The Tents And Transits of Wilderness
Posted on December 10, 2014
Photography By Charlie Whatley
Recommended listening: Bill Brewster’s Maceo’s set from Glastonbury 2013.
By this point I wasn’t entirely mad but I’d long maintained a high bar. Festival season had been fairly gentle, even Glastonbury had passed with a minimum mash. The hardest thing to cater so far was Wild Life, a 500 capacity festival somewhere in a green bit of England. I was always near Oxford or in Dorset or in a Transit. Dangerous things happen in Tory country. I’d been trying to learn everything I could about catering and was busy writing an 8-step guide to having a Quick Wipe Down when I was heading to Oxford again. Wild Life left its scars but I’d learned new skills. I’d had a crash course in catering on Ket and become addicted to some mysterious ‘vibes’. Bare vibes mate.
Festival season is a well-documented thing, from crime statistics to the shit-roll feed of Instagram. For me, this time of year has become a time to find stories and get hold of some filthy cash. Beyond that, I spend my field time charging about talking catering with people and fixing issues. This is almost a guide to doing things for no classic rewards. The philosophy is thus: When not busy doing anything for 8 quid an hour, go and talk to other people about their back-of-house issues. Use this information to learn how to run a slicker ship when you’re elsewhere. (We must never forget that learning is excellent.) This way, everything will be really functional when you’re working, and you can get as pissed and stoned as you like and you’ll still be banging out snacks with relative ease. Know how to balance your life and drug taking through catering. Save the coke for a clean down, don’t act like a fucking barman. Sweaty and aggressive is essential in a kitchen but it must absolutely be kept to a minimum.
This is catering in the wilderness.
It was the eve of another escape, this time to Wilderness, when I was studying a bag and decided that there should be a B-Movie made with glove monsters from the dump. Things like ‘Thing’ from The Addams Family. Fermented old food prep gloves. Shiny on the outside, but writhing on their interior. Inside out maggot houses. Filled full of hormones. The gloves of a cheap burger maker. Mainly due to my commitment to working on this idea for a monster movie, I missed my first ride, in a van with a guy working for The Bowler Gourmet Meatballs. I just couldn’t make it from East London to West early in the morning.
These glove monsters could be up against some stoned caterers that are doing a festival that’s on a toxic dump. Then we can introduce a subplot of greedy land developers that acts as a satire of the music industry and gig promoters. The Fat White Family. It’s basically going to be the first environmental piece to really hit home since Fern Gully.
My ride missed, I found refuge with Jez, the man behind The Bowler. He was heading down but we had to make some stops. I could meet him in Shepherds Bush (Shea-Boo to the awful Aussie locals) later in the afternoon and ride with him in his car. Excellent. I gathered all of the essentials for time in the fields: drink, socks&boxers, papers (both Raw and wet). I packed my bags and made it smoothly across London. If you have to slip through London take pleasure in the cross section you slice through. Be it a walk down a packed high street full of rowdy locals or lost consumers, or a tube ride with the transients, it’s all worth seeing. It assures you you’re on the right track. You get to see a lot of the people you’d love to escape from.
We made it there with little trouble. Jez drives like he walks; quick, bouncy, impulsive, like a toddler who hates sitting still. Here is a man of constant vision, always moving toward something or other. That’s why I was in the car with him. You absolutely must indulge and spend time with these people. Madness is beautiful and enriching. Those who’re willing to push at something irregular rather than bounce along the sludge in the river bed are worth getting into sagging cars with. Jez was also kind enough to free me immediately from work, saying I wasn’t required until the following evening. This was ideal. We were right next to the toilets, which is better than being near the catering waste water for sure. Jez was pleased with the positioning; such was his confidence in the set-up.
‘Everyone has to go eventually so then they’ll walk past our amazing pitch.’ We were looking good, with the mad grass-covered van and bright balls all over the place. The neighbours looked great too. ‘It’s good to be near like-minded and similar quality food traders to create a little hub.’ Everyone gets their hippy talk on at festivals, it’s great. It was time to relax before any push-push came about. To find the story if there was one breaking out.
