I’m going to a festival on Thursday. This one, in fact. Small. Independent. Sheepdog trials. Yes, please.
It’s a testament to my age and increasing irritability with life that I suspect I’m more or less done with the big festivals now. Glastonbury is just too mind-boggingly huge. Reading/Leeds is solely populated with teenagers celebrating their A-level results by trying to have sex with everything and wearing straw hats to channel that ‘Hoxton vibe’ even though they live in Macclesfield. The Big Chill has, disappointingly, become hugely commercialised. And I’m sounding increasingly like my Dad.
Nonetheless, I do love me a good festival. And it’s not just because I get to spend four days with my friends, listening to my favourite bands, eating nothing but red meat and corroding my insides with questionable beer that’s been smuggled in with a water carrier.
It’s because something shortwires in my brain and the polar opposite aspects of my personality burst out, like terrifying clowns from behind a circus curtain, and start pummelling the shit out of each other. And it’s great fun.
I do not have a mental health condition. Let me explain.
I am, by and large, an extremely organised person. My friends know this, and know they can rely on me to get us home / find the way / remember the tickets and so on, because if I don’t then I have failed, and I don’t do failing. So my friends take advantage of whatever negative conditioning has been drummed into me as a child, and let me get on with being in charge. They don’t have to bother doing anything, which suits them nicely, and I get all the self-validation that comes from being the only person that remembered to bring antiseptic cream.
Now, where else can I better flout my unstoppable efficiency than at a festival? ‘Oh no, I’ve forgotten my tent pegs!’ That’s fine. I have spares. ‘How will we find each other after the set?’ Don’t worry, I have a plan. ‘Argh, my very specific eye condition is playing up and I don’t have my prescription-only eye drops that are only dispensed from one chemist in the whole of London.’ Calm down. I AM PREPARED.
I get the same kick from solving these tiny, irrelevant complaints as I do from orderly filing. Phwoar, give me a stack of unsorted bank statements while I’m at a festival, and things are gonna get wild.
And it’s exactly this which results in slightly-flawed personality aspect B coming to the fore, with unstoppable, clumsy force. Aware that I spend most of my time being on the ball and in charge and listening to the simpering bleating of people who couldn’t organise their way out of a paper bag and constantly having to ask my housemates if they’ve remembered their Oyster cards as we head out the door (and they almost never have), as soon as I’m at the festival and my tent’s up, it all goes to shit.
The transformation is extreme. Suddenly I’m running around fields losing my keys and making people give me piggyback rides and rubbing my contact lenses into the back of my eyeballs and saying ‘Yeah, I’m sure it’s fine’ when someone asks me if the bright pink, bleeding burger I’m eating is actually fit for human consumption. I’m applying makeup in a theatrical, ‘whimsical’ way because WHY THE HELL NOT I’M AT A FESTIVAL. I’m buying UV face paint and smearing it on everything: wellies, hats, tents, that person’s dog. I’m tripping over logs and face planting puddles with a cider in my hand and squawking ‘I’M GOOD MORE BEER MOSH PIT?’
And things no doubt go wrong and someone’s tent blows away or their leg falls off and y’know, I’ll do my best to sort it out (because I’ll definitely have something for that in my extensive first aid kit), but we’ll have to get it sorted quickly, okay, because I have to go and buy some cheap jewellery and play frisbee with a guy I’ve just met called River. Or draw a picture of a smiling zebra on my friend’s tent with eyeliner. Or whatever. I genuinely don’t care, either way.
And that’s why I love me a festival.