Trader Tales 2011

June 26, 2011

At this year’s Festival, writer/cook Maite Cicognini is serving up food at the Italian Kitchen stall in the Park. Following last year’s excellent blog, she’s kindly agreed to write about her experiences for us again.

Sunday 26 June

This was the Festival that gave us everything; from the highs and lows to the unnoticed quiet times in between.

Drenching rain then scorching sun. The curse of being outside and then the pleasure of it.

Old friends and new friends and best of all, fixing ones that were broken, thanks to a chance meeting in a field.

Stifled tears under a fire-sparked sky and laughter that bounced off every pot and pan in the kitchen.

The delight at being reunited with the spaces and places you love and then finding others.

Above all, music that brought back memories and music that created new ones.

And then suddenly it’s nearly over.

I think one of the exceptional things about Glastonbury Festival is the sharing of everything, good and bad, with other people around you, irrespective of whether you know them or not. You aren’t the only person who’s just found their tent in a puddle, who’s woken up with a hangover, who thinks they’ve properly fallen in love, or who’s just heard the best band in their whole life, ever. 

It’s the same for the traders, the site crew and the delivery guys. We’re all in it together. And I reckon that’s a pretty special feeling in our digital and disconnected age.

So thank you, everyone.

And thank you Glastonbury Festival, for making it all happen. Enjoy the year off and see you in 2013.

Saturday, 25 June

Amongst our crew are three professional chefs who have all worked together at one time or another.  Their banter while they zip around the kitchen is lovely to observe: teasing and affectionate yet efficient too. It gets them the pasta cooked off or some more prepped sauce brought in from the fridge trailer while at the same time making each other laugh – I never once hear the kind of language you associate with busy chefs in a kitchen. Or is that just certain chefs on TV?

No matter how hectic it gets or how many unique obstacles crop up from cooking in a kitchen in a field, these guys are having a ball while being invaluable support to us, and their pleasure shows.

But however entertaining they are I am still relieved to manage to escape in the late afternoon to The Glasshouse, one of my favourite spots in The Park, with its candelabras, birdcages and luscious greenery.

A friend and I have lunch, people-watch and I try to memorise all the parts that make up The Glasshouse with the intention of building my own. Perhaps I could have a Helter Skelter too while I’m at it, complete with ribbons in the wind.

There’s mud out there, but there’s a lot of love too. Smiles are easily shared and no one shows a flicker of impatience whether they are waiting for food or walking past to The Park stage.

We have a megaphone to help save our voices when shouting out order numbers and whoever is covering front of house soon slips into funny voices, random chatter or mini comedy sketches. (Although by the end of the night I’m never quite sure if we are doing it on purpose or out of tiredness.)

It doesn’t seem to matter to anyone around us though. I can tell from the faces in the queue that it isn’t just me who enjoys watching people whistle while they work.

Friday, 24 June

The final four members of our crew arrive. And not a minute too soon, because we are soon visited by a pop star who half of us don’t recognise but the under-25s go completely dolally over – one becomes a Facebook hero in seconds after posting his famous sighting while the other manages to pour an unneeded extra jug of coffee into the machine thus sending rivers of coffee all over the front counter. “I just went all funny when he was talking to me,” she said later, “it was really strange.”

So here’s me hoping for no more celebrity visits because it gets awfully messy…

I did a survey for the Green Traders Awards yesterday and thought I would do some awards of my own. So here are the winners for my Good and Mad awards from the Festival so far.

The Good:
First prize goes to Phil (pictured) who hands out the previously mentioned recycling bags. He had absolutely no idea as to why I wanted his photo but was very sweet to go along with it.

The Mad:
Winners are the delivery guys for Masqueraders Carnival Club. They deliver our milk and eggs and won after for their singing and general hilarity at seven am this morning.

Thursday, 23 June

The long-awaited deliveries arrive just before lunch and we are open and busy until the early hours of the morning. By the end of the night we are all in a befuddled haze running like a well-oiled machine.

