Archive for June, 2000

Glastonbury Pop Fest

28 June 2000 at 4:38 pm
by Berck

I’m at Jim’s flat in London, and will be headed back to Somerset with Michael tomorrow morning provided all goes well. The following is a detailed, though not necessarily exciting account of the Glastonbury Pop Festival.
Lloyd, a friend of Dad and the O’Briens, has a friend named Vince who sells food for a living. Lloyd told me that Vince needed some more people to work for him at this Glastonbury Festival, about which I knew nothing at the time, and that I would be doing something relating to the sale of hamburgers. I would be paid 4 pounds/hr, get in free (90 pound/$135 ticket), and eat free, staying at Glastonbury Thursday to Sunday. I said, “Sure, why not…”

Well, as time went on, and I told people I would be working at this festival I got some interesting looks, and people kept dropping hints about the size and insanity of the festival. I began to wonder…

No need, before long, all my questions were answered. Tuesday night I got a message that Vince’s daughter would come by the O’Brien’s and pick me up tomorrow, Wednesday the 22 at 8am. Too bloody early in the morning, but I got ready to go. Lucy showed up at about 8.45 to pick me up. I told the O’Brien’s goodbye, Peter waved at me from his window, I tossed my backpack into the boot, and hopped in. We got to Vince’s house, but no one was there. Lucy says that this guy Simon was supposed to take me to the festival with him, as she had lessons to attend that day. She called various people, and told me that she would take me to Simon’s house in Wells and that Simon would take me to the festival. She handed me piece of paper that said “THE TICKET” on it, and a date and signature and stuff. Didn’t say what THE TICKET was for, I suppose it didn’t have to.

Lucy drove us to the house that was presumably Simon’s, whoever Simon was, and I followed her around the back of the house where she knocked on an unanswered door for some time. Eventually from around the other side of the house, a man yelled “What do you want?” Around the corner stepped a somewhat overweight older man without much of his grey hair left on his head. He smiled at Lucy and we walked around the house and in the front door.

I stood in the kitchen for awhile, and the older man shouted up the stairs. Eventually a short fat guy who looked about 20 stumbled down the stairs, having obviously just woken up. His neck was covered with bruises, to which Lucy pointed at and laughed, saying something about “love bites”. Lucy left and Simon pointed to the couch and told me to watch TV. I took a nap instead.

I woke up when a girl walked in, introduced herself as Simon’s girlfriend, and turned on the TV and proceeded to watch some pointless talk show about men and women and sex with a yelling audience. I don’t remember much more about it, as I didn’t really pay attention but tried unsuccessfully to sleep.

Simon came and he and Kate (I think that was her name…) proceeded to do things that made smacking noises on the other couch. I fell asleep, woke up, and looked at my watch. It was noon. I was somewhat annoyed at having been dragged out of bed so early for nothing. I asked Simon when we were going to go. “When me mate gets here to pick us up.” Simon speaks with a thick cockney accent and I can barely understand him at all. His mate, Butch, showed up around 1pm in an ancient, beat-up VW-Golf, into which the four of us and our luggage barely fit.

Butch dropped Simon and I off, after much prolonged goodbyes between Simon and Kate during which Butch threatened to just leave. Eventually Simon and I trudged toward “Pedestrian Gate 1.”

I should point out at this time that Simon was told several times in my presence that I could only get in at gate 2, because that was the only place I could get a wrist band that signified I was staff. I reminded him of this and he shrugged and said something I didn’t understand. Great, I figured, I’m going to be lost in this festival with a pack on my back and no idea where to go because Simon’s already got a band, and he’ll probably just march right in. I decided not to let it bother me, I’d figure something out.

Simon marched right in through the gate that said “RE-ENTRIES ONLY” and told me to follow him. I did, and handed the person at the gate my ticket. She pointed at a man a few feet away, and told me to give him my ticket. I did, and he handed it to the guy next to him who proceeded to very carefully tear it in half down the middle. The first guy asked for my wrist and he placed a blue band that said “Glastonbury 2000” on it on my wrist. I felt like a cow, and was glad I was merely tagged and not branded. The second bloke handed me the bottom half of my ticket and said I’d need it again. I wondered what for. I never found out, as no one ever asked for it.

