Posts Tagged ‘camping’

Glastonbury here I come…

June 26, 2013

..when I’ve finished writing lists that is.

I can’t wait! Danny has been there for a week already; helping to build the many bars that will serve pints and pints of beer to the 170,000 people who are limbering up to descend on this corner of Somerset over the next few days.

Glastonbury  set up: flowers and tents

Those pretty flowers won’t stand a chance…

It is an extraordinary event – a veritable town constructed in the middle of otherwise peaceful farmers fields, all for one long weekend of revelry and mayhem. It takes a good half hour to walk from one side of the site to the other and that’s now, before the crowds arrive to slow you down. It’s an astonishing transformation that happens because of the 30,000 people involved in the staging and set up of Glastonbury.

Glastonbury set up: tent pegs

Since time immemorial humans have held festivals; spectacular occasions at which to rejoice in the delights of being alive. Festivals are about escapism and celebration and I’m definitely up for both. I think I’ve loved parties (or at least the idea of them!) ever since my 6th or 7th birthday which was crowned with a 3D polystyrene fairy castle with lights in the turrets, built for me by my Dad. And now I can’t wait to go to Glastonbury with all its spires and magical kingdoms.

Glastonbury tree spraying

I have no idea…

I haven’t been since having the girls 12 years ago. More recently we’ve diverted our festival attention to family-focussed, smaller festivals like Green Man, Latitude, Truck and the tiniest and bestest of all: Wood Festival – yay!

But now the girls are getting a bit older and we can leave them on their own with tins of beans we’ve begun to sneak off for occasional grown-up festival moments. Last September we went to Portmeirion for Festival No. 6. which was absolutely fab, bar camping on a hill which I really don’t recommend.

Portmeirion festival no6 w/s

Portmeirion is very special to me, having spent many childhood Summer holidays in nearby Portmadog. We’d make an annual pilgrimage to Portmeirion village via the ‘train bach‘ and a secret over-the-fence back entrance that has long since been closed up. Walks in the woods, on the beach and in, out and around the wonderful architecture of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. All this first fuelled my love of quirkiness in all its glorious forms.

If you haven’t been to Portmeirion please put it on your list of essential places to visit. It is spectacular and wondrous. If you don’t believe me, then follow all the hollywood stars, famous authors, top musicians and King Zog of Albania, all of whom have stayed here since the 1920s.

Portmeirion village

Just like Portmeirion, the thing I am most looking forward to at Glastonbury is the crazy architecture and the make-believe worlds which here will only exist for a few short, heady days. I hear tales of Block 9 with derelict buildings, abandoned New York cabs and a tube train, jostling for attention with the Unfairground – another dystopia built with plywood, paint and heaps of creativity.  Strange landscapes looming out of the countryside, that will only come alive at night once the live music finally subsides. I can’t wait. I think perhaps I would’ve, could’ve, should’ve done something in this kind of world, had life taken different turns. But I’m very happy to enjoy the magic rather than create it.

Glastonbury sign at night

Glastonbury in lights. Quilted lights of course.

And there are a few favourite haunts of old to revisit. The Tiny Tea tent in the Green Fields will be a daily destination for, err, tea. And now that I don’t drink alcohol it might be my bar of choice rather than the cider bus. This Glastonbury will doubtless be a very different experience for me because of the absence of booze, though none the worse I’m quite sure. I daresay some things will stay the same – like the mud and the toilets however I don’t think the grass will talk to me this time.

Glastonbury meeting place

In two days time there’ll be a thousand people on this spot alone…

And if the toilets are all too much without the numbing effects of drink then I’m in the luxurious position of being able to retreat to staff quarters. Danny and co. are working (hard I might say, 12 hour days mostly) for Avalon who provide many of the bars and the hospitality, so we camp in their staff enclosure complete with showers and toilets, which based on past experience will mostly work and mostly contain toilet roll. What more could a girl want. Not much actually; I’m quite happy to slum it and I definitely don’t need a hairdryer or an iron. It’s not a wedding is it?

