Do I dare disturb my universe?

Summer is a happy time. A time of expecting sunshine and then complaining about it when it comes. A time of pasty legs with a crabstick blush and angry gnatbites turning smooth skin into the surface of Mars. A time of walking out without a jacket not knowing and not caring what time you’ll get home, of warm drizzle and of fields and hot tarmac and powdered sweaty smells and cars blaring loud music like unwanted gifts that still pierce your grump even if you hate the song. (It’s usually Will Smith – have you noticed?)

We are warmed by the sun, by all the underlying serendipitous science that accompanies that ball of flame in the sky that makes us feel kissed and blessed and open. Our bodies get a bit feisty for it all in the heat don’t they. I mean, not when it’s too hot. Then you’re like “DON’T TOUCH ME. I WILL LITERALLY DIE.” But our skin feels different. For a while we are programmed slightly different. Warm as bread, loving as puppies, carefree as children, dirty as cavemen.

Summer is a time for love. Falling in love and for celebrating love. Summer is awash with weddings. Some people get completely enchanted by them. They mark their calendars with these little bursts of ceremonial joy in brighter ink and pin them to the wall or fridge. Weddings for me on the other hand usually come screaming at me the day before when I realise that all of my bras have broken as I drag a crinkled playsuit out of the back of the wardrobe and forget that in wearing it I will be signing myself up to about thirty urinations with my entire outfit around my ankles.

I’ve had a double-whammy of weddings in the last couple of weeks. One was a secret wedding so I cannot divulge details other than IT WAS AMAZING. And the other was one of my best mate’s, who totally nailed it. A beautiful wedding that didn’t make me feel awkward or bored, not even for five minutes. I usually find myself sloping off to have a private sit-down – just for a break from all the unfettered lavishness or sentiment or pomp or over-expense or stultifying awkwardness of people being polite in too-stiff clothes – usually with my entire outfit around my ankles. Bathrooms are a wonderful chance for clarity. No one can drag you out to be sociable if they think you’re weeing.

But despite not being bored, and despite feeling unpunctuated merriment, I found myself still seeking those five minutes of stillness. Late in the evening as the crowd thinned to leave the hardcore of dancers, I was struck quiet. I suddenly needed a spot away from the fun I was having – and I was having fun – to figure out why I had gone all pensive. Clanged like a bell. I feel a lot of things at weddings in between various instances of high heeled discomfort. Surreal hilarity that I was ever briefly married against my way-too-late better judgement. Sadness that if I ever meet anyone I want to marry my dad will never have met him, sadness that my dad never got to give me away or do a speech during which only then would I notice his hair is now completely silver. Confusion over whether I believe marriage is necessary, inspiring, or advisable at all in the modern world. Mini feminist diatribes in my own head about how women are presented and given away and pressured to feel; indignance at the ceremonial echoes of our being passed from man to man like cattle that we choose to keep alive in pretty tradition. I think and feel many things but I have never felt like I want it for myself. So why had I gone quiet in the middle of some very good Britpop?

I sat down on a wall outside. Out of nowhere and with that dawning rush that may or may not have been stoked by a day of slow booze, I think I felt genuinely open to it. To marriage. That’s why I didn’t recognise it and I had to sit on my own for a bit. It’s a strange thing to suddenly feel out of the blue when you are single. Maybe it’s a good time to feel it. Maybe it makes you evaluate things better than when you’re feeling it in the throes of a relationship. I don’t know.

It was quite a big five minutes. To feel that. To explore that possibility. Sometimes you need those five minutes of quiet in the bustle of a wedding, while the dancefloor buzzes with life inside as you sit on a wall in the cooling night, and think about what you want. What do you want? What do I want? Do you want the marriage and the babies and the shared shelves. Do I? Do I actually? Do I dare disturb my universe? The summer can trick you that you want it all. It makes strange energy dance under your warm skin like fireflies in a paper bag. I went back inside and I danced but a part inside stayed quiet.

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Latitude: The Comedown Column

Things you do at a festival that you don’t usually do:

  1. Waltz with a young man named Cecil in a forest after spending twenty minutes asking him how he spelled his name, convinced he’d got it wrong.
  2. Buy the contents of an entire big sized Tescos out of fear that as soon as you enter the festival site you will be locked in to experience some sort of apocalyptic showdown til the death, like a literal take on the Hunger Games with everyone fighting it out with hand-made bows and arrows for the last mini babybel. Could happen. This world is getting crazier by the day. Also, by giving in to ‘The Fear’ it gives you a really good excuse to lick the jam out of a doughnut for breakfast. It would be wasteful not to. And, you know. Africa.
  3. Walk around holding hands with your mate, who is dressed as a unicorn.
  5. Go to bed with your sunblushed skin glowing like embers, to lie with your head out of your miraculously erected tent letting the rain fall lightly on your face until you feel yourself drifting to sleep and drag yourself slowly in under cover like an earthworm.
  6. Wear flowers in your hair because you feel like you are now Official Ambassador for Natural Living and need to take news of the Pagan Way back to The Real World.
  7. Hug people just for telling you where you can buy falafel. There’s not enough hugging of strangers in my book, at any time of the year, not just festival season. I think the world needs more spontaneously administered hugs at the moment. I’d like to see drop-in centres popping up around the country, so if you’re passing one and you’re feeling like you need a burst of random and anonymous human kindness, you can nip in and get one as easy as buying gum.
  8. Dance as the sun’s going down. Things are generally better as the sun’s going down. Maybe because you’re caught in that half-light, as day fades and night arrives and you sub-consciously make peace with the loss of another day and the sky offers you strange colours by way of apology. We don’t do enough things by sunset. Most days we don’t stop to clock it happening, we just rush around going about our business, but when we do, it’s like something stills in our heart for a moment, no matter how briefly.
  9. Hold your lavatorials for as long as humanly possible in the name of all that is holy. Literally. You do it for your holes. You don’t want a badger to crawl up there. You’re in the country. Anything could happen. So you hold it. There are also other reasons why you don’t go the toilets at festivals as often as you might at home. But we don’t need to go there. We all know what lurks beneath the depths of that inky blue flush-water. And it’s not a whimsical Charles Kingsley otherworld of Water Babies, it’s a nightmarish Bosch painting of bottomly hell.
  10. Perform a brand new play for the first time ever in what is essentially a public dress rehearsal to a big theatre tent packed full of people including reviewers. In fishnets. Insane. Get another career. You are mental.
  11. Lick the rest of the jam out of the now stale doughnuts.
  12. Grapple your good friend, the tent, to the ground, in one of a million efforts to get the tinker back in its bag. Blame the state of education today for why you haven’t got the necessary skills to solve logical problems. Blame Gove. Blame them all. Somehow get the tent in the bag. Crack open a beer. One less thing to carry home in your five thousand Tesco bags.
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