Loitering Within Tents

The Boghouse Ballad bangs out nightly from midnight till two in the morning as the doors to every plastic crapper on the campsite slam shut repeatedly, courtesy of the endless trail of the pee-or-bust incontinent, the ever-hopeful bunged-up and those sad stoics who know they will try, and fail, and try and fail again another day.


Some of these people haven’t had a bowel movement since 1997. Welcome to The Festival.


Normal rules are suspended here. At Kings Cross, or Wembley Arena, or the Etihad Stadium, interaction in the toilet queue is strictly verboten. Check Twitter and shuffle forward till your turn comes, them’s the rules.


But at The Festival, it takes but a millisecond till you’re merrily chatting away exchanging travel tales, best venue tips and promises to meet for falafel in the Hessian Café if the line at the Temple of Tofu is too long.


Until the doors to two adjacent cubicles open, and you realise you’re about to splish, splash, parp, and – forgive me – plop, 20 centimetres from your new best friend.


So you both enter, wait an agonising but plausible ninety seconds doing nothing at all, exit, smile –  and walk off in opposite directions to join another queue.


Sanitation is a great leveller, but in tent city’s sleeping accommodation, society’s divisions are well drawn. Some curl up on an old baking tray and draw a tattered Lidl carrier bag over themselves. Others have fully-furnished residences, including a sideboard. Because without the sideboard, where would you put the chafing dish? And without the chafing dish, where would a man prepare his breakfast kidneys?


Furniture, since the demographic is much more Hendrix than Kendrick Lamar, is omnipresent: everyone carries a chair. The £9.99 Foldout Wingarm (With Integral Mesh Cupholder) is well represented, as is the Ground-Hugging Arse-Numbing Elasticated High Back.


Best of all, though, is the tiny three-legged stool, a device featuring less than one child’s handerkerchief of material which is inexplicably beloved of those who possess some of the most collossal arses on the planet. The view from the rear as one of these trembling tripods is slammed firmly down and pair of vast Hindenburg buttocks descends majestically for a controlled landing is at the same time awful and impossible to tear the eyes away from.


As an audience, we’re all expecting the same thing. A sharp rip, a small ‘shloop’ and an owner suddenly sitting flat on the grass with a wide-eyed look and a mouth like an ‘o’.


The overall atmosphere at The Festival is laid-back and there are few irritations.


Shrill-voiced parents rank highly among them, chastisement being frowned upon in the modern childcare world, and high-decibel reasoning much preferred. ‘Parabola! Let Arabesque pull the wagon then you can swap places. No, Mummy is not a massive silly, we’ve talked about this before with Be Nice To Each Other Clown.’


Gradually, the Hi-Visigoths, all fluorescent-green jerkins and Access All Areas laminates, cease to be humble, helpful stewards and become Grand Overlords of the gap in the hedge they’re guarding. Sternly, wordlessly, they raise an arm in the air to encourage the incoming punters to display their wristbands. Lemming-like, we lift one wrist aloft and pour through the gate like a saluting fascist horde, if a fascist horde can be mostly dressed by Millets and Blue Harbour from M&S.


(One announces, loudly and repeatedly, that ‘this venue has now achieved maximum capacity’. She means ‘the tent is full’ but, hey, she doesn’t get to tell anybody anything all the rest of the year.)


And there’s a special place on my hit-list reserved for the eager Carve-a-Spoon workshop graduate who chose to vigorously sand the newly-whittled wonder right behind me as I tried to listen to the world’s quietest guitar act.


But soon, The Festival is over and four days among 11,000 deodorant-shy strangers doing without mattresses, armchairs, proper plates and familiar food become just a memory.


Will I be back next year? Oh yes. Back at home, that is.

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