DSCF7125 (2)_768x1024 From Greenbelt we made our way to Darlington for an overnight stop with Liese and Nath (sleeping inside a house, very strange) then on to Edinburgh. Brian performed very well, though he doesn’t really like to combine hills and speed. We did see the dizzy heights of 71 mph for a brief time, but cruising at 60 is more the order of the day. A quick check on economy shows an average of 31MPG on the run from Cheltenham, which is better than expected. Anyway, enough statistics….

Edinburgh has two campsites in the city boundaries, and we opted for the Morton Hall site to the south of the city. Having lost time to pumping up tyres in Darlington then shopping in Asda we arrived later than planned. It’s a nice site, though we have discovered the shop opening times bear little resemblance to those advertised!

falkirk wheel 2_320x240 On our first day we visited the Taits who we hadn’t seen for years (arrived late due to, well, being us) and then on to the Falkirk wheel which opened almost exactly the same time as we left Scotland, and we have wanted to visit ever since. It is a stunning piece of engineering, but the boat ride on it was actually a little dull, though the cheery guide helped improve things. For anyone else visiting I’d suggest thinking about just watching and going off on one of the walks around the site and the two canals. The play areas were quite good, though the water play park appeared to be a little low on water so didn’t quite work properly (or we were all too stupid to understand how stuff worked).

Day two saw us wake to a puddle of water in the corner of the bed. No, I hadn’t had an accident, nor do we have any cats with us. Brian must have been crying in the night. Or perhaps we had a leak. It looks like the gutters are still a bit leaky, so out came the sealant gun. Meanwhile “3” had decided to cut off our mobile broadband, so a long call to the customer disservice department ensued. This meant once again we were running late.

The bus to Edinburgh (£1.20 adult single, listen up Southern Vectis) left us a short walk to Dynamic Earth, which was an interesting visit and handy revision for the girls’ environmental management course. We then revisited old haunts, waving to the trains coming in and out of Waverley Station (pleased to note they still wave back and hoot), visiting the cafe under the church at the West End of Prince’s Street and then the “chocolate shop” (that’s what Rebekah always called the Fairtrade shop) and nearby playground.

Arrived back ready for our barbecue only to discover we had no lighter fuel (thought it was packed) so switched to an alternative. Ho hum.

arthurs seat_1024x768 Our final full day in the city saw a spot of shopping and some most excellent ice creams, followed by meeting up with friends at the National Museum of Scotland. The central atrium was awesome and provided photo opportunities while we waited for Laura (we were early, for the first and probably last time on this trip). We then had a change of plan and headed off to a multicultural festival at Leith Links. It was…interesting. We saw some excellent Bungra dancing but had to sit through some dire “singing” beforehand as some wailing bloke decided to overrun massively. We managed to pick up some (very effective) lighter blocks and so managed our BBQ at last, yippee!

We packed up and left early the next morning, and climbed up Arthur’s Seat, as one must do when visiting Edinburgh. Fortunately we had the sunniest day yet and had some great views from the top before descending rapidly to head across to Fife. We were running late.

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Sunday was my favourite day at Greenbelt. The Rebekah was having Jonathan for a chunk of the afternoon. She and Jamie could see a film and then get very cheap hot chocolate and cake from the kids area if they had a small child with them which seemed to provide enough of an incentive to take him off our hands for a good long bit of time, so I had more time to do what I wanted.

Molten Meditation

I often like to do an early morning activity and this year there was an area called Soul Space where an early morning molten meditation went on.

This involved about 10 minutes of listening to background music and a few bible verses repeated – while looking at a repeating film of either syrup being poured into a pot or clouds moving across the sky.

Then a sort of sharing of the peace (usually hate this and went to change a baby’s nappy at this point in a service when mine were smaller – all that false smiling and hugging – yuck) where you just said “peace be with you” or “God loves you” or another prayer or blessing and tied an piece of wool round the person’s wrist (the man leading the meditation did make it clear that it wasn’t “magic wool” just a visual representation of the blessing). I actually really liked this as there wasn’t a lot of fake smiling and heartiness it was really quiet and peaceful and a couple of weeks later I still have my not-magic wool blessing round my wrist.

Then there was another 10 minute meditation similar to the first and then we quietly left. A peaceful start to the day.

Sunday Morning Communion

P1000021To be honest this wasn’t as good as last year – the bloke leading the sung worship was rather strange with a long piece of hair at the front which needed flicking about during his over exuberant keyboard playing and shouting at the congregation for a response. A bit overly American Pentecostal for my liking really – but just decided to enjoy the strangeness of it. I loved the streamers that they used over our heads as their visual this year and there is something amazing about sharing communion with a group of friends in a crowd of thousands. Don’t even mind doing the peace too much in that setting.

