"Do you want to go to Glastonbury?" My good mate Matty asked me over the phone, a month or so before the festival begins. "Too fucking right I do," I replied with all the hesitation of a man that had just been asked by Pamela Anderson if he wanted to fondle her tits. But there was a catch, there always is! The catch was that I had to work whilst I was there. A small price to pay for free entry to this most incredible of festivals. I'd been wanting to go for years but the process of buying tickets appeared to be long and arduous, with only a small chance of a successful ending (a bit like my sex life after 5 pints of beer).
The telephone interview for my job as a steward (security) went something like this. Are you a reprobate? (Internal dialogue - debatable) No! Have you ever done security before? No! What would you do if there was a bomb scare? (internal dialogue - shit myself and run away), make people aware of the emergency exits, and do my best to keep people calm. What are your strong points? (internal dialogue - Oh fuck! fuck! fuck! fuck! - I hate this question), I'm very approachable, friendly, and won't make people feel intimidated. What are your weak points? (internal dialogue - fuck! fuck! fuck! fuck! fuck!, and even more fucks! - I hate this question even more!), I'm possibly overly friendly.
Shit did I just say that? I'm going for a security job at one of the world's largest festivals, during a time when terrorism is at a critical level, and I've just told my interviewer that I'm overly friendly. Surely this can't be good.
But it was, it was almost as though he wasn't listening. As though he was just going through the motions. The interview ended, and although I wasn't altogether sure, I think I had the job.
A month later and I'm picking Matty up from his place on the Wirral. It's a soaring hot Tuesday afternoon, our spirits are high, and judging by the stash hidden in our bags, they're about to get higher.
"Get your sat nav on lad," Matty urges me. But I'm far too proud for that, I want to get to Glasto using only my inbuilt compass. We've estimated that it should take us a little over 4 hours to get to our destination, and we need to be there by 6 pm to comply with the security company's requirements. "We've got loads of time Matty, stop stressing" I tell him, when I see his agitation as we sail past the junction for the M56.
To cut a long story short, the journey takes us at least half the time again that it should have done because of a catalogue of geographical errors - which in itself is highly hilarious since we both met on a Geography degree course, and Matty is himself a Geography teacher. Amongst other notable errors on our way to Somerset was the taking of the M6 toll motorway, at a cost of £5.50. Had we glanced at a map we would have realised that this was a burden rather than a benefit to us, and resulted in us driving 20 miles in the wrong direction.
By the time we reach Shepton Mallet we've missed our deadline by some considerable margin. But more importantly we have to buy our supplies for the coming week. Thirty minutes of shopping in Tesco later, and we emerge with a shit ton of alcohol, a massive bag of ice, some crisps, and a bag of nuts.
To Glastonbury we ride.
Confusion reigns upon our arrival. Nobody seems to know what they are supposed to be doing, ourselves included. We scramble all our possessions together, and make our way up the grassy knoll in the direction of what we think is the correct entrance. When we eventually arrive there we are met by an endless sea of bodies who appear to have been waiting around for hours. Fortunately, although it's way past 7pm the weather is perfect and this being a day before the equinox it feels like midday. As we sit and wait with the crowds I notice a girl in her in 20s who is sitting there proudly displaying her young pert breasts in their full glory. It's as though we've jumped back to 1969 Woodstock. Not being one to hide my curiosity I find it hard not to stare at her chest, and attempt to take my mind off her boobs by chatting to people around me. My attempts unfortunately are futile.
It's an hour later before we realise that we've been sitting in the wrong queue. Gathering all our stuff together we return to the whence we came, and the whole confusing procedure of finding out where we're supposed to be starts again. Eventually we are directed to a portacabin, where we produce all our documents, and are instructed to wait. There appears to be something wrong with my documents, which prompts me to wonder if I passed the interview at all. This problem takes the best part of 90 minutes to rectify, before we join a large group of burly looking men with about 15 brain cells between them, as we walk towards the entrance. More confusion later, and we're in. No security checks, I hasten to add, have taken place.
