Saturday, 29 August 2009


I leave in November on a five month motorbike journey through India. First I must get fit. I have a new BLOG for progress reports. To see, hit SHED THE FLAB...

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


Good day - though I am in a state of collapse. Bernadette has ordered me to take it easy for a couple of days. Meanwhile anyone wanting a signed copy of the book recording my septuagenarian ride south from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, OLD MAN ON A BIKE (HarperCollins), can go to my web site by hitting the above title.
You may not need the read - I definitely need readers to help fund this winter's ride through India. For those who don't read books - remember that books are the perfect present - easy to wrap, cheap to post and everyone complains that books are expensive. £8.99 as an expensive gift - I told you, perfect!

Saturday, 15 August 2009


The Guardian has my piece on the BIG CHILL as a double spread in the travel section. The Guardian also has a video on line.

Friday, 14 August 2009


the most embarrassing dad EVER!

Hit the title button on this entry and you'll go to the WARP FILMS / FILM 4 site for the totally crazy zombie movie shot during the Big Chill. Go to pictures and you will find this remarkably flattering pic of me playing a zombie bookie...


remnants of open air stage

My take on the Big Chill is in this Saturday's Guardian. I am dyslexic and write slowly. Hence I have not worked on this diary while writing the Guardian copy. I am about to drive to Gloucester to collect a young Australian law student who is visiting her grandmother here in Colwall. This done, I will get to work bringing both my Blog and this BIGCHILLDIARY up to date. Meanwhile here is a pic taken yesterday - good-bye Open Air stage...

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


My four sons, wonderful wives, glorious grandchildren, delightful girlfriends and just friends have all been staying or bathing or dropping by for breakfast during the Big Chill.
What they enjoyed has given me a wider than personal take on the Big Chill. I am about to try reading my notes so this is good-bye for a while...


All over bar the writing - so here I sit back home and face the screen that dominates! 1500 words on Katrina Larkin's festival is due on the Guardian travel editor's desk by dawn on Thursday for this Saturday's Travel section. Please don't hate it. And there will be video on the Guardian's web site of Katrina and I. You can watch and listen to me philosophising - OK, being pretentious. I know, no need to tell me - the Resident Teenager (once he gets out of bed) will do that...

Monday, 10 August 2009


Kids care for the environment. They support the Green Party, criticise their parents, chill at the Big Chill. And abandon their garbage on the Deer Park grass.
Yes, I know. I'm a complaining Old Blimp...

Saturday, 8 August 2009


Camping is an unsuitable occupation for septuagenarians. Bernadette and I shared my tepee last night, cold, uncomfortable and a long way to the toilet. Our tepee was directly behind a row of gleaming air-conditioned Airstream trailers. Airstreams are camping with nail polish.
Only fools, masochists and the inexperienced criticise comfort...


photographing the photographer photographing me photographing her photographing me etc, etc etc

Filming from 1.30 thru till late evening - video and still photographers from the Guardian. The paper will use four stills at most - so why so many takes? Because I'll submit the piece on Wednesday morning and the editor needs all possibilities covered.


I am shattered but having fun. Glorious weather, great music, a multitude of eccentrics, manic events and friendly people...BLISS!


Aged 76, I am near to death. Thursday night I joined the ranks of the un-dead. Is this a promotion or a demotion?
Either way, it was FUN.
4000 zombies in a zombie movie directed by a Hot Dog.
This will be the worst zombie movie ever made - and the funniest zombie movie ever made.
We Brits are unique in reveling in the truly bad.

Thursday, 6 August 2009


It is here...THE BIG CHILL.
The family is congregating. Two youngest have gone to set up camp at Eastnor.
No. 1 son and family are staying in our cottage.
Had dinner last night with Katrina Larkin. She and I meet this evening at 5.30 for zombie make-up. My granddaughter, Emily (three months), is editioning as the youngest zombie. Will I be the oldest?

