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Wilderness Festival.

Wilderness Festival, about half an hour from Oxford, is home to the ‘middle class’ festival goer. Bell tents and mattresses outweigh pop up tents and sleeping bags, lush green meadows contrast with muddy brown bogs. Either way people wear whatever they want. I will give you an example: While I was overheating watching Kamasi Washington one night, I stripped down to my bikini and wrapped my clothes around my head, my warm gin and orange juice still clutched to my chest. 5 minutes later I looked down and realised I was still wearing my white socks and trainers, shiny white legs on full view. What a look. But not a single person had even noticed, and even if they had there was no way in hell they were going to care. At the end of the day, we had all managed to get together in a field in the middle of nowhere, so what could stop people from wearing what they wanted, even if it was socks and trainers with a bikini?

Arriving at the festival was somewhat confusing. Even whilst following signs to the festival we, (me and my sisters) somehow managed to take a wrong turn and end up in an abandoned looking village. None of us were particularly eager to jump out of the car and bound up to an unknown house to ask them for directions. Our saving grace was a group of teenagers waiting at the tiny bus stop by the side of the road, who told us to follow the signs. As if we haven’t tried that already! I thought to myself. I later realized it was actually a good thing I didn’t say that to them-  at least they didn’t know how useless we were.

I am not hugely enthusiastic about sleeping bags and tents, however when I found out we were staying in a bell tent, I thought it only fitting to bring a duvet and pillows. I was pretty excited to be able to say I was part of crew camping, considering I had done absolutely nothing to deserve such a wristband and even going to the festival was a spontaneous decision. It was all just a bit lucky if I’m honest, and I am very grateful for that.

Getting to hang out with the film crew (don’t mean to sound bratty) made our time at the festival that bit more bourgeois. They had ice cold beers in the fridge, phone chargers and free meal tokens for lunch and dinner. I have never had such a cushy time at a festival and I don’t think sleeping like a normal person in a normal tent, or buying my own food will ever suffice again!

Despite these luxuries, I didn’t think about how irritating a duvet would be to carry into the festival. I ended up having to wrap it around my head (sunglasses balanced precariously on my nose) in thousands of degrees of heat, the bottom of it dragging along the floor. I looked so hot and flustered that someone actually came up to me and said “you look a bit hot mate!”, to which I couldn’t even utter a word. My sisters were in front of me barely able to contain themselves.

The centre of the festival was bursting with people of all ages, from newborn babies to elderly couples floating from place to place. There was an array of food and clothes shops, and glamorous, expensive bars. £10 for a gin and tonic seemed the norm. It was actually worth it though. To enjoy an ice cold beverage in the boiling heat was a bit of a treat on day 3 after we had accustomed ourselves to drinking warm gin which had been left in the sun a little too long.

The highlight came on night number 2, when my sister Ali decided she was going to sneak two of her friends in, Li and Luca.  I was  told to cover for her on her shift, (one reason for my lucky entry) which involved standing in the doorway to a secret bar and asking people “what’s the password?”  before they were allowed to enter. There was actually a dress code for those working there; wear free flowing dresses and natural colours”. Pretty much the opposite to what I happened to be wearing. The only clothes I had on me were a leopard print skirt and a green Puma jumper, both very unnatural. I wasn’t really in character at all. For some reason I ended up with a branch in my hand which I hid behind most of the time, scared to talk to anyone in case they caught me out at my own game because I had no idea what I was doing. Finally my sister returned and took over from me, but not before she told me she had asked her friend to buggy her to the edge of the festival ( A Negroni balanced in one hand), had somehow persuaded the security guards to give the wristbands to her two friends, and then buggied back with them in tow (still with a Negroni). I swiftly walked inside and straight up to the bar, in need of a strong drink after a stressful night of being clueless.

