My hero, Scrooge!

Well xmas is over. I hate xmas with a passion. I never use it`s old spelling because the modern-day celebration of consumerism has very little to do with any religion. The vague idea of presents for all and sundry follows on from the wise men ( or three kings) who popped into a barn two thousand years ago and dropped off gold, frankincense and myrrh. Nowadays the idea of xmas is to buy children violent computer games and for adults to gorge down as much food and drink as they can.

The original Yuletide celebrations go back to the dim and distant past. Many strange rituals have morphed over the years into todays winter celebrations. It all goes back to the winter solstice, the point at which the days start their long journey back until that wonderful three days of warmth and fun that us brits call “summer.”
In days of yore and before the discovery channel, people did not realise that the world spun around a giant nuclear reactor. In fact some thought the sun was hauled across the skies in a chariot. Winter was a time of suffering, endless repeats on the TV and cold frosty mornings with no food available. As the winter got harsher ( or if you are English, greyer and a yuck) the fear was that the sun would one day not show up at all. To this end most primative civilisations erected stone circles and temples, mostly with the benefit of being a timekeeper. Of course this being the olden days they had no fancy phones with a calendar and a clock app, so they needed to haul lumps of stone about the place.
At some point the sun would show at a low point, and the next day it would be a bit higher. Hurrah! It is not going to get darker, it`s going to get lighter! With the thought of three days of summer approaching, what would primitive man do? Eat and get drunk seems the most sensible option apparently! So was born the yuletide celebration.
Centuries later the yuletide was incorporated into the christian calender and moved until three days after the equinox, but pinched some of the ideas of mistletoe, logs and feasting. Come the modern-day and this festival has been nicked and turned into a massive gift-buying session, followed rather rapidly by the worship at the altar of the new year sales.
I often wonder if a few years from now, whilst I am sleeping contentedly in a box a few foot beneath the earth, that people will forget xmas and just celebrate the sales.Perhaps as they queue to buy stuff there will be a wrinkly old man grumbling about how when he was a lad they knew that the true meaning of xmas was,
hangovers and indigestion….

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The Download diaries…..part 5

I woke to an unexpected silence. There was no rain pattering onto the outer skin of our tent and there was an unusual brightness. I pulled on my wellies and stumbled into the fresh air to see crowds of pasty and soggy people pointing into the sky at a round thing. “Sun…Sun…it does exist!”
Warmth or not the second point of call was the heart-attack on a plate we call “breakfast”. I could not get used to only wearing two layers of clothing, my arms seemed light and manoeuvrable and I carried my cholesterol laden death sentence to a table with a bounce in my step that I had not felt since the seatbelt sign went on at Hong Kong. The mood of the festival seemed to brighten and as we headed into the arena for the final time the patches of mud and straw did not seem to be an obstacle, but more of a playground
We headed for the second stage to catch a good performance by the Black Spiders. Wife asked if we should assist the stall-holders in making money by buying sun-tan lotion. ” Pish!” I said, “it`s not that warm, we are used to sun and heat, we will be fine.” Those words would come back to haunt me like a politicians pre-election pledge.
Wife wanted to see Sebastian Bach and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed his set. Next was Shinedown and then it was time to find a good place to watch the headline act. Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne. Names synonymous with heavy metal, one of the most influential bands of the day. Sadly, not quite the full lineup as Bill Ward was excluded. I do not know if it was contracts, egos or past conflicts, but it was a shame nonetheless.
Ozzy is a legend. The man is the ultimate hell-raiser and also one of the best frontmen around. He missed a few notes but who cares when a huge crowd can be incited to cheer,clap and wave their arms to a figure who keeps shouting ” I can`t hear you!” The band thundered through the classics of Iron Man and Paranoid. A brilliant end to a soggy weekend.
As the final echoes reverberated around the arena I felt my earlier words doing a u-turn and starting to chomp at my rear end. My forearms had a familiar prickly feeling and Wife was examining her hands…Yes, four days of rain and we end up sunburnt! We headed to the familiar bar at the RIP campsite and swallowed a couple of pints before heading to bed. We had contracted trench-foot and got sunburnt, but at least it was after midnight when we crawled into our sleeping bags.

