The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Monday, 13 September 2010

Across-the-Counter Culture

We went to Glasto this weekend. I can't tell you how young that sentence made me feel, when I started typing it. Dig the abbreviation, check out the cool location. But then I think how it felt actually to be there and I've come away (briefly, I hope!) feeling old, old, OLD. Past it, redundant and defunct old. Jaded, weary and cynical old. Even puritanical, judgmental and prejudiced old.

Of course, like everyone else in the UK I believe myself to be none of these things. It matters to my entrenched sense of fair play that I aim at all times to be the exact opposite, so I make efforts to be engaged with the world and useful to my fellow man, and generally feel valued and loved in return. Enthusiastic, lively and optimistic. Broad-minded, accepting and tolerant. Mostly. Anywhere except Glastonbury I am all those things a great deal of the time. But Glastonbury just overdoes it and gets my giddy goat. In Glastonbury it all gets more than silly, until it's just not funny any more. The hippies took on the honest burghers and shopkeepers of this small Somerset town many decades ago, the hippies won, and the burghers have seemingly all moved to cathedral closes in Wells or further afield. Leaving the town in a time-warp of tie-dye.

Saturday afternoon we sauntered up and down the length of the High Street taking in the ambience. The upper parts of the buildings are elegant, historic, charmingly varied examples of vernacular architecture spanning easily five centuries. But the lowest storeys are wedged tightly in the sliver of time between 1968 and the birth of punk. Ninety percent of the shops are "head" shops, selling crystals, buddhas, incense, alternative remedies, hippy clothing and tarot tat. I looked in vain for a butcher and a non-organic greengrocers. I supposed the less right-on population must shop in the supermarket.

I have since been assured by Our Host that there is a butcher at the bottom of the High Street. The Husband had even mentioned on the drive back up the M4 that he'd seen it. I must have been temporarily blinded by the oscillating frequencies of all those effing crystals. I was starting to think a vegetarian action group had forced the poor meat-eaters underground to do deals in pubs and clubs - Hey man! Wanna score some mince? Or if you are in for something more hard-core, I have a weight of chops...

Our Host today sent me a link to the exact spot on Google Map Sreetview where otherwise reliable people claimed to have seen this butchers.

I replied to him thus; I'm sorry, I am being intensely dense, but even after two 360 degree revolves, I can see no butchers, or at least no jaunty striped awning above a shop window groaning with trays of dead flesh hedged with artificial parsley, which is what I understand a butchers to look like.

He then sent me a link to a photo from a slighly different angle and there it was. Rather small, shy and retiring even, and previously hidden behind a stone Gothic monument on Google map - a butchers. One wonders for how long.

I suppose if I hadn't done the 70s first time round in my teens - even going away to college exactly in the middle of the decade in 1975 - I'd have been pulled by curiosity to cross the threshold of some of the shops. Admired the exotic imports, marvelled at the curious embellishments on the clothing, breathed in the patchouli and been excited it wasn't the ubiquitous great smell of Brut. But I couldn't find my young self again there. Not there, not now. She is in old B&W photos wearing an Afghan and clogs, with a tragi-comic poodle perm and a faintly blissed out expression from the night before. Now she is five years off retirement, favours Waitrose and hankers after a classic car.

Ghastly isn't it? The dead hand of conformity. But have I conformed? Or did the hippies of Glasto conform with each other to the point of ossification, so locked into the dreary repetitive hedonism, the look, language and attitudes of forty years ago, whilst all around in the rest of the UK we took the best of the hippy rebellion (relaxed and loosened the laws on human sexual relationships, widened our cuisine and cultural horizons, accepted the simple fact of homosexuality as a facet of humanity and removed a lot of pressures on young people to be exact copies of their parents) and moved along with the passing decades. We evolved. Didn't we?

I am rather afraid that the Glasto "hippies" are actually no such thing, not at all, but rather cynical exploiters of our interest in recent popular cultural history, SELLING the sensation, bottling the product, pushing the past? When did real hippies start earning enough to take over an entire town, getting up of a morning and keeping shop hours, for heaven's sake?

Please don't take my desertion of your frozen-in-time horizontal dude ethos too personally, Glasto. I can't cope with Camden Market either.


  1. Brilliant. You had me roaring with laughter at my PC, which would have been fine were I not in the office today (whilst colleagues around me discuss the severe flooding in Pakistan). Ooops!

    Keep them coming. They brighten up my day xxxx

  2. Hit the spot - they are not hippies at all, just middle aged folks in funny clothes!