Day One – Friday 15th July 2011
For more than fifty-three years of my life I have managed to avoid having to go to an outdoor weekend music festival.
“Oh you should go! You should go!” they have been saying to me since the Monday morning after Woodstock. “You’d love it.” But I had always had a much greater love for my mattress, a flushing toilet (no matter what, you can just never beat the luxury of your own crapper) and the clinical sterility of food stored in a chilling device (like a fridge) and cooked in an oven, than I had ever had for the Rolling Stones, Polly Harvey or Genesis. In fact I had a greater love for my flesh eating virus than I had for Genesis, despite the spectacular drum solos and the unbeatable insomniacs’ cure-all properties of their material.
So here I am on a bright and cheerful Friday morning on my way to the Lorimer Tree Festival in deepest darkest Dorset (or Wiltshire, I’m not sure). It’s called the Larmer Tree Festival really . . . or it could be the Llama Tree Festival . . . or is it the Dalai Lama Tree Festival? Lorimers don’t go on trees but we, the good people of the Leeds United faith, could do with a new Lorimer so here’s hoping, eh?
For any reader who isn’t of the Leeds United faith I have two things to say to you that you need to understand before you read further. The first is that Lorimer (Peter Patrick Lorimer born in Dundee on 14th December 1946) was the Ultimate Being who holds the record for scoring goals at our wonderful football club, many of which were quite spectacular. And secondly it really is time you got your life sorted out.
Weeks and weeks of people telling me that I will have a fabulous time this weekend (yes, it’s a whole weekend) have not managed to dispel my fears and anxieties. So, as I sit here in my car listening to that great festival act, Dvořák, to get me in the mood, waiting for my old mate Bugsy, my even older mate Sue, my old mate Sharon and my old mate Sharon’s sister, I have grave concerns about the following:
1. The Lorimer Tree Festival weekend weather. The nice lady with the enormous smile on the HTV West local weather bulletin said, “It’s gonna be fuckin’ shit!” The forecast on the Met Office website suggests that the temperature will be below the seasonal average and that it will be pissing it down. And then we must consider that the weather never turns out to be as good as what the experts have predicted . . . bleedin’ optimistic bastards! Also, I have a bit of a history of bad weather during camping expeditions. At eleven out of the twelve campsites I have stayed at I have had to be airlifted out by the International Red Cross with chronic cases of trench foot at best but sometimes trench other appendages.
2. What to do if I need a wee in the middle of the night. A problem which may well be exacerbated by the climatic conditions.
3. Where to plug in my trouser press.
4. What the old ladies of Bath will do for fun once the W.R.V.S. Lunch Club closes its doors for the last time in September.
5. The constant puzzlement and bewilderment as to why Blue Peter’s Christmas Appeal and Bono can’t work together to combat the effects of war, pestilence, famine and disease in the Third World. I reckon Bono would make a brilliant Blue Peter presenter.
The front cover of our guide to sex and drugs and rock and roll
(but without the sex or the drugs).
So how in the name o’Jaysus did they manage to get me to agree to go to a festival after all these years of struggling to avoid them?
Well, for starters, I’ve just been dragged kicking and screaming through Salisbury city centre shouting, “I want my mummy!”
My old mate Rigger’s words were the wisest ones I have heard in recent weeks. He said, “I’m not going because I hate festivals.”
So I thought I’d go to one . . . just one . . . to see what a festival is really like. Then I will either love it and want to go to more and more or, at the very worst, hate it but at least gain the advantage of being able to say that I have tried it, didn’t like it and consequently won’t be bothering again.
In the past I have used this very same approach with paintballing, horse racing, going to the pub, bare knuckle fighting and attending Genesis gigs. Four of these things I hated but one of them I found to be rather enjoyable and take further pleasure from on a regular basis . . . guess which one and win a luvverlee prize!
The ultimate carrot that tempted me towards my first ever festival was the rumour that the top act of the weekend was to be rock legends S Club 7. A band I have always admired even though they never really came anywhere near close to Steps in one of those ‘Beatles versus Stones’ or ‘Oasis versus Blur’ rivalries. When I first heard that they would be coming out of retirement for our festival I didn’t believe it but, thinking about it long and hard, it all made sense.
Why else would Bugsy be there? Was he not a fan? Was it not he who chanted ‘There ain’t no party like an S Club party’ when the rest of the people standing on the kop at Elland Road were chanting ‘We are the champions. Champions of Europe.’ during a ten goal thriller between Leeds United and Preston North End?
Why else would Sharon be there? Was she not a fan? Was it not she who had a tattoo of S Club rebel, Paul Cattermole, on her chest?
Had I merely dreamt that rock ‘n’ roll history was about to be made? I doubt it because usually I don’t dream about the whole of S Club 7. I usually only dream about Rachel Stevens. So, fired up for a good time, I promised myself that no matter how bad the weather became, no matter how uncomfortable the tent turned out to be, and no matter how disgusting the portaloos were (before or after I had deposited my chick pea curry and Guinness based concoction) I wouldn’t stop movin’ to the S Club beat.
