Stanley Johnson with his wife, Jenny (Photo by Roy Riley) Stanley Johnson with his wife, Jenny (Photo by Roy Riley)
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Villa Irene

London Mayor Boris Johnson's father, Stanley Johnson, joins the crowds at Glastonbury

| The Telegraph online version


As dawn breaks on my first Glastonbury morning, I find myself wandering through a still-sleeping encampment like Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt.

Around me are tents, tens of thousands of them, stretching as far as the eye can see.

There is indeed something almost medieval about the setting and the eye is ineluctably drawn to those great, towering pavilions where the live musical performances - the festival's very raison d'Ítre - take place.

Even on a drab grey morning, the huge red and gold canvas structures stand out like great beacons on the plain, pennants flying and banners streaming.

Two hours later, I had worked my way round most of the site. Some 150,000 people are expected in Glastonbury this year and I would say that by now most of them were here. Add another 30,000 helpers and you begin to understand the sheer logistical triumph of the event.

In the early hours, when gentlemen of England still lay abed, I watch convoys of fork-lift trucks shunting piled-high boxes of baps to different dispersal points around the valley.

A mind-boggling 1.25 million gallons of waste have to be collected from 2,802 lavatories over the three days of the festival.

With it all running like clockwork, I began to wish my own introduction to Glastonbury had been quite so smooth. But for that, I have no one to blame but myself. A day earlier, as I had queued with several hundred other festival fans at the entrance, the heavens opened.

As I stood getting literally soaked to the skin, I found myself admiring the wisdom and foresight of the young men and women waiting in line with me. They had ponchos, cagoules, anoraks and plastic macs. Some had umbrellas. I had rushed out of the door to catch a taxi to Paddington station without even a kerchief to cover my head.

I endured the torrential rain for about half an hour, tempted to abort the mission entirely. I had no dry clothes in my kitbag, just the one-man tent that I had purchased the previous day.

Irritated, I put the bag on the ground and gave it a kick. Spray flew and the zip popped open. It was the work of a moment to pull the tent out of the bag and over my head. When Clara, the Telegraph's photographer, called me on my mobile to ask where I was, I replied: "Look for me in the tent." "Which tent?" she asked. "I'm wearing it!" I said.

Well, that tent certainly did me proud. When I bought it, a young man in the shop had explained which poles went through which holes and what to do with the webbing tapes and flysheets. Of course, I hadn't followed a word.

It was after 11pm, with the rain still sheeting down when I finally found a patch of grass recently vacated by cows.

My wife, before I left home, had given me one of those miner's lights you wear on your forehead, to leave your hands free. But still I had no real idea what to do. Did you start with the inner tent or the outer? Two of the poles were blue but one - I could see it with my Scargill lantern - was red. What did this mean?

I was about to give up and simply roll myself in plastic, hoping to survive the night, when Clara once more appeared and took pity. Phew! Thanks to her stunning efficiency, I got at least five hours' sleep.

So the next morning, as the camp gradually awoke around me, I determined to make the most of the festival that is probably without equal anywhere in the world.

I am not well-versed in these matters but even I know that, whatever snide remarks some critics have made about the prominence being given to the American rapper Jay-Z, this year's race card is definitely up to scratch.

At 11am on Friday, with Kate Nash performing at the opening session, I was in front of the famous Pyramid Stage, snapping my fingers and singing alongside kids young enough (almost) to be my grandchildren. They knew every line, and the entire festival line-up.

"How do you know so much about it all?" I was truly impressed. "It's our world. Of course we know," they replied.

Those girls can probably pitch a tent in a storm as well.



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