So this weekend I popped my Festival Cherry (apart from Edinburgh) and went to the Offset Festival, surely the best alternative rock festival, in Hainault, in early September, in the world.
I was there to perform in the comedy tent. This is the comedy tent:
It wasn't as glamorous as it looks, though. Anyway, the lovely Bob Slayer was looking after things there, and I have to say, it was him at his finest. What he does best is wade through chaos. It's like fighting fire with fire.
Anyway. I had a little time to kill before I was due on, so I decided to drink in the heady atmosphere of my first ever FESTIVAL.
I have no point of comparison here. I can't say, 'Oh, it's like a smaller version of Glastonbury' because I have no idea. I can't say 'It's like Latitude without the platitudes' because I've never been. I think I would best describe it as being like a school fete. If the fete had been organised by the goths in the sixth form.
It was nice to see some families there - it's always rather cheering to see more than one generation having a good time. There were a couple of families picnicking in front of the main stage. It was nice to see their little 4-year-olds bopping away to the band. I'm hoping the lyrics didn't fully sink in though. The band was singing this:
I wanna fook you oop...
I wanna fook you about...
I can't think where little Levi and Poppy picked that up from...
So I sat and chewed self-consciously on my veggieburger, and looked down at my ridiculous silver shoes and my ridiculous bright blue shirt and my ridiculous jacket and my ridiculous ukulele (paranoid about leaving it anywhere at gigs since the last one was stolen at the World Music Awards) and felt, well, ridiculous.
I saw one group of young women staring at me with what I first thought was contempt, but then I realised was more a sort of pitying curiosity. One of them, Claire, or Clare, or possibly Cleadghfgh in Gaelic, came over and spoke to me, mainly about my ukulele. And her ukulele. And her friend Maeve's ukulele. And then I met her friends, Maeve and Ella, and I felt pathetically grateful to have someone to talk to, and to be taken under their collective wing. I also felt very lucky that they weren't part of the apparent fancy-dress competition that seemed to be going on, namely the see-who-can-make-themselves-look-like-they're-dying-of-heroin-addiction-the-most.
Anyway, I went and did the stand-up and they very charitably came and watched me go down in flames. Ok, that sounds more dramatic than it was. It went fine. Three people walked out after about two minutes though, and when I made the mistake of asking if it was because they were under age and my material had a strong sexual content, they shouted "No, it's because you're shit"...
I don't think anyone there was up for what one might term "jollity". My joke about the aperitif Kir attracted two rather comforting laughs from some middle-class allies.
Anyway. We staggered away, my newly-adopted support group and I. I went to buy some booze (had to drive miles to find anywhere, and all they sold was alcohol on special offer. You couldn't buy it normally. You had to buy it in threes, sixes or sevens...)
I returned and delivered it to the tent, and then rather tediously hummed and hawed over What to Do Next.
I didn't know if I would be required back on before 9pm, or after 11pm (there was a two-hour break). And so I waited for a text to come through, and when I hadn't had one by 9.30 I decided to get drunk. Always the best plan.
There then comes a happy haze of face painting, and chips, and BURGER SAUCE what the FUCK is that and can you INJECT IT, and, well, drinking, and it all being so jolly and fun you could almost forget you were in the middle of a scene that bore a striking similarity to Darfur:
Welcome to District 9.
My hosts very generously apportioned me a corner of their tent in which to hunker down for the night, and I went and fetched my duvet. Although most of the night was spent with my back pressed against the wet tent walls, listening to bongos, retching, and some of the following choice snippets of dialogue:
"...Well, I just figured since I'd paid for petrol, you'd pay the camping fees..."
HIM: Have you got like a best mate?
HER: Well, I've got loads of friends...
HIM: Yeah, but you must have like one best friend, is it?
HER: Yeah, I have. But she's a prick...
"He's blatantly chucked up all over his sleeping bag..."
I now understand why people take drugs. I would have taken anything. I nearly woke up one of my new friends and begged them to punch me unconscious for the rest of the night.
At 7.25am peace finally reigned. The bongos stopped. The generators for the floodlights switched off.
That's when Ella started blowing her nose.
Cleadghghgf left. She kindly returned the ear plugs I had given her, which was very thoughtful, but I am sort of thinking they are hers now.
When Maeve woke up, we had forgotten about the moustache Ella had drawn on her last night, and I nearly screamed.
We decided to go and get breakfast off-site, because, really, anything to get away from the scenes of human detritus that lay all around us. As me, Maeve and Ella left for the car, some blokes from a nearby tent spotted my uke and hailed us:
"No WAY! WE'VE got a uke as well!" I know, mate. What are the chances, eh? Two pretentious tossers in one festival. Whoda thunkit. I don't want to own a ukulele any more. I love that little instrument. But I don't want to be part of this Venn Diagram overlap any more.
"You should have come over to our tent last night - we had bongos and my uke - we could have JAMMED!"
I could have "jammed" my ukulele sideways up his mincing little anus for every one of the six fucking hours I had just spent listening to his stupid fucking bongos. I said:
"Yeah. That would have been sensational."
And so we got to the car. As we approached, I said to Maeve and Ella "I'm sorry my car's full of crap", suddenly remembering it was full of stuff from Edinburgh I hadn't got around to emptying. But things were looking up, we were about to bust out of there, the wind in our hair, not a care in the world.
But we now get to the crux of the experience for me. There is something I would like to know. I would really like an answer to this question. This is the question that will haunt me above all else from this weekend, more than questions like 'Why did I think any of this would be a good idea?', or 'What the fuck do I think I am doing?' or 'is it really really too late to train as a dentist?' No. This is, as far as I am concerned the question of the weekend:
Who shat in my car?
That's really the one. The other ones I can sort of work through by myself, or with plenty of counselling. But, 'who shat in my car?' is the one I don't think is ever going to get resolved satisfactorily.
As we got in, Ella was lucky enough to put her foot into something a bit slidey on the passenger side floor. And it was a human turd.
Oh, capital. What a perfect finish.
Nothing stolen - laptop in the boot - all fine. Car locked. No signs of disturbance. But there, unmistakably, as we looked on and dry heaved - was a Snickers bar-sized human shit.
I have gone through every scenario I can think of. I wondered if it was the parking attendant there, who had leant through the passenger-side window, and told me she hadn't had a break in hours - well, she'd have had to dump it somewhere. I have quizzed my parents, wondering if one of them had done it for fun on the drive back from Edinburgh last week ("I promise I won't be angry, I'd just like to know").
The problem is, I could see Maeve and Ella running every scenario in their heads, too, and jumping to the most plausible explanation; namely that the shitten finger of suspicion pointed squarely at me.
Which, you know, who can blame them? Unless some sort of weird Fight Club type scenario is happening in my head (and really, by now, I am prepared to accept that - it isn't impossible that the last month has caused me to split into multiple personalities, of which one is a mad car-shitting maniac) I don't recall ever pooing into my own car footwell.
I don't want to go into it too much, but there are some very Bermuda Triangle-esque elements to it. It was unquestionably laid there fresh, c'est a dire done in place. But no signs of any peripheral processes, oh look, this is all disgusting now, and I am going to stop.
We found a pub and I washed my hands five times. Only cremation can clean me enough now. I do not want to exist as matter any more.
I didn't stay to do my spot today. Sorry Bob. Please understand. Once someone has taken a shit in your car, it's hard to rally.
Really might not do another festival.