Amazing Festival Facts: No 1
When travelling abroad I usually keep a journal. A scruffy notebook in which I throw my thoughts and details of my experiences. A work of no literary value but something I can sit and read when I reach my twilight years, to remind me of the more interesting moments of my life. However, at the Lemur Tree Festival the plan changed slightly so, from this point onwards these memoirs have been typed at home from notes scribbled on beer mats, Cornetto wrappers, soiled tissues and any other paper ware I could lay my hands on. The scruffy notebook stayed in my scruffy bag due to the appalling weather conditions, the lack of spare time and the fact that I just couldn’t be arsed.
When we arrived at the security check in frontier post thingy the guard lady asked us where we would like to spend the night. I said, “At home.” Bugsy said, “Your tent darling.” Sue said, “Paddy Kisnorbo’s tent.” I don’t know why she asked though because she knew from the presence of the camper van that we needed to be in the camper van field with the rest of our party so she issued our boarding pass which was mostly blue and largely nothing else but blue. So I stuck it in my windscreen as instructed and wondered to myself if it bore all the magical properties of a blue badge that disabled people carry with them. Cracking news . . . I had a weekend off from doing my fake limp if this was really true.
The boarding pass for the camper van field.
The sun blazed down on parched soil that hadn’t seen rain for months as we attempted to erect our tents. As novices to the festival scene we had omitted to include a mallet in our kit so we tried every other hard object available to bang in our tent pegs. These included:
1. A lump of flint. Absolutely useless but it made me feel so Neolithic in trying, and quite at home in the chalky downs of Dorset (or Wiltshire).
2. Sharon’s sister’s baseball bat.Sharon’s sister, by this time, I had discovered was called Alison. A delightful young lady who never goes anywhere without a baseball bat . . . just in case!
3. Bugsy’s forehead.
4. A fridge.
None of these did much good so we took heed of Sharon’s advice and sat down with a glass of cider . . . and another . . . and then we decided to do some festival type stuff so we walked into the Main Lawn arena and bought some alcohol from the bar.
The first act that I had been dying to see, even though I had never heard of her until someone said, “Kitty MacFarlane should be on in ten minutes” was called Kitty MacFarlane but it must have been too hot and sunny for her because she didn’t turn up. As luck would have it though we created our own kitty which cost £20 each but meant an endless supply of drink forever and because Ali was looking after it I’d never have to go to the bar. Festivals . . . so far so good!
The pretty pink bracelet put around my wrist by a lady who
told me not to take it off before I went home on Monday
or else there’d be trouble.
Bugsy predicted that the rain would start at 4.03 p.m. on Friday but his pessimism turned out to be unfounded as the gorgeous summer weather held out until 5.26 p.m. Then the rain started but we didn’t worry because we were in a big top tent type tent called rather aptly and biblically ‘The Arc’ where we sat for most of the afternoon as the Guinnesses went down two by two, hurrah, hurrah!
The first act came on. Rubbish! A whiney voiced, floppy haired prick from Manchester who did nothing but moan and groan about the fact that he had had to get up at the crack of dawn to make the nineteen hour journey down here. Gary Neville with a guitar! Well first of all I wondered if he was United or City but he did have a Manchester accent so I didn’t really need to ask. Then I wondered about what time he had really got up. Just as the sun never set on the British Empire, it never dawns in Manchester so when exactly is/was the crack of dawn? CS Lowry paintings may look miserable but they were even worse before the man fiddled about with Photoshop to make them look a bit brighter in the absence of natural sunlight. Finally I wondered if I had made a terrible mistake in going there but luckily my Manc friend only had time to sing one song because he had to get away sharpish to make the nineteen hour journey back to Manchester, presumably by pogo stick.
Festival Disappointments: No 1
Kitty MacFarlane didn’t show up. Mind you she did have to travel all the way from Milverton in Somerset which, according to my Millets brand camping sextant, was at least sixty miles away which would have taken a long time in a combine harvester. And besides, none of us had ever heard of her before so it might have been an even bigger disappointment if she had made it to the stage.
As the speed at which the rain and pints of Guinness flowed down (or pints of lager for my lady companions of course . . . far too refined for Guinness) more bands came on and I was delightfully entertained by the delightful Megan Henwood who was a young folksy sort of guitar-playing singer of songs she had written herself which is highly commendable for one so young in this day and age.
Kidnap Alice came on next. They played music of the Appalachian mountain variety, but with lyrics, and their line up was a combination of arty-farty English musicians and farty Tennessee musicians. They banged out a good tune though and their trans-Atlantic bickering with one another was most amusing. At this point I decided that the festival was really starting to take off for me and we put another £20 in the kitty (i.e. our beer kitty, not Kitty MacFarlane).
Goodnight Lenin were very good too but I can’t remember why. Probably because they were live and I’d had a pint or two. Music is always best when it’s live and the listener has had a pint or two.
Outside in the rain Osomatli were on the Main Lawn stage. Apparently their music spans urban Latino, hip hop and salsa, dancehall and cumbia (not Cumbria. . . now that would be funny), samba and funk, Jamaican ragga and Indian raga and much more. Following the signposts to the Lost Wood (what a waste of signposts . . . or wood) and clutching a pint of Guinness which was getting wetter and wetter the further I walked, I went with my hitherto unmentioned old mate Angela to keep warm by a wood fire and knit squares for homeless, down-and-out, mushroom dependent pixies.
