This is the post where I reveal several foibles and ignorances unfitting for a woman born one day after Kate Moss.
Where do I complain? It rained in Wales. We camped at Green Man and then I drove us back to Barkingside instead of camping on in Crickhowell for the week and walking. Matt wasn’t exactly complaining mind you, he was still pretty battered the morning we left. And for the whole three days we were never really dry.
No, that’s not a ghostly presence from WW1 on the right – it’s Brian trying to keep dry his own way.
I’m not a festival person – I’m a tedious fretter who longs for comfort and security so I shouldn’t be surprised when festivals with their damp chills, filth, queues and worries about my tent and its contents, make things quite hard work for somebody like me. I don’t quite know why I thought it would be a good idea to go (I had a dreadful time getting wet at Phoenix and robbed at Glastonbury) but strange to say the further I left Green Man behind on the way home, the better disposed I felt towards it.
The sodden valley mud – which had a unique texture like chocolate custard – was never more than shin-deep, I didn’t fall over though I saw some fantastic falls – mostly small kids but also a man who was flinging himself down the hill on his plastic-backed picnic blanket and another man who in saving his camera sacrificed one side of his face and hair to the mud – you should have seen his expression (yes I did offer assistance, I wasn’t only rubbernecking) and it stopped raining once or twice. Unable to face the uncertainties of the portaloos more than I had to, and feeling stressed out, cold and slippery on my feet, I stopped drinking on Saturday after lunch and remained practically sober for the rest of the weekend taking long me-time afternoon breaks in a nest of sleeping bags in our tent and waking up for the evening just as everybody else was getting really battered.
High points were us dancing to Junior Boys next to a tree towards the back of the natural amphitheatre round the main stage. In the rain, goes without saying. Spiritualized were very atmospheric. Through the rain. Respect to Super Furry Animals for a real spectacular – I’m not sure I like their music but on the strength of that show I might give them a second go. Don’t remember whether it was raining or not. I thought Jennifer Gentle were really good, they made me laugh like a drain and warmed me up with jumping around on a cold day. Will I still like them if I download though? Will that helium voice still be bearable ? I think it probably will. Am I ever going to grow out of the kind of music favoured by 18 year-old boys? With that in mind I got close for Pentangle (they were on a lot in my house when I was growing up) and gritted my teeth through the trad for the sake of the jazz – was rewarded with a fantastic double bass solo. We ate well. The PV Special from the Mexican place was a great meal as was the falafel from the vegan place outside the arena. The best coffee was from Shepherd’s. Apart from the music and really good provision for children there was the healing area which was very irritating, most notably the gong bath carried out in public by a couple of ceremonious mountebanks who were absolutely raking it in. The customer lies on a raised, drape-covered platform with a gong at either end which the mountebanks proceed to strike with padded sticks. The customer is ‘bathed’ in the opposing sound waves. No claims were made for that particular experience but this is a laugh. How do they get away with it?
So we came home.
But it wasn’t over. Like I said they say, nothing stops a party barge. The following day we went to the Brunel Museum which has a very good model of the tunnel shield used to create the Rotherhithe Tunnel (absolutely mammoth undertaking fraught with floods and flammable marsh gas, pioneering methods which are still used for tunnelling in soft wet ground today). Then we drank IPA across the road at the Mayflower, a superb little pub with decking over the Thames. After that we walked along the Thames Path to Greenwich. The tide was just on the turn.
We found Surrey Docks Farm* where I scratched and slapped a pig who liked it and petted a dwarf goat who really liked it and (I tend to try to pet anything that moves) a duck who didn’t. We saw a huge satanic goat rear up to reach the food a woman had foolishly placed on her head.
Then we had lunch in Greenwich (houmous and chargrilled vegetable toasty for me – surprising to say that this worked well), and went to the Royal Observatory to find out about spectroscopy, pulsars, quasars, latitude, longitude and time. This racked my brain horribly and, sad to say, ultimately defeated me. I’ll go back and try again in a while.
Today I was defeated again, this time by the Museum of the Bank of England. Of course, this is the Bank’s own museum but I think the reason it defeated me was the absence of comparative economic systems (e.g. Communism, LETTS). I wanted the case for capitalism. I could have done with more examination of the link between higher wages and inflation – what is the difference between public and private sector here? What arguments are made on either side? I could also have done with some case studies of different people’s experiences of, say, the 1970s oil crisis. I wanted more background on why Brown delegated control of interest rates to the Bank – not what the rationale was but really what caused it, what the pitfalls of sticking with government control were. I also wanted to know whether we will ever hitch to gold again. I’m not sure what it is that backs our currency now – is it the Bank’s good name and track record of never defaulting? I’d also like to know why it was a problem if a lot of gold entered the country – if it was deposited in the Bank then the Bank could decide how to turn it into growth – couldn’t it? I missed how the Monetary Policy Committee is elected and what the Exchange Rate Mechanism is. Also the ramifications of Pitt The Younger’s policy of restriction. And if there was something on the Euro I missed it. I think capitalism is hugely innovative and complex – far too promising to write off without a far better understanding than I currently have (strange that such a materialist religion 😉 as Marxism should attract so many people who know nothing about how capitalism works but are prepared to reject it out of hand as a matter of conscience) but there was nothing at all about the future, about capitalism and the environment, or about capitalism and disadvantage. The display cases were absolutely fascinating – in fact it all was. I recommend this museum – and get the audio tour and it may be a good idea to begin with the sit-down individual films at the end. All completely free and plenty of interest for children too. But you just have to keep in mind that this is the official story of the Bank of England.
After that we got food and ate it in Finsbury Circus which is just between Moorgate and Liverpool St Station, and which is essentially one big pub garden with a bowling green in the middle, soft lawns, flowers, ancient plane trees and always somewhere to sit.
Tomorrow a visit, the Getty Gallery for pictures of London over the years, and the British Library for a small exhibition on strange inventions. Then some strange cabaret thing which was kindly arranged for me when I wasn’t concentrating. Is it burlesque? I do hope not, I shall blush.
*Not sure I hold with these, but maybe they’re alright. Nature isn’t so glorious either when you’re a rabbit. At least in captivity there’s more to life than making it to mating time. I dunno.