As most of you will know, Billy Bragg asked me to speak at the leftfield stage at Glastonbury. Every now and then an email lands in my inbox that makes me wonder if it's really for me at all. I mean Glastonbury!!! Who wouldn't want that opportunity? And Billy Bragg! Towering leftie icon who has peppered my life with sense and bravery, always telling truth to power.
I was so focussed on the speaking bit, it didn't really occur to me til we trundled up to the site in my mother-in-law's camper van that I was really going to be at Glastonbury! All weekend! Doing fun stuff too!
It's been a very long time since I had fun. As you know, I spent most of last year in bed, being sporadically cut open by well meaning surgeons. The pinnacle of my goals was to get to the bathroom. The thought of 4 days at Glastonbury with the cool kids was actually intimidating. People asked me if I was nervous about speaking. Nope, I always love that bit, but the idea of being cool, having fun, being away from my safety-net-bed - that was scary. I thought of you all, my housebound or bed-ridden followers and many, many, times, I wished you could all be there with me. To feel the sparking excitement, the joy, the freedom of 150,000 people letting loose, leaving their humdrum fears and stresses behind. Creating utopia, even if only for a few days.
We arrived late after 2 sports days and a long drive to Devon to drop the kids with the in-laws. It was raining - who expects anything else at Glastonbury? And I started to worry how Dave would push the wheelchair if the whole farm mulched into a soggy, muddy quagmire.
That moment, as we pulled into the site! I muttered under my breath to you all. My God! Spoonies don't do this! This was the "Outside" amplified. Thousands and thousands of soggy ablies made a makeshift city of alternative colour. Tents peppered the hillsides for as far as the eye could see, flags and fairy lights proclaiming a new way. Or perhaps an old way that could never quite beat the capitalist, corporate grey of "real life"
I was struck by how mashed most people already were. As we tried to inch the camper through throngs of rain drenched bodies to the middle of the site, where Leftfield sits, people leant against the van, tried to climb onto the bumpers, shouting love and peace, stumbling and lurching in front of the van.
I had been worried about my clothes. More Audrey Hepburn in style than Courtney Love, I'd packed every random bit of non-prim cloth I could drag from my wardrobe and decided I might fit in if I just wore them all together. I needn't have worried. From middle aged men in Tigger suits to girls dressed as fairies, a guy in a wetsuit, a guy in swimming trunks and a pokemon hat - No-one cared, no-one judged. I could have worn my wedding dress and indeed, some did.
It was no good. The site was jammed. We had to turn back and a lovely dreadlocked soul called John guided us to another backstage area so that Dave could go to Leftfield on foot to arrange our access.
Alone, I sat in the van and looked out over the hills at the sprawling throng of alternative humanity before me. I was a little nervous without Dave, but I pulled myself up. It was a moment! How often do we stop and just feel the here and now? I was at Glastonbury! I was going to get the opportunity to speak about a subject I'm passionate about. I was out of the musty bedroom prison that had held me hostage. I told myself off. "Live it Sue, make the most of every moment. What's to fear but fear itself?" I spoke to my Dad, quietly in the gloom of reflected hedonism. I spoke to you guys. I spoke to no-one in particular.
Dave came back, muddy and triumphant to tell me that Sarah, the Leftfield organiser had insisted to every level of security that we must be let in. However, there was a traffic lockdown, and it wouldn't lift until 3am. It was midnight by then, so we sat and drank tea as the hours ticked by, soaking up the atmosphere.
I took a nap in the comfy, glamping version of slumming it that was all I could manage, as balls of fire shot from Arcadia and pumping bass beats sang a raucous lullaby.
At some point as I slept, security arrived and led me, like the Queen of Sheba, propped up on my pillows into the heart of the Glastonbury site. Lights flashed a warning, an escort of 4 or 5 more security guards on foot shouted a clear path and like the most vippy of VIPs, we were heralded into place.
The Leftfield site was right in the heart of the action. The Pyramid stage was just to our right, the Other Stage to our left. Arcadia behind us, John Peel stage in front of us. Even at 3am, it was a riot of noise and driving beats. I learnt quickly that Glastonbury never sleeps - who wants to miss a moment? Sleep's for sleepy people.
****** Continued soon....