I am awake. Why am I awake? Something is not right.
The inner door on the tent is all aflap, wide open.
Hardy campaigner that I am, I arm myself with a boot and resolutely crawl out to face whatever dangers lurk beyond. Fortunately there seem to be none. I go to the van to check the sleeping Dove and try the doors. He's OK. Money etc. still strapped tight around my middle.
"Nemo Me Impune Lacessit," I announce to the night air. Check with Telephone Girl. She has found nothing missing either.
Nothing for it but to go back to sleep.
"Did you seee Rrray-deee-ohh-hed?" she asks them all in turn, followed by:
"Didde you seee oll ov Rrray-deee-ohh-hed?"
Yes, she's up and at it again, spatula at the ready, apportioning servings of french toast, baked beans, veggie sausages and cappuccinoes.
"Did you think Thom Yorke was moooved? I think he was crrrying."
"Stawp usin' those illegal words. Hmm... Ah thenk ah'm pretty darn sexy," the Dove is repeating in some kind of redneck accent.
The maiden comes up giggling into my ear:
"He's being Mr Nice."
He's talking rubbish in a fake american accent.
"Ouaant sum creeps?"
Telephone Girl is cackling gleefully over this plot she's hatched to carry dry white wine onsite in a plastic "spring water" bottle. She is right pleased about this plus the fact that she has finally managed a shite. Rock and Roll. She brushes her hair and the Dove watches her. She tugs on her boots and the Dove watches her. As she struggles with them her breasts are sumptuously compressed like the business end of a costume drama. The Dove watches her.
"Oi! Are you looking down my charlies?"
Of Course we are.
It takes a long time to get onsite, with Gate C being closed because of some incident which the yellow-jackets will not discuss. We are shunted up the lane to Gate A, at the top of the site. Rather a large crowd is massing there, so more delay and then of course the same distance to walk on the inside of the perimeter in order to get to the main drag where I can turn a pissed-off look in the direction of Joe Bananas, as we turn to go to the lockup.
Well, I declare. My legs are beginning to feel the strain.
A couple of strawberry smoothies then, for the Dove and the Maiden, and then we move to the serious business of shopping. The Dove purchases some sunglasses to go with his "Spike Island" hat.
"Will you be here later?" Telephone Girl is asking the Dutch traders about some large rushwork baskets that she doesn't want to carry around all day.
We decide to move on to the Pyramid but I am nagged by the thought of a flying jacket that I saw going for £40 in some stall. I have been wanting one for so long now that I had considered buying one new.
"You can't do that," TG had told me. "Buying something like that new, is like ironing jeans."
She's right. She's usually right about things except when she's pissed out of her head. More on that later.
The Asian Dub Foundation have finished to some enthusiasm, but we are really here so that the Maiden can watch the Sugababes. Gaggles of other maidens seem are scattered around the field. (Some Toilet Observation)
"Does it look OK?" I ask. It seems it does. I'm so pleased with my flying jacket that I fork out for a couple of "surveillance devices", cheap electret capsules and battery powered amplifiers driving cheap earpieces with hideous noise and distortion.
We move to Jazz Jamaica on the ..err.. Jazz Field. Where's Rico? Where's 'Dosa Dosa'?
I would kill for a 'Dosa Dosa' Dosa, as crisp and brave as a nun's head-dress. (A real nun, of course, 'Black Narcissus' not 'Father Ted'.) Anyway no Dosas, 'Dosa Dosa' or otherwise. More chips or something then.
Some scabby Glaswegian wanders round trying to bum money and other goods while picking up dogends. Am I to be disgusted by this unacceptable face of Scoticalism or is this yet another scorching fragment of the tragedy of the broken clans burning a dirty black trail across the smug, fat, face of 'a nation at ease with itself', an inevitable consequence of the mass of contradictions that is the Act of Union?
Who cares anyway? Apart from getting as far away from this drunk as possible. Speaking of getting away, I think I felt some rain. Time to get where the tents are: the Circus Field. In we go to some tent or other, ready to watch what gets us out of the rain.
Tympani rolls sound as Indian clubs and silver balls spin round like whirring cogs through the hands of a man with a shiny, too sharp suit and the cocky swagger of a 1940s black marketeer. This man is a master performer, planting spinning plates on sticks and sending hula hoops dwindling round the floor of the stage, to fall at the centre of a system of interleaved spirals. What is it about a top performance that forces you to watch even if you think you have no interest in that thing? He gathers the applause with imperious flourishes of his hands, as stabs of brass ring out.
There's something slightly hypnotic about all this, about these circular motions. As I watch them, a child among children, I feel that something is sending me spinning back to touch the magic core of my childhood, to the day when my Grandmother said:
"Chimmie, Mummy's here. She's come to get us."
