‘Glastonbury is so amazing, you have to go’.
A sentence that I repeat time and time again to friends looking for a good time in June. I tell them great tales of how I met my boyfriend there seven years ago, of the atmosphere and of the incredible performances put on by the likes of Ed Sheeran. I tell them that I have the best weekends ever there and I’m not lying.
By the time I get home, wash away the dirt and spend a night in my own bed, the memories of trudging for hours through the mud, the constant dull ache in my feet, the time wasted looking for people miles away, unfindable due to a lack of signal and phones running out of battery too fast, the unimaginable queues, the disgusting loos and the fact that the place is so big I missed basically every artist that I went there to see, have ebbed away.
I am left reminiscing over a weekend that I can only remember the highlights of, as if I am watching the BBC coverage of my own weekend.
And it’s not just Glastonbury. This is an affliction affecting festival goers up and down the country. It’s almost as if there is a Mystic Meg type creature waiting by the gates ready to brainwash you on the way out of every bad memory. Whenever anyone looks back at a festival, they do it with rose-tinted glasses on. This weekend I was at Wilderness Festival and haven’t wasted a moment in telling every single person I’ve seen since it ended how much fun it was.
I had the best weekend ever.
I arrived on Friday night having just returned from Mallorca. Whilst on the plane my dad had been admitted into hospital with pneumonia, which meant that from the minute I found out, I was left with a painful stab of guilt that I was about to embark on such a great time when I really should have jumped on the first plane back out there. Deciding that there was nothing I could do in that moment however, and after extensive backs and forths with various people, I booked a flight back to Palma on Monday and tried to make the most of the weekend. And like I say, it was really good fun.
Friday night was great, except for the fact my mind was firmly on other things, we missed all of the music because we were so busy trying to find our friends, it absolutely pissed it down with rain and, after a bit of a shit day, I was knackered and ready to go home by 10pm.
When I think back on Saturday using the highlight reel that I have created for myself I think of the following things: covering myself in glitter, great shopping, a delicious sushi roll, so much dancing, a trip to the ‘valley’ (the ultimate afterparty held down by the lake), drinking with friends, meeting heart-throb Kit Harrington, watching some amazing acts on the main stage (can’t remember who), great outfits, great people, great fun.
When I really think back to Saturday, the memories differ somewhat: the £6 tequila shot that I had out of the paper cup made me want to be sick. The ‘valley’ that was horrible since I wasn’t on drugs and was freezing and sober after an hour in a queue with no idea how to dance to music with no lyrics. The stupid argument that I had with Alex because I wouldn’t do up my coat, the hour long walk back to the taxi rank made my feet hurt and the feeling that, as I sat, shaking with cold, seven miles away from home and taxi-less, all I wanted to be was at home.
Sunday was great, it was. But it’s all too easy to remember how tired I was and how, not long after Grace Jones started the closing set, all I really wanted to do was give up on the weekend. Not because she wasn’t great and not because I wasn’t having fun, but slightly because I was getting bored of trying.
Of course, the good times did outweigh the bad. It was fun and it was funny. Watching Alex slip over in the mud was hysterical, playing a drunken game of Odds-On, which saw us all partake in ridiculous dares was wonderful. Crouching down with a crowd of total strangers dressed as lampshades as we danced to Fat Boy Slim’s music so that we could rise like a wave when the beat dropped was an experience I’ll treasure. The photos tell me it was fun, my friends tell me that it was fun and so do my memories.
But the trouble is, as with lots of things in life, it’s often hard to appreciate the good stuff, until it’s over.
The good news is that, at least where festivals are concerned, I know how it works now. I know that when I look back on the experience, even hours later, that I will remember nothing but the good times. I know that no matter how many festivals I go to, that this is a once in a lifetime experience, (because really, everything in life is), and I know I really need to make the most of it.
But I also know that I shouldn’t ‘force’ the fun. That by very nature of standing in the middle of a field, surrounded by men so drunk they can’t stand up and women with nothing but glitter covering their nipples, with my friends, in the sunshine, that I am having fun. This is what fun is. This is what we’re here for.
The thing is, and the lesson that I’ve learnt is this: nothing, and I mean nothing, can match up to your expectations of a good time. A festival is a case in point. You imagine yourself floating around, un-judged by the masses as you skip through the crowds in a skirt so short there is no other time you could realistically get away with it, as full of energy as if you had a Duracell charging pack on your back and drinking in the experiences as you feel that you should.
The minute it starts to rain or you end up resenting one of your friends for getting too drunk *again*, you lose your phone and find a hole in your wellies, you feel that you’re not just letting yourself down, but you’re letting festivals everywhere down too.
Must. Have. Fun.
Those are the rules.
But good times, fun, can’t be forced. The good times just happen, often when you are not looking.
Arriving at that festival on Friday night after a pretty shitty day, I was dreading the fact that I was going to need to have fun. I was angry that it wasn’t acceptable for me to just curl up in a ball and keep to myself, or duck out early like I would have done if it was a regular party. People expect you to have fun at a festival and you feel like the Negative-Norah of the group if you’re the one who can’t fathom the energy to bob up and down on the spot for hours in the cold ‘dancing’ to music that you don’t know and that hasn’t got any words.
I don’t like my fun to be organised. I’ve always said that, about everything really. And I suppose a festival really is the definition of organised fun, along with New Year’s Eve of course. They come loaded with expectation: the expectation that you’re going to make memories that will last a life time and have more fun than you could possibly have anywhere else. And that might be true, but you’d do well to forget that for the entire time that you are there. That way, when, the bad stuff happens: the stuff that happens every single day in every other area of our lives, we don’t feel that every ounce of fun is ruined.
You need to remove the expectation from it all. The minute any pressure is applied to a situation, the fun is gone. If you’re constantly looking round the corner for the next laugh and the best Insta-shot, you’ll ruin any chances you had of a good night and you’ll be left, your own worst enemy: wondering why the world is having more fun than you.
Festivals are great.
It’s the expectation that’s too high.