It was that time of year again, the waning sun burning a deeper, hotter orange, setting earlier, weighed down by the load of summer.
September heralds my birthday, Fashion Week and for the last two years, Bestival. Lexxi had got the tickets months in advance, and having had such an amazing time last year, we were pretty excited.
In the months that had proceeded our last adventure a lot, and also not a lot had changed in my life. September had meant new beginnings more so than ever last year and Bestival felt like it had already become a right of passage.
In preparation for our expedition I packed porridge (so I wouldn’t have to buy any food) some vegan green protein miracle sachet things, some hash I had splashed out on the night before and an enormous bag full of around 7 different outfits, of which I wore none.
All seemed like it was going to plan.
Until it stopped going to plan.
Lexxi had to work late on Thursday night, meaning that unlike last year we would be heading there on the Friday.
A day late.
This was the beginning of the end. This small ripple in our journey would smash it’s way through the entirety of our adventure.
I met Lexxi at Waterloo. She was eating a burger and informed me she had brought everything I might forget – sleeping bag, anorak, wig ….
We bought our train tickets and started our journey. The train ride was uneventful enough, unlike last year I had mastered the lock mechanism of the toilets and we arrived at Portsmouth Harbor as the sun started to shatter it’s way through the clouds.
With a healthy sympathy discount off our ferry tickets we climbed aboard.
The sun was higher in the sky than last year, but fewer people on the sun deck.
There was less sense of adventure.
There was less romance.
We were a day late.
We arrived on the Isle of Wight at Ride, a picturesque little town I would have been quite happy to stay in and while away a couple of days in the dated hotels and fish and chips shops, but we trudged with the rest of the stragglers to the ‘Big Green Bus’, some of them almost retarded with excitement, others drinking neat Vodka from the bottle.
I put on my shades and did not engage.
No sir. I am no fun.
The press line at the festival gates was empty, as was the woman at the kiosk. She looked at me. Waynes World on acid. She did not like me.
Woman: It’s £40 for her …
Lexxi: What? It was free last year …
Woman: She’s your plus one? It says on the email, £40.
Lexxi: It’s Jade Fitton
Woman: Yeah it’s £40.
Me and Lexxi: We only have £30.
After a few minutes of persuasion.
Woman: Ok. You can go through but you need to bring back the other £10.
We walk off.
Me: Does it really say £40 on the email?
Lexxi: Yeah but it has every year. We’ve never paid.
A day late.
Me: Right. We’re not actually going to go back and give her that tenner are we?
We get to the bag search point. I am first.
Man: I need to search your bags.
He opens my hand bag to find a lot of books and note pads
Me: Nothing but good literature in there my friend.
Man: Do you have any alcohol?
I look at her. This is not the right thing to say. He looks at her like this is not the right thing to say.
Lexxi: I mean, no. No, just Coca-Cola.
Lexxi has put the rum in my bag, I know she has nothing on her, and he only suspects her.
Me: I don’t have any – can I go through?
He has half-heartedly searches two of my bags, but is eager to move on to Lexxi’s and find the liquor.
He finds no liquor in Lexxi’s.
Man: I don’t understand where this alcohol was supposed to be.
We shrug and skip off, elated by our successful deception. Fuck the system. We just side stepped it.
We headed off down the sunny hill ready to wander the path to the camp site. Happy, as the sun began to set.
Happy and alone.
A day late.
We turn the corner. We are the only ones to turn the corner.
Detectable only by their sniffer dogs.
Sniffer dogs. Shit. The hash.
Lexxi also has a small amount of weed on her.
There’s not much we can do here except let it happen.
I walk first. I walk alone.
The black Labrador catches the Moroccan incense emanating form my pocket and follows me, but starts sniffing my crotch, I try to make our like I’m a bit disgusted by this perverted dog.
Then it sits down and looks up at me with its doe eyes. It looks like the dog I had as a child.
It’s a trap.
A rotund woman runs over and grabs my thumbs in some strange sort of Chinese finger trap.
“I am constable blab la bla”
Police officer: Do you have anything on you you are not supposed to?
