Sunday, 3 July 2011


It's easy to write about stuff you hate - just string a few sentences together full of vitriol, add in a dash of self-loathing and with a bit of luck you come across as an amusingly opinionated cynic, ripe for quirky dinner party banter and award-winning first dates. Try and write about something you love, however, and the goalposts run a mile. Every phrase seems saccharine and derivative, each observation feels hackneyed and embarrassing. Easier, then, to stick to the criticisms and, on the rare occasions that good things happen, just stick your head in the sand and hope the crap comes back soon so you'll have something to write about before too long.

Occasionally, though, the good stuff is too good to ignore. For the third year running, I went to Glastonbury, and it was extraordinary all over again. Each year's been different - the first, wide-eyed and capped off by the thrill of the Glastocrush, the second, heady and crazed. 2011 was muddy and lovely, a little more calm, a little less extraordinary. There were even times when the rain was falling on Friday that I wondered whether I'd make it to the end. But Glastocrush II kept me going, and the sun came out, and as we drove back to London on Monday, I realised that without really knowing it at the time, I'd once again had one of the best weekends of my life.

It's the most extraordinary place. The music's important, of course, and I saw some great bands (and Beardyman) - but what always takes me a bit by surprise is how little the music really matters, and how much the other stuff counts. Sure, watching live music together is the reason we're all there, it's the supreme sense of belonging, of shared passion, of uncompetitive we-are-one, but when the tunes stop, the collective buzz continues. You see the footage on the TV, all these tens of thousands of people, all the tents, the walking, the mud, the rubbish, and you can't imagine how it could possibly be fun, and then you're there, and we're all there for the same reason, we've all paid our money, we're all standing under the same rain and the same sun, using the same toilets, drinking the same half-flat lager, sharing food and bodily fluids, staying out far too late wandering round fields with skeletons in pickling jars, telling your friends you'll meet them by the hand sanitizers, getting back to the tent after sunrise with your wig askew and your neon facepaint cracked and smeared, and it doesn't matter if you've got £6 in the bank or ten million, you're still either freezing or sweating (never the right temperature) in a tent, with all your worldly possessions ripe for the picking, and yeah, it's not real or sustainable, it's an extraordinary holiday but it has to end, and your liver would probably give up altogether if you carried on my longer, so you come back to London and sure, we're all connected by the city, we're all on the tube for the same reason, we want to get from A to B, but the stuff we share is hidden so deeply beneath all the things that make us different and it's only on the last tube home at weekends that the guards come down and suddenly we're all together again. And I think that's why I want to leave on my Glastonbury wristband after the event, because it acts as a declaration to other attendees - I was there, you were there - a visible reminder that there is another way, even an impractical, overblown, overpriced, overflawed other way, but still - life doesn't have to be like this. But only teenagers keep their wristbands on. I finally cut mine off on Friday and it's now on my bathroom sink, sad and lonely as a wrinkled balloon.

It's well-known that one mustn't make any big decisions the week after Glastonbury - that looking at your life and trying to judge it after you've spent five days fooling around in Pilton - well, it's just not sensible. I came home and, as always, I felt trapped - I didn't want to do the MA, I didn't want to live in London, I wanted to move abroad and drift. But like a good girl, I ignored the voices and carried on with my life, knowing that I'd see sense eventually and that normality wouldn't seem so bad after a few nights' sleep and a few hours sober. And then on Thursday afternoon, I found out that my MA, instead of costing me £4 thousand for the two year course is actually £4k per year, £8k in total. And that's too much, I know it is, for two letters after my name that I already have. I already felt like £4k was a lot to pay for the amount of instruction I was receiving - so double that seems gross. There are other courses, other options. And so the MA's off, the deposit will be refunded, and the lodger's still coming in a couple of weeks, and now I've got this earmarked money to invest in my career and the doors are all open again and I'm drifting and confused. I had too much sleep last night, weird dreams didn't help with the clarity, but I did yoga and meditation this morning and I have a choir concert tonight, and surely some pieces will fall into place soon. I hop up on the handrail of the moving walkway, watch my life go by and see what happens. I'll keep you posted.

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