I don’t know if it was Confucius or Oscar Wilde who said “Don’t pass behind a squatting hippy when they’ve just had a large portion of vegetarian chilli”, but whoever it was; I think it’s a pretty good maxim.
I impart this lovely little tip to you because we are coming into festival season, and there are some things you just won’t hear while everyone is banging on about wellies and dry shampoo. Kidney-bean-whiff-avoidance is one of them. As is ‘how to politely decline the advances of a drunk man hiding his perviness beneath bohemian joie-de vivre’ (tell him you think Bob Dylan is rubbish), or how to juggle your pint while pulling down your pants and holding the door shut at the same time (employ teeth). There are such horror stories which abound about your average festival that you mostly wonder why the heck anyone goes to them in the first place. In fact, I haven’t been to one since I trod on a lower-ranking member of Maroon 5 and laughed (then burped) in his face…
Anyway. I came out of festival exile last weekend to go to Big Sessions, deep in the heart of beautiful Derbyshire. I went to support my beau, who was playing with his brilliantine band The Lucky Strikes, as I thought he might need someone to keep him away from the temptations of the cider tent before the gig and wipe the mud from his brow. It’s the least I could do as a devoted Strikette. (The fact I ended up force-feeding him Somerset’s best and lovingly pushing him face-down into a cowpat is neither here nor there.) We avoided some of the angst that can come with field fun and decided to rent a cottage a few miles away with the band and their girls, so we knew we were assured a warm bed and a hot shower at the end of the day. We also had the very pregnant wife of the accordion player extraordinaire with us, so slumming it was a definite no-no. We opted for clean linen, clawfoot baths and fire-glow. Oh, and it was also my birthday, and I wanted to be a princess, so there. Thus, it was with the assurance of nearby luxury that we threw ourselves into the frenetic larking that can only be found in a wet field. Or a Wetherspoons on Steak Night.
It was as I stood gazing at a grown man clad in a tie-dye nappy, squatting and rocking to the rousing twangs of Afro-Balkan spoon-whimsy and looking like he was on day-release from Sunnyglade Home for Special Sunbeams, that I thought “Festivals are weird, man. What is going on with humans?” It was only later, after I had got my face painted with a dove of peace, carved some wood, and fawned over someone who had changed her name by deedpoll to Moonshine, that I sort of got it. Festivals are a place where our primal weirdness, all the strange little urges which don’t quite fit in in an office or Tescos, are allowed to come out. We can run barefoot in the mud, sing to a pigeon, and caterwaul at the sky in an overpriced technicolour Viking helmet. I came to the conclusion that festivals take us back to the time when we didn’t have rules. Humans haven’t always lived such constructed lives. We had to start somewhere, and then we pretty much made it up as we went along. Sometimes it’s good to go back a few steps. Get dirty; wee in a hole in the ground.
The traditional festive rains cleared by Sunday, and the already-happy people passed into a new bliss, the kind you get when the sun makes you feel blessed. It was Father’s day, usually a sad day for me, and I stood at the bar next to Martin, the beautiful father of the Strike’s fab accordionist whose wife is preggers (and who, by the way, was stoically rocking festival-chic even though she’s ready to drop), and I commented that people look beautiful when they smile. Martin said that when his son smiled he lit up the world. He beamed over at him, who had his arm around his beautiful wife who is in turn expecting his little boy, and the warmth I felt was not that of the benevolent sunshine or of the 7.5% cider-buzz, but of the glow of the love which floated silently around our little group of revelers. And I suppose that is why we were there. Festivals are just an excuse to be together and be happy; to feel the sunshine of people.
And now that I’ve made you all vomit like hippies who’ve just realised that their tofu curry was actually chicken, I shall bid you a glorious week.