The Morning After.

We arose to a warmish morning and had our usual artery hardening breakfast. Then it was a case of packing all our stuff back into the car. I could not understand why it did not go back as easily as we got it out, had it somehow expanded with the moisture over the last five days?
We had another fantastic Download, the atmosphere was dampened by the weather, but the audience and the security staff,as ever, made Donington park the place to be in June, come hell or high water we will be back next year, but can we have some warm and dry weather please? pretty please?

The Download Diaries…part four.

Day four. Summer in England in a tent. That can only mean one thing. Rain. We donned our usual summer wear of waterproofs, wellies and hats and headed off for the other traditional English summertime tradition, the calorie-laden fry-up for breakfast. It was served on a paper plate and dissected with a blunt wooden knife and shovelled into the cake-hole with a fragile plastic fork. For all its deficiencies in cutlery and tableware, it more than made up for in taste. Fortified with bacon,eggs and toast we trudged to the arena. Today it was still muddy and cold, but the rain had decided to give us a break and we finally saw the Black Veil Brides, a favourite of my nephew`s, who was mightily impressed that his elderly Uncle wheelmonkey, (who is like really old and must be over thirty now…) actually got to see the band perform on the main stage.
After more beer and food we headed to the main stage to see the Steel Panthers. Spandex and hairspray took to the stage and I immediately felt thirty years younger. This was my era. I was even happier as the females in the audience suddenly felt the urge to disrobe. At this point I was rudely reminded that I am no longer a youth. My first thought was that she will be cold without her t-shirt on! I enjoyed the set, a joke that had a bit of good music behind it always goes down well.
As the ladies decided to put their clothes back on we headed for the bar selling the Otter brewery`s beer. I needed a nice pint and it was not a bad one either. The next band was on the second stage and called Skindred.I had read about this band and was convinced I would not like them. Reggae crossed with heavy metal, it sounded as appealing as a pint of Doombar with a cherry and a little paper umbrella in it. As ever in my life I was wrong. A lively and fun set including something I believe is called the “Newport helicopter”. This is where everybody is encouraged to take an article of clothing, (it was cold, I took my hat), hold it high in the air until told to swing it around. It sounds a rather strange thing but it is very impressive when a huge crowd suddenly starts to whirl all sorts of articles of clothing in the air. At one point in the set the singer started singing “All The Single Ladies”,normally performed by Beyonce. He waited until the crowd was all singing along and then berated them with ” Download, I am DISGUSTED that you know that!”.
Next band was Killswitch Engage, complete with the usual new/old singer. Wife, who is more clued up on these things than me informed me that the singer was the old singer who had re-joined the band, the singer I had seen at their last performance was the old singer who was now their old old singer…I was so glad she cleared this up for me. Old or new, it was a cracking set from a band that I had seen a few times before and had never failed to satisfy.
At this point I would like to say that I grabbed another beer and found a good place to watch Metallica. This would be untrue. It was so cold I had a coffee and satisfied myself with being able to see the video screen.
I thoroughly enjoyed Metallica. I have always enjoyed their music and I thought they did a good set, although I wish they had left the flame-throwers on a bit longer to warm us up. Wife, however, is not a fan. In the same way as marmite is the food of life to some and a poisonous black gunk to others, Wife does not “get it”. Still, she stood by me until they had finished and even admitted to enjoying “Sandman”. The next stop was surprisingly enough the bar back at the RIP campsite. Although the main bar had been shut down a tiny serving hatch was still open and we managed to get a couple of pints in before we headed back to our damp pitch. Nearly one in the morning…Rock`n`roll!