Narrative develops quickly at a festival, like bacteria in a communal swimming pool. We were in the cream of hippie soup most of the time. Not there though, this was an upper-middle class playground. There were lakes to swim in but the people were fresh – they’d been having their arses wiped professionally for years. I was partially playing the part of their cook or information point. I was to endure a weekend of awful, entitled teens that I couldn’t decide whether to slap or grab.
‘Ugh, annoying.’ I got this response from a girl to my ‘sorry, we don’t sell water.’
They’re not savable at all. I mainly just fed them and looked away, holding the blowtorch close just in case I felt like melting a face. There’s lots of great weaponry in catering, that’s maybe how our heroes in the monster movie fight back. They’re accidental heroes merely because they’re best armed with anti-bac. Super D10. They’ve also got knives and food. Everyone else can’t cater and is fucking mashed.
This isn’t far from the truth, as though catering allows for a flirtation with a festival you’re also on the staff so you exist like a ghost, only at night, going about getting pale. When I arrived the festival was still being put together, there were hours to pass before the public (schooled) were being let in. So I set out to meet the gang, starting with the wonderful photographer Charlie Whatley. He was catering with my long-time ally Bel Shapiro, of The Bell and Brisket. Charlie’s was an open field away, so I took a walk in the British Summertime, getting pink and sweaty.
I found Anna, of Anna Mae’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese, sitting at picnic bench painting signs. We talked about the usual festival things: pitches, power and water points but also about the nature of the difficulties of expanding. Anna was running two stalls at Wilderness, the usual cheesy pasta van (a customised American beast, a1986 GMC Vandura called Burt Reynolds) and a stall doing topped fries. ‘This year it’s mainly about logistics and HR.’ This kind of sums up the biggest growing pain of all street food businesses: not only do the owners have to work on catering logistics, but they have to work on their man management skills, which is essentially like being a social worker in a gazebo.
I spoke to Bel Shapiro about the subject of staffing, which she has plenty of experience with. Bel’s had to sack a member of staff at a festival before, which is deeply personal and unhelpful thing to have to do in those conditions.
“It leaves a slight dilemma as we are basically in the middle of a field, and this person has been asked to leave. Bit awkward, and you’re then a man down with the shamed ex-staff lurking about with nowhere to go.” Bel’s experience has left her threatening Charlie and I with a ‘ride to the bus station’, which was what happened to some silly cunt in the past.
People tend to go astray at festivals and this doesn’t change when it comes to the catering crowd. If anything, we need to party to dull the aches, cuts and burns. Getting entirely lit also ensures a decent deep sleep, when you choose to have one. The people-pleasers at Glastonbury are the best at recognizing the need to party from the workers, catering for them with behind-the-scenes bars and clubs. Everyone needs somewhere to get mashed. Stoned raving in the shipping container dancefloor of Maceo’s is a fine way to pass time when you’re forced to spend it in a field.
Favours from the neighbours is the thing that really holds it all together, whether you need some cable ties, a power tool or just some food. Charlie gathered his camera and we headed out into the fields to locate the people we’d be calling on for help. These were also the people we’d be feeding, partying with, and helping out along the way. First stop was with Emily of Good and Proper Tea. We were also looking for Oli and Sag, the finest helping hands in the game. They’re not chefs but they could skin up on a mountainside and you need that kind of dedication.
We didn’t find the boys but left with the cut-offs from the brownies Emily had baked. He headed off to discover what else the land offered with a box full of half-gooey, half-crunchy brownie ends. We gave the pieces the field hands: the caterers still searching for their nearest water point, sorting out electrical issues, writing rotas on fag packets.
‘You want some best-bit on this brownie mate?’