Simon and I walked for a good half an hour through a good bit of mud, stopping to let Simon rest. He said that I should be glad the mud wasn’t knee-deep like it was two years ago. I didn’t believe him until I saw pictures from two years ago. And the year before that. Several feet of mud covered many of the festival fields.

Simon and I walked through endless fields of tents and vans and so on. Eventually we got to a trailer that said “British Meat Carvery and Grill”. I met Vince, who gave me an orange band to put on my wrist that would allow me to get into “the compound” where I was to pitch my tent. I walked around with Simon, and found a spot to put my tent in between a truck and another tent.

Vince gave me an apron and showed me how to make roast pork rolls, roast beef rolls, roast spuds and gravy, bacon rolls, bacon and egg rolls. I worked for 6 hours that day, and ate a good many roast spuds and gravy. “Roast Spuds and Gravy” is something of a misnomer since they’re actually fried, and we made the “gravy” from powder. I think they were actually roasted partly, then frozen before Vince bought them. In any case, we fry them for about 2 minutes at which point they’re done and mighty tasty.

I never want to work in the food service industry again. Actually, working as a bartender or something in a nice place might not be as bad. At the festival I served endless streams of drunks, crack-heads, and generally messed up people. I worked the midnight-6am shift twice, during which time no sober person (who isn’t high) shows up wanting food.

I was amazed by the sheer number of people at the festival. The official estimates that I saw last were 126,000 people. The city council only allowed them to sell 100,000 tickets, so desperate others hopped the fences, bought fake tickets, had someone with a car pass smuggle them in, or some other various means of illegal entry.

I’ve never seen so many people in one place at one time that I can think of. There were 18 official stages, most of which with music, and many other unofficial stages. A few of the artists whose names I either recognized, or saw, or both: Counting Crows, Live, Pet Shop Boys, Nine Inch Nails, Willie Nelson, Macy Gray, Travis, David Bowie, Ocean Colour Scene, Bluetones, and many more. There wasn’t any music I was REALLY excited about, because most of the music I like isn’t popular, so why should I expect it to be at a pop fest?

I think I saw more marijuana there than I did in Amsterdam. The police were everywhere, but in spite of their best efforts there were something like 1000 tent thefts among other crime. I didn’t hear of any violent crime, except for the woman who came up to me at 4am and asked me to find a security guard because there was a man who had been stabbed and was bleeding to death outside her tent. I don’t know if she was being truthful or not, I somehow doubt it.

While Ocean Colour Scene was performing I was in the middle of the field in front of the main stage, reasonably close to the front. While the bands were shifting I worked my way to the front, not at all sure that I wanted to see the next band, but figured I might as well, since I was already at the main stage, and didn’t feel like finding one of the others if I wasn’t going to like the music that came on. Besides, the band after next was going to be Travis, and I knew I wanted to listen to them. The next band was Pet Shop Boys, who were amusing even though they didn’t play any music I liked. Well, the didn’t really play any music. One guy sort of stood in front of a synthesizer wearing silver coveralls, spiked hair, sunglasses and silver headphones. The other guy stood on the front of the stage and sort of danced or strummed an ac acoustic guitar from which I never heard a note. The speakers made synthesized noise that people who like noise that came out of the 80’s call music. His backup singers included a large black woman in a short dress, and two fat black guys in overalls, boots, and baseball caps. They all sort of stomped about and sang falsetto. They weren’t really dancing, it was sort of choreographed silliness to the beat of the music. It was at least a nice variation on the average backup singer group.

By this point I’d gotten pretty close to the front of the stage and it was getting pretty crowded, but I figured that the crowd would thin out a bit after the Pet Shop Boys left, and I could move back a little and breathe. It didn’t, I just got shoved forward, and before I knew it I was a good 15 feet from the front railing that was as far as any spectator could get forward, and about 50 feet from the stage. It was about 60 degrees outside, but I was extremely hot because of the incredible amount of body heat coming from the crowd packed around me. It soon became a challenge to stand up because of the crowd pushing and shoving, as they tried to support the weight of the various people crowd surfing. The security guards at the front were helping people off the tops of the crowds and out. In fact, we just started lifting people who were panicking and tossed them to the security guards who let them down the other side of the railing to calm down. We had a half hour to wait before Travis came on, and I was wondering what I was doing packed with a bunch of people who hadn’t showered in a few days and probably smelled bad anyway. A bunch of guys started passing around a Vodka bottle into which they urinated then tried to get some poor suckers to drink it. A guy next to me asked why I had bands around my wrist, and I told him that it was because I sell food and that’s how I get to where my tent is. He seemed to think I was lying and that I really had a backstage pass and they tried to rip it off my wrist. I stopped them and explained it wouldn’t work unless they actually had them strapped properly around their wrists, as they checked. “If I had a backstage pass, why would I be here, anyway?” I asked them. That didn’t seem to phase them, and they proceeded to steal my hat and long sleeve shirt, I guess because I’m so famous. Luckily I had another shirt on under it…

