1

To The Secret Garden, To Cater For Youths And Rapists

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As ever, I take a train to where I’m told to go. This time I’m heading out of London, with no idea of where I am on the Earth. It’s a good start for an adventure like this. Head into the English countryside, ask no questions, turn off communications. The train is hot and half busy. I finish Bukowski’s Women and am instilled with a desire to fuck all of the beautiful problems of the world, the insatiable idiots, the unsuitable women. As a married man, summer is a perilous time. You stay up twice as long, drink constantly and go to fields with half-naked teenagers everywhere. Heat rises quick.

The ride dissolves into napping. I wake occasionally, covered in sweat, confused by the changes of location, from dream to unknown countryside. Time passes whilst visions stretch out. Soon I’m stating my credentials as a caterer and gaining a wristband that’ll smooth over the rest of the week. Two years ago I was going to festivals pretending to be a journalist, now it’s catering. I can only hope things have changed again by this time next year.

Edd, a proper chef, meets me by the Helter Skelter, just off from the giant straw fox. The façade of the festival is still being tinkered with, there’s people here and there labouriously preparing the paradise for eager minds. Edd and I embrace for too long, as usual. Tiny Wife has her concerns about my sexuality. I think all will be fine but I understand her reasoning as Edd and I are always in each other’s arms. Add in my undying love for some young directors and my hot flushes around Jamie Lee and the idea that I adore dick doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

By the time night falls we’ve met the team, surveyed the kitchen and worked over a bottle of Magic Rock’s best booze. We’ve camped in a quiet spot by a stream, for ease of evening piss, though it remains to be seen how much time we’ll spend in our plastic beds. Our first challenge is to find fun at a closed festival. We’ve made friends with a German girl who’s also a caterer and she comes along for the ride, along with a box of cider.

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*

 

The swerves and dips of the site are testing and real. We roam and conquer everything, resting for refuels and refreshments. The place is primed, waiting for people to spill over the landscape and find their own ways to entertain and distract and medicate themselves. A pond holds a spiked structure too inviting for our feet not to explore. A drawbridge welcomes and the tall wooden maze enthuses us further. This seems like a nice thing someone’s done. It also seems many people are going to throw themselves off the thing, in search of that tiny instinctive bit of fear that’ll flicker about them in freefall, turning to joy as they splash into what will become a broth of unwashed party people.

It’s not too long before we’re told we can’t be in this place. We’re escorted off by the designer of the thing, so we fortuitously get to pass on our admiration and explain that we’re caterers rather than cunts. The guy seems nice and we’re soon on our way to find a hay bale perch to go through our inventory and see what we can ingest for purposes of TWIST. Soon we’re at the German girl’s place of work, browsing a lovely back-kitchen that’s full of caterers getting pissed.

I get stuck in a conversation that I’m not entirely into. Some actor who does catering for the fun and vibes and money whilst also pursuing his dream. His story is like mine but he’s much older and my catering career is hopefully already sliding to an end. I wriggle free and find Edd. He’s sourced a really nice scraper for the grills in our kitchen. With this treasure, a victory tomorrow is sealed. Work time is hurtling towards us but we’ve solved a problem that would’ve only assailed us the moment we entered the gazebo kitchen we’ll be making our home for a few days.

Time really pushes on in this place and I meet a pissed rasta who seems to be coming to an end of his day. The man is good but we’re nearly out of cider and we need to get back out into the world. There’s too much catering talk in here. We’re at a festival for fuck’s sake. Also, the harsh lights are highlighting the details I’m missing. The twist is creeping in but its good and friendly. It’s not long before we leave that kitchen where people are cooking up tomorrow’s regrets and some chorizo too. Lovely aimless wandering in the pre-apocalyptic landscape concludes on a bridge, where we make a base and skin up a reward.

As water rushes below, I document everything and Edd scrawls lines of Peckham’s finest powders. Visitors come and go and bring drinks and joints and their stories. The last visitor as light breaks is young kid with boundless enthusiasm. Highly fuelled, this kid gets on board to the point of bringing over a crate of shit lager. Every time his back is turned we add to the inventory. He clearly doesn’t know what’s to come. Booze will be endangered and pockets will be torn and stomachs will only accept warm, over-carbonated lager. By the time we tire of the youth’s enthusiasm, it’s day and nearly time to cater. Slip into a plastic pocket and sleep and sweat.

‘Goodnight C-Dogg.’

‘Catering…’

*

 

Crawling out of a tent is an awful indignity. Bladder bursting, stomach challenged. Dicks remain filthy at affairs like this. Balls are loose, in a production overdrive, due to heat and modern shorts that contain no arse whatsoever. Ultimate cheeks. Too much genuine softness for the twisted male of today to deal with. We’ve slept mildly, maybe three hours at best. We’re late for work but damage is minimal. Soon there’ll be eggs and spicy things that’ll fill the cracks. We’re going to need all of the hot drinks we can get.

In the confines of the gazebo we cater through and forget about rest. Edd’s expertise drives the ship.

‘Have a quick wipe down and we’ll prep these peaches. Talk and work, talk and work.’

The joys of morning with strong coffee and mise en place are not to be underestimated. We set up our stations close so we’re in hugging distance when throwing chilli and seeds everywhere. The day is slow and nice and people are catered for. It doesn’t take long before refreshing beers are in play. Edges are smoothed out as the day wanders by. A lot of time is spent consulting the line-up, everyone needs to get out and into the fields. Temptation is at an all-time high, however much work is to be done. We must sell as many wraps as possible, yet I must also secure some weed, as I got too stoned before coming to remember to pick up.

The night welcomes us in, there’s people searching and surging about and we’re happy to join them. Catering’s a tough task but at the end of the day you have nice smooth steel surfaces, clean and dry, that are useful in these kind of capers. We do a quick bit of mise en place; pre-rolling and portioning. Outside our tented kitchen the world is alive and we’ve got the energy to join them, to push push push into the wilderness. Soon we’re getting stoned with Steiner student on a hillside. A lighthouse whirls around, testing my pupils and illuminating the wanderers.

‘The music stopped early tonight.’

‘Yeah?’

‘Yeah. All my mate’s are just sat around doing loads of ket.’

‘It’s no way to live.’

‘No, I mean, it’s great, but we do that at home. If I go to a festival I want to meet new people. Like you guys.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Thanks for blimming this joint with me. I’m definitely going to find you guys again and return the favour.’

People come and go from the mound. Always in search of something. We trade pinches of tobacco, papers, filters, bits of hash, lighters and booze. From all corners, out of the darkness, comes the same repeated sound. First a rushed hiss, like a firework just feeling its ignition, followed by the clink of metal on metal.

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DEATH KILLS THEM! DEATH KILLS THEM! DEATH KILLS THEM KIDS!

All of the kids here have a death wish. Disconnecting themselves on ketamine and releasing their minds on balloons. The one persistent background sound of the Garden Party is the discharging of Noz cannisters. Warzone debris is abundant. The night is soundtracked with these little explosions and the day casts light on the litter of spent shells. Day or night, the little rushes are heard, people are switching their minds off, if only for an instant. Everyone’s having a little death.

We need shelter, respite to gather some thoughts and drink some more. We find chills in the chillest spot, where the barman holds a zoot in his lips and is willing to put rum in anything.

‘I’ve got these hot drinks and these cold drinks and I can put rum in whatever.’

