Saturday, October 01, 2005

Glastonbury 2005 part one: enough about me, let's talk about the weather

Join me in a time trip back to June of this year, when I attended the exciting Glastonbury Festival. The weather was quite extreme this year. Wednesday and Thursday were scorchers, but rumours circulated about how thunder storms were expected some time Friday afternoon. I was actually kind of pleased when I heard the first sputters of rain early on Friday morning, as it meant that my tent wasn't going to turn into an oven by 8.00 am, making a lie-in at least possible. But then the rain got heavier and heavier, and was joined by scarily loud thunder. Electrical storms can be scary enough when you are indoors, snugly wrapped up in bed. When you are in a semi-waterproof tent out in the open they are impressive things indeed. While I lay there wondering if tents are Faraday cages or not, I was nevertheless faced with a spectacle sure to dwarf anything the festival itself would offer.

The rain poured down in torrents for, I dunno, six straight hours or so? It did slacken off a bit now and then during that time, but it didn't stop, and the lightning and thunder kept up as well. Some of us made our way to the Field of Avalon during a relative lull, only to be driven into the Avalon Café by a renewed bucketing. There we witnessed a woman being advised not to lean against the tent's metal supports, in case she ended up being fried by lightning. Nice.

Various things around the Festival site were indeed struck by lightning, and electrical power throughout the site was knocked off for a bit. They did get power back by the middle of the afternoon, allowing bands to start playing again. But the storm had wreaked its damage more through the rain. The market area flooded in a manner reminiscent of the year of the Unpleasantness, and there were reports of riots at Joe Bananas as frenzied mobs battled for the last wellington boots. The area around the New Bands Tent (now the John Peel Tent, in tribute to John Peel) became a quagmire, and a series of rivers erupted across the field in front of the Other Stage.

Most striking, though, was the way the bottom of Pennards Hill flooded to three or four feet of water. Or water mixed with sewage, as the toilets at the bottom of the hill were also engulfed. Reputedly this all happened in the space of a few minutes at the height of the storm, leaving those afflicted no time to save any of their belongings.

I chanced on the Pennards Hill devastation myself during the afternoon. I was in a rather relaxed state, and seeing the tops of tents stick up out of murky water was one of the most "dude!" moments of any of the Glastonburys I've been to.

I have often thought how Glastonbury has aspects of a refugee camp to it, albeit a very well-appointed one for well-heeled refugees. This year maybe some people got a bit too much of a taste of what a real refugee camp might be like, and they did not like it. Apparently you had to queue to walk off the site on Friday afternoon, so many people were leaving. Surely more must have seen the television footage and thought "fuck that!" and stayed at home.

However, after the Friday morning downpour the weather remained rather clement. I do not think it rained again, and the sun put in occasional appearances on Friday and Saturday afternoon, while Sunday was just full on sunny. In some ways I agree with Michael Eavis' comments that the wet years are more crack than the dry ones, in that you don't have the Yellow-Face threatening to burn you or making you feel stinky and sluggish. Still, I wish I had brought gaiters.

The story continues

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