Visitors to Glastonbury Tor were alarmed this morning when they discovered that work has started on the huge job of slicing through the base of the Tor so it can be transported hundreds of miles to the Olympic Games opening ceremony on 27th July.
The Tor will be placed on a specially constructed rocket transporter that is on loan from the aeronautics department of the Mystical University of Glastonbury, and will then be driven along the M4 motorway in time to feature as the centrepiece of the extravaganza at the start of the Olympic Games. Because it is a wide load the Tor will occupy two lanes, only leaving one lane for overtaking. The AA has warned motorists to expect delays.
Speaking on behalf of the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union, Chief Stairmaster Paul Hompkins had mixed feelings about the event; “it is traditional to go all out to impress at the Olympic Games opening ceremonies, and we appreciate that since Glastonbury Tor achieved mountain status that it has become one of the most important visitor attractions in England. But at the same time, you have to appreciate that this will be the first time in hundreds of years that the members of the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union haven’t been able to make their daily barefoot walk from the middle of Glastonbury town to the top of the Tor. During this enforced break we’re going to have a lot of surplus Kendal Mint Cake. Fortunately the National Trust gift shop at the base of the Tor have very kindly offered to take it off our hands. But for me, it’s more about the break in tradition.”
Recent visitors to Glastonbury Tor will have noticed that many of the signs instructing them to keep off the grass, keep off the garlic and keep off the path have been kicked over by angry protesters.
Although this is a fairly civilized campaign, with signs being gently kicked so that they stand at a jaunty angle, the gatekeepers at the tor are not taking this behaviour lying down.
In response, Chief Gatekeeper Titania Bonham-Smythe unveiled a new hand-painted instruction board today at the nimbleness assessment area that explains the purpose of the various Keep Off The signs, and the consequences of being caught disobeying the rules.
Bonham-Smythe explains; “As you know, our members of staff love nothing more than stopping ignorant members of public and telling them fascinating historical facts, but we have had to put this on hold since this protest started. My staff members are spending all day just straightening kicked-over signs.”
But speaking on behalf of the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union, Chief Stairmaster Paul Hompkins is rather more critical of the new instruction board; “while the message appears quite simple – visitors to the tor are told in no uncertain terms that the Keep Off The signs are there for their own good – it’s the small print that has everyone worried. For example, if you are caught kicking over a sign, even by accident, you can find yourself spending a whole afternoon locked in one of the old cells at St. Michael’s Prison. This has already caused quite a problem for some of our older union members who have a hard time making their daily barefoot ascent. We are used to a life of penitence, but we’re really not accustomed to slopping out, and the food is terrible.”
On the day that the Glastonbury Pilgrimage Association cancelled their annual event because of rising petrol prices, the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union are in rather more defiant mood, meaning that rivalry between the two groups has never been more intense.
Regular visitors to Glastonbury Tor will be accustomed to the sight of Glastonbury Pilgrims Union members making their daily barefoot pilgrimage to the top of the tor, nimbly dodging the Keep Off The Grass and Keep Off The Path signs.
Speaking on behalf of the union, Chief Stairmaster Paul Hompkins explained; “Our organisation was the first to introduce daily pilgrimages, while the Glastonbury Pilgrimage Association struggle to do it once a year. We were the first to equip each of our members with satellite tracking and a 10kg bar of Kendal Mint Cake on every trip. And I’m sure everyone remembers our campaign “Lead Free In Seventy Three” – we moved over entirely to lead-free petrol almost forty years ago!”
Hompkins continued; “But our big innovation came when we converted to barefoot pilgrimming in the early nineties – since then we haven’t looked back. It means our petrol consumption is a fraction of that used by organisations that still insist on motorised pilgrimages. Of course some of our members get a bit jealous when the Glastonbury Pilgrimage Association members overtake them on their motorbikes, but now with petrol going above £1.35 a litre we can expect our strategy to cement our position at the top of the pilgrim league.”
Many visitors to Glastonbury Tor were understandably upset by the arrival of 500 Keep Off The Grass signs in January. But they have been thrown into complete confusion by a new set of signs instructing them to keep off large sections of the path that runs from the National Trust gift shop at the base of the tor to St. Michael’s Tower at the top.
These emergency measures have been put in place because dozens of people visit the tor every year and the pathway that was installed in ancient times by King Arthur and his merry men is showing clear signs of water damage.
Uther Henge, the chief mystical consultant for the National Trust stationed permanently at their gift shop at Glastonbury Tor explained; “This is just a temporary measure because of the recent flooding. We are trying to give it time to dry out. It is quite simple – when visitors walk up the path and encounter one of the banned sections they need to tiptoe along the channel of gravel on the edge that separates the grass from the pathway. Obviously this involves some nimble footwork, but we have trained assistants on hand to prop people up if they look like they are going to stumble. We have also set up a nimbleness assessment area at the gift shop where visitors can practice walking along a narrow channel of gravel to see if they meet the standards required to make a proper ascent. It allows us to weed out anyone who looks like they will cause a problem.”
Speaking on behalf of the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union, Chief Stairmaster Paul Hompkins was keen to bring attention to the challenge that union members are now encountering on their daily barefoot walk from Glastonbury town to the top of the tor; “For many years, union members have taken special measures to avoid eroding the path that leads to the top of Glastonbury Tor, but unfortunately there is a worn channel up the middle that collected a lot of water in the recent flood. This Christmas we began sewing little bags of cement into our trousers and shaking it down our legs to try and fill the holes. So far we have reversed fifty years of wear, but we still have a way to go.”
Hompkins continued; “You can understand that our barefoot ascent of the tor has become very difficult because so much is now confined to the painful gravel channels. Our members have got around this by strapping tennis rackets on their feet. Interestingly this seems to add to the solemnity of their penitent journey.”
Famous for their weekly barefoot pilgrimage to the top of Glastonbury Tor, the Pilgrims Union are not so well known for compromising on matters of principle. But this afternoon for the first time since late January when they began their boycott, penitent pilgrim Anders McCadmium allowed himself to be airlifted to safety by the Air Sea Rescue Service, during treacherous weather on the tor.
Chief Stairmaster Paul Hompkins later briefed the press on the events that led to this embarrassing event; “I was elected head of the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union in 1976 on the pledge that we would build on the ethos of our brotherhood – our mystical devotion to the earth mother, our humble life of sanctity and contrition. But we also hold personal safety very dear, and when pilgrims make their daily journey to the top of the tor, I insist that in their knapsack full of union paraphernalia they include the basics of life preservation – a tinfoil cape, distress flare and 10kg bar of Kendal Mint Cake.”
Hompkins continued; “Today Anders McCadmium found himself about fifty yards from the top of the tor, caught in the most awful rain storm. It was so bad that he was forced to take shelter in a small dip that provided little in the way of relief. It really was a matter of life and death. He was forced to set off his distress flare which immediately summoned the Air Sea Rescue Service. Fortunately Pilot Officer Graham Gillespie and his crew were able to rescue Mr. McCadmium, and take him to our place of safety, the Pixie Gardens Tea Room in the heart of Glastonbury town. Here he was treated with a traditional infusion of lentil tea, and he seems to be much better.”
Anders McCadmium is expected to make a full recovery once the Kendal Mint Cake has passed through his system.