Out of the Frying Pan ...
Do you ever look at families doing spontaneous, adventurous things and think I wish we could be like that? I do. One of the great many things I have admired other parents doing (from afar) is taking their kids to festivals. With an almost-three-year-old who is at times so ‘spirited’ it causes a stop-and-stare scene in Primark, I’ve often wondered how we would fare in a tent for three days, particularly noting that we are regularly forced to separate him from his five-year-old brother when their naked wrestling ends in crying and/or head injuries. That said, as a family who enjoys spending time out in the fresh air of Dartmoor or the seaside (the perks of living in Devon), the non-tenty part of going to a festival started to appeal more and more. After doing our annual Glasto-watching, from the sofa, we decided our time had come and booked weekend tickets, with camping, for our first family festival. We strongly believed it would be the start of something. We’d probably get the camping bug and for every year thereafter there would be pictures of us all on Instagram doing peace signs in a field full of flags. We couldn’t wait.
A few days before our great festival adventure, a friend alerted me to the weekend’s weather forecast. ‘Sunshine with a chance of showers’ had slowly morphed into ‘you’re absolutely fucked’ and we started to fear that we may be ill-equipped for a weekend of soggy bottoms. Undeterred by this latest development, we headed to one of those massive camping shops to stock up on waterproofs and wellies (I am truly very sorry to anybody who ventured into the display ‘Force 10’ mountaineering tent after my kids last Wednesday, I'm afraid one of them decided to let rip with a force ten of their own).
We knew, as we set off early on Friday to black clouds and surface spray on the roads, that we were probably not going to make use of the camping chairs we’d optimistically ordered when we’d pictured sitting outside with a glass of something cold listening to live bands. We also knew that the ‘ginger’ hair spray we’d ordered so Henry could dress up as Ed Sheeran (alarmingly more neon orange than ginger, turning him into Johnny Rotten), would almost certainly run down his face and neck, transforming him into a giant wet wotsit and yet still we were excited. Perhaps the rain would make it even more fun. We’d still get to create the peace sign festival photo, we’d just be caked in mud as well, which let’s be honest is even more festivaly. We just needed to embrace it.
And we tried. We really, truly tried. With kids on our shoulders we bounced along to Mister Maker, whooping as The Shapes appeared (the actual ‘I am a shape’ shapes off the telly - it was practically the same as being front row for The Killers at V Festival in 2009). I reminisced about my youth as All Saints took to the stage and the four of us snacked on churros and chocolate sauce. We went on the ‘spinny ponies’ (the carousel), whizzed down the Helter Skelter, tried on silly costumes in the fancy dress tent and watched a variety of comedy and music performances. The whole thing, it has to be said, was bloody well organised.
But it rained. It rained and it rained. We cracked out the emergency ponchos and repeatedly told ourselves that despite having wet pants, we were still enjoying it (easier to do when you’re drinking, I imagine, which of course I was not). We went back to the camp for tactical respite from the downpours only to find the tent itself was damp inside as was everything of ours that wasn’t inside bin liners. Having packed a coolbox full of food to cook up like proper happy campers, it was raining too hard to cook anything so we sat and ate cheese sandwiches with a side helping of Haribo. It was just not quite what we had pictured..
And finally, there was the incident. In any holiday or weekend away there is almost always an event or a moment that will forever stick in your mind and for me, that incident happened the early hours of Saturday morning. After returning to the tent on Friday night, sodden, we’d changed into pyjamas and snuggled down in our sleeping bags. Though the usual levels of bedtime hyperactivity ensued (‘No YOU’RE a poo-poo fart head HA HA HA’ and so on), it wasn’t long before we were all drifting off to sleep to the sound of rain on canvas. Then at around 3am, I woke up bursting for a wee. If you think you know what’s coming you probably do, though I surprised even myself with the detail of what happened next.
When I say I was bursting, I mean I had a genuine fear that I might not make it to the toilet - this always feels like even more of a threat when I’m pregnant, I seem to lose all ‘holding on’ ability. This worry was only worsened by the fact that I didn’t pack my glasses and without my contact lenses I am not far off needing a guide dog, so there was simply no way I could successfully locate my waterproofs (it was still raining hard) and find my way down a slope to the portaloos and back to the tent again. So, after rummaging around in the dark for an emergency container, I did what I could with the tools I had to hand. I did a wee in our frying pan.
As I tried to assume the squat position it occurred to me that the shallowness of the pan could possibly present an aiming accuracy issue and so, to combat this, I decided to switch positions and straddle it. It was at this very point that my husband stirred and I froze, terrified he would turn on the torch and discover his pregnant wife with her trousers down, riding a frying pan. It was also the exact point at which I decided that festivals, in the pouring rain, are just not my bag.
After another day of trundling around in further downpours we had a soul-searching emergency family meeting back in the tent (yes, I washed out the pissy frying pan) and decided that, all things considered, we would rather be at home. Which is exactly where I am typing this blog this morning.
I wouldn’t say that the weekend was a disaster. The boys behaved well pretty much the whole time and that alone has given us the confidence to know that we can do these things in future. It just turns out we are not a ‘make the best of it’ ‘#therainwontstopus’ type of family. The rain did stop us. It was too wet and driving out of the field with our windscreen wipers on full speed felt quite liberating, in the end.
There’s always next year though, right?
(Or hotels. There’s always hotels).
Our Camp Bestival adventure wasn't sponsored - we paid for both our festival tickets and camping passes - but I would still like to say that bar the shitty British weather, we were very impressed.