Amazing Festival Facts: No 2
My friend Angela lives in Bradford on Avon and seemed to spend the whole of the festival hiding (or lost) in the Lost Wood. Of the party of people that I went to the festival with, only Bugsy and I actually saw her. I believe that this was because of our Irish backgrounds and because we follow every rainbow until we find our dream, or Angela.
Angela and I became friends many years ago when we were both new to the game of selling South American herbal products to the unsuspecting people of Wiltshire but we both gave up soon afterwards because we discovered that attaining any degree of success at all required putting a bit of effort in. We no longer push the stuff but we do both use it ourselves as we can buy it quite cheaply. It’s good stuff that aloe vera. One bloke who I was trying to sell it to once told me to go and shove it up my arse . . . so I did, and by jingo those haemorrhoids disappeared as if by magic.
Round about god knows what time of night I went back to the tent, having missed the headline act, a couple of hours in the company of my festival going friends, a couple of pints of strong drink, Corrie and the opportunity to eat some food. In the tent Bugsy was already in bed, reading a book with pictures of pretty ladies in it by the light of his Poundland torch while our Millets brand camping Philippino handmaiden made the cocoa. Slightly, in fact seconds, later we opened a bottle of wine to celebrate the fact that we had survived the first day of our foray into festival-land having suffered nothing more than a little liver damage.
And no camping expedition could ever go by without a good old night time singsong. So Bugsy and I charged our glasses and sang:
We've got to all stick together
Good friends, there for each other
Never ever forget that
I've got you and you've got me, so
Reach for the stars
Climb every mountain higher
Reach for the stars
Follow your heart’s desire
Reach for the stars
And when that rainbow's shining over you
That's when your dreams will all come true
In a nearby tent Sue tried to join in with our singing but it just came out as snoring. I had to admire her stamina though as she kept it up all night, her nasal tones enhanced by the acoustics of her tent and never once wavering in the wild weather of a Dorset (or Wiltshire) night.
Day Two – Saturday 16th July 2011
Having discussed absolutely everything in the world from across the vast expanse of our Millets brand camping bedroom (i.e. our tent, not a bedroom for being camp in) Bugsy and I agreed that there was nothing else left to do but get up and brave the wild July winter weather. The ladies, we decided, must have still been asleep as not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse, in Sharon’s and Alison’s camper van and the concertina type movements of the walls of Sue’s tent in musical time to her nocturnal nasal lambastations continued relentlessly.
Amazing Festival Facts: No 3
Yacky Dar is actually spelt Iechyd Da. In less than twenty-four hours of festival life I had expanded my Welsh language vocabulary many fold, thanks to the Iechyd Da Catering Company tent that I sat facing whilst eating my breakfast in the piss pouring rain.
Breakfast, in principle, was a good idea but putting it into practice was not so easy. The finest coffee in the land, we discovered, was to be had in a Bedouin style tent called Mocha Magic where a Bedouin style Glaswegian bloke growled. “Do you want a muffin with that?” Outside the rain poured down.
Scared stiff of Shuggy the Muffin Man we moved on to other tents for our second course. Bugsy said he was going round the back of the big tent for a hot sausage . . . obviously not hungry then! So I went to the Goan Fish Curry tent (winner of the pretentious festival tent of the year award six years running) for a crafty kedgeree which would have been very nice had I had six of them and had the dish been fifteen degrees warmer. Also, I struggle to eat a curry if I haven’t lined my stomach with fifteen pints of strong drink and, the kedgeree being a bit dry, I really struggled with this one. Shame I didn’t think to stand in the rain to eat it.
For our third course I had a chilled freshly squeezed fresh orange juice which, with big lumps of ice in it, on a cold morning was what I might describe as a bit too fresh. I could have done with something to warm it up in . . . like a fridge. Bugsy said that he had had enough to drink for one day and declined the invitation to join me and instead leafed through a free magazine we had been given but there were no pictures of pretty ladies in it so we ran over to the Arc tent in the rain (and mud in its embryonic stage) to take our seats for the musical entertainment.
Before the striking up of the first band we were joined by our womenfolk. Apparently, the people at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival down the road in Dorset (or Wiltshire) had complained to security about Sue’s snoring during the night so they sent a small party of people with ear defenders and a sharp stick to come and wake her up. Then Alison joined in with her baseball bat and all hell (or Wiltshire) was let loose.
Festival Disappointments: No 2
As I was wandering off to the CD tent I asked my friends if there was anything they would like me to get for them. Bugsy gave me a quid and whispered in my ear that he’d like something by S Club 7. However, when I got to the check out in the tent I discovered that the standard price for an S Club 7 album was £1.20. Not wanting to let my friend Bugsy down, I had a word with the proprietor and he said he could let me have a copy of Buzz by Steps for £1.00. Bugsy didn’t seem all that impressed when I went back to the Arc performance tent and handed it over to him in a brown paper bag.
The morning wore on, the deluge from above continued, the consistency of the mud moved up from the dirty brown water stage to the runny diarrhoea stage, the kitty was replenished and our glasses were once again charged. Determined not to stop movin’ to the S Club beat we sat in the tent and watched a couple of very extremely excellent bands.