One of the unanimous favourites of the festival was the enormous lake.  There were swathes of people flopping into the lake to relieve themselves from the baking sun, and one of these days we saw three men sprinting down the hill completely naked and diving into it. I heard a thud as they dove and hit the bottom. Excuse the pun but I thought it was pretty ballsy of them. Another nude incident happened on Sunday night whilst watching Bastille. It was towards the end of their set and Li and Luca and me (of the buggy conspiracy) decided it was far too hot, so threw off our shirts, “because it was dark and no one would notice anyway!”. Pretty much instantly, a woman bounded over and asked for a photograph of us because she had been walking around topless all day and was delighted to have found others who had done the same. Perhaps it wasn’t so dark after all. It was a hilarious moment though, especially as our breasts are now logged somewhere on a random woman’s phone.

Wilderness in a nutshell, was an eye opening experience to the more civilized side of  festivals. It is a world which becomes your reality. That managing to sneak two people into your new ‘home’ was possible, getting naked in crowds of people was acceptable and asking people the password to a secret room with a branch in hand was not for the faint- hearted.

 

 

 

 

The Family Trip to Greece…Almost.

My mum posed a somewhat peculiar question to me a couple of months ago. She asked if I wanted to follow my brother John on his school trip to Greece to see the sites.  At the time I wasn’t completely listening to what she said so I half-heartedly said “yes” without quite knowing what I was getting myself into.

The next thing I know, I am at the airport, incredibly hungover after staying with a friend the night before in Oxford, trying, very unsuccessfully, to check my bag into the nightmarish self-check in machines. I turn around and see my two sisters with their wheelie bags bobbing towards me, who I haven’t seen in three months, and the first thing Alice giggles is that they’ve had a grumpy encounter with an unfriendly lady in the lift.

I’m seriously trying to keep it together as we wait for the gate to open. We are yet to spot John who is with all of his school friends, probably hiding behind every corner to dodge us. To add to this, we have no idea what Rupert, our guide looks like. How are we supposed to find him?!

We take our seats on the plane and I nod off for a minute or two but I’m jarred awake by Mum, who has climbed over my seat and is already deep in conversation with a man sitting two rows in front of us, oblivious to the fact she’s holding up passengers trying to get to their seats. ‘I guess that’s Rupert’ I think as I fall back to sleep.

Finally John appears near the end of the flight to say hello, and my sisters and I are in hysterics at how ridiculous the situation is. “So are we actually following you on your school trip?” asks Lily, still unable to fully get her head around it.  John does not look too pleased to say the least and replies with a sheepish “yep”.

My Dad, Philip, was definitely up there with one of the most entertaining parts of the trip. Always keen, wearing his blue Nike trainers and socks pulled up to his ankles, he is more interested than me (I study Classical Studies at Uni) in asking questions.  He does not walk, but strides through the ruins with Rupert as if he is competing in some kind of Olympic sport, Mum in tow. Us three girls are much more relaxed and laugh at Dad when he enthusiastically turns around, beckoning us with his hand and shouting, eyebrows raised and eyes popping out with excitement “come on girls!”.

One morning we arrive at a beautiful Byzantine castle in Sparta, blurry eyed at the excruciatingly early start. We decide to have a look around, and before we have even set foot in the castle grounds, Alice has somehow managed to get Mum standing with her leg up on a random, lonely door frame in a hedge, posing for a photo. About five seconds later, Lily is below them, pointing her camera doing the same. Rupert, finding the situation rather amusing, takes a photo of Lily taking a photo of Alice who is taking a photo of Mum. You get the idea. Fully observing this situation, I whip out my phone and follow suit.

We manage to climb over a wall into the ruins reasonably well, but then comes Dad. He’s added a billowing navy blue coat to his already questionably unfashionable but yet endearing Nike trainers and white socks. He puts his foot on the wall and it begins to wobble. Luckily he manages to ungracefully make his way over, but not before he shouts “hoi!” as he lands on the sodden ground, slipping, covering his blue trainers in mud, huffing and puffing from the strenuous effort. Poor him.

Another memorable moment is a visit to a beach in Pylos. Dad manages to find a huge stick and eagerly clomps over the sand in front of us. He exclaims “girls, look at that sea-weed!” and clambers onto a huge mound of the stuff, posing for the paparazzi, wobbling as he stumbles, thoroughly enjoying himself, imagining he were some kind of Greek warrior coming to change the world. He’s in his element.

