Monday, 26 June 2017

Staying behind

Tomorrow, people will begin drifting into Bath gurning through lack of sleep but - this year - not covered in mud.

Of all the many people I know who go to Glastonbury, not one of them paid for a ticket. They all have jobs in return for a 'free' ticket, some jobs more arduous than others. Most of it is bar work, but I know one lucky fellow who drives various bands across site in his Land Rover. Not being able to drink on shift is a small price to pay for following all the girls over the fields at walking pace.

Worthy Farm turns into a city for one week of the year, and a very large one at that. In a way, it is surprising that not more of the many people who wash up in Bath at the close end up staying here for a few years, but about 2 do every year.

One year in the 1970s, a vivacious young girl dropped in at the pub and ended up staying for a couple of years. She was of North African descent and was called Marie. She had so much energy and appetite for raucous fun that I was not surprised when she went to London and became the punk-rock star, Polly Styrene.

She overdid it a bit and ended up suffering a breakdown, complaining of police helicopters hovering outside her window and spying on her, but when she got over that, she sadly died of cancer. Poor old Marie.

I went to the very first Glastonbury at Pilton in 1971. I borrowed a motorcycle and rode from Surrey to Somerset. I blagged my way in and the police even allowed me to ride my bike right into the main field. The bike had no stand, so I leaned it up against the main stage. Can you imagine that today?! Above is a photo of the main stage as it was then. It has got a bit bigger since 1971.

Everything was free - the entrance, the bands, even the food. The main kitchen was provided by the Hare Krishna lot. They are very good cooks, actually.

Call me ungrateful, but I got on site, took a look around and decided I hated it. I spent the night there in a brown-paper sleeping bag, then rode home the next morning. I have never been back, thereby saving about £10,000 on tickets.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

A lot of clever bastards

I watched Radiohead at Glastonbury, partly because I know their drummer, Clive Deemer. He goes to our pub.

There, sitting at the drum kit was - indeed - a bloke as bald as Clive, but it wan't him. His nose wasn't big enough. Then, tucked away right at the top I spotted Clive, standing up in front of a load of percussion. He is obviously not their number 1 drummer.

You may remember me telling you about how I saved myself from an embarrassing display of mid-life crisis some years ago, when I persuaded Clive to teach me to play drums. I was about 50 at the time, and he is quite a bit younger than me. The difference was that although he is probably about 50 now, he has been playing drums professionally for many years. He looks to be good at it, actually. Luckily I came to my senses about a day after he agreed.

I think the thing which sets most successful musicians apart from people who play quite well is their versatility - at least that's how it seems to me as an outsider.

Their lead guitarist switched from guitar to keyboards to drums effortlessly. Maybe 'effortlessly' is the wrong word for it. He put an enormous amount of effort into it. I would be gasping for breath after about 2 minutes of what he did. Whether you like their music or not, you have to admit that there are a lot of clever bastards out there, as Ian Dury once observed.

Saturday, 24 June 2017


I was walking toward Waitrose when I heard some tourists say, "Look at the size of them!" I looked over a fence and saw these Horse Mushrooms on some rough ground twenty feet away from the entrance. I jumped the fence and picked them before any Poles spotted them. They were right in the middle of town.

The biggest is 8 inches across. Tomorrow they will be in a risotto or similar, or we might have the biggest fry-up for years.


What do we want?

Every now and then I have to remind myself that things are really rather good for me. I don't feel deprived at all. After all, what would I do with a second helicopter?

We live in the sort of social climate wherein everyone is expected to own their own home, and their property is considered an asset rather than a roof over their heads as a minimum requirement - preferably sheltering a happy and reasonably contented family.

I reminded myself of my good fortune again this morning, when I heard the news that an entire tower-block in London was deemed unsafe to live in as a fire-risk by the local authorities and everyone was instructed to vacate immediately. By 'immediately' I mean that they had a knock on the door at 8.00pm last night, and were told to take their toothbrushes to the local leisure centre where there were rows of mattresses on a sports hall floor waiting for them.

Everyone is understandably twitchy after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and all the local authorities - nationwide - are waiting to see who will be sent to prison for corporate manslaughter.

I think every authority in the land would be moving out the residents of their tower blocks tonight if they had somewhere to put them. The London borough is providing hotels and apartments to the elderly, disabled and families with young children only. Everyone else has to sleep on a mattress in the sports centre or similar.

