So, I’m FINALLY getting round to typing up our festival exploits…yes, I know, I’m terrible.
I went to Beat-Herder armed with a notebook, some pens, and the heartfelt intention to journal each day and type the resulting entries up once I got home. In my usual style, I broke my promise to myself and ended up writing pretty much nothing at all. I couldn’t help it – I was having far too good a time, and I wasn’t about to sit down and start writing about it at great length.
Instead, I’ve taken the few bits I did write and joined them up with my (sometimes hazy) memories and a lot of photographs (mostly of clouds) and I shall now attempt to make them into something coherant on here…
Thursday 27th of June was a bit of a whirlwind of shopping and packing and Sarah arriving and late-night expeditions to Tesco and a LOT of worrying and a spot of insomnia. I was convinced that something would go wrong and that either I’d cause an accident or Red would break down on the way there. I finally fell to sleep at about 6am. Considering I had to get up and wash, dry and straighten my hair, our plan of leaving at 9am was clearly not going to happen…
Friday dawned and, after checking the oil and water, we eventually got our asses on the road at about 11am (totally my fault). I had completely failed to get a propane top-up before we left and so the plan was to try and pick one up on the way. We stopped just down the road from my house to get £60 of diesel (which almost filled the tank and saw us through the 320 miles we travelled with a bit left for another adventure) but they didn’t carry gas…a trend which continued throughout the garages and garden centres that I insisted we visit (making us later still…sigh). We had quite a bit of cooking and tea-making planned for the four days, and I knew we’d need a cuppa and a bacon sandwich on Monday morning…if we ran out of gas I would not be happy with myself.
It turns out that I didn’t need to worry on the first count…Red did amazingly!
91 miles of the journey were spent on the M6 (yawn) and I did between 50-60mph when the traffic allowed. We didn’t have to deal with too much slow traffic, although it did get heavy at times. It was quite scary being boxed in and having to manouvre such a bulky vehicle, but I really enjoyed it! It was pretty windy at times though, and I didn’t like being gusted into the next lane.
I had to do a few turns in the road during our fruitless search for a gas refill, but they were all fairly easy, and I got more and more confident with the weird clunky 5-speed gear box as the trip went on. The only problem we had was that the oil light kept flashing when I was on the clutch and finding the biting point. It got worse as the journey went on so I could only assume that the oil was getting too low at times and that he was losing it as we were going along. I know the oil filter leaks a little and there’s only ever a tiny drop of oil on the drive under him, so it must only be leaking when the engine is running. I had oil though, it was easy to solve.
We eventually arrived at about half past three and bobbed and bounced down the track in a conga-line with other vans and cars to find a spot in the squishy, muddy camper field. Pretty much anything passes for a camper van, including cars draped in tarpaulins, Land Rovers with really awesome safari-type roof tents, ambulances, old coaches, and the people who were canny enough to buy a van pass for their cars so they could set their tents up without having to carry everything across the mud-miles from the car park to the camping field. Clever. This wasn’t allowed in the festival’s camping rules, but the marshals were busy getting people over the mud and didn’t seem to be paying too much attention to what was going up where.
The grass was already quite churned up where the vans were pulling off the track and onto the field, and Red’s gears made getting to a free spot pretty scary. I was worried that the wheels were suddenly going to start spinning and that we’d end up stuck there all afternoon, but I should have had more faith in us. We totally did it! And then we could get down the the serious business of setting up camp and drinking some rum.
We had a van, a gazebo (with two sides), a tent, a windbreak and a big blue plastic sheet that was doing an impersonation of a groundsheet. What we didn’t have was plentiful amounts of tent pegs. Red has two double beds so we decided to leave the tent in its bag and both sleep in the van. We thought we’d have an easy job with just the gazebo to put up, but it was brand new so none of the poles slotted together easily. I have terrible grip and wasn’t any use at all, and poor Sarah got blistered hands for her valiant and skilled efforts at getting the impossible poles together. The wind was pretty strong and within a few minutes of securing the sides to the gazebo, two of the little velcro ties had torn off. We decided that was a good enough reason to take the sides down and have a rethink, and so the windbreak went up instead. It was MUCH better…until one end of it fell over. Repeatedly.
After we stole a few more tent pegs from the less delicate corners of our structure, we managed to get the windbreak to stay up…for a day.
And then we put down the groundsheet, folded the table out, went to collect water and had a well-deserved cup of tea. And some wine. Lots of wine.
We hadn’t really eaten and so, after some more wine, we set about the task of testing Red’s stove and our unknown gas supply. Burger time.
I’d like to say that we made our own burgers and that they tasted all the more awesome for being handmade and fresh…but we didn’t. We bought pre-packed ones. And they were still awesome and we didn’t have to get minced beef under our finger nails when we had several days of no running water ahead of us. We weren’t lazy…we were sensible! Honest!
Another thing I forgot was kitchen wipes, so what with these burgers and the sausages and bacon that was to come, things got a little greasy around the stove area. I did, however, remember to take a little melamine dish to use as a spoon rest, so at least there weren’t any puddles of fat glooping around the place.
