The Worst Break-In Ever!
“What’s the most beautiful thing?” someone once asked the great playwright George Bernard Shaw. “Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world” he replied, “…and what a pity it has to be wasted on children.”
As long as you’re still relatively young, you’ll struggle to understand this quote. A question of missing the wood for the trees, or telling a fish about water, either way when you have an abundance of the good stuff, it’s very hard to understand life without it.
And yet, when I survey my youth, the effervescent romances, the dreams and the delusions, I am struck more by the failures than the successes, more by the beautiful catastrophes rather than the achievements. Perhaps this is a propensity for negativity, or perhaps because blowing your own trumpet is more interesting for the listeners when you hit a dud note.
One such dud note sounded out over the fields of the Glastonbury Festival, in 1992 when me and a few friends decided against the exorbitant £120 ticket price, in favour of climbing the TWO fences that surrounded the entire festival.
Stonehenge - where the party started and should have stopped.
A bit of backstory is essential here, it will help give the tale some necessary ‘substance’ so to speak. I was young, I was full of energy. I was full of toxins, I was full of it. We’d already been partying for some 10 days, having gone to the Stonehenge festival a week or so before. I had barely slept in over a week and the only things that had passed my lips were either lager or illegal. To say my thinking was skewed would be an understatement, I even wrote my name on the back of my hand at one point, just in case.
The spirit of the Glastonbury Festival - two huge fences and a watchtower.
So the three of us found ourselves between the two fences. The “no man’s land” of the Glastonbury security. This was already weird as I had absolutely no recollection of climbing the first fence. And these fences are not small, they’re about 4 meters tall, sheer steel with nothing to grab. For the three of us to have got half way without realizing it was amazing. And we all celebrated with a drink and a smoke, the live music in the background, keeping us motivated.
Suddenly a 4x4 appeared – about 80 meters away to the left. This wasn’t unusual, but if they saw us we’d be picked-up, and driven to the exit and dumped. Not ideal, so the three of us sprinted in the other direction. It was like that scene in The Great Escape when Steve McQueen – he too between two fences – is zooming along on his motorbike, looking for the right moment – and opportunity – to jump the second fence. It was much like that, just without the motorbike, and the three of us, tripping and stumbling over each other.
Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.
The 4X4 was now about 50 meters away. The must have seen us. Non-verbally – just the look of absolute fear and potential failure on our faces – it was agreed that we MUST make the move, we needed to somehow scale the second fence and get into the festival. If we didn’t get in now, we would surely be screwed.
Youth being wasted on the young at The Glastonbury Festival.
So you can imagine our amazement when a rope came over the fence, all the way over. A rope with a huge knot every meter or so, and a steel claw at one end. It’s in moments like this you can easily start to believe in an interventionist God.
I quickly set about getting the claw over the top of the fence, yanked at the rope to check it was secure and bravely……suggested my friend Neil go first. In seconds he was over, followed by Ben. This was amazing. I grabbed the rope, the 4x 4 now about 10 meters away, I pulled and stepped, pulled and stepped, before reaching the top and jumping the rather long way down, the rope-ladder landing beside me.
The sound of hundreds of thousands of people enjoying themselves just meters away kept us motivated.
Once I got my bearings I saw Neil and Ben, as well as a few other people. And a road, and a corner shop. This wasn’t the Glastonbury Festival. This was a town. Yes, somehow, the three of us had just managed to bunk OUT of the festival.
‘Thanks for bringing our rope back’ said one of the kids.
‘No problem’ I said.