He’s got a dodgy Spanish student haircut and the menu boards leave a lot to be desired, but we’re into what they’re doing. Edd’s ordered rum and gingers for both us before I can decide what I need. A huge bottle of shite rum is swung out from under the counter, only to be carefully measured into our drinks. Fucking fake hippies. All in their uniforms, all unwashed, all clearly capitalists.

As we take our first sips a pair of drunk teens arrive at the bar. They’re pretty deeply attractive but they don’t understand this bar at all.

‘Do you have any Tequila?’

‘Just rum.’

‘Just rum? No Tequila?’

‘No, just rum. I’ll do you rum with any of these things.’

These girls barely understand a thing. They confer between themselves as the barman relights his joint. We decide to fuck this noise off and find a seat. We find a tiny sofa and table depicting a map of the world, right on the periphery of the tent, facing in. The action is playing out like so:

To our left a man is passed out on his side. He’s found a nice place to sleep on some cushions and he doesn’t want to leave at all. He has three friends. One is guy who’s seen this shit before and is happy to leave him there. With this man are two women who’re painfully deliberating over helping the pass-out victim.

‘We can’t leave him here.’

‘He does it all the time. He’ll find his way.’

‘Wake up! Wake up! We need to go.’

‘HMMEEEEEE.’ That’s all they’re getting. This guy isn’t going anywhere.

‘Maybe we should take his wallet.’ One of the girls is clearly panicking, in the way that only a middle class white people do. She puts her hand in her friends pocket, whilst directly looking at two young black guys chilling nearby. They seem like they’re happy to keep an eye on the guy but this woman has clearly been following the safety guidelines of the Met Police. The man wins out soon enough and the women leave their friend to sleep.

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*

 

So these black guys are next to the passed out guy. One wears a baseball cap and dips in and out of reality. His eyes are half closed and his head is bobbing but he’s talking to someone about something. He nods in agreement and mumbles. The second guy, skinny, East-African looks, stares out of the place smiling. These guys are tripping balls but seem in good shape. To our right there’s a few guys getting comfy and smoking big cones. Loving life. By the bar the scene is fairly awful.

A couple of weird dudes who look like they’ve just left an office stand around with a really weird dude in a pink Stetson. The Stetson has a built-in tiara and really compliments the high-vis vest the guy also chose to wear. He has a slightly sleazy tanned face with a pointed nose and white teeth. And he’s beatboxing. He’s not bad but I feel he’s on his own and peacocking like a noodle dick. The two young girls stand nearby. A classic duo of blonde and brunette. The blonde always makes you want to grab her but the brunette will always be better company.

‘She looks soft,’ Edd chuckles like a dirty uncle as I continue with, ‘I bet everything’s in great knick.’ At this point I’ve disgraced even myself and we reel our eyes in and turn our talk to each other.

As we talk about stuff and things and catering we work through our drinks and consider the times already passed. There’s information building up, stretched time filled with similar and diverse experience. I know it’ll all follow me like a dream, before seeping into my subconscious and making me mad even in rest. Hang on, the girls are coming over. It seems they’re taking a seat and talking to us. Behind them the peacock is still beatboxing and some arseholes are stood around listening.

Emily and Kate have a story for us. It’s an old tale, but it’s just happened.

‘So I was just like about to drink my drink and noticed that there was a pink pill in it.’

‘Well I noticed the pill and was like DON’T DRINK IT THERE’S A PINK PILL IN IT.’

‘You’ve heard about these pills right? People are dying.’

They bang on a bit about a girl from the media who died recently from some new drug she was stupid enough to take. Still, there’s something gone on here but these girls are drunk and their story stutters. They’re upset and we sympathise. It’s dangerous out there in this world, especially if you’re fantastically attractive.

‘How old are you girls?’

‘EIGHTEEN!’ The blonde is by my side, sat on a cushion, looking up to me and telling her tale. She really wants to be eighteen but I’m not sure she is. During their tale of teen drug issues they mention a girl in ‘Year 10’, which makes me think these girls are 16 at best. Still, we talk and the girls relax after their ordeal. Edd smirks as he spots that I’ve been recruited to help the blonde rewind a long, magnetic bracelet around her wrist. She looks at me with big glossy eyes and I stick to the task.

The tone changes after the blonde has her friend take her picture with me.

‘Better not let my wife see that.’

‘You’re married!?’ Heads wheel in unison. It’s always a surprise, mainly because I’m young, and I also don’t wear a ring. The blonde says little and the brunette stirs to life.

‘I can’t wait to get married and have kids. I want kids by the time I’m your age.’

‘Why? It’s way too young. And it’ll ruin your body. Kids and marriage are pointless. Needless. The world’s over-populated and marriage is just a way to lose money. If you don’t have kids you get to have your whole life to try to find out who you want to be, to achieve what you want.’ She got me on my favourite subject.

BURN MARRIAGE! DEATH TO KIDS!

It’s not too long before the girls are gone. Then we’re just two perves chuckling on a wicker sofa.

The room now goes like this: there’s some new people at the bar, generic and lifeless. East African has gone for a wander whilst his mate naps. The white man condemned utters one more ‘HMMEEEEEEE’ and resumes his death. To our left, the cone smokers have been joined by the Stetson beatboxer, who I’m pretty sure is a rapist. Those girls were drunk, but their story had depth. And they can’t have just been using it as a weird ‘can we sit here?’ pick-up line, mainly because they were way too hot for that. We’re tired and dirty, like old Hank.

‘You guys got a Rizla?’ Stetson man. Edd sorts him out. ‘So how old are you guys?’ Interesting opener. Fucking rapist. ‘Those girls were really nice. Think they fancied you guys.’ He’s nearly panting talking about the absent teens. ‘Want some poppers?’ RAPIST RAPIST RAPIST. Edd does the poppers and the conversation fades. The East African guy is back and his mate is awake and is now trying to wake the pass-out victim. No joy, he’s staying the night. The black dudes then make a spectacular exit, running from the tent, knees high, like a Benny Hill sketch. They chase each other, backs straight, elbows up, fast and slow. They run with joyous comedy out of this strange place, leaving Edd and I with the funniest thing we’ve seen all day. This brings an end to the fun of the place and we also exit into the night.

‘What a fucking rapist.’

‘Who?’

‘The beatboxer. Ol’ pink Stetson.’

‘He seemed alright.’

‘Remember the girls that were nearly drugged? “You want some poppers?” He was in the business of opening bumholes wider, I know it.’

‘Oh shit. I just didn’t think. What a fucking rapist.’

We’re distracted from all of this seriousness by the sound of bumper cars. We’re lured in to the spectacle though not willing to participate. There’s friendly carnage on the electrified stage as the guy running the thing looks away, bored. Everyone’s ramming and laughing and surging about, delighted to have a soft vehicle to explore their frivolity in. Then we spot one guy, aside from all of the rest, seemingly just recovered from a little bump, driving casually away from the chaos. Either with a sense of joy or entirely joylessly, he hugs the outer rim of the platform, breaking and gently easing around a corner. Again we’re delighted by the weirdness of man.

 

• • •

 

2

Hold On, Heartattack Dad, You’ve Got Mouths To Feed

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The endless beautiful sadness of it all swirls and twists and we skirt around the edges. Light comes and things die down and soon tomorrow is declared. We find ourselves in a fine place, where there’s free tea and biscuits and a radio. We talk of male suicide being a killer, when we all know that the real killer is death. Pretty much 100% of people die from death. As we sip hot brews on a rug in a tent that looks like a living room, a group of girls perch next to us. The radio brings MONEY and Jamie Lee’s voice is a warm delight like the tea.

