we arrived early friday morning, which of course meant that we were at the airport in cologne at stupid o’clock in the morning. james likes to be on time, which i can appreciate, but “on time” to him when we’re talking about flights means about two hours early. which sometimes is appropriate (like when flying to the us), but sometimes is just ridiculously early, especially since on this particular occasion there were only a few flights and the whole security process took about twenty minutes. and more importantly, once you pass through security, there’s no starbucks (or any cafés, really. definitely not one with soy milk).
we arrived in gatwick and he went one way (eu passports) and i went the other (non-eu passports), which was a bit sad as i realized that pretty much forever, we are going to be waiting in separate lines at passport control. it was also unfortunate this particular time because a huge flight from jamaica had just landed and so the non-eu passport line was extremely long.
i didn’t turn my phone on, because i didn’t really think it would work in england and, well, honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind. of course, after thirty minutes, james had called me three times, panicking, thinking that i’d been deported or held up somehow. and his mother was circling around outside, not wanting to park and not knowing how much longer it would take me. oops. i guess, seeing as how i almost was deported from england at one time (2006 – i’ll go into more detail one day), i can understand their concern.
we stopped off at his mum’s house, where she gave us our tent, sleeping bags, fold-up chairs, and insisted that i take a pair of wellies (which i would be immensely grateful for later). we packed it all up, remarking at the extraordinary amount of stuff it takes to go camping, and we were off.
of course, i had to be the navigator, which was a little bit scary as their directions, street signs and everything is completely different, not to mention the car itself is on the wrong side of the road (of course, as in EVERYTHING british vs. american, james very emphatically informs me that we are, in fact, the wrong ones).
we did arrive and the line (queue) was shorter than we had anticipated, which is always nice. the first thing we did when we got everything settled and chose our spot was to set up our tent. or, rather, we tried to set up our tent. i, of course, assumed that i knew what i was doing and just ploughed ahead, making mistakes, while james, ever practical, kept asking me tentatively, “um, shouldn’t we be reading the instruction manual”? unfortunately, we should have been. eventually, this lovely woman came up and offered her assistance, only rolling her eyes at us a bit (and rightly so).
on top of the fact that we had been given everything by james’s mum, we realized that we didn’t have a flashlight. luckily, we figured this out while it was still day out and we set off for the shop which i knew would be towards the entrance to the festival. james, having never been to a festival, was convinced there wouldn’t be such a shop. this time i was right – and thank god! i can’t imagine trying to find the porta potties in the dark, or worse, using a porta potty in the dark.
what was even better about the transaction was that i had a taste of that lovely british condescension that i’ve only got from my husband of late and was obviously missing. after paying for the flashlight (torch, i mean, torch), i saw that they were selling panda licorice (the best black licorice ever) and so i asked james for a euro. of course, living in europe for the past five years, i’ve grown accustomed to saying “euro” and often say it in america as well, though i’m perfectly aware that we use the dollar, and not the euro. the gentleman selling his wares assumed that i was an ignorant american and with much more eye rolling than the woman who helped us with our tent, informed me in a quite sarcastic tone that they use the pound in england. i just smiled.
and then we entered the festival. to be honest, i didn’t know what to expect. the last outdoor festival i went to was coachella in 2003. and that was amazing. but this was different, it wasn’t just a music festival. and as we walked around, we
could see that. there were, of course, stalls where you could buy bespoke items, but there were also stalls where you could make them. they had workshops in woodworking, jewelry making, pottery and many more. they had a few different lecture “halls” (as they were tents with unfinished wood benches, i’m not quite sure if hall is the right term), where you could hear varied talks, including those from the idler academy, such as john-paul flintoff speaking about his book, sew your own, where i learned how to sew my own journal.
in short, there was a lot going on. in the words of a very hungover argentinian, it was a festival for people who don’t like music festivals. or, as someone else put it, it was a middle-class festival. these are both things i overheard waiting in line for food, as, let’s face it, that’s really all i was interested in anyway. the latter i heard on that first day, and didn’t quite get her meaning, though james said it was obvious by the fact that they were selling the guardian.