Wild Goose Big Sing

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Wild Goose are part of the Iona Community. They sing mostly unaccompanied 4 part harmony short songs from around the world. Two of these were simply made up of the word Alleluia, some might have a short phase such as peace be with you. They are taught very very quickly – the leader of the part you are singing sings it once, you copy it once and then you sing it all together. When I did this a couple of years ago I found it terrifying! I was sure I couldn’t remember the harmonies and was really nervous about getting it right. This year I just sang it out without worrying and seemed to get the harmonies better and enjoy it much more. To the point that I thought I’d get the music book that they said had songs that are not too difficult for children but are not embarrassing for adults to sing (not going to be stuff like Jesus You’re My Superhero or If I Were A Butterfly then) with a view to hopefully using some of them in our singing for fun group. This singing sounds amazing as hundreds of people gather together at the grandstand of Cheltenham race course and give it their best shot!

Abide

The late afternoon saw me in the Abide area – small yurts and meditation spaces provided by Moot a neo-monastic community from London. They were doing an Ignation style meditation, which is where you read through a bible passage and you try to imagine it in detail and from different perspectives, imagining the sights, smells, sounds and feeling that the people there might have been experiencing. They chose the story of the woman pouring the perfume over Jesus’ feet. I enjoyed this but this was the first time I had queued to get in somewhere over the weekend and consequently the first time I had been sat on the floor really squashed. they did acknowledge this as half way through we were instructed to get up and have a stretch which was well needed.

Dinner Etc.

I had asked Martin to make the spag bol using the frozen braised mince we had brought with us – unfortunately the pot labelled braised mince turned out to be something else unidentifiable so we had unidentifiable with tomato sauce and tuna and pasta and it tasted good! Whoops.

We headed out early and into a very squashed performance cafe (lovely venue but far too many people trying to get in – think Greenbelt need to put some of the bigger acts on else where and let the performance cafe be for lesser know people who might get a smaller audience) to watch Beth Rowely who was, as Martin said, a little disappointing. I then rushed out of there to meet Sally and go to Taizé worship.

Taizé

Last time we went to Taizé the tent was quite full but still had space to lie down in if you wanted. This year we thought there would be no problem with space as the big top was much much bigger, how wrong we were. There wasn’t much space to fit in we ended up squashed and behind chairs unable to see anything. Despite this we had a lovely time the Taizé chanting is sublime and I am finding that I enjoy the 10 minutes of silence in the middle more each year. I like the way the service just runs without announcement or distraction (aside from numb feet!) and feels so very peaceful.

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beth rowleyThe second part of Greenbelt was almost as good as the first, though nothing topped Show of Hands’ fantastic performance on the first night. We got into the performance cafe well before Beth Rowley’s set as we had been introduced to her stunning voice at a previous Greenbelt (on mainstage that time) and knew she would be popular. It proved to be one of the disappointments of this years festival. The first song was just dreadful, and for most of the rest of the set she sang new material. It did improve from the poor start, but all the songs were marred by poor sound. Not quite sure what was going on as the performance cafe sound had been spot on previously. Poor Beth sounded like she was signing in the bathroom. She ended on the beautiful almost persuaded, which fortunately reminded me how good she can be. According to the kids she was good at last orders that night, so while I won’t be rushing out to buy her album just yet I may see if I can have a listen online to some of the new tracks and make a decision not marred by toilet-acoustics.

jude simpson The combined draw of Jude Simpson and another chance to hear Folk On brought us to the comedy showcase. The early afternoon slot meant no queuing and hence time for a quick game of Cribbage before the comedy started! It was a fun slot, though Jude seemed a bit rusty (young baby might explain that!) but had the audience with her nonetheless through My Spleen Can’t do the Hoovering and My Baby is a Mango. Folk on were folking marvellous once again – mainstage must surely beckon?

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kate rusbyAnother of our “must listen” artists was Kate Rusby, who was on the main stage, though with a short set in the mid-afternoon. This overlapped slightly with the comedy showcase, so we had to leave in the middle of the last Folk On song and hoof it from the Centaur to mainstage as quickly as possible. Kate did not disappoint in the slightest. We had never heard her live, and she gave a great performance, with a low-key chatty style between songs. A longer set would have been the best improvement that could have been made here!

Later in the evening we returned to mainstage for the Unthanks who proved very listenable but didn’t quite come across as a main stage act for me. I would have preferred a smaller venue and a beer to go with my Unthanks. Still, it made for a pleasantly enjoyable set, and allowed me some time to experiment with camera settings to try and capture night-time crowd shots.