Glastonbury Tiny Tea Tent

The Tiny Tea Tent takes shape

Being builders and seasoned Glastonbury workers, Danny’s gang have honed the art of a top-notch camp that is the envy of other crews on site. A well-equipped kitchen with fridge-freezer, stereo system and communal dining table all await. Torquay Mark is camp chef, turning out risotto, cheesecake and not a burnt sausage in sight. This year they’ve thankfully rejected the widescreen tv that invaded their camp for one year only! I kid you not: last year one of their number was found watching the bands on telly rather than going to see them play live in the next field. Oh so wrong!

Glastonbury camp

Camp Glastonbury

Slightly bizarrely perhaps, the music is a bit of a mystery to me. I’ve never chosen a particular festival because x, y, or z band are playing, though of course I won’t go to a festival that favours music I don’t like. But I go for the event itself, for the joy of it, to spend time with friends, play with the kids and see some great music at the same time. It is also true that as I ahem, mature, I have less and less idea who any of the bands are anyway. My first look at the line up for Glastonbury and I was a bit lost after the Rolling Stones and a handful of others. So it’s lucky that I like a surprise.

All I seek is my ‘festival highlight’ – it’s a quest, a mission of mine to experience at least one special moment and I haven’t yet been to a festival that has failed to deliver. We always find great musical moments though often not by the bands we expected greatness from. Gotan Project, Tunng, Gruff Rhys (thank you very much), John Grant, New Order, Future Islands – these have all been surprise highlights from past festivals.

Glastonbury bar building

I have high hopes that this expedition to Glastonbury will be no different and I can’t wait to experience it all through new, clear eyes. Mind you, with the organisation and planning that’s involved in getting me out of the house, my eyes will still be bleary, just for different reasons.

Honestly, will all you parents who are reading this please take a moment to congratulate yourselves for all that you do in the name of parenting. Writing detailed notes regarding the girls commitments for just a few days is like writing military manouvers and it makes me realise exactly how much is involved in this parenting game. So really, well done to all of us. Three cheers!

Glastonbury flags

What’s a festival without flags?

And while I’m here I offer another big cheer to the grandparents without whom I would not be going at all. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And to those lovely girls who will be entertaining themselves and their grandparents for the long weekend without us. Love you X

So just before I go and pack my essential festival sparkle and wellies (actually my wellies have sparkle), here are a few random festival camping tips from the bottom of our rucksack, just for you:

1. Wet wipes, take loads of wet wipes. And carry them round with you…

2. Take clothes for cold weather. Unless it’s a scorcher the evenings will still get cold.

3. Don’t try and fold your sleeping bag neatly – stuff it in the bag. It’s the best way and it’s very satisfying when we spend most of our lives trying to create order from chaos!

4. Boys; please don’t wee up the perimeter fences. Someone has to dismantle them afterwards.

5. Take an edible treat or two. A couple of bars of lovely chocolate can brighten the dullest day.

6. Snuggle up close with your valuables.

7. Pack your festival skirt. And wear it. Whatever the weather.

silver skirt

Told you I needed it.

See you on the other side…

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Great Expectations

May 11, 2013

My goodness, how time flies. A whole week has gone by since I heard the dreaded news about the pitch. But I was lucky enough to be away last weekend – glooooorious bank holiday sun and 3 days camping – the perfect antidote to the pain of rejection.

Every new dawn is indeed a wonderful thing. But a new start sometimes brings with it some pain.

tents

Dawn breaks.

It’s 5 a.m. Imagine if you will, those trees are full of birds singing to greet the new day.

No they aren’t. The birds have fled. Those tents contain giggling, laughing and yelling kids. And one by one so do all the other tents in the circle as they all catch on to the delights of early morning frivolity.

Heavy sighs and bleary eyes from every adult present.

Action required to ensure more sleep the next night.

How about a 6 mile hike.

Perfect.

