Thursday, September 02, 2004


Well it’s been a while. My apologies, but it’s one of the ironies of blogging that when a lot is happening in your life, you don’t have time to blog. Accordingly I will continue to maintain that my life is in reality more interesting than my blog reflects, but time constraints and the desire to keep certain things out of the public arena mean I only seem to end up writing about mundanities like shoe shopping.

So in an effort to cover the gap, let me summarise. Well I say summarise, it’s two weeks of blogging in one go, so you may want to make a brew first (or skip this entry altogether).

The weekend of the 21st-22nd I spent in London with my parents and over at my brother’s place. I mustered all my energy to entertain my niece and nephew (who are great fun). The day turned into a celebration as my brother announced that they have paid off the mortgage (no mean feat given they own a nice house in Hampton) and that certain life-changes (that I can’t go into here) are afoot. I’m delighted for them, the freedom is a fantastic thing, but their financial situation and life choices highlight to me how we live in such different worlds and I feel slightly sad that we seem to have so little in common. Sometimes the blood bond feels so weak.

On Monday I head to Cheltenham for build week, leading up to Greenbelt. It’s great to meet up with such fantastic people again and in many ways this feels far more like family, than life in Hampton.

On Tuesday things are going well, but come crashing down in the evening when Stewart rings just as we are about to go out for a Turkish meal. I can tell in his opening words that something is wrong. Basically he has just found out that his good friend Ian committed suicide the previous night.

Suddenly I don’t want to be in Cheltenham anymore but back in Manchester to hold him and ease the pain. Over the next few days the dilemma of where to be continues. I stay in Cheltenham at the end of a phone line whenever needed, but remain unsure as to whether this is the right thing to do. Stewart’s comments of “Jamelia needs you more than I do”, do little to convince me.

Come Friday the site opens and as ever life takes a turn for the manic. It’s good to see the plans we put in place working out. For example on the traffic front the festival inevitably creates more traffic in the area, but this year the massive planning exercise pre-festival and major operation on site means we only back up onto the roundabout for 45 secs in the whole day. Hopefully therefore the locals will not have been too inconvenienced and will see we’re trying to do everything we can to be good neighbours.

Over the next few days, the pattern of Ops teams plans working beautifully becomes a theme. Everywhere I look, things are flowing wonderfully and I’m struck once again by how amazing all these people are and feel truly humbled and inadequate to be counted in their number.

As ever I don’t get much time off and get to see so little. I do manage to see the Inconvenience of History exhibition (invited to the VIP reception for the first time ever – lordy!) and I’m blown away by John Keane's intensely powerful paintings. I get dragged away early though, in order to deal with a water supply issue that needs urgent attention. It all gets resolved ok, but it does mean I miss the Handsome Family, which was one of my four ‘must-sees’ for the weekend.

I do manage to get free in time to make it to see ‘must-see’ number two, Lambchop. I watch the gig from the side of the stage with Oli. They are fantastic as ever and it’s good to watch with someone else who ‘gets’ them. It’s also good to look out over a crowd that is also getting into their mellow vibe.

Oh and by the way if anyone knows whom the chap in the second row, stage left was that seemed in utter ecstasy through the entire set, could you say thank you. You have no idea how it warms the heart to see someone enjoying the festival that much!

Post Lambchop I sort a few more work issues and then manage to make it up to Centaur for most of Terry Callier (must-see number three). His voice is amazing, but I have to say the band were erring a little on the ‘jazz-club’ side of pretentious. Nice…

It’s also good to hang out with a friend at the gig, who I’d just bumped into looking really down. Life is pretty tough for him right now and he’d hit a real low. Through the course of the set however, I can see his mood lift as the amazing music washes over us. It’s always good to see Greenbelt healing someone in this way.

Part way through the gig, he leans over to me, gestures at the bongo player and whispers “do you remember Raw Sex?”. I collapse in laughter and I know that in turn I’m being healed a little bit too.

Sadly the weekend does not appear to be having the same effect on another dear friend who is in pain right now. I manage to get time out to go and see dfg with her (bloody excellent btw!) on the Saturday, but I can see she’s not in the right place for it. I wish I could do more and be there more for her, but I’m being pulled in all directions.

By Monday it hits crisis point and what should have been the day I actually get to see something of the festival, turns into one of the worst days of my life. I hesitate to write that, knowing she will read this, but heck she’ll have worked it out herself already so let’s not pretend eh?

I feel useless and incompetent in the face of everything. I try to tell myself that maybe some good will come out of it long term, but that doesn’t alter the fact that for now I am drained and exhausted.

The love and care of my Greenbelt family envelops me and the others directly involved and I can’t tell you what that means. Similarly the fact that I’m surrounded by such amazing and competent people gives me the permission to fall apart and know that things will still run ok. I feel bad that others will have to take up the slack and that I’m not about much on the last day to support all the teams, but the fact that they are so understanding and gracious about everything blows me away.

I couldn’t feel more cared for, but actually it gets to the point where I can’t deal with anyone anymore. I need to get away and talk to someone not directly involved. I’m so tired.

Having ensured that Jamelia closed down ok and that everything is “alright” I go off duty for a while at about midnight and finally catch up with Stewart properly. He’s ascertained from various hurried texts and a 5 second phone call, when I really couldn’t speak, that a) I want to speak to him and b) I’m really upset about something. He manages to put the two together and decide it must be something he’s done. We sort that one out quickly when I explain to him what has happened.

I feel bad dumping on him when he is still dealing with losing Ian, but it’s so good to talk to someone slightly removed from the situation, but who knows enough about the background to understand. He knows what I’m going through and is fantastically supportive. He persuades me to go back ‘out’ and find friends and join the end of festival parties. I feel so tired and un-partylike, but he’s right, I need to be amongst friends and find some happy memories to take away from the festival and I think the good it does my soul outweighs the downside of yet another 5am finish.

Tuesday we clear up and I head home late afternoon. Stewart comes round and it’s good to reconnect after 2 weeks apart. We’ve both been through the wringer in that time and it’s good to be able to hold each other and share the pain.

Wednesday is my recovery day, but plans to sleep-in are somewhat disrupted by Stewart’s alarm going off at 6am, Stewart shouting “oh f***!” at 8am when he realised he’d fallen back asleep and was now running 2hrs late, the doorbell going at 10am for a recorded delivery (Franz Ferdinand tickets – yay!) and then lovely people ringing and texting to check I was ok throughout the rest of the day!

I manage to get three loads of washing sorted, but the boxes and crates remain piled in the lounge.

By the evening however I’m rested enough to make a curry with Stuart, Karen and the kids, just back from Cheltenham themselves. A lovely way to round off the festival and good to be around their kids who always know how to cheer “Aunty L1z” up.

Thursday is back to work and I try to summon the energy to plough through 400+ emails.

Somewhere in the middle is an email from Matt telling me that Karen gave birth to the twins on Monday and despite some complications all is now well.

Now it’s well known that I dislike babies, but I can’t help but smile at the photo of a proud dad in scrubs with a tiny bundle of new life cradled in each arm.

Welcome to the world boys. It’s a fair old rollercoaster, but overall it’s worth the ride…

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