By the time we've collected our security outfits, and been assigned our living quarters it's time to go to bed. The mere fact that our living quarters are referred to as The Jungle pretty much says it all. Thankfully I've never been to prison, but if I had I imagine this is how it would look. Our home for the next week is a gigantic marquee, which is filled with bunk beds on one side, and single camp beds on the other. It's obvious that there is a division between the two ranks, which has culminated in verbal assaults being thrown across The Jungle. The atmosphere could be cut with a knife (a little like the huge mound of white powder they're all snorting.) The bunk bedded area is occupied almost entirely by very menacing looking Glaswegians. That is, apart from me and Matty. For those of you that have never come into contact with Glaswegians, let's just say that Braveheart was no exaggeration. Even the meekest looking of Glaswegians will scare the shit out of anybody once he/she speaks. For want of a better phrase, they are hard as fucking nails. The sound of their collective snoring is like that of a dragon that's about to explode into fiery fury.
The next morning we're up early and after eating the worst breakfast I've ever subjected my intestines to, we're assigned jobs. Matty and I are assigned night shift jobs, which is totally against our requirements - so we play dumb and tell another supervisor that we're on days. Fortunately for us he changes our rota without consulting the first supervisor that has just assigned us the night shift. Matty sees that I'm about to verbalise this at volume and drags me away from the scene before I fuck up his good work. As we walk to our designated area I'm blown away by the sheer scale of the site. Apparently Glastonbury is the second biggest city in Somerset, which sounds impressive until you realise that there aren't actually too many cities in Somerset. Anyway, there's no doubting that it is bloody enormous.
The job I've been assigned is to walk up and down the line and relieve people if they need to go on ciggie or toilet breaks. Since they've only just been positioned there though nobody seems that arsed about taking a break. Besides which I'm not overly sure what my supervisor means by "the line". He's given me a brief description but it was all a bit wishy washy. I spend the best part of the day trying to establish exactly where my parameters are.
Unusually for Glastonbury it's not raining. In fact it's blisteringly hot. The heat is so intense that I gain anther duty, in the form of keeping the security team hydrated. Given that most of them are off their head on some form of drug or other (mainly ketamine or MDMA), this job is of vast importance. They're dropping like flies out there, but because they're hard as nails Glaswegians they refuse any form of liquid that doesn't contain alcohol. Once I've established that they'd rather die of heat exhaustion than look like pussies my job becomes infinitely easier.
The bands don't actually really start playing until Friday, and it's only Wednesday - this means that I'm on my holidays for the first few days of the festival, or so I think. I've agreed to a 12 hr working schedule with my employees, but it appears that (for the first few days at least) staying alive is my main role. As long as I avoid the supervisors I'm in for a cushdy ride.
Day one ends and Matty and I go for a walk around the festival site. It truly is enormous. I reckon you could spend a week exploring, and still miss bits. We have a few beers, listen to a DJ set, and then retreat to the civil war that is The Jungle.
Day two starts off pretty much as day one ended. However, today I'm assigned a partner. My partner is a blond girl who is 20 years of age. On paper this sounds like I'm on to a winner, but in reality she's a living nightmare. It's hard to decipher which gene she possesses the most of. Does her stupidity outweigh her laziness, or her laziness outweigh her stupidity? Conversation with my new partner is a laboured pursuit, and generally results in monosyllabic responses. That is, until I realise that we can have a reasonably detailed conversation if we talk about her troubled relationship with her insanely jealous fella. She looks to me for relationship advice, although after he dumps her the next day, she probably wishes she hadn't. Once she's been dumped her laziness enters an entirely new stratosphere. The only time I ever see her is when our boss has radioed through to her walkie talkie and she's been asked to find me.
Disaster strikes around 4 pm on the second day. I'm given a job to do. The Love Bullets tent is in full effect, as hundreds of eager kids take to the dance floor to worship a bunch of DJs, who seem to be collectively known as Elrow. Such is their popularity that my partner and I are radioed through to help deal with the chaos that ensues. By the time I arrive at the Love Bullets tent the party is well on the way, and my feet (which are crammed into new boots) are absolutely killing me. Although it's not even 6 pm the majority of the predominantly young crowd are manically off their collective faces. In a scene that is not too dissimilar from Wigan Pier circa 1994 (when I was in my prime).
I'm briefed by a muscular Asian fella from Bradford, who informs me that he's been trained by the military, and generally works for the anti-terrorist squad. I inform him that I've never done security before in my life, and that I would rather be off my face dancing to Elrow. This information does not seem to go down too well with my very right wing compadre, who was under the impression that I was on board with his political agenda - to confiscate all the drugs in the place, arrest everybody for having fun, and generally make their lives a misery.