Me: No …
This was supposed to happen.
Police officer: We are going to have to take you in and search you.
The police officer drags me back up the hill, with her flakey looking young blond side kick.
Police officer: Have you been around anyone who might have smoked anything?
Police officer: Who?
Police officer: What?
Police officer: When?
Me: This morning.
Police officer: When was that?
Me: Ummm … about an hour ago …
She takes me in to a white cellophane camp erected around the back of the festival like area 51.
Individual cellophane search booths.
She instructs me to look up at the cctv camera they have placed at the entrance. She speaks well and looks like every hockey teacher I ever had.
Waynes World on acid.
Asking for trouble.
Police officer: Can you remove your hat and glasses please.
Me: You mean my disguise?
She laughs at this as I remove my disguise.
I look in to the camera. It’s like being back at a casting.
A day late.
I am funnelled in to a search booth and put my cap back on as her spineless counterpart with her festival wellies and perfect manicure struggles to spell my name, address, and in fact, all the words I say.
This annoys me. She is quite clearly an idiot.
The police officer takes off my jacket. The hash is in the top right pocket. It’s the first place she looks.
Police officer: Top right pocket Miss Fitton.
Me: Yeah … shame that. Are you going to keep it?
Police officer: Yes.
Thinking that as she had enjoyed my last joke so much I hit her with another.
Me: You guys are gonna get so hiiiiiiiiiiiigh.
I think she is laughing as she bends down to search my bag. She must be coughing as she looks up red faced.
Police officer: I don’t think you are taking this seriously JADE!
Me: No, quite right, I don’t really know what’s going on here if I’m honest.
She informs me I am being given a caution for the hash and if they find anything else they will take further action.
Me: There’s nothing else in there.
Police officer: That’s what they all say.
I’m one of “them”?
I am not one of them.
She flicks through the psychedelia of Timothy Leary looking for more drugs.
She flicks through the irony.
She starts riffling through my porridge and vegan treats.
Me: Dietary requirements of a drug fiend.
This really pisses her off.
Police officer: You might think this is a joke, but marijuana ruins lives.
I realise it’s probably time to wind it down a bit. I assume she has seen some terrible case of marijuana addiction. Later I find out what she really means.
I decide to get her back on side, I start questioning the law, acting interested, we agree that booze is indeed probably more dangerous than weed, but none the less, one is illegal one isn’t.
She informs me of how she got someone earlier for having a large quantity of what he thought was MDMA, it turned out when they tested it it was actually a class B substance, but, because the guy had thought it was MDMA they charged him with that.
She laughs as she tells me this.
Me: So you charge for intent? That’s interesting. Good thing I didn’t think that hash was anything else.
She then reveals “Marijuana itself doesn’t necessarily ruin your life, but we can if we catch you.”
I don’t like this.
Marijuana is such a fucking harmless thing, when it’s not skunk, and when you’ve bought it so you don’t have to drink yourself in to a fucking stupor at a festival.
Me: Oh right. Ok.
Police officer: If you’re found in possession of marijuana again you won’t be able to take your family to Florida.
I’M SORRY WHAT?
I won’t be able to take my family to Florida if I get caught again.
Fuck you bitch. My family will have many happy trips to Florida. They just don’t know it yet.
Police officer: Who was this hash for?
Police officer: Only you.
She gives me a copy of my caution, but as far as I’m concerned I leave empty handed and full of disappointment as to how we live now. The laws that are enforced on the individual. I would watch a stand up called Peter Cain the next day who would put it all rather well.
We arrive at the camp site and find a good spot, same camp site as last year, just a day later.
Lexxi was a cub scout and takes control of the tent as I smoke and make rums. I was only a hindrance last year anyway we both agree.
I make a spliff with Lexxi’s weed and we head out in to the night.
We dance around like maniacs to non-descript bands. We find a tent playing Paul Simon, and leave when they stop playing Paul Simon. We smoke more. A man comes out of the artists area and apparently sees my “beauty” even with my disguise of no make up and nerd cap. He kisses me on the cheek and walks off wafting aftershave. I find this unnecessary. We make up our own songs. We smoke more. And end the evening with tea and porridge. At the tea que is a big bear. We are very stoned.
