(Prompted by a visit to Strawberry Fair which is held each
year on Midsummer Common in Cambridge. The purpose was to support my stepson
Dougal whose band was playing there. I hadn’t been to the event for some
Are you going to Strawberry Fair?
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
Quite a shock I did have there
On Saturday, remembered in rhyme
I’d forgot t’was no gentle country fair
With ladies selling pots of jam,
And ripened fruit, and English ham.
The only hint of strawberry
As I picked my way through seedy crowds
Was the gaudy colour of hippies hair
Packed it was, like Glastonbury but free.
Crusties, Travellers, Chavs & Hippies
Dogs on ropes, youths being lippy
Unending queues for bogs to pee.
I felt an alien,
No gaudy tattoo upon my flesh
No body piercing to show that I was cool, or hard
It’s not just because I’m “Nesh”
The moment I entered through the Meadows gate
I realised that I was Very, Very straight.
It seemed a generation of hedonists,
Had packed into one large squalid field
I felt awkward, quite out of place,
My discomfort ill concealed.
Rubbish bins waited hungry, empty,
While scattered all around,
The detritus of a festival for all to see.
More fester than festive.
To me, a very unfamiliar way to live.
Bad face painting all around,
Done by someone stoned
The sweet herbs I had expected
Replaced by one alone:
The smell filled every corner of that grassy field
Not grass that’s freshly mown,
But acrid fumes of skunk
Though possibly organic,
And also locally grown
Young men with can of beer in one hand
The other dragged six-packs of cheap beers from Tesco’s.
The Indian off licence just down the road
Selling big plastic bottles of cider by the load.
Mr Mukagee must surely thank the Hindu God of booze
for every Midsummer madness on the common.
He really just can’t lose.
Frankly, I was appalled at my own feeling of disgust,
I suddenly felt so glad to old!
To be of another generation than this,
Whose scruffy pleasure-seeking seemed their only goal.
In that moment, I truly was a grumpy old man,
Isolated, awkward in my angst,
And looking for a plan.
I needed soothing fast.
Maybe I’d be lucky and meet someone from My world
To share an intellectual conversation
On fibre optics or philosophy
Hell, Cambridge should have plenty!,
Yet in vain, a single one I could not see.
And then I found Dougal’s band,
For they had come to play
At Strawberry fair in the World Music tent.
This would be their biggest day.
Now there was a focus.
Now there was a point.
Something more to life
Than dragging on a poorly rolled up joint
Now I saw through younger eyes
Youthful enthusiasm infected me again
I’d been blind to all beyond the superficial
Now pride in offspring began to rise.
The tent was throbbing with a reggae beat
And a thousand people waved their hands,
And leaped and moved their feet
As they relished the performing bands.
Time for Doug’s band Goldenburn to play
To my relief, they loved them. Hey!
The band asked me to take some pics,
To record their biggest ever gig.
So armed with camera and flash
I leapt about like papperazzi,
Cutting quite a dash.
Now I had a task to do,
A point to being there,
The Gig was done, the crowd delighted,
The Band happy and quite relieved
It all went well, a Great success,
By all it was agreed.
Now, ‘twas after 10 and time to go,
We left the confines of the tent
And picked our way back through the show.
Looking forward to a comfy chair
And feeling somewhat spent.
By now the multitude
Much drink and drugs imbibed
Were more subdued
Strewn across Midsummer common wide.
Newton, (He’d invented Gravity here
In Cambridge), would have though it very queer!
For ‘twas getting stronger by the hour
Fixing folks upon the floor
They didn’t want to shift for anyone, anymore.
The bins, still empty, the ground more awash
With empty glasses, bottles, cans and trash,
For tomorrows cleaners of the site,
Clear reminders of the bash, tonight.
Arrived home feeling tired, stiff and a rather old.
But next day I felt a little younger
When my daughter told,
That she and her friends arrived at Four like me
But were exhausted soon after Five
From the hectic jamboree,
So they left early, One hour only served.
While we did Six, Heroically!
Richard Epworth June 13, 2008