Ficklish Blog

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Reading

Last time I went to Reading, I slept for a night on a train platform with a garbage bag for a blanket.

I hear it’s a lovely town, not that we saw much of it. We caught the train up from London that morning, our one-day tickets to the festival clutched in our fists, arguing merrily about the inevitable lineup and multiple-stage-scheduling issues we were about to face.

Upon arrival, we discovered to our dismay that the grey London weather had followed us and that though our backpacks were crammed full of useful items, not one of us had thought to pack any sort of waterproof or rain-repellent device. And so, before we could make our way to the festival grounds, we took a detour through the bustling metropolis of Reading to see what we could find to make our day less damp.

The pickings, they were bleak. There were a LOT of people in Reading that weekend, and all the ponchos were apparently already on the backs of other, more organised and punctual folks. Undaunted and demonstrating the kind of buoyancy of spirit that made me such an inspirational Girl Guide back in the day, I led our little posse into Tesco and held aloft the solution to our problem: a value-pack of jumbo bin liner bags.

“With a hole in the top, and two for our arms, we’ll be sweet!”

“But we’ll look like utter idiots.”

“No! We’ll look creative. And, more importantly, DRY.”

My irrefutable logic won them over, and my friends were thusly convinced to don their bin bag ponchos as we followed the sounds of wafting bass up the hill towards the festival.

Whereupon, of course, it stopped raining.

I remember very little about the day itself. I remember the feel of it – a young crowd, a bit corporate and shiny, more BDO than Livid. I remember that it rained just enough to make everything nicely muddy but not enough to encourage McBec and Lindy to model their rocking binbag ponchos for the assembled crowd.

I remember that I was wearing my very friendly “Do Not Start With Me: You Will Not Win” t-shirt, which came in handy when pushy teenyboppers with no manners got in my way and tried to impose their feckless will upon me.

My recollection of the music is similarly vague. Gomez were cool, as was Beck. I remember feeling vaguely lustful watching Elastica (and coveting Justine’s pink visor) and taking a gamble by skipping Pulp to watch Embrace, much to McBec’s shock and derision. Embrace were excellent – though I can no longer describe why – I remember it only as one of those sets that remind me why I like festivals in the first place: amongst the dirt and the assholes lurk delightful surprises.

What I do remember very clearly is leaving the festival grounds late that evening with McBec and Lindy, ears ringing, giddy and elated in that tired way that you just want to bask in for as long as it lasts. We followed the long snake of crowd ahead of us, deep in conversation, reliving our favourite moments even though they’d happened only hours before.

All of a sudden, we were on our own. Somehow we had managed to take a wrong turn along the way and the crowd had disappeared.

It took us a long time to find the station. The post-festival elation started to dissipate as we frantically turned random corners, trying not to panic as we nervously reminded each other that the timetable we’d checked earlier that day had the last train leaving really, uncomfortably close to RIGHT NOW.

As the station loomed into sight, we made a run for it. Bags and jumpers and sunglasses flying, we thundered down the stairs and skidded to a frozen halt as we gazed, dumbstruck, at the sight of the brightly-lit arse-end of the Last Train Back to London, picking up speed as it pulled away from the platform. So freaking close.

We were initially undaunted. There had to be other options, right? There was checking of timetables, conversations with a smug policeman, brainstorming of ideas. Surely we couldn’t be stuck here for the night?

Except, we were.

Gradually accepting our fate, the first hours passed reasonably well, even cheerfully. Laughing at our idiocy, we explored the general vicinity of the station, found a dodgy 7-11 and spent an unfeasibly long time choosing snacks and magazines before settling in for an impromptu slumber party.

It was the longest night of my life.

For one thing, we weren’t alone. Others in the same situation also found spots on the concourse and huddled down for the night. Hell is, of course, other people – and with the assembled mob as miserable and frustrated as we were, it didn’t make for a happy evening. They were loud, they were drunk and smelly and dirty and sick, there were arguments and tears. There were even creepy seduction attempts: at one point a young gentleman took it a step too far and decided to come sit by McBec’s head and watch her as she tried to sleep. I remember trying to calculate just how much it would cost to split a cab back to London, how long it would really take us to walk, whether now was the time to lose my hitchhiker virginity (I finally felt ready, you know?). The hours passed very, very slowly.

It was extremely cold. It was technically still summer, but the night was frosty and the chilled concrete surrounds didn’t help. We sat and shivered with every scrap of fabric we had on us plastered to our bodies. I wore my sunhat all night long.

Thank god for the binbags. Seriously. Thanks to the sheer number of them that we had in our possession (our reward for buying the VALUE pack), we were able to get creative about making a nest for ourselves on the cold cement of the station floor. A binbag for a mattress, a binbag for a doona, a bundle of binbags for a pillow. I adapted the poncho concept from earlier in the day and matched it with a fetching binbag sack for my legs – a cocoon of crackly black plastic in which to lie and quiver miserably upon the concrete, unable to sleep, aching and cramped, wanting to just freaking die so that I wouldn’t have to lie there any longer. At least, I reflected in a dark moment, my corpse would already be neatly wrapped for easy disposal.

By the time the first train to London left the next morning, we had all lost power of speech. Numb and teary and sore, we chose separate seats and rode back to town in silence. It was many days before we could speak of it again.

Years later, the pain and misery have all but faded.

Or so I thought.

The festival is on again this weekend. A friend of mine called on Monday night to ask if I would like to take his spare ticket. I paused for a moment and let the desolate wretchedness of that night flood through me. Good god, not again.

Then I figured – hey, what better way to exorcise those memories once and for all? And so, on Friday morning jLo and Reading: The Rematch will commence. I’m ready.

In fact, I’m even getting pretty excited: these guys, and these guys, and these guys are all going to be there. I might even check out these good-looking young fellows. And who knows who or what else will surprise the hell out of me?

I’m going for the whole three days, camping and all. On the plus side, at least if I get stuck at the train station I’ll have a sleeping bag at my disposal this time.

On the not-so-plus side: it’s raining, a LOT, and there’s no end in sight.

I’ve packed lots of binbags, just in case.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Ed said...

Go see the Pearl Jams, jLo. Do it for me.

12:10 PM  
Blogger jLo said...

I'm a-gonna Ed. As if I could resist. And I'll sneer at the young kiddies and remark loudly about how great they were back in '95.

Because sometimes I like being That Girl.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Ed said...

You could remark to the mud-covered chav next to you who's E-ing off his head: "The atmosphere here's nothing compared to the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on a muggy August night."

12:25 PM  
Blogger Veggie Friendly said...

I'm pretty jealous that you'll see B&S and Clap Your Heads. You'll have an oarsome time. Just take lots of pairs of socks. If you're feet aren't squelchy, you'll be happy.

1:00 PM  
Blogger J, The said...

Words of wisdom from Veggiefriendly. I hope you have survived to blog the tale in all its oarsomeness.

5:12 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home