“PARADISE WILL ALWAYS TURN TO HELL
WHEN THERE’S SOMEONE WHO’S IN CONTROL
AND THE MADMAN IN HIS MORTAL CELL
HE’S GOING TO SAVE YOUR SOUL”

A young girl stretches out next to me. She’s probably about 17, beautiful and slender. Her midriff is pale and delicate with a gentle luxurious curve. She enquires whether she’s too close and I say no. She closes her eyes and catches the sun just creeping into the edge of the tent. Knowing looks with Edd; all of this terrible male desire. This is no place for a married man. I dunk a biscuit and listen to the radio.

We get back out into the world and try to enjoy the day. There’s work to be done this evening but for today we’ll seek a gentle drink and find distractions that aren’t gelatinous thighs or joyous dimples. We find solace in an old Fiat Uno that seems to have grown spider’s legs. We’re not moving just sitting and enjoying the rest. This place is big. We’re joined in the car by a couple of young lads. They’re running through their times and ideas, half to us, half to each other.

‘Just get really pissed and fucked until you turn into a wizard.’

‘I don’t think I’m ever going to eat again.’

‘Remember when I went missing then came back with a yellow bag tied around me? Who was it that set me alight?’

‘It got to the point where there was drugs in everything. I tried to just drink water and there was even MD in that.’

‘It was the ketamine in the toothpaste that got to me.’

Drinking a cocktail from a sachet in an outdoor room with a door but no walls, I see an assault course with the title Wonky Races. I’d come across it earlier but thought it was simply a playground for those on too much ketamine. Turns out things go on here and soon there are people in costumes with megaphones directing pissed people on space-hoppers around the course. From both directions I can hear awful bands that sound like Mumford and Sons at different speeds. The only decent tunes I’ve heard here at all are through the radio. At night everything is throbbing bass, a lure to kids and idiots who’ve taken drugs to make them move to whatever dreck is pumped out.

As we move back towards work, approach the idea of doing some catering, I see a young ‘hippy’ girl searching in a bin. She forages some food, half eaten on a paper plate, and seems happy. She shouts her boyfriend and passes him the meal. He eats gladly and my stomach turns. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with eating leftovers. These are certainly the closest to true hippies I’ve seen. Really dirty. The first guy we encountered here was a full on fake hippy arsehole, scamming bread and boring us with stories of how he can’t hold down a job because he’s shit to work with, or that’s what I took from the tales. We see him several more times. He always wants something and is always wearing a twatty top hat. I don’t like him at all.

The evening’s catering is slow and boring, though one amusing tale does break out. A few tents down, Some Cunt From The Telly is making pizza. His gazebo is enormous and so is his team. He stares out emotionless from the back, kneading bread and hoping people give a fuck that he was on TV. Now, his business is baking apparently, which extended to wood oven pizza, but after a couple of days, a new sign appeared. His menu board is huge and colourful and imposing, yet on the front of the stall hangs a little blackboard scrawled with chalk. It reads:

WRAP (double underlined),

 – spiced lamb,

 – hommus,

– salad,

– yoghurt sauce. £7.

We sell one thing, which is wraps, for seven quid. There’s three choices of filling but the key player is lamb. We use slow roast organic free-range lamb, wrapped in a handmade flatbread with wild rocket, freshly made hommus, peaches and yoghurt (and seeds and chilli which Edd and I throw about all over the place in fits of chefy abandon). We went to visit this Cunt From The Telly to check the goods out. One of his staff explains how great it is. First she points to some torilla wraps fresh from the packet, then some nice crunchy lettuce, then to a tub full of spiced minced lamb.

‘But it’s the sauce that really gets people coming back. It’s yoghurt and mint.’ She points to a bottle of sauce fresh from the cash and carry. Classy outfit.

‘We’ll come back.’ We exit smirking because we’re dicks. ‘What a bag of shite.’ We later send over a wrap of ours and ask for a swap with theirs. This is common practice in street food, and the real bonus of a job that mainly entails stopping a gazebo blowing away in high winds. The swap is refused and the Cunt From The Telly tells our messenger that he’ll change the menu if we’re so bothered. Very sensitive. Later the sign reads FALAFEL WRAP £6. Anyway, he can Chong a fat dick.

 

*

 

So catering happens smoothly because we’re some pretty sweet caterers. Soon we’re surging and bouncing through a crowd, aiming only for the middle to pump and move to some Niggas In Paris remix. Kanye and Jay-Z are clearly dicks but the beat is big. We make it right into the mix on a whim, willing to taste everything. An idiot stood by a speaker tries to take a phonecall. A man raves hard in a top hat. A heartattack Dad sweats and blows and gets a little taste of his hair gel. He should think of his children and stay hydrated. I’m pretty certain his heart is going to explode out of his chest with Cronenbergian splendour. Out out out before we’re showered in blood.

There’s some caterers nearby selling sausages that we harass for a bit, telling them they should give out tapwater and taking a brew in exchange for our advice. They’re plastic and uninterested. They’re doing catering for the cash cash cash. They clearly don’t love it. But their shirts do state they love sausage. These people are easily confused and it gets to a point we can barely hold a conversation with them. They’ve got drunken women to help and we have a plan to hotbox the Uno.

‘CATERING!’ We shout and wander. ‘CATER CATER CATER.’

Hotboxing a car with no windows is a difficulty but the spirit is true and the weed is strong. We met a man who was kind enough to drop off to the stall, just like being at home. It’s a sign of a fine society when a man will come to your house to bring you some debilitatingly strong cannabis whenever you need it. We’re joined by a couple of dudes who’re on their own thing and don’t join in the mash. Suddenly there’s kids all over the roof and my mind is in an apocalyptic future where I’m stranded in a stricken vehicle and there’s youths on ketamine all confused and twisted, mounting the ride menacingly.

Next we pop-up on the bridge again, where Edd finds he can hang his tarnished feet into the falling water rushing beneath us. It wasn’t long into this thing when Edd decided he needn’t wear shoes at all (other than in the kitchen, that’d be bad practice). I’m staying loyal to my boots that I feel will guide me through everything. We drink whatever we find in my rucksack, a constantly evolving inventory. Passersby are told that this is the best spot in the festival and that they should let their feet hang. Some stop to talk and some hang their feet to have their toes soothed.

At some bar Edd says to a forlorn woman: ‘Come on Doris, you’ll be alright.’ She looks blank. We turn away. ‘She went to all that effort to look like a hippie…’

‘…then she took a gram of ket and now look at her.’ We shout CATERING and run off again.

‘Their eyes are so big.’

‘It’s because they’re so young they haven’t grown into them yet.’

Everyone’s welcome everywhere. I write this down and notice I’m having some trouble forming the letter E. It’s different every time. Who’s to know? There’s a fire that seems wholly unsafe and entirely brilliant. It’s getting light and the bass is still thumping here and there. Some tents are vacant, only filled with litter and cartridges. New Dizee Rascal pounds its vulgar sounds.