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


rewind to the pic of james taken from the same place

In watching the rapid spread of The Big Chill fast across the Deer Park, I am continually reminded of a military operation. I am connected to last night's dinner guest (he of the portable loos) through our both having served as junior officers in the same cavalry regiment - I more than fifty years ago while our guest left the army recently and served with the Regiment in Iraq. The Big Chill is a new client for his Company. He is impressed by the efficiency and calm and politeness displayed by the Big Chill's General Staff. He also remarked that all the General Staff were women.
Bernadette responded that women are naturally more focused and therefore less hysterical than men - being focused leaves them more time to dress up and buy shoes.


The elderly surprise me. I was talking with an neighbour yesterday (in her mid eighties). She had spent time in India during her youth. I mentioned that we had the supplier of portable toilets for the BIG CHILL coming to dinner. She remarked that he must be the Shit Sahib - his employees are Shit Wallas.
Well, well...And whatever.


both main stages near completion

In truth, I was exhausted last night - hence not putting the pics on the BLOG. I finished working on a long piece for the Guardian at 2 in the morning and was back at my desk four hours later. Plus going to Eastnor and shopping for the BIG CHILL weekend. All four of my sons will be here plus wives, children, girlfriends. Better cook ahead and freeze. I am sneaking a microwave into the house - Bernadette believes that that they leak rays - as Thurber's Aunt believed that electricity leaked out of unused wall sockets. As with Religious Faith, this isn't something over which one can argue with a believer.
And we'd invited the Shit Sahib to dinner. I cooked packets of trout fillet layered with smoked salmon and baby spinach. So, yes, shattered. Two bottles of good Rioja Alta Reserva came to my aid...

Sunday, 2 August 2009


main stage
Definitely beginning to look good...


from the aerial


7 a.m. looking from our garden across colwall cricket field

Makes for a lovely day. I have been up since 6.30 - mostly worrying. I am yacking about my journey through the Americas at the Big Chill on Sunday at 3.30. Will anyone want to listen? If so, will some of them want signed copies of Old Man On A Bike? How many copies should I order from HarperCollins?
And how do I ban the Resident Teenager and his fearsome friends?

Saturday, 1 August 2009


advance party for the first aid center

I am a Festival Virgin. What do I pack for the Big Chill? I guess the same as I do for a journey round the Americas by motorbike and the same as I will pack for this winter's exploration of India: ample heart medication, clean underclothes and a washbag.


main stage

The sky grows lighter by the minute. I have made myself a cup of tea and am now happily giggling at the image of capering crazies frolicking from John o' Groats to Landsend. Keep at it, Guys and Girls. Here, as encouragement, is a pic of the outdoor stage nearing completion. This year's Big Chill will be the best...


from the aerial

Hey to all you Happy Revellers. Live up to your responsibilities. Support the Big Chill. Go outdoors right now and do a Sun Dance.


Overcast and a light drizzle this morning - not a worry. Work progresses on schedule.

Friday, 31 July 2009


big chill nights

The marquees for the Coop Bar and The Big Chill Nights Bar are up. The Big Chill Nights Bar is big. I imagine suggesting to someone late on in the evening that we meet in a bar with that long a name. I would become confused (more so than normally). I would confuse the someone. "Blue," I would try and he would search for me in the blue marquee that shows films of rotting cars.
I may be wrong about the cars. My informant was a young security guard. I am confused frequently by explanations offered by the young. The Resident Teenager tells me to get a hearing aid. I reply that I can hear well enough, that the language is different. In my youth, you traveled abroad to hear different languages. Nowadays you merely attempt conversation with someone of a different generation...


the main stage is going up

I am trying to get my head round the extraordinary amount of work and organisation here. The Commanding General has four staff. Most importantly, she has a mind that works lineally. Most admirable, she appears incapable of losing her sense of fun...


from the radio aerial

A second day of fine weather produces magical progress.


Here is an statistic for Happy Campers to ponder whilst seated on the can: the Big Chill produced one hundred and four thousand gallons of sewage last year. This year the festival has 800 porta-toilets on site, 20 toilets for the disabled, 60 urinals. The sewage will be trucked to the Severn Water processing plant at Netheridge, Gloucestershire...


