Firstly, buy a tent. In an ideal world erect tent before you go so you know what you’re up against. But hey, in my new-found spirit of abandon and winging it I decided to just rock up and see what occurred. The same went for a camp cooker and an air bed. I’ve spent so long within the constraint of dominant relationships for much of my adult life that my new chaos and disorder-filled life is needed as an antidote. I need to know that however much I try to control things life will take its own course.
As my son and I had driven down to the festival site, after rushing around attending training, picking a friend up from hospital, last-minute packing it was heading towards twilight. I’d decided that as we’d slept out in the garden on the sofa cushions in the summer that they’d make ideal air-bed replacements when we went camping. I’d rammed them into the back of my tiny car and entirely filled the back window. As we came to take them out someone commented, ‘hey, cool, you’ve brought a sofa to chill out on,’ I laughed rather too lightly and we continued to struggle over the field to the tent spot with far too much beige upholstery than was sensible given the whole field situation.
As I tipped the tent out onto the parched ground, the words ‘needs two people to erect’ were read, and ignored as I struggled with the tent poles, the girl next door offered her services, to which I replied in my rather-too-English fashion, ‘I think I’ll be fine thanks’. Five minutes later son was saying I an over-loud voice ‘mummy are you going to ask for help’. As though I was the seven-year-old and he was the adult. I’d forgotten the mallet, so when the lads nextdoor took over the tent erection and were hammering the pegs in I was terminally grateful.
The sky was turning that sparkling shade of turquoise and the strings of light that stretched to the festival site started to glow. It was ethereal, a slight chill reminded me that we were at summer’s end. We grabbed a torch – one of the things I had remembered to bring – go me – and headed over to the wooden enclosure where I could already hear a ‘boom boom’ from one of the music tents. We were both giddy with anticipation. Our first festival. We’d made it. We had somewhere to sleep and now we were walking down a chalky embankment towards a huge equinox fire that was showering sparks into the darkening sky. We found a log to sit on that rocked slightly unsteadily but that became our base over the next couple of days.
This was something that in my married life we’d never have done. My son would never have experience this grand autumnal equinox party. He’d never have run up and down this hill under September sunshine, free and full of life, while I lay staring up at a jewel-blue sky feeling happy to be alive. I may have packed badly but in essentials we had everything we needed.