the wretched misery of losing. So, these youngsters, untainted by failure, as a lift[?!], were schooled in the fear of failure before what was probably the biggest match of their careers, so far. How can that be a psychologically positive thing to do? It’s not exactly steeped in accentuating and visualising the positive, eh?! And maybe it wasn’t just coincidence that the team appeared almost collectively crippled by fear in that first half, and the opening minutes of the second period, too. Too late.

As for Uruguayan brilliant irritant Luis Suarez, half fit, with one good leg, the only thing missing from his armoury was a helmet from the Norman conquests; although he pretty much fired an arrow into Roy Hodgson’s eye.