Long term love is more than just the rush of lightning through your veins. It’s something that’s embedded much deeper and is less frantic - constructed from feelings of security, affection, confidence and the sense of history that has brought two people together.
In 1998 my girlfriend and I went to the Glastonbury Festival. It was my fourth Glastonbury and her first. The rain turned the place into a disgusting brown quagmire and as we stumbled through the sea of mud, holding onto each other for fear of slipping, her qualities of resilience shone through. Pregnant and being battered by the weather, her quiet inner strength – never complaining and just getting on with things – kept us going all weekend. Last year at another festival – Camp Bestival – we discovered that her mum had died, but I’m sure many who met her that day were unaware of how sad she was inside or what had happened. In a world where it seems that many people have become so self-absorbed and melodramatic, wailing and complaining on Twitter and Facebook about the most trivial aspects of everyday life, turning every event into a trauma, my girlfriend is a world apart.
People talk about Glastonbury ‘moments’ – an often over hyped concept put together by the media – but in 1998 we shared one of those moments. Having endured a terribly dull set by Cornershop on the Jazz World Stage, we waited for the headlining act – Portishead. We clasped a hot chocolate with a drop of brandy in it between us, trying to keep ourselves warm against the cold and wet. When the band didn’t appear on time – they had got stuck in the mud getting to the stage - the temptation was to give up – standing all day in the mud when you’re pregnant is hard work. A lay down in the tent would have been a treat; but my girlfriend was determined to stay – Portishead were one of her favourite bands and she desperately wanted to see them. Finally they arrived and absolutely everything - the heaviness of our legs, the coldness of our bodies, the state of our dirty clothes - was forgotten. As lightning forked behind the stage the band played one of the most beautifully intense sets I have ever seen, suiting the weather perfectly – it was utterly captivating. My favourite Portishead song is Roads and when they played it - lead singer Beth Gibbons hunched over the microphone stand, cigarette in hand, head bobbing slowly as if in a trance - it sent shivers down the spine that weren't from the cold.
The version in the video below is from a live album and DVD they released. I bought it for my girlfriend in Christmas 1998 and it is still one of her most played albums.
In 2003 we returned to Glastonbury. The sun beat down, we had our two daughters with us and it was a much more pleasurable experience than in 1998. Yet we never felt the lightning running through our veins for any one band that weekend like we did with Portishead.