I first attended the Glastonbury Kate Bush fan gathering on July 30th 1989. The picture below is the one I took on that day. The meeting was in celebration of Kate’s birthday and was organised by the editors of the fanzine ‘Homeground’. Twenty years later I attended another one. This is the true story of what happened of that fateful day.
At it’s peak, over twenty million people each week tuned into George & Mildred, that late seventies fly-on-the-wall documentary about elderly people with a sense of humour.
At it’s peak, over five thousand people each week can be seen from Glastonbury Tor, living on the plains below.
You may think that is a tenuous connection, but there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that tenuous connections are just a notch away from being a pointless fact. This is the story of just one of those facts, told pointlessly…
“Are we nearly there yet?” asked Jake Gill. He was eleven and into Monster Trucks.
The car was winding its way through Wells and I paused from flicking ash out of the window and turned to him.
“No,” I said.
I flicked a little more ash out of the window.
“Riaz,” asked Emily, “What is the Tor?”. Emily was nine years old and into the colour purple. That’s the actual colour, and not the novel about slavery that was turned into a Spielberg film in the mid 1980s.
I turned my head to her. In the back sat Pami Gill, Jake and Emily. We were on our way to Glastonbury for the twenty-fifth anniversary Kate Bush fan gathering.
“You know that weird thing some people have about peanut butter sticking to the roof of their mouth?” I said to Emily.
“Well Glastonbury Tor is a beacon for UFO’s.”
Emily gave me her ‘look’. I don’t know where this particular look came from, but for a nine year old to convey such a strong message of ‘You have no idea of what you are talking about and you can’t fool me anyway’ with a simple raised eyebrow was very impressive.
“How old is it?” asked Jake.
“It was built in nineteen eighty-five, just after the miner’s strike. That makes it two years older than you.”
I never did like that coincidence. I flicked some more ash out of the window.
“Riaz,” said Paul, gripping on to the wheel like Rasputin’s lesser known younger brother, “where is all that ash coming from?”
Paul Gill was Pami’s husband. I had known them both for twenty years. Paul was an art teacher at Kingsdown school, Swindon. He enjoyed angst, despair and an abysmal film called City Of Lost Children, that I had been forced to watch once as he claimed it was the epitome of cinematic vision. I maintained that it was the epitome of cinematic shite.
“My pocket,” I said. “I think it’s from a few years ago when I slipped a pack of cards in there so fast, the friction caused them to combust.”
I had brought a few card tricks with me that I hoped would entertain people during those quiet times when there was nothing to dowse and nobody’s aura to photograph. Glastonbury was know to be full of those types. I actually met someone once who used to dowse for photographs of auras.
We turned a corner and dropped down a gentle hill. Rain obscured our vision and rolled in sweeping beaded curtains across the landscape.
“I think I see the Tor!” I said.
“It’s gone. No it’s back! Now it’s gone again. It’s back!”
“Riaz,” said Paul. “That’s the windscreen wipers.”
I shrugged. “Looked like a Tor from where I’m sitting.”
We wound around another hill and slipped through another veil of rain.
“There’s the Tor!” pointed Jake.
I looked out of the window. There in the distance, balancing a stone tower on its nipple, was Glastonbury Tor. The first time I had been here was in the month of July twenty years ago for the first meeting held for Kate Bush fans, on the spurious grounds that it was her birthday. That was a long time ago and the world had changed a lot since then – the moon landing had been proved a hoax and Derek Griffiths had came out as being omnipotent – but Glastonbury Tor remained the same.
A short while later we arrived at Glastonbury and pulled in to the first car park we found. The rain had reduced to a constant miserable drizzle which was a slight improvement over the intermittent suicidal deluge of the previous hour.
Paul glanced at the car we had parked next to.
“That’s Krys and Pete’s car,” he said. “I recognise it.”
Krystyna and Peter Fitzgerald-Morris were the editors of a long running fanzine called Homeground. It was acceptably self-indulgent and contained a mixture of informative Kate Bush articles and wishy-washy poems about ley-lines, incest and rainbows, which never sat comfortably with me.
“Look at all the rubbish in the back,” Jake said, pointing to a few lemonade bottles and copies of Homeground.
“That’s not rubbish,” I said. “That’s product placement. You know Jake, in a few years there will be no such thing as rubbish. Anything out of place will have been sponsored.”
“Like you?” said Jake.
I grimaced. “Yeah, well…”
I looked around and noticed Paul, Pami and Emily were making their way towards the high street. I hurried after them.
We passed through a small alley that emerged directly on to the high street. The church stood in front of us and despite the weather, the street was busy. Cars were chased by water sprays and people hurried to and fro. Most of the sensible ones carried umbrellas. All I had on was a bright yellow ‘Pete n’ Dud’ t-shirt and I was getting rather wet.
As we stood momentarily in the rain, a lady and her son approached us. She greeted Paul and they began chatting while I looked at her closely. She seemed vaguely familiar.
“….and then we will meet the others later V’ron,” said Paul.
