The Festival. Day one.

For all you beautiful people who have vigilantly queried when the fresh work is coming, I cannot bear to leave you disappointed for long! I confess English summer has made an earth-shattering entry to my life this year, with two festivals, a new job, yoga, two new babies to take care of (of the eight-legged kind), and a few other exciting things to come! I don’t begrudge life for being brutal at times, but this new season is set to be rewarding and fun, as well as something of a good challenge ^_~

Perhaps you’ll tell me what your plans for summer are too?

But in the meantime, let’s get back to those two festivals. I love a festival. I just came back from Download at 4am on Monday morning. There is nothing better than the grunge and grime of a shower-less weekend, hard packed earth for a bed, and a healthy dose of rock’n’roll (or whatever your choice of poison may be when it comes to music!) So without further rambling, it’s time for a new serial….

The Festival. Day one. J R Manawa.

Charis pulled her pack off the bus. She heard the clanging of metal poles and the crunch of the dead weight as it hit the gravel. Beside her, the two rude girls with their fake dreadlocks in a rainbow of colours snickered as they watched her wrestle to haul the heavy pack back up onto her shoulders. At the bus station in the city the rude girls had blatantly bullied another girl who was waiting for a bus, and Charis had been thoroughly ashamed that she looked like one of them, sitting on her pack and waiting for the same bus, wearing similar articles of clothing in obligatory shades of black. Now she sighed and ignored them, silently lifting the pack and swinging it over her shoulder one more time.

It slipped again, but one of the boys, the one with jet black hair and flame tattoos up his right arm, took pity on her and helped her lift the pack up.

“Thanks,” she smiled, and then turned away because she knew he was with the rude girls, who were now dragging their duffel bags with wheels toward the waiting path.

But the walk to the camp-site was not all gravel and tarmac. Soon hilly tufts of strong farmland grass took over, and the rude girls were left in her wake, struggling in their futile efforts to drag their bags. Charis only looked back once with a knowing grin before she was at the gates, through the queue, and the festival swallowed her whole.

Instantly the world was one she knew and understood better than the real life she lived every day. No one here quite fit in a box. There were boys and girls in plaid shirts, band t-shirts and stone washed jeans. People shuffling about in fluffy onesies depicting well-loved cartoon characters though there was neither a bed nor bedroom in sight. Skinny boys with tight black jeans and long back-combed hair, girls in powdery white makeup with delicate black lines encircling their eyes and forming spidery webs across their eyelids. Then there were the ones with chunky platforms boots in silver or black, fishnet tights, tank tops and multi-coloured dreadlocks, and boys with long black fringes that sat unnaturally perfect against their pale faces and snakebite piercings, one ring on either side of their bruise coloured lips. There were girls in maxi-dresses with gold body paint in scrawls of lines and arrows all over their skin, boys in combat trousers, steel cap boots and army jackets or sleeveless tees.

There were matching couples and matching groups, and mis-matched ones too, with someone from every tribe of the social dark-side of society that you could have imagined, the cast-out, discarded, abused, teased, forgotten, misunderstood and labelled. The freaks, the moshers, the goths, the cyber children, the Lolittas, the weirdos, the rockers, the emos, the glam-rockers, and many more that Charis knew society could not have put a word to. But here – in being different – they were all the same.

She bumped into Kelly at the merchandise stand. She was choosing from a selection of headliner t-shirts for her boyfriend Nick. Charis had spotted her easily in her signature black boots, baggy jeans and a Mötley Crüe t-shirt complete with home-customisation; sleeves cut off, neckline cut and hanging off one shoulder, and a spine of straight lines cut down the back, revealing a host of beautiful tattoos that Charis had always admired.

“Nick is at the campsite. We picked up one of those disposable barbeques. Do you fancy rashers and hot-dogs in a roll?” she asked, sheepishly holding up a packet of squashed and sweating hot-dog buns.

