What I thought of HyperNormalisation

HyperNormalisation is the new film by documentary film-maker Adam Curtis. It is the story of the last 40 years and how politics have failed to deal with the modern world, both real and cyber, and how the left have capitulated against the swarm that is capitalism and neo-liberalism. It also about how science fiction has shaped the 21st century as ideas from American and Soviet science fiction have been adopted by major world powers to ensure people are constantly confused and unable to present an attack against right wing politics or present a workable alternative.

It sounds extraordinarily dense. In places it is, but this is probably Curtis’s most straightforward work in some time as there’s a clear line of narrative from the death of politics as we think it still to be (big ideas, politicians with big, brave ideas changing things for the better even against public opinion) to where we are now with politicians acting as managers as banks and corporations actually run things in a system of free market economics. So Curtis plots a path from the broken New York of the the 1970’s, explaining how Donald Trump took advantage of the city’s bankruptcy, through to Patti Smith, Lybia and Syria, while skimming 911, the War on Terror, Tony Blair, the failure of the Occupy movement, Brexit and back to Trump running for president today.

But there’s two bits of SF that are crucial to this. One is the works of William Gibson, the writer of books like Neuromancer and creator of the term cyberspace.The other is a work of Soviet SF called Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky which was later filmed as Stalker. In both the book (which I’ve not read) and the film (which is excellent) there are ”Zones’, sites where reality is always shifting and where people known as ‘Stalkers’ can flit between our world and the Zones. The Stalker in the story was a once idealistic man who lost his faith in the system which has seen him move between the world we know and the world of the Zones where reality is fluid.

The ideas in Roadside Picnic/Stalker were adapted by the government of Vladimir Putin to be used in politics, so Curtis reveals how Putin would fund pro and anti government groups as well as things like anti-Nazi and neo-Nazi groups which meant nobody in Russia knows who is really who, or where the truth is as everything is fluid. Reality is always changing. The left wing/liberal radicals of the 1970’s and 80’s rather than take this on either walked away into Cyberspace or were the roots of the Occupy movement who singularly failed to achieve anything important as by now most people were living in echo chambers as their lives were controlled by algorithms on social media.

The entire thesis of HyperNormalisation is utterly terrifying. Politics has failed, so Prime Ministers and Presidents are now just managers, opposition parties are helping manage expectations and any real radical ideas are doomed to fail when they fall into echo chambers created by the very tools which helped them grow in the first place. Meanwhile the forces of neoliberalism are in control but that things like Brexit and Trump are supposed revolts against the system that’s grown up over the last 40 years but aren’t. Politicians can lie, so take say Boris Johnson. Nothing he says is real. We have no idea what his real position is on anything but he’s created enough confusion to help him achieve his goals yet what exactly are his goals? See also Trump or Farage or any number of politicians who simply cannot be trusted.

Truth is therefore not relevant anymore. We live in a Zone where reality is always shifting, always bending yet the radicals, the liberals and the left can’t fight it because they’re lost in the internet being exposed to only those views that agree with there own so any resistance is futile. We have essentially been assimilated by the Borg.

The world is a big complex thing. Big ideas are complex. Take leaving the EU, that is amazingly complex, but that was reduced to a lie on the side of a bus.

brexitlie

Yet algorithms can’t judge for the utterly unexpected as this clip from the film shows.

Brexit wasn’t supposed to happen. It did. Now we’re seeing people who spent months arguing against it cross into the Zone to support it. We have Theresa May who is going for the hardest Brexit possible yet she was supposed to be in favour of staying. The post-truth world means for one to succeed they have to shed all principles and be open to be assimilated by the new reality. The rest of us arguing against these people struggle because we cling onto principles and ideas while inhabiting echo chambers in our safe spaces meaning we can never know how the other side thinks. All truth is lies. All lies are truth.

