"I've told her Three Times now to calm down about the water," observes Telephone Girl about somebody or other who thinks that water outages may signify the end of the world. I lift the flysheet and see a rear disappearing fast, water carrier in tow.
Now TG turns her attentions to our neighbours. She (Mrs Next Door) appears to have been up and about since dawn in collage patchwork dungarees as the ruling provider of some huge cooked breakfast, including Cappuccinoes for her team.
Fortunately I have missed this. In spite of having forgotten on this occasion to bring my "Blissful Quiet" earplugs, a potentially fatal omission from the Glastonbury kit bag, I have luckily managed to sleep in quite comfortably.
"I thought I heard that girl out of the nice family having a shag with her boyfriend." Telephone Girl is determined that I should know this. Apparently it was only me snoring.
Anyway I have just now parked a turd and I feel great. I'm in full on festival mode, striding comfortably in the morning sun. Chimmie is wearing his kilt. Of plain modest cloth, of course. "Clan" tartans were promoted in the time of that hideous German imposter Victoria in the hope that the Celts would keep in their place, cowering in the heritage centres and forcing smiles on their faces for American tourists.
We get ready to go on site. The Dove is fiddling with a yellow gameboy. TG is still talking to the Maiden about the family next door and the way that the mother is always asking them if they want food and things. The Maiden keeps on pestering in pursuit of a refinement of particular details of this situation. I am looking forward to seeing Jimmy Cliff. In my mind's eye I see a battered old bus travelling by a glittering beach and a young man full of the promise of life.
"I'd rather be a free man in my grave, than living as a puppet or a slave," I find myself singing and soon I'll be standing there with tears in my eyes listening to it.
We trudge through the dusty fields towards Gate C. Toilet call. Some debate follows.
"Yuk! Look at at that one! Jasty, jasty boobles!"
"Some people can't aim their shit," says the Dove.
"That was you," say I.
"No, I don't go in the bosses' toilets."
"Which ones do you go to?"
"The little blue ones."
Telephone Girl comes back, red in the face from holding her breath, but still no luck. A huge queue's developing at the bottom of the field.
"I want to be a model. What happened to Scarlett O'Fever? Did she become a model?"
"You know, Scarlett O'Fever in Gone with the Wind."
It's Scarlett O'Hara.
"Yeah, but what Happened to Scarlett O'Fever?"
The men in luminous vests are directing different huge queues like traffic cops.
So of course we get in in the end, and filter past a turnstyle where a lovely girl in an Oxfam vest does something with a UV type thing in a black hood, like a vintage camera.
"I want to complain because you're too nice," says Telephone Girl, stroking her arm. "Why can't you be a bit more 'Mean Fiddler'?"
We need to get some breakfast before we start drinking alcohol, but we're not quite sure what. So we drift around the site and end up by the Bread and Roses bar. We have a drink while we decide what to eat, withering in the sun on a lengthwise concrete block and looking with some irritation at the size of the queues by the foodstalls. We decide to have another beer.
I have an annoyingly long wait at the bar. However, I applaud the barstaff for not bending the rules for me. I find it pleasing that I am able to go on promenade without being harassed by autograph junkies and wellwishers. There is an unspoken understanding at Glastonbury that you become a bit of an embarrassment when you can't leave alone those who, as I am, are rather well known and that everyone should just relax and have a Good Festival.
As I come out, clutching the drinks, there is some raucousness with people trying to sing the Big Brother theme tune and making raspberry noises.
"Leg it over the Wall, Sandy!" some drunk shouts out.
Can I just say: I hate Big Brother.
I am simply wilting in the heat. Hmm. Jimmy Cliff may be on soon.
Just a short walk, though, to the Pyramid field.
The Dove and the Maiden declare that they are now "The Rock Twins" which means that they fling body parts about in rough synchronisation, climaxing in a sympathetic floor-to-head undulation. I think they are dancing. This gives me an idea. I suggest that the correct place for this is a nearby blanket stall. But they are too busy ignoring me to take up this fine suggestion.
Speaking of ignoring, it seems that these idiots are making me miss Jimmy Cliff. I simply must have some food before I go anywhere, so I reluctantly queue for some slices of pizza.
"I want pepperoni," shouts the Dove.