The Download diaries…part three

June.Flaming June! The rain was still pitter-pattering on the fabric of the tent as the greyness of summer penetrated the interior of our accommodation. The interior of the tent looked like an explosion at a camping shop. Waterproofs,jumpers and trousers were scattered around the interior at random and hidden under it all was a quilt, a sleeping bag and two bodies. The warmth that attracted me to stay in bed was being rapidly counteracted by the urgent desire to unload a couple of pints of beer.
After risking life and limb I put the kettle on. A cup of coffee later and Wife emerged, her usual morning humour fully intact. “You woke me up.I hate you.Where is my coffee. I hate you.Is it raining? your fault. I hate you.”
She skipped happily off to the toilets with all the vigour of a three-week old corpse. Wife has never been at her best first thing in the morning….

Later, much later, and fortified with a artery-blocking full english breakfast we headed off to the festival`s main arena, only to be told by the security chaps at the gate that there would be an hours delay due to the mud. Not what you wanted to hear on the first day of a festival really! Still, RIP has it`s perks and we headed off to the RIP area at the bottom of the hill to the right of the main stage. A teepee wigwam sort of thing that featured a bar and dryness. I was more interested in dryness than anything so we dived in and bagged a seat.
As is the case with Download, we soon fell into conversation with a couple from Newcastle and before we had realised it the arena was opened.

We squelched our way into the arena. The grass was visible in some places but the rain was settling in to a steady drizzle. We figured to go to one of the small stages that are covered to watch a few bands to start with. Gosh! about 60,000 other people had the same ides! It was a bit crowded to say the least!
We did, however, finally get to see a band I have heard so much about but never seen,Lawnmower Deth. They are a comedy type death metal band, a sort of cross between Bowling for Soup and Napalm Death. A good set and loads of fun, although when they were brandishing a lawnmower about I suspect that they would have struggled to find a blade of grass to cut.

Then there was a disaster! No Hobgoblin! Panic set in until Wife studied the map and spotted a bar serving real ale. I engaged four-wheel drive and skidded up the hill to the bar. Yes! Beer! I grabbed a couple and we settled down. The main issue had now become that although my beer seemed to be lasting for ages, it was getting progressively weaker. My addled mind finally realised that it was the water dripping of my hat and into my glass!
The rest of the day passed in a slither and slide through the cold and the mud. Finally, at nine at night, we saw one of the bands I had wanted to see for ages, the Prodigy. They did not disappoint. I like the Prodigy because they fail to sit in any sort of classification with an almost wilful smile. Firestarter and Breathe are two of my favourite tracks.
We splodge out of the arena and hit the pub in RIP for a final drink. We are cold and wet and finally get into the tent at just gone midnight. We are now starting to party! The rain continues to patter on the tent as I doze off and dream of dry feet and suntan lotion.

The Download Diaries…part 2.

The sun shone brightly through the canvas of our tent. All around us I could hear the cheerful bustle of happy campers getting breakfast interspersed with the sounds of joyous birdsong. Or not. In reality our body clocks had not yet got fully in synch with the english time zone so I was wide awake at about five o`clock. As ever first morning thoughts tend towards coffee and toilets so I hurriedly unzipped the tent and groped in the gloom for my trusty wellington boots. As my bladder started sending ever more urgent messages to my brain I stumbled around, half crouched, in the low porch that we use to store our chairs and tables. Finally I tugged my boots onto my bare feet and unzipped the outer door. The cold air woke me up and I looked vainly around for the sun. The sky was a uniform grey, the grey that comes with no warmth or joy, the grey of doom,the grey of a thousand ruined english holidays. I gallumped across the grass towards the row of portable chemical toilets.

The field was nice and green, the gateway, however, had been churned to a brown porridge by a few vehicles and a multitude of boots. I stepped manfully through the mud, nearly losing a welly in the process. I open the toilet door to see the floor about three inches deep in what I really really wanted to believe was mud. When I returned to our tent I was wide awake and ready for my coffee. I huddled in a chair as I waited for the kettle to boil and amused myself by watching the spots of rain on the canvas slowly turn to rivulets and then running off the flysheet.

