Monday dawned clear, dry, and reasonably warm. It ended out staying that way all day. You know, the precise weather that would have been ideal for any other day of the festival…
The clanking of tent poles and the smell of breakfast being cooked on bbq trays greeted my awakening. I took great pleasure in lying stretched out on my super-comfortable inflatable mattress and enjoying the gentle sunlight while I heated the water for my coffee in the porch section of my tent. How marvelously civilised.
All I had left to do was to take my tent down and head off home, but before I did that, I needed to embark on the last toilet experience of the festival – there was no way I was going to try and negotiate the mud and a tiny stinky cubicle with a tent and a rucksack. By this time on Monday (which could potentially have been the 6th day of use for any of these little shit-boxes) the Portaloos had reached Critical Mass. The entire block of toilets closest to Quiet camping, which already had been distinctly unpleasant the day before, had now been completely cordoned off.
The stewards were pointing everyone around the corner to Pink camping, where there was a row of 12 or 14 Portaloos, with a queue of about 20 people at either end. Tired looking campers clutching toilet rolls and Wet Wipes were working their way along the row of toilets, in turn opening the door, shuddering, and moving along to the next one.
In total, there were 2 toilets at my end of the queue that were actually being used. After 15 minutes of not moving very far, it became apparent that it was going to take a very long time to reach the only acceptable Portaloos. Also, given the volume of people who had to go before me, there was a good chance they were going to be just as bad as all of the others by the time I got there.
Emboldened by the ease of dealing with my toilet drama the other day, and having quite a strong stomach anyway, I asked everyone else in the line if there were any objections to me jumping the queue and trying one of the shitty, minging toilets that everyone else was rejecting. No-one minded, and I walked past a wave of awed and horrified glances, headed straight for an empty Portaloo.
Now, I say ’empty’… with all the layers of shit and toilet paper, it was like someone had dumped an industrial sized Tiramisu into the bowl.
There was no way a mere sandwich bag was going to help me out of this one. However, I had committed to this, and had to find a way to deal with it. I cast my eyes around what is a small, enclosed and normally barren space, but the Fates had conspired; I spotted a discarded Fosters can on the floor.
Yup. I used the empty can as a rudimentary plunger to slowly squeeze the mass of faeces and paper as far into the Portaloo cavity as possible, to make enough space for my own shit on top of it. I cannot think of a time in my life when I have done anything quite as unbelievably foul.
Afterwards, I used the last of my own roll of toilet paper to cover the entire mass, in much the same way as the emergency services cover expired car-crash victims with a sheet. I exited the toilet, and announced to the remaining queue, “Well, I wouldn’t recommend that…” and then strolled off with a nonchalance that I feel like I had genuinely earned.
I headed back to the tent and began the task of breaking camp. I knew by that point that I was simply not going to make two trips to the car to take all of my stuff back. I would have to consolidate as much as I could, and then go through the process of culling the things that a) I could do without, or b) wouldn’t cost much to replace. The first things on the cut list were my trainers.
Realistically, I had known since I came back from Trondheim that they should have already gone the way of all things, but on top of that they were still damp from Friday, and had also gathered a collection of snail trails inside the heels over the weekend. Thank you for your service, you are now dismissed.
I also decided to leave the double blow-up mattress, since I had another two at home. Also, by comparison to everything else, it was surprisingly heavy and most awkward thing I had bought with me. I really don’t like throwing anything serviceable away, but looking around the site – which was now just some vision of a dystopian future – there were tents everywhere that had just been left; one of the guys the day before had mentioned that a lot of the abandoned stuff gets given to charity after the festival, and that appeased my conscience a little.
Over the course of the last three days, I had become used to the sight of men taking a piss anywhere that someone else wasn’t already standing. While I was packing the tent up however, I saw something really rather impressive – a man taking a piss… and brushing his teeth at the same time. Get after it son! Check out your bad self.
Finally I got everything into a portable state. I rolled all of my bedding together and tied it to the top of my rucksack with a load of string that I just happened to have in a pocket. The only problem with that arrangement was that my little rucksack was in no way designed to carry additional loads in that manner.
Within minutes of setting off, with my tent in one hand and a carrier bag full of pillows and a footpump in the other, the straps of my over-burdened rucksack started tearing into my shoulder blades like someone trying to over-enthusiastically help me out of a jacket.
I kept telling myself “Suck it up, Princess, you’ve got to get to the car to get home.“ It was a mantra very similar to the “Suck it up, Princess, you have to get to the campsite if you want to sleep tonight” from Friday. As difficult as it was, I made it through Quiet camping, through Pink camping, and up the steep metal track to Black camping before stopping. I am glad that the mud had dried out somewhat because I just dropped my bags at the top, and leaned against some metal fencing to let it take the weight of my rucksack.
It took a good few minutes to stop sweating and for my heart rate and breathing to slow back to somewhere approaching normal. I then did another leg through Black camping itself and into the main camping village. Here I had to stop again, and I decided that my bedding arrangement simply wasn’t working and needed an immediate review. I also remembered that I had a leftover can of Tuborg, which was clearly adding extra weight to my rucksack.
I untied the bedding roll, added that to the hand with the pillows and footpump, and as much as the string from the bedding was then cutting into my hand, it was way more comfortable than what had previously been happening on my back.
All around me, there was a sea of people all drifting in the same direction, similarly loaded up, or dragging trolleys (more than a few that had actually lost wheels to the mud), limping, wincing and generally looking like that had been at a festival all weekend. I felt marginally better about myself.
Just after passing the main entrance, I spotted a discarded tent-pole bag lying in the dust. HAVING! I picked it up, folded it, and held it in my hand as a barrier between my tender flesh, and the carrier-bag handles/packing string that were trying to eat their way through it.
The road bridge over to the carpark was infinitely more daunting than it had been on Friday, but I pushed through and as soon as I got to the top, I could see that the parked vehicles had thinned out, and my trusty steed was in sight!
The last stretch was definitely easier now that I could physically see the end point, but I still had to stop halfway to shake my hands out and catch my breath. One thing that had struck me on the walk was the sheer volume of dead shoes everywhere. Wellies, trainers, boots, sandals, there were quite literally pairs discarded every few metres.
…there was also a whole smashed up watermelon in the car-park, which was a little more confusing.
I finally made it back to my little baby-car, stuffed everything onto the passenger seat and kicked my wellies off. I don’t think my driving seat has ever been more comfortable.
Download 2015 was a festival of two extremes for me. The music was fantastic, but the physical experience was shocking. The musical high points of my weekend;
- Faith No More
- Evil Scarecrow
- The Qemists
- In Flames
Bands I’d like to follow up on/see live;
- Code Orange
- Rene LaVice
- Lamb of God
- Enter Shikari
Things I need to do for next Download;
- Get a campervan
- Wear suitable shoes
- Get there really early
- Bring a chair
…holy fuck, I’m actually getting old.