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In which I find I'm too old for festivals...

'REGROUP!" I declared for perhaps the 30th time that evening.

"We need a regroup," I repeated, this time shouting so that my voice could be heard above the throbbing untz-untz-untz of the techno music to which we were subjected.

My fellow troops, while growing wearisome with my commands, eventually withdrew from the battlefield.

We negotiated our way through the melting pot of tracksuits and glow sticks – past the lantern jaws and simian eyes, past the warped and writhing casualties – and out into the mud-soaked fields.

Shelter was found beneath an awning and as the rain thudded relentlessly against the canopy, I announced my battle plan, or rather our exit strategy.

"Okay, I think it's fairly safe to conclude that this is a crisis," I began. "So ... I'm suggesting that we order a taxi... and get it to bring us to the Ritz-Carlton. I will pay."

 

RIDICULOUS

 

IT WAS PERHAPS THE BEST IDEA I'VE EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE, BUT IT WAS MET WITH SILENCE. AND BEFUDDLEMENT. "I'LL GO WITH YOU," SLURRED A YOUNG MAN SITTING ON THE GRASS BESIDE US BEFORE FALLING BACK INTO A SEMI-COMA.

Eventually, one of the girls piped up. "That would cost ridiculous money," said Anna. "How much would a taxi cost to Enniskerry anyway?" added Laura.

My response to both of these questions was an emphatic 'I don't give a s***', but I didn't get to say that because one of the girls was about to make a rather more salient point: "We can't leave a festival at 10:30pm." ( I hasten to add that we had arrived just four hours previously.) "Are you... okay?" continued Laura.

The short answer was no. I was not okay, I was not having a good time and this was certainly not what I was expecting.

Maybe it was just me. Since attending this festival the last time, I've given up alcohol, signed up for a life assurance policy and bought a French market basket in which to stow groceries.

I've grown up. Or maybe it was the festival. The crowd seemed considerably younger and more inebriated, the music more viral and sadistic than ever... yeah, maybe it was just me...

Then again, this festival didn't have the magic that you get at the likes of the Picnic or Body & Soul. There were no enchanted lands, or quirky food offerings or diversions in which to nourish your inner child. There was no vibrancy.

"I'm a woman," I explained to the girls, "and I like lovely things... and there was a half-eaten ham sandwich in the Portaloo. And, I mean, who brings a ham sandwich to a festival let alone into a Portaloo?"

They looked at each other and then back at me.

You're not supposed to say that you're not enjoying yourself at a festival. It's akin to admitting that you don't particularly like children or enjoy watching Ireland when they play football.

Festival-going is a team sport and you're affecting everyone's performance if you don't want to play. You're knee-deep in the mud and sweat and cheers for two or three days and you better get pumping that fist whether you like it or not.

But I couldn't. I had come to the crossroads. This was a milestone. Let me assure you that a festival is no place to conduct a life review, but when and where else are you going to decide that it just isn't your scene any more?

Sensing that the girls weren't really rolling with the Ritz idea, I tried a different tack: "Everyone's really mean."

For all my 'I am woman, hear me roar' talk, I was acting like a petulant child.

"Look, give it another hour," suggested Anna. "We'll find a cosy tent," added Laura, "and we'll get our faces painted."

 

LIBERATION

But there was no cosy tent or face painters in sight and, for some reason, my friends didn't want to leave a three-day festival after four hours. The Road to Damascus had to be travelled alone.

Well, kind of. It transpired that my other friends were staying in a local hotel so they very kindly gave me their room key. We agreed that I'd stay there that night and we'd all travel back together in the morning.

Festivals are supposed to be about liberation and letting loose, but it was only when that plastic card was pressed into my hand that I finally felt a sense of release.

That and the first cup of tea in the hotel room. I'm getting old...


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