Not Even Normal for Glastonbury High Street

Here’s a guest post from one of Glastonbury’s finest folk singer-songwriters, I recommend you check out her website at www.doradarlingswann.com. Dora writes a fantastic blog on her website about life as a travelling musician, but we felt this piece was better for Normal For Glastonbury, particularly since it brings up the subject of annoying behaviour in our High Street.

“I walked down the alleyway next to St John’s Church onto Glastonbury High Street one sunny afternoon. You never know what you will find in this crazy town and today was certainly no exception. I was aiming for the Co-op and as I walked onto the High Street I paused to look at the scene before me. First I noticed the police van and two police cars, and then the pogo-ing man, his arms bound to his sides, wrapped in a pink blanket, making a most valiant and drunken attempt for freedom as he was being bundled by four or five police persons along the road towards the van. My first instinct, probably along with most of the other people watching was to be a witness, to watch and make sure that the police handled him with care.

At that moment I was approached by a man with a bright orange beard wielding a large packet of crisps, he thrust them in my direction saying that the poor bundled man’s only crime was sleeping on the pavement, I, being rather gullible at times, felt for the poor man and answered as such. The orange bearded man went on to talk about how it was better not to resist arrest, you might as well go quietly, that way you’d be out quicker and probably be less sore in the morning. He kept offering me crisps, which I kept refusing, he even told me they were good for you. When I refused, saying I was fine, he came out with the obligatory “I wasn’t asking how you were” which seems to be commonplace in this town. His crisp offering became increasingly aggressive. Aggressive crisp offering is a new and quite frankly unwanted experience for me, and I cannot really say it’s ‘normal for Glastonbury’!

A completely normal day in Glastonbury High Street, featuring a giant chicken.
A completely normal day in Glastonbury High Street, featuring a giant chicken.

I decided it was probably safer on the other side of the road, with the police cars. As the pogoing man was almost safely bundled in the van, I relinquished my responsibility for his welfare and aimed once more for the Co-op. Two shop assistants stood either side of the door, I asked if I could come in, they said “Of course” then the young man jokingly asked for a password. I suggested “drunken sleeping on pavements gets you arrested” to which he laughed and proceeded to tell me the story from his perspective.

The poor innocent pavement sleeper had in fact been very much awake on his arrival in the Co-op. He had been very drunk and trying to steal some pasties, apparently, they had tried to bar him a few days before when he tried to steal three bottles of cider. The young man went on to tell me that his boss, who is also his mum, had challenged said drunken pavement dude and he had tried several times to punch her, which to me seems like a good reason to call the police.

The shop assistants were all very jovial about it, after all putting up with drunken antics is most probably a daily hazard in that shop. I expect the Glastonbury Co-op even has a risk assessment and training specifically to deal with exactly that. The whole thing came as no surprise to me, having been in that shop on numerous occasions when that kind of thing has occurred. I take my hat off to the people who work there, they are all so amiable in my experience, handling the drunks with kindness, consideration and good humour that might not be expected in any other town in England.

I went out of the shop and sat down on a bench to eat my non-crispy goat cheese snack, hoping that the crisp-pusher across the road would not notice me and come to challenge my choice of snack.

I considered the crisp-pusher’s comments about how the drunken man’s only crime had been sleeping on the pavement. I put the two accounts together, concluding that after his abortive attempts to steal and then punch the shop assistant, he must have left the Co-op and in his stupor decided either that he was tired and would have a quick kip, or that the police would not suspect a sleeping man. Had the crisp-pusher only witnessed the arrival of the police and the waking of said drunken and now sleeping man one could see how he might have viewed the situation.

The police had gone by now and peace reigned once more on Glastonbury High Street. Behind me on the pavement sat a group of men drinking, I couldn’t help overhearing their discussion and it made me laugh so much. None of them was speaking in defence of the pogo-ing pavement guy, they were talking about how difficult it is to get arrested in Glastonbury compared to pretty much everywhere else! The majority of the group agreed that you actually had to work very hard with your drunken behaviour to annoy the police and residents enough to actually be arrested. One man announced, in a somewhat boastful way, that he gets arrested all the time, and the others all pointed out rather noisily that he hadn’t actually been in Glastonbury on any of those occasions.

When I had finished my snack I wandered off thinking how this would never happen in any other town!”

Thank you Dora for that entertaining and revealing piece, for more of her writing, and her music check out www.doradarlingswann.com. In a later post I hope to share my musings on the situation in our High Street. Meanwhile, what are your thoughts? Please comment below or on the Normal For Glastonbury Facebook Page. The photo illustrating this piece is one of mine and is of people doing interesting things on the benches, rather than being annoying or arrested.

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Would you like to commission me to write an article about what you do or write a guest post yourself, for Normal For Glastonbury? You’d be reaching thousands of readers who love the Town. Please click here for more information. This guest post is by Dora Darling Swann. Photos copyright Vicki Steward.

2 thoughts on “Not Even Normal for Glastonbury High Street

  1. Back in February, whilst launched on our most recent attempt to shake off the grey embrace of High Wycombe and move down to Glastonbury (it’s still work in progress, largely due to the lugubrious processes of the law), Fran and I noticed a sleeping-bag on the ground in a back alley as we trooped around looking at small properties. It set us to musing as to how many people might be sleeping rough in the town itself, even in winter; and thus how many more may be here in warmer weather and also sleeping on the Tor and Chalice Hill. As a Mecca for alternative culture and consequently well known for its (sometimes hard-won) tolerance – two of the reasons we love the place – it’s perhaps inevitable that many will be attracted here, both the disparate and the desperate, but it’s a difficult one, isn’t it? Our own personal reaction to finding someone sleeping rough outside our gate one morning would be to make them a cuppa and perhaps a sandwich and wish them luck. But what if the word got round that “those people there are friendly and will be nice to you” – would the ground outside our door soon be littered by hopeful dossers? We have no money to spare and – currently – no income for ourselves either, but being a couple of old hippies ourselves we’d feel constrained to help if we could; but where might it end? I well remember encounters back in the 1980’s with members of the Convoy and feeling a little intimidated by their (at least what I took to be) scorn for my nice twee hippiedom; but even today I’d still hate to feel that I’d become the “new establishment, man” and find myself resurrecting the old Glastonbury pub-window signs, with “No Crusties” replacing “No Hippies” … When it’s often impossible to even find the rent for a little place, never mind actually buying somewhere, and dramatic cuts to social services (and police forces) nationwide biting hard, I can’t see a resolution in sight but nor do I think there’s much taste for revolution either. We do seem to be cursed with living though “interesting times” … and I won’t even start on Brexit. Yours hopefully as always, David.

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