they were right, in a sense. it was a “yuppie” festival – i mean, they had boutique camping, which james told me cost 500£ (i just couldn’t believe him – who would pay 500£ to camp when we were a close drive to oxford and you could stay in a nice bed and breakfast, rent a car, and still be better off) but it wasn’t just that, or maybe i’ve changed… because i DO like going to music festivals, and i loved this one. the music was fun: folksy, mostly, and a bit on the bizarre side at times, but very fitting and very calmly and strategically arranged throughout the festival. in theory, you could have been there and completely filled your day with activities, without actually seeing any music, yet at the same time, there was always someone playing somewhere.
what struck me the first day, and maybe it’s because i hadn’t got a lot of sleep the night before and i’d hurt my foot, so i wasn’t in the best mood (which always leads to me judging myself too harshly), is how different i am now from what i expected myself to be. and, of course, neither of those things are bad: i love who i am now and i am that person because of who i was and the choices i made in the past (blah, blah). but i think my life could have headed in a very different way. i looked at all the creative, interesting, bright people all around me, and i felt like i could have been that. now, of course, i’m completely judging by the cover, here. those people could have been absolutely dull and insipid and i might have been taken in by their costume (which would not have been the first time), but i was envious. and not of them, per se, but of myself as i could have been.
i even got annoyed at james, blaming him (completely unfairly) for my transformation into a more boring person. i could have created a costume for the midnight masked ball, as some did, or brought glitter to decorate my face and body. i mean, there was a time when i wouldn’t leave the house without glitter (sadly, i’m totally being serious here). i suppose i felt a bit like i was missing out on some of the fun and the person who i thought i would become, would have just tore up that festival – in fact, in my wildest imaginings, maybe i would have been presenting, or involved somehow.
the person i was in the past, had she taken another path to “adulthood” could still have dyed black hair and facial piercings, or could have started a zine, or could have been a journalist or, just in general, i could have been in a more alternative fringe culture. instead, what i am is just a “normal” person (though, interestingly enough, i spend a good deal of time worrying about how i am not “normal”. hmm. problem for another blog.)
some examples of who i was:
and do you want to know what i was most excited about at this festival? laura marling, ginger beer and my first camping trip with my husband. and while these things are fabulous, they aren’t fabulous in a raucous, dramatic or glamorous way. you wouldn’t add an accent and a “darling” to that sort of fabulous. they are prosaically fabulous, and i’m pretty sure that’s an oxymoron.
there was so much of me that whole weekend, but especially that first night, that was just craving a night as a teenager again, i think. and maybe that’s part of it. i did a lot of what people do in their twenties in my teens, and so, i got tired. i could have put on some amazing makeup and worn some great costume, but
frankly, it would have been hard to wash my face from the fountain they had at the campsite and i would have got cold in anything i would have wanted to wear.
i mean, there was a big bar right by this lovely little soup and tea shop that was called “the soup library” and do you want to know what? i didn’t even go into the bar.
that’s not to say i didn’t have a few drinks, it’s just they didn’t have ginger beer at the bar. and just as a side note, i’m going to talk about this ginger beer now. it was fantastic. i’ve had real ginger ale since i was a kid, so maybe that’s why i liked it so much. this had the same spicy/sweet flavor that i grew up loving, but it also had alcohol. and they gave you an orange mustache to wear when you ordered one. i’m pretty sure it was supposed to be some game, like you write a name on it and give it to someone else and they have to guess it, or something. i just wore it, obviously.
the next day, i got over myself and just enjoyed my first camping trip with my husband, all the wonderful folk music and the interesting talks (especially the woman who said that the egyptians were aliens – i didn’t stay for her entire talk, so i can’t say that she said that straight out, but that was the gist and it was weird). but when i left, again, i felt a bit melancholic, reminiscing about what could have been. but in the end, even if for a few moments i would have rather been someone else for the weekend, i’d only want to leave as me.
as she is the reason i went to the wilderness festival, i’ll leave you with a video of the song she opened with: