Arrival serves up a quiet railway station, nice town, and no publicity for the festival at all. Ominously this continues right up until half-way up the race-course drive where we finally see a sign; YCHWOOD, in photocopied A4 sheets. Mmmm, classy. But the Oxfam stewards are there, and rambly people to wristband you up, and yes, it is kind of odd to be doing all this in the shadow of vast glass hospitality suites and big tote signs but heck, don't festivals usually reflect the presence of eccentric money that wants to spread the joy?
So we stumble on by and I'm starting to get a bit of fear here, about the looseness of the crowds, the way that everyone we see looks to be either worker or performer. But we're early, yet, so beer and then off to pitch the tent and as we do a bit of rain falls ha-ha-ha isn't that always the way, and I don't know it yet but that was the disaster-movie moment. You know, the one where the mayor says, oh, don't worry that mountain always smokes like that, or the heroine laughs gaily and says oh I'm sure it's nothing. With perfect movie timing I reach into my rucksack for my gold lurex hoodie and it's not there. No jumper. And the clouds are closing in.
Never mind. Back down the racetrack to catch some tunes. We're in festival-classical here, with world music, country and folk predominating but I'm thinking there might be a little dance-, alt- and anti- in the mix. Am I lucky? I am. Some group called the Joe Orton 4 or something (according to the programme, "single-handedly turning the folk world upside down") have discovered what is missing from folk and that is electric guitars (double bass, etc.), huge! drums, and homo-erotic prog-god posturing. It's an interesting hypothesis -- and their version of Early one Morning is a persuasive argument.
A brief attempt to leave the tent confirmed that I was very much too cold. A bitter wind was whistling across the race-course, through the abandoned fairground full of serried ranks of fluffy unicorns and illegal nemos waiting to be won, down the aisle of organic, globally-inspired, locally-sourced food, across the unlittered mainstage with its row of clean toilets, each well-supplied with its own bog-roll, and straight through my t-shirts. I was wearing them all, and it still wasn't enough.
I went for a hoodie from the Oxfam festival summer tour tent, but it was all Miss Sixty at terrifyingly low prices, vey fashionable but arse-all use at keeping out the arctic blast. Then I tried the second-hand dealers but they were all acres of tie-dyed silk drapery, sparkly peasant-dresses and oh-so-witty hats. Bah! In desperation I turned to the goth shop, and after a brief discussion about how many vests she was wearing, and how glad I was that I'd brought my long-johns, I settled on a half-price long-sleeved top with blue glow-in-the-dark rubber studs. More pills. More beer. Then back into the tent for The Earlies.
One of the reasons I'd been after a weekend away was because I hadn't been drawing. The stories are all there, but they're not coming out, and that makes me sick, and sulky, and sometimes I can sort it out by getting out. Well, The Earlies knocked all that on the head, and I spent their set sat down, scribbling away, and having a wild old time. Just what I needed ... but my legs vehemently disagreed. They were of the (not unreasonable) opinion that I should have been dancing, because then maybe I wouldn't have gotten so bloody cold. So me and Neal (punchbag to my festival whinging) staggered upfield to "Club Wychwood" -- dance, in the scruffiest of the aforementioned Hospitality Suites. That's right, indoors. Carpets, heating and toilets with foundations.
We shucked off skins of waterproofs and jumpers and slumped in front of a bizarre projection-show mostly culled from old information videos about the benefits of nucleur power, sharecropping and fertiliser. The music (probably Nikki Lucas) was fine but the dance-floor was full of Cirroc and Le Roc and Salsa and a bunch of half-dressed guys wearing sheephorns and fluffy wristbands doing something wiggly and professional and my self-defence skills were unequal to the task ... when music and projections took a centre-turn and our conversation turned irritable we took the long paddock walk to bed.
Where I found that idea of using the new ultraviolet pocket-godzilla torch to change up a glow-in-the-dark plastic dinosaur to use as a nightlight actually worked. Also, the tent hadn't leaked. On the whole, yay!
Come back soon for imaginary racehorses, giant kites and Norwegian folk lovlies in colour-co-ordinated chiffon dresses.