The heart of daftness

“Glastonbury 5G report ‘hijacked by conspiracy theorists,” said the BBC headline. Anyone who has walked down Glastonbury high street will be unsurprised by the story that there are people in the town who believe that genetic material can be transmitted by telecommunications signals. To point out that such a possibility is the stuff of Star Trek would be of no avail, they stick to their belief that RNA carrying the Covid-19 virus can be carried by mobile phone signals.

Turning to Frank Barrett’s book Treasured Island last night, his humorously intended comments seem well-founded. Visiting the mid-Somerset area, he writes:

Wells is one of those places in Britain that seems to lie on the border between sense and non-sense. Glastonbury, a few miles away, is firmly in the land of Nonsense; it may even be the capital of that strange country. But once you reach Wells, you are aware that daftness is not terribly far off.

As is the case with many who visit Glastonbury, Frank Barrett seems not to know of what to make of the Glastonbury retailers. He writes:

When I first visited the town in the early 1970s, Glastonbury was a normal, working place with several shops selling the leather goods and sheepskin coats made at local factories, for which the area had become well known. Now these factories have gone and most shops here seem to sell things like scented candles, dreamcatchers and a selection of ‘mystical’ paintings and sculptures that inhabit the cramped artistic space that lies between ‘weird’ and ‘awful.’

In one of the mystical shops, I asked the lady at the till about the Glastonbury Thorn, which is said to grow from a staff that Joseph of Arimathaea plunged into the soil after arriving in Glastonbury. The tree blooms every Christmas; a blossom is cut from one of the tree’s branches in a special ceremony December and sent to the Queen. It seems I had touched a raw nerve: ‘There’s been a few thorn trees in Glastonbury and some berk keeps damaging them,snapping off the branches and that. What sort of nutter does something like that?’

As she asked me this I glanced at her bookshelves and spotted a slim volume: Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop: And Other Practical Advice In Our Campaign Against The Fairy Kingdom. Perhaps it’s goblins, I suggested.

‘Goblins? Yes, you may be right. They’re just the sort of nutters who might do something daft like that.

Frank Barrett is, of course, right. Glastonbury is in the land of Nonsense, and is perhaps its capital; it is the embodiment of daftness. The thesis that 5G signals are responsible for viruses would sit well with the pre-modern, anti-scientific paganism of the town.


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