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P1120635_768x902The plan was to go to Greenbelt every 2 years, but this year’s line-up was just too tempting, so we tacked on a long weekend at Cheltenham Racecourse to our grand tour of Scotland. I’m blogging on Sunday afternoon, so there may yet be another post. It’s been a great weekend so far. The rain held off long enough for full site access on Friday, allowing our friends under canvas to drive in and set up, unlike last years, erm…interesting start to the weekend. The bleary eyed first ferry of the morning proved worthwhile as we beat the worst of the queues to get in, and made it onto site early enough to find a suitable space for all of us together.

Show of Hands were one of the big draws for us, and I recommended Dave got over his folk aversion and listened. To quote Dave’s response they were “AWESOME”. Such talented performers, relaxed and assured without appearing smug or showy. Fantastic.

P1120719_1024x768Something on an institution, Folk On were a “must see” for us. Fortunately they were on ahead of Paul Bell, who we were also really keen to see. As it turned out the arrangement would have worked better the other way round (as appeared to be the case when we first looked at the timings).  Folk On provided foot stomping tunes with silly, silly words, beautifully crafted into a hilarious performance. Paul Bell was brilliant as ever, but his gentle P1120731_768x1024humour and sharp observations of humanity would have been better programmed ahead of the mania that is Folk On. Still, both were thoroughly enjoyable and led to purchases in the G-Store and online.

Today was the communion service. I wasn’t sure whether to go as wanted some time to myself (which I have instead found now and am quietly and antisocially sitting in the van blogging) but decided I would. I’m not keen on crowds and this was a BIG crowd. Dismay really set in when Tony declared “There’s a space at the front, let’s go there” and the other fools went along with him. I could see no such space. However it turned out Tony was right, there was indeed a large space at the front. I guess church is the same wherever you go, the front row is always left empty. The service was generally great, with some fantastic use of 100 volunteers and several miles of ribbon to create a fantastic visual effect with a series of links into the service.

P1120808_1024x768 The communion service went into sharing “The Peace” in finest Anglican style. Normally something I hide from, forced nicey-interactivity with other people – not my strong suite as a grumpy old man not keen on any form of socialising outside of set acceptable parameters. This however had a much more real-feel to it, and was actually OK.

Some people didn’t quite get it though, it has to be said….

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Overall a good communion service, and thus far a great Greenbelt.

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Rebekah, Rebekah, Toby, Anna and Caleb decided to join the youth scratch choir. They had three rehearsals and then performed on the mainstage. Toby even did the male solo in Oh Happy Day.

So this seems to be another Greenbelt tradition, selling off the Divine chocolate very very cheaply – it’s not all ours honestly!

I made pancakes for everyone – not my best pancakes but they still seemed to be well received especially with chocolate spread!

Looks like Jamie Might be getting anointed here, well it is a Christian arts festival!

Boys looking sad 🙁

Boys looking happy 🙂

And this one is specially for Church on the Roundabout regulars “Hi you’ve caught me queueing for the chemi-loos at Greenbelt – and heeeeere’s this weeks notices!”

We really enjoyed spending an afternoon sitting in the the very chilled out space that was the Performance Cafe, drinking elderflower cordial (thanks Mick). It was just what we needed after being very busy. Jonathan sat and drew quite happily while we listened to amongst others Ellie Williams.

Not sure who is leading who astray here.

We really wanted to get another chance to see Jude Simpson and so went to the musical comedy showcase. We went and queued nearly and hour and a half before hand – luckily the lovely Sally and Tony had volunteered to have Jonathan and the girls were also queueing but not right next to us. We had got wise by Monday evening and had taken our little stools to sit on and a notebook and pens and book. It turned out that the venue wasn’t full anyway but we all got our favourite places to sit in – the kids downstairs on the floor at the front and us old fogeys in the balcony with seats!

Not only did we once again see Jude Simpson (and I’m delighted to say that the kids loved her too) but we got to see Folk On (Folk Off) who the kids had highly recommended and we thought they were brilliant and we are very sad that we can’t find anything at all about them online!

Then it was Tuesday Morning and time to go home 🙁

The long walk to the proper flushing loos

the empty site

And Dave finally gets into the festival spirit

This years Greenbelt gave us the experience of camping in the coldest weather we have ever experienced. The temperature went down to 0 on Saturday night, Nerissa woke up on Sunday morning to ice on the tent. I think I slept for about 2 hours in total and don’t think I have ever felt so cold.

This is what we all looked like heading off to watch the London Community Gospel Choir, please bear in mind that it is August, not February!

When we finally got to the mainstage, wrapped up for a winter’s evening we then had to do the other Greenbelt tradition and queue for the loos

Dancing while waiting

Tony doesn't think queueing for chemical loos is the done thing

Hanging around and watching LCGC.

