Mount Kilimanjaro? Huh! Great Wall of China? Pah! Tough Mudder events? You can keep them. For I have done the best. I have done DOWNLOAD 2015 – and survived!
OK so it wasn’t this bad…
It may not seem much in this crazy see-how-far-you-can-push-yourself-before-you-die world of challenges, but yes, at the age of 42 (which is, obviously THE answer to Life, The Universe and Everything) I have had my festival cherry popped, spending my weekend at the world’s Mecca for metal and mayhem. Glastonbury, my friends, is for wimps.
And for me, it truly did feel like the biggest physical challenge I have ever faced. And that’s after giving birth to four kids.
I am not the fittest person. My monthly prescription proves that. I have nothing seriously wrong, I am quite healthy compared to a lot of people I know, and yes, obesity is ‘self-inflicted’. Just age/weight related issues, which in the grand scheme of things is not that important. I’m by no means a hero.
But there were times this weekend when I thought I was actually going to die. And my friends thought so too. That’s why they decided it would be a good idea to leave me with most of our belongings while they set off to hunt for somewhere to pitch our tents. And one of them ended up carrying my rucksack and his own after I nearly threw up staggering up the hill to our final destination (it nearly was mine!).
If only there was a scale on this map
In the olden days, Castle Donington hosted a one day event called Monsters of Rock. I went in 1992, Iron Maiden headlined, it rained and we all sat in bin bags.
Now this event has evolved into this monolithic celebration of the heaviest of rock and metal. And, being as obsessed with Muse as I am, of course I was going to go. I even press-ganged my usual Muse Gig Companion/Blocker for getting to the barrier into coming; and she in turn persuaded her husband he should come too. My own husband, having a hatred for the cause of his wife’s obsession/midlife crisis, coupled with not liking camping at the best of times, politely declined. I also invited a friend who needed cheering up. He is now known as The Sherpa. (well it’s better than being a donkey!).
We didn’t get round to seeing any bands on the Friday night, being too knackered/soggy to care (though we did catch a glimpse of Slipknot as we passed from a trip to and from the car.
Now I have to admit thrash/heavy/death metal isn’t actually my thing, I just don’t get the kind of music that there was a lot of at Download (yes I am turning into an old fogey).I think I can sum up a lot of the music here:
Bass: Reverbs throughout your body until you think your bone marrow is all going to come out of your nose.
There are thousands who disagree with me, and they were having a great time. But each to their own.
I loved Faith No More, who I listened to back in my late teens/early twenties. All stage equipment was covered in white cloths, there were flowers everywhere and the band were all dressed in white. Lead singer Mike Patton was our ‘Yoga Master’ and we were all to ‘relax’. My old favourites Epic and Easy happily took me back to my youth.
Pinnacle of the whole weekend for me was of course Muse, who proved the cynics, who said Muse weren’t possibly heavy enough, absolutely and categorically wrong. Just the outro for Newborn was convincing enough. It even stopped raining.
Sunday was great too. It rained a bit, but was bloody freezing in comparison to the rest of the weekend. Blackberry Smoke, a bluesy band from Atlanta, gained themselves a new fan here. Billy Idol was looking very old, bless him, but still got the crowd going, but the best of Sunday was third on the bill – Slash, featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Just proves who the star of Guns n Roses was (Axl Who?). We all watched Slash work his magic with wide-eyed wonder, and we all screamed the words to old classics such as Night Train, You Could be Mine and of course Sweet Child O’Mine. It was worth going for them alone.
We gave Motley Crue a miss in favour of our first beer in the arena (yes really! My tipple of choice had been tea, to keep warmth. What a lightweight eh?) followed by food. Then we thought we’d better get in place for the final act of the weekend.
The whole weekend had, apparently been leading up to the grand finale, those granddaddies of glam rock, Kiss. They were all right, a lot of smoke and mirrors ( I guess I’m a little young to really appreciate them).