The survivors of Grefell Tower have just been told that the North Kensington Council have secured a load of brand-new apartments in the area which they will move into as soon as they are ready. Kensington is not an inexpensive area. The apartments are costing £64 million just to buy. Someone has made a killing.

Green Eyes is a paediatric  nurse in the area. The night after the fire she had to look after a small child whose mother was pregnant. His mother was saved from the blaze and was rushed to Green-Eye's hospital, but neither her or her unborn child survived. Green-Eyes is 23 years old.

The same culture which views non home-owners as failures is also under a lot of pressure to make cuts in the budget, and that leads to a mind-set which sees fatal decisions like saving £5000 on an £8 million pound job as good ideas.

I just looked out of the window to see a party of people marching down the street waving Union Flags and E.U. banners chanting, 'EU - WE LOVE YOU!' About 20 years ago I saw a party carrying Union Flags and UKIP banners marching in the opposite direction.

Friday, 23 June 2017


I just poked my head round the door to see if I had upset anyone last night before I went to bed. I don't remember much about the very end of last night, possibly because I had been celebrating the drop in temperature. A hangover in that heat would have been unthinkable.

We once went to Southern Turkey, where it was about 100 in the shade. A friend of mine had been in the same place the week before when it was even hotter. He took an egg from the hotel and went out into the street with it. He cracked it open and poured it onto the pavement. It fried.

I spent the whole two weeks drinking pints of hot water during the day, and in the evening I drank a maximum of one small bottle of weak beer, washed down with pints of - this time - cold water.

Our fellow Brits began drinking alcohol before breakfast and wandered around town shouting, swearing and generally causing acute embarrassment to us until about 3.00am the following morning. They turned a lobster red in the sun.

In our hotel, a few days before we arrived, a British husband and wife were celebrating their honeymoon. The marriage ended even sooner than they had expected, because he tried to drown his new bride in the swimming pool. The Turkish waiters had to drag her out of the water before he succeeded. She went back home to her mother and he was in prison awaiting his sentence by the time we got there.

The travel agent was a young friend of ours and she tried to warn us what sort of a place Bodrum was by saying, "A lot of young people go there", but the warning was too obscure for us. I think her commission was worth more to her than our holiday was to us.

All we wanted to see was Ephesus.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Share my night-scented socks

I took a photo in the dark when they smell their best, but it was blurred. I am blurred, so I am retiring up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire. Nighty night.

Oh, alright - if you insist - here is the photo with the added smellerama:

A fine pair (pear - gedditt?!)

The temperature has gone down, Cro is ranting about juvenile delinquents, Rachel is wandering the lanes of Norfolk on heat and John is quietly tugging himself off in a darkened cinema, so all is well with the world again.

I had a successful day yesterday at the same time as almost enjoying myself. I had to work out some problems with a basic design for a carved stone detail and decided to do the work in the open air rather than sit around sweltering in our flat in town.

I suggested that H.I. come with me but she was almost deranged through heat exhaustion, so when she finally agreed it was like stuffing a cat into a box to take it to the vet.

Sitting under a tree next to the river in the old orchard of Iford Manor (IFORD MANOR, HATTATTS! Jesus, what else do I have to do to get your attention?!), listening to the water babbling over rocks in the shallows wasn't really much cooler then elsewhere, but it certainly had a calming effect.

My design problem was to do with a couple of massive stone roundels depicting Autumn and Winter in a set of Four Seasons motifs. The original (19th century) sculptor resolved the centres of Spring and Summer by simply sticking a flower in the middle of each, but I don't know if he ever resolved the problems of Autumn and Winter, because they do not exist. This is why I have been commissioned to make up the full set.

I mentioned the aesthetic problem to the young mason who will be carving them and he asked why I didn't just stick a flower in the middle of both of them like the original designer did. I pointed out that Autumn and Winter in the Northern Hemisphere are not known for a profusion of flowers in the countryside, and Christmas Poinsettias from South Africa would not be appropriate.

He suggested asking the advice of the head gardener, at which point the heat got to me and I asked in turn how the hell the head gardener would be able to help. Even if I did not already know about the shameful lack of flowers during the Winter months in Britain, did he not think that I had the entire interweb at my disposal to confirm my suspicions?

In the peace of the orchard yesterday, I resolved the problems of Winter and Autumn by putting pears in the middle of Autumn and a bunch of mistletoe in Winter.

Even though the designs are mirrored left to right, I have decided on three pears in the centre of Autumn, because two would instantly remind everyone of a large pair of testicles dangling rudely and offensively in front of their faces, and I wish to continue to work for my current clients.