Our girls are members of the Woodcraft Folk and we were camping with our district. Oh what fun we had. Three days of messing about in tents, watching the children play, play, play – their freedom and fun artfully enabled but not controlled by the grown-ups.

camp-wide

The Woodcraft Circle

This kind of freedom is something all children are entitled to, although of course not all get to experience it. And as adults we lose all sense of freedom if we’re not careful. Some people don’t but I know I have. I’m taking action to reclaim it, but it’s an uphill battle.

field-wide

A newly planted field of beans

Mostly it’s me I’m battling. Years of learned behaviour and self-defined rules to try and rewrite. Rules that tell me what I can and can’t do, what I am and am not capable of, what I should and shouldn’t do. How did that happen?

They’re not healthy guidelines within which to play and explore, which is what I saw Woodcraft Folk achieve for the children at camp. Theirs are guidelines and principles that enable freedom of expression, rather than stifle it. Inspiring indeed.

bluebells

My first ever sight of a bluebell wood

We saw an amazing array of vistas on this one walk. Surprising and quite beautiful landscapes around every corner. Like life itself I guess, if you look at it with the right eyes.

tunnel-of-leaves

A tunnel of fragrant hawthorn blossom

Of course not all landscapes are as immediately arresting as this. But that doesn’t mean they’re not beautiful. It’s just a matter of perspective. Mental note to self: remember to enjoy the view whenever possible.

My favourite part of the walk was the last. A long tramp across soggy marshlands as we neared our final destination. A dramatic, desolate landscape oozing (quite literally) with its own mysterious history and mud. Lots of mud.

swamp-wide

Bleak and beautiful

I almost expected Magwitch from Dickens’ classic story ‘Great Expectations’ to appear from behind a soggy hillock demanding wittles and a file with menaces. We had biscuits for the kids and we certainly could’ve spared one or two for a needy convict. Alas, we didn’t meet any escaped prisoners, however we did meet our own adversary.

The deep and watery gulleys that surrounded us in this marshland began to cut through the neat green pathway marked on our map. The first of these gloopy stream beds was relatively easy to cross and the kids continued onto the path beyond with little fuss. But the second was more of a challenge – a deep scar in the wet earth, about 15 feet deep and 20 feet across, with steep and extremely slippery banks and up to a foot of sticky mud at the bottom.

Th first couple of people to cross lost their shoes, their dignity and their balance. So we adults found ourselves having to consider quite carefully the best course of action to get our 20 children across this steep, deep, slippery, muddy, sodden gulley. For a while it seemed quite daunting, but once we reminded ourselves and the children that the worst that would happen was that we’d get very muddy, it suddenly became a lot more doable. Something I need to do more often – remind myself that outcomes are unlikely to be catastrophic.

swamp-feet

Look, no feet!

Eventually and after investigating alternative routes each one as impassable as the last, we elected to form a human chain and pass the children across the divide, one by one. Just as we began the job at hand, the next group with younger children turned up. So our human chain was strengthened and so was the challenge.

It was great to see different people’s responses to the situation. Most were practical, one or two were natural leaders, nearly all were happy to be part of the team and there were only one or two who insisted on doing their own thing, regardless of the best interests of the group. Fascinating stuff. I wasn’t one of the leaders, but I played my part as a fully committed member of the team – a valuable link in the chain.

swamp-chain

We carried the littlest children – passing them from one person to the next and we held the hands of everyone else – big children and adults alike, until about an hour later we had all 30 or so children and accompanying adults safely across; muddy, tired and relieved. Never was a post-walk ice cream so gratefully received as it was by those children!

ice cream

Earned and deserved

And come the next morning, They slept. They slept like babies.

And so did I. The pitch put in its place, buried in the mud and marked up as one of life’s experiences from which there is much to learn and nothing to regret. As Eleanor Roosevelt said;

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.”

So thank you Woodcraft Folk, for a wonderful and uplifting weekend.

swampwide

Mission accomplished. The Crouch Estuary at Brandy Hole

Oh and in case you’re wondering, all this wild beauty was in Essex. Deepest, darkest Essex. Lovely isn’t it.


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