It was a couple of months since I'd seen my Mother. She had materialised at the bend in the track where the tangle of elder bushes petered out. Behind her, in the distance, were the magic blue mountains. I was scared. She looked different. I had doubts that it was really her. Maybe she had been replaced by a fake or maybe she had turned into a thing like a vampire that returned as something different to torment those who had known and loved the real person. There seemed to be shadows on her face that I didn't recognise and I felt that she had brought some secret, some crafty thing she was hiding.
We stood there, as if trapped in a frozen frame and waiting for the flow of time to resume. At last, it was I who broke the spell:
"Where's my Dad?"
She came over and bent down and held me. Granny gripped my arm. Softly.
"Jimmy .... your Daddy is dead, Jimmy."
I knew what 'dead' meant. I must take this calmly, logically. There was a challenge here and I was just the man to sort it out. Very soon, I would come up with a solution of such force and brilliance that my Mother and Grandmother would be left dithering as I Brought Dad Back.
For the time being, I would simply pretend to acquiesce and listened to what my Mother had to tell me. She had sent me to stay with Granny for the summer because things had become too difficult when Dad became ill. When he stopped working I found that he was quite an entertaining playmate. For this reason, I was a bit put out when I was sent away.
She then told me that Granny wouldn't be able to stay here on her own for much longer because she was getting too old. And so Granny was coming South with us.
It was all a bit much to take in. I needed some time to myself to work out the killer plan. I wasn't quite sure what to do about the last bit. Maybe we could all move up here when I had managed to bring Dad back.
I came back from my wanderings to see Neilie. He was holding a rifle and he didn't seem terribly pleased to see me. My mother started to move me in the direction of the house.
It was something to do with Spottie who was sitting keenly to attention. I had found Spottie testingly uncompanionable which, I guess, was no surprise as he had started life as a working dog. When I tried to ride him like a cowboy, he tended to swing his arse at me and knock me over.
When I was in the house the shot rang out. I broke free and rushed out. Spottie was lying on his side on the grass. I was restrained as Neilie took the carcass away with a spade.
Alarms were starting to go off in my head. Maybe I wasn't going to take control. Maybe I was just a creature of the tide, carried without choice to wherever it was we were heading..........
Maybe I wasn't going to see Dad again.....But surely that wasn't possible?
I fell to my knees on the stiff brown grass. The enormity of what had happened fell on me full force. I wept until I dissolved.
No more would I hear that beautiful tenor voice ring out through a smoky room at New Year, as I sneaked cunning sips of his drink:
"Fuck - Them - All. We are kings, Jimmy, just you and me. The lords of creation, lords of the isles, lords of all we survey. Remember that. You - Are - A - King."
There are people who will say to me, of my Father:
"Oh, you won't be able to remember him so it doesn't really matter then, does it?"
Why should I be patient with these imbeciles? (I hope you do not stand in their number, Favoured Friend.)
Because, let me tell you: if your Father had died when you were five years old, you would remember lots of things.
Lots Of Things.
The day had come and gone, that day which was so much bigger than any other day and which is still so close to me now. And what had it added to me? When I should have been growing in stature as the man of the house, I had been nailed shut into my toy cupboard. They'd stolen his fucking death from me and left me parted from him without a goodbye. The future was on its way. And the future was going to be less than what had gone before.
A day or so later, I was picking blueish pebbles up off the shore and throwing them out to sea when I heard my Grandmother shout: "Come on, Chimmie Teenager, get in the car or your mother will leave us behind."
Later, as the car rounded the head of the loch, we looked back at the sunlight playing over its calm splendour, spilling silver onto the gently shifting waters. Granny pointed back.
"There it is."
The grey green flanks were speckled with white dots. Of course, I wasn't sure which one it was, which one was the House.
"Well. You were gone a long time saying your goodbyes to the old place, Chimmie," she said softly and I think I saw her eye glisten before she turned away. The car was climbing steadily now, towards the gap, like a space rocket rising on a fateful mission.
Saying Goodbye? What on earth could she mean?
We arrived back in the noise, the cars, the billboards. It was a shock but I still recognised it and found that there were comforts for me to rediscover in our spacious flat. The mood of bravado had dropped away from me completely. Outside, leaves were falling from the trees like pieces of a life that was dying and it was totally fucking unbearable.
Somewhere in the shadowy reaches of our hall an electric bell hung and I found myself staring at it, at its loose fitting clapper, at the twisted bell wire crawling in a mess over the wallpaper.
"That is not going to ring so much now," I found myself thinking.
How right I was. How Right I Was.
"Laugh! Or the cute little kid in the hat gets it!" shouts the man on the stage.
The Maiden is laughing, oblivious to the huge rubber mallet quivering behind her head in the hands of a figure in greasepaint and a boiler-suit.
OK. We've had a good time here.
We stumble outside. A bit chilly so maybe time to go the lockup and get some chips or something. Better have another beer, I suppose.
< They split up, C goes to Richard Thompson, returns to meet up >
No sign of them. I am reduced to pottering around. I stand outside some marquee tent where what was a rainproof covering on the tent wall is flaking badly.
"Just what do you reckon we are doin' 'ere?" a voice on the other side says.
