Friday, 31 August 2012

Mud, Sweat and Beers. Reading 2012; A Survivor's Story.

Ever wondered what happens when you throw a tent, a borderline alcoholic midget, some vodka, guy ropes,  and a fuck load of friends into a blender? Reading 2012, essentially...

Day one: ‘Alan’
The familiar cries rung out across the campsite from the second I entered the field. Seriously, has anyone seen Alan? On arrival a large, clear bin-bag was thrusted at me, containing three cans of free lager. What a kind gesture! After a 2 hour coach journey followed by a strenuous trek with a rucksack at least twice my size and weight, the lovely, thoughtful people who run Reading have provided me with free alcoholic sustenance to kindly greet-...Oh. It’s 2.8% SKOL. How fucking generous. £200 and you give me this?! For two hundred sodding quid I expect a gold plated can filled with the blood of angels. Not Skol, Lord, save me the disappointment next year gents and just piss in a cup and hand it to me. Given the amount the reps seem to drink it would probably have a higher alcoholic content than the depressingly weak, pissy excuse for alcohol we’d been presented with anyway.
I momentarily cast my resentment aside and focus on the task at hand. Assembling our tent. How hard can it be, honestly? We assembled it every day for a month in Brazil last summer, and Laura and I resurrected it again at Reading 2011, surely we must know how to do it by now?
...After nearly an hour of innuendos flying as to where we’d insert the ‘large black pole’ our tent was assembled and looking...well, pretty much tent shaped. We’d found a spot suitably set back from the field’s perimeter that it wouldn’t be used as a urinal, and when the last peg had been lovingly rammed into the ground, we were feeling pretty damn proud.... Then more friends arrived.
“Um, I don’t suppose you’d mind moving your tent a couple of feet would you?”
“What.” [Rhetorical, please don’t answer or I’ll scream]
“Just so we have enough room to peg in our guy ropes.”
“AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH. [deep breaths] No, no that’s fine. Don’t worry Laura, I’ll move it.”
Out come the pegs, up goes the tent, and a new position is assumed. Sorted....
“Um, mate...where are our tent pegs?”
Eventually my blood pressure resumed its normal level, aided by more pissy lager. The obligatory Tesco shop was then made to collect the weekend’s essentials: Beer, cider, vodka, water, scotch eggs. The rest of the evening passed in an alcohol induced blur...

Day two: ‘Shenanigans’
Faceplant extraordinaire
SHITTING HELL, CALL SECURITY! WHY IS OUR TENT DOING SOMERSAULTS?! Oh wait, no it’s a hangover. What the fuck happened last night? A flashback of meeting the neighbours. Shouting at my friend for his unsatisfactory noodle cooking skills.  Crying. Why the hell was I crying? Festival cider...WITH vodka? Oh THAT’S why. Why is my face black? FACEPAINT... What’s this bizarre, purple and red orb in our tent? FACEPLANT. Ah, it’s my knee. The disjunct order of events came hobbling drunkenly back into my head.
“Laura?...Hannah?...Anyone?...What time is it?”
It was a long, long day. Don’t get me wrong, the music was incredible, but after being the victim of multiple rogue cups of air-borne piss, my spirits were anything but jovial. Then Hannah and I were forced to stand, shivering and in need of a toilet that wouldn't breach our human rights, at the back of the arena to watch The Cure. At first, the crinkly group of men who looked as though they’d got stoned and fallen into the Harry Potter costume rail provided us with mild amusement. After ¾ of an hour, when I couldn’t tell if they’d even changed song, they started to grate on us. Thankfully the beautiful Maccabees were there to save the day.
As I'm sure you know, meeting and befriending strangers is a truly integral part of the Reading experience. Cold and slightly confused I found myself alone and searching for my friends, and happened to stumble across a group of students who were in an interesting state after a day filled with Acid and alcohol. They made good company. After attending a ‘rave’ with a couple of them, attempting to engage in conversation with a six foot French-Italian girl swigging on a lemonade bottle full of Absinthe, saving a guy from horrendous morning regrets by dissuading him from booty calling his ex, and inexplicably ending up wearing a stolen straw hat, I decided that I could safely tick off the ‘befriending strangers’ from my metaphorical Reading Bucket List.