We are all trapped in management theory, which is essentially being trapped into a meaningless system we all know is false, meaningless and leads to nothing but we stick to it because it gives us money to do our real job which is to spend that money to keep the economy running, and therefore the entire system working. Supposed radicals rather than imagine a new system, or propose new ideas have become part of that system as much as say, Donald Trump. Yet the veneer of difference; the tattoos, beards, craft beers, Great British Bake Off, is creating a twee playground for people who in past generations would be radicals have retreated into a safe world of hashtags.

Curtis’s vision is grim. It is also massive. I’m only really touching on part of what’s discussed, but for me personally the idea that a Soviet piece of science fiction may well be the thing that shaped the modern world is amazing to think of. What however isn’t taken account of is what’s unleashed by those random events nobody can predict, so Brexit and the increasingly far right politics coming out of it, or Trump’s increasingly unhinged rhetoric in the US. The system is massive and finely tuned, yet it isn’t left wing radicals that’s broken it, it’s the right that’s destroyed it because make no mistake, the system for the UK is now broken and we’re not going to leave til 2019 at least.

HyperNormalisation is a challenging work that’s apart from being Curtis’s most linear work, is also his most accessible in some time. This is a film telling the story of the last 40 years up to a point where things are on the verge of either being sheered up for generations to come, or for the system to collapse in a way that is going to unleash hell for those of us at the eye of the storm. It’s available on iPlayer but I do wish this was on terrestrial TV as it deserves a mainstream audience which helps prove a point that society and culture is retreating into echo chambers and any challenging views are sidelined. It’s nearly three hours of your life. It isn’t a wasted three hours, and in fact probably deserves at least another viewing to take it all in as there’s going to be things I’ve missed, but this is the most important bit of television you’re likely to see this year.

Advertisements

It’s been 15 years since 911

I woke up today, turned on the news which informed me today is the 15th anniversary of 911 which is extraordinary. It still feels only a few years ago, not a decade and a half, which means there’s people walking this planet approaching adulthood who’ve never known anything else in life but the post-911 world and the hysteria, fear, terror and instability it brought us.

I’ve outlined before what I was doing that day but as time moves on the stories of the day never fail to shock or move, and for this blog that means going over the story of the Falling Man, which is this picture.

fallingmanricharddrew

Taken by photographer Richard Drew the image captured one of the many people who decided to end their own lives by jumping from the Twin Towers rather than face the fires. There’s a new article detailing the story of the picture by Tom Jurnod in Esquire which is worth a read, however the image is still one of the most horrific as we know this is someone heading towards their death. but Jurnod’s excellent piece includes this horrible paragraph.

The two most reputable estimates of the number of people who jumped to their deaths were prepared by The New York Times and USA Today. They differed dramatically. The Times, admittedly conservative, decided to count only what its reporters actually saw in the footage they collected, and it arrived at a figure of fifty. USA Today, whose editors used eyewitness accounts and forensic evidence in addition to what they found on video, came to the conclusion that at least two hundred people died by jumping—a count that the newspaper said authorities did not dispute. Both are intolerable estimates of human loss, but if the number provided by USA Today is accurate, then between 7 and 8 percent of those who died in New York City on September 11, 2001, died by jumping out of the buildings; it means that if we consider only the North Tower, where the vast majority of jumpers came from, the ratio is more like one in six.

People have gotten used to the horror of that to the point of complacency. In fact there were allegations of that as the event was still raw thanks to this image published on the fifth anniversary.

911hoepker

The story behind photographer Thomas Hoepker’s image can be found here (a wee warning, there’s also a picture of body parts so be aware there’s a gruesome image awaiting you there) but from the off people were trying to detach from the events of 911. Yet The Falling Man forces you to face the reality of the day as many have said, it is easy enough to look at images of 911 and consider it something akin to a film but the images of people falling to their deaths take you out of this enforced detachment.

It’s also telling how quickly 911 imagery became part of popular culture. Take 2008’s Cloverfield where scenes of devastation in New York had a very 911 feel about them.