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*

 

We find a bar and struggle to decide on a drink. They have Tequila, which I was earlier advised to drink by the boss. The only mixer I like is Elderflower and soon I have one of the worst drinks I’ve ever tasted. Edd’s talking to some old trucker at the bar, who’s reeling off his masterplan to bring a big operation of ice-making to festivals. He’s right, there’s no ice anywhere. £8 cocktails without ice is a dick’s game. This man is going to go far. We keep calling him The Iceman and wishing him well. As we leave the bar with our warm drinks we shout ‘CATERING!’ and ‘THE ICEMAN!’ and ‘THE ICEMAN COMETH!’. He loves it, the mad old bastard.

Scrambling through woodland to find a urinal I laugh to myself about an idea for a festival whorehouse that sells £1 dick. We’d never make any money but I think the vibe would be nice. Post-piss I find Edd by an abandoned post. A wooden bar that’s usually home to the Wild Woodland Workshops is closed for business and covered in litter. We have an automatic clean down, removing the litter to the bin and clearing puddles with paper. We take a perch behind the bar and mix our drinks together. Something has to kill this fucking awful beverage. We get help with this task from people who come to what they seem to think is a bar of some sort.

‘This drink is pretty shit. Do you want a taste?’

‘Oh yeah, that’s not nice at all, do you want some of this?’

And so various bottles and cans of various alcoholic liquids are squirted and poured into the cup, which tastes better and better as time passes and people come and go. The first is a couple of girls, one from Melbourne, who I tell about my Australian wife. It’s a shame because she’s pretty pretty and is carrying rum.

Most seem to think we work for an information point, so we give them information, others just want somewhere to hang out at 6am. The whole time we’ve been here, there’s been a man passed out by a fence a little way off. Until now he’s remained unmolested. Someone goes over to give him a shoulder shake.

‘Oi, leave him alone, he’s having a nap!’ This from Edd who’s happy to let sleeping mashed people lie.

‘I hope he’s not dead.’ He’s not dead, as it’s not long before he’s at the bar and we’re offering him some of our joint.

‘Hi guys,’ sheepish as fuck, ‘I heard you helped me out. Thanks so much. What are doing here?’

‘Just chilling.’ We make him drink plenty of water and listen to his story. He laughs and warms in to the day. The pass-out guy hangs out for a bit, along with some older dude who’s a big fan of the bar. Our next guest is a strange beautiful woman who joins Edd in drawing pictures whilst I write a letter to old Heart Attack Dad from earlier. Our drinking and drawing and smoking goes on through the white morning.

‘There’s a songwriting workshop at 1, we probably need to be out of here for then.’

Calm is broken by some rowdy older people who seem to want a reason for everything. One older woman thinks she knows what’s going on here.

‘So these guys are just drawing pictures? That’s nice. And what do you do?’

‘Me? I’m the narrator.’

‘I think these guys should be left alone.’ Now, it’s true that Edd should bang this weird chick, but the idea that the time is now and we need destroy this thing is all wrong. But she’s insistant and like my mum’s age. ‘I really think you should come with me.’ Tugging at my arm. I’m trying to work, but she’s clearly an idiot. There’s only one route out.

‘I’m sorry. I’m just not interested. I’m married. She’s beautiful and 23.’

‘Oh, no, I just think these guys should be left alone.’

‘Yeah, I understand, but I’m married.’ I repeat this until she walks off offended.

I cast my eye over the pictures being produced next to me. Edd’s produced a landscape and this girl a design for an entertainment tent.

‘Is this real or an idea?’

‘Erm, well, it exists in my head so it doesn’t really matter.’ She smiles and looks at her work. Mad as a bag of cats but endlessly lovely. I hope she drags Edd into a bush, but she just ends up wandering off after a few hours. Near 8am we decide to leave, but are loathe to leave the place unmanned. We hassle people into taking our shift and implore people to pick up litter. We leave a couple of bemused guys by the bar, unsure how to cater.

‘That was a great pop-up.’

‘Yeah, everyone should enjoy a free banter service with zoots and questionable drinks.’

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Our next rest comes by a fire. A hippie girl passes selling £2 gin punch. We take a couple of plastic cups from her and congratulate her on her catering. Best breakfast in the place. Still, the noise of balloons rapidly inflating infects the air. The drink tastes of gin and isn’t horrible so life is good. Everything is bleached by the new day but it’s not tomorrow yet because that’d mean work is soon. We talk to a fellow caterer against Edd’s wishes ‘I don’t think we’re suitable,’ and then stumble across a big open-air bed that invites a lie-down. I close my eyes and the world rumbles wearily.

‘I can’t understand why everything is so damp.’ A confused passer-by with limited knowledge. The next distraction is some loud pikey guy who sits down near Edd’s head. Soon he’s shouting because Edd’s shoved him off and I’ve just looked and shrugged. My shrug is cool because I don’t know what Edd did. The pikey soon takes his tombstone teeth on their way and we rest a little. I can’t settle at all, whilst Edd seems peaceful. The same goes for our next perch on some hay bales under a tree. By this point work is open but I’m not yet due to cater. I head over, grab breakfast and sit by Edd as he naps. The food is a struggle but I think I’m going to hold together.

 

*

 

Work passes quick as I’m only doing the middle of the day. Me, Edd and the boss are all free for the evening. Shame it’s starting to piss down. It takes us ages to get out of the gazebo, constantly distracted by telling the other staff how to cater in our absence. We lose Edd immediately, as he’s talking to girl and we wish him all the bangs in the world. We head to a tent and listen to folk and skin up as the rain starts to gain strength. By the time we go back to where Edd was, he’s gone into the festival, crazed and barefoot.

The boss, who I’ll call Jike for the sake of anonymity, and I tour the festival anyway, bored and disgusted by everything. The tone of the affair has changed, mainly due to the weather and the absence of our mad chef. We’re also entirely damaged and tired; me more so because I’ve recently considered sleep optional. Still, we get some cocktails in, though Jike has to tell girl on the bar what needs to go in them as she’s clearly not read the menu nor fully grasps the concept of a cocktail. After the additions of more stuff than vodka and soda, we take our bland booze into the night.

Shelter is the key battle at a time like this. Raving mashed is legit in the rain, but cruising for a decent cotch and some fine tunes is troublesome. We find ourselves in some woodland watching the most underwhelming electro outfit the Youth of Today has conspired to create. There’s an arsehole doing most of the noise with one finger push and doing lots of “feeling it” faces. The guys all look at each other like their dicks are about to go off.

‘This one’s for mad Eddie, he’s the drummer.’ He looks wild. These guys love what they’re doing but the sparse audience is largely apathetic. We stay too long and soon it’s their last effort. As if the honk of teen semen isn’t already pounding out of these guys, they’ve seen fit to ask for the company of a couple of mates, a boy/girl duo dressed as genitals. The boy is a six-foot cock and balls and the girl a huge flapping vagina. They move to the naïve pap served up and we just can’t take any more.

‘What a bunch of dicks.’ Heads are shaken as balls bounce and flaps flap.

‘Why would they think that’s a good idea?’

We’ve become complete grumpy dads by this point, appalled by these youths and making a limping exit.

‘My knee is fucked.’

‘My feet really hurt.’

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Soon we think we’ve rescued things, when we stumble on the most ideal cotch to suit our scenario. We pitch up inside of what looks like a giant kaleidoscope and find a place to rest our catered-out feet. The curved walls of the tiny building become a shared hammock and a zoot goes down neatly until we’re accosted by some teens. They’re friendly mashed and happily sore that someone else got the best seats in the house. Vibes are soon harshed when one of the guy’s sister comes in and starts detailing her troubles. Of a cold mother. Of a father who gave her LSD. Of her 16-year-old brother who she’s just given his first tab.

