When life gives you lemons make lemonade…when life gives you a field, make mud

War torn, limping, and with a face like a beetroot crossed with a cactus; I stumbled across the threshold of my house, returning from Leeds fest 2010, a mere shadow of my former self. Quite what persuades me every year to spend nearly a week cold,wet, and pining for a real bed is beyond me; however looking back I smile to myself and remember the many reasons I do it. It is constantly pointed out for the price of a festival you could quite easily go abroad and be harassed by exotic looking women lying topless on a beach, but for me and my friends we choose to be harassed by cider swilling chavs at 4am in a West Yorkshire park. Leeds Festival is an experience you will never forget, standing on top of a hill you look out across the festival, people swarming around like ants, dragging mountains of alcohol and crisps to their proposed campsite. My friend Sam came up with the ingenious/annoying game of asking people if they needed a hand with their bags; you could see their eyes light up as someone offers to relieve them of the bag that cuts into their shoulder, this was then cut short as he simply stands there and gives them a round of applause. Faces like thunder they would soldier on, dragging their life with them, cursing under their breath as we rolled around in stitches. It is true though for festivals, you do seem to take your life’s possesions. I am one person who can never underpack, I get there and spend a good few hours angry that the item I want to wear I left behind; my solution? Take everything. I think if possible I would probably take the kitchen sink to a festival, then complain I didn’t bring the bathroom one aswell.

It would take me far too long to reel off  the items that I took, but top of my list every year is a ‘readybed’ (£29.95 Argos, currently out of stock at Chester Forgate Street.) It is the kind of invention you would see on Dragon’s Den, then hear Duncan Bannatyne grumble ‘Im ooot’ at. The premise is an air bed with attached sleeping bag, providing camping comfort and warmth; however the sleeping bag is wafer thin, so I end up taking another anyway. In total I think I took about 5 bags, one containing just food and alcohol, which required two of us to take onto the campsite. Before we even left one bag had ripped, so I spent the night before pricking myself with a needle, vainly attempting to patch it up; at the festival my shoddy stitches groaned under the strain, and I had horrible visions of my brightly coloured underpants rolling down the hill in front of hundreds of people. Luckily this year I used the transport of a car as an excuse to cram even more stuff into the boot. The look on Abbey’s face when I told her what I was bringing meant that me and Becki had to pack the car under cover of darkness when she was out, like tetris we tried to slot the bags in, making it seem like we had brought less. So as me and the twins pootled down the motorway in the tiny Volkswagen Polo, it’s boot bounced with camping chairs, wellies, a readybed, we knew we were on our way to Leeds 2010. Everytime we saw a sign for the festival Becki would scramble for her camera and try to take a picture; at 70mph her camera work was……..interesting, if anything else.

The early bird catches the worm, so the 3 of us stumped up an extra £15 to arrive a day early.As I stood in the queue I could feel the sun baking down on my exposed chest. My All-Saints reject, low cut top look would turn out to be my downfall as I am still nursing a very red chest. The twins said they would bring the aftersun if I took the sun tan lotion, unfortunately I forgot so spent the week after peeling my nose and being told “Oh…..you’ve got some colour!” I can’t complain though, this was the first year of any festival where the weather has held and i’ve not felt like a warthog wallowing in mud. The theory behind early entry is that we could get a good spot, set up the tents, and chill with a cider; but this also meant that on Thursday the lads would roll up, complain about our spot and tent erecting skills, then demand we find more space in the already cramped field. By Wednesday night the spaces around us were already vanishing, but they were bringing a 4 man, and 6 man tent with them! Last year space was so scarce Sam decided to lash his tent onto mine to keep it up, the downside of this was every gust would tug our tent with his, and our front door had now become part of his tent; I had to squelch through the squalor of his tent just to get to my own nice clean one. This year was no exception, his 6 man one looked a horse ready for the glue factory, it flailed in the wind, groaning, begging to be unpegged and let loose to fly away. Snapped poles stuck out from the top, like a giant middle finger to Sam and his many years of abuse. Me and Becki had it sorted though, a brand new tent, with two compartments, and ample porch space. I happily lay on my airbed and listened to the sounds of the others struggling, asking others to move their tents, just so they could squeeze in like an unwanted relative.

As above I seemed to spend most of my weekend in some sort of fancy dress; my friend Charles always wears a chicken suit, across the campsite you hear the shouts of ‘Chicken Man.’ It seems to work as some kind of pulling magnet, so when Sam offered me his Gorilla suit to keep warm how could I resist? On our trip to  the car to gather more stuff there came the shouts of ‘Chicken Man’, but no shouts of ‘Gorilla Man.’ Whilst Charles had pictures taken with pirates,  and hugs from girls, I trundled at the back looking like I was wearing a big fur coat. Sam asked one girl what she thought I was. Apparently the costume resembled a Raven more than a Gorilla, and didn’t have the pulling powers I required. We make an odd group of rag-tag people: Me, The Twins, Abbey’s boyfriend George, Charles ‘Chicken Man,’ Sam in his vintage BHS jumpers, and then there is Neil Murphy…… turning up on the Friday after impromptly deciding he would come, bringing with him a whole world of chaos. Clumsily he would stomp around the campsite like a baby rhino, first crashing into Abbey and George’s tent, then stumbling into ours and squashing my many packs of ‘Snack-a-Jacks’ and jelly pots. That was the unfortunate thing about having such a good tent, when it rained they would all pile into ours. One evening we fell asleep and it was left to me and Becki to drag them to their respective tents and tuck them in. I had pre-warned Becki about last year, going to Leeds with the lads is like one giant week of babysitting, excpet you have to pay to do it. Our trips to the arena were interrupted by toilet breaks, food breaks, sitting down, chatting up girls, and rolling cigarettes. Me and Becki invented the game ‘The old stand and wait,’ which seemed to become our most frequent activity. I would guess for my £230 ticket most of that probably went on standing still and nursing ‘the creche.’