I won’t say if Jurnod reveals the identity of the Falling Man, that isn’t actually the point. The point is that whitewashing the images of that day does the dead a disservice and weakens the impact of the day not for the sensationalist aspects of it, but because ultimately thousands lost their lives in an attack that reshaped the world. Wars have been started which look to be endless, new horrors spring up daily, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, are dead thanks to the events of 911 yet the day itself needs to be remember for those who died.

Whitewashing the horrors of 911 make it easy to blur over everything else that’s happened in the 15 years since. If we can confront the events of that day then we can it’s effects and maybe, one day, we might realise that nothing good on any side has come out of it and actually work for a better world.

9/11 and conspiracies

Today is September the 11th, which means for an awful lot of people there’s an awful lot of mourning to do, or there’s people hiding behind the attacks to use ‘patriotism’ to further their cause and of course, it’s the day when conspiracy theorists come crawling out the woodwork to reveal how watching some 15 year old’s vlog on Youtube shows how it was an inside job, and that Bush and Blair were reptilian morphing aliens intent on creating a New World Order.

The problem is that most conspiracy theories focus on one incident, or something that can be endlessly dissected til in effect, it’s proof of a larger conspiracy by virtue of the smaller incident being ‘proved’ .

So for example, take this picture.

field2

 

It’s an Oasis bottle in a lump of grass. Looking at this picture you’re going to think it’s on the side of a motorway, or that it’s somewhere in an inner city or anything to ‘prove’ what you think when you see the picture for the first time. You might not be an expert in discarded drinks bottles, or grass but you’ve looked at it and it backs your opinion.

 

 

 

You don’t especially notice the bigger picture until you pan back.

 

 

field1

The bigger picture is irrelevant though because before you’ve informed yourself of it you’ve made your mind up based upon whatever limited information you have, not to mention what limited experience in fields which often taken the sort of scientific understanding that laymen can’t pick up quickly.

So you get a mix of confirmation bias, ignorance, misinformation or just enough science to make it seem sensible, but ask yourself how many of these theories have been peer reviewed by actual experts with years, if not decades in a field? How many stand up to more than two minutes of actual scrutiny?

As pointed out in this excellent Scientific American article, the word ‘theory’ in  this context does not mean the same thing as a scientific theory.

a conspiracy theory is not, of course, a theory in the scientific sense of the word. In science, a theory is an explanation of a phenomenon that has been substantiated through experiments and testing and has become accepted by most experts in the relevant field—the theory of relativity, say, or the theory of evolution. Conspiracy theorists propose, without having collected rigorous data to support their case, that powerful people or groups are secretly plotting to accomplish some sinister goal.

 

Of course these stories help ties up world events in a nice, cost knot and simplifies real world events in a way that creates an easy to grasp, even an exciting narrative. It’s always about finding the smoking gun, or some new bit of information as to who was on the Grassy Knoll that day nearly 50 years ago, or what type of knife Jack the Ripper used to carve up Mary Kelly and on and on.

This isn’t to say secret things happen that bleed into the open. They do, but things like the various conspiracies around 9/11 trivialise the loss of life, and some genuinely insult any decent person to the point of anger, but the fact is that 19 people flew planes into buildings which caused over 3000 people to die. No aliens. No government plots to fly holographic photon torpedoes into buildings. No hiding of victims in an island paradise. Just 19 people who had this one astonishing plan which worked for a variety of reasons, including the incompetence of an American government but not their complicity.

Thing is what’s a greater horror? That of a massive international conspiracy involving tens of thousands or 19 people with box cutters flying planes full of terrified innocent people into buildings? The former involves this building of a mythology to make sense of it, while the latter, the truth, is simply so fucking scary it beggars belief but thinking the former is true comforts some people while giving them an escape route from reality which is depressingly scary in it’s own right.

The world is often an amazingly complicated place, so that when we don’t understand it we often endeavour to simplify it in order to avoid asking questions which often don’t have an answer, or avoid the grim reality of what actually happened because fantasy is easier to explain than reality.

