Friday, August 11, 2006

Little Britain

It was the Ruffles' first family holiday this week. We stayed at the stunningly beautiful Pennard Hill Farm in Somerset. Resisting the temptation to call it a baby farm, which is something entirely different, it is designed to be baby friendly. This doesn't mean that it's all primary colours, face painting and teenage X-Factor rejects enthusiastically singing the theme tune to the Tweenies; it's just designed for people like us. Well, sort of, the other people staying there, who you would assume to be like us, had children called Florence and Sicily (aka 'Sistles').

The farm's whole approach is to avoid damaging children; its remoteness makes it completely safe, they have a 'eat at home' service; which is basically restaurant food delivered to your door. Even the pool is chlorine-free, it's cleaned by ultra violet lay lines or something. This meant that Millie had her first swim, which after a wobbly start she seemed to enjoy; until her daddy got a little over enthusiastic and bobbed her a too close to the surface of the water causing her to swallow half the pool and do the saddest little face ever.

Pennard Hill Farm is just round the corner (and up the hill) from Worthy Farm. Owned by Michael Eavis. Who organises the festival. The Glastonbury Festival. The farm overlooks the site though you wouldn't know it. Its not far from Burnham-on-Sea which is a classic crumbling English seaside town, which I truly wanted to enjoy. If you're a black and white photographer working for the Guardian it's probably a dream, if you're a visitor, it's pretty shit. Pound shops nestle amongst places selling fried things, fat people waddle around in England shirts and nasty gold jewellery. Part of me wants to love its English charm, but I just don't.

Having been to the festival but not the town, inevitably we also went into Glastonbury, which was much more my thing. It was full of women dressed in the fashion that fashion forgot; floaty skirts, black vest tops, leather flip flops. The men wore long wispy beards and t-shirts with purple unicorns on them. The shops are, as you'd expect, are all new agey, selling witchcraft and miscellaneous healing.

The common thing about both towns was their predicability and that they appear economically unsustainable (how can a whole town function on selling chipped porcelain dogs or healing algae?) You do start to wonder whether you're in the Truman Show that they're sophisticatedly branded theme parks, like Disney World with grit. In fact, when the fortieth numpty family blocks the pushchair whilst admiring tan leather sandals for 7.99 (for two pairs) you start to wonder whether you're being delayed whilst they set up the latest scene.


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