Glastonbury 2015, the end of the dream? … not quite

Wednesday.

The gates are open and it’s a hot sunny day. There are long queues outside the site. People carrying impossibly large burdens – tents, rucksacks, crates of beer. The Valley, the centre of the Glastonbury site, is sparsely populated but will soon fill up. Many of the tents, the little shops, are open but there is little music. It is impossibly hot.

 

Thursday.

Another hot, stifling day. The Valley is absolutely crowded and it is difficult to move from one side of the site to the other. People appear to be crammed in. Of course the tendency for everyone to go to the same areas of the site while there are no bands playing on the main stages might have something to do with this crush. However, there appear to be many more people this year compared to last. I estimate there to be a further 30,000.

The Greenfields area, the area of the healing fields, the craft fields and Green Futures field are particularly crowded compared to their usual sparsely populated state. Tomorrow, when the main stages start, the crowds will clear from this area and it would be possible to walk around comfortably.

The general age of the Glastonbury festival-goers is higher than in previous years. There are many elderly people, couples, singles, probably old hippies coming for a last look. There are also a lot of middle-aged men in tie-dye T-shirts and cargo shorts, the three-quarter length variety. It’s not a good look. I even see some of them dancing. Most are drunk. Middle-aged man dancing topless with jiggling gynaecomastia-not a pretty sight!

The other notable grouping are youngish men in their 20s or early 30s, in threes or fours, wearing shorts and trainers, walking round bare-chested and sunburned, also drunk.

The Green Fields empty, or rather, become sparsely populated. Apart from the first two days of the festival, before the main stages start and people gravitate towards the Pyramid field, the Green Fields are always peaceful and much like a mediaeval fayre with crafts, gift stalls and tented cafes, all fringed with fairy lights. I want to include the Avalon Field as part of this corner of Glastonbury, it being relatively easy to move around on after the first couple of days.

In the afternoon we are hit by heavy rain and we get soaked. On the way back to camp I called into William’s Green stage to see the excellent Liverpool band, Stealing Sheep. Decided then to go and get dry.

I did hear the roar when Florence took off her top.

 

Saturday was dry and a bit overcast. Many people bought flowers and colourful clothing from the many stalls present at Glastonbury (it really is like a small market town), and the atmosphere is developing towards the more spiritual for which Glastonbury is, often erroneously, known. At least the drunks are less obvious.

Flowers in their hair, laughing and smiling. This is more like it.

For me the choice of main stage acts is poor. My auditory day had to be saved by Tom Robinson at the acoustic tent. Tom Robinson was superb – still brimming with anger but now directed at the cuts, the bankers, the capitalists. He is touring later this year I think I’ll try and catch him though he is billed to play at the Green Man festival in August. I’ll catch him there.

Texas don’t show up, apparently due to illness. After Tom Robinson’s set, I make my way towards the valley centre to get something to eat. I return to the acoustic tent to see Nick Lowe, Andy Fairweather-Low and Paul Carrick. When I get back the acoustic stage tent is empty so I sit down to relax. A crowd gathered and 10 minutes before the Lowe-Carrick-Low set is to start it became quite uncomfortable in the tent. For some reason, and I can’t work out why, Nick Lowe, Paul Carrick and Andy Fairweather-Low playing together attracted a number of alcohol affected young 20-year-olds. I made my apologies and left to spend the evening and early night in the Green Fields relaxing, visiting the small tents with small stages.

 

Sunday and it’s absolutely pouring with rain. There had been rumours that the Dalai Lama is visiting but nobody knows when or where he will appear, or even if he will talk and meet the people. It becomes a moot point, as to leave the tent is to instantly become drenched and I feel that, though I might consider myself to be a Buddhist, I’m certainly not a masochist.

The skies clear around about midday, in that the rain stops and occasional patches of sun show through, I make my way down to see Patti Smith on the Pyramid stage. Patti was her wonderful stirring and rousing self, the music powerful and the call for freedom loud. But halfway through the set she stopped and asked us all on the Pyramid to say happy birthday to a man who would be 80 years old on 6th July – the Dalai Lama. I’m sure most thought we were just going to sing a song but, framed in the large screen at the sides of the stage, a gentle, kindly old man dressed in maroon robes came into view accompanied by a small entourage. They made their way centre-stage.

The applause was loud and enthusiastic. People previously sitting stood for the Dalai Lama as he waved to the crowd and holding his palms together saluted us all.

Namaste!

He was presented with a knife and a birthday cake was brought out. The Dalai Lama cut the cake. Another round of applause. The crowd sang happy birthday to you, not the greatest or most interesting piece of music but it seemed appropriate at the time. The Dalai lama took the microphone, praised Patti Smith for her dancing, and gave a short teaching on the basis of the Nour Noble Truths – that all living things, without exception, wish to be happy and wish not to suffer.

I felt blessed. The Dalai Lama!

Before leaving the stage the Dalai Lama gave Patti a scarf and, I’m sure, gave the majority of the crowd a feeling that life is more than the drudgery of 9-to-5 existence.

