When The Wheels Touch Ground

It is an obvious truth that none of us has ever been older than we are today. But do we always feel our age? Over recent months I’ve been ill a fair bit, and have been feeling way short of my best, but that had never made me feel old. But, last Friday, I did. The reason for that is shown in this post from my Instagram that evening:

For anyone who doesn’t know of it, Glastonbury is the biggest music festival in the UK. It began in 1970, when it was more of a hippy trip than a fully blown extravaganza, but has grown to the point where it sells out 200,000 tickets at around £200 each, within hours, and without having announced any of the acts who will be playing. I guess the punters want to be there so much that they’re happy to take the risk that over six stages and four days there will be something to make the financial investment worthwhile, not to mention the privations of living in a tent in what are usually fields of mud – though not this year, as the weather gods smiled.

In all honesty, I’ve never really been a fan of music in the open air. Call me a boring old traditionalist, but there is something about an indoor venue with good acoustics which I find unbeatable – for me, it isn’t the same when the music just wafts away into the air. The nearest I’ve ever got to a festival was the Isle of Wight in 1970 – the UK’s answer to Woodstock from the previous year. A group of us had planned to ride our motor scooters to the festival but in the end it didn’t happen. I think it was something to do with our mums finding out! In the mid 70s the local council in Harlow, where I lived at the time, ran several free concerts in the Town Park. I remember seeing Thin Lizzy there in 1975, Fairport Convention and (ahem) Mud in 1976 – we only went to see Mud as the DJ between acts was the guy who we’d had at our wedding the previous year, honest! After that, memory is a little hazier, though I think we saw the Glitter Band (without the disgraced one) and the Real Thing, amongst others – my ex-wife’s musical taste was a lot more pop-oriented than mine! There were also rumours that an up and coming band called AC/DC were going to play, but that may be apocryphal and they didn’t show up anyway. It may have been the acts we saw, but for most of the shows I found myself people watching, and as the music was far from memorable my view of open air concerts had been set in stone in the canyons of my mind (bonus points if you get that reference!)

But I digress. Back to Glastonbury last weekend. Although I’ve long felt that the festival has moved miles from its roots and is now no more than a giant moneymaker, paying the bands far less than they would get elsewhere because they know it looks good on their CV, the television coverage by the BBC has expanded too, and I usually enjoy some of what they offer. So, as usual, I tuned in last Friday. My first thought was that the presenters were awful. Firstly, there was Jo Whiley, who was wearing a dress made out of those silver wraps they give marathon runners after a race, set off by a pair of off-white baseball boots and black ankle socks. She’s only 51 after all, so maybe she hasn’t fully developed dress sense yet. And I found her giggly school kid act too much to bear. With her was a guy who looked like the love child of Julianne Moore and Mick Hucknall – to my eyes he was a bearded hipster twat. I couldn’t find a sick bag, but was relieved when they actually stopped gushing and telling us how ‘awesome’ everyone was (how I hate that word!) and played some music. Firstly, Kris Kristoffersen, whose songs I’ve enjoyed for many years. Sadly, he was showing every one of his 81 years, and looked and sounded awful. I tried their other channel, which was showing the band Elbow. To be fair, I’ve never understood their popularity, and this performance did nothing to change that: feeble vocals, over tuneless dirges which all sounded the same and dragged interminably. But Jo and the Bearded Twat told me that Elbow were, you guessed it, awesome – so I began thinking that maybe it was me. It was at that point that I took to Instagram. Maybe you can see how I felt, and there were still two days of potential disappointment to come!

I know, I can hear you saying it was my choice to watch and I could have switched over, but the event promised so much and there is that feeling of not wanting to miss out on the good bits. So, like a hapless victim, I tuned in again on Saturday. I saw some of the sets by the Kaiser Chiefs – always fun – and Katy Perry – one of those pop acts that I think shouldn’t be there. Not really my cup of tea, and not a patch on Lady Gaga when she played there some years ago – she really does know how to put on a show wearing silly clothes! For me, the main attraction was always going to be the Saturday headliners: the Foo Fighters. They aren’t to everyone’s taste, and you need to switch off the swearometer when Dave Grohl speaks, but boy do they put on a show! Two hours twenty minutes flew by in a flash, and suddenly all was right in my Glastonbury world again. Sunday was a bit of a let down, though – Barry Gibb was passable, the Killers a little off par, and as for the headline act – Ed Sheeran – sorry, but I just found him incredibly tedious.

I’ve looked at the BBC’s website to catch up on acts I missed, but there was nothing that really took my fancy. So, that looks like that for another year – well, two actually, as 2018 is one of their ‘fallow’ years when they give the Worthy Farm cows a chance to recover from their deafness. But at least I have the memories of Saturday night. They even played this one, which they don’t always do, and as it is my favourite of theirs that was a real bonus:

As the man says, ‘when the wheels touch ground’ you’re ready for another round in life. And as I’ve often said that music possesses restorative powers, I’m happy to confirm that I’m not feeling quite so old any more 😊

Reblog with update: Orlando – A View From Britain

I hadn’t planned on re-blogging any more previous posts at present, but I have just had a reminder about this one, from a year ago today. Whilst this was written as a response to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, it carries a wider message.

Sadly, that message is no less relevant today. Yesterday in the US saw the widely publicised shooting of Republican politician Steve Scalise and several others while they were playing baseball. It also saw the less widely publicised killing of three UPS workers in San Francisco by a colleague, who then committed suicide. This morning, I saw this on the Vox Facebook page:

‘In December 2012, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children, six adults, and himself. Since then, there have been at least 1,399 mass shootings, with at least 1,564 people killed and 5,515 wounded.’

These statistics are horrific, especially as a change in the law could help to reduce them. Here in the UK we have recently had the suicide bombing in Manchester, and two terrorist attacks by fanatical murderers armed with vehicles and knives. The loss of life and injuries caused by these outrages is awful, but I can’t help but think that, had the perpetrators had the easy access to guns that they would have enjoyed in the States, the death tolls would have been much higher. Yet the US President took to Twitter to criticise the Mayor of London for his response to the events, using his usual technique of a very selective grasping of the wrong end of the stick. He then went on to mock us for our gun laws. You really still don’t get it, America, do you? Evil will, I fear, always exist in our world. But making it harder for those people to access weapons of mass murder seems to me to be a no brainer. But, somehow, I think this message falls on deaf ears amongst those in a position to do something about it. That, to a non-American, is shameful.

Take It Easy

What happened in Pulse bar in Orlando on Saturday night was shocking, horrific, and utterly terrifying for anyone caught up in it. I can only write about it on the basis of the information I have been given by the British media, which may or may not be correct, but this information has got me thinking.

My heart goes out to the victims and their families. I cannot begin to comprehend the horror of being involved in such an atrocity. From a European perspective the obvious initial reaction was that as the murderer was called Omar Mateen this was likely to be another one-man terrorism act. Stereotypes, huh? We learned that shortly before he went out to kill people he had made some phone calls claiming allegiance to Islamic State. That just added to the image. But in the past few days it has emerged that he had also claimed…

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