With all this information the perfect cotch is ruined but I humour the girl who’s half attractive but I get the wife detail in early. Sometimes it’s only to remind myself. I blast some of her joint and am confused by it’s flavours.

‘What’s this weed?’

‘It’s like Thai. But not.’ I’m out of here, I hate this girl. I’d rather get rained on than endure her noise.

Tonight I’m going to bed. Rest is essential, if only to cool the sense of swirling madness. Edd’s out there in the thick of it. I’ll be surprised if he can cope at all. I’m hitting a Bert and Ernie scenario with Jike. Bert and Ernie in a white Transit van. As I brush my teeth at a standpipe and feel cold water on my toes, I wonder where Edd is. I really hope he’s grabbing a lovely girl, whilst I’m not around to let my marriage piss on his parade.

 

• • •

 

3

Teen Interns and Batering For Breakfast.

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I’m woken from a twisted dream of running round Booker’s cash and carry shouting ‘CATERING’ by someone telling me it’s time to go to work. It’s 11am, I’ve slept deep and long on a V-shaped camp bed in the back of a Transit van. I pull on boots and shorts and start work immediately. The gazebo is filled with action but Edd is nowhere to be seen. Maybe he’s dead or sleeping. Catering passes and I struggle to adjust to the day. The long sleep has robbed me of too much time. The immediate work has left me disorientated and grumpy. The lack of Craig and Edd mise en place has made the operation sluggish.

I feel the ship is going to be steadied when Edd finally arrives. It takes only one glance at his wild expression and mud-caked feet to know that this isn’t going to be the case. Edd holds my gaze with glazed eyes,

‘I met a scientist. He had some wonderful MDMA.’ Edd gets an apron and starts to cater, but his fluidity just isn’t there. He knows he needs to get away from the front of the stall when he hands a customer a fist full of bank notes from the till, rather than their change. He steps to the back and the catering continues. We exchange smiles and the thing goes on. By the evening Edd’s functional, but a beautiful madness remains, the madness we’ve been working on all weekend. Our excitement is still big, even when the rest of the staff leave for home, including Jike. We’re to serve the evening shift, close whenever, get up in the morning, do breakfast, pack down the stall and drive back to London.

‘We’re going to do things a little bit differently.’

The night is relaxed as the party winds down. Our view over the lake has changed, as the pirate ship in our eyeline was burned last night whilst Faithless mustered a DJ set that underwhelmed even the most gurning faces. Locked jaws and set stares as Sister Bliss and Maxi Jazz phone it in. These memories are banished as the warmth of the evening grows. The rabble are roused and are leaning into the front of the stall whilst we slowly make them dinner. Tonight we’re sort of telling people what they’re having and tweaking the menu all over the place.

As the catering goes on the night turns darker, tweaks and twists come to the plan. Edd slices and quarters some watermelon, which provides the starter for what has become a supper club by a lake. We use our usually useless empty breadcrates as seats out front and bond with every customer who comes up. Various mad people gather round, all kinds of characters. A girl decorates one of Edd’s eyes with glitter, and now he’s fully in festival uniform, wild eyes included. We separate our kitchen space with a blanket, making the place warmer and less cavernous.

‘I’m going to use this jam from the Gooseberries to glaze the lamb.’

‘That’s what I wanted to do.’ We hug. It’s a love-in and the people are loving it too. Edd garnishes from great heights whilst I place and position neatly. We’re thriving on catering, everyone’s feeling fed. Repeat fans bring friends and we meet a Finnish artist who distracts hearts and minds. As we wear into the early hours traffic slows and we need a rest. Edd employs two interns, in the shape of Lily and Anne, two young girls deeply enthused by the world of catering. We give them our aprons and get them in the stall.

Sat on our bread crate seats we go over the fine details of making a wrap.

‘If you want to do it like Edd, grab some seeds, hold them high over the wrap and then throw then about like you’re not really interested in getting them on the wrap at all.’

‘Have a little wipe down with some blue roll.’

‘Try to apply the hummus in one swipe with the back of the spoon.’

The girls follow our advice to the letter and serve a few people some neat wraps. Anne struggles with the hummus technique.

‘This is a shambles.’

“Do you want to be a caterer or not?’ Their efforts are wonderful and the time off my feet to blast a zoot and be refreshed by a beer is lovely. I find a broken toy gun on the floor as someone asks ‘what’s your best butterfly impression?’ It seems we’re pushing this as far as we can but as the people get weirder it’s time to call it a night.

‘We serve breakfast in hour.’ We laugh at the hyperbole but we’re not far from the truth. The crowd clears and Edd tears off into the night. I talk the girls through a clean down whilst covering the front of the gazebo. I get quite unnerved when I realise I’m sealing two beautiful girls into the kitchen. How old are they? Does this look like the start of a sex crime?

I’m inside and trying to guess the age of the girls when Edd comes tearing in with a cup of tea in a proper mug.

‘I got you this. May have spilt a bit.’ Panting and sweating Edd hands me the brew, which is only half there. ‘I just swooped in took it out of her hand and left again, gave them a blast of “catering!”.’ Off he runs again to find the next thing. I continue my guessing game with Lily and sip the tea that’s too sweet and has to go.

‘How old do you think we are?’

‘Are you eight years old?’ It turns out they’re 19 which is a fine age to be working for some mad caterers.

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‘Do I put the juice in the hole?’ An innocent question relating the cleaning of hot plates.

‘Yes, everything in the hole.’ The clean down is thorough, as I teach the joy of cleaning steal surfaces.

‘Wipe down dry first, get all the loose shit. Then clean nicely with hot soapy. Then dry. Then sanitise, allowing decent contact time, and dry.’ Fine shine on everything. Edd returns as the girls hand over their aprons. We give them a drink and secure their services for breakfast.

‘We’ll pack down our tent and come back.’

‘I wonder if OUR tents are still there?’

*

 

It’s 7am and we’re running full pace through a field of densely packed tents. Hopping guy ropes and snaking towards our camp. An excellent, unexpected burst of pace and coordination. The quiet spot by the stream was gone by Friday morning. No problem, we barely slept there anyway. We stop in our clearing and contemplate heart attacks. Edd’s had a fear of this death for most of the weekend. We breathe hard but lay into a quick pack down. If our hearts burst out of our chests now, at least everything will be neatly packed. I’m distracted as a neighbour emerges from her tent. A BBW in the style I used to chase around when I was 17. Cute face and formidable breasts. I wonder what they look like? She heads off to the toilet and the pack down goes on.

I’m shoving my tent into it’s bag when the girl returns. I hear Edd offer her a Chupa Chups. I presume he throws it over and only turn around when both he and the girl are getting really excited.

‘Look where it landed!’  She pulls the neck of her jumper down to show a bustling cleavage that holds a lollipop at it’s centre. I look to Edd and he’s fucking delighted.

‘What a shot.’ The girl goes back in her tent and we can hear her laughing and laughing and relaying the story to whoever’s inside. She laughs more and more as we talk our way through the rest of the pack down.

Rest is found on the ground, as camping chairs become footstools and the sky becomes our entertainment. We stare at clouds and steady our breathing. A little drink and smoke helps as the noise of faceless conversations ruins the scene.

‘…it was so so good, so funny…’ Some explains a joke.

‘LADS ON TOUR.’ Some bastards working on their sense of irony. Edd breaks our silence, to at least talk over the noise.

‘Did you SEE where that lolly landed?’ We laugh up at the sky and ready ourselves for breakfast.

‘It was good because I really wanted to see her tits.’

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*

 

Back at the kitchen we’re having another well deserved sit-down when the girls arrive. Lily and Anne are clearly dedicated caterers.

‘What do you need us to do?’ Edd gives them bits of paper and flyers and encourages them to write things like “Lunch by the lake?” on them. We’d already been shouting this at anyone we passed. Our aggressive selling has been a key feature, with people we’ve met on adventures coming and buying lunch from the idiots they’d met the night before. ‘So we just hand them out and put them places?’

‘Yes. We want as many people as possible.’ Off go the PR team, dedicated and beautiful, just like in the Real World. We take a celebratory Kopparberg out to the lake and badger some guy to let us sit on a boat, but not to take it out. The booze was free which is good because it’s awful. I can’t get decent beer here at all, but I can get any kind of mad white powder, what a fucking world.

We don’t steal a boat because this is not the time to get thrown out, we’ve got service in a couple of hours. It’s nice to sit and bob on the water, enjoying the fresh day and reflecting on the ceaseless madness. The burned boat sits in the middle of the lake, a strange gesture of spectacle.

Back in the kitchen we sort out the menu. Edd shouts out a list of all of the perishables that have to go and the other bits we have to go with them.

‘Put straw on the list, we’re going to need some straw.’

‘I’m going to make a vinaigrette. Of sorts. With all the herbs.’

‘Great. Great. We need two stations. Chopping board, knife, shit bin.’

‘We’ll leave the front on, whip it off only when we’re ready to go.’

The girls come back and we get the kitchen in shape. Lily wants to make courgette chips. Edd takes her through several ways to cut a courgette. Each style is piled neatly onto a flyer. Edd exits to do some more marketing, the girls do some dishes and I get on making some courgette hair.

When Edd returns he’s being persued by several members of the security staff. One bulky geezer follows Edd into the gazebo. The scene is one of perfect mise en place. There’s beautiful girls busy doing stuff and I’m busy finely chopping parsley and mint. I look over unfazed.

‘We’re just prepping for breakfast.’ Edd points to the scene.

‘I need to talk to you.’ More security arrives. Edd settles on the one he wants to negotiate with and picks him out.

‘I’d like to talk to you. Would you like some watermelon?’ Edd cuts a couple of slices of watermelon and sits out the back with the bald white man. I smile at the staff and get into this big dressing. I chop all available mint and parsley, mix it with lemon juice, gooseberry jam and salt. It tastes big big big.

After much negotiation the situation works out. It seems Edd was writing on some furniture and an attempt was made to stop him. He wheeled away and soon had a dozen men chasing him down. Just like us, these men don’t fuck about. In the calm, it seems that it’s time for the other staff to leave, though the girls seemed inclined to stay. As we say our goodbyes, Lily changes costume. I realise she’s wearing football socks, with TAPE on.

‘Do you play football?’

‘Yeah, left back.’ My position.

‘Who do you support?’

‘I don’t watch professional football. It’s all bullshit, too much money.’ She says something much more eloquent then this but the point is there. What a woman. There’s hugs and the girls leave. They give their details to Edd, just in case we need staff in the future. We, of course, are merely the staff ourselves, there’s just been a minor hijacking.

‘So we’ll do it all on a barter system, a sliding scale,’ Edd’s excited, ‘whatever they give us, we’ll give them back in food.’

‘Cash?’

‘Whatever they have.’

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*

 

The front comes off and we start shouting at the people. We’ve got some oil on and there’s courgette hair frying. Stale flatbreads are toasted hard and cut into quarters. Each portion is like a canapé, a neatly stacked combination of whatever we have in front of us, served up on a piece of our huge A3 flyers. It all starts slow and hits a furious pace. Our only sign reads:

“WE DO CATERING AND THAT FOR £SOME.” It’s from the night before but suits the day. Below it reads “Lily’s Courgette Fries,” in a much neater scrawl than Edd’s. All kinds of people are at the front and we take them all on an individual basis. The first get the mackerel that has to go. It sits atop hummus and the herb sauce, garnished with gooseberries and seeds and chilli. Things happen fast and our donation box is filling up. Edd rattles it like a charity mugger. We see people from the days past, faces we’ve met here and there. They’re all hungry, there’s few places to eat today.

‘Can I get something?’

‘What have you got?’

‘This hash?’

‘Great.’

‘This hat?’

‘Great.’

‘This ball?’

‘Great.’

‘Two quid?’

‘Yeah, ok.’

Round and round. Zipping about and grilling and toasting and cracking eggs. Never once do we touch other than to hug. We finish each others ideas and stack things beautifully and neat. The thing really opens up.

‘I’ve got these carrots.’

‘Well come on in.’ Edd gets a man with carrots in, shows him how he wants them cut (full cross section) and we get them on the grill. We’re sweating and moving and drinking the beers people pass. The pace is big. Wipe downs are at an all time low.

‘I can go and get my clarinet, make some music.’

‘There’ll be food waiting for you. Craig, lots of food for this one.’

‘Great. Who wants some smashed eggs?’

‘Smashed eggs?’

‘I’ve overcooked these fried eggs. I’m smashing them up and putting them on bread with hot sauce. It’s fucking great.’ I nail out a few portions of that and soon we’ve got grilled carrots and then courgette fries and then whatever. Staff come and go. A man washes dishes for his breakfast, another gives us the actual shirt off his back for an eats. The shirt goes back out to a girl who’s cold. This is it, ultimate festival madness, and weird hippie behaviour. Trade, trade, trade. Exchanging goods and services. Building inventory.

Edd’s having a cigarette and the volume comes down. I’ve got someone doing some prep and I’m sweating and moving and putting stuff together. People lean in close as I meticulously pile and place bits and pieces onto burnt bread. Everyone is thankful, everyone entertained. A man with the strongest Scouse accent I’ve ever head offers me ‘caramellow’ hash and I make him a strong snack, some for his girlfriend too. It all winds down as we runs out of food and people.

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‘I think we did something special here.’ We hug for too long. I go off and phone my mother. Then Jike. I pace the stage in an empty tent, reeling off the details of the thing, frantic and mad. My mum seems delighted by the reports. Jike REALLY wants to talk to Edd.

I get back and the front of the gazebo is going on.

‘We’re going to Sanctuary.’ It seems pack down is going to be delayed.

• • •

 

4

The Endless Festival; Resting Up In Welwyn Garden City

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We’re in a yurt with some mad people and a fire. Everything is soft. The people give us joints and joints of hash. I’m getting in a deep lull. Jike has sent me several messages. He’d love to speak to Edd. All I’ve said is something about “abundant gooseberries”.

‘He’s harshing my vibes man.’ Oh shit, the come down is on. There’s a creeping sense of consequences but I really need to sleep and I can barely stand or talk. More hash sees me through. Flies keep coming at me. What do they want? There’s abundant waste everywhere. Still, I’m pretty deeply filthy, I haven’t showered in almost a week. Edd cuddles a clear gastro filled with treasure. He’s wrapped it in a filthy apron for safety. The Scouser is here and some loud girl and some fat wasteman. Two old wankers stoke the fire. They’re probably teachers. The youngsters only seem to talk about tales of mad squat raves. I offer the waster some joint,

‘Can’t man, weed makes me think bad things.’ He goes on to tell the tale of how the police took 500 noz cartridges off him.