First on our bill this morning was a Dad Rock band called Police Dog Hogan who were like a cross between Dire Straits and Chris Rea but without a tatty headband and with a sense of humour. Perhaps they should have been called Dire Rea . . . ho ho ho ho ho! A very entertaining front man and some well written and amusing lyrics, particularly to the song Shitty White Wine, went down very well.
Shitty white wine
It tastes like turpentine
A kangaroo on the label
Is never a good sign
It’s just another bottle
Of shitty white wine
Interestingly enough, Police Dog Hogan were introduced on stage by Johnnie Walker . . . the Radio 2 DJ, not the whiskey.
The Larmer Tree Festival Team Sheet
(note the Leeds United peacock logo in the bottom left corner).
Next up were Skinny Lister. The festival programme describes them as . . .
A family of like-minded musicians who came together in 2009. They are characteristically English to the core and with folk in their hearts.
Had I been writing the programme notes I would have said . . .
Withernsea’s answer to the Pogues. Sea shanty goes punk! Watch out for Mucky Lorna who sings and dances at the front in her flowery frock and big red shoes.
I don’t think I need to say much more about Skinny Lister. The crucial elements of their act are stored in my mind for all eternity.
Amazing Festival Facts: No 4
Bugsy said he’s pleased with his newly acquired Steps CD and he will file it alphabetically in his collection in between The Smurfs Unplugged and Tassel Tossing Tunes from Turkey.
Skinny Lister brought the sun out so our gang decided to move outside to soak up the festival atmosphere and beer. Apart from five or six torrential downpours, the weather remained dry and sunny for the whole of Jassi Sidhu’s set on the Main Lawn (outdoor!) stage. Jassi’s a star. The first live music act I have ever seen where the front man has been wearing a turban. Bhangra was the beat and it really got those revellers revelling folks. He seemed quite moved at the sight of so many obvious newcomers to his music enjoying themselves and he threw in a few amusing lines like “Bhangra music! I bet you were expecting two fat blokes with sitars” and “I bet you’ve only ever heard this stuff in a curry house before” and “I bet none of you could eat three curries in one day.”
Somewhere in between Jivin’ Jassi and several other bands that I didn’t really pay attention to because I don’t usually have as much as that to drink by noon on a Saturday and drowsiness had set in slightly, I went for a curry. Second of the day! A most delicious tiger prawn job with noodles from a van that had floated all the way from the Mekong Delta, down the South China Sea and up the river Avon to Dorset (or Wiltshire).
The other bands that I didn’t really pay attention to were Buffalo Gals and Caitlin Rose and someone else. Buffalo Gals were a small stage band on a big stage that was too far away and Caitlin Rose was insipid but not as insipid as whoever else we saw but can’t remember the name of due to the intense insipidity.
After a small wander around, gawping at peculiar festival people’s peculiar activity tents and throwing stones at the ducks, just so that we could say that we had seen the whole of the festival site, we went back to the Main Lawn stage to see Watcha Clan. We only stuck it for one song and afterwards we couldn’t remember their name so we gave them the rather witty and amusing nickname of ‘The Crap French Band’ because they were crap and they were French. I’m sure, however, that if we had not been rain and Guinness weary we would have appreciated them a lot more.
Amazing Festival Facts: No 5
Today I had three curries in one day. That’s the first time I’ve done that since August Bank Holiday Monday in 1984. Today was a bit of a cheat job though as the first one was only a shitty cold kedgeree and the other two were very mild and not one of them was a vindaloo.
Do you know, my arse is still sore from the Tuesday morning after August Bank Holiday Monday in 1984?
At this juncture we decided we needed a breather from festival stuff and nothing could be better than a sit down in a comfy seat with a nice hot cuppa. So Sharon and Alison went off to a tent for a cup of coffee and Sue, Bugsy and I went off to a tent for a cup of coffee. I can’t remember why we didn’t all go to the same tent. Perhaps it was the fear of an outbreak of Sue’s snoring and perhaps we'd all temporarily got sick of each other.
Refreshed by non-alcoholic refreshment we decided that the next move should be some alcohol. Bugsy refused to stop movin’ to the S Club beat and stayed behind in the Main Lawn bit or whatever it’s called to watch the Dodge Brothers skiffle band, which included radio and television film critic, Mark Kermode in its line up. So we four party poopers went off without him to sit outside our tents and camper van to drink wine and discuss what was wrong in the world today. I couldn’t enjoy my drink though (well not the first one but the other two were alright) because I was worried that I’d upset Bugsy with my hilarious joke about Mark Kermode who he really likes. I suggested that Mark Kermode (sounds like Commode) might be so named because he’s full of shit. Actually it’s because he is the offspring of Mr and Mrs Kermode. Well how was I to know?
Using my portable telephone apparatus I rang my old mate Angela to ask if she and her posse fancied joining us for a drink but she was busy in the woods making things from clay and peacock feathers. What she had been drinking was obviously a lot stronger than what we had been drinking.
Amazing Festival Facts: No 6
Sue’s tent had everything a festival girl could ever wish to shove in her rucksack. By the end of the first day’s rain it even had a moat.