 

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Finally, after numerous sites, hours in a sweaty white mini-bus with Lily asking Dad for the Wifi hotspot password every five minutes whilst stopping for photographs of shrines by the side of the road, we stagger into Athens.

The very last museum pretty much kills us all. My sisters bow out and sit by the window, but Dad and Rupert are still strongly walking in front. My mum, after so impressively keeping up with them the whole week, says quietly to me “I’ve lost the will to live” and promptly lies down, arms over her eyes, literally taking a nap on the floor.

We are at the airport waiting for our return flight, and I see John tucking into a box of chicken nuggets. I run over to him and give him a hug, asking how the trip was. “I’m so hungover” is all he manages to utter. Well well well. We didn’t cramp his style at all.

 

 

 

 

 

My Mum’s Visit to Manchester.

Bringing my Mum to uni wasn’t what I expected. Previous visits to my elder sister’s university in Brighton seemed a much more civilised encounter, with a visit to the Pavilion and eating delicious vegetarian food being the highlights of the trip.

Manchester is a stark contrast to this, an industrial concrete jungle. The Hallmark Inn, where Mum stayed because she couldn’t stand the thought of staying in my chaotic 13 person student house, is the hotel down the road in Fallowfield, which is the  ‘grungy’ home to university students. The complete opposite to what Julia, my Mum, is used to, living in the peaceful South- West countryside.

Mum’s first response to my suggestion that we go to the local student bar, ‘Squirell’s’ was ”Of course, but I’m going to HAVE to buy my own wine, it will be dreadful in there”. Fair enough. It is difficult to handle the head-achingly terrible £2 Echo Falls white wine.

Already, by 7pm, Mum has snuck her Sainsbury’s bottle of Chablis into the bar, insisting that I order a pint glass full of ice, because ”it lessens the blow of the hangover”. Little does she know, whilst my friends arrive dying to meet her, I am discreetly and successfully topping up her glass. Next comes dinner down the Curry Mile. More wine is consumed and towards the end of the meal my friend Emily poses the idea that ‘Jules’ should come to ‘Antwerp’. Now, ‘Antwerp’ isn’t somewhere you want to take your mum when she visits university. Consisting of a dilapidated red brick ‘mansion’, this is the home to Freshers students who don’t care that the roof sometimes collapses on you, there are no doors on the loos or that one is bombarded with the smell of stale sweat upon entering the place where nights come to an end.

I politely tell her that she won’t enjoy herself, but she is tempted by my friends, with me looking on in bemused horror. The next thing I know, I’ve bought her a ticket to ‘Lord of the Tings’  (grime/dancehall isn’t at all up her street) and all of us are piling onto the bus back to Owens Park, the residence of first year students. Mum quickly asks me if she can borrow some clothes because she doesn’t want to ruin her jumper.

A change of outfit, face powdered and a touch of lip-stick later, both of us are in Richmond Park. It’s hilarious, Mum has her Chablis now in a giant coffee mug. I wonder if she misses home, but she seems to enjoy getting ‘down with the kids’.

We enter Antwerp Mansion about 2 hours later and I take her to the ‘cloakroom’ to put down her bag. Not so much a ‘IMG_E0417cloakroom’ but more of a rail behind an old red curtain.  As we walk up the stairs, we pass students who double take us, not quite believing that they are seeing mother and daughter in the one place you would never dream of taking a parent. As the night goes on, I bump into a couple more people who laugh when they see us, offering to buy us both a beer. By about 1.30am, after two and a half hours of being there, dancing in a claustrophobic mob of sweating, shoulder locked students, Mum roars in my ear over the booming music that she is going home and that I should stay out with my friends. I walk her out of the gates, and put her in a taxi, but not before she’s managed to swindle a packet of cheese and onion flavoured crisps from the bouncer, who, quite frankly, found the whole situation hilarious. As the taxi shoots off I shout that she should text me when she gets to the hotel.

All in all, it was a successful night. My mum has managed to come on a night out with me in Manchester and exceed all expectations. For months after, I was stopped by strangers as ”the girl who took her Mum to Antwerp”.  A year and a karaoke bar later and we are still laughing about it, but I get the feeling that it will never happen again… or will it?