‘You do balloons?’ Edd’s been badgering everyone about them. I’d been shouting about how it’s a stupid way to get high and it stuck. We’re against them.

‘Not anymore. I sell them. Until the fuckin’ police took ‘em off meh.’ Wasteman. ‘Last time I did it I thought I’d died.’ I’ve felt a similar vibe in the past, the tiny death of mild suffocation. Never again, I like being alive.

Outside, it’s raining. Nudists pass. A woman plays a guitar but there’s no sound. Simulated joys. It’s strange and surreal but seems safe. Warmth and comfort have been at a premium. A blonde girl bursts in.

‘I’m going, you’re an arsehole,’ BIG Scouse accent. She’s aiming at the Scouse lad, who looks a bit like a young Ethan Hawke. ‘You gave all my weed those food guys.’ We can’t help but laugh but stop short of waving. This is a non-stop fantasy land. The guy talks her down and things settle out. The loud girl gives us booze that tastes like medicine, which seems just about right. My phone has died so it feels like a problem has gone away, or at least can’t be solved. Not by me. Edd gives me the treasure and moves off to a bank of pillows. I smoke more hash and write some notes on the weirdness. Thoughts touch on dreams whilst the softness swallows me up and twisted sleep comes in.

 

*

 

I wake up and the fire has burned down a bit and darkness is slipping in. Still the people walk by nude. Edd’s gone but I have the treasure. I hope he’s sleeping somewhere. He’s probably been eating apples in a hammock with a beautiful woman or having a nude sauna with an old man. I’ll have a quick pack-down here and move on. Store the treasure in my rucksack and change to a rain jacket. I’m glad I took my boots off before I slept, who’s to know when I can take them off next? The loud girl is being quiet which is great because I need to gather myself. The shouting Scousers have fucked off too which is fantastic. My exit is swift, the facilities here are great but I can’t truly be fucked with these people. Pro wasters and fake hippies having the ultimate cotch behind a veil in a field. Put it away mate, we all know it’s there. DICKS.

Back at the stall the pack down is cumbersomely underway. Edd’s in an apron supervising and talking half practical madness. It seems some staff have been drafted in. Edd’s given employ to the guy who was earlier trying to make sure we didn’t steal a boat. He’s probably given him a pack of fags or a blim of hash. We straighten for a moment and decide we absolutely MUST do a stock take. However, in an earlier act of Great Catering, Edd put a padlock on the fridge van which he doesn’t have the key to. We’re going to need some bolt cutters. I check I have everything I need in my bag: water, a torch, a length of rope and head down to the First Aid Tent. I need an ambulance.

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Now I feel almost settled; rested but still challenged. I have no true idea where to go but I have a quest and the time to fill. I’d rather not be packing down in a mild rain.

‘Hi, I’m a caterer, we need to remove a padlock from a fridge. We’ve lost the key. Do you guys have bolt cutters?’ I try to seem straight because I sort of think I am. Though when speaking to a paramedic, that’s almost certainly non-twisted and seen too much already, I fear I look crazed.

‘We do in the ambulance and it’s out, not sure when he’ll be back.’ She’s very pleasant and gentle. It’s amazing to talk to someone who’s not even slightly mashed. It’s like watching television.

‘Well thanks either way. Are you well?’ We exchange short stories and she tells where the production area is, where the tools are kept. As often happens, the lead came up bum, on account of all the staff being down the pub and tool sheds being locked tight.

I head back into the festival and find nice perch in a platform over a tree. I let my legs dangle and drink water. The festival is being slowly pulled apart all over the place and I’m failing. I decide to skin up. I understand why people turn to drugs, as they often make things better and/or easier. If, however, you’ve got any REAL shit to actually do, then drug use can become hellish. This is the reason nobody does ket before going to the gym or LSD before taking an eye test.

‘Hey man.’ Two guys are walking nearby, one has a wheelbarrow so I guess he know tools. They come over and I explain the thing. The barrow boy comes up roses saying that if I’ve got power then he’s got an angle grinder.

I have to walk with them back to their place before we get back to Edd. When I return I’ve been gone a really long time. The pack down is done for the day. It just needs loading fully tomorrow. I tell Edd about the big win but it turns out there’s no power left. And the water’s gone too. Zero plumbing. The guys are thanked either way and they get back to whatever the fuck they’re doing here. We sort of declare that nothing can be done ‘til light and Edd needs sleep before action.

 

*

 

We take a walk out to where the luxurious campers used to live. A vacant lot of hooded white cones against full darkness. Giant KKK spectres. We move amongst the skeletons and look for more treasure. Lost beer, neglected fags, regretamine. I find a bottle of ginger beer that seems to contain alcoholic liquid. We settle in a yurt and string up the torch on the rope for a light.  I taste the liquid and it’s booze indeed, big big horrible shit. A rum-themed moonshine. Awful. I decide to keep hold of it. We share a beer and Edd tears off again, going door to door at the empty yurts talking about catering, telling nobody about things we’d done. We’re made for each other. The jabber settles and he comes inside after a blast of CATERING into the night.

‘We can live at festivals. I see no reason to go back London.’ I think of a decent shower and Tiny Wife, but also embrace the ideals. We talk of sourcing food on the road and moving around the country catering all over the place. We make grand plans and smoke weed from the treasure.

‘Have you seen the stuff in the box? It’s mad.’ We look at the treasure and sift for inventory. ‘Do you remember what we did? It was wonderful.’ We talk of the mad characters ‘til Edd tires. I’m left to write and drink poison in the yurt. I write of mad people holding on to festivals. Those that stay either way. More mash, deeper twist, in search of bigger lives. Our constant capering has been great but some of these people seem to not WANT anything, they’re surviving and skirting through.

With all this in mind, I decide to head back to Sanctuary. Maybe Edd will be there. Or maybe he’s in the back of the Transit. I don’t want to wake him so I won’t check. The night is dark and my torch is weak, much like my sense of direction. Edd and I ran here, blasting ‘CATERING’ and hunting about for things to salvage. I have no real idea on the way back, but as ever I follow the lights. The old birth instinct. I’m reborn into the festival and find Sanctuary to have changed. The yurt holds a few sleeping people but none are Edd. The wasteman is still in but I don’t stick around.

Some people by an outdoor fire barely acknowledge me as I join them. Fake fucking hippies. It turns out they’re going to a party so I give up ideas of sleep again and join them. The ringleader is an older Mancunian man that I get talking to as we walk.

‘It’s actually at the house of the guy who owns the land. This is his actual land. It’s at his house. Well, that’s what I hear anyway.’ We talk further and it’s clear he’s a cunt but this is the only thing going down now and I’ve committed. I escape the man and get speaking to girl named Jess. She’s lovely and here as a caterer. It seems she’s a neighbour but we just didn’t explore our own ends too well. We buddy up for the trip, mainly because we think the gang we’re with are fucking mad.

Our deepest fears are confirmed when we find ourselves wandering around the ground of a grand country manor. There’s no party here and our man is chancer. We’ve climbed no real obstacles so I don’t feel criminal, but being a creeper round a home is bad practice. Still, caper caper. Jess and I ditch the oldies and head back to her place. There’s a party at her workplace that offers serious entertainment and refuge.

