S Sense

I do many strange things at Woodford Folk Festival. Like wearing shorts. Or having Sultana Bran for dinner. Or teaching the Tibetan monks Leonard Cohen songs.

But its the thing I dont do that is one of the strangest experiences of the festival I dont drive a car for over a week. Only time it happens.

The festival village and camping grounds have tens of thousands of people living, working and playing side by side and... no cars.

Well, not many.

The plumbing crew has a ute to carry all the gear required to fix a busted toilet. If youve ever experienced a burst sewerage line at Woodford spilling its guts under the usually fierce sun, youll understand the plumbers role is a valued and prestigious one.

They will always get an iced drink in my camp. And the hand of my oldest daughter in marriage. (If they wash theirs first.)

Oh, and theres a van for the Tibetan monks to get around the festival. (Surprisingly, theyre not good with hills.)

So heading home after my eight days at Woodford, I was putting the first petrol of the new year in the car and getting high on the fumes.

The sun, confused by climate change, was finally wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sunnies and beat its heat down on me.

Nearby was the more impressive yellow Shell logo; a competing energy source.

I yawned (sucking in petrol fumes, exhaling carbon dioxide) and watched the dollars spin by.

The petrol spat from the pump. The pump sucked it from huge tanks under the ground. The tanks got their petrol from mega-tankers that cruise the highways like rogue giants compressing the bitumen below them and tailgating small sedans they can hardly see way, way, down near road level.

The tankers got their petrol from coastal ports where the oil was delivered in super mega sea tankers (some not leaking) from countries overseas. Countries like Nigeria where the impoverished people of the Niger Delta subsist on polluted land where traditional society has gone the way of traditional agriculture choked by oil.

Huge profits are made from Nigerian oil but the people are spiralling out of civilisation. The country is run by a corrupt military dictatorship that protects multi-national oil interests by brutally suppressing any protests against the great oil rip-off.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian writer who protested against the oil companies exploitative ways, was hanged in 1995. Five times! The hangman just couldnt get it right. With all the money being supplied to them by Shell, Chevron, Mobil, Texaco and Elf, youd think the dictatorship in Nigeria could afford a little hanging expertise. Theyre efficient with a gun though (supplied by Chevron and Shell) when dealing with concerned citizens.

This is the oil legacy for Nigeria.

It could have been worse The US could have liberated them. (From tyranny, of course, not from their oil.)

The bowser nozzle clicked off, waking me from my petrol-stoned reverie. Forgetting about the people of the delta and throwing carbon dioxide to the wind, I cruised south on the highway, throat-singing Cohens The Future and dreaming of Sultana Bran for dinner.


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