They burn the Green Man at the end of the festival, in a nod to our pagan past. It’s after the last band cuts out at midnight. A huge crowd gathers to see it blaze. There are no virgins inside it, but there are fireworks which make as much noise and are much easier to find.
There’s a strong ritualistic aspect to the burning. People have walked around inside him, and filled him with wishes and regrets on little pieces of paper. He burns and your wishes fly to the heavens, or your regrets vanish in smoke. It feels cleansing, but to me it has another meaning – it somehow feels like the official end of high summer. We need rituals to mark the turns. I’ve watched previous Green Men burn, and then felt the world grow incrementally colder as we slide towards winter again. I have that same expectation now. Although it’s always nice until my birthday is done, dammit.
Last night I stood with the crowd, warm-faced and tired. Happy but melancholy. Full of the past, full of what might have been, full of the future, full of what might be. Watching another year burn in a circle of opened hearts at the end of the season.
It’s been a hell of a summer, even if I feel no closer to my elusive dreams. But maybe that’s because I keep getting distracted by silly fun stuff…
I’ve agreed to do yet another festival next weekend. A small rate of pay and free meals. Here we go again. I’d better eat loads of kale for the next few days. I’ve barely got time to turn around. I’m physically exhausted, emotionally splintered. Being inside buildings feels oppressive. I don’t understand why everybody looks so drab and boring. Nobody is smiling or shining. They’re all heavy and slow. Where’s the glitter? Where’s the joy? Why are their shoulders so high, their eye contact so fleeting, their faces so closed?
The last day was a little less of a party for me as I had to drive the van onto site at 7am to load up the fucking heavy mini golf courses that my friends had built. I woke up at ten to six fully dressed in my sleeping bag, and swore my way onto site, carefully driving past little pockets of people who had forgotten to go to sleep and were staggering haphazardly through the light wondering if they should sleep now or just give it up as a bad idea and work out how to get home through the fog.
We loaded up and then momentum took us to break up the campsite and drive dammit drive, back through the sheepy mountains to the places where the heavy people flump. At first I was worried, behind the wheel droop-eyed, tired and angry. So I stopped and filled myself with sugar in a sad lumpy place called Leigh Delamere, where we pumped the van with fossils and I ate food that wasn’t food but was pretending to be from West Cornwall. And had regretful caffeine so we could be safe.
Festivals are a lovely thing. Again an artificial frame. A safe place for pretend anarchy, where if you track the money back you probably discover that the landowners are collecting all the “hippy money” they make and donating it on purpose to the “Kill the Whales Foundation,” or “Climate Change Deniers for Fracking plc”.
Now we can go back to our consuming lives with glitter still on our faces and pretend that by paying ten quid for a falafel and watching someone fall over on purpose while playing guitar we are somehow enlightened.
But we did see the Green Man burn. We had a shared experience of something rooted in our ancient history. Different reasons for the same thing. Thank you summer, for your gifts. Let us each carry this warmth and light into the winter that’s coming, and share it with those who are cold and lost.