Lots of people ask “What’s it like to live in Glastonbury?”. My afternoon stroll through town today wasn’t untypical, so I thought I’d share it in the hope it goes some way to answering the question.
Sunny Suitcase Saturday
The weather today was glorious, despite it being only the 23rd of February. The sun was shining and it was about 15 degrees Celsius. Glastonbury Town ALWAYS looks better in the sunshine, it’s somehow more ‘Glastonbury’. Perhaps it’s always been this way – it is the Summerlands after all. When I first moved here after a few years in London I was convinced that there was a different quality of light here, everything had a faint golden cast. On a cold grey day it could almost be mistaken for any small market town (albeit one with a very large proportion of shops selling witchcraft supplies). Slap on some unexpected early sunshine however and the town’s characters emerge, visitors feel a bit more relaxed and even the shopkeepers are smiling.
Town was busy, the Farmer’s Market was on, which is great if you want to chose between 27 different varieties of cheese or buy a gluten free, sugar free, dairy free chocolate brownie, which I didn’t. It’s also the last weekend of half term, so lots of parents were dragging their children around in an attempt to reacquaint them with daylight rather than the glow of the computer screen. The yearly Glastonbury Occult Conference is happening too, so there were quite a few ethereal black clad figures scurrying to and from the Town Hall looking slightly surprised to be awake in the daylight. I suspect quite a few of the more ordinary looking visitors were here for the conference too, but because they didn’t conform to my prejudices I didn’t notice them.
Confirming that Spring has sprung, I saw Geordie Gaz producing one of his beautiful chalk mandalas on the pavement outside Man Myth and Magic. I stopped for a chat and we compared head colds, Gaz pointing out that working with chalk dust was particularly unpleasant in combination with mucus filled sinuses. I sympathized but then he started to talk about chemtrails blocking out the sunshine and I remembered I had to go and see a man about a unicorn, or something, and made my excuses.
Lee was drumming outside the Crown Hotel, which is still closed but slightly less of an eyesore since the guys from Rogues Gallery painted a snow themed mural on the shutters. Hopefully it will actually reopen shortly as the mural will soon start to look unseasonal. Outside St John’s Church Torben was playing the Hang drum, which distracted the eye from the fencing that is up all around the churchyard. St John’s is having a refit so has become a building site, due to reopen early next year. It will be interesting to see if this makes the benches less of a magnet for the anti-social behaviour that plagued the centre of town last Summer. The media seemed to delight in reporting that Glastonbury suffered from street drinkers and the generally troubled, as if the same, or worse, social problems weren’t evident in every town in the UK. Unlike many other places however I don’t feel we are looking too shabby, the very high percentage of independent shops and lack of dependence on chain stores means the centre of town is colourful, vibrant, varied and, from what I can see, thriving.
Speaking of shopping, I popped into Co-op to see if there were any bargains to be had (I think they may have turned the Big Magnet back on as I keep finding myself in there again). Next stop was the Shaw Trust Charity Shop, I generally pop in on Saturdays because Alex is working in there then. Alex never fails to make me laugh. Often she does this simply by her facial expression when I am trying on clothes . She also says deliciously inappropriate things and encourages me to engage in general silliness, to be honest this is really not hard. I stood outside the shop with her while she smoked a roll-up and showed her a video of a lost vibrator on an airline luggage belt that I’d found on Facebook.
Next to us was a very large suitcase that the shop was hoping to give away, it occurred to me that the most likely customer for such a thing was someone hoping to dispose of a body. I wondered aloud if I could fit my body in the suitcase. Needless to say Alex thought this was a great plan. I got in and folded myself up as much as possible, it occurred to me that this would have been considerably easier if I’d kept up the yoga practice and hadn’t eaten quite so much cake. Alex now had the lid on the suitcase and was pushing bits of me back in while trying to do up the zip. I could hear amused, or possibly bemused remarks from passers by. I indulged in a very brief fantasy of emerging from the suitcase to find myself on a tropical island. Alex whispered through the zip that the traffic warden was coming so I shot my head out the suitcase in the hope of frightening him. This being Glastonbury the traffic warden is clearly used to middle-aged women emerging from suitcases as he paid me no attention whatsoever.
I felt that this was probably the high point of the afternoon in terms of fun, so after chatting with a few friends and popping into the Mocha Berry for a quick cappuccino I headed home to get my bicycle, then out four miles or so to Ham Wall Nature Reserve to see the Starling Murmurations, which were magnificent as usual. As dusk fell the sky was lit with a scarlet lipstick slash, so I’m hoping for a dry and sunny Sunday.
I’m not sure I’ve achieved my aim of explaining what it’s like to live in Glastonbury. Perhaps I can only tell you what it’s like for me to live here. I don’t imagine that a willingness to be persuaded into suitcases on the High Street is a prerequisite for life here, but it helps.
Text by Debbie Locke and Vicki Steward. Banner photos by Debbie Locke, photo of Green by David Greenway.
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