When I was a teenager I have to admit I made an art out of dossing around. I was also something of what we - in scouser land - like to call, a purveyor of rare and exciting herbal produce.
My particular business model was spreading hashish haze far and wide. I could be found of a weekend gallivanting from one party to another, bumbling around the place in a self induced comatose state.
If you were around in the late 90's in Liverpool and saw a slightly bemused looking guy doing an impression of a tie dyed t-shirt wearing wizard who's lost his hat... that was me.
This is the raj808 of distant past... I am far more sensible now 😉 but I wanted to give a little snippet of my past to help set the mood for the story that is to come.
Our tale of stoner joy starts in a little known province of the greatest of Britians called somerset. Home of cider, toothless yokels, suspiciously drug addled druids and... Glastonbury.
Now I've set the scene, lets fast forward to Glastonbury festival 1998!
It was actually sunny that year! Instead of the usual rain lashed, mud splashed, trench foot inducing exercise in masochism that marks the annual gathering of all the varying tribes of counterculture, the sun ended up shining and the mud was transformed into dust... clouds of dust.
But I digress.
This 1990's Glastonbury festival was before it sold out to corporate sponsorship. Now it is all electric fences, Coldplay on the main stage lyrically tossing off, and taser touting guards with attack dogs, but back then in the late 90's, it was pure anarchy! Basically, 70% of people who went jumped the fence.
We would drive down each year in my mates car, park up and spend 20 mins arguing about how to ninja our way over the fence. There were many options back then, based around a kind of criminal community of fence custodians.
There were the mole-men who dug a small hole under the wall, and then guarded it with the ferocity of a coked-up gofer who's just dropped his bag of suspicious powder down the toilet.
The siege artists who provided ladders, or sometimes just arrangements of long branches they'd ripped from a tree, charging you £5-£10 for the privilege of scaling their fifteenth foot wall poles. These guys were usually rangy, yoga touting hippies, high on the power of the almighty Ommmm and whatever cocktail of chemicals kept them awake for the 3 days running up to the festival. Prime business hours
for fence jumping were between 6pm to 6am.
There were many other enterprising lunatics with different 'business models' providing their services around the wall, but as I'd found out the second year I went, if you stayed strong and were persistent, the universe would provide a free way into Glastonbury.
Yeah man... it was cosmically aligned!
It had become a matter of pride for us not to pay by thaat point.
It was a war balmy night, the air full of the fruity fragrances of incense and petrol, the buzzing of generators and the far off bass hum from sound systems.
We bravely sallied forth with a giant Marley-esque spliff to gird our loins and rise the sap in our souls. As we fought our way through an area of low scrub about ten mins from the main gate, a high pitch voice was heard to exclaim...
"Ehhhh, five pound a person to get in. Come on you twats."
What to my wondering eyes should appear... but an eight year old skinhead, emerging from a thin gap in the fence, hands plunged shiftily in his pockets. As this maniacal midget played testicle tennis in his pants, he eyed us up like a rabid chihuahua that has lost its squeaky toy.
"Ten quid each lads... come on pay up you're coming in here!"
"Nah, we're going to carry on round mate" I exclaimed, pushing passed this umpah lumpah from the bowls of hell.
"You's aren't going anywhere" he growled and swung a fist at my belly.
I caught his arm and pushed this miini-Begbie awa
... as my friend Ben laughed at the cohones on this kid. We moved to circle around him and he ducked through the hole in the fence.
A six foot five fella with long hair and shit-kicking steel toecap boots on emerged from the gap in the wall. He glanced shiftily back through the gap, a set of bolt cutters grasped in one hand.
"How many of you guys are coming in?" The dad asked us as the kid smirked at me like a cat that's just puked in your shoe.
"No, we're carrying on round mate." I scoused up my accent even more and bristled my eyebrows at the kid. "Your son just tried to punch me as well mate."
"What?" He looked at me warily.
"Yeah. First he said we had to pay, and we had no choice... then when I told him we're going round the fence he tried to punch me."
The dad shrugged "You won't find anywhere better, or cheaper, to get in further on lads. Tell you what, I'll do a deal... all 7 of you for thirty quid... that's five quid off."
"Fuck that, make them pay it all" the kid screamed.
We huddled up, my friend Dave and Ben both wanted to take the deal but the rest of us were against it.
"Might be back if we don't find anywhere better mate" I nodded at him as we carried on through the brush.
He nodded back and turned away before whacking the kid lightly on the head. "Don't punch customers, I told you."
The sound of them faded away. We struggled on through the brush for about 5 mins before emerging into a grassy area lit up from above. Right in front of us, there was a low hole dug which you could just about squeeze under... but looming above behind the wall was a watch tower, complete with spot light and guard.
After a few minutes arguing we decided to give it a go. Back then I was as lithe as a vegan on a water fast, so I wormed my way under and through the gap. The guard above had his feet propped up on the railing of the tower and was slurping loudly from a can of special brew... apparently it was break time. Or more likely it was always break time.
Time ticked as my heart flickered in my chest. One by one we stealthily squeezed through into the Glastonbury promise land of madcap-ness, smiley faces and acid caps. So far so good. The pissed up guard above hadn't looked in our direction and was whistling along with the tunes on the radio.
The final ninja to break into Alcatraz was my mate Josh. He was a country lad who had a bit of timbre on him from cavorting in the fields, wrestling cows and such, so he got stuck. There we were, three of us yanking on his arms when the clueless guard decided to wake up and engage a brain cell.
Suddenly the spot light hit us, blinding my eyes, and we could hear him radioing on his walkie talkie...
"We've got a group coming in next to the stone circle... send a van immediately."
He looked down at us leering, special brew still in one hand "You better get running boyz" he slurred "or you're gonna get caught."
He honestly didn't seem arsed, watching curiously as we yanked on Josh's arms.
Meanwhile Dave had got down on his knees, discovering that Josh's bag was stuck and had worked it free. We all fell backwards as Josh flew out of the hole and we scrambled to get up.
I will always remember, the crazy guard above laughing and clapping as he followed our mad dash with the spot light. We jogged down the hill into the milling crowds who also gave us a resounding round of applause.
It was a tense five minutes as we weaved our way through the crowd at the stone circle as we were the only people there with bags. Finally, we reached the bottom of the field and the line of trees, fading into the night like ninjas.
To be continued...