Out of curiosity had intended to go and see the Zombies who were playing on the Avalon stage and, considering their legendary status, I thought it was worth a shot. There were disappointing. It was very much like all those Mersey Beat programs on the radio which go on about how great it was in the 60s and what we did in the 60s. I left.

I made my way up through the Green Fields to the flag field and sat there for a long, long time looking down into the festival, watching the crowds moving, crowding crushing. The Pyramid stage.

Lionel Richie was playing on the Pyramid stage and from the top of the flag field I could see that it was an uncomfortable place to be, in that crowd, in that mass. It also left the excellent Twin Atlantic with a very small crowd. They did not deserve this. Besides, I think they’re better than Lionel Richie anyway.

The Who were due to play the last set on the Pyramid stage, closing the festival. I saw The Who in 2007. I stood ankle deep in mud and totally drenched on the Pyramid field but The Who were wonderful. I hardly noticed the water running down my face onto my shoulders and inside my shirt.

But this time?

I had seen the crowds. I was aware that the crowds were bigger than they had been before. I did not feel that being crushed, pushed, and having some tall bloke move through the crowd to stand right in front of me was worth it.

I went to the Avalon stage, bought a pint of Tuborg and sat on a bench in the inn from where I had an excellent view of Idlewild.

The last thing to do then was to go by a vegan sausage roll and relax and enjoy the peace of the Green Fields at night, the murmuring quiet, the gentle lights.

 

Epilog

Overall, I feel I’ve grown more cynical about Glastonbury and what it stands for in recent years. It is true it used to be a festival associated with peace, love, green issues, Greenpeace, alternative living and the counter-culture. It is also true at these ideals have been tainted over the years by subsequent events. Certainly since the financial crash it appears that more families have been attending, perhaps seeing it as a an inexpensive holiday (children under 14 have free entry if accompanied by an adult). At times the Glastonbury Festival is more like a holiday resort and is certainly not alternative or counter-culture.

On the Monday morning after the party, again on the Greenfields, I met a young girl in their early 20s. She told me and my companions of the time she’d had. She had had many problems and it felt she had been hit from all directions, that her life had been difficult. It was clear that she had been suffering. But she smiled at us and said that this changes everything. She said that she had found meaning. I told her that it was a great place to find that meaning. She left us, smiling.

This Glastonbury feeling, this real feeling of meaning, of hope, I very much wish she keeps it with her.

The Problem With Salt

We all need salt in our diets. It is the main constituent present in our body water and we have several mechanisms to keep our salt content within a narrow, healthy range. If there is too little salt present, these mechanisms decrease the salt content of urine, making it more dilute. If there is too much salt, the excess is excreted through the kidneys and our water intake is increased; we become thirsty. These mechanisms are not perfect; they deteriorate as we age.

We need salt in our food, but only so much.

Chronic excess salt intake overloads these mechanisms and leads to water retention and kidney damage. Blood pressure rises – high blood pressure is strongly linked to high salt intake – and this, with water retention, puts strin on the heart and coronary vessels leading to heart disease and heart failure. Exercise becomes difficult, further compounding the problems of high blood pressure and heart disease, and increasing the risk of stroke.

If this is not enough, a high salt intake is associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer and of osteoporosis – a significantly debilitating disease. Excess salt in the diet increases the risk of premature death. The excess does not have to be much; the margins are small.

Avoiding too much salt in the diet can only be good. Right?

Unfortunately, the western diet is overloaded with salt, most of which comes from processed food. Recognising this as a major component of a modern health epidemic, government agencies moved to reduce the salt content of processed foods by setting limits to the amount of salt present in food products. It was intended to be a gradual but progressive process, allowing the food companies time to accommodate the need for salt reduction.

When the Conservative government came to power in 2010, they scrapped this arrangement, reaching an self-regulation agreement with the food companies. They were to police the salt reduction targets themselves. The companies know that salt is addictive and helps to sell their produce. Guess what happened?

To me, this suggests that the Conservatives care more about the profits of their business colleagues than they do about the health of the people. There has been no suggestion that this attitude might change in the foreseeable future.

It concerns me that profits so obviously come before people, before welfare and well-being – apart from that of the rich.

I know which way I’ll be voting.

Tony rides to the rescue

Tony rides to the rescue!

Tony Blair, that acceptable face of socialism, has been offering his services to the Labour party for the coming election campaign. Tony, all teeth and diamond-sparkle grin, riding in on a stunning white charger to save the country from a government not easily distinguishable from the one that he led.

The multi-millionaire who presided over a disastrous military intervention in the Middle East, over the beginning privatisation of the National Health Service, who charges phenomenal sums to appear for after-dinner talks (what are they paying for?), and who sells his services as an advisor to some really dodgy regimes, thinks that the British Electorate would be so impressed by his presence that the Labour party would be propelled into power in May.

If Labour want to win this election, and I hope that they do win, they would be well advised to steer clear of Mr. Blair.

Immortality?

A little while ago I wrote a piece on parallel lives and asked what effect the existence of parallel selves would have on consciousness.

 

Consider what would happen if consciousness could move between these parallel lives, making choices which might affect the course of the life of the self within individual parallel existences.