The weird day that was 9/11

It’s coming up to that time of year where everyone starts talking about ‘what were you doing on November the 9th?’.

I’ll credit Stewart Lee with that joke…

Anyhow, it’s nearly September the 11th, or 9/11 for most people, which means that the largest media event in the history of the planet happened in front of millions upon millions sets of eyes, and this is the story of how they unfolded in front of my eyes in particular.

It was a Tuesday and I was off work with flu/stress so I was a messy lump. This wasn’t helped by the fact that although I was kind of on good terms again with my then girlfriend after going to the Reading Festival a few weeks earlier, we were a wee bit frosty. That morning I was up early as she went out for a double shift which meant she wouldn’t be home til the next day as she had to sleep over at the care home she was working at, so I was up early and after a trip to the shops I settled in front of the telly for a day of recovery and doing nothing.

To help myself chill I decided to watch The Matrix again, so I settled into the comfy chair early on what was an amazingly warm and nice sunny day and watched Keanu Reeves shoot people and hit them with his fists for a few hours. After dipping myself into the violent conspiracy filled world of Reeves and company I went to make myself a bacon sandwich when this happened as Neighbours was just finishing…

I didn’t know what exactly I was watching as it felt unreal, and as you can see from the clip, the reporters are in a state of disarray themselves. What was unfolding was astonishing to watch, especially if you’re on medication for the flu and you’ve just watched The Matrix. It quickly became obvious that this was indeed very real and that thousands were probably dead .

I spent the next few hours sitting in front of our little TV flicking between the BBC and ITV who had both abandoned their normal programming to run continuous coverage of the events. Also, as this was the 21st Century I was able to follow developments online though in those days of a dial-up connection that was often slow, and of course, sites were crashing left right and centre but thankfully the internet keeps almost everything, and sites like this help show what webpages were like on the day..

The BBC site kept crashing but it was up in a basic form for most of the day while other sites crashed instantly, or were so slow that they weren’t worth looking at. All the while on the telly the images were unfolding in grim detail and then the rumours and conspiracies started-was a plane going to crash into London? Was the Whitehouse going to be hit? The lack of firm facts meant there was a vacuum which was being filled by speculation by most people. This meant people got scared quickly and this became apparent when I realised that one source of information were internet forums so i went to one comedy forum I used a lot at the time to read what was being written by various posters.  Most it was speculation, some was panic, a lot was ranting insane rubbish. In the midst of it all a picture was starting to form and by the night it was clear a massive atrocity had happened but unlike 99% of atrocities we saw it happen, unedited, in front of our eyes.

I was glued to the PC and the TV til gone midnight and beyond. Eventually I went to bed to be woken up the next day by a call from my girlfriend who was worried, so we had a chat and she said she had to cover another night so I spent another day off work sick glued to the TV watching things happen which nobody knew were events which ended up changing everything for the world.

It was an odd couple of days that every now and then I think about, and although I find the conspiracy theories that litter 911 on the whole to be ludicrous, I do find looking at the raw footage from various channels to be utterly compelling. The CNN coverage for example  is amazing to watch.

Some of the raw footage is painful to watch, especially when there’s a musak version of How Deep is Your Love? playing in the background. Be warned, this is the sort of raw footage that rarely makes it into news programmes anymore.

The more you get into watching these clips, the more you realise how filmmakers must have done the same in a massive scale to make modern Found Footage films like Cloverfield. Here’s an example of what I mean.

Here’s another example and if you look around the 20 minute mark or so you can see the wake of the boat in the previous video.

It’s astonishing that when you look back you realise how this one day changed politics, media, culture and the way things are done so effectively because these images are carved into the brains of anyone to have seen them. The problem lies in how they’ve been interpreted, so for some it’s a conspiracy by THEM to bring down the world, for others it’s a senseless act of terrorism for others it’s the excuse for war they’d always been looking for and so on..