So it was one hell of an experience. Rain, mud, crowds, miles of walking (I SO wish I had had a pedometer on me) and that festival party atmosphere – it was everything I had expected and more. There were definitely times when I thought ok, I can tick it off the bucket list. But on reflection, after drying out all my stuff, and slowly regaining the ability to stand without crying out in pain, would I do it again?
Festival Must Haves
Microfibre Towel. It was worth its very soggy weight in gold. Mopped up puddles in the tent brilliantly.
ShePee (other brands are available). Who needs a toilet when you can pee like a man?
And whilst we’re on the subject, an empty Comfort bottle (other brands of fabric conditioner are available but this particular brand (apparently) has a suitably wide neck, *snigger* for those whose aim can be a little off. Also the capacity is good. It’s very difficult (even with a ShePee) to gauge how much more you can fit into a 500 ml water bottle when it’s dark.
Fanny…. pack (after various jokes about ‘fumbling in my fanny…pack’) Yes, it’s what is commonly called in the UK a bum-bag, but they are so last century, and this was a sleek, waterproof thing of beauty. And it kept my phone dry.
Wellies. Preferably ones that don’t spring a leak.
Welly socks. They are good at soaking up mud when your welly springs a leak.
A tent. Preferably one that actually IS waterproof, and doesn’t just SAY it is. And one that is at least three times bigger than you need, if you want to be able to sit up without your head touching the roof, therefore causing the rainwater to cascade through. And there ARE times when you need to sit up.
Bin bags. Take a whole fucking roll. You WILL need them. Make sure all your clothes are packed in them, even in the rucksack. You will be so pleased with yourself when they stay dry. Then conversely any item of clothing you subsequently wear can be stashed in a bag.
NB: might be worth trying to stash your sleeping bag in a bin bag when not in it!
A waterproof coat with large pockets. A stow-away one is best (pac-a-mac style). Don’t leave the tent without it, kids! Even if the sun is shining when you set off…
Sun cream. Yep, sunburn can occur at the rainiest of festivals.
Deodorant. So you don’t die from the pong in a zipped up tent.
Toothbrush/mini toothpaste. Trust me, brushing your teeth after that first night will make you feel at least 60% more human.
Cereal bars and nuts. Great for energy when you decide to cart your stuff back to the car before going back to the arena for breakfast.
A fold up chair, with a carrying strap. Yes really.
Toilet roll. I meant to pack it but didn’t. But then again the toilets in the Village and the Arena were great, they had attendants on hand to replenish supplies. The toilets in the actual campsites are probably best avoided unless you do have toilet roll.
A car. Even if the car park is miles away, it’s a great refuge in the rain and somewhere dry and warm to catch up with a bit of sleep. NB: keep a stash of beer in the car for any impromptu trips back. It makes it all worthwhile, knowing you have a beer there waiting for you.
Don’t bother with:
A stove. Even a mini miracle that is marginally bigger than a pack of cards. When it’s pissing down, you’re not gonna want to cook.
A kettle. The tea and coffee was decent, hot and available everywhere.
Any food you intend to cook. You just won’t.
Make up. Yes, there are the beautiful festival fashionistas, but really? My carefully applied eyeliner and mascara merely resulted in my looking like Alice Cooper after I sweated buckets. And believe me, there will always be someone who looks rougher than you.
A book to read. You won’t have the energy to read. I mean it.
Jeans. They are heavy when wet and will never dry out. And if they are skinny fit, practically impossible to remove when soaked when you are lying down in a wet tent.
A hairbrush – at least if you put your hair in French plaits. My daughter did mine before I left Friday morning, and it stayed in till Monday. It was plaited when it was still wet after washing it, and, thanks to the UK weather, never dried out. Unless you are bald, in which case… oh forget it.
A sense of adventure. Embrace the experience. Even if there is a monsoon and you get caught in the mud wearing your flip flops, take a deep breath and enjoy!