I woke up on Sunday morning with the now-familiar feeling of the incredibly hot tent. It took a few moments for me to remember what had happened the night before. As well as feeling really down about the loss of all the photos I’d so enjoyed taking, I felt the same sort of thing most victims of crime, big or small, would feel – violated and sickened by the thought of someone going through all of my stuff. I went outside and saw a steward who was responsible for my part of the campsite and thought it best that I let him know what happened. He said I should make sure I report it to the police.
As I walked towards the police compound at the top of the hill by the farm, I realised that there was another thing missing from my tent – my Oyster card. I thought about the hassle and expense this would cause me when I arrive back in London and started to feel even worse. The police were very helpful and took the time to note down every detail of what happened. When I was there, I realised that I was lucky compared to the people beside me who had overseas bank cards stolen or had their tents slashed rather than unzipped by thieves. The police recommended I speak to the Lost Property people, as often the thieves are only looking for money and, after grabbing things indiscriminately, discard the things they don’t need.
The lost property office was in one of the farm houses, right next door to the Wagon Shed Welfare. I can imagine that the festival would be the worst place in the world to have a mental breakdown, bad drugs experience or feel depressed and the people who work in Welfare do an incredible job, offering them a sofa, cup of tea and a chat. I looked inside and saw that, rather than the usual sight of a room full of what looked like refugees from the muddiest war ever, it was empty. Next door, in Lost Property, the staff were busy helping people, most of whom had lost belongings in the middle of mosh pits. The lady I spoke to was in upbeat mood, having had a number of success stories that morning, but it felt clear that it was unlikely my things would have been found and handed in so soon. Nonetheless, she took down my details, saying they often find people’s belongings when clearing up the site and now they have precise descriptions of what was taken, they will be able to get in touch with me if they are found.
I walked away feeling certain that all that could be done to help would be done, and impressed with the dedication of the staff doing a very difficult job. But I was still at a very low ebb. I was starting to consider whether this should be my last Glastonbury and I should retire from the festival before I turn 30. Despite there being many people there twice my age, I felt weary and didn’t particularly want to be back. I even inquired about my coach ticket, wondering if I could leave on a coach that evening, but was told I had to wait for the time I’d booked. I just wanted to get out as quickly as possible.
I returned to camp and tried to relax by reading a book in the shade while listening to The Hold Steady on the nearby Other Stage. It was soon time for England v Germany, so I followed the huge crowds flocking toward the newly-opened Football Field. Nobody seemed to really know where they were going, as thousands of us followed the sound of Gary Lineker’s voice, going off-path and between tents which somehow avoided being trampled. Of course, you’ll know already that what happened next didn’t help my mood. I was very close to the front of the massive crowd (50,000 people apparently, with another 30,000 watching in another field) on the hillside watching the big screen. When Germany scored, photographers clambered to take snaps of our disappointed faces. When England scored, they probably did the same, but I was too busy being hugged by a giant shaven-headed Mancunian. When Lampard’s perfectly good goal was disallowed, there was uproar. In the end, though, the right team won, and we all mournfully filed out, our mood in grim contrast with the dazzling sunshine.
I was feeling worse than ever and was about to go and see We Are Scientists when I remembered that I’d promised to get my son a gift while I was here, and this would be the only time I’d have to get it. After looking around some stalls for a few options, I called home and asked if he wanted a cat puppet, which was quite expensive, or a bubble-making gun. He wanted the bubble gun.
I then went to the John Peel tent for the first time that weekend. I was there to see Broken Social Scene, who I was impressed by when they were supporting Pavement in Brixton. The compare said that you never knew how many people they’d have on stage and this time there were ten of them. It was a great show, as they swapped instruments and different people wandered on and off the stage. Sometimes there were two drummers, sometimes one, sometimes there were five guitarists, sometimes three.
I was wearing my Scott Pilgrim t-shirt, featuring characters from the comic books. Despite the fact that Broken Social Scene are on the soundtrack to the forthcoming Scott Pilgrim film, and they are from Toronto where the story is based, it was a complete coincidence that I was wearing it that day – I left it until the Sunday to wear because it was dark blue, so got through my lighter-coloured t-shirts first, to help with the heat. It turned out to be a very good decision. While most people didn’t recognise it, one girl in the crowd couldn’t stop glancing at it, before telling me that she loved my t-shirt. This tiny little act of kindness really brightened up my day more than I would ever expect, and it continued as I walked towards the Other stage as, on a couple of separate occasions, people excitedly yelled out “Scott Pilgrim!” and ran over to me to talk about the books and film. These strangers would never know it, but they managed to turn my day around and reaffirmed my faith in the people at the festival.
Feeling a little more upbeat, I watched LCD Soundsystem, who were absolutely brilliant. It felt like the perfect way to experience the sun going down for the final time of the weekend. James Murphy was coolness personified and Nancy Whang, of course, was the 16,108th girl I fell in love with over the weekend. As I was dancing and singing along, I was thinking that they were so good that this could be the best set of the whole weekend, as long as they’d finish off with my favourite track of theirs, Get Innocuous. Sadly, they then said goodbye and walked off, and I left feeling a little disappointed though appreciative of how good they were.
As the evening drew in, I still hadn’t made up my mind about who to watch that evening, the legendary Orbital or the legendary Stevie Wonder. As I sat back in the camp, Orbital came on stage and as I listened to their music I realised that, while I appreciate that they put on a great light show and their music (and particularly the level of improvisation they put into their shows) is technically brilliant, it just didn’t do it for me. So, I decided to go and see Stevie Wonder, it probably being a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the superstar.
But then, as I walked past the John Peel tent, I heard Ash playing Meltdown and felt strangely magnitised to go inside. I’d seen them play before at Brixton and wasn’t particularly impressed, but they were a big part of my teenage years and Lost in You was one of the songs played at my wedding. I made my way near to the front and as they played Oh Yeah, Kung Fu and Girl From Mars, I felt happily transported back to the 1990s. Not only that, but listening to an indie band playing in an enclosed, more intimate setting felt much more like home to me – I could dance to this much more than anything in the dance tents. As they closed with Teenage Kicks and Burn Baby Burn, I felt something entirely unexpected – Ash, the unlikeliest of bands to do so, had pretty much saved my weekend. I felt good again, and realised as I walked back to our camp that I had a smile on my face. Like it or not, I suppose deep down I’ll always be a bit of an indie kid.
As I walked back, I saw something that made me smile even more. During the Orbital set, people had obviously been climbing the huge flagpoles near the Other Stage and one of them had been bent over. Three or four stewards were gathered round, wondering what to do. At first they tried bending it back into shape, but it wouldn’t budge an inch, so instead they tried pulling it out of the ground, which looked even funnier. Eventually, though, it worked and they carried it away.
When I got back to the camp, one of the people staying there ran up, hands excitedly flapping, saying something along the lines of “Ohmygodohmygod did you see Matt Smith came on stage with Orbital?” It seems I missed out on the chance to witness the Doctor himself make an appearance. Would I have liked to see that? Yes. Did I regret not being there? Not at all.
I’m not quite sure where my head was at that point, it had been a roller-coaster of a day, but in the end I felt satisfied. As I went to bed, feeling exhausted after another long day, I realised that feeling this good after a bad thing happening meant that it really was a special weekend.