Thursday, 14 July 2016

Festival Chic vs Mud-Covered Freak


Oh festivals how I love thee! Dancing in a field, sun shining, arms slung casually round the bronzed shoulders of a bunch of beaming mates - you can't beat it. That's a Kodak moment right there. When I'm on my deathbed, flicking through my mental back-catalogue of fondest memories, there will definitely be a couple of festival snapshots thrown in: squinting in the sunshine at the camera, carnival-style carnage all around.
Although this love of mine, this festival fondness, it's not unconditional - not by any means. These festivals of fun are not beloved offspring who can do no wrong. No, I love them just as long as they comply with a strict list of prerequisites:

1/ There must be sun...or at least a pretty good chance of it. None of this mid-May madness. (Yes, Glastonbury, I'm talking to you).

2/ An abundance of covered dance tents are essential in case of rain (although rain is, of course, forbidden).

3/ They must last just one day - no camping required.

4/ Must be easily commutable from Kent.

Not too much to ask, really. Funnily enough, "mashed mud-wrestling" does not make my festival shortlist.

Does that make me a proper festival-goer, or a half-hearted charlatan, merely dipping a toe in the muddy festival waters?

Well, you certainly won't catch me in grungy hippy get-up, gleefully caterpillaring through the gunk at Glasto, or giving a cheerful thumbs-up as my flimsy tent floats downstream in a downpour. Even if the backdrop is my favourite band, belting out killer beats.

The problem with camping? It's in tents (....intense?). Ba-dum-tsh!

Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed camping in the past, but we're talking sleeping under the stars alongside Ayers Rock in the Aussie outback, or perched atop a misty mountain in Peru whilst on the Inca Trail.....not festering knee-deep in mud under the slate skies of Somerset, catching the down-wind whiff from rows of overflowing pissers.

A trip to Millets is not my idea of fun. Even the concept of "glamping" doesn't get my juices flowing when it's cold, damp and well, BRITAIN, outside. A turd rolled in glitter is still a turd, after all.

I'm slightly ashamed to admit it, but I must confess: I'm a Fairweather Festival-Goer.

As with any long-awaited event, the build up is almost as exciting as the big day itself: there's the circling of the date on the calendar, months in advance. Then comes the rounding up of your mates, the tagging on Facebook with a hopeful "who's in?"

Later comes the ticket-buying, the choosing of an outfit, accessories and those cutesy mini festival essentials that us girls love: teeny bottles of anti-bac gel, mini packets of wetwipes. It's like prepping for a holiday, albeit a very short one.

A fringed cross-body bag is a must for hands-free raving, along with ankle boots as a show of optimism vis-a-vis expected bog levels (wearing wellies is just encouraging mud tsunamis - you may as well do a raindance). Am I too old for bindis and face gems, I wonder? Who the hell cares, they're going on!

The look I'm aiming for is casual boho chic: a floaty summer dress roughed up with edgy jewellery and cute battered boots, maybe a tatty denim jacket to keep out the "summer" chill. Sunnies are of course, compulsory, if only to hide the glazed goggle-eyed expression that often accompanies daytime drinking. I have to admit, the look that starts off as Boho slowly evolves into hobo....and is probably closer to SuBo by the end of the celebrations.

As the party looms, I'll be anxiously checking the weather for imminent typhoons, "watching" rainproof ponchos on Ebay and pondering purchasing waterproof mascara, since the "6ft panda-eyed raver" look is not quite the one I'm hoping for.

Post 40, the windswept matted hair and gothic smudgy eyeliner sported by "real" festival-goers is no longer endearing - you just exude an air of desperation, as if clinging by gnarled nails to one's youth. At best, it exhibits an amateurish lack of prep. No, I prefer ninja-style planning tactics, so that on the day I'm (seemingly effortlessly) ready for any eventuality that the cruel British summer may throw at me.

Come rain, hail or shine (usually all three at once, knowing our country's appalling weather record) I'm there, shaking my money-maker. Hot, dry weather brings it's own set of problems, of course: lobster-like sunburn plus huge clouds of dust that fill your lungs as the moshing masses get into the groove. One day of all that is enough for me.

Yes, I've watched Glastonbury on the tellybox. I've scrolled through mates' messy shots of their "epic Glasto bender" with a teensy sense of envy....but then I remember that it's spring, it's freezing and they will be picking crusty mud out of their belly-buttons for months to come, and I soon get over it. I crank up the heating, pour myself a large Sauvignon and switch to Netflix whilst I wait for the whole unpleasant experience to blow over.

Even in August the UK weather is far from guaranteed. I remember one particularly soggy SW4 festival when the heavens opened the second we laid one besandaled big toe on Clapham Common. It was a total washout. The tents were rammed to bursting with clammy bodies, steam rising from frizzy heads as everyone gyrated to the music like funky drowned rats. When the tents were simply too full to allow any more partgoers respite from the rain, restless revellers huddled together in portaloos or cowered by wheelie bins, their lids flapped outwards to provide a makeshift plastic roof. It was a sorry state of affairs.

And if said portaloos are festering cesspits by 2pm on a one-day music event, I can only imagine the bio-hazardous hell-holes they become during a week-long shindig. I've witnessed Trainspotting-worthy scenes at Lovebox whereby squiffy partygoers,  elbow-deep in waste, attempt to retrieve precious iPhones from loos. Shudder. One tipsy girl had accidentally dropped her designer suede handbag into the bowl and was weeping silently as she yanked it from the slurry, door open to allow her to breathe, albeit with one arm held over her nose. Bleugh.

All this unpleasantness is just part and parcel of a festival : the dodgy weather, puke-making portakabins, overpriced cider, dirty burgers and lunch-curdling fairground rides that look as though they're one loose screw away from a disaster.

But let's not forget the real reason we're all here, stomping in unison in this muddy field : our collective love of the music. That sense of utter freedom and carefree abandon that only comes whilst throwing some shapes out in the fresh air, cavorting to your favourite ear candy.

I skip and swirl to the music, hyperactive as I high-five randoms, all of us fully embracing the experience. I suck up the atmosphere....right up until the very last tune, squeezing every last drop from the shenanigans.

Then it's onto some afterparty or other, carried along by the surging throng as everyone makes a bee-line for the tube. Several more hours of partying ensue, until we collapse, exhausted, into the back of a taxi as the sun comes up.
I never know where we'll end up - that's all part of the fun - but one thing's for absolute certain: when I do eventually allow my shattered body to succumb to slumber, it'll be in the comfort of my own bed...

....not some water-logged tent.

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