Thursday, 21 July 2011

Friday 15th July 11 Little Green Gathering Day One

Had a pretty bad night in the tent due to being cold and not that comfortable on the air bed.  However, I was tired and fell asleep early, but woke at intervals, cold, until I put my fleece on, which gave me added insulation.  But then at exactly 4am, a very loud and weird cock crowed, and woke me again.

However, I had enough energy to respond positively to the request to help put up the main stage.  This was a bit of a jigsaw, and at one stage of the process, we had to undo a load of the marquee scaffolding and redo it.  But the team effort worked, and the little stage was built.

Mid afternoon, Serena went to London to see one of her musical idols, Melanie. She'll be back on site tomorrow.

The Little Green Gathering officially started at 3pm, so soon after this I registered and was given a leaf badge to wear, to identify LGG people, as members of the public also use the facilities.

I did my first show, on the main stage at 5pm, and it went really well with a small but keen audience.

At 7pm it was the first mealtime and as I approached the cafe, there was a woman who seemed to be propping herself up against the building, as if she was disabled or had a painful ankle or knee or something.  I offered her my arm and said would you like some help.  She accepted graciously and I walked her into the building.  I asked her which local Green Party she was from... she wasn't a Green Party member.  I asked her if she was with the Little Green Gathering, and no she wasn't, she just wanted some food. She readily confessed that she was drunk and was an alcoholic.  I said I'd see if I could sort out some food.  I asked Tim and he said yes, ask for a donation, and he suggested £5.  I got the food for the woman, whom I'll call Ella.  The cook said she'd been hassled by Ella earlier and was not happy with her begging food, but I said that she was willing to give a donation and after that I'd ask her to go.

Ella gave me a £10 note so I went to get change from Tim but she didn't want that, and said keep it, money is not a problem.  She ate and I went to get my meal.  After she had eaten, Tim ushered her outside, but she came back in and was drunkenly interacting with people, so Tim said to me, 'You brought her in, please can you get rid of her?'  So I gently took her outside and explained that it was a private event and that it might be best if she went home.  We talked about her alcoholism, and I said I understood as I had a friend in a very similar situation.  She was quite emotional, and moved by my compassion and sympathy.  Some people think that alcoholism is a deliberate situation that people have an option of just stopping, whereas I see it as a mental illness which people accidentally find themselves in, and once in it, it can be extremely difficult to extract oneself from it.  I suggested getting a taxi home but she told me she only lived a few minutes away, so I asked her if she wanted to be walked home.

She was very grateful and accepted.  She took me out of the Sustainability Centre and along to a very wealthy estate, with huge detached houses and manicured lawns, and her house was similar.  She had asked me to come in whilst we were walking to the estate, and I'd said that I'd walk her to the front door and then come back.  She told me her husband was an alcoholic too.  When we got to the house she again invited me in and I said I'd prefer to go back, but she was very insistent so I relented and went in with her, she wanted me to meet her husband. 

She took me through to a living room where her husband 'Peter' was slumped in an armchair, unconscious, his trousers soaked in urine, and the chair, and the carpet around it too.  He had a hospital gown on, and his face was covered in a crusty substance.  The smell was disgusting, and there was a couple of flies showing a lot of interest in him. It was a shocking and sickening sight.

Ella started trying to rouse him, thumping him on the chest, but I told her not to thump him.  He did come round though, and I managed to get some information out of them.  Apparently Peter had come out of hospital a few days back but had sat in this chair since.  This was a situation I couldn't just walk away from.  I asked if they had any friends or family nearby.  They hadn't.  Ella gave me her daughter's mobile phone number and I rang that but her phone was off.

So I was a bit stuck.  I found the number for NHS Direct, but was told there was a four-hour wait... and I didn't fancy hanging around for that.  I asked about the hospital visit, and found the hospital number, but they wouldn't tell me anything about his stay as it was confidential, and I was put through to A+E.  They too didn't think that Peter's situation was worthy of being brought into A+E, but I said I couldn't really just turn my back on the situation.  They said ring 999 for an ambulance. I reluctantly did, and explained that it wasn't an emergency but something had to be done...

When they arrived I explained why I was there and what the situation seemed to be.  They went into action and during this Peter said that he had been diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago and had 2 months to live.  However he hadn't had any chemotherapy or radiotherapy or medication, which seemed odd.

The ambulance chap suggested that I probably couldn't do anything else now and so I said my goodbyes and walked back, feeling shellshocked and tearful.  When I got back to the LGG I went to the live music on the main stage and told a few people about what I'd experienced and witnessed, and started to get back into the relative normality of the camp/festival atmosphere.

The rain got more persistent so I retired to the Hostel common room, and enjoyed live music there and chatted with Katie, a lively activist from London, whom I liked a lot.

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