It’s a Rorschach blot, but looking at the raw footage without scary music, or self-important commentary that gives a sense of the reality and impact of the day, so there’s one last clip left I’d like to share that is simply utterly terrifying as you can see the horror build up slower than you normally see when the clips of the second plane hitting are shown. It’s a clip that you need to watch.

Wide Open Spaces-The tale of Glastonbury 2002

Last time round I’d hit the year 2000 in my series of Glastonbury blogs, and I’d left the festival looking forward with some trepidation to my new life in Bristol with my girlfriend Tash. The festival itself was taking a year off in 2001 to regroup and plan ahead after the vast overcrowding of 2000 which meant the future of the festival itself was under threat as the council refused to give it a license unless it did something, and the police advised they wouldn’t be able to deal with another year like 2000 where an estimated 300,000 (possibly more) people were onsite. I’d actually say there were near half a million people onsite, so they’re wasn’t a chance in hell Glastonbury could continue now the festival was mainstream and seen as an alternative to an overseas holiday for a demographic who a decade earlier wouldn’t have been seen dead at a festival full of hippies.

As for myself the first 8 or 9 months in Bristol were great. Relationship was fine. Working at BT and in an office for the first time was more fun than I thought. I loved where we lived, and Bristol is a great city. Then it was announced in early 2001 we were all being made redundant as the operation was being moved to Doncaster to save BT money, and to get rid of the pesky, annoying staff in Bristol who performed but were a pain in the arse for BT as we’d demand workers rights and crazy stuff like that.

This meant getting a job sharpish, but at that point getting back into comics full time wasn’t possible, and I had no urge to get back into the pub trade, so stupidly I took the first job that came along which was working for Direct Line. Now, so did around 40 or us from BT as at that time there wasn’t much around Bristol for people with thin CV’s like we did, which isn’t to say we were all wasters and bums but we were a motley crew so we took the Direct Line jobs.

Within six weeks the 40 or so who’d joined turned into a dozen. During training our trainer said the line ‘we work hard and play hard’ which made me and several others piss ourselves laughing at the self-importance of it all, but at that point I didn’t realise that people were walking out and that I was marked as a ‘communist’ by one of the senior managers because I’d pointed out the sheer nonsense of the environment. I reacted to this by not making a complaint (as I probably should have just to fuck the blighter up) but buying a T-shirt with a hammer & sickle on it and wearing it on dress down days. Oh the looks of horror…..

Anyhow, things were falling slowly apart as the entire situation had driven me into a depression (although I didn’t realise it at the time) which affected my relationship with Tash to a point where were drifted slowly apart.

Things fell apart early in 2002 when she left and I was numbed by it all for a while, and again, I’m sure I was probably nuttier than a New Year’s Day cake by this point, plus the job wasn’t helping as it was making me physically ill by this point. A few friends came round to cheer me up, and I tried hard but I was falling apart slowly, but I still had Glastonbury to look forward to but I didn’t want to camp with anyone. I wanted to do my own thing, so I turned down the offer to camp with Denise and her crowd for the third festival in a row in Big Ground but instead opted to camp by myself in Pennards Hill which seemed like a good idea as it was always a hub of interesting people but far away from the fuss of the Pyramid Stage so I could run away and hide if I wanted to.

As for the festival it’d had a ‘superfence‘ built round the site to keep people out. Now this was a familiar thing for regulars to hear that Eavis had a ‘tough’ fence to get over, but 99% of people laughed and got over it anyhow. Guess what? It worked.

Image

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

In the year Glastonbury had off some big changes to the festival happened. One of the biggest was the growth of online communities dedicated to festivals and of course, Glastonbury. The main one then was E Festivals. There were others but E Festivals had a link with Glastonbury which is merrily exploited until Michael Eavis pulled the carpet from under them a few years later, but in 2001 it was a closely guarded connection. This meant anyone joining the message boards and questioned simple things of the E Festivals organisers would end up getting stroppy and start throwing around legal threats and kicking people off the site. It was a tyranny, but fuck it. A few of us from that early community went off to form forums of our own or join other forums elsewhere.