By the time I had finished my third gallon of Millets brand camping alcohol I was ready for my third curry so the ladies and I dashed back to where Bugsy was waiting in the main muddy area and I purchased curry number three of the day which looked more like a number two but was nevertheless very tasty despite being vegetarian. Actually the meal comprised of three different types of curry but the curry eating competition adjudicator ruled that because they were all bought on the same plate they could only count as one curry so I only managed three in my five-a-day curry regime. Now had he seen me throwing them up in five different toilets I'm confident his judgement would have been in my favour.
Festival Disappointments: No 3
There were three top bands that I would have liked to have seen but didn’t.
1. Toots and the Maytals – because they were the headline act in 2010. I said all along that we should have set off from home a bit earlier.
2. Asian Dub Foundation – because they were outside on the Main Lawn stage and it was raining and I didn’t want to get any wetter . . . as if such a thing was possible!
3. Vieux Farka Touré – because he forgot his passport, turned up late and played in the wrong tent at a point when everyone had started to think if he can’t get to work on time he doesn’t deserve the job. I bet he forgot to shut the windows and turn the gas off before he left too.
I don’t know why but we didn’t see or hear any more music being performed today. We had our hearts set on a good old rip roarin’, side splittin’ laugh so we chilled a little in preparation for our return to the Arc tent for the late night comedy session. To kill time we went to the Mocha Magic tent where we had a delicious cup of coffee and literally chilled and I literally lost my hat which was the wettest thing I owned so it didn’t really keep my head dry but it did keep the raindrops off my spectacles.
For me, ever since the days of Janis and Joni, festivals are all about love and peace. There was none of that though as we rushed into the Arc tent to grab a good seat for the comedy thing. It was like Aussie Rules football. One woman even bared her blood stained teeth at me when I tried to park my bum on a chair that she had ‘reserved’ for her husband by placing his woolly hat on it. I tried to explain that I had lost my hat and that people should feel sorry for me for being at such a disadvantage but eventually Sharon managed to bare her teeth (well I think it was her teeth) at some people and we got some very comfortable seats near the front.
Three comedians jollied us up. The compère was Iain Stirling who was far funnier than you would expect a CBBC presenter to be, and much ruder too. I can just imagine him saying to his adoring kiddie viewers, “And now it’s time for that twat, Bob the Builder.”
The first real comedian was Gareth Richards who I liked. I can never remember much of what stand up people say but I was rather amused by his theory that the Government should not be allowed to renew the country’s nuclear deterrent until they’ve used the old one. And he did a song about things being like a fridge which I loved but also can’t remember. More entertainment was had from this after we had watched his act as Bugsy and I tried to think of things around us that were like a fridge, such as the cold corner of the porch of our tent where we kept our cans of cider.
Then on came Arthur Smith the comedy legend who was just as much surreal as funny. He literally pointed out that you cannot be literally over the moon, as some of the younger members of our population would have us believe. Paedophilia didn’t exist when he was a kid. Instead they had Bob-a-Job Week where young boys would knock on the doors of total strangers and offer to do any job at all for five pence. Well it seemed funny when Arthur said it. He also had a bit of a rant about saying no to foot fungus and he took the piss out of Leeds and Swindon. He must have known that I was in the audience.
On the way out I bared my teeth (well I think it was my teeth) at the bare teeth lady and went back to Mocha Magic to ask if anyone had handed in my hat. Then Sue and Bugsy went to bed (separately . . . apparently . . . well moats do have their uses you know) while I joined Sharon and Ali in the camper van for a cup of coffee. This was my big chance to ask if the camper van was called the camper van because it was more camp than the previous van that Ali had owned. I never found out and, hard as I tried to steer the conversation in a Priscilla Queen of the Desert direction, it veered alarmingly off onto the subject of homosexuality amongst teenagers. It’s frowned upon, especially if you’re a fifty-three year old bloke. I developed a headache, finished my coffee, thanked my hostesses for their hospitality, stuck my mud caked feet into my mud caked trainers and went off to my tent to dream of Mucky Lorna and her stampy red shoes . . . like a modern day Dorothy.
Amazing Festival Facts: No 7
Sue’s snoring is an octave higher on Saturday nights than it is on Friday nights.
If you got 88 Sues (52 white and 36 black), laid them all side by side and got them to snore at the appropriate points you could perform Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto in G Minor.
Day Three – Sunday 17th July 2011
All through the night there raged an almighty tempest, so mighty as to lay low all the mountains of the world, fill Sue’s moat to the brim and give the Mark Lamarr Tree Festival mud the consistency of a Boxing Day poo. I wonder if when Delta bluesman, Charley Patton wrote Devil Sent the Rain Blues he was lying in a tent in a muddy field in Dorset (or Wiltshire) wondering which would make him the wettest, going outside for a wee in the rain or weeing in his sleeping bag. I tossed a coin (well I think it was a coin) in my sleeping bag and consequently plumped for the outside in the rain option. In fact I did better than that; I went for a shower and what an uplifting feeling it was to stand under cascading hot water instead of cold for a change.
At 6.30 this morning I reckoned I was the cleanest person amongst the masses attending the Dorothy Lamour Tree Festival. Thousands of people and dozens of shower cubicles but only me brave enough to risk being washed away in the mud on the way down the field to wash away the mud! Feeling all warm and refreshed and with a soul full of hope (or was it a hole full of soap?) I decided that hot liquids were the way forward so I wandered off in search of coffee to maintain my wide awake and positive frame of mind.
