Blissful Ups and Brake-Downs

During the night the rain battered the tent so hard that several times I felt a fine mist on my skin. But by the time I was properly awake the rain had cleared. I pulled myself out into the grey morning and sat and watched Glastonbury get going.

Soon the rest of the crew emerged, and while they sorted out breakfast I attended to the lump of mud formerly known as my wheelchair. It’d struggled last night so I decided to give it a thorough clean before giving myself a shower. I got very muddy!

MuddySo muddy in fact that when my carefully rolled-up sleeves came down I needed Captain Hotknives’s help to roll them back up. This inspired a song that we incorporated into our set later on – it’s an anthem to cooperation in a time of great division, and it’s called ‘Rolling up the sleeves of a muddy-handed friend.’

My wheelchair was soon de-muddied and in the process I made several pinch pots and figurines from the what I’d removed from my wheels.

Mud MenAfter another great show on the Sensation Seekers stage I headed straight to the Leftfield Tent to see stand-up comedian Francesca Martinez. Francesca’s set was brilliant and included lots of thought-provoking new material.

Surprisingly, as the muddy fields dried I found it a lot harder to get around. This was because the now sticky mud kept solidifying in my brakes, forcing my chair to stop suddenly and lunge to one side. This happened abruptly while we made our way to Silver Haynes to catch Ms Dynamite.

The chair ground to a halt, outside the West Holts stage. I had to pull off the track and get down onto the muddy ground to try and fix it. The security and steward team at West Holts were amazing – they brought cups of hot water to soften the mud, turned a plastic bottle into a jet wash so I could rinse off the brakes, and even brought some oil for lubrication. In addition to making sure I had everything I needed to get back on the move they gave us some wristbands for the backstage bar so we had somewhere comfortable to go if we needed it. All this meant a great deal to me. We were soon on track and just managed to catch Ms Dynamite’s last few tunes.

MudOn the way back we faced another brake breakdown and once again the security team were amazing, shining lights on the chair so I could see and carefully washing my mud caked gloves when I’d finished.

There was no way we could get to the Pyramid Stage viewing platform, but we were nearby as Adele was performing. Innes and I rolled our way through the deep mud as she sang ‘Rolling in the Deep’.

I’ve often written about how much I enjoy a good dance. The Holy Grail of dances happened at one of my first festivals as a wheelchair user where an auditorium made out of straw bales allowed me to move with a freedom and energy I can rarely achieve in my chair.

Tonight I found the sweetest dancing spot since that legendary occasion. We were at my friend Pete’s venue, Shit TV, in Shangri-La. Jolie was stage-managing, and Sheffield band Bison were playing. Just before their set I asked Pete if I could sit on a speaker near the stage. He agreed and I quickly wiggled out of my chair and onto the big box. It meant I could move my legs freely and feel the vibrations from the speaker, which temporarily drowned out the sensation of tics in my body. I was very happy and danced enthusiastically throughout their set.

I felt incredibly relaxed, but my body was running out of steam. Whenever I get tired I’m much more likely to experience intensified tics, and tonight the effort of the last few days took its toll with my muscles going into painful spasms. I had no option but to call it a night and head back to the tent.

This though was easier said than done. Innes and Fat Sister found themselves having to navigate our way through one of the busiest areas of the Festival, surrounded by claggy mud, one-way routes and pumped up security guards. Although I was having a ‘ticcing fit’, largely unable to help or speak and in considerable pain, I was able to appreciate the stunningly persuasive negotiations Innes and Fat Sister undertook to get us back. With the help of several stewards we made it back to the tent where I was able to lie flat and ride out the fit.

It’s been another wonderful day despite the treacherous conditions, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow, whatever the skies may bring.

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