All in all I’m glad I went, and besides, I got to say “cheers” to several hundred people as I gave them their food…

15 June 2000 at 6:29 pm
by Berck

It was early in the morning in Oslo, and I rarely seem to be properly functioning early in the morning, especially after having spent the night in a train. Furthermore, my hopes for a shower had just been dashed, since Gina was going out of town. I collected a map from the tourist info place. It was actually a decent map for being a tourist info map, and I’ve seen a lot of them. Some places when it is very difficult to get around, such as Venice, I’ll spend a few dollars and buy a proper map, but usually I try to get by with the tourist maps. I frequently get frustrated by such maps because while they work splendidly if you are trying to get from one huge tourist destination to the next, this isn’t generally what I need out of a map. I often do my best to avoid the areas frequented by tourists, so the maps can be infuriating as they invariably show only the largest of streets in the most pathetic level of detail. I managed to figure out which street was going to be the biggest tourist street in Oslo simply from looking at the map. It was easy to spot as since ran from the train station all the way to the royal palace. As I started down it, I discovered that it was not only tourist-infested but completely pedestrian.

I feel that should note, at this point, that Jayne O’Brien, the lady of this house, just brought me tea. This is quite delightful, and I fear I’m going to pick up quite a habit by the time I get back. It’s easy to see how tea can become an essential part of life, especially when it is this good and you get used to milk and sugar. And it’s even more wonderful when someone randomly brings you tea all the time. It’s not like you can refuse the tea, and they make it incessantly.

I found a large McDonald’s whose toilet I utilized. I returned to the street to watch a guy busking. Busking is not a word I’d ever heard before, maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s British. And while this spell checker doesn’t even recognise it, I know it’s a word because I’ve seen signs in the subways that say, “No Busking”. Busking itself is quite familiar, it’s simply the word that is unfamiliar. Busking involves playing an instrument in hopes of having money tossed in your instrument case. This guy was playing Bob Dylan on his guitar, while playing a bass drum by kicking his right foot which has a string attached the drum on his back. He also had a tambourine tucked under his left elbow, which he had no trouble playing simultaneously with the guitar. He also had a harmonica and a kazoo around his neck, which he played from time to time as well. The reason I stopped to watch him is because he was thoroughly, dreadfully, contagiously, happy. Or, at least made himself appear so. He changed the words to everything he sang to make it fit his surroundings. He sang things such as, ‘You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful, but you’re not smiling’ to a passer-by. He’d comment on everyone’s dog that came by, while singing, referring to the dogs as “woof-woofs”. The men, for the most part, ignored him. The women smiled, or looked embarrassed. The children loved him. I just sat around for what must have been an hour, dozing against the building behind me and people-watching. He left eventually, and before long I did too. I didn’t toss him any money. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever given any money to someone playing on the street. I’m not sure why. I frequently stop and listen to them for a minute, but never feel obligated in any way to give them money.

It had been awhile since my last shower, in Paris sometime, and my hair was feeling quite nasty and must have looked worse. I wanted a hat, but had lost mine in the church of San Giovanni in Laterano during Roman reconnaissance the second day or so of the Rome semester. I decided to buy one, provided I could find one for less than 10 dollars, something I thought would be a stretch in Oslo as everything in Norway is dreadfully expensive. I saw a department store and wandered in, up the escalator, and right to the area with some baseball caps. I found a plain, nondescript grey baseball cap with no writing whatsoever on it, for less than $6. I was proud of myself, bought it, and walked out of the store quite glad that I didn’t have to succumb to sporting a swoosh or some such nonsense.