We visited Bleecker Street Burger and observed the team prepping inside and out of their mammoth burger tank. Owner Zan was elsewhere, probably checking into a B&B. Zan is a catering force, a no-nonsense, craft beer-swilling machine, but she will NOT be sleeping in a tent. We hung out with Nick Brown-Warr, the man who steers the ship for Zan in her absence. In Nick we have one of the most professional, hardworking and chilled characters in street food. We gave him some brownie and mainly talked about football as we’re both Man City fans and we don’t find many in London. In a ‘normal’ kitchen, Nick would be referred to as the Head Chef, but that position is usually held by a special kind of cunt. Not here, there’s no room for egos in a greasy van.
Nobody could escape the brownie ends. We got the people of the Bell and Brisket, the Bowler and some other poor bastards. We checked in on the Luardos gang, headed by the titular Simon Luard. It’s a sickening thing but here we have another of the most successful traders on London’s streets who’s also one of the most decent people I’ve come across. I arranged to cover his girlfriend whilst she does a leather bracelet making class and had a good nose around the back kitchen of the Luardos van.
Simon’s prep and cleaning area is entirely custom-made. A thick canvas structure attaches to the top of the graffiti covered Citroen H van and goes over warehouse shelving on two sides to create walls, before sealing up at the back. There’s a door, of course, boards on the shelving to create work surfaces and a sink made from a plastic box dropped into a hole in one surface. The KP area is a fine piece of work, complete with a drying rack. I told Simon of my affection for his set up and asked him about the best bit of improv he’d seen.
‘The Barnaby Sykes pie guys outdoor chill out area. They had a lighter on a cord that you could swing around and it’d never get lost. And they had an ashtray buried into the ground that they just pulled out at the end. No messin’.’
The Luard family chill out area is one of the best about, as there’s always plenty of seating, a fridge transit full of beer (and Very Neat Prep) and some of the workforce resting up. It’s essential at a festival to have these areas you know are good for a quick sit-down. It’s the closest you’ll come to a living room in these places and that’s exactly what you need: somewhere to sit down, skin up and escape the savages outside. I asked Simon’s girlfriend Brittani about worst-case scenarios at festivals:
‘Bad weather is the worst thing that can happen. And Simon never buys enough alcohol. And he gets shit stuff.’ Simon disagreed with this, stating that he found some BrewDog Punk IPA in Booker (wholesalers). ‘The thing you really need is to be near a decent coffee stall and somewhere that does good breakfast and some healthy things.’
Amongst the Luardos neighbours at Wilderness was Spit & Roast, a regular at most London markets and also their direct neighbour on South London’s Brockley market. The men of Spit & Roast are a fine double act, balancing bawdiness with catering efficiency. Never flustered and knocking out the best fried chicken I’ve ever experienced (save one time in Barbados, but that’s a high bar), Justin and Ross are not only some of the finest characters in street food but also some of the best cooks. Their back kitchen was the polar opposite of Simon’s; a classic black 3x3m gazebo, trestle table, double fryer, chips chips chips. It was at this point I learned about giving all available frozen chips a blanch-fry, chilling them down and having them always ready to go in seconds, not minutes. I’d spread this gospel to the Bell and Brisket and Original Fry-Up Material during my laps of the festival, touring around my London friends like a bar crawl, if a bar crawl involved a bit of light catering.
Down by the lake we were joined by Oli and Sag. As they swam I admired a girl in a shiny black and gold catsuit taking a dip whilst she smoked a cigarette. She showed dangerously good lung control whilst performing the breaststroke and blasting on tobacco. There’s every kind of alluring woman at a festival. Summer is a stressful time for my marriage but I tend to stand very firm, even around the interns. It’s just it seems like there are no bras at festivals. And we’re such fucking savages. Whipped up into a sexual frenzy by a constant barrage of incredible flesh. The thing I find strangest about it all is that most of the flesh is promoted by Very Young Girls. Why are the popstars making music about their arses so often? These Star-Gazing young people are in a lot of trouble. Their syrupy brains are fucked. But we’re no better:
‘If she’s drinking, she’s probably old enough to not feel guilty about checking out.’ All kinds of terrible things said here and there. It’s a Yewtree minefield.