A short munch later on the concrete block and I feel better but a bit tired and hot. I need another beer to stiffen my resolve if I'm going to get to the Pyramid.
Ah yes, we feel much better now.
"Is he still on?" asks T.G.
I think he might be finishing now. Anyway I can't be bothered to go. Why couldn't you get a proper slot at a proper time, you pathetic little man? It's all very well banging on about how you're going to get your share of what's yours before you die, but you can't even get anyone to watch you apart from a load of tourists and Business Studies students in huge velvet clown hats with fucking bells on.
Anyway, speaking of hats, we promised the Maiden she could have one and there's some good stalls just a few steps away. She selects a turqoise, crocheted cotton cloche, from which her long honey blonde hair flows rather sweetly.
She's got a thing about blue clothes. Telephone Girl is talking some bollocks about the advantages of a "capsule wardrobe" based around one or two colours only. Where she gets this nonsense from I don't know. Anyway...
"Look, I'm going to go and see Aqua. Why don't you go and watch a band?"
There aren't any.
"You'll get bored. Women's Stuff."
That means trying to find out who's out of Big Brother.
"I'll take these two."
..Put like that....
I potter my way gently uphill.
The Maiden's clothes, that stone of the Dove's and something else, the memory of some distant hills seen long ago.....
An ill wind is blowing me now and I rise like a mote dancing in a sunbeam, carried....?
"Thig a 'stigh a Sheumais," says Neilie in his dungarees, bluer still than the faraway hills. Blue skies, clean air, the purifying smell of peat burning. That's what I remember. And sometimes I might wake in the night and see a glow that seemed to be moving around the roof of the world.
"You 're the boy, Chimmie. That's for sure but it's a pity you have not got the Gàidhlig," Neilie went on.
"You'll only muddle the boy, trying to shoot it into him like that, when he's not having it all the time."
My Grandmother was always trying to stop any talk in Gaelic when I was around as if there was some danger in it.
"Chim's going back down south soon. When the time comes. And it will not be long."
She paused. I thought she looked stern. Now I see that "grave" would be the word.
"But you have had a nice stay with Granny, haven't you?"
"Siuthad ma tha," said Neilie, "Hey Chim, do us your dance now."
I was a lot more obliging in those days, before I had awoken to my intellectual responsibilities. My Grandmother sang "Let's twist again like we did last summer" as I did just that. Then she kissed me on my forehead, bent down to my level and looked at me as if I was something really precious.
"How is my wee teenager, how are you?"
"I will always be a teenager if you want, Granny," I said and went off to blow bubbles out of an old scarred pipe, while Granny and Neilie spoke quickly in Gaelic punctuated by bursts of laughter.
Nearly fifteen years later I returned. Behind me, a backpack and an aborted beginners' class in Gaelic. I couldn't pay with the precious labour of my own one lifetime to be forever a second class speaker of my own language when I should have gone first class for free. I defected to another class where I made tape loops and programmed VCS3 synthesisers. Since I cannot go back to the past, I must persevere with the future.
I stared down from the road at the loch and the huge space over it, to the grey velvet stuff on the other side. It was exactly what I had held in my memory, the beauty of the place was still there. But there was and is, a great hollow space in my heart: I am no longer of it.
Even if I could afford to buy a place that would not change.
I count for no more than some American visitor gawping pitifully, wanting to stop people and tell them: "Hey I could have belonged here."
There I stood: a man without land, without Gaelic, without any link apart from my genes: a fucking tourist, in fact.
Who was Neilie? I don't know and never will, I guess.
I just remember that I was happy for a while, in spite of it all.
And here I am, magnetised once again, by the past that could have turned out differently.
"I know exactly what you mean," I seem to be telling someone. "Sometimes I feel just like a Scotsman trapped in the body of an Englishman."
"I think you are mate, I think you are."
Who am I speaking to? The board outside the tent looks oddly familiar: "Out of Body Experiences".
Bent? Bent? What do you mean "bent"?
"Bentley Sommerfield at your service. "Bent" for short." Lip turning up like a little wave crest. "What's your line of business Mr Teenager?"
"The record business."
"And your markets?"
Markets? Err... "experimental break beat/2 step eschatological dichotomy...."
"No, no. I mean demographically: age, socio-economic group ... that kind of thing. When you think about the people who're buying your records, what pictures do you have in your head?"
I haven't a fucking clue. "Look, don't demograph me, pal. I don't recognise social class in the English sense. I'm from a society that's just one step away from Brehon Law. Just one step. I'm classless."
"You mean Priceless," a voice sings out from behind the tent.
"Well you may be classless, but the people who're going to buy your records aren't. My company, Efflorescence does all sorts including Personal Development for City of London type clients, private and corporate. Now why do you think I'm here? So I can talk to space cases and bag ladies? This place is full of corporate lawyers, b2b ecommerce players, investment analysts and so on: looking for something, desperately trying to steal back a bit of quality time. Very susceptible, Jim, very susceptible."
He pauses briefly. "Maybe you should think about whether it's worth struggling for 30 seconds attention from some channel-hopping, peer-to-peer file share Camden skateboarder with a Ritalin prescription and a supposed intention to save up for some decks."
"Hallo James." It's that voice trilling again and now I see it's owner sweep in, through and out again, a riot of Op Art trousers and barley sugar hair.
Oh god. Don't say she's With this charlatan.
"So. Glastonbury. Here you are. Why aren't you promoting your label, your artists?"
"No you're not. You're just wandering around in a skirt with some beer in a paper cup."
"You don't understand the level I'm operating at. In years to come people are going to track my wanderings on a map of this site the same way they track Leopold Bloom's steps on a map of Dublin."
"No they're not, you wanker."
"Hmm. Anyway this year I'm trying to get a bit more space, a different perspective, see if I can get some new ideas by talking to different people and the only one of my acts who I am handling directly here are the Rock Twins."
"Oh yeah. I think I've heard of them. Have I?"
"I've got them on at Joe Bananas." Hopefully.
"Mmm? Isn't that a blanket stall?"
"At Volpone, we don't do what the other people do, we don't do things the way the other people do them."
"Oh. Okay. Look, keep in touch. Lavvy and I are always looking for opportunities by working with people doing different things: Networking."
Lavvy? He brightens and presents me with a couple of business cards. Bentley Sommerfield and Lavender Bates. I see.
"I hope you'll be seeing more of us. See what you can bring to the table, Mr Teenager."
Yes. Well I still don't think I like you. The statesman in me brings off a confirmatory nod and salute as I move off. It's time for my meeting at the Rainbow Warrior.
Hmm. Lavender Bates. What a girl.
"I like to think that I am drinking my way into history," I tell Shaun as we take the top off our pints. And this is a rather historic moment for me as it is the first time I've managed to meet up here with someone who I wasn't going to bump into anyway.
To view the Past through the glass of the museum case can be interesting. But you are not of it. When you sit in some lovely old pub like the George Inn in the Borough High Street, drinking and talking, what you are doing now is what people were doing there all those years ago. You feel the clamour of those distant days calling to you like a fond memory. As you engage, you are Drinking Your Way Into History. You feel the companionship of the past as you invite the people who are yet to come to enjoy it after you are gone. People like 'Bent Sommerfield' just don't get this.
We are giving this matter some fine deliberation when......
"What does that lady say, mum? 'Do you want a drink, Sarah? Would you like some crisps, Sarah?'"
"She's driving me nuts asking me questions about that family."
I introduce her to Shaun....err..what family?
"Oh. Our neighbours on the Campervan field. You know, the 'Nice Family'...
Right. Well I suppose I'd better get some more drinks then. Joe seems to have tagged along again. It is baking.
As I go in, they are whiquching, around water pistols at the ready and the Maiden seems to be talking to some pissed-up Liverpudlian who seems to be called Sharon. I'm not sure that this is a good idea.
Getting the drinks takes ages. And then I have to regain the attention of the worst barmaid in the world, because the drinks are not what I ordered. I fail as she stands talking to some boy in an out-of-it kind of way and eventually I have to get one of her colleagues to change them.
Joe and the Dove have got some ice lollies. How did they get those? They haven't got any money have they?
"Yes we have, we've earned some."
How? A vision comes of me being dragged off by some SS type Social Workers from Lost Kids or Festival Welfare.
"Squirting people." He demonstrates on some bloke who's sitting with Sharon. There's some muttering from Sharon about kids but she still keeps talking to the Maiden. I wish she wouldn't.
