Rock concerts are sordid and risky enough indoors, without paying £76 to roll around in a muddy field
From all the TV previews and special supplements in the newspapers, I see that it's going to be a Big Summer of Sport. And of Pop Festivals. How nice. I'll deal with the pop festivals first.
Why? Or to put it another way: why oh why? In my own experience, rock concerts are risky and sordid enough indoors. I went to see The Who at the Empire Pool Wembley about a quarter of a century ago (well, Keith Moon was still alive).
I remember only two things about the evening. The first was that my younger brother, who was about 11, had wanted to bring a piece of fruit along with him and, instead of something sensible like an apple or a banana, brought a pomegranate.
This was about as practical as bringing an artichoke or a dozen oysters. By the time the band had reached "My Generation", we were sitting in a pile of pomegranate shell and pips and that stringy, plasticky stuff that surrounds the pips.
Then somebody lit a firework and shoved it under my seat. "Har! Har! Har!" I heard from behind me. I turned and gave them a withering look, or rather I would have done if I hadn't been worried that they might have another firework left over.
At around the same time, I went - for some baffling reason - to see a concert in a student hall by Man (dire Welsh rock band). The hall was so full when my friend and I arrived that for two hours we sat three inches from a man lying in (and I hope choking on) a pool of his own vomit.
Pop festivals have all that and mud and the distinct drawback that nobody has ever invented a way of providing lavatories for 50,000 people. A ticket for my nearest festival costs £76 "with camping". Camping? Haven't people seen the photographs? That bit on the second day when the audience stops avoiding the mud and starts rolling in it for fun?
I had few moments of clarity in my teenage years, but one of them was sitting with a wet bum on the grass in Hyde Park watching a second-rate pop star and pondering the interesting truth that the nearest lavatory was about two hours away. Never again, I vowed.
And then there is the sport. Sport is one of those things, like Christmas and half-term holidays and brightly coloured breakfast cereal, that dropped out of my life during my adolescence and only returned with children in my mid-thirties.
My stepson is currently incoherent with excitement at the riches in store, almost gibbering as he flicks through the latest sports guide: "There's football, right? And there's Wimbledon, right? And isn't there the Olympics? Are they all going to be on at the same time or are they one after another? Can I watch, like, a real lot of them? I mean a real lot?" Occasionally, he fixes me with a glare and asks me which team I think will win Euro 2000.
Curiously, I've never had any particularly bad experiences watching sport (unless you count getting into Pseuds' Corner for writing about it). Participating is another matter.
My daughters are all remarkably good swimmers. The other day, I was sitting at a junior swimming gala when I had an experience of recovered memory syndrome.
After successfully repressing the memory for 25 years, I remembered my only direct experience of a swimming gala. I was swimming the front crawl, and not only did I come last, but I actually got tangled up in one of the ropes dividing the lanes. This is quite understandable because the swimming lanes are very narrow. It could happen to anybody, although, funnily enough, I have never seen anybody else do it.
Is sport character-building? Remember the stirring Henry Newbolt poem: "There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night,/Ten to make and the match to win,/A bumping pitch and a blinding light,/An hour to play and the last man in." And the boy cricketers do it not for fame, but for the sake of playing the game. The poem ends in India, where "the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks" defending the regiment: "Play up, play up and play the game."
A friend of mine was watching a recent London marathon. The female frontrunner went past, a few miles from the finish, and he saw that she had shat herself - there was shit actually running down her legs. Nevertheless, she went on to win, which was impressive, in a way. But, for me, the summer is a good time to sit in the shade with a good book. Or a bad book.