 

If we take the simple case, a binary decision point, then there are two choices, two outcomes. In many cases these decision points would not have a great effect upon the general run of things, they might simply reflect the slight differences between parallel worlds.

 

However, there will be decision points where the outcome is of extreme importance, for example the choice of stepping into the road or staying on the pavement. In one world the self chooses to step into the road and is hit by a vehicle and is killed, in another, the self decides to stay on the pavement and avoids the collision. In this world the self lives.

 

A consciousness faced with this choice is hardly likely to select the fatal outcome as a branching point continuation as, we can assume, that this could well lead to the termination of that consciousness. It is reasonable to assume that the consciousness would choose the self that survives. This being the case, the way is open for the conscious self to choose the more favourable outcome whenever there is a binary choice; so allowing the possibility for the consciousness to choose the better life.

 

In fact, when the choice is between life and death, the consciousness is bound to choose life. This could happen ad infinitum; whenever death is a potential outcome, life is chosen. Of course, other beings, if they exist, would navigate an individually beneficial path through this maze of choices, each oblivious to the choices made by other consciousnesses. We see others die while their consciousness follows a parallel path and continues to live, perhaps seeing us die.

 

Immortality?

Foxhunting lives.

Despite foxhunting with hounds having been declared illegal by an act of parliament, it is still practiced regularly in England. 

This last weekend, a hunt in south-east Yorkshire made three kills when foxhunting with hounds. Apparently, if there had been any “Antis” around, the hunt would have gone ahead as a drag hunt. It seems that, as long as they are not detected breaking the law, the law doesn’t matter. Remember that these obnoxious people usually are from the monied classes – how many ordinary people can afford to buy and maintain the quality horses required for hunting? Many are magistrates and would expect others to obey the laws of the country. However, these people can break the law with impunity; the law doesn’t apply to them but they must keep up appearances.
The huntspeople, of course, would claim that they are removing pests. They ignore the fact that the animals they hunt are sentient beings. For these distasteful people the best way to overcome a problems is to go around killing things – better still if dressed up in ridiculous uniforms while they kill. Better still if the animal suffers.
They really are hideous.

Just sitting

Have you ever had a moment when your mind is empty of thought and plans and schemes and judgements and opinions? A time when you just are?

A time when you don’t allow your thoughts, plans, schemes, judgements, opinions, to influence the way you perceive the moment. A temporary and necessarily partial suspension of cause and effect withing your conscious stream, your flow of being?
It can come upon you unannounced when you are sitting in a field of grass feeling the breeze in your hair, the sun on your face, or on a hillside looking down on the glittering meandering of a river in the valley, or when watching the sea, with the warm “shush” of breaking waves, hearing the low hum of the summer sun.
That pure and open state where everything becomes clearer, more colourful, multidimensional, real.
When the mind disengages from the concerns of everyday living – and just is.

Bloody scientists

Scientists have announced their discovery that rats exhibit a period of increased brain activity before dying. They suggest that this might explain out of body experiences or sensations of walking towards a light…
…or maybe it could be evidence of the soul disengaging from the body, or the rat panicking, or the rat equivalent of screaming “fuck off you evil, sadistic bastard!”.
When will these people stop torturing animals? After all, in many cases they only guess at what their findings mean. And this one is particularly hideous – “let’s kill some rats and see if we can guess at what they’re experiencing”. (To show increased brain activity, they could not have been anaesthetised properly).

So, let’s kill rats and make some guesses –  while we’re at it, why not slice open their abdomens and read fortunes from their entrails?
Then again, the idea of a rat walking towards the light does have beauty.

The Inglorious Twelfth

On the 12th of August every year, the most hideous members of our society – and, incidentally, the most wealthy (is there a link here?) – slither out onto our moorlands in search of ‘sport’.

“The Glorious Twelfth”, the start of the grouse shooting season, is the reserve of the (often obscenely) rich but is subsidised by the British public through the Environmental Stewardship Scheme where moors gamekeepeers can claim for maintenance costs. Yes, reader, you (if you are British) are partly funding the excesses of these vile people, even though they can buy you many times over. Just think French Riviera and yachts.

What do the gamekeepers do with the money?
Moors maintenance for grouse shooting hinges on maximising the heather coverage of the moor. The methods used to do this include burning off the old growth and competing plants in order to encourage the growth of heather shoots on which the grouse feed. The moors are an important national resource, but they are also underpinned by peat – a mass of locked-in carbon. Setting fire to the moors does not make a great deal of environmental sense to me. Burning that locked in carbon, releasing millions of tons into the environment in the form of greenhouse gases, is not doing the rest of us, those who cannot possibly afford the fees charged for grouse shooting, any favours.
Then there is the matter of the wholesale slaughter of wildlife. Animals who compete with or predate the grouse are killed off.
What for?
So that people that any fair-minded person with a social conscience and a sense of justice would never wish as a passing acquaintance let alone a friend can indulge in their manly ‘sport’ of slaughtering helpless birds.
Can grouse shooting actually be called a sport?
Consider the difficulty a grouse has in getting airborne and the blanket-bombing approach to shooting inherent in shotgun use – then tell me what you think.
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