There was also a virtual Glastonbury in 2001. It was pretty naff but the idea had be solidified in the culture that Glastonbury was now becoming more and more establishment, but it wasn’t yet the huge cultural event it is today. That was still a few years away, but 2001 was an odd year as of course it was when 9/11 happened and that’s an event which should have mobilised Glastonbury into pushing against the establishment, promoting an anti-war agenda on the main stages televised by the BBC and finding it’s anti-establishment heart again but it didn’t. That side of the festival was being pushed into the Green Fields and away from the main stages that the BBC would show live on BBC 2.

Again though, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The 2002 festival had arrived and I’d decided to go down on Thursday, and the weather forecast was for a long spell of settled, warm weather so I got a load of beer (as much as I could carry), wandered to the bus station and headed to the festival early on the Thursday afternoon.

Like previous years Bristol bus station was rammed, full of touts and the usual type of people you see at festivals but there was more police than usual, plus lots more security. Also you couldn’t jump on the bus without a ticket. That was new but one of dozens of measures to stop people without tickets getting onsite, or indeed anywhere near the festival site, the village of Pilton or Glastonbury itself. Anyhow, I had a ticket and didn’t mind as the crowds of 2000 would be nice not  to to be repeated.

As the bus pulled itself to the site, the Superfence was shining in the distance and it did indeed form a ring of steel around the festival…

_38107994_glasto_air300pa

It wasn’t thought til I got off the bus, and saw it up close that I realised it wasn’t the old type of fence where it was tough but you really could get over it. No, this was tougher, nearly impossible to scale without some serious equipment which isn’t to say people didn’t do it. After the festival I found out a few did, but there was also a security operation which bordered upon the paramilitary, checkpoints and all manner of security to keep people very much out. You didn’t have the Scallys by the gates offering to get you in, you didn’t have the people hanging around waiting for the right moment to get in. You just had a wall of security and steel and if you didn’t have a ticket you were getting nowhere fast.

As I passed through the gates and into the festival itself I noticed how quiet things were in comparison to 2000, which isn’t saying it was deserted but it felt like there were things missing but I didn’t know what yet but my main task now was to walk to Pennards Hill and set up my own little camp there if I could find a space, which I did easily. In fact for a Thursday afternoon, you could camp pretty much wherever you liked so I walked to near the top of the hill, found a nice view, and promptly put my tent up and set up camp with loads and loads of room around me. I needed to get some water so I wandered down to buy a bottle and fill up the watersack I’d brought, and when I got back after about an hour of having a wander, I found I had neighbours setting up, so I said hello and offered some help but ended up not even getting a grunt in exchange however on the other side of my tent were a young student couple who were setting up and perfectly pleasant so I helped out putting up their tent and we had a wee chat as it was their first festival of any kind, and we thought the yuppie snobs next to me were worth ignoring.

That evening I’d arranged to meet Denise and her crew at the Cider Bus, which I did and we then went for a wander around the site after drinking cider and absinthe cocktails.As you can imagine, the rest of that evening is hazy but I do remember waking up in my tent just as the sun had come up wondering how I’d managed to find my tent in the state I was in and what was that agonising pain in my leg?

That pain was a huge gash where I’d obviously fell and split it open on one of the metal walkways. There was remarkably no blood everywhere apart from the pile of blood soaked  toilet paper in the corner of my tent. I’d somehow managed to stagger back, clean myself up, patch myself up with some tape and toilet paper. Taking a closer look I realised the wound probably needed stitches, but it was the Friday of Glastonbury, it was early and the medical tent was the other side of the field so I decided  to make a makeshift bandage and deal with it as and when which meant when the drink and drugs wore off, or Monday. Whatever was quickest.

It was Friday though, so I climbed out of my tent, said hello to the students who said I was in a shocking state the previous night and they had to guide me to bed, and I had also upset the yuppies which was nice.