I continued down the road to the Royal Palace which was surrounded by a well tended park with green ducks and green grass and not so green lovers. Scattered throughout the grounds are armed guards who march about looking a bit like something out of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. (A related, but chronologically misplaced note: In Oslo I watched a travel documentary on the BBC by none other than Michael Palin, former member of Monty Python. Although his travel show is funny and well put together, Monty Python was certainly funnier. At one point he flags down an entire express train in British Columbia, Canada which stops, and lets him on board. I wish I could do such things while travelling. (Wow, I had no idea ‘travelling’ had two l’s.) He always appears to be in nicely ironed clothes and have clean hair, something I’d sure like.) I took a nap on one of the park benches, and mused to myself about the extents of the Norwegian right to public access camping. Basically, in Norway, one can pitch a tent anywhere within 150m from any building, farmland and gardens excepted. I somehow wasn’t up to testing it out on the Royal Grounds while the Ministry of Silly Walks patrolled with not-so-silly rifles. I must say, there is something intimating about a man with a gun, no matter what country I’m in.

At this point, I’m going to interject a bit about my present days. Aside from going to Glastonbury yesterday, I haven’t done much travelling at all. I’ve been doing absolutely nothing and enjoying every minute of it. I haven’t really had much of a rest since Last summer? No, even then I was working or travelling. I find travelling relaxing, but only mentally, not physically. I’m just relaxing here. The house I’m staying in is absolutely beautiful, with wonderful gardens surrounding it, and an extremely delightful family. I’ve attempted to help out a bit while I’m here, so as not to be a complete burden on my hosts. I’ve offered to help Rodney (the Dad) paint the cellar, I’m cooking dinner for them all tomorrow, I’m helping Jayne (the mother) with her computer, I’ve attempted to teach Anita (Daughter-16) a bit of trigonometry for her math exam, and I’ve accompanied Peter (son-18) to a pub with Sebastian and Nathan, two of his friends, on several occasions. It doesn’t seem like quite enough, so I hope I can find something else to do in order to be a bit more helpful. As it is, I’ve been doing mostly nothing and enjoying it. I found a huge used book store in Glastonbury, and bought a Heinlein book as well as a bit of CS Lewis. I’ve read about half of the Heinlein book this afternoon with their cat, Kit, sleeping on my chest, which is somehow appropriate. I’ve missed having a cat about, even if my itchy eyes don’t. I told Rodney a moment ago that I think I shall miss the incessant tea and shall have to buy some to take back to the states with me. Saturday I’m leaving in the morning to go to Reading and spend the day with Lauren Bedsole, a friend from high school.

12 June 2000 at 6:56 pm
by Berck

I’m in Somerset, which, I fear, I’ve been spelling incorrectly for some time now. The O’Brien family, with whom I’m staying, has been kind enough to allow me to use their computer. This arrangement is provides a luxury I haven’t had in a long time. I’m not paying by the minute for I can actually compose offline now.

I wrote a large e?mail in London a few days ago, but lost it before it was sent. I’m rather upset at that, as it means that it’s the second such email I’ve lost. I was typing it in Word, even, so it would be backed up in case something happened. The console I was at froze and restarted itself. This would have been fine, except these terminals do an interesting thing when they restart abnormally. Rather than trying to make sure everything is okay upon restart, it automatically reinstalls Windows after wiping the hard drive partition clean. It does it over the local ethernet so it only takes about 5 minutes. This is clever, as windows is so unstable that a clean install is sometimes the only way to get it stable for a while. The only problem with this, however, is that the backup file of my document was lost. So, once again, you guys lost out on an update.

I suppose I shall start from Paris. The first time. Well, no, its not the first time, for that was with Robin. The second time I was in Paris then.

I took a night train to Paris from Zurich, the last place I’d written from. I shared a compartment with a Canadian girl who was studying in Norway, and a guy from Florida who was working in Kobenhavn. Neither of them provided either interesting conversation or amusement. I slept quite well that night, though the conductor woke us up dreadfully early, a whole hour before our departure. It’s not like I can take a shower or anything on the train, so I don’t know why he woke us up so early. A half an hour before arrival is too early for me, but I can understand why some people might want that much time. But an hour?