“Sounds divine,” Charis grinned and then grunted under the weight of her pack as she adjusted it. It was late evening already but the summer sun was still blearing down lazily as it meandered its way toward the western horizon. Charis couldn’t wait to remove her hoodie. It read “NORMAL PEOPLE SCARE ME” in well defined block letters across the front, but now she had arrived, she knew there was not much of a need for it any more. In the legion of abnormal around her, the need to make a statement paled to insignificance.

“Good choice,” The girl with candy pink hair behind the counter said with a grin as she folded up the t-shirt Kelly finally chose, and stuffed it into a black plastic bag. “I can’t wait to see them on Saturday night!” She said enthusiastically of the band that belonged to the t-shirt, before shoving her cherry lolly back into her mouth and looking to the next person in the queue with an expression that expertly managed to be both bored and patient at the same time.

Kelly picked up her heels, and struck a path out across the open grass and down the main avenue of the camp-site, past the greasy food stalls and the vegan falafel stand. They marched past the open doors of the wrestling tent where two sweaty men were stuck in a tight embrace against the ropes, and a crowd of beer can-wielding men and women chanted the names of their favourite with rising fervour.

Kelly tiptoed to get a better view over their heads for a moment before shrugged and turned back to Charis. “That must be heavy. How far did you have to walk? Do you want to swap?” she asked suddenly, pointing to Charis’ back pack and back to her armful of black plastic bag and hot-dog buns.

Charis laughed and shook her head, “Let’s just get a move on,”

Kelly nodded resolutely. As they marched on she chatted idly about how hot it had been when they were setting up their tent, how Nick had already burnt his shoulders despite applying several layers of sunscreen, and with beautiful weather like this how did the camping supply stores think they would make any money selling Wellies for eighteen pounds a pair anyway?

Thankfully, the camp-site was well chosen on a relatively flat patch of hill, near the edge of the path, and with a good space still to put up Charis’ tiny one man dome. Nick had saved the patch for her by laying out a tarpaulin.

Charis’ tent was up in less than ten minutes, given that her tent was a dome with four pegs and two sets of poles, and that Charis had been raised in a family of six siblings which meant her only memory of childhood summers holidays had been those spent in the ‘affordable’ camp-site beside the beach in the south.

By the time the sausages were cooked through, a boy called Benjamin with flesh tunnels that Charis was convinced she could have fitted her fist through, and his girlfriend Amy, had joined them from the tent next door. There was also a boy in combat trousers and a gamer t-shirt that read “There are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary, and those who don’t.” in type-writer font across the chest, Charis hadn’t spoke to him yet to learn his name, but he was deep in discussion with Nick, his face buried in a bacon filled bun.

There had been a trade-off for food and alcohol. Amy poured out plastic pint glasses with a little too much Jack Daniels to be considered a standard double, and the gamer boy topped it up with diet coke that was both flat and warm.

By the time the sun finally set and Charis realised how drunk she was, Benjamin and Amy had disappeared, and Kelly and Nick had passed out with their skewers of roasted marshmallows now burnt to cinders on the remaining coals. Kelly was asleep on Nick’s chest, and Nick was snoring softly in the grass with his empty plastic pint of Jack that he had kept straight-without-coke, still clutched in his hand.

And Charis was arguing dungeons and dragons with the gamer boy. She didn’t know anything about dungeons and dragons in all truth, and she still didn’t know or care to know the gamer boy’s name.

Finally she turned away without a goodbye and crawled into her little tent, happily zipping the door shut in the gamer boy’s face and passing out on the ground beside her still neatly folded air-bed and unused foot pump.

Part two of “The Festival” will be up at a convenient time within the next seven days so watch this space!

Written by J R Manawa

11 Comments Add yours

  1. dreamtym says:

    Hi JR…havent read any of your posts for ages..! But will have a bit of free time over the next few days to catch-up, after some minor surgery. By the way…does the sun set in the West in your part of the world too..hehe..? Story reminds me of many years ago and great memories.. Matamata was so much more than Hamilton.. Luv you..

    1. jrmanawa says:

      Hi! Thanks ^_^ we will have to catch up soon! Email me x

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