A couple of weeks ago, in a forest, a woman wandered over to me and asked “Is this Narnia?”
Anywhere else, this would have been a really strange question. But we were at a festival, one of those summer gatherings that resembles a collective psychotic break. We were in a forest the festival had dubbed “the faraway forest,” and I was there ostensibly to “perform” alongside my friend J, who writes a column about fashion for the Times.* Concretely, this meant helping her create dresses made of cellophane that she then attempted to spray with fake snow. I was sporting an Edwardian-style cape. J dubbed me “the Snow Queen of Latitude.”
“No,” I told the woman, who maybe got the Snow Queen reference. “Narnia is down the hill.” There was apparently an actual Narnia-themed event taking place not so far away from us in the faraway forest, which I heard involved a wardrobe and some dress-up. (It was unclear if you could actually walk through the wardrobe, and whether there would be talking animals on the other side if you did.)
We were not in the best of moods for this level of whimsy, having arrived at Latitude at around noon that day in the middle of a torrential downpour. (It was “pissing down” as the locals say.) J’s agent had our tent. We had no cell phone reception and could not reach said agent. Carrying all our crap, we walked for what felt like hours from the production tent to the performers’ camping area. The mud was already about 5 inches deep and it was everywhere. Not a dry spot to stop and sit. Finally we were found, and fed, and our tent was pitched, and we could throw our stuff down in it. Finally we could head back to the Faraway forest and do J’s event.
As the Snow Queen of Latitude, I felt slightly miffed at the lack of information about the festival and what it had to offer. The production office tied performer’s badges around our wrists, but did not equip us with a programme. We kept trying to find one, until finally we were told they came in the form of a weighty paperback novel, and cost 9 pounds. “9 pounds!” We resigned ourselves to not knowing what was going on.
The festival, then, took place in a kind of haze. There were multicolored sheep, why I don’t know, and that night a woman dangled above a bridge, attached to a giant glowing purple moon, as the crowd below gawked and gasped. I don’t know who she was either. We were taken to hear a singer called Steve Mason, who was a bit emo when we first got there but stepped it up a bit by the end, and concluded his set by calling out to the crowd: “Don’t let those cunts get you down!”
“What cunts?” I asked, as I had just come back from the loo, and was feeling a bit lost. “Which cunts?”
“Oh, you know,” our friend said. “Just, like, The Man.”
We were in our sleeping bags by 12:30, after an ill-advised late night stop at a food stand, where I had some kind of chicken kebab. It was about 5 am when I was woken up by stomach convulsions so painful and so deep they could easily have been confused with labor pains. Then the migraine set in. Sunday, then, could be summarized thusly: nausea, dizziness, chills, projectile vomiting, ambulance, first aid tent, more puking, dizziness, chills, napping, and then a really cute medic called Michael, who stuck his head under the covers where I was hiding and gave me the good drugs. We ended up missing our train back to Oxford and spent the night in Southwold, where my APC sunglasses were stolen the next day, but where I found a Barbour that suited me half-price.
The following weekend, we camped again, at Port Eliot. On which, more to come, with more literature and less puking.
*For the record, J has only good things to say about Latitude. All views expressed here are wholly my own and are not to be confused with hers, which she has recorded here. For her take on Southwold, see here.