A couple of hours later and after several cups of coffee we decided to head for breakfast. A slightly expensive but very welcome english fry up was wolfed down and accompanied by yet another coffee. As it was Thursday we now intended to head to “The Village” which is an area near the standard camping, which features shops, food stalls, a fairground and more shops. The previous year we had spent a fun day wandering about and spent a very jovial afternoon in the company of some very pleasant young people. ( I know now that as I refer to “young people” I am assuredly advancing rapidly through middle age to old age).

As we passed the hordes carrying their camping equipment and beer towards the standard campsite, we noted that in most instances camping equipment seemed to actually consist mostly of beer. The cheerful attitude of these happy campers was possibly aided by most of them deciding to lighten their respective loads by drinking as much alcohol as they could on their route march from the car parks.

Once inside The Village we realised that in horse racing terms the going was “soft to liquid.” The trudging of thousands of boots had churned the grass to a brown slop. The traders selling gum boots were seen to be dancing and praying to a rain god. I presumed that once they had sold out of waterproofs and wellies, they would swiftly convert and start praying to the sun gods to enable them to shift their stock of sun creams. We managed one slither and slide around the stalls and retreated to the comparatively solid ground of the RIP campsite.

That evening we decided to head for the pub, more to keep warm than drink beer, although as we were there and there was a rather good selection of real ales on offer it would have been rude not to try one or three of them! I even managed to stay awake to savour them. Bed for ten o clock. Still not much of a rock and roll lifestyle, but we are heading in the right direction.

Touting for business..

One of my favourite bands is AC/DC. A few years ago they announced that they would be doing a world tour and my heart gave a flutter. I want to see them. I want to see them a lot and I will buy tickets. The only problem with a band like AC/DC is that a lot of people want to see them. And I mean a lot! Now that we have the internet there is no need to take a tent and sleep on the pavement outside the ticket office. It is all such a much more civilised affair now. You need to set up an account and at the alloted time press the “buy” button and before you know it you are singing along to “Thunderstruck.” That is the theory. In practice the start time for selling tickets is mid-morning when non-office workers are getting their hands dirty rather than getting RSI and the closest we can get to the internet is passing by a telephone line. I was very fortunate and had a nice and handsome and helpful and attractive and kind boss who let me slope off to the office to borrow a computer. I logged on to my account with the ticket seller and at the appointed time hit “buy.” The trouble was I worked on an estate in the middle of nowhere so my electrons took longer than normal to get to the office. I got tickets, really good tickets, but had fifteen minutes to enter my details. The egg-timer turned over and over and the modem (I believe that is what it is, to me it is a box with lights that flicker and that is as much as I know or care ) flashed and made noises. Too late! Timed out! “Please start again.” I pressed the “buy” button to be told that there was no tickets left and I had wasted all my bosses good humour for nothing. I crept away and sent Wife a text message explaining my total failure to provide her with an evening’s entertainment.
I decided that evening to see if I could buy tickets on ebay. My jaw dropped when I saw how many tickets were up for grabs! Not just the odd ticket but hundreds of them. The only niggle was the price had now risen by four or five hundred per cent! I looked on an internet forum where I discovered that these people had hooked multiple computers up to the web-site and bought as many as they could so they could sell them on at a profit. They even claimed that they were doing me a favour as now I could buy a ticket from them and go to a concert that was sold out because they had bought tickets to sell on!
I refused to buy tickets at this inflated price. As much as I wanted to go I could not justify paying so much money to somebody who`s internet capability was beyond mine. If the tickets were sold by somebody who could no longer go I could understand it, but these tickets were purchased with the sole intention of making money.
Human nature is what it is. The tout makes money from people who are willing to pay and who can say he is doing wrong when somebody will pass over money to buy a ticket for a sold out gig? Me? too tight and too mean pay over the odds.There has been many attempts to outlaw touting in the past few years but the only way to realistically put an end to this practice is for Joe Public to stop buying from touts. Back to human nature again!

( I got tickets to AC/DC in then end via the fan website at face price….then saw them again when they headlined Download!)