Ah, festival season is upon us! Music! The sound of summer! Of freedom! Of endless camaraderie, drink, drugs, liberation from the daily grind! And you know the best thing about it? I don’t have to go through a single minute of it.
For me, this is peak JOMO season. I find myself fair bubbling over every summer now with the sheer, unadulterated joy that is missing out on all that festivalling entails.
An older cousin and Glasto veteran (since the late Eighties which, according to his permanently baked memory, were its absolute best days) tried to get me into it for years. At university, friends took over the job of trying to make me enjoy myself in muddy fields. Surveying the fun-filled landscapes, I always felt like the Edwardian actor Ernest Thesiger who, when asked on his return from fighting as a soldier in World War I what the front was like, replied: “My dear – the noise! The people!”
It was not for me. Or, I suspect, Ernest.
So I treat the advent of festival season as a chance to reflect on how much better life is now I’m free of peer pressure. Not to mention secure enough in myself to see that there is absolutely no reason why I should uncouple myself from my sturdy house, fully plumbed bathroom and fridge full of food that isn’t halloumi-and-botulism wraps in order to keep someone company for a weekend and stop them doing whatever they want to do while on whatever drugs they wanted to take.
But when you’re young, you think that if you’re in the minority, it must be you that’s wrong. So I strove to dismiss the little voice inside me that kept protesting that the whole set-up was a form of insanity. That kept pointing out that for thousands of years mankind has sought to improve his condition; to protect himself from the elements, to develop a way of life that amounts to more than a constant search for food, warmth and a decent place to defecate. That kept noting the utter absurdity of willingly relinquishing it all to spend overheated days courting skin cancer in the sun and cold, cold nights courting pneumonia or chlamydia in nowhere-near-waterproof-enough nylon shells.
But now? Now I know I’m right. Better than that, I know that I was always right. Even better than that, I know that other people now know that I am right, and that I was always right. Most of my friends now gaze in horror at the idea of getting their full festival freak on. A few are hanging on grimly, taking their children to Latitude and pretending that they’re having a great time despite toddler tantrums, endemic diarrhoea and absolutely no chance of even catching chlamydia from an interesting stranger any more. But by and large we are all on the same clean, peaceful page.
I put crap music on and literally dance round my warm, dry sitting room sometimes, revelling in the fact that I am not, and never will be again, standing freezing in a field full of mud, piss and vomit trying to care about cool bands and wishing I at least had the thighs to rock denim shorts and a heart that wasn’t 80% hatred of wannabe hippies.
But I am not that person. And I’m fine with it. Warm, dry, about to embark on season four of Orange Is The New Black and totally, totally fine with it. Whatever your thing is, I wish you all as much joy.
Photography: Ellis Parrinder