Lexxi: Don’t look the bear in the eye.
The next day I wake later than Lexxi and she hurries down to the press tent to charge her phone as I crawl out of the tent covered in oats, my face plastered with it like I’d come out of health spa.
I put on my cap and head to the toilets. My back feels like I’ve been sleeping on rocks with no pillow. Funny that.
I arrive at the toilets. Queues of people.
Fucking people man, why have we not evolved past this.
I go in and retch.
Don’t look down.
Back in the tent I start writing, people walk past admiring our pretty girly tent, even guys. One guy walks past …
Guy: Nice tent.
He spots me, writing, and puts on his very best Terry Jones doing a woman voice …
Guy: Dear Diary …
Lexxi comes back after an hour or so and we make our way to the forest, our favorite area last year. All summer dappled green leaves and nice hippies playing music.
There is little sun today.
The forest had been pillaged the night before.
It’s smattered with beer cans and plastic bags.
We smoke a spliff. Lexxi looks great in a sequin dress and lots of jewels and make up. I have been coerced in to wearing a blue wig under my cap. I look like Trailer Trash Mermaid.
We spot a tarot reader that does readings for donations.
I take off the wig.
Lexxi goes in first. She comes out looking happy.
I go in. There she is. My mystical buffer. Roxy. In a luminous hue of turquoise, sequins and khol eye liner, the coach is small and warm, there is a scented candle burning.
She shuffles the cards.
Then I shuffle the cards and split the pack.
She talks about my love life first, the news she has for me is disappointing, so not a surprise.
Then with the rest of the cards it just feels like she’s clutching at straws.
Roxy: You are worried about a young person.
Me: No …. I don’t think so.
Roxy: A baby maybe?
Me: No ….
Roxy: There is a very young energy here. You are not worried about a baby? A young child?
Me: No … not that I know of.
Roxy: Ok well maybe a miscarriage.
Alright Roxy. Thanks love. Enough. I’m done here. The police officer told me I wasn’t going to be taking my family to Florida, you’re telling me I won’t have a family.
Let’s get our facts straight people before we start saying shit we might regret.
I leave, disappointed, and listen to Lexxi’s good news.
We head to the press tent. What a fucking let down. Everyone in there is a disappointment.
Turns out music journalists don’t look like they did in the ‘60s. Now it’s become just another job, like all the other jobs. They’re all bad clothes and no charm. Expressionless muted skin and faded denim with features you’ve seen a thousand times before. And here they all are in the mint green crushed velvet tent, syphoning through images of nobody bands to the ether.
No fucking kid in 50 years time is going to google this shit. This is for the zeitgeist and then lost for eternity.
I look around.
Everyone’s tired and over their job but they keep it so they can tell strangers and pretend like they’ve made some headway in life, when actually all they feel is empty, impotent aspirations.
There’s a guy lying on the pillows looking like he’s given up.
Lie back and close your eyes.
Pretend your back at home.
Then open them and get up and go through the motions in the rain.
Fat from too much healthy takeaway.
Skin bloated with Berocca.
There’s not even fucking free water here. There’s nothing but a waste of space.
We head back out.
I spend 5 hours in the comedy tent, steadily drinking rum and laughing at a few. I finish the rum. It’s all the booze we have left. It’s around 7pm on the second night.
We leave the comedy tent to head back to ours for a bit. Swarms of people are coming back out as the night starts to swallow the sky.
This is the witching hour.
They’ve already lost it but they’ll keep going. They’ll keep going all night and all day tomorrow if their hearts are still beating.
We get back to the tent, I put on another coat and Lexxi umms and ahhs as to whether she should take the gems on her face off.
Lexxi: Should I take these off?
Me: I really wouldn’t worry about those love, out there they’re all so fucked they’re seeing stars anyway.
We smoke again.
I lye down. I want to go to bed. Lexxi is also tired. Its about 10pm.