To be fair though Sam was a lifesaver, his stove,burgers and sausages provided much needed warm food. I refused to pay the extortionate £5 for a burger, I would eat Sam’s day old, unrefrigerated, sat on burgers any day. Like a small schoolboy his mum had packed him off with food for all of us, cheese, sauces, a knife, and even some onions. I felt like royalty as we all sat round in our camping chairs, scoffing down a simply burger containing mainly cardboard and beef fat….. it is the simple things. In exchange for food I repaid Sam by waiting until he passed out, on his airbed I dragged him out of the tent, across the campsite, and left him in the capable hands of some chavs under a gazebo. 10 minutes later he stumbled back confused and dazed, then wouldn’t let the entire incident drop for the rest of the week. I also have him some of my ‘pixie juice.’ My wide variety of brightly coloured spirits in plastic bottles scattered around my tent, just the right size so I can slide them down my trousers and sneak them into the arena. The trick is to look for the steward not searching people, so last year I cockily strutted up to the barriers of the arena, a small plastic bottle stashed in my crotch. I took my chances and strode to a woman, just as the changing of the guards happened.  A gruff man yanked me forwards and began the routine grope, I felt his hand graze the bottle in my crotch; big pause, we made eye contact, and he let me past. To be honest if you were searching a man and felt something hard in his trouser area, would you question it, or make him move on quicker? I tried my hand at making winegum vodka this year, unfortunately I only decided the night before and didn’t have time for the proper fermentation method. On the last night I sat in my tent and looked at the bottle before me, how desperate was I to drink? Chunks of undisolved winegum fluttered in the bottom, looking like what I can only describe as a dirty fishtank, I closed my eyes, and began to gulp.

I will finally get onto the music. Originally I wasn’t too excited by the lineup of heavy rock bands and people that I could only pretend to sing the lyrics to; each band would only have a few songs that I would bounce around to , then quietly tap my feet to the rest attempting to look cool. For me personal favourites were Weezer; the geeky lead singer came out on stage looking like the alcohol in his system was more than the blood. He staggered around with a spaced out look in his eyes, and jumped into the crowd. At one point he made a dash for freedom past security into the crowd, the camera desperately panned trying to find him; like a hoard of zombies hundreds of fans ran to mob him. 5 minutes later he returned to the stage, missing his glasses, and wearing a different hat. He kept the crowd entertained with covers of ‘Teenage Dirtbag,’ and ‘MGMT- Kids,’ in the middle of ‘Kids’ he flung on a blonde wig and did a cheeky chorus of ‘Lady Gaga- Poker Face.’

Perhaps it was my homemade winegum vodka talking, but I enjoyed Guns ‘N’ Roses much more than I thought. Shouting until my voice was hoarse and forcing Becki to pull a hat over her ears. I spent the rest of the evening wandering around singing the Pink Panther tune because Guns ‘N’ Roses had played it; the whole crowd’ du du dummed’ and clicked along with it. Axl Rose was of course fashionably late, in the cold August night you could see people huddled round fires waiting for the final headliners to arrive. The arena had turned into some sort of shanty town with the bedraggled look of everyone, making them look even more like a giant colony of tramps, clutching their cut price booze to their cold chests and booing whenever someone made an announcement saying they weren’t ready yet. We spent most of Guns ‘N’ Roses set discussing the possible sexuality of Axl Rose rather than the music. Eveytime the pyrotecnics went off I would jump out of my skin and send winegum vodka spilling down my jumper, luckily it wasn’t mine; so In Sams woolen BHS jumper I drank the dregs of the winegum vodka and returned to the campsite knowing tomorrow we would leave.  This was not before Becki argued with the man in the van that I had got more chips and mayo than she had for the same price, happily I scoffed mine down and trotted back to the tent smuggly.

Next morning with an early start me and the twins stood atop the hill again and looked out over the wasteland of tent skeletons, exploding gas canisters, and discarded pants. The days were long and the evenings were cold, but Leeds 2010 is just as good as it has ever been, and it comes down to the people you are with. If anything the things like sitting around all day playing ‘paranoia’, eating canned fruit, and using the toilets make it. People always complain about the Leeds toilets, but for me they aren’t that bad. You go in, you read the graffitti “Eddie Murphy is a good actor,” try not to catch the person opposite in the reflection of the sewage and you leave. There will come an inevitable time though when you need a number 2, or as I called it ‘a pinecone’. Secretly you reel off the toilet roll and hide it in your pocket so no-one knows; checking around you skulk to the toilet and try to find a cubicle that is accessible, let alone squattable. We met a steward called frosty who told us that Leeds festival was moved to this site in 2007 beacause in 2006 at the old site someone had blown up the toilets during a riot. I think you would need more than a paper toilet seat to protect you in that instance.A personal highlight though was going to the toilet, opening the door and finding someone had already laid down a nice fresh loo roll toilet seat for me, then finding 20p on the floor and reliving the tale in graphic detail to my friends; things like that make festivals all the more bearable . My only regret is not visiting the human carwash, I had dreamed of standing there being lathered up by a sexy woman then blow dried in a nice warm shower with normal water pressure. In reality though it looked like standing infront of a crowd and being rubbed down by a balding Yorkshireman called ‘Phil’, or ‘Dave’ Every year we say we won’t go back, but like a moth to a bulb we are still attracted to the mud sweat and tears. Goodbye Leeds… see you in 2011?


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