Everywhere was shut. It was pissing down with rain. My lovely clean ankles had become caked in mud. Despondency and gloom abounded so I went and sat at a table in the tent that purported to be a covered seating area for diners but was currently being used as a haven for people who had been so pissed when they left home that they had forgotten to bring a tent. There were about half a dozen of them and they appeared to have consumed more wine in the early hours of Sunday morning than I could in a whole morning. Not having brought a bottle to the party, I thought it would be bad manners to try to join them so I took a seat at the opposite side of the tent where I thought I would see how many times I could read the cooking instructions on the tab of a discarded teabag. I had barely got past ‘bring the kettle to the boil’ when I was approached by a young man playing a ukulele, wearing a red and yellow jester’s hat and several kilograms of mud and smelling strongly of marijuana. He said I looked lonely and asked if I’d like to join him and his mates for a drink but, noticing that he and his mates didn’t have any drink left I soon recognised it as request for me to go to my car and get some drink which normally I would have gladly done but neither me nor my liver wanted to get soaked at that time of the morning. I politely declined his offer; he fell over and after helping him back to his muddy feet I returned to the job of making an imaginary cup of tea.
Barely three minutes later another member of the circle of friends came over to my table. This one sat down opposite me. He had obviously observed his friend’s failed attempt at standing up and acted shrewdly upon it. He introduced himself as Phil and asked me what I was doing because it looked interesting. I told him about my tea bag label habit and he was fascinated. I also told him that I usually write all this bollocks in a book but it was too wet to take the book out with me so I was scribbling a few notes on a soggy bit of paper so I could do it all in my best handwriting when I got home. He was then even more fascinated. I told him it was a shame I didn’t have the book with me because usually when I’m a-wandrin’ I ask the people that I meet to write their bit in the book too. He was struggling to hold back the tears of disappointment. I found a spare soggy bit of paper in my pocket (not a Kleenex, I hasten to add) and over the course of the next hour he managed to inscribe his words of wisdom on it.
Phil looked and sounded like the sort of bloke who had fallen over and bumped his head a lot. For the first time in his Lima Tree Festival attending history he had acquired a legitimate wristband from the powers that be which meant that he could move freely around the site, subject to his ability to balance and focus his eyes on any given day. He had a different coloured wristband to me because he was a performing artist . . . really!
From the other side of the tent I heard a girl sing “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream” as she strummed the tune on the ukulele she had snatched from the inebriant who had approached me prior to Phil. Perfect musical accompaniment to his tale of Jo Hunter who was not really dead but had been evicted from the site for not having the appropriate documentation/wristband. Jo, who I suspected should have been spelt Joe and who, apparently was literally a comic genius, had taken the economical over-the-wall route into the festival and had been evicted several times. He gave up in the end and went home because the camp commandant had threatened that if he was caught again Phil would be evicted too.
Phil’s words of wisdom.
I could see that Phil was getting quite depressed about this so to lighten the mood I asked him what his favourite S Club 7 song was and for the next ten minutes the two of us frolicked in the rain, singing:
S Club (there ain't no party like an S Club party)
Gonna show you how (everybody get down tonight)
S Club (there ain't no party like an S Club party)
Gonna take you high (shake your body from side to side)
O-oh O-oh! Throw your hands in the air
O-oh O-oh! Like you just don't care
O-oh O-oh! There's a party over here
O-oh O-oh! There's a party over there
O-oh O-oh! Throw your hands in the air
O-oh O-oh! Like you just don't care
O-oh O-oh! There's a party over here
O-oh O-oh! There's a party over there
Ghetto boys, make some noise!
Hoochie mamas, show your nanas!
But the girl with the ukulele was having trouble keeping up with the tune so we decided to call it a day. Phil went back to his cocktail of alcohol, drugs and mud and I noticed that the purveyors of victuals were at last open for business so I bought a couple of cups of the finest Poundland instant coffee that money could buy and went back to the tent to see if Bugsy could carry on where Phil had left off. And he did his best . . . bless ‘im!
Bugsy and I just couldn’t stop movin’ to the S Club beat.
Our cider had been chilling all night in the corner of the tent that was like a fridge but, as we were fast approaching 8.00 a.m. and the sun had risen, I began to panic that we would be subjected to a scorcher of a day and the cider would become too warm to drink. I suggested that we drink it immediately and Bugsy agreed . . . so we did. There was little else to do anyway except to watch the ladies getting dressed through the steamy windows of the camper van. We still did do a bit of perverted ogling, but with a couple of cans of cider inside us we had the courage to go right up to the van and press our faces up against the windows. Bugsy had picked up this tip from his I-Spy Book of Dogging.
Once we were all decent, and Sue had removed the various objects from her nose that campers from all over Dorset (or Wiltshire) had inserted to try to stop her snoring, we set off for breakfast. A sumptuous repast of bacon and mushrooms in a baguette in an early morning deluge of rain the likes of which I hadn’t seen since breakfast time yesterday.
Coffee in the Arc tent was the obvious answer to the question of what to do after breakfast. Some of my favourite moments of the festival were in that tent. I loved just sitting there watching band after band that I had never heard of before take to the stage and put their hearts and souls and chuckle muscles into entertaining us.