On the other side of the counter, people are genuinely happy and excited to be here and paying little notice to the somtimes less-than ideal weather conditions.

I do have one, rare confrontation with someone because he won’t take no for an answer and because I am stubborn and tired. His sharpest insult in our back-and-forth is a comment made about my “lack of Glastonbury spirit” that was like being pinched hard and with intent.

He won, after that.

It takes four trips to the rubbish bins to deal with the lump in my throat and the embarrassing threat of tears. Then it occurs to me that using the Glastonbury spirit in an argument is a bit like saying God is on your side when you go to war, and for some reason that makes me feel better. Then I hear a snap and crackle and look up – fireworks, and a huge cheer from all around the Festival.

Now that’s a bit more like it.

Wednesday, 22 June

The deliveries are rolling in. Milk arrives in a truck painted in black and white patches like the bulk of a dairy cow, the vegetables come from a local supplier and… well, we are still waiting for the last one.

Here’s evidence of Glastonbury Festival walking the walk on environmental issues: all food traders are obliged to buy eggs from non-caged birds and Fairtrade coffee and tea. We are given bags to recycle everything from food waste to tins to cardboard. And, we’re encouraged to use local suppliers to reduce food miles and support the community; all of this making your festival grub good for you and everyone else.
In the afternoon we take a break and wander down to the Green Fields. The sun is warm, the breeze makes the trees sound like ocean waves and the children are running around barefoot. There are flowers everywhere. 
Something is happening at the entrance to the Stone Circle. The area has been cordoned off. There are people watching quietly while a forklift truck gently lowers a crown of butterflies onto the head of the angel looking down from the gate. I can hear an airy monotone sound and, for a minute, it sounds like flutes or pipes; I’m confused – have we stumbled on some kind of Green Fields ceremony? Is this for real?
Then I realise that it is simply the hydraulic arms of the truck. 
Either I am tired and over-imaginative, or Glastonbury Festival can turn mechanics into magic. 
Later that day I am drowning in testosterone and techno and escape to one of the bus shelters at the bottom of the hill near The Park Stage. I think this exact same feeling hit me last year on the Tuesday night. I watch the coloured ribbons on the Helter Skelter flutter in the breeze and the sunlight streaming through them, and gradually my anxiety dissipates.
Wednesday morning sees us on the hill taking a last look over The Park while you can still see the grass. It won’t be long now; the gates have opened. We can tell because of the excitement and laughing bubbling over the fences, audible over the pitter patter on the marquee roof. They aren’t bothered about the rain and neither are we; the forecast is good for tonight and the next few days.
All in all there’s plenty of mechanics, meteorology and magic on site…but what I really want to know is: where’s the mozzarella?

Tuesday, 21 June

We are adamant that, this year, we will have enough time to set up in a relaxed and efficient manner.

To help make this happen we spend the night in a campground ten minutes away from Worthy Farm, surrounded by bleating lambs, newborn calves and crops of waving daisies. The only traffic jam we encounter on our way to the site on Sunday morning is made up of a herd of cows, both timid and curious, and just like that we are in the queue of traders by 7am.

There is a little mud, and I am suspicious of it, but there are also modern-day knights sitting atop JCBs ready to rescue people like us should we need it and, happily, the sun is winning its battle with the billowing clouds above our heads.

It isn’t long before we find ourselves back in The Park on site S2/06.

So much is familiar. The birds are singing a riot, refusing to be outdone by the drilling; the giant washing line is being hung up and the finishing touches are being added to the gates that stand at the field’s entrance. The toilets and their hostile odour. Our neighbours.

We are ahead of schedule and are feeling pleased with ourselves until we have a chat with one of our suppliers where they confess to being ignorant about the whereabouts of one of our most essential ingredients. I get a nasty chill.

So much for being organised. It just goes to show that it’s not so much about planning for the Festival, as waiting to see what the Festival has planned for you…

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