Me: We can’t go to bed now …. Can we?
Lexxi: No, Snoops on.
We get up and make our way back out in to the night. In that time it appears everyone there has taken a serious amount of pills, and everyone seems to be coming up and going over at the same time.
Everyone but us.
There are two girls dressed as starfish. One so pilled up she can’t look at anyone in the eye, because her eyes keep rolling back in to her head.
I am transfixed by her.
Snoop Dogg is shit.
These girls are with two guys who don’t seem to care that this girl is so fucked she is at risk of losing her eyeballs. Just as long as they wake up in the same tent. With staggered regrets.
The girl wobbles over to talk to us. She asks if we have a “Pwrogrwamme.”
I am so horrified I just stare open mouthed. Lexxi informs her we do not, because even press didn’t get them for free now.
We’ve had enough. We buy a cup of tea and head back to the tent.
I look up at the sky when we reach our tent.
“Wow, look at those stars.”
I think I must be the only person looking up at the stars.
We get in to the tent and start rolling again. Lexxi has more weed than I’d realised.
A guy walks past our tent with a group of friends …
Guy: Woah … look at the stars!
His friends ignore him, but he has restored something in me. I want to get out and hug him.
We sit listening for a while longer, and as another group of guys go past another man says “Those stars are epic.”
I love these guys. I shout it out to them. It pleases them.
Girls stagger past talking about boys. I want to throw the stars in their faces and wake them the fuck up. Look around you, you idiots. Fuck the stupid guys. Who gives a shit if he likes you or not.
THERE IS SO MUCH MORE.
We go to sleep bemoaning the increase in dance music.
I wake at 7.30am, it is pissing with rain.
I go back to sleep.
I wake again and 9.30am and get up.
We need to get the fuck out of this place. I don’t even want to stay for Elton John.
We had completely run out of money, but fortunately we’d bought a return ticket for the bus, that when I asked 10 of the 15 people who worked there it’s hours on Sunday morning, though none of them actually knew, including the bus driver, they all guessed around 6am. It was now about 12pm.
No. Your ticket is not valid on this bus.
Oxfam woman: It’s only for the Big Green Busses and they don’t start til later this afternoon.
This whole thing is a fucking farce.
Lexxi: How much is this bus?
Irrelevant, we have no money.
Oxfam woman: £4.50. Apparently this has happened to a lot of people.
No shit. The festival has felt like a scam the whole way through. But it’s not a scam. It’s just a fully functioning business now and I want out.
We try to get on the bus with no money. The driver is relatively sympathetic but instructs us to go and see his bosses who are sitting in a van behind the buses. We explain our situation. That we have no money and are trapped.
Man: Would you ask a taxi driver for a free ride? I mean what do you think we’re running here?
Me: I thought you were human beings and might treat us like ones.
Man: We are human beings.
You’re the wrong kind mate. We walk off.
What are we going to do?
I decide we must hitch. That’s fine I can handle that, it actually seems like a good idea. So we walk to the gated entrance.
Security: You can’t come through here.
Me: We’re leaving.
Security: You can’t leave here on foot.
Me: Are you being serious? We can’t LEAVE?
Security: Not unless you’re in a vehicle.
This is too much. It’s like a fucking detention camp. I want to scream, but instead I breath.
We manage to jump on another bus going to the other entrance. Away from where we need to go, but at least away.
We meet a nice couple who let us in their taxi, trusting we will pay them at the other end.
We spend the rest of the journey with this lovely couple, and it is not an effort to spend the 4 hour journey home with them. They had had an equally hit and miss time and were the kind of people who are just good and nice, and funny.
I liked them a lot more than I think I let on. But that’s where I always screw up.
We part ways and said goodbye. Lexxi and I high five for getting out alive, and then we too part ways.
I get on the bus feeling a little deflated by it all. But also quite happy to be me. And quite happy I had hated it all.
I remember something Kirshnumirti said ….
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
Then I must be profoundly well.
But Bestival, you can do one mate.
To contact: firstname.lastname@example.org