31 August 2006

Festival Blog: Day 3A

Still recovering from Greenbelt -- immense fun though it is, the persistent lack of sleep and constant need to wander aimlessly around the festival site destruct-testing your socks can have deleterious effects.

My reports from Greenbelt for Surefish are missing the actual, rather than speculative, events of my final day-and-a-bit of festival. So, after filing my copy for "Day 2" and (the entirely hypothetical) "Day 3", this is what I actually did:

1. Went back to the petting zoo, where B. and I cuddled a duckling and a guinea-pig, stroked a donkey and some goats and admired two pigs.

2. Spent a while listening to Reem Kalani at the main stage. Despite her astonishingly powerful voice, her wailing violin-accompanied singing was unexpectly soothing. Or maybe I was just very tired.


3. Attended Fundamentalism, Ikon's alternative worship (or rather "experiment in theodrama"). This was every bit as remarkable as I expected. Ikon's deliberately destabilising, questioning, deconstructionist approach to worship is oddly reassuring, in suggesting that God is present in doubt and absence as much as in faith and revelation. Some people (including, inevitably, some of its members) go so far as to describe the group's worship style as "pretentious", but its intellectual foundations are a good fit for my own current musings about God. And the group demonstrated that they're by no means humourless by picketing their own service with signs claiming that everyone involved was going to Hell.

I'm now reading Ikon founder Pete Rollins' book of theology, How (Not) to Speak of God, which I picked up at the Greenbelt bookshop. It is, again, remarkable. I may say more about it in due course.

3. Stopped briefly by a much less successful (read: "a bit bollocks, actually") experiment in "scripture meditation", then went to bed.

4. Got up early and went with B. to R. and J.'s wedding in Staffordshire. As I've said here this was generally lovely, but the high density of children in the congregation made it surprisingly difficult to hear what was going on. It was the first second wedding (as it were) of a friend that I've been to, and the minister (assuming I heard her correctly) said some very wise-seeming things about renewal, transformation and second chances.


R. and J. themselves were very happy, R. looking particularly gorgeous in a strapless silk wedding dress thing [1], and there were some people there it was lovely to see after so long. Unfortunately we had to scarper back to the festival after the Pimms and canapés, but our brief time there was very nice indeed.

5. Arrived back on site in time for the Othona Community's One World worship, which I came away having very mixed feelings about. On the one hand, I was delighted to find an even vaguely interfaith service at Greenbelt, which often seems to have a blind spot in its liberalism when it comes to learning from non-Christian faith traditions.

On the other hand, Othona's worship style seemed to revolve around improvisational chanting and interpretive body-movement, which I couldn't possibly participate in without feeling a complete knob [2]. This came as something of a disappointment, frankly.

6. FAFFED ABOUT and entirely failed to do any of the various other interesting things I could have done until about 8:30, when B. and I managed to stumble upon a very funny act by Paul Kerensa, who was on his way home from performing his comedy show Back to the Futon at the Edinburgh Festival. We particularly appreciated his account of being caught speeding at 88 mph in a DeLorean, and his use of (what he assured us was) his joint degree in Mathematics and Film Studies to prove that 99.6% of men were called Malcolm [3].

His warm-up act also had a joke which will entertain vigornian, if no-one else:
Q: Why are pirates called pirates?
A: Because they ARRRRRRHHHHH!
7. Went with B. and R. (NB: Not the R. who got married, of course -- that would have been mad) to Last Orders, the late-night magazine-show summing-up of the best of the festival, where we saw Paul Kerensa again. (His jokes were just as funny the second time. Or possibly I was just very, very tired.) Left when it became clear that none of us could keep our eyes open any more.

8. Slept in a tent. It's difficult to emphasise sufficiently what a huge achievement this was without sounding like a complete wimp, possibly for the obvious reason.

Suffice it to say that at Greenbelt in 1993 a combination of torrential rain, strong winds and calf-deep mud gave me such a horrendous experience of camping that I foreswore it, and Greenbelt itself, for the next ten years. Only the location of the modern festival at Cheltenham Racecourse, and the availability of bed-and-breakfast accommodation on a nearby student campus, succeeded in enticing me back.


Unfortunately, this year I'd booked my accommodation when I thought I'd have a job to get back to first thing on Tuesday morning, so when it became clear I could stay the Monday night, the only place available for actual sleepage was the tent B. was using.

The cramped space, muddy exterior and disturbing, almost organic softness of the walls caused me some minor palpitations, but I managed to sleep OK, which constitutes a personal milestone. It didn't persuade me not to B&B it next year, though.

9. Helped B. to pack up said tent, got a train home while she drove (there being no actual space for me in the car with all the camping gear), comforted two bereft cats and slept for not nearly long enough. Got up, went to bed and did the same again.

10. Typed this.

Now I'm going to eat some food, probably, watch some TV and go to bed again. With luck, I'll perhaps be not-tired-any-more in time for the Organic Food Festival on Saturday.

[1] R. was, incidentally, the bride.
[2] Ho ho, yes.
[3] Clue: His starting premises were "Malcolm X = 1992 film" and "X Men = 2000 film". You start by solving each equation for X...

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