We can only imagine where the word glamping came from: “Think pink with your Hunter wellington boots this season, girls; a poppy highlight to your daisy dukes and feathered headdress.” A part of me dies. I swore I’d never go, you know. I swore I’d never queue for a bog in the pouring rain with some mooncalf from Manchester girning her tits off while the ringworm parasite slowly burrows into my left leg. But like most of my declarations that start with “I will never”, I always do. I went to a festival for the first time last year, then went back again. And again.
People take drugs at festivals – lots of them. One friend in the pub talks of inserting a Kinder Surprise egg in the deepest recesses of his lower colon and popping it out once he’s past security and through the gate. Won’t it get stuck, I asked. No, he said, use plenty of lube and walk like John Wayne. Glad I’m not sniffing that, then. The only thing more shocking than the amount of drugs consumed at these places are the people taking them: old people. Like, old people with kids and mortgages, PVC extensions and pets. There’s nothing worse than seeing a 50-year-old woman wearing Topshop tie-dye leggings and throwing shapes to Lil’ Kim. Reports hit our tent that the recession has affected the quality and amount of drugs peddled this year, too. Weed is “weird”, coke is “cut” but MDMA is still “unnervingly strong”. Nothing we can’t hum there, then.
I’ve seen the devil’s toilet – it’s in the Isle of Wight. In fact, there were a few of them. Piles and piles of accumulated human fouling in a grey plastic box that looks a bit like the Tardis. Steaming heaps of the stuff. Some on the walls, even. The flush breaks, see, but people still need to let rip. If you’re not sick from the sight, the smell will get you in the end. They say once you’ve smelled death, which has a certain metallic tang, you’ll never forget it. Let me tell you, once you’ve smelled a festival toilet you’ll never eat a bean burger again. It’s something approaching prime evil in its repugnancy and ability to infiltrate not only your nostrils but your soul – and it stays there inside you – forever. Actually, it’s quite handy to bring to mind if you want to be sick – say you’re trying to sober up and are looking for some heave-inspiration, it’s great for mustering the lumpy soup.
Festival fashion is nothing but prescriptive. The effortless Identitkit kit, the dry-shampoo hair, the godforsaken charity wristbands (all colours), the ringworm; it’s “dead, dead sexy”. Or that’s what the high street would have you believe. Since they invented the idea of dressing up for a festival, after Kate Moss wore a pair of denim shorts with a biker jacket and slept in her eyeliner about 25m years ago, things haven’t really moved on. It’s the same formula reissued by the same design team in the same shops, season after season. And because we keep buying it, they keep reissuing it. I think we’re all supposed to be wearing the surfer-girl look this season, aren’t we? What a load of bilge – dress how you want to dress. In my world we’ll all be wearing Dawn Mello for Gucci clogs and Varty and Cleaver for Byblos, but then I’m a bit of a snob.
Everybody comes together in a joyous celebration of music: one people, one universe, one band. No they don’t, festivals tend to be rather cliquey. More people talk to you, of course, and you see more people than you do at work, but that doesn’t mean they’re your friends. In reality it’s about the middle classes tolerating the working class and the kids tolerating the old ones dancing like pricks to “their” songs. It’s transient. It’s like drugs: fleeting. Folk just get carried away with the idea of being at a festival and are a little nicer to each other inside the perimeter fence than they are elsewhere. Ninety per cent wouldn’t give each other the time of day normally, especially those from London, who tend to be a bunch of stuck-up c****.
There’s a lot of it. A festival is a chance for you to let your inhibitions down – and then take your knickers off on one leg. Behind a bush, in a tent, up against a tree, they’re ploughing each other senseless, and good cocking luck to them, I say. Regret comes two days later, however, along with an unfamiliar downstairs itch and the appearance of a strange and odourless discharge. How lovely.
Let’s not pretend that booze isn’t marked up at a festival. I’ve paid a rapacious £6 for a can of Red Stripe – warm Red Stripe that tasted like arse milk – before now. The best way to cheat the system is to smuggle in your own. And I have it on very good authority that it is possible to fit 14 miniature bottles of Bell’s down your knickers, especially in a dirndl skirt. One word of warning: a barman friend says they’re always on the lookout for booze cheats at these events and, because the breweries spend such a lot of money investing in overheads, they can get rather aggressive if they find out customers aren’t playing along. Be subtle: continually ordering pints of soda or bottles of tonic, yet getting totally rat arsed, is a clear signal to observant bouncers and staff that you’re up to no good. Use your head.
After living in a tent for four days a person begins to smell. The lack of hot water, shower facilities, the stench of booze as it exits of your skin – bums, front bums and all kinds of bodily bits start to pong. Wet wipes are the age-old remedy, but can only do so much. Hardened festival-goers treat personal pong like that of garlic: if you smell the same then we can’t smell each other, so that’s, like, totally fine then, isn’t it? Well, not really. Take a bottle of water and a flannel, squat in your tent and wash yourself the old-fashioned way, bits, and pits – the Italians do it all the time, apparently. Have some pride, you animals. Also, those cocks who you see mud diving on telly, where do they get clean? Imagine the stench. This place is normally a field full of cows, and cows crap – a lot – what part of this don’t they get?
Fancy dress is always a chance to fag up and be happy. A male friend went as “Mandonna” to Bestival last year; the theme was “divas”. I had the brilliant idea of going as C-3PO, the camp gold translator bot from Star Wars. I never did because I never went, but the thought was there. And, that’s my point: think about it. If the theme is something as crap as “divas”, then be a tad abstract. How many Joan Collins wigs does it take to make a festival? From what I heard about Bestival, around 103.
Going to a festival is like being a fresher at university: you spend the first day making lots of exciting new friends and then the rest of the year trying to get rid of them. Bonding in the queue for the bogs with Donna from Leeds, whose eyes roll to the back of her head when she speaks – “Hiyar, what star sign are you?” – is fair enough, but you would never be friends with her in real life, because, a) you would have absolutely no idea what she was saying half the time because of her ludicrous accent; and b) she’s got really shit acrylics. So, the point is, don’t make friends if you can help it or you’ll never get rid. Unless of course you need something they’ve got, like money, booze, drugs, wet wipes or a tent for the evening.
It’s great to be home: hot water, a nice duvet, your own bed, telly, food, nice cups of tea. All this disappears when you park all sanity and personal pride at the perimeter gate. The worst bit about a festival is the journey home: your hair stinks of bin, your arse even worse, and if that woman with a wicker basket sitting opposite you on the train looks at me one more time you’ll insert a tampon into her head. Yes, the journey home is never a good one, but opening the front door, throwing off your filthy clothes and stepping into the shower is something approaching heaven. Oh, how you’ve dreamed of the Radox bubbles and the cuddles with a clean fluffy towel.
Right, straight onto the internet: what’s the average price for a flight to Ibiza?
by Richard Gray