First on the agenda were Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin. Phillip looked like the Roald Dahl’s cartoon Big Friendly Giant and played the harmonica like a demon. Hannah played the fiddle slowly and had the voice of Joni Mitchell but the comic delivery of Leonid Brezhnev when she tried to tell jokes about the weather. I didn’t entirely agree with Bugsy’s epithet for them but nevertheless they became known as the ‘Fit Bird and the Boring Beardy Bloke’ for the rest of the weekend. I reckon they’d get more people going to see them perform if they made that their permanent stage name.
Festival Disappointments: No 4
Hannah Martin let it slip in one of her dull, drippy monologues that Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin live in the same tent. Surely, if this is the case, Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin should be called Mr and Mrs Henry.
I hope they realise that sinners, blasphemers and fornicators will not escape the damnation of Hell. I suspect Hannah knows a joke about it.
Skinny Lister’s songs of smuggling that we heard in the same venue yesterday inspired us to do a bit of smuggling ourselves today. There is a limit to the amount of coffee that you can drink but there is no limit to the amount of red wine or vodka that you can put away so trips back to the tent to top up carefully concealed plastic bottles charged our glasses for the rest of the morning and made us forget about the rain unless we were out in it on our way back to the tent on a smuggling mission, which Sue usually was.
Amazing Festival Facts: No 8
I don’t know how the conversation came round to this but Sharon admitted that she used to do handstands and cartwheels for priests when she was a girl (last week).
Alison broke the news that she broke the bed in her camper van (last night).
I like to think that there is some connection between these two facts and that video footage is available. You know what sisters can be like!
Buffalo Gals came on next. We saw them yesterday on the big Main Lawn stage in the distance in the rain and they didn’t make much impact. But today in the intimate surroundings of the Arc tent, where we could see and hear them properly and where our minds had been adjusted by more strong drink than is good for a lad before 11.00 a.m. on a Sunday, they were quite magnificent. Sort of American Blue Grass music with jokes in between tunes and Clog Dancin’ Jenny on stage with them clattering and clomping her way through some of the more racy numbers.
I thought that Clog Dancin’ Jenny might be able to give Mucky Lorna a run for her money. Who was the better of the two? Mucky Lorna or Clog Dancin’ Jenny? There was only one way to find out . . . FIGHT! . . . in the mud too! But in reality it was never going to happen and I was still fourteen hours away from crawling my way into my sleeping bag fantasy land . . . pah!
ahab (spelt, rather irritatingly and pretentiously, without a capital ‘A’) were quite good too. A blend of country and folk music with numerous references to the fact that a pissed Trade Unionist at the nearby Tolpuddle Festival (definitely in Dorset) the previous night had repeatedly called one of the band a ‘floppy haired prick’. This was quite amusing but you can’t really base a career in the music industry on that so we went outside where the rain had stopped-ish.
On the Main Lawn stage was Show Of Hands who apparently had been around on the music scene for donkeys' years and had made a dozen or more albums but they didn’t do it for me. I think this was because of the big stage syndrome, the fact that I was feeling a bit groggy from a morning of cider and red wine, it was still raining and, because there were more people about, we were having to buy alcohol from an official outlet. They were alright though, I suppose.
After watching Show Of Hands on the Main Lawn stage we went into the Arc tent to watch Show Of Hands on a small stage but I’d had enough of Show Of Hands by then. In fact if they’d asked for a show of hands to see who was growing a bit weary of Show Of Hands I would have shown more than just my hands. So, just like Captain Oates, I left my comrades in the tent and went outside alone to brave the weather. Where I was on that day it was only raining hard, but for Captain Oates back inAntarcticain 1912 he faced Antarctic climatic conditions . . . like a fridge.
Amazing Festival Facts: No 9
We went to the Mocha Magic tent for our breakfast time coffee this morning and Sue asked the barista if anyone had handed in my hat last night. Very kind of her but a futile question I thought, as we had asked the same question last night without success. But someone had handed it in and I got my hat back. Oh joy upon joy.
We spent the rest of the day trying to work out from memory if the person Sue had asked was a gentleman or a lady for some of the characteristics had been misleading.
When I returned to the coffee tent later in the afternoon the person in question had developed a deep voice and grown a full beard. Had he heard us questioning his sexuality and taken speedy measures to convince us of the truth or had we just been stupid and looking for someone to take the piss out of?
Alone, I went to the Mocha Magic tent again for a nice cup of coffee and a bit of a breather from the cut and thrust of festival life. A lady came in and sat her child near to me while she went up to the counter to place her order. The child shouted to his mother a request for a cake. In an effort to share the friendly festival spirit I asked him if he would ask her to get me one too. The mother stormed across the floor of the tent, snatched up the boy and sat him at a table as far away from me as she could without going out into the mud. I expect that for the rest of the day the overprotective mother devoted her time to teaching the child to write the words ‘fuck off paedophile’ in his Alphabetti Spaghetti. So much for the festival spirit . . . pah!