I’d decided to wander around the site as there was room to breathe and the site had also expanded since 2000, so the site was now huge, but there were vastly less people than 2000 so this created a lot of space, and a vastly less frantic festival than 2000 so you could amble around the festival quite calmly. As I walked by the Pyramid Stage, they were just starting up so I decided to watch the first act who were the Shibusashirazu Orchestra.

They were an act from Japan who nobody had heard of but everyone who saw them that morning fell in love with their insanity, and as it turned out they were due to play another gig at the Jazz Stage later that day which ranks still as one of the best things I’ve ever seen at a festival.

In fact most of 2002 was spent seeing bands or in the comedy tent or just watching things, or chilling out at one of the beer tents, and then chilling with mates I bumped into. I saw a series of  great sets from Queens of the Stone Age, Ash, and Garbage on the first day plus all the wonderful stuff you normally see, except there wasn’t the full spread of people. The buskers, punks and crusty bands who would jump the fence and play were gone. A large amount of performers were gone. In fact most of the working class kids were gone. The crowd were a lot more wealthier, a lot more middle class and although still mainly ok, the social nature of the festival had been somewhat lost as people were less willing to mix, ok, I’m not saying it was vast numbers but it was enough to notice a defined split in attitudes from previous years and this was partly because you wouldn’t really notice these sort of people in previous years. With a large chunk of normal festival people gone you suddenly did.

As the Friday drew to a close I had somehow managed to relax and looked forward to the rest of the weekend. It wasn’t a great line-up but the freedom and the relaxation was great as I was starting to feel a bit more human.

Saturday was more wandering, watching acts, drinking and chilling. It was a poor line up but Orbital played on the Saturday night and they made up for a pretty dull selection on a whole but I didn’t really care. I was happy enough but Saturday was a blur which quickly led into Sunday and I’d arranged to hang around with Denise’s lot on the Sunday to see Roger Waters and the probably hilarity of Rod Stewart. Before that though was the sheer genius of Isaac Hayes.

After Hayes I was surprised at how good Waters was as I always thought he and Pink Floyd were insufferable bores, but the weekend was closed by Rod Stewart. Now I like Rod’s early stuff, and he had a great voice but the entire show was hilarious as he rasped through all his old hits and tried to convince the crowd he was still capable of playing live. I remember actually being on my knees after having been doubled over laughing at how awful he was. I was laughing so much I didn’t notice the patchwork job on my knee had split & I was bleeding again. Hey ho, this was worth it as it was funny to see Stewart witter on about ‘our boys in Iraq’ on a stage which used to have the CND logo on it and regularly feature anti war and anti imperialist messages. Glastonbury was now very much engrained within the establishment now when you have artists like Stewart on board, but it’s always funny watching an accident happen in slow motion and it provided a funny end to the festival.

I walked back slowly to my tent and took the last night’s atmosphere in, and eventually got to sleep in my tent in the wee small hours. The next morning I pulled myself together in the sunshine, packed up slowly, and took a stroll through the site to the onsite bus station to head back to Bristol. As i did I noticed how relaxed the people were and how there were still people raving in pockets across the site, so I slowly made my way to the station for a short wait for my bus back to Bristol.

As I got off in Bristol, it was still a lovely sunny day and I grabbed a taxi back to my flat in Clifton and my cat. Things felt good, and I was a bit more positive about things but the next few months would end up being very odd indeed…

As for Glastonbury a message had been sent out that a new order was in place. You weren’t getting in without a ticket. You needed some money to get in. The festival had compartmentalised it’s radical politics away from the BBC cameras and as it was those images selling the festival to a generation of people with the sort of disposable income which made Glastonbury easily affordable then things were going to change even more. the transition to what it is today still had a few more years before it was complete.

Next time in this series of Glastonbury blogs we arrive amazingly at 2003 and even more changes, but you probably expect that by now…..