Dear Readers - or what ever...
You may hate what I write on this BLOG, find it moderately interesting, totally boring, unpleasantly arrogant, presumptuous, bigoted, ill-informed, pretentious. Your comments would enlighten me. No bad thing...


Sunshine and a good breeze...

Thursday, 30 July 2009


four star general with her executive aide

A real General would have a staff of fifty ready to salute - plus a couple of warrant officers and a couple of clerks to do the brain work...So why is Caroline so calm? Confidence in her ability gained through experience? Probably...or is she calm by nature?


from the radio aerial

across the lakes

I take pics each evening from these same two points as proof of progress. This has been a great day. Green toilets stand in rows by the roadside, aluminum mat snakes out across the grass, marquees grow everywhere. Believing in the Big Chill no longer requires faith. Victory is assured. Caroline and her staff are on the march. I got out of bed this morning in a real rage. Why is on my main BLOG. Now I feel great. Katrina Larkin arrives Saturday. Next week is going to be wonderful adventure...


Sun all day and a drying breeze. Workers on the site have changed glum faces for smiles.


proof positive

I have been sitting in our garden, five miles from Eastnor. Joy of joys - sunshine and a drying breeze...

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


from up by the radio aerial

Look where you will and work is in progress. The Big Chill will be ready on time - that's a promise. You can trust me. I'm not a Politician.
Equally important, I have consulted with three of my fellow Herefordshire Oldies. Our various aches and pains are on the ebb, a sure sign that the weather will be great. Or would you rather trust those whippersnappers at the Met Office...


The drizzle has finally stopped. I watch awhile. The Deer Park should be chaos. Trucks and machinery and Landrovers seem to strew a trail of workmen in yellow slickers. Yet there is order to all this. The Festival Manager, Caroline, must be some sort of genius. Were she in the Military, she would be a four star General - in the US Army. The British Military are suspicious of women...


good sign

The downpour threatened by the BBC weather man has been a soft drizzle and the sky is lightning. Hurah!
I had tea yesterday in Colwall with a lady in her 80s. She referred to the Big Chill as, That dreadful thing...Her husband had intended taking the BIG CHILL to Court. Sadly (or fortunately) he died. Wind in the right direction, faint music might be heard from their garden.
Why should the pleasure of some forty thousand festival fans be such anathema?
I was dwelling on this this morning while lazing in the tub.
The Big Chill is the major event for those I think of as young here in the Ledbury area. The Malvern Hills Conservators have banned biking and mountain-boarding on the hills (though horseback riding is OK!). Earlier this summer, my teenage son and friends were swimming in the Wye. Police ordered them out of the river, searched them and ordered them to move on. More recently the same group were playing Frisbee in the Deer Park at Eastnor. Police again...The Deer Park is open to the public. Or is it only open to those under 12 and over 25? No wonder kids get mad...
The truth is that a skateboard is a sure sign of criminality. As is wearing a hoodie or wearing your pants halfway down your butt. And The Big Chill is a drug-fueled mass orgy. It ought to be stopped. What should be stopped? Everything and anything that might be fun for the young.
So writes an Old Blimp in his late 70s determined to have a ball at his first festival...

Tuesday, 28 July 2009


My wife, Bernadette, goes to the Malvern spa most evenings while I cook dinner (roast chicken tonight). All four of my sons will be here for the Big Chill. A steady drizzle began half an hour ago - not good - and heavy rain is forecast for tomorrow. Fortunately I've finished mowing the lawn and have time to up-date my web site,


I dropped by the portacabin office this afternoon for a ground plan of the festival. Were I mounting the festival, I would be in full panic mode. The festival manager, Caroline, appears totally calm.


The weather has been kind, overcast but no rain with a good breeze drying the land. Mostly it is a day of preparation. Trucks unload aluminum matting and tubing. Poles strung with electric lights spread along the deer park roads, clumps of portacabins, a lone marquee out towards the main arena...


radio big chill

The radio aerial is up...a monument (temporary) to compete with the Eastnor Obelisk the other side of the valley.