V’ron? Veronica? Veronica Ongley! I remembered her now. She was at the nineteen eighty-nine meeting too and at the Sensual World album launch party at HomegroundTowers later that year. I didn’t know her that well but another person I had met back then, Anthony Ingram, was pen pals with her for a time.
“Hello Riaz, I remember you,” said Veronica. “This is my son Vince.”
“Hello Veronica. Hello Vince.”
“Let’s make our way down the high street to the café,” said Paul.
We started walking down the high street when suddenly I noticed some figures. Recognisable figures. It was Krystyna and Peter. I had not seen them for what must have been fifteen years. We had parted on less than friendly terms. It was one of those misunderstandings that had escalated into a degree of unpleasantness on all sides. I still remember my parting shot.
“I’m telling you, Elvis IS alive,” I shouted at them, running out of their house just before they could raise the drawbridge.
But now, fifteen years later, I was happy to chat to them again. As long as they didn’t bring up the Elvis incident.
I offered a hand to Peter and he turned it into a hug.
“It’s great to see you again,” said Krys as she grabbed me around my neck. The strap of her camera got caught in my ear and I hit my nose on her head.
“Good to see you too. It’s been a long time.”
We chatted for a while. In the distance, flashes of light intermittently lit up the dark sky. The wind howled against the shop windows and the sound of gunfire could be heard in the distance. Tomorrow I would visit Horsell common once more to try and discover more about the Martians but for now, most of London was asleep and the real terror was yet to begin.
We left Krys and Peter, arranging to meet up with them at the Rifleman’s Arms later on, and carried on down the street looking for a way out of the rain.
“There’s a cafe,” said Pami, pointing a few buildings down from the old Gothic Image shop. We entered Galatea just as the rain, which had begun as a persistent drizzle, was now transforming into a genesis style terra-forming downpour. The cafe was a hippy hang-out. In the corner was a Bob Dylan look-a-like who was talking to a Joni Mitchell wannabee. They were soon joined by the real Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell who remarked on their likenesses’ to the poor impersonators. I then watched all four of them leave in a big yellow taxi that sped off down Highway 61, which I had a sneaky feeling they had revisited.
As we waited an eternity to be served (the girl who took our order had a peace sign painted on her brow and her pen appeared to be a daffodil) I started to show Vince a card trick. I had already impressed Jake and Emily with it several times that weekend. I would display a deck of cards, rifling through them to prove they were all different. Then, the young gullible fool chosen to be impressed would take any card at random. That card would be placed face up on the deck. I would then rifle through the cards again, showing that the rest of the deck had miraculously changed into the card chosen.
“Doesn’t work,” said Vince, after I had rifled through a whole deck that had somehow turned into the nine of hearts. “I saw an ace of spades in there.”
I thought about this.
“No you didn’t,” I said.
“I did. And I know how it’s done,” he said.
I turned away, giving a little Woody Allen style lip curl towards Pami. I turned back to him.
“I’ve got this other trick,” I said. “Sawing a boy in half. I can only do it once though…”
I suddenly noticed this very tall lady standing near the table. I turned my head and recognised Paula straight away. She was greeting Pami and Emily and then she turned to me.
“Paula!” I smiled. “It’s great to meet you at last!”
“I’m not hugging you as you’re wet,” she said, laughing.
She ordered a drink and sat down next to myself and Pami.
Paula was one of my new friends that I had formed on Facebook. People criticise the shallowness and superficiality of social networking, but I have now met several people that I was only introduced to via Facebook just a few months ago, and all of them have become important to me in many different shallow and superficial ways.
“Are you going to have any tattoos done while you’re here?” asked Paula out of the blue. On her left arm, I noticed a beautiful tattoo of a vine. If I was drunk, I probably would have asked to follow it which would have been daft really as my head would have just been going around and around in circles.
“I love that,” I said, pointing towards the vine.
“I have a sea-horse on my back,” said Paula. “Look.”
She undid a few buttons of her blouse and pushed her top a little over, exposing her shoulder and bra strap.
I started to feel a little nervous.
“Can you see it?” she said, turning her back to me.
“Oh yes,” I said, looking at her bra. It was the back of a bra but hell, at the end of the day, a bra is a bra. I gave a Woody Allen style grunt.
“Ajja hurmm.” I said.
She then stood up, half naked, showing everyone her sea-horse. When she sat back down I stood up and began to unbuckle my jeans.
“I have this shark bite…” I began.
Shortly after, we left. Paula decided to go up the Tor, as did Paul and Jake. It was still raining and so I declined, opting for a browse around the town with Pami and Emily. A shame really as I wanted to try out a gag on everyone up there. I was going to wait for a few people to line up along the side of the Tor, admiring the scenery as they invariably did. Then I would sidle up to them, wait for a quiet moment and say “It would be a great view if it wasn’t for all the fields.”