Day three: ‘Welfare’
I know nothing.
Abandoning my semi-comatose friends I set out alone to collect Sophie from the boat that would take her to the festival. Grabbing my toothbrush and an obligatory two cans of Skol, I found myself a convenient park bench overlooking the river to await her arrival. For some reason, my fellow festival goers who were leaving the site gave the solitary, bruise covered, mud stained, lager and toothbrush wielding dwarf on a park bench disapproving looks as they passed me. Then, over the horizon, sailing majestically towards me, Sophie’s boat loomed. Gracefully, and in slow motion, I propelled myself off the bench, and made haste after this great ship as it overtook me. In reality, I saw Sophie waving questioningly at me, and ran as fast as my tiny, welly clad legs would carry me, shouting obscenities as I went. On reaching our tent, Chinese whispers informed us that Greenday had started a secret set in the arena. No time for formal introductions. Grab vodka and coke. Hide down shorts. RUN. After a slight run in with an angry security guard, who couldn’t understand that I wasn’t able to walk in a straight line, and wasn’t intentionally trying to break their human barrier, we reached Greenday. From what I remember, they were incredible. Unfortunately, that is all I remember. Several hours later I groggily awoke on a yoga mat, wrapped in a blanket, and very confused. Why am I here? Where actually am I? Why is there an unconscious man ten feet to my left?
I was in the Welfare tent, as it turns out, after being unable to recount my name or age to a security guard. I won’t go into the details as to why, or how I got there. I can’t actually remember, and going on what I’ve been told, I’m not at all proud. I am indebted massively to my wonderful cousin and friends for looking after me, and very, very sorry.
What I will tell you, is that an excellent way to dissuade random strangers from stealing your belongings is to allow them to steal your ground sheet, run away with it, wrap themselves in it like a shroud and wait until they are in this position to tell them that your friend has just chundered all over the sheet that is now adorning them. That’ll teach the kleptomaniacal bastards.
That evening, the heavens opened. Dancing in the rain to Florence and the Machine is truly an incredible way to regain sobriety. Some may say that abandoning Kasabian with a friend because you’re cold and wet is cowardice. I call it pneumonia-dodging.

Day four: ‘Sober’
Oompa Loompa doopity doo, if you take my camera,
I will break  you.
Friday, the one day at Reading I can remember from start to finish, with no tears, no bruises, no ALCOHOL and definitely no Welfare tent. Much as I hate to admit it, and believe me, I do, (there was nothing worse than when teachers sanctimoniously [and probably hypocritically] led PSHE lessons on the merits of having fun without alcohol) but I genuinely had the best day of Reading Festival whilst sober. There. I’ve said it. (NB – This is in no way an admission that I’m going to become a Tee-Total and promote having fun with a can of vimto and a Bible) By this point my hair had conglomerated into some sort of head scarf-clad dreadlock, but I made an effort to look presentable and headed off to watch Of Monsters and Men perform. Mindblowingly awesome, AND I got a shoulder ride, so that for the first time in the whole festival, I actually saw a band performing. Brownie points for good behaviour there!  We spent the day discovering new bands, eating disappointing halloumi sandwiches, and drinking...fruit juice. Yes damnit I drank a whole glass of juice without a drop of vodka. Yay me! After being (almost literally) knocked backwards by the AMAZING Kaiser Chiefs, who owned the stage, we went off for a spot of refreshment. En route we came across a group of men dressed in full costume as Oompa-Loompas. “My People” I thought! A photo opportunity was imperative. **WARNING** Never, ever, hand your camera to a seemingly trustworthy looking Oompa-Loompa. As soon as the photo was taken, he vanished. We looked around, nonplussed. ‘What the...’ In the distance, running towards a crowd of several thousand people, we saw the Oompa-Loompa sprinting away from us. Five minutes later, the thieving orange bastard graced us with his presence once more, and thankfully, my camera wasn’t forever lost in the chocolate river of Willy Wonker’s factory (especially as the nearest thing to this was the long drop toilet.) The Foo Fighters made an incredible Headlining act for the last night, aided by the inexplicable supply of glow sticks flying through the crowds. What was less enjoyable was witnessing a firework being launched off course into somebody’s tent. An hour of guarding the tents on a camping chair and nearly crapping myself every time someone so much as sneezed in case it was a firebomb heading for our beloved tent, does not make for a fun evening’s entertainment.

The end: ‘Goodbye my lover’
And the next morning, we packed our belongings. And that was it. The end of one of the weirdest weekends of my life. With a tear in our eyes, we solemnly waved goodbye to the sturdy tent that had accompanied us across the whole of southern Brazil, and resiliently through two Reading Festivals. As Hannah aptly pointed out...If those walls could talk, they’d be screaming.
So there we have it, Reading Festival 2012 in a Nutshell.
They can take our dignity, but they’ll never take our vomit covered ground sheet.

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