In 2009 the Kings of Leon were THE big thing and I really, really liked their music. I got it into my head that I wanted to see them live and since I'd always wanted to go to a music festival (never having been to a proper one when I was genuinely young. As opposed to just feeling and kidding myself I was young) I thought it'd be a wheeze to go to Reading Festival. Camping. Red was agreeable to coming with me - she was going on an all expenses paid weekend away AND seeing great bands, why wouldn't she be? - plus she had camped before. Only later did she tell me she'd never actually put a tent up before, only arrived at a campsite where the tents were already pitched (see! I've got all the camping lingo! Sadly none of the skills ;P). In a state of excitement I bought a wind-up lamp, a tent - I already had wellies! - no sleeping bags though. From reading festival-goers' websites I found out that it was better to just buy a couple of duvets from the Reading branch of Asda, wrap up in them at night then donate them at the end of the festival. I had also been assured by all the festival attendees I spoke to that there was no way I'd be the oldest there. That should have set alarm bells ringing.....never take the word of young people, particularly when it's someone (remember Pigface?) who has designs on your daughter.
We arrived and managed to pitch (there I go again, semi-pro camper-talk!!) our tent then hotfooted it into Reading where we bought a couple of duvets, a disposable BBQ, a dozen sausages and a case of cider. The place was full of lissom public school-type girls, all shining hair, long legs, family holiday in the Maldives style tans and good teeth. Need I say I hated them, whilst at the same time wishing I was like them?
The Kings of Leon were appearing on the first night of the festival (our second night there) so we got into the main stage area from about midday. I'd say we were maybe three rows from the front which wasn't bad going. Red is taller and stronger than me - my elbows are sharper though! - so she kept a tight hold. All was going fairly well...it was very hot and sunny and all the feet churned up loads of dust. Within about 30 minutes we were covered - clothes, hair, inside your boots. In fact it was so unbearable that on the next day, Saturday, Red and I went and had our hair done in Reading town centre. Big Man says I must be the only person who went to Reading Festival and had to have a wash and blow dry half way through.
After a couple of hours watching bands I'd only vaguely heard of, Deftones came on stage and a circle pit formed right next to where we were standing. Do y'all know what a circle pit is? A mosh pit? It's kind of like this;
Except the one next to us was smaller and less good-natured :(
Mmm. Now imagine yourself being snagged by some maniac as they ran around screaming, and hurled into the centre. It might be exhilarating when you're a teenage boy (Mr Charming loves to mosh) but when you're an unsuspecting mum of three it's bloody terrifying, let me tell you. Luckily there is an etiquette at festivals...if anyone falls over they get picked up straight away, and so I was pulled up unceremoniously and was able to get back to Red. Almost unbelievably she said to me crossly 'for God's sake Mother, stay out of the mosh pit!'
Needless to say we got separated during the afternoon. Some girl pushed herself in between the two of us and there was no way I could get back to Red, and by then the heat, the dust and the sheer pressure of the crowd behind was not only getting to me physically, it was quite frightening. More circle pits were starting up, there was more pushing from behind, causing people to fall over - I was pushed over a couple more times and each time I really thought I would die, be crushed to death. Yes, you get pulled to your feet again straight away but there was no quarter given by any of the festivalgoers for the fact that I was as old as their mums - I was just another bod to be pushed past, bowled over and then yanked up again. At least youngsters are egalitarian I suppose! I pushed my way out of the crowd and spent an hour or so just walking round the market.
This is how dusty it was
Red and I had our mobiles so I knew that she'd stayed where we were. By the time the Kings of Leon came on I tried to get back to her but there was no way, so I watched their set from the middle of the crowd and we met up again at the end. We'd pitched our tent quite near the entrance to the campsite (and near the toilets....that was one of my specifications lol!) so we had a walk through the different zones to get back to our tent. I had decided that my appetite for festivals had been sated - I felt exhausted; I was bruised, covered in dust, my hair was like nothing on earth; I was disappointed that KOL had been so ill-tempered and not played any encores AND I'd been separated from Red most of the time (she was very contemptuous of the the way I'd 'let myself be pushed out by that girl'...well, excuse me - she was a head higher, young, fit and strong!) - and I was looking forward to getting back to our tent and a (for me) sedated sleep. The final straw came when two young fellas walked past us and twisted round to look at Red and I. Both had smiles on their faces (you know the kind of smile I mean....when someone's about to try their luck) but the one opposite me's face fell when he saw that I was mum-aged and not a teenaged girl too. They quickly turned around and kept on walking.
And in that moment I knew I was old.
Too old for festivals. Too old to be wearing shorts and wellies, although in my defence my legs were very brown from a Turkish holiday. Too old to be camping (sleeping on the floor? No thanks!). Too old to live on four sausages and twelve tins of cider for three days. Too old full stop.
And I still had two more days to get through........