Stuck in the Mud by Craig Deeley
I love camping. I love music. And I never felt the need to combine the two. I’ve always been a bit of a stick-in-the-mud, but never fancied being stuck in the mud at an outdoor music festival. I could never get enthused, for example, when I was at university and fellow students would be preparing for Glastonbury. They’d wax lyrical about which bands they were looking forward to seeing: ‘My Rock Romance’; ‘Chest Popping Mormons’; ‘Gravel Trance’; Kenny Rogers. All I could think of was tents being washed away in the torrential rain, progressive parents walking around naked with their kids on their shoulders, losing one of the only pair of shoes you brought, and the lack of adequate toilet facilities.
When I say I love camping, I must qualify that statement by adding that Bear Grylls I ain’t. My style of camping involves electricity, blow-up beds, quilts, pillows, bedside lamps and a range of dinnerware. I love the freedom that camping holidays give you, and generally in many other European countries the campsite experience is a lot cheaper and more pleasant than in the UK; I have stayed at the campsite during the Edinburgh festival; the last time paying £200 for one week. £200 to basically bring my accommodation with me. But at least it had nice toilet facilities.
When I say I love music, I really love music. It shapes my life: I sing at home and in the car, there is always music on somewhere in my house, I listen to music to go to sleep. I love going to watch live music when I really like the band or singer, but I prefer a more intimate setting; the older I get, the less likely I am to go to see live music in an arena-sized venue. The first thing I stress about is the parking. And then about how far away the toilet facilities are.
However, 2 years ago I went to my first outdoor music festival: Rewind, the 1980s festival, held in Henley on Thames in mid-August. That particular year’s bill was full of bands and singers that I had really loved first time round, and I felt an overwhelming urge to just go, and when a friend who was free agreed to go too, we booked tickets and excitedly counted down the days. I suggested we take my new 2-bedroomed tent with porch and multi-purpose flaps. The festival itself runs from Friday to Sunday morning. We decided to camp on the Saturday and Sunday and leave early Monday.
By the time we arrived at the festival late Saturday afternoon, and feeling hungover from a cheeky pre-festival bottle of wine (each) the day before, the best (nearest) camping pitches had gone. The car-park and main camping areas were nowhere near each other, so armed with heavy tent and luggage, we set off with other recent arrivals on the long dusty path to find a camping pitch, on a walk that put me in mind of Tenko.
The following paragraph contains a little bit of toilet talk, so consider this a spoiler alert. Or ‘soiler alert.’
Anyone who knows me well will know that one of my cute foibles is that I try and avoid using public toilets where possible. Checking out the facilities on offer made me glad that I’d spent weeks psyching myself up for this weekend, and brainwashing myself into believing I wouldn’t need to use them. I won’t dwell on the toilets (and certainly didn’t dwell in them) but suffice it to say they didn’t flush, and ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith would have had her own little festival.
The bands that we saw that weekend were brilliant: Go West, Billy Ocean, Aswad, Chesney Hawkes (bless him, he was on for 10 minutes), the B-52s, Pointer Sisters, Belinda Carlisle and many, many more. There was singing and dancing from old and young alike – even tiny children were dancing along to 80s classics from before their time – that would be like me dancing to the Andrews Sisters.
Toilet situation aside (including a worrying half hour after eating a black-bean stir-fry), I was so glad we’d made the effort to come. An unexpected source of entertainment, however, came from our neighbours on the campsite: a giant tent with around 15 women on a hen party. There are certain people in this world who constantly sound like they are losing their voice because they never stop talking and this was the case with one particular lady who we think was called Shannelle, who regaled the hens and the rest of the campsite with tales of how being so fit, and an expert in Thai-boxing had helped her to become one of the best lap/pole dancers in the business. Also, she had often been flown by celebrities in their private jets to parties all over the world. When my friend and I poked our heads through the tent door, we could see the rest of the hens, drunk since 10am and wearing tiaras, sitting in a circle in silence, clearly wishing a celebrity would whip Shannelle off this very minute. Even at 4am when one of the hens crept out of the tent for a pee, Shannelle, afraid of missing anything called out “Who’s that? Where are you going? Fancy a vodka?”
A mixture of Shannelle’s voice, the thought of packing the tent away in the morning, and the fear that my black-bean stir-fry wasn’t finished with me yet, convinced us to leave on the Saturday evening after the bands had finished, rather than camp another night.
Did I enjoy myself? Yes, my friend and I had a ball.
Am I glad I went? Yes, it was a nostalgic singalong weekend of recaptured memories.
Would I go to another such festival? Probably not, unless I knew that Shannelle would be there, and we could wangle an invite to one of her celebrity parties so I could use the loo.
Image copyright Martin Godwin