Angela is the wise woman of festival spirit so I went to tell her all about my day. She was in a lovely comfy awning of a caravan belonging to her friends, Steve and Jilly. It had carpet and chairs and a fruit bowl . . . total opulence! I had a glass or two of cider and, yawning in the awning, struggled to keep my eyes open. Oh it was so cosy in there after the stark austerity and smelly wet socks of the tent I had been sharing with Bugsy and the day’s alcohol abuse and too much standing up and being muddy were catching up with me. Angela didn’t have this problem because she had spent the day in the Lost Wood making curtains for elfin folk who had got their girlfriends into trouble but luckily had just been given a council house by the local authority which they now needed to furnish.
The party in the posh tent broke up seconds after I had opened my second can of cider. Angela wanted to go to see Seth Lakeman perform on the Main Lawn stage. Jilly wanted to go to the haberdashery tent to buy some faerie curtain hooks. Steve wanted to pack up and go home. So we set off for the big stage, via the security gate, with my can of cider in my hand. I had envisaged problems and was prepared to put the can in the rubbish bin.
My conversation with the security man went something like this.
Security Man: You can’t bring that in here mate.
Security Man: Oh alright then.
Reunited with my original gang I was relieved to discover that none of them really wanted to watch Seth Lakeman and they had saved me a seat in what, by then, I considered to be my very own Arc tent where we saw CW Stoneking. CW was white and Australian and probably in his thirties but if you shut your eyes and listened to his voice, his banjo and his steel guitar you would think he was black and born in the Mississippi Delta round about 1890. I don’t normally enjoy acts who just reproduce music from a bygone era but this bloke was amazing. I’d pay money to see him again.
I’d also pay money to see Seasick Steve again, even though he wasn’t seasick. I think he must have taken one of his Kwells tablets before he went up to perform on the Main Lawn stage. I had always known that drug abuse was rife at music festivals but I had never expected hyoscine hydrobromide! Newly renamed Settled Tummy Steve, with his collection of bodged together guitars that looked like Valerie Singleton (or perhaps Bono) had made out of sticky back plastic and empty fag packets on Blue Peter as an ideal Mother’s Day present, was pretty damned good and the rockiest of all the turns we had seen over the course of the weekend.
I felt slightly melancholy walking away from the Main Lawn stage and thinking that it was all over apart from the thin lady snoring and the final night of sleep hampered by mud, rain and floppy flappy tent flaps. I needed one last glimpse of Mucky Lorna to cheer me up. And by Jove, there she was rocking her socks off with the rest of the Skinny Lister band as we meandered our way into the Social Tent to see if there was any chance of another pint of something. She must have read my mind. On second thoughts, she can’t have read my mind because she didn't have me thrown out of the tent. I left of my own accord but not until the Listers had finished their wonderful set, I’d had a few more jars of Guinness for the road and stood and listened to the DJ’s awful music as we waited for the final band to come on who were also awful.
Sue and Sharon had retired earlier. Well that’s what they said they’d done but, with all these specialist theme type tents around (e.g. the yoghurt weaving tent, the amphetamine sulphate tent, the rubber fetish tent, the Leeds United tent, etc., etc.) Sue had actually spent the day publicising her ‘snoring tent’ and Sharon had gone back with her to help give tuition to enthusiastic festival goers in the ancient art of vibrating the respiratory structures (well I think they said respiratory structures). Alison had stayed in the Social Tent with Bugsy and I as we had all guessed that we would be able to hear the snoring from there anyway. Sue’s nasal notes turned out to be a bit more rhythmic and beaty than the final band turned out to be so we finally hung up our Lava Lamp Festival boots and toddled off to bed.
The festival had come to an end but we still hadn’t had an S Club Party. There ain’t no party like an S Club Party and Bugsy and I definitely hadn’t had one yet. So we cracked open a bottle of something which was probably wine but we couldn’t see in the dark as the Poundland torch had got sick of the rain and gone home, but we weren’t all that fussy anyway. I suppose we could have lit a candle but you can’t start a fire, you can’t start a fire without a spark so we found ourselves dancing in the dark in our tent, singing:
(Ooh, ooh) Wave your hands in the air
(Ooh, ooh) Like you just don't care
(Ooh, ooh) There's a party over there
(Ooh, ooh) There's a party over there
Ali’s breaking her bed
Sharon’s having a bottle of red
Sue’s snoring loud in her tent
While Bugsy’s going off to the gents (ooh, ooh)
Wanna see Lorna’s bra
Wanna see Steve seasicking in the bar
Then we got Terry, he’s full of curry
Get ready everybody cos he’s got to hurry!
S Club (There ain't no party like an S Club party, hey ho)
Gonna show you how (hey, yeah)
Everybody get down tonight
S Club (S Club, there ain't no party like an S Club party, hey ho)
Gonna take you high
Shake your body from side to side
Day Four – Monday 18th July 2011
We packed away our tents in the rain and went home. We didn’t want to go home. We were sad to be leaving. Bugsy said he had an empty feeling . . . like a fridge.
Day Twenty Eight – Thursday 11th August 2011
Lorna sent me a love letter . . . sigh!
Lorna's love letter.
It was nice to hear from her but I was embarrassed to see her refer to something so intimate and tender as ‘the diddle’.
Amazing Festival Photographs
You've read the book. Now see the pictures. Just click on here for photo fun:
The magic picture book of the Larmer Tree