Ooh, we’re off to Glaston-berry – over-excited much!
I thought I might become a hippy.
I know that, as you read, I am already attempting that, pretty much. But as I write – still in list-making, weather-watching, excited-anticipation mode – it occurs to me, particularly given the shocking murder of MP Jo Cox, that, in our currently over-wrought society, it’s probably basic human nature to want to run away from modern life and put flowers in your hair.
Of course, like many a ‘normal’ person before me, I think ‘hippy’, and then I immediately think ‘yes, but’. Yes, it’s a lovely idea, but a tad naïve, surely? Yes, it’s all well and good to dream of dropping out of society, but, surely, we modern women (and, though they’re ahead of us, men) should make like Sheryl Sandberg, and lean in? Yes, it would be nice to spend all day dancing around barefoot, spreading peace and love, but how will the world progress if we’re all away with the fairies?
Wikipedia seems to agree. A hippy (or ‘hippie’ – there is some predictably first-world pickiness about the spelling) is ‘a member of a liberal counterculture; originally a youth movement that started in the United States and United Kingdom during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world’.
The terms say it all, really. Liberal. Counterculture. 1960s. All concepts we equate with a certain state of mind. It wasn’t hippies who got us on the moon, created the internet, wiped out smallpox. It really does have a powerful whiff of well-intentioned lassitude about it, doesn’t it?
And my personal experience would seem to confirm it. I last encountered hippies in any number back in 2011, on an ill-conceived day out to the fabled ‘hippy market’ in Ibiza. After a tedious boat trip (we’d boarded the wrong one, and found ourselves using the local hop-on hop-off round-the-whole-frigging-island service) we found ourselves in an initially like-minded, but increasingly sweaty and irritable throng, shuffling round a down-at-heel, Disneyesque encampment – which smelled of cynicism – and where mostly off-their-face or raddled people sold a variety of ‘must-have’ souvenirs – really lovely, really innovative, really artistic, creative items, such as batik wall-hangings, dream-catchers, handcrafted thong-and-bead-based jewellery, incense burners, basketware, and intricately painted glass – that NO WAY IN THE WORLD you could get anywhere else.
So it’s clear to me that ‘being a hippy’ has, in the intervening decades, become the antithesis of cool and aspirational.
But then I thought a little more about what ‘counterculture’ really means, particularly as it pertains to performing arts festivals such as Glastonbury, beyond the usual tropes of muddy excess and composting loos.
And, you know what? I find it’s actually all rather lovely. And since I’m busy prepping for it, I even made a list.
It means simple pleasures. Not overcomplicating anything – and I mean anything. Simple food. Simple living-space. Simple clothing. Simple rituals. Simple comforts, like laughter and hugs.
It means accepting a degree of hardship can be good for the soul. Putting a five-person tent up – and down. In the rain. As a rookie. As a team. I hear businesses pay good money to have their executives do that.
It means novelty. (As opposed to novelties, such as dream-catcher earrings.) The rejuvenating business of doing and trying things you haven’t done or tried before.
It means singing. Lots of that. But not just random, thoughtless singing. Thoughtful singing, with other people, sharing words you all know.
It means appreciating natural rhythms like sunrise and sunset.
It means fire – that thing that gave humans the winning ticket. Both making it – at Glastonbury, incredibly, you can do that – and sitting round it till dawn, fully appreciative of our collective good fortune.
It means strangers. But in the sense that they’re not seen as strangers. Expecting the overwhelming majority of your fellow humans to be a) decent and b) just like you.
It means stoicism. Equanimity in the face of minor inconveniences. Of which I don’t doubt there will be many.
It does mean peace and love. The first in your soul, as you sit in your wellies, saying, ‘wow, isn’t this amazing!’ for the zillionth time that day. And the second for the mass of unwashed humanity around you. Because, in life, isn’t that (hypothetically, at least) the best way to proceed?
And if that’s how I’m feeling about it all before I’ve even GOT there, goodness only knows what kind of person you’ll find here next week. A better, more thoughtful, more appreciative one, I hope.
Mind you, we haven’t unwrapped that tent yet…
First published in The Western Mail Weekend Magazine June 25th 2016