The area in front of the mainstage got too busy for the kids to be able to see over everyone’s heads so we moved over to the side where they had lots of space for dancing.

As well as the events to go to (mostly music and comedy in our case and sometimes both together – did I mention already the fantastic Jude Simpson) there are loads of displays and activities going on around the site.

Christian Aid had a tent all about tax and the cost that tax avoidance by major companies has for the whole world.

And lots of art works around the site.

Jonathan was at the kids activities, the girls were off terrorising the rest of the camp-site with their friends there was finally time for martin and I to catch our breath and look at the program. We did this in the essential to visit venue. Now at the Isle of Wight Festival that would be the Solace Tent at Greenbelt (as at many other festivals) it is definitely the Tiny Tea Tent . Martin is concentrating very hard juggling the daily diary and the big guide and trying to work out what we want to do. We decided that we wouldn’t worry about going to any talks as we could download them afterwards, we would concentrate on going to more experiential things. So I decided I wanted to do Beer and Hymns (which in the end had too long a queue so I didn’t get into it) Taize worship and the Wild Goose Big Sing. We both wanted to do Milton Jones, London Community Gospel Choir and a few other bits and pieces. We managed most of what we wanted to do but not everthing and boy did we have to queue for some events!

On Sunday Morning Martin decided to chill out at the tent and the rest of us went to the main communion at the main stage. With the theme of looking sideways continued we had some unusual visual images. We looked though a mirror to see the mirror writing in our service handouts and also to see it on stage. It took me quite sometime to be able to see it in the mirror but eventually I got there.

We also put three different types of service sheet together to produce a word.

We used the red napkins in a responsive reading and had lots of confetti blown all over us and then shared communion together.

Usually at churches when they “share the peace” I look for an excuse to be somewhere else – I really hate doing the big phoney smile and hug or handshake thing. Small children are good for this as they can often be encouraged to start crying or need a nappy change at an opportune moment unfortunately mine are now to big for this and fortunately we don’t do this at our church. However even I enjoyed sharing the peace sat in a field surrounded by good friends some of whom seemed to be doing Rimmer impressions with the little mirrors – part of the looking sideways thing!

So ridiculously early on Friday morning we set off to Greenbelt. We were on the 6:30 Red Funnel from Cowes, joining with The Oustons and the Murphys. I felt sorry for the barely awake passengers on the ferry who were hoping for a quiet peaceful crossing.

We managed to meet up with everyone in our group in a car park just outside Cheltenham and then joined the long queue in.

The weather had been bad and we had been warned that we might not be allowed to take our car on to the racecourse to camp. When we arrived we were told this was the case but that we could get on to the main camping field with cars and that a steward would direct us. Well at the key point of making a decision between a preferable location where we could camp together and carrying the gear the stewards ran out and we were left fending for ourselves.

In true Gibson indecisiveness we (to the tune of the Hokey Cokey )”we got the stuff out of the car, the stuff in the car, got back into the cars and drove all about” eventually we went back to abandoning the cars and very naughtily dragged everything over the racecourse to get to an empty bit of ground. We were very grateful for Dave’s trailer which did sterling sevice dragging our gear illicitly across to our pitch.

So we got pitched, had some dinner and headed out. We started the complicated arrangements of who had which younger children, who was going to go and queue and what for, what time older ones might come back and when we would all manage to coincide and eat!

the rainbow after leaving the children's area

Shara and I headed off to a session on food and rituals – this was mostly little bits of talking and then discussion in small groups – it seemed that Shara and I did more food and rituals than others in the group so we didn’t really learn very much but picked up a few nice ideas. then it was off to join the big queue to get the children registered for the kids activities! Only it wasn’t there – there was no queue at all – we went straight in and got them sorted – amazing. although we were warned there would still be a horrific queue the next morning.

So back to the tent quick regroup and off to see the amazing Jude Simpson with Martin. When we were here two years ago we only just managed to get in to see her so we arrived early – we got in easily this time perhaps because she had been upgraded to the bigtop. She was just as funny as we remembered and it was a good start to Greenbelt

I was up early so had a bacon roll and hot chocolate in peace before heading for the queue.

Even if you are registered in the children’s area you are not guaranteed a space. Tokens for a session are handed out at 8.45. If you are in the queue at 8.45 and they run out you are guaranteed and afternoon place if you are there after 8.45 you are guaranteed nothing. So people go with their chairs and flasks and papers and wait early. I decided I didn’t care which session they went to so got there about 8.30 to wait. The queue was far longer than I expected and it took me a few minutes to walk to the end of it. When I arrived at the front I managed to get the children’s tickets and headed back to the tent to turn round again and return with the children <phew> just as well i could get tickets for all the children going.