In the warped closet of my mind, it could have been funny…
Pami, Emily and myself mooched around town for a short while. We wandered in Starchild and then a clothes shop before finding a little side street that I had not come across before. All the shops in this alley were small and narrow and would not looked out of place in a Harry Potter film. One shop we spotted was a toy shop that had the most enormous cuddly lion I had ever seen sitting in the window. We stepped inside. There were rows and rows of shelves.
“It’s wonderful isn’t it Em,” I said.
“Do you know what I see?” I asked her.
A running rabbit
a nun with a habit
a geese that was goosed
Some meece that were moosed
A sheep that was fleeced
A fleece that was shipped
A fox in a box
And a dolphin that’s flipped.
A hare in a chair
(There are two over there)
A bear with a sigh
A fly in the sky
(Not a toy, I just want to add,
But passing by, with his mum and dad)
And next to the window
By a cat in the bath
Wearing nothing but a smile
Was a baby giraffe.
…ooh! A giraffe!”
Emilys face lit up instantly she saw the giraffe. She looked at it. Touched it. Then went in for the full frontal hug.
“Can I buy him mum?”
The giraffe was £29.99. Emily had thirty pounds exactly
“You can Em,” said Pami, “but it will use up all of your money.”
“Yes. There will be little left for drugs,” I said.
She gave me the look again, a look which turned into a broad smile as she made her purchase and left the shop…
We eventually made it to The Rifleman’s Arms, the last bastion of hope for travellers, hippies and riflemen. The last time I had been here was in the early nineties. I had camped in Glastonbury for a long weekend with a friend from college and we did little but quarrel over money and argue over whether there really was life after death or was it just something we misread in The Beano that day.
As I walked in, the memories came back. They didn’t flood back like in that well-worn cliché. I felt them itch around the nook of my elbow and hop in between the furrows of my brow. Vague, distant memories that injected me with small doses of happiness.
We through the bar area and into the beer garden. Pami was in front of me and she turned a corner and was greeted by a big, warm “Hello!” I followed her up the steps and there stood Lisa Carrolan.
“Lisa!” I said after she had hugged Pami. “It’s great to meet you at last. True to her word she snuck in a kiss before the hug.
A few other Facebookers and Forumites stood around the small raised patio. Mike Wade, Steve Oliver, Steve Nobes and Mark Pittaway were there. Steve Oliver called over to me.
“I hear you’re a Tony Hancock fan,” he said, which was all the encouragement I needed to go over and chat. Mike Wade and Steve Nobes mingled around us.
With an ice cold pint of lager in my hand, I was ready for some rough talk.
“Why didnt you come up the Tor?” asked Mike.
I took a long, refreshing swig of my pint and gave him a knowing smile.
“Well, you know…” I said, thinking he would know.
He continued not knowing.
“The rain,” I said, smiling and sighing.
“Pah,” said Mike. “You let a bit of wetness stop you coming up.”
My laughter echoed o’er field and vale.
“What do you do?” asked Steve
“I work on an acute mental health ward, caring for psychotics, schizophrenics, bi-polar disorder and drug and alcohol detoxers. How about you?” I asked him. I sounded terribly pompous but like many people, I have that bad habit of trying to inflate my importance around strangers to help boost my confidence. Not the best of techniques which is why I’ve now dropped it. These days, when finding myself in the company of people I don’t know well, I just start undressing.
“I own a flower shops,” he said.
I was a little tipsy and thought he meant ‘flour’.
“What’s your speciality loaf?” I asked.
He thought for a moment, then frowned.
“Not flour. Flow-er.”
“I see,” I said. I have such a low tolerance for alcohol it is embarrassing.
“I’ve always had a great yawning for that.”
I took a sip of my pint.
“Yearning. I meant yearning. I always get them two mixed up. Yawning and yearning. Though I use them so much, it’s no wonder!”
Luckily at that point I noticed Ian Mclauchlan and was able to save myself from further inane drivellings by pointing to him and saying, “Look. Ian.”
Ian came over and shook my hand.
The last time I had seen Ian was late in 1989 when we had shared a room at Krys & Peter’s on the occasion of the Sensual World album launch party. I reminded him of that.
“That was a long time ago!” he said.
Yes, it was. But it really does seem like yesterday. Nineteen eighty-nine was the year my social circle – purely because of my love of Kate Bush at that time – increased dramatically. Although very few of the people I met back then have remained friends, all of them have planted indelible memories upon my soul and will be written about, from time to time…
I left that small group and returned to Pami who had just been joined by Paula again and I took their drinks order from them and entered the pub. I noticed Lisa by the jukebox and hovered behind her. Glancing at the track listing I was very surprised to see that they had a fair number of Kate Bush songs on offer.
“Hey Riaz! Do you want to pick one?”
Without a second thought, I pointed a drunken finger at the third song down.
“That one,” I said and carried on to the bar.
A short time later, I was sat with Pami and Paula when the first few bars of ‘December Will Be Magic Again’ drifted through the garden speakers.
I think I can speak for us all when I say that on that afternoon, a merry time was had by all. Although one Kate fan who wishes to remain anonymous said, “I wish to remain anonymous.”