I first realised something was wrong as I joined the (very long) bus queue in the pouring rain after getting off the hovercraft in Ryde. A rumour ran along the queue that it was taking the buses 6 hours to get to the festival site – a distance of 6 miles. That can’t be true, we thought. But it was, though our driver shaved off an hour by taking a detour via Newport. What had happened was that the first cars into the festival car park had immediately stuck fast in the mud; no more could get in, and the route soon got blocked with traffic for its whole length. We also heard that there were two car ferries circling in the Solent – the police were preventing them from landing.
Five hours later, then, the bus reached the site and I thought my troubles were over. It was dark by then of course, and still raining; and in front of me there appeared a vision of hell – a hill of mud, lit by strings of lights reflected on its shiny surface, up which a host of dark figures with tents and bags were slowly toiling. There was no way of telling how much further it would be once you got to the top. It was a lot further, and I dared not let my suitcase fall. For the first time, but not the last, I regretted my foolishness in not stopping to buy wellies on the way.
I’ve no idea how long it took me to find my tent. I became disoriented and completely forgot the directions I’d been given. (Also, the cheery psychedelic map they send you only shows the area where the music venues are – but it doesn’t tell you this. The place I was looking for was not, in fact, on the map at all.) However, some kind people came and rescued me and once we found the right field I began to cheer up, because of my extreme cleverness in booking a pre-erected tent with its own pre-inflated airbed. I’d missed Stackridge, and so I’d probably never find out what they mean to their dedicated fan-posse but, obviously, nothing else could possibly go wrong.
The next morning, having equipped myself with appropriate footwear, drunk some excellent coffee and eaten a bacon roll, I set out to see the sights. I saw two TP lookalikes miming to Free Fallin’ with cardboard guitars.
Then came an announcement that the part of the site that was on the map, the part with all the music venues in it, which should have opened at 1, wouldn’t be opening till 4 because of the high winds – I presume this was because of all the fairground rides they had there. This was bad news for Feeder, who were due to start at 4 on the main stage and did so, even though nobody had arrived to watch them. However, I did catch the end of their set and really liked them. I started to work my way through the crowd.
By halfway through Noah and the Whale (a bit meh I thought) I’d achieved my first-stage objective and was in the second row at the barrier, behind three young women I’d identified as prime candidates for liftouts – ie they were all drunk and would probably be wanting the loo before too long. Unfortunately for me, before that could happen, Example happened.
Now, this bloke’s fans all tend towards the young, male, big, beefy and careless part of the demographic (although the three young women seemed to like him too). Hordes of these idiots proceeded to barge their way through the crowd to get to the front – and did I mention they were all drunk? And jumping up and down, encouraged by Example himself who seemed bent on fomenting as much mayhem as possible? When I realised what was about to happen I managed to get my hand on the rail, but eventually the crush was too strong and I had to let go and was swept away, struggling to keep on my feet and panicking about what would happen if I fell.
So why, I hear you ask, didn’t you attract the attention of the security staff and get lifted out yourself? Well, duh, I’d never have got back to the front again, would I? (That’s what I meant on RR about being stupid.) I just kept thinking “keep your footing and this will eventually end”. And I did, and it did, and Elbow came on and all the drunken blokes melted away; and finally I was back behind the three young women who did, indeed, ask to be lifted out so enabling me to get to the barrier, upon which I hung for some time panting with relief. And I quite enjoyed Elbow, really!
And here is part of the piece of resistance that made it all worth while. Get a load of that gittar solo, if you will.
But I’d already decided to go home the following morning. I was, to paraphrase, tired of all the mud, scared of goin’ down, tired of myself, scared of those clowns. I was sure there would be another heaving mass at the Springsteen show.
There was a man at the hoverport with a pressure washer who cleaned the mud off my boots for me.