Monday, 27 July 2009


as yet only a new fence

WEIRD - most Guardian readers and festival-goers consider themselves members of the Green lobby. Eastnor Castle Deer Park is as green as it gets. I am watching a train of heavily-laden trailer trucks ease along the upper Deer Park track. Ancient oaks tremble. Aluminum roadways invade grass paddocks. Green is disappearing faster then Haagen-Dazs double chocolate chip on a warm summer's day...


mud already

0900: Dark and overcast but promises of the rain clearing later in the morning.We have had rain on and off each day for the past week. The first trucks have arrived and are parked in the wood yard opposite the main gates to the castle.


eastnor castle deer park

The BIG CHILL will occupy over 200 acres of oak shaded parkland this year: car parks, camping, marquees, food outlets, ablution blocks and God knows what. The estate forester must check every tree in the park. A falling bough could be lethal.

Sunday, 26 July 2009


new bridge in the deer park

Few people would pick James Hervey-Bathurst as a festival fan. He rowed at Cambridge (Trinity College), wore tweed jackets, didn't smoke dope and listened to classical music. However - and it is a big however - he is a fan of the Big Chill - fortunate, given that forty-thousand fellow fans will be camping in his deer park. A brook divides the deer park and feeds the lakes. The brook is a logistical hurdle. This year two new bridges capable of carrying loaded trucks span the brook. Bridges don't come cheap.


james hervey-bathurst in the deer park, eastnor castle

Tea time in the kitchen at Eastnor Castle. Central is a well-scrubbed square pine kitchen table that could sit sixteen. It is a homely table in a homely room. I imagine kids yakking at each other, bowls overflowing with fresh pasta, round loaves of crusty country bread. Instead we are two. We are both trilingual, James in French and German, I in French and Spanish. We have both traveled extensively in the Near East. We are comfortable with each other. A reasonable question: How does it feel to have 40,000 revelers on your land?

Friday, 24 July 2009


eastnor castle

There are proper castles and fun castles. Proper castles were built to keep people out. Long range canon put paid to them. Defenses went underground. Now bombers drop Bunker Busters from 30,000 feet. Such is progress...
Fun castles weren't designed to keep people out. They were designed to be pretty and to impress the neighbours. Eastnor was built in 1810. It is the castle of children's fantasy. Crenelated towers rise above a nest of deciduous trees and giant conifers. Splashed with late evening sunlight, magic...
However not defensive.
The massive gate house is perfectly aligned to the great entrance doors. A canon shell could pass through the gate house and across the courtyard and through the doors into the vast entrance hall. Pugin designed the hall. It has everything that a castle should, suits of armour, lances, blunderbusses, African shields, assegais. Fun but not comfortable, and impossible to heat.
The owner, James Hervey-Bathurst lives in what was the servants wing.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


Big Chill has grown central to Katrina Larkin's life since she mounted the first event with Pete Lawrence at the Union Chapel, Islington, in 1994. Two hundred people attended; this year BIG CHILL expects 40,000 - and has progressed, via the Black Mountains, Dorset and Wiltshire, to its present home in the Deer Park at Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire where the festival employs 2000 people.
Setting up the infrastructure is kin to a military operation. Water, sewage and access head the list.


Katrina Larkin is the founder of the BIG CHILL. We first met a couple of months back. The Guardian Travel editor asked me to show Katrina my Herefordshire rather than the Herefordshire of the festival. Katrina stayed with us in our cottage in Colwall. She and I visited great gardens and pubs, vineyards and artisan perry makers, paddled a canoe down the Wye. We enjoyed each other's company, had a great time. The resulting article is on the Guardian's web site.


Why has the Guardian's Travel Editer chosen me to cover the BIG CHILL? Surely festivals are for hip youth. I am an Old Blimp (though with leftist tendencies).


I am to cover the BIG CHILL Festival for the Guardian newspaper. I have never been to a Festival. I don't enjoy crowds. My imaginings of a festival come from watching Glastonbury on TV - Hell in Mud.