KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
I’d thought I was finished with festivals. Oh, there was a time, back in the day (the day in question being my twenties), when I could barely pass a festival. I appreciate that time may have sepia-toned the memory somewhat, but back then, as far as I recall, we used to head off to Féile and Fleadh and some odd points in between, with no accommodation and no way of getting home. Somehow, though, we always found a floor or a sofa, a car or a van or – on one reliably memorable occasion – the broom cupboard of the Dundrum House Hotel.
Then the children came along and getting home would probably have been more important if only I could have got out in the first place. But even when chance would have been a fine thing, there was something about Electric Picnic that turned my head. Back when it launched, and my babies were still bothersome, I read the bill with interest and wondered at what marvels a boutique festival might hold. Then, four years ago, I was spirited to Stradbally for a radio show on the Saturday, and stayed just long enough to walk the site (more like a vast department store than a boutique) and enjoy a couple of pints in the guest area, where people who I’d bumped into at Féiles, decades before, still seemed to be. When I felt myself a tantalizing five minutes away from not caring how I got home, I went home.
But now I’m back. It kind of happened by accident – a late call-up, so to speak – but when the spare ticket was offered just a fortnight before the festival, I was not found wanting. My babies are so big now that one of them is actually at the Picnic somewhere (our paths will briefly cross on Sunday morning when we shall exchange a brief hug, I shall surreptitiously inspect her for excessive signs of wear and tear – and she may well do the same to me – and we will be quickly on our respective way).
But essentially, this magical mystery is just two middle-aged women and a tent all the way till Monday morning. For reasons that we pretend not to understand, everyone seems beyond
Like a manicured Bear Grylls, I take the critter gently in my hands and throw him out of the tent’s entrance.
I am born to this
amused by the tent business, and there are lots of jokes about blow drys and shellac-ed nails before we even hit the road. In fairness, even we know that whatever about us managing to put the tent up, we will never, ever be able to get it into the bag again, and so we book onto one of those namby pamby sites where the tent is already put up. All we have to do, when we arrive into the damp and dark of Friday night, is crawl in, unroll the sleeping bags, throw all our belongings into wheelie bin liners, and tie a scarf to the tent so that we don’t confuse it for one of the many identical ones later on when we are more, ahem, confused. I am doing all of that while The Best Friend is inspecting the facilities (ie, the portaloos), when I spot, through the glow of my torch, a daddy longlegs flitting about inside the tent. Like a manicured Bear Grylls, I take the critter gently in my hand and throw him out the open flap of the tent. I am born to this.
What can I tell you about Electric Picnic that you don’t already know? That as an exercise in ingeniously smuggling alcohol past body-searching security staff, it is a credit to the nation. That for all that booze – much of which seems to travel in medical supply bags – the atmosphere is entirely peaceful, blissed out even. That on the Friday night, we will be intercepted by two strangers on our way back to the campsite and waltzed around the arena for a bit. That although most of the crowd are in their 20s, there are enough older people around for nobody to stare and point. That if everyone dressed like this – as though they’d had a collision with a paint factory and a dressing up box – all the time, the world would be a happier place. That it feels like a perfect punctuation point at the end of the summer and a little oasis of wonderfully tuneful madness all at the same time. Several people, when we come back, will refer to it as our mid-life crisis, but mid-life is, I think, relative. To quote my new hero, Baz Ashmawy’s lovely mammy, “you have to grow older, but you don’t have to grow old.” At the Picnic, thank the stars, you can even do so disgracefully.