Telephone Girl is talking to Shaun about some message board he's thinking of setting up.
"Oh go on, Shaun, do it."
Oh no. Not more mindless banter at the keyboard coming up.
That business with the drinks has taken a fucking long time and Shaun has to go.
"He's nice looking," says Telephone Girl as he disappears into the distance.
I realise that I forgot to ask him about the Pit.
Sharon seems to have bought the Maiden an icecream and is muttering something about how intelligent and strong she is. I think we should get out of here. There's things to be done. Like steering the Rock Twins across the main drag over and over to Joe Bananas.
The plan is: get them there, let them get noticed and then make my move.
I rehearse what I'm going to say.
"The Rock Twins will only agree to continue their performance if you supply the right kind of music. Firstly 'Customer' by sle Fend, which I happen to have here (Question. Should I have brought more than one box of 30?) and 'Voices' by Jewellery and 'The Waters' by the Cabal featuring MC Tousanarelli which I am able to supply on CD-R"
Perhaps I need to focus my pitch by thinking about my artists. Need a bit of help here.
"What sort of act is the Rock Twins?"
"A devilish act," says the Dove.
"I've quitted it," says the Maiden.
"He said I was doing everything wrong," she goes on with a bit of a wail.
So have the Rock Twins split up?
"All because of Maeve."
"I need to have someone called Maeve," he continues. "I can't do it with anybody else."
Joe seems to be really good at driving dodgem cars. I suppose we must be missing something else somewhere, but who cares? It is all rather a blur. I leaf through the biography of Stan Lee that the Dove and I have just picked up. Reading is, of course, an essential part of the Glastonbury experience, lying in your tent reading Jane Austen or Dickens, because this experience is better than going to watch some prat like Roger Waters. Our favourite (and very cheap) bookstall has not shown up this year, so it is fortunate that we have brought some with us.
Time to prise them away from the dodgems with the usual threats. We pass by some sculptures that look like Swiss Cheese. As we return from dropping Joe off, I hear Radiohead in the distance, Thom Yorke wailing about how he's locked in the toilet and nobody cares, or something.
When we reach the exit gate, there is a large crowd developing. This delay is being caused by a dispute between Security and some Scally in a grey sweatshirt over the terms of the passout process. When I say 'Scally', you understand that I am speaking generically about a lowlife type of person who can be found all over the country. I will not stand for prejudice against the people of Liverpool, a city so enriched with Gaelic blood. As a matter of sheer coincidence, this fellow does seem to have a Liverpool accent.
People are being very good-humoured about all this as we throng the exit area, but for me there is a bit of a problem. All that vegetable curry and chips with mushy peas has left me dying for a fart and now here I am trapped in this crowd of people, my gut distended like some ruminant. I'm going to have to exercise great control and do some letting off without letting on.
A group of young men surround us, loudly.
"Might have some company in my tent tonight," says one.
"Yeah, Like Who?"
"I've seen a few possibilities."
As howls of derision ensue, I am finely tuning my sphincter. If I can just stop it from initially parping like a trumpeter's lips, and then maintain a steady pressure with my stomach muscles I am certain that I can attain a silent emission.
"Yeah, right, who've you 'Got Your Eye On'?" they go on.
"That one in the pink top."
At this point my gas starts to emerge. It's all going to plan, parp free but so enormous is the great tide that comes out that a low eerie note sounds, like the pedal note of a great pipe organ, the type of note that rattles windows. And the smell is unbelievable.
This is quite embarassing. However, so low is the frequency of this note that, like the output of a sub-woofer, the direction of origin is not clear. I hold my nerve, as ever.
"You...Bastard..." says one of the lads to another. I keep my council.
"Fucking hell!" says the second one fanning the air and offering an accusing look at the first.
All this time I have been concentrating on maintaining a steady release and it carries on for ten or twenty seconds while the lads run through all the possibilities of accusation among themselves without ever thinking of me. Even Telephone Girl hasn't worked it out. It's like that thing about the Big Lie.
A rich damp smell of agriculture hangs in the air.
Finally we see the man in the grey sweatshirt run away from the gate and back onsite. The crowd starts to move and soon we are walking up the lane in the night air. Chimmie longs to throw himself onto the broad dark chest of oblivion for a while. Rest is coming, Thank God.