Off grid, in tune …

A weekend camping at the Latitude Festival barely ranks as hardship on any meaningful scale, but it does provide a brief opportunity to reflect on what, for 361 days of the year, I take wholly for granted.  Water is one of the leitmotifs of this blog, creating the habitats that the creatures I write about inhabit.   Yet I barely pause for thought when turning on taps or watching used water drain away whilst I am at home.   Here, I am off-grid: if I want water I have to walk to a standpipe and fill a container; if I want to wash in hot water, I have to light my sturdy old Trangia to heat-up a saucepan; when I use the toilets, I have to walk 100 metres and hope that the previous occupant left the cubicle in a usable state.

Our sojourn under the Suffolk sun, in other words, is brief jolt into the extent of our disconnection from nature’s cycles.   One immediate consequence of having to plan ahead and put in some effort (tiny, compared to that required by a large part of the developing world) is that the quantity of water that we actually use drops precipitously.   Scale that up from the individual to a population, and I wonder how much of the UK’s water infrastructure would be unnecessary if everyone had to think as hard about water usage as Latitude’s campers?

We are a little closer to nature, a little less inclined to think of ourselves as separate from the wider whole, a little humbler …

To realise:
That we live in nature
But can never possess it;
We can guide and serve
But never control
This is the highest wisdom
Tao 51

Highlights of Latitude 2017?  Fleet Foxes’ first UK show since 2011 was worth the price of the ticket alone.  78-year old Mavis Staples on Sunday afternoon was magical.  Ventriloquist Nina Conti left me crying with laughter.  The desert blues of Tinariwen was memorable and, amongst the newcomers, I’ll definitely be watching out for Julia Jacklin in the future.

Tinariwen on the Obelisk Stage at Latitude 2017.

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I wish I was at Glastonbury …

The Glastonbury Festival is all over the media this weekend and the images have triggered my own memories of visits in 2009 and 2010.   There was the music, of course.  Not just the headline acts – Neil Young, Blur, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and more – but also the unexpected pleasures on the smaller stages.  Then there was the variety of exotic food outlets, and the pleasures of just sitting in the sun soaking up the atmosphere.

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Edward reading the Sunday paper in the enormous shanty town of tents at Glastonbury in 2010.

One of the memories dovetails very neatly with the themes of some of my recent posts – about the struggles of John Snow and others to provide London with safe drinking water.   Glastonbury is an enormous temporary town, the size of Sunderland, yet with the most basic plumbing and sanitation.   For four days or so, we are plunged back into the type of city that John Snow would have known.  A city where water has to be carried from standpipes (wells in Victorian London), where water is only warm enough to shave with if you have a stove to heat it.  And, most pertinently, there is only the most basic sanitation.  The toilets at Glastonbury are notorious although, probably, no smellier than the average London street in John Snow’s era.  The biggest differences are that we have, thanks to John Snow and other from that era, made the link between foul water and disease, and that our noses are more finely attuned to the smells.

Another strong memory of Glastonbury 2010 is persuading my family to watch Dizzee Rascal rather than the then barely-known Mumford and Sons, tonight’s Pyramid Stage headliners.  I’ve never been forgiven for that.

Dr_John

A forest of legs in front of the West Holt Stage, awaiting Dr John’s set in 2010.

Tom_Jones_2009

The crowd in front of the Pyramid Stage for Tom Jones’ set in 2009.   Glastonbury Tor is just visible in the distance.