Wednesday, November 20, 2002

The longest night

Reading Festival 1993-ish, Saturday night, our usual festival brethren of me, Wiggaz, Choggaz, Glidder, Melissa and Kazza wander wearily back to our campsite. It's been a great night, B-Real of Cypress Hill lit a spliff so big it cast a shadow over Pangbourne, Perry Farrell's turgid post-grunge fire-eating stripping go-go girls show forced us to the second tent. Blur, a week after they were told they were about to be dropped by their record company, tear the roof off and subsequently save their careers. We're tired now, we'll probably go straight to bed, I want to see Collapsed Lung at lunch time tomorrow, and we'll be in the arena all day, The Gravediggaz and Goats are on and the Chilli Peppers are headlining.

For no reason there's time for one more drink round the campfire before bed. We're festy veterans, we have a six man tent, lilos and duvets, deck chairs and a bin full of beer. Glidder and Melissa retire to their snug two man which is so plush we suspect it's got an ensuite bathroom. It's just me, Choggaz, Wiggaz, and Kazza. Let's have a drink, Let's have another.

It's getting late, the site is beginning to quieten down, it always takes a couple of hours so we must be getting close to 1am. The lights that are strung up along the pathways are no longer bouncing up and down, that always happens, some gibbons think it's the funniest thing in the world to climb up onto the pylons, but it's just part of the Festival at night, blood curdling screams, distant beats, fire.

Wiggaz decides it's time to move onto something more warming and pulls out the bottle of Vodka. It's August, but it's cold and we're approaching 2am, I pull my Orb beanie down over my eyebrows and pull my hood up. Choggaz turns up Derek B's Bad Young Brother on the stereo, maybe too loud, are Melissa and Glidder are still awake? There’s no answer. Nobody’s going anywhere fast, and Derek B is one bad young brother, turn it up.

Wiggaz tries a party trick, he's spitting vodka onto the fire causing it to billow blue flames up round his eyebrows. Choggaz makes a low sweep with his leg and catches Wiggaz's ankle causing him to fall forwards into the flames. Just, only just, he misses burning his face off; he reaches for a can of Stella and slams it onto Choggaz's head. I take a picture; we actually capture the moment between the can being crushed into his skull and Choggaz yelling in agony. It's a great picture. They race off into the gloom, Choggaz lamps Wiggaz and with honours even, they disappear off for a piss against a car.

It must be 3am now, maybe closer to 4. ‘Do you think Melissa and Glidder are still awake’ we ask. There’s no answer. A bedraggled stranger appears from the gloom he has a blanket from Joe Banana's Illegal Rave Tent.

'Who’s here?' asks the man
'Three blokes and a cheap bird' says Kazza

We invite the tired traveller to join us, he takes a seat and is grateful for our hospitality, he has a beer, there's not enough vodka to go around.

'Tell us your lore old man'
'My mate's met a girl and he's kicked me out of the tent'
'What is your name and from whence you come?'
'Ryan, I'm from Rhyl'
'Is there not a sun centre in Rhyl?'
'There is, you can hide on the roof and wank off to the women on the sundeck, it was how I spent my teenage years, can I sleep in your tent, it's quite big'

We tell him we’re about to go to bed, a big three boy one cheap bird gang-bang, he leaves, the sun is peaking over the horizon, Kazza goes for a piss, being a girl she can't just pee up a car, she has to go to the toilet block so she'll be a while. More vodka, more beer, more asking whether Glidder and Melissa are still awake.

"Where's Kazza?" I ask
"Gone for a piss" says Wiggaz
"But that was a long time ago" says I

It was a long time ago, it's late, so late it's nearly early. Nasty things happen on festival sites. Drunk women on their own are attacked, raped, murdered even.

We have another drink.

She's still not back.

"Where's Kazza?" I ask
"Gone for a piss" says Wiggaz
"But that was a long time ago" says I

We have another drink. There's a golden haze in the air, Choggaz announces that bedtime is past, and we're to watch the sun come up. It's still very cold, through the tents we see someone coming. It's Kazza, she's been gone a long time.

"Kazza, where you been?" I ask
"I went for a piss" she says
"But that was a long time ago" says I
"Yeah, I came back, felt a bit pissed and fell asleep under that car over there" she says pointing towards a battered white metro not 15 feet away. "I heard everything you said, but I was paralysed so I couldn't move, thanks for coming to look for me"
"No problem" Says Wiggaz

The site is waking up, the sun is warming and the relief from the night is tangible. People appear from their tents scratching their heads and sniffing lager cans in the hope they'll find something to clear the fluff from their mouths. We go to bed.

At 10.30 we're awake, Melissa's making tea and scrambled eggs in their en-suite kitchen. Apparently they haven't slept either, three blokes and one cheap bird kept asking whether they were awake. Wiggaz sinks a cup of Resolve and throws up on the fire. He then goes for a walk, spotting some friends about 20 feet away. We watch as he ambles over, avoiding the guy ropes, stands briefly as they eat their cornflakes round the ashes of last night's campfire, and projectile vomits all over it. He comes back and goes to bed. We follow and sleep until 2pm. We miss Collapsed Lung.


mildly inaccuracte account. I was sick next to our camp fire, the sick shaped itself to form what looked like a perfect apple pie, which it wasn't but we didn't tell choggazz that when he trod on it.

I object - I was not cheap I was easy!!

Cheap? Easy? It's all the same surely!

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