My (Nazi) boss sits on top of a tower, which gives him a perfect view of this arena of pure and unadulterated pleasure. Meanwhile I'm ordered to circulate whilst maintaining eye contact with him at all times. If he sees anything untoward taking place he will point to the location of the criminal activity, and it is my job to go over and sort it out.
Fifteen minutes into my new role, and I'm under the impression that things are going well. I'm actually quite enjoying the party. And boy is this a party! The whole dance floor is enshrouded in a mist of dry ice, with machines that fire it like a cannon at the elated revellers. Add to this a cacophony of air horns, a parade of blue Avatar creatures, and more colourful head dresses than the Mardi Gras, and you'll sort of understand what's going on. Nitrus oxide seems to be the most visible drug of choice, which my Nazi boss doesn't appear to give two shits about, "If they want to kill themselves on that shite, then let em die", he tells me.
The pain in my feet starts to subside a little and they start to move to the beat. Much to the amusement of the crowd, who urge me on. "JUMP, JUMP, JUMP", they shout, excited to see a security guard having as much fun as them. "If my feet weren't blistered to high heaven, I'd be up there with you," I tell one bunch of dancers. The more they encourage me, the more I get into it. So much into it that I forget what my role is supposed to be. Although I'm rapidly reminded of my job when I feel a strong hand on my shoulder, and turn to face my irate boss. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" he asks me. "You're supposed to be taking their drugs off them, not dancing with them," he continues.
I give him a fake apology and return to my role as a druggie catcher. Oh the irony, I spent half the 90s abusing "designer drugs" whilst trying to avoid the watchful eye of the bouncers, and now I am one of those bouncers. I'm reflecting upon this when I notice sudden activity in the corner of my eye. I spin around to be confronted by "the Nazi" jumping furiously up and down, whilst pointing at a figure on the dance floor. I'm offered no choice than to approach the person that he's pointing at.
The figure is that of a boy around 20 years old, who is nonchalantly handing drugs out from a carrier bag. As I approach he makes no effort to hide his wares. I shoot a glance at "the Nazi" who is giving me the thumbs up. My worst nightmare is unravelling before me. I'm about to ruin somebody's pleasure.
"I'm really sorry about this," I inform the raver.
"But my boss is watching me. I really don't want to do this, but I have to take your drugs off you.", I apologise.
I needn't have bothered. The kid is so far off his head that he barely notices that I've just taken his stash. As I retreat to my post I take a peak in the bag, which contains a big mush of space cakes. I later give this to "the fun Nazi" who promptly throws it in the bin.
"I was hoping it was coke so we could sell it.", he tells me. "what the fuck am I supposed to do with that pile of mushed up shite?"
What follows is a period of approximately 40 minutes where nothing untoward takes place. Well, nothing that my boss spots anyway. I see loads of illicit stuff going down but I choose to ignore it. Just as I'm feeling rather pleased at myself for being able to be getting paid to experience this I am faced by a catastrophe. Somebody grabs me from behind, and cries "please help, our friend has collapsed on the dance floor!" My internal dialogue once more awakes, and says "Shit! I can't think of a worse person to ask for help. I'm about as useful as a eunuch at a sperm bank."
I don't even have a walkie talkie, so I send somebody around to notify my boss of the ongoing tragedy. I did do a first aid course in 1985, but all I can remember is joking around with my mates as our lecturer gave mouth to mouth to a plastic dummy. I kneel down next to the young girl, who is convulsing on the dance floor like she's in the process of been exorcised. Around me people shout conflicting pieces of advice "Give her water!", "No don't give her water!", "Raise her head up!", "No, raise her feet up!", "PLEASE just do something!". The last comment hits home, and I'm about to do something, I'm not sure quite what, when all of a sudden the girl jumps to her feet, and charges to the dance floor to bust some new moves. Just as she's running to the dance floor my boss arrives at the scene. "Is everything OK!" he asks me. "Yeah, don't worry it's all sorted now." I tell him, as if I had it all under control.
I spend the rest of my time in the Love Bullets tent either pretending to take people's drugs from them, or dragging them from the stage as they attempt to dance on it. Neither of these roles fill me full of glee, so by the time I'm relieved of my duties I'm ready for my bed. I can only hope that I will be offered a more convivial role the next day. I'm about to be pleasantly surprised.