She’s wearing a pink tutu and a leather vest and her eyes are rolled all the way back in her head in a combination of mirth and something chemical. One foot, planted in a boot, planted in the mud, pulling, and the other stuck, deep. Her friends hover around her, working their fingers, working their jaws, a thousand strangers in the dusk, in the rancid reek of muck. A man behind her goes to his knees, yanks her boot free, plants it back on her foot. She thanks him, plods away. He stands, caked, wipes his hands on his shirt. He was already covered in mud. He doesn’t care.
Nobody cares, even though everyone cares. We’ve woken up to rain and hangovers and deflated mattresses, and whispered noises. Out, out, out. We’ve done something historical, or not done it, railed against it, but not loudly enough. 80% of the voters at Glastonbury voted remain, but that wasn’t enough. “He’s resigned.” “We’re out.”
Somebody has stolen £140 out of my backpack, which I left zipped in the tent, but by the door, with the money zipped in the smallest pocket, where everyone would have left it, the first place a person would look, because I was drunk and hungry and because we all do all the same things.
It’s raining and we move the camping chairs inside, in a circle, the Wellington boots kicked on their sides by the door. We are the festival-goers, three days in, three days wrecked. Eating meals in between dancing with pints, gathering beneath green flags flickering with an octopus, a yellow submarine, a walrus, a strawberry. Beatles-themed, you see.
We all live, now, in this muddy blue tent, railing against the guy ropes, sucking against the mud. We break Berocca into drink bottles. Later we’ll mix in vodka. The normal rules don’t apply here. Somewhere, out there, people sit in brick houses, in armchairs, sipping tea, and nodding their heads at their decisions. Get them out, they nod, make them leave.
We’ve left, left the politics behind. Last year there was no signal in this fenced-in silver circle that reeks of soil and silage and shit and throbs with grime, they say, but this year they’ve erected more poles to catch more signal, and this year there are just enough bars for us to know: we’ve left, we’re out, we’re gone. We’d message people on the outside, maybe, but what’s the point? It’s ours to deal with, later. For now, vodka in your Berocca, extra socks in your boots, tissues in your bumbag. I’d rather not have the signal, given the choice. Except for the weather forecast. Rain, obviously.
The people on the stages with the microphones feel a certain kind of responsibility as the clouds open and the crowds are drenched, lifting their hands and securing their hoods, lifting their feet so they don’t get stuck, stuck, stuck. “We’ll weather it together,” they croon, “we’ll fix it together,” between songs. But we’re not together, some of us stuck in the mud, and some of us elevated, and maybe that’s precisely what got us here in the first place.
There’s a girl in the crowd behind us with daisies in her hair, she might be eight years old in her pink raincoat. In the crowd, she looks like she’s floating, standing on a small folding stool, anchored to her spot by her father who clutches her, grinning into Adele’s first verses. He has a spare, and the shortest members of our parties suddenly find themselves up, out, higher, taller, up with the flags and the six foot men. “There’s so much more air up here!” Maybe that’s the point.
The world changes all the time, whether you’re wearing denim shorts and tiger ears, if there’s glitter in your beard and chemicals in your brain, if there’s vodka in your Berocca and if you haven’t sat down in a real chair since you can remember.
Jeremy Corbyn cancels his speech because the world is falling down, and when the world is falling down you don’t go to preach to a festival full of the converted. When the world is falling down, you bear down, go to your knees, form a last foundation. The bones of this festival are tent poles and caravans and canvas, skin and hair, crumbling and crushable, and there’s nothing here that’s worth any kind of permanent salvation. The work to be done is elsewhere, outside, inside marble houses and tall buildings made from old wood. Jeremy Corbyn, I suspect, would much rather be at Glastonbury.
I’m not, we’re not, the only ones who know how lucky we are. In a circus tent filled with children sitting on plastic bags, two tattooed men in black shorts climb each other and a rope, hand on hand, wrapped and clutched, set to fall, or fly. A woman in a red glittered bustier announces them, prancing across the stage, catching the light. Her tights are black and pigtails flick with her words. “I suggest,” she says, “that we just stay here! We voted remain! Why don’t we just remain? Why not?!” She clutches for claps and we do applaud, because we could do that. We could close it off, shut it down, eat pulled pork rolls and falafel until the end of our days. Adele could sing nightly, Coldplay serenade us to sleep. We have tents, sleeping bags. We have toilets. We have each other. Chris Martin, you have me. Beck, are you OK? Do you need some gum?
Sitting in that tent-circle with rain spitting against the plastic, a few hours since the votes were counted and done and everything went, as they say, to shit, they give me – some of them strangers – £10 each, one by one, none holding back until I have in my lap a pile of crushed bills, and all my stolen money back. Someone out there has my neatly folded notes, but he doesn’t have what I have.
We have, for the next couple of days, certainty, because here, behind the silver fence, we know what to expect. Piss-smeared seats and mud-tumbles, £5 sweat-warm beers and rain, rain, rain. Spitting on footpaths and swearing into the sky, bright lights and old smells and base thuds like quick hearts. Arseholes and idiots and awkwardness and theft. Constipation and ugliness.
So much shit. There is so much shit.