I’m old now. I wasn’t always. I went to my first Reading Festival when I was 17 (RHCP, Senser, Radiohead, Therapy?, Wildhearts, Terrorvision. Gutted that Soundgarden didn’t show up) and ended up going for 10 years in a row. I did my time in the mud and the dirt. I saw bands I loved, bands I hated and bands I’d never heard of. I drank the beer and ate the sausages. I went to Feet First on the Thursday nights and stumbled back over pitch black guy-ropes. I saw explosions and heard fireworks and laughed when people fell into the hidden brook. I stayed up too late around campfires, then fell asleep to the dulcet tones of a thousand campers shouting “Bollocks”. I woke up freezing at the crack of dawn. I saw a riot that started from a single, well aimed egg and ended up with mounted police and plastic bottles full of wee. I dallied with girls that I shouldn’t have, failed to dally with girls that I should have and all in all had a stupidly good time.
But I’m old now. Those wild indulgences of my youth are nothing but fond memories, happy thoughts to pass the time as I make another cup of tea. And the strange thing is that I don’t mind. Not a bit. I’ve moved on and grown up. I remember being worried, back in the day, that the world would end when I was too old to be young. How would I cope with the boredom? The endless nights at home? Well here’s a message for my younger self: Stop worrying, fuckwit, and go enjoy yourself. I’m fine. You will be fine. Don’t sweat it.
It’s Festival time this week, of course. That’s what’s brought all this to mind. My walk home from work takes me along the IDR and towards the Festival site, so I’m knee deep in campers for most of it. Today was quite tame, compared to previous years ( the queuing cars were actually moving this year, albeit very slowly) but it was still rammed. This year’s bunch of pedestrian campers looked pretty much like any other year’s bunch of pedestrian campers, but I found myself surprised by the luggage. Mainly because it was exactly that: luggage. Actual suitcases, on wheels, with no sign of mud anywhere. Absolutely spotless. With name tags. If you’d taken a nice neat labelled suitcase in my day you’d have been burnt at the stake, but I guess times change.
Anyway. I’m waffling. I wrote a poem as I walked through the crowds, and I’ve pasted it below. I’m too lazy to come up with a proper title, so in the immortal words of Eddie Hitler, “I think I’ll just put bollocks”.
Backed up along the IDR
The camper-vans and hatchback cars
Their parcel-shelves stacked up with gear
(Tents and bags and crates of beer)
Just sitting in the crawling queue
Their speed, perhaps, an inch or two
Per hour, whilst past on either side
Totemic teenage tramping tides
Fill every foot of pavement space
Identical in form and face
(The nonchalant, well practiced miens
That mask the minds still in their teens)
A route march down to Campsite G
An army, this, it’s plain to see
Whilst I, demobbed and pensioned too
Just cross the road to join the few
Who spurn the turn-off to the site
Then take a resident’s delight
In sudden calm beyond the throng
My ears immune to siren song
And I, demobbed and healthy yet,
(A battle hardened Festy Vet)
Walk home, to all I need in life
Adoring children, loving wife
And I, demobbed, a wiser beast,
Sit down. Inside. A man at peace.