Eating red pepper humus sandwiches on the train to Reading. Listening to my ‘Fest’ playlist and feeling the most immense anticipation mixed with anxiety. I have my backpack on my lap and my tent all packed away in a bag on the seat next to me. Most of the regulars on the train are gawking at me, probably wondering why I’m wearing wellies and denim shorts plus a headband of flowers. The rest of the people on the train are also carrying oversized backpacks and wearing impractical clothing; they nod and smile at me knowingly. We’re going the same way, you and I.
The next five days are more of a haze than a blur. The sun shines almost constantly, and when it rains it pours – but doesn’t dampen the spirit (much). My friends are screaming at me “Grace, you’re at a festival!” whenever I complain about the state of my hair or lack of makeup. I’m searching every crowd frantically for a glimpse of friends from home or my ex-boyfriend. I desperately want to be on the Big Screen at the Main Stage. My friends and I loot an abandoned tent nearby to find a loaf of bread, several packets of Snack A Jacks and custard creams, and we shout “guys, we’ve struck gold!” upon finding a sealed jar of Nutella. We get drunk at noon. I’m so used to the smell of weed that coming across a pocket of fresh air is both alien and unexpected. We ran to the arena in the rain to catch Green Day’s secret gig; I stared up at Billy Joe and was suddenly fifteen again. We tried to light a campfire consisting of damp cardboard and Fosters cans. I cried in the arms of my best friend for most of the second night, then was laughing again the next morning. Every single person who walks past while we’re mid-conversation gets pointed at and told “this guy knows what I’m talking about!” We spent one afternoon scribbling all over one another’s exposed skin with face paint pens and Sharpie. People are constantly coming to our campsite asking if we’re selling drugs, or offering us some; “Noss”/laughing gas is wildly popular, we even meet a guy who has 90 canisters in his tent and is giving out freebies. We grab a cheeky five minutes inhaling oxygen for £5 at the Oxygen Bar, to keep our energy up for the Foo Fighters gig. Our crazy drunk friend wears a FREE HUGS shirt and thus it takes us forever to get through the crowds. My bestie and I fall asleep at 9pm, wake up at 11pm and go to the Silent Arena. My moods change on an hourly basis and I’m not sure why; is it the antibiotics, the drinking, the lack of sleep, my friends, the crowds, the music, being away from home? Who knows. I’m terrified of being up on someone’s shoulders, but I love the feeling. Talking to random people and finding they’re all lovely and friendly (and just as chatty as me) is the nicest and most shocking thing about this festival business. Feeling close to people I’ve only just met, and even closer to my existing friends, is the best. The toilets are disgusting and as the week progresses I can smell them from across the campsite; I’m not comfortable talking about toilets or bodily functions so I sit and cringe quietly while all my friends do. Everyone is giving up smoking after this weekend. The girl two tents over needs a smack and a reality check – she also needs to stop stealing my friends. I accidentally stole a bottle of Archers from Sainsbury’s. I desperately need a shower. Florence Welch is like a real-life fairy, Dave Grohl is insane and Tom Delonge calls himself Thomas. The expression “bantabantabanta” is not going to become a thing. All girls on site seem to be perfectly comfortable showing half their arses all day long; the drinking game Slut Shorts is guaranteed to get you bladdered. We said hi to Fearne Cotton and Greg James. I had a shower in Sunningdale. We quote Drake & Josh. I was amazed at how incredible the music was, and how much I enjoyed it, given that the main reason I’d come to Fest was for the social antics and the atmosphere.
I’m coming home in filthy clothes, covered in pen scribbles and with a grumbling tummy, immediately watching the Reading highlights on TV, being practically pushed into the shower by my family… This festival virgin has had the time of her life, and is sad to be back in the real world.