".... well uhh ... selling Wellies ..."
"It's fucking dry as a bone, John. They've got vans out spraying water on the roads, you cunt."
"Yeah, well Stony wanted us. I have to be a bit helpful. The stuff I do for him is good money."
"But not this stuff."
"I mean the records, John," says the first John. "This could have been good. Besides Stony's payin' us a retainer."
"Yeah, well there aren't enough denarii if we ain't cutting a profit on top, stoopid. The real reason Stony's got us here, is in case poncey face over there and his posh tart get themselves into some kind of shtook and we have to chin some fuckers."
Cosmic Babble, eh, Favoured Friends? Like the stray emissions of radio stars that melt into the other ripples of the cosmic pool: a continuum of babble where meaning ends us a part of meaninglessness like portions of an eternity spent with the imbeciles in the Big Brother House.
I walk past the opening of the tent to stand on the other side of the road so as to be more visible. Still no sign of them.
"It Is Him." "Might have a bit of fun here after all," says a voice not unlike those in the tent. "Wot's 'e up to 'ere?" "Never mind, he's come a bridge too far this time, my son."
Suddenly I am roughly handled and lose sight of the world, my Balmoral dragged over my eyes as a blindfold, amd I am heaved headlong as rough branches and thorns scratch in all sorts of places.
Rough laughter recedes. I have been attacked and cast down. As this dawns on me, I feel utterly wretched. What am I to do?
"Oh Jimmy! What's Going On? What are You Doing?" There is a note almost of pain in this voice. Very gently, someone sets my bonnet square, scoops my sunglasses from somewhere and fixes them on my face in one dextrous pass; someone who sits easily on the ground, legs tucked under, back proud and straight, like a statuette of some Indian goddess.
"Hello Lavender," say I. "Of all da rose bushes in all da world, ya hadda walk into mine."
Her face is wrinkled by a beautiful and naughty smile. She is luminous. I begin to feel emperilled by her as a bearer of breasts, hips and lips: but delightfully so.
"Not hurt them, mmm James?"
"Only ma pride, doll, only my pride."
She is rolling the knuckles of one hand very gently against my cheek. I am starting to roll off the tracks of time. But then.....
"Ihopei'm Not Int'ruppetting Anything!"
Telephone Girl is standing there like ..... err well somebody threatening. I perceive that she is doing her end-of-festival bag lady act, a staggering testament to the power of half-a-dozen beers and a litre and a half of white wine.
In the awkward silence that settles in, I realise that There's Someone Else. I also realise that they must have been there for some time.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," drawls the oily voice of this person who advances to shake Telephone Girl's hand. "I'm Bent Sommerfield. I've been dying to meet you."
Some minutes later. Telephone Girl is giggling with Sommerfield, At My Expense, while the Dove and the Maiden mutter in her skirts over a yellow Gameboy. Lavender stands at a distance but engaged and clearly in their orbit. The centre of gravity has changed in an annoying way.
I feel right aggrieved now. It's Me that's been Attacked and Hurt, you hyenas. I'm the reason you're having this fine little chat at all, and you're all Ignoring Me. I feel Really Bad again and I'm going to make this clear by emitting a piteous moan....
No I'm not, because I will gain nothing but derision and lose all my credits with Lavender for being a brave boy. So I wait for their babble to subside. As I do so, I realise that there is still a piece of the jigsaw missing: who?
Telephone Girl lurches over, swaying like the dinner gong on the Titanic.
"Yoo rrawrrite arrnnchoo, bumhole?"
"I'll live, treated right."
"Heeseems like a bituffahcunt, but hesezeecan help you out," she hisses at 110 dB. Lord spare me such help. "I thinkyew wantookeepinwithim. He's gottabituv Zip." And I don't? "Err, well No." Sommerfield and Lavender are conversing about staging an exit.
"I think it might be something to do with the two Johns," I hear Lavender hissing.
Sommerfield says goodbye greasily, all hail-fellow-well-met.
"Don't forget Jimmy ..."
No. Not for at least five minutes.
"How did we meet them again, I forget," says TG.
"Well I went up the Green Fields yesterday, when you went to see Aqua."
"Oh it's all coming out now: I let you go off to see a band and you're off sniffing round 'Lavender''s arse like a spaniel."
"No. I was just having a meditative walk and reminiscing."
"Reminiscing? Does that mean going off to try and shag some slapper?"
"She's not a slapper. She's a delightful woman and very talented."
"Yeah right. Keep on digging, Jimmy. You might find water."
We start walking towards the Pyramid as I formulate a rebuff to this nonsense. A small openbacked truck laden with green wellingtons drives by hooting unnecessarily. As it passes it slows momentarily, so that I see blue, cruel eyes, gleaming over the black moustache of a prize fighter, the tombstone teeth locked in a grin of triumph.
From the passenger seat, Sunny Jim gives me a high five: "Hallo Monty!".
Then they speed up a bit. On the road to perdition, I hope.....