There was nothing open when we got to Hamburg, even though our train was rather late. It was early in the morning, but I can no longer remember just how early. I was starving, but I didn’t want to change any money because I was only staying in Germany for a few hours and taking the next train to Copenhagen. I changed 50 francs I had leftover from Paris, and with a grimace walked into the only place open which I could also afford. McDonald’s. I bought my grease and Coca Cola, and while looking for a place to sit down, was hailed by the Canadian and Floridian from the train who were sitting at a table for four. I decided to be polite and sat down next to them even though I didn’t want to. My pommes frites were absolutely nasty. Who knows how long they’d been sitting out there. I’d have gotten breakfast only I couldn’t because Europeans, save the British, don’t have a clue what it’s about, and a European McDonald’s is apparently no exception. No egg McMuffin for me. The Canadian girl agreed that the French fries were nasty and got them to give her new ones. I was a little annoyed that she got fresh ones. I’d already mostly finished my nasty ones, not thinking to complain. I wasn’t about to let food go to waste that I’d paid for– nasty or not.

The train to Copenhagen was kind of neat, it was the first diesel train I’d been on in Europe as they are all electric. I didn’t understand why until the train drove onto a ferry, something the electric ones would have a bit of trouble with, I imagine.

Copenhagen was okay, but not terribly exciting. I wrote a lot about it, but unfortunately, you didn’t get that letter. I found the little mermaid statue which is disgustingly covered with tourists climbing all over it. I couldn’t figure out how they’d all found it, since it took me some doing. There are signs, but they simply say “Der Lille Havfrue” which I couldn’t translate at the time. Then a bus drove up and dropped off a whole buttload of tourists, and it all made sense. It’s a lot easier to find if a bus deposits you. It was one of those huge sightseeing buses. I’ve never understood anyone who tries to see a city from a bus, why bother? You go too fast, you can’t really see anything. Such buses are always full of lots of old people and Japanese people trying to take pictures of anything and everything through the windows. They got out of the buses, climbed all over the statue to get pictures of themselves with the mermaid. I think they ought to wire her up with a nice electric charge, so if you touch her you get quite a shock, as I can’t believe the thing is even in existence after all the abuse its been put through. It’s a neat statue, but not terribly exciting. While shooting pictures of the dumb tourists around the mermaid, I realised [Editors Note: My spelling tended to become more and more British when it was subjected to a British spell checker.] that my roll of 36 exposure film hadn’t wound properly, and I hadn’t actually exposed any of it. This wouldn’t have been quite so annoying if I had shot any more film than that since Budapest. I hadn’t, and was quite annoyed at myself. I mean, I carry that camera everywhere, and since I’ve left Rome, I’ve taken few pictures. I’m not sure why, as much as I usually shoot, one would think I’d be going mad. I guess everything I look at, I think, “Nah, it’s not worth it, besides, I want to save money on film.” I wanted to rent a bicycle, but as Michael discovered, 1 June is an obscure Catholic holiday during which time bike shops were all closed. Most things, including all the museums, seemed open, but for some reason all the bike shops were closed. I don’t KNOW that ascension day was the reason it was closed, but it’s the only reason I could come across. Actually, I few other businesses were closed as well, but not many.

In any case, I decided to go ahead to Norway, because I’d heard it was beautiful, and Joanna had given me the number of a girl in Oslo she met in Italy who would probably give me a room. Beautiful and I could stay for free, sounded like a good combination to me. I took a night train to Oslo, and got there fairly early in the morning. I decided that 8.30am on a workday wouldn’t be too early to try her home, but I got an answering machine in speaking in Norwegian. I called her work number, and someone answered the phone in Norwegian. I’ve been climbing strange mountains, sleeping in strange places, and this is all fine, but for some reason I was simply petrified of calling this girl I didn’t know and never even met to beg for a place to stay. To make things worse, I don’t even speak her language. I didn’t even know how to ask, “Do you speak English?” in Norwegian, something I try to learn in most languages. Most Norwegians, I found out later, speak English. Most of the Danish did as well. “I’m looking for Gina?” I said questioningly. “Yes, this is Gina,” she said in a thick accent. It turns out that I had the worst timing as she was going out of town for the weekend on her job, and couldn’t offer me anything, as it was Friday, but would be glad to feed me and give me a place to stay Sunday night. She was most gracious and actually sounded a bit upset that she wouldn’t be able to give me a place to stay. I thanked her and told her that I wasn’t sure if I’d still be here on Sunday, but that I’d give her a call if I were.