‘Make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink?’ There’s beanbags. And ice. Fucking ice. This place IS a non-stop fantasy land. The booze on offer is ‘fake Bailey’s’ which I presume they’ve been putting in coffees and their mouths. I mix the Irish cream with some of the found booze and a decent bit ice. What luxury!

I settle in and meet the cast. Jess introduces me as a ‘good one’ she found. Everyone’s on beanbags gathered near a computer. There’s a line of huge batteries that hold the power for the place.

‘All solar power. That’s why we can still have tunes.’ The DJ for the evening. I forget his name and the music he makes and plays and describes is great but the genre barely registers. We bun weed and I look around the place. Jess flits about here and there. A young guy is in real trouble on some pills, they’ve got some “good ones”, blowing and tensing and sweating. He looks like he’s in the final stretch of a marathon only sitting down. He mainly seems to just do more drugs, despite the worrying signs that they probably won’t help. A friendly dude called Pete keeps forgetting my name but telling me good things. He’s in and out of being deeply mashed but is putting in a decent shift.

Various others litter the place. New entries come in the form of a sleazy dude and his younger woman. They guy is cunt so we don’t talk but the girl, who looks like a great 90’s whore, eventually pitches up next to me. She’s shovelling corners of coke that isn’t from Peckham. It smells fine. She talks to everyone and is fairly charming. Her wet-look bleach blonde hair is not so endearing but her awful, awful skin tight white mini dress is just the right side of trashy. You know the girl with beautiful thighs that are all covered in bruises? Well this is her.

Everything takes hold and the booze seems easier and I get so much thirstier with the never ending zoots. Beats carry through and I DJ for a bit throwing in a Fuck Buttons twist for me to endure.

‘Can’t we listen to something happy?’ The Whore. I pass over to someone else eventually and this only brings me back into credit card range and closer to the ice that seems to be entirely abundant. The shit booze certainly is. These poisons are all so rich.

 

*

 

I’m getting cold air on my face and the light is turning back on. In the fields, out of the tent I feel a deep need to spray off. I suppose these things are best at home. It’d be a foul erotic moment passed in portaloo next to pile of shit and bloated tampons. I’m going to sleep. I need to get up soon and cater.

No time has truly passed when I feel the back door of the Transit open and my eyes take in the sights of the driver’s cab. What a bed. Better than any tent. I talk to Edd a little before I know I’m in real trouble. In fact, it’s not until we’re packing the van, with the aid of the Scouse guy and the fat waster, that I real feel the surge coming. I rush off into the next deserted tent and heave everything in a corner like a dog. My stomach wants it all out. This happens again and again, between helping to pack the van and standing around having a little cold sweat. Despite everything it comes to my attention that everything is pretty filthy. I can’t tolerate the two guys but at least Edd’s trying to snap into action for a bit.

Gripped by this insufferable chunder I’m the passenger as Edd peels the Transit van out the place. As he drives I try to rehydrate to stop my head from squeezing in on itself. Each sip is surged back out by my stomach. It all goes out of the window until there’s nothing but pains. My stomach comes up with it’s own good and sends smooth acid out. Bile streaks the side of the Transit. I spew like a Dr Gonzo down the paintwork of the Big Red Shark on the Vegas Strip. The violent gurgles of abuse.

‘We’re meeting Jike nearby. I need to talk to him. I need you to use your wind up torch to charge my phone.’ My energy was spent heaving my stomach lining out of a window and it also occurs to me that I didn’t eat at all yesterday, aside from things I was checking the heat and taste of. All I did was drink poison.

‘Ok, cool, it’ll do it.’ I wind the thing that I bought for six quid in a camping megastore as Edd gathers pace towards Jike. I can barely keep my eyes open. I dip out and am woken. Edd really needs me to cater but I need to rest. To ignore that my stomach is so broken it won’t allow me the water I need to fix my broken head. I try my best but don’t even slightly turn a corner ‘til I get to have a good settled heave in a Sainsbury’s car park. Carbonated water hits big and the ship steadies. Edd medicates himself with chocolate milkshake and on we push.

 

*

 

Things are looking up when we arrive in Welwyn Garden City. I have no idea where the fuck I am but it’s a pretty horrible place. Sort of like they’ve done a bit of a Milton Keynes but earlier. The town centre is 80% shopping centre. A huge grey concrete mass that it’s impossible to get round. The queerness of it all puts some colour in my face. I also perk up because we’re about to meet Jike and I don’t want to look like a complete waste. The exchange is half-cold and Jike just wants to take the van and run. We neglect to properly apologise for the hijack and the loss of time and potentially money. I convince Jike to at least give himself time for a coffee at some shit deli that looks like a chain but is probably family owned, only by people who learn in the wrong places. Jike only hangs around for a bit before giving us train tickets home and tearing away in the awfully tortured van that holds all of our errors. We’re the bad people here but we can barely feel it.

Still, the girl on the till is nice and apologises for an overcharge by letting me take a cookie that I want but I know I can’t stomach. We order hot drinks and sandwiches and pitch up on a couch. The sandwiches are brought over by a too-young teenage girl who looks at us like we’re mad and surely she can smell us too. Bizarrely, the next time she visits the table, she’s wearing stickers marking where nipples usually are. It’s all very strange, more so when an even younger girl asks us if we’re gay. What’s wrong with kids today? It seems they’re all confusedly accelerating and not enjoying their age. Children shouldn’t need to do drugs, they live that fantasy lifestyle. Always surging towards death!

The sandwiches are ok but mine’s better so we share that. It’s packed with meat and is the absolute kind of thing to help rebuild my strength. This stop is long and we refresh ourselves in the bathroom and get more awkward talk from the girl. We’ll talk to anyone by this point, if only to further the thing. The train takes us to King’s Cross and provides us with a fine little sit-down. It’s settled that we should at least go for one more beer before we part. Sourced Market sell us great beer and I have a lovely talk with a girl who digs beer; severely attractive too. Life is easier when you can enjoy the same things as a woman.

We take the beers down to the bank of Regent’s Canal and pitch up some fake grass stairs. The weather’s great and there’s people scattered around enjoying it. People are jogging and walking dogs and I’m forcing porter from Hackney into myself. The flavours are good but progress is slow. It feels like the only way to smooth out the ills. Being back in the city, we soon find a low-life to interact with. We trade and talk to a young homeless man that seems to want more than we’re willing to give. We trade him some weed and some snacks and a jumper and get little in return.

‘What make is the jumper?’ This from a man in the street, still brain washed by the things that probably led him there. Fake fucking hobos. We leave him with more than he had before, but he doesn’t appreciate a thing. Enjoy winter, cunt. We exit by shouting CATERING and tearing off in different directions. We find each other again by the station and have our last too-long hug for a while.

‘That was great. I fucking love catering.’ Echoes. Alone on the tube I realise I smell like a urinal. My teeth are filthy and everything is sore. My stomach may never be the same again. I glance around at the shit munchers. We almost glimpsed a better life this weekend. I get home and the gang have assembled and there’s incredible dinner on the table. They allow me to rid myself of my reek and wait for me to eat. I shower and listen to Automatic by The Pointer Sisters, a true soundtrack to any catering. The food is great and my stomach just about holds. I get enough energy to tell the some stories and shout about catering for a bit.

‘You must have something more valuable than money? What about some trinkets?’

 

• • •

 

 

Words By Craig Ballinger

Action By Edd Chapman

Pictures from Lily Kirkbride, Anne D Murray and Justin Staunton

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