So, we ate, we drank, we watched the rain and decided to set out the beds in preparation for our drunken return later on. Although I’d been up into the roof conversion already, I hadn’t dared get up with the bed actually pulled out before. The wood felt really bendy and flimsy and I was convinced that I’d break it. Sarah had the utmost confidence in it though, so I trusted in her confidence, pulled the board out, rearranged the matresses and then clambered up onto the work surface and slithered into the roof space. And it was fiiiiiiiine.
It was so comfy I didn’t want to get down again…but I did. Slowly. As I’m sure most van owners could attest, the carpeted interior makes for easy all-over carpet burn if you climb around without due care. We togged up, filled our water containers with wine, and made our way along the boggy paths to collect our wristbands and explore the festival properly.
I’ve only been to one festival before (Cloud Cuckoo Land, 2011) and that had just 500 attendees, 4 ‘stages’ and just one food vendor and one bar. It also had flushing toilets, running water and hot showers. It in no way prepared me for the massive muddy funfest that faced me when I strapped on my wristband and walked into the muddy squishpit that was the campsite and the arena.
It. Was. Massive.
Beat-Herder has a capacity of 5000 and this year they hosted 11 stages and had loads of vendors selling food and clothes and bags and circus tricks and god knows what else. There was a tattoo studio, a stone circle, a camp shop, cash machines, a barber shop…and mud. Lots of mud. We collected a program and slid round the stages and stalls before finally settling on pancakes from the Happy Crepe stall.
Sarah had cheese and spinach in hers and said it was amazing, but I think savoury pancakes are a hideous idea and went for an apple and cinnamon filling. It was difficult to eat by hand and tasted a bit like a Lush bath bomb (not that I’ve eaten one), but it was edible and made me want to go back for more the next day.
It started to get properly dark just as we were beginning to get properly drunk, and as we wandered around full of crepes the lights started to come into their own…
And then we found one of the bars and bought a whole load of cider.
We spent the next few hours squishing round the muddy arena, inspecting the smaller music tents and trying to find things to spend our money on. On our muddy travels we discovered the brilliant Tyrannosaurus Alan in the Rajazzle tent and spent a happy half hour leaping around like special people. Then I bought a mahoosive sack of a shoulder bag that not only holds EVERYTHING, but doesn’t hinder my dancing! Festival perfection.
At midnight, we headed into the ToilTrees a stage hidden away in the woods with funky stripy lighting spiralling away up the tall tall trees, a scary little town, and – more importantly – a bar. We stayed there til three and danced our asses off to Utah Saints, Fake Blood and Eddie Temple Morris, whilst making copious trips to the bar. We even managed to find a firm piece of ground to dance on!…which was awesome until I fell off the edge of it and almost ended up on my ass in the mud.
…and at some point we decided enough was enough and we should probably hit the disgusting port-a-loos for the last time before retiring to Red’s comfy beds. I think it was about 5am when I passed out whilst staring out over the campsite from my cosy roof bed…and the music was STILL playing.
We slept til lunchtime, and the occasional showers rained in through the open roof vent onto my drunken face. It was all rather lovely until I had to give in, get out of bed, and make a welly-clad trudge to those horrible toilets. And after sausage sandwiches we settled down to an afternoon of tea and biscuits and books and naps and writing…
Our neighbours played awesome music and when they were quiet we could hear the various music wafting over the fields from the stages, and occasionally Red buzzed with the bass. The weather was intermittently glorious and terrible, but it was mostly terrible and we were even treated to a spot of thunder and lightning! It was that afternoon that we discovered my gazebo, a last-minute and not-cheap purchase, was NOT waterproof. I had, in effect, bought a rather expensive sun shade.
Eventually we decided it was time to get back on the cider wagon, cook dinner and head back on out before we missed Saturday night…
Our main aim for Saturday night was to see Orbital on the main stage and then find something to fill the time before we could head into the trees to watch James Holden and Nathan Fake. I’m a geek, but I’m not a music geek and so I was happy to get my CiderVision(tm) on and be lead around to listen to awesome things. Through the mud. The OCEANS of mud.
We ate more crepes…
And then…Orbital…(came on stage…we didn’t eat them)…
I have to admit…I didn’t really like the first few tracks they played, but I got into it more as they picked up their pace. I also have to admit that I REALLY liked their dubstep (ohh, the shame) and kinda went a bit crazy during those tracks (well, as much as the mud would let me anyway) and as we bopped around like crazy people we started talking to our new friend, Robb, who was kind enough to take pictures of us hugging like the soppy gits we are…
And then Robb introduced us to Ros and we all danced merrily around! And a good time was had by all.
We found out that Robb was part of a folk band called Happy Red Tractors, who were playing a set the next day, and we chatted and laughed and danced and when midnight rolled around Orbital finished playing and I convinced everyone that the best idea to fill our time was to go and watch Black Lace. That well-known dance group. Ahem.
They agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to go with me, and my little heart filled with joy. One of my ex-boyfriends had one of those cheesy mobile discos (don’t laugh, it was brilliant when I was 17) and so I have an inane love for things like Jive Bunny and, indeed, Black Lace. I was having the time of my life dancing to Superman, and I REALLY wanted to join onto the Conga and it was awesome awesome AWESOME!…
…and then they insisted we leave! How rude!…and I didn’t even get to hear Agadoo. For shame,
And so we headed to the ToilTrees again for James Holden and Nathan Fake. The night is rather blurry from the trees onwards, which I attribute to the proximity of the bar, but I know I didn’t like Nathan Fake because I got bored and went for a wander round site til it was time to do something more interesting, like retire to someone’s tent and meet more people and talk until way past sunrise. It was the most excellent of nights. I know that because I didn’t take any photographs.
I’d love to be the kind of person who has photos of the fun and the dancing and the bands, but the truth is that if I’m taking photos I’m not leaping round like a crazy person and being part of the action. I’d rather have the memories than the photos. But I still want to spend £hundreds on a new DSLR. Go figure…
Sunday morning disappeared entirely and it was mid-afternoon by the time bacon was consumed and Robb introduced us to the delights of brandy-laced coffee for breakfast (it may have been afternoon but it was breakfast to us). Then it was yet more lazing around until we had to drag ourselves across the mud once again. My hair was ruined by rain and time so, despite the wind (and the fact that it was slightly too small for my head) I decided to hide my shame with my straw trilby. Bad idea, Louisa...
And it was time for Happy Red Tractors!!
They were toe-tappingly, boot-stompingly brilliant, and I boogied down as much as the previous two nights of liver-bashing would allow. It was the best way to kick off a Sunday of music, and when their set was over we met more people, made a plan and set out into the evening…
The plan was to hit the main stage and catch The Beat and Lee Scratch Perry. And what a plan! I don’t think I’ve ever had a more chilled out Sunday…I got drunk and I danced in the gentle rain with my oldest friend and my newest friends and it…was…awesome.
I did my usual trick of claiming not to know who either of the acts were (I knew the names but I couldn’t have named anything they’d done) and then saying “Ohhh yeah! I know this!”…and both sets were really REALLY good…I was utterly knackered by the end of it. Someone threw a bra a Scratch while he was on stage and he was so appreciative that another twenty or so followed!
And once again the night gets hazy and blends into tents and talking and splodging through mud and getting to sleep at sunrise…and only two photos emerge from this point in the night…
First my hat toppled off onto the squidgy mud…
I rescued it and wore it with pride – a casualty of the mud. Festival grime for the win!
…but then it fell off into a massive splooshy puddle of liquid mud and…well…see for yourself…
It seemed beyond salvation, so in my drunken state I decided that it was now a fatality and in a fit of poetic whimsy I placed it atop a wheelie bin, took a photograph and sadly left it behind.
And so the festival was over…
We’d planned to leave in the morning and get Sarah back to her hometown of Derby by lunchtime. Like most of our previous plans we ended up scrapping it and we slept through til the afternoon. The queue to leave the site was scarily long and non-moving, so we elected to put the remaining gas to the test and drink gallons of tea until it started to clear. At some point we got round to taking down the windbreak and the gazebo, and after a bit more tea it was time to check the oil and water and join the now-moving queue.
…except I couldn’t get the oil cap off. And neither could Sarah. And the oil was too low.
We may have been the last people to take down our camp, but luckily we weren’t the last people to join the queue, so I enlisted the help of a nearby strong man who (eventually) got the oil cap off for us. Having not had to fill it before I didn’t know that I needed a funnel and therefore didn’t have one. It made for a very messy attempt at getting oil into the sump, but I managed it somehow and we could set off on our way.
It was five thirty by the time we left the festival gates and hit the road. We stopped for coffee along the way and got to Derby three hours later, and it was just gone ten by the time I finally got home. Old Red may have been slow, but he got everyone where they needed to go. He’s a star.
Sarah is totally right…I spent so much time worrying that we’d break down or run out of gas, and neither of those things happened. Red got us across seas of mud and tarmac and the gas saw us through three breakfasts, two dinners and a seemingly impossible amount of hot drinks. And yeah, I forgot things that we could have used (like kitchen wipes and tent pegs and a beanie to cover my hideous hair), but it wasn’t the end of the world to have to live without them. I think I’ve learnt that the time to stress is when the things go wrong and not before. That way you can accurately judge how stress-inducing such a situation might be and you don’t waste time needlessly anticipating the worst. If I can remember that in the future then I might get a little more sleep!
In conclusion…Beat-Herder was awesome and brilliant and fabulous and great and I will be buying an earlybird ticket and a van pass for 2013 as soon as they’re on sale. Red is a comfy ride and a cosy home, and I had the best travelling companion I could possibly have. Yes it’s soppy and lame, but there’s no one I’d rather have had in my passenger seat than my oldest and bestest friend…and she reads a map like a boss.
Our first trip was the ultimate in successes and so I’d just like to repeat the closing sentiment of my last post…
…WE DID IT!!!!