Over The Hills and Far Away | Pushing the Wave

Over The Hills and Far Away

Opinion, 30 June 2023
by L.A. Davenport
The Park Stage at Glastonbury Festival 2023
The Park Stage at Glastonbury Festival 2023, waiting for Billy Nomates
It’s not the huge effort in getting there and setting up camp, nor in the crossing of hill and dale to see gigs, nor in the searching for food that gets to you at Glastonbury Festival. It’s the going home.

After a long weekend of non-stop music, fun, shared experiences and wonderful moments with friends and strangers alike, the alarm clock ringing at 4:20am to tell us it was time to cross the entire site to catch our bus home was nothing short of brutal.

I knew it was coming, and I had tried to prepare myself by winding down during the evening and being ready to hit the hay just after midnight, but four hours sleep was never going to be enough, especially after all we had seen and done. And sleeping on a bus for someone my height is never easy.

But more than that, it was the leaving of the festival, and what that means, that was the most painful.

While you are there, you, admittedly, in a bubble, far from the rest of society and its troubles. I see the aim of that and the festival at large, if it can be summarised, as being to share and grow together as human beings away, from the trappings of daily life. And that comes from all sides, via the music, the performing arts, the politics, the sense of community and equality, and the site itself.

Yes, the gigs are a focal point, but they are in a sense no more than a way in to the wider experience, which grows on you the more time you spend there. Many people arrived on Tuesday evening, so they could have a full day to acclimatise and shed their daily lives and inhibitions before the festival slowly came to life on the Thursday.

I arrived early Thursday evening and was jealous of those who had got there before me, and their extra time on the site. They were more at ease, more ready to open up and fully experience what was going on around them. But I reached that point eventually, and I saw some extraordinary performances.

Everyone knows Elton John closed the festival and gave possibly his last concert on UK soil. It was utterly unmissable and a great show (although Paul McCartney’s headline slot in 2022 will take some beating, in my opinion, for sheer musical brilliance and shared joy). And Rick Ashley was great, both on his own on the Pyramid Stage and with Blossoms doing Smiths covers.

I won’t go into details about some of the other gigs that stood out for me, but rather simply show you what I mean. In no particular order, the below are just from the The Park Stage:
Fit My Video Tag
Fit My Video Tag
Fit My Video Tag
We saw so many other fantastic concerts over the weekend, not least Hot Chip headlining Woodsies on the Friday, who blew the roof off.
As I said earlier, it’s not just the music that shines out at Glastonbury Festival, but also the humanity of people when they are there.

And I do try to carry as much of that as I can back home with me after I have watched the fields and hills of Somerset retreat behind me.

Even when I haven’t been to a festival, it is my custom in less urban areas to say hello to people as I pass.

I do it even in places where they don’t expect it; especially in places where they don’t expect it. This is particularly the case when taking narrows alleyways or stairs. As I am quite tall, I also feel it’s a good way to diffuse any sense on the part of women or older people walking alone, for example, that I might be a threat.

And more often than not, depending on where one is, my cheery salutation is met either with an equally happy response or at least a surprised half-grunt and smile. Sometimes, of course, one meets someone who, frankly, doesn’t take much notice of their fellow passengers in life, let alone seek to greet them in passing, and simply regards me with a puzzled stare as I beam at them.

But what to make of all those people who wear earbuds or headphones all the time?

I still say hello, hoping at least that the sight of me smiling and offering a greeting, even if not heard, will cut through the noise, as it were. And often it does.

But there are more extreme cases.

Today, I saw a man with big headphones on, watching a TV show on his iPhone as he passed me on the stairs near my home. He was smiling at his screen, as if he had been watching it on his sofa, then remembered he had to leave, and simply got up and left, continuing to watch his programme and staying in his little bubble.

He didn’t engage at all with his surroundings, which I think is a shame. He could have watched that episode at any time, but that walk will never be the same again.

The weather will be different: it could be raining next time. The birds may not be singing. The flowers, heavy in their late bloom and shining brightly after a good dose of rain yesterday, will never look the same again.

And I may not be there.

So I would have liked to mark the moment that we shared, even if he was lost in his own world. If I had said hello, he wouldn’t have heard me, and the visual cues from my face would have been missed because he was so focused on his screen.

Reflecting on this later, it occurred to me that I would need something bigger to catch his eye and tear him away from his episode.

I therefore propose the Hello! placard, with the greeting written in large, friendly letters.

Of course the device should be practical, so I would think two short bamboo canes either end of a piece of material would work. That way, it could be rolled into a bundle and carried like an umbrella. Better yet, slid inside a long town umbrella, like a stealth greeting, ready to be unleashed, drawn out like a sword, at any moment.

I also think that the exclamation mark is an integral part of the message, so as to convey the cheery optimism that I ordinarily try to deploy with my spoken salutations, no matter how I am feeling.

Do you think it could work? If you make one, do send me a pic.
Elsewhere, I published a recipe on here this week: Borlotti Bean and Red Lentil Soup.

I adore borlotti beans, and try to sneak them into meals whenever I can. We have dried ones, which removes any sense of spontaneity due to the need for overnight soaking, but I shall get some tins soon, so they can be at the ready, and I can make the soup, and other recipes, whenever it takes my fancy.

Aside from that, I am ticking along nicely with my follow-up to My Life as a Dog, although I do not yet have a publication date. All I can say is: Watch this space!
© L.A. Davenport 2017-2024.

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Over The Hills and Far Away | Pushing the Wave