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.”
Following a recent outcry, owners of other pets are also now allowed to use the trolleys, as long as no dog requires that particular size. Non-dog owners are expected to allow their pets to share with other animals, and this has already caused quite a stir, with fights breaking out among trolley occupants who have no previous history of violence.
Patricia Barnyard of the Glastonbury Dogwalker’s Trust has frequently been on hand to mediate in disputes over who should be allowed to take the next trolley, and in a landmark decision has announced that owners of Shih Tzu dogs should be treated as though they have brought a cat for a walk.
Over a cup of lentil tea in one of Glastonbury’s many wholefood cafes, Patricia explained the basis for her decision; “I realise that this will cause a bit of difficulty for Shih Tzus, as they have short legs and don’t have the stamina required to scale Glastonbury Tor, but the reality is that with so many dogs in the queue, some difficult decisions have to be made. I decided that where more than one dog is competing for a trolley it should be awarded to the animal with most canine characteristics – to the butchest dog – and in that case a Shih Tzu is always going to lose. Think about it – a Fox Terrier or even a Dachshund is fundamentally more deserving of a place in a dog trolley. In fact, can you imagine any breed less deserving of the epithet ‘dog’ than a Shih Tzu?”
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.
A public outcry has followed the recent announcement that Glastonbury Pilgrims Union has donated thirty dog trolleys to enable people to enjoy the tor with their dogs. These trolleys were necessary because the tor has grown by 30 metres in the last decade which meant that many dogs were no longer able to get to the top under their own steam.
This week three hundred owners of other pets signed a petition that was handed in to the Lord Mayor of Glastonbury the Rt Hon Lawrence McKnight, that claimed equal rights to trolleys for all pets.
In a partial step-down the Pilgrims Union have agreed that if trolleys are not being used by dogs then other pets may use them. However it is not good news for all pets. Very small animals may be expected to double up and share with others in order to avoid wasting space. So for example, if two people arrive with chinchillas, and there is a spaniel sized trolley, they would be expected to share. There are no plans to force animals from entirely different species to share trolleys, but many people think this will be hard to enforce. The rule of thumb is that if a pet is likely to eat or attack another animal that it shares a trolley with, then it should wear a muzzle.
Fortunately muzzles for a wide range of species are available in the National Trust gift shop if pet owners arrive without one.
Patricia Barnyard of the Glastonbury Dogwalker’s Trust remains upbeat; “Obviously dogs take priority. They are the best sort of pet, and this new ruling on trolleys accepts that fact. It means that dogs are never expected to share a trolley. They are always welcome to enjoy their visit to the tor, although there have been occasions when a queue of beagles has developed. On the other hand, if you want to bring a hamster or a cat for a walk on the tor it is possible that they will be able to use the trolleys too, and visitors will find a good selection of cat muzzles in the shop, on the shelf below the Hobgoblin Marmalade.”
Motorists in South West England awoke this morning to the discovery that satellite navigation systems no longer show Glastonbury Tor on the map. This wrecked the travel plans of many people who were planning to visit the tor today on this special day in the ancient mystical calendar.
Today is indeed an important day for the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union as they celebrate the Spring Equinox – the day when the setting sun shines directly through the window in St. Michael’s Tower and onto the main megalith in the famous ring of standing stones on the tor. People from all over the country come to Glastonbury to see the pilgrims perform their ritual barefoot walk up the single path to the top of the tor – a pilgrimage made all the more difficult by the new Keep Off The Grass signs.
Uther Henge, the chief mystical consultant for the National Trust stationed permanently at their gift shop at Glastonbury Tor struggled to shed light on the situation; “Yesterday if you typed the postcode for the tor into your satnav it would bring you straight here, although admittedly if you used a TomTom it would take you round the back of the tor to a service road that doesn’t allow you access to the property. But today as the sun rose the tor disappeared from systems much like Marty disappearing from the photo in Back to the Future. If you want mystical, you have to try this out!”
A spokesman for TelSat Inc., the company responsible for the satellites that hover over British airspace was more forthcoming; “This is just paving the way for Twinchester Mountain. We were contacted by an accountancy firm in Kent yesterday who were able to provide all the proper documentation for the change of name.”