Monday, 8 December 2008


Today we rose with the cockerel-or we would have done if we lived out in the country. As it is we live within a hundred yards of the sea so we rose with the seagulls. Those of you with romantic notions of living by the sea probably do not take the seagulls into consideration. Believe us, they are a pain in the arse, especially when they are waking you up in the morning. Dont believe us ? OK, look up a list of "songbirds", you will not find seagull on it; we rest our case. Their squawks can only be likened to the sound of the Bee Gees trying to sing with serious throat infections. But today the seagulls were forgiven, we wanted to wake up with them to make the most of the short winter daylight hours. Today we were on a mission : like so many millions before us we were heading towards Glastonbury as seekers. We felt the pull of the ancient Isle of Avalon Unlike the vast majoritory of those millions, however, we went in search of cheese.

Cheese ? OK, let's be honest here, the cheese was really just the flimsy excuse that we were using for a day out in Glastonbury. A mate had asked us if we were intending to go up that way at all in the near future and, if so, could we go to a farm and pick up a box of cheese that he'd ordered. He has a restaurant, a posh restaurant, and this was posh cheese y'see. We had a scrap of paper with directions on it of the "follow the old lane until you find a farm, go into the farmyard and in an outhouse you will find a box of cheese" variety, which, though vague, was a lot more precise than most seekers get when they head towards Glastonbury.In actual fact most people find Glastonbury by mistake: it is what they find at a time in their lives when they are , in reality, looking for themselves. Such is the power of this wonderful place that they then stay, or keep returning, hoping to find "an answer", some walk away disappointed, not realising that the secret of Glastonbury is that if you ask it nothing it will give you everything.

So, today, we went to get a good dose of everything and Petes' cheese. Being the sort of folk who definately do not view gluttony as a sin, the timing of the journey fits around a breakfast involving the frying pan before we start and Burns the Bread when we arrive. For those who do not know, Burns the Bread is a small bakers shop in Glastonbury high street which is the tastiest downfall of weight watchers clubs in the land. Even if you are not a seeker of the truth you now have a reason to go to Glastonbury. Once you have tasted the fare you could be quite forgiven for thinking that the town has nothing else to offer: you would be quite wrong but, if you need to, go back into the bakers and buy something else to munch on while you ponder. We do and we don't need to ponder.

Now, this might sound ridiculous but it is a fact: if a person, male or female, decided to walk down Glastonbury high street wearing flippers, a kilt, a boob tube and a busby nobody would take a blind bit of notice. On the other hand, nobody is expected to dress in such an outlandish fashion. Basically, it is a place where everybody fits in, there is no "norm"which makes it an incredibally relaxed place to be. During the first half hour that we were there we had a good chat with a druid, became on nodding terms with the local vicar (who seemed to have no objection to us munching our pasties in the church porch) and watched the hare krishnas chanting and dinging their way up and down the town.

From the town we set off in search of Pete's cheese-in a muddy farmyard far from the madding crowd. Once located it proved to be an idyllic setting. Idyllic, that is, to those of us who accept that farms smell of cow shit (rather than those whose knowledge of them has been gleaned from pictures on biscuit tins) Pete's cheese, it turned out, weighed half a ton (an exaggeration-it was heavy) but we managed to get it into the boot of the car without the aid of a crane and drove very slowly back through the farmyard. The speed was nothing to do with the mud, it was so we could admire the bull in its pen and the tiny calves in their byre. There were also some cows there , but cows are two-a-penny so we didn't bother with them. The next stop would be the Tor.

Glastonbury Tor. This is another place that folk dont seem to associate with mud and cow shit-preferring to concentrate solely on it's more spiritual connotations. Today the cows that usually graze on it were not to be seen and the mud was mostly dry and easily negotiable. At any given time here you will meet people from all walks of life and all ages, yet all of them agree on two things: it is a bloody steep hill and it is worth the climb. The first is obvious from the pained and puffed out greetings that are exchanged with total strangers engaged in the same arduous climb. Short greetings that somehow manage to convey sympathy, encouragment and solidarity in the struggle all in the briefest of glances. Once at the top it is a different story: the friendliness between strangers is still there but, for the most part, folk get lost in a world of their own.

Today, our world of our own is the view over the surrounding countryside. It is both breathtaking and inspirational. Due to the recent prolonged wet weather many of the surrounding fields, over a distance of four or five miles, have areas of slight flooding. Even with this minor display it is possible to imagine what it would have looked like before the sea defences some miles away were built. At that time the Tor would, on occasions, be totally surrounded by flood water making it an island, The Isle of Glass; on calm days such as this we would have stood here in those far off times and the land around us would have appeared as a huge sheet of glass. Today we can see it as clearly as if it was there in front of us. Moments like this are what brings us back to Glastonbury time and time again.

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