Much had happened when I remembered I’d still not set up a tent. The decision was made to tie my pop-up to the wheel of Oli’s van. He was sleeping in the back of his little green Combo with Sag, like a comfy mash-up of Burt and Ernie with Cheech and Chong. We were camped on the periphery of a staff car park, tucked away from the action, which is nice when you want to just pass out lean in a tent. Charlie had chosen to camp in the default space behind the salt beef van, not allowing for the fact the fridge van turns over its fans every half hour, rattling into life suddenly and aggressively, waking up all who aren’t doing a good impression of the concussed. I asked Bel how she approaches camping.
‘I think the first question we all ask the second we get on site is “where are we going to shit, shower and sleep?” The question of the toilet is always a big one…which is unfortunate when discussing catering. You want it to be close enough for a quick nip out during service but not too close as to permeate through the otherwise enticing cooking smells. I’ve seen some tragic toilet catastrophes at festivals, and believe they should be kept at arms length.’
Most of the final nails of any festival are still going in on the first day, so I wasn’t surprised to find that the lights weren’t on in the urinal block. It’s a well-known fact (in the UK at least) that men are compelled to chat or do jokes in the toilets. This may or may not have something to do with diverting attention from their penis; it’s an awkward time when you’re in a room full of guys with their junk hanging out over a river of piss. Anyway, I was alone pissing in the dark when another guy comes in to join the party. He said something about the darkness and I go with:
‘Yeah, I’m not sure if it’s going to become a cottaging hot-spot or a rape pit. I’d rather the cottaging, because you can opt out of that.’
Saying stuff all the time was becoming an increasing problem. At home, in civilization, I can resist saying ‘it’s full of dicks in there,’ to a passing man as I exit any given Gents, but out here it’s different. We’re all just in fields, behaving, saying anything we want because We’re Having A Good Time.
Four geezers in a gazebo, all with sweaty grins. Hats and beards and tattoos and haircuts; catering pirates. Getting sweaty, having a grab. You wouldn’t trust these men with your children, but they’ll make you a fine dinner. Wide eyes eyeing your filthy cash and you getting filthy flesh on your face. Smug smiles as you pay to be given crabs. Hold on to your teens. Fact of the day is that the molded ruler on top of a cool box is for fishermen to measure their catch. That’s where the caterers sit their interns and teach them how to have a quick wipe down.
Our first troublesome moment comes when my man Oli absent-mindedly plays around with his wristband to the point it becomes irretrievably tight. The good thing is with our access we can walk straight to the Event Control area to get it sorted. If a bunch of baked dudes had this same problem and were civilians it’d take ages to sort out, but we’re caterers. We wander towards what we think is the right place looking for someone to ask, but out stoned senses tingle when we see someone approaching out of the darkness and we all duck behind a tree and take a different route.
‘Aren’t we looking for people to talk to? Did we just run away from that guy?’
‘It’s over here.’ And there we have it, we found the right portacabin. The problem is solved quickly with lots of radios and golf buggies. Access All Areas wins.
Later that night, Sag, Oli and I launched into the valley, for a spot of the advertised ‘late night revelry’. I’d go again with Charlie, but we were too late – all we saw was apocalyptic fields, the dreg ends of a littering party. From afar, when full, the sight was spectacular. A writhing mass of bodies, moving to the music; vibing youth. As we set about the crowd, it became clear that close-up the crowd was mainly just awkwardly shuffling whites, unsure how to move to funk and soul. It was here we met the only black guy at the festival. The man identified as allies by our Fat Zoots and began to engage us. Festival rules require that if you’re bunning, someone can openly ask for a toke. It’s hard to say no in such an atmosphere. It turned out that this man just needed some help. He had weed, he’d just misplaced the essential other elements. So there we were in the valley of vibes, bang in balloons turf, children heaving on noz, trying a little death at our feet, catering tobacco, papers and roach to a stranger. We found the one black guy in a glittering audience of well-dentured English youth. Us, a bearded Armenian, a vibing Bangladeshi and a squat Manc.
I met Dan and Emrys, an excellent catering duo, in a Leeds shopping centre. They were working for Original Fry Up Material then too only in a fancy food court rather than an ambulance/gazebo combo. They were out the back in the double gazebo prep area, sorting chips and that. I’d been in there earlier to have a quick neat and tidy. These boys now had a swift chip blanching process going on, courtesy of knowledge picked up from Spit & Roast. I also knew that the boys didn’t have to worry about that bacon in the fridge – I’d clinged it and moved it out of the gangway. Sorting out a bit of bad practice will clear your head on a shift, especially if there’s a twist creeping up on you. Remind yourself you’re semi-professional. Catering is a confidence game. And, right then and there, it was about making sure you’ve got hash browns that are only 30 seconds from order to service.
It was very neat and tidy out the back at OFM, the only issue they had was a burning table beneath one of their prep grills. Nobody needs a melty table. We catered our way around it with a trimmed down pallet. Dan found the pallet and I grabbed a jigsaw from Simon at Luardos so we were well prepped to resolve the issue. A great man once said that “catering is about solutions, not problems.”
The main problem of catering at OFM was that there were some incredible feats of sexy dress going on next door. For some reason, the girls doing juice were doing it in the most revealing catsuits and short shorts possible. There was all kinds of arse and glitter going on. Maybe it was their USP. I catered through either way; blanching chips, balling meat, organising the fridge, when all the time my mind could only think ‘Get them! Get them! Get them!’ Distractions are always plentiful. As I balled meat Jon sorted out some insurance quote over the phone ‘I’m in a field, without internet, so we’re going to have to do this the old fashioned way.’ I was handballing sausage meat and beef mince by eye into portions “like a big golf ball.”
Out front of the OFM van, Tom was spreading his usual love, enthusing over an order as he dispatched it. ‘The Holy Trinity: a Brekkie, a Cheesy and a Sweet Smoke.’ Tom’s passion for the product is only matched by his love of house music and going out for a vibe. We got very weird together at the summer’s first festival Wildlife, a 400-guest house extravaganza. It was like a non-stop house party, with all kinds of mad faces and incessant vibing about. It was here I learned that you CAN prep bacon on ketamine, though you do have to make adjustments for the tilt. All these lessons learned, there was still time, on perhaps the Saturday night of the festival for me to make one of the biggest catering errors of my career. I was in the back kitchen having a tidy with Dan and Emrys when Tom popped his head out of the back window of the van (I suppose it’s the side window really. It’s a mirror of the serving hatch.)
‘Couldn’t top me oil up could ya mate?’ I took the empty and turned into the gazebo to ask Emrys where the supplies were. He handed me a full squeezy bottle of cooking oil immediately. Great catering. I put the bottle on the shelf behind Tom’s back. I shouted about it and gesticulated wildy, my swollen finger bashing against the bottle. The oil tumbled into the van, snapping it’s nozzle on the floor on impact and leaving a huge hole.
You just can’t clean oil up. Ask BP, they can’t do it. They have to use deadly dispersants. Or they choose to. Either way we could only dab with blue roll and put salt down. I’d made one the greasiest sections in street food worse; nobody wants to have to skate whilst making a burger and dealing with pissed dickheads. I made my escape after attempting a fix and apologising profusely. I was sure Tom thought I was an idiot, and worse, a shoddy caterer. This nagged at me until later that evening when I received a text that read simply ‘vibin x’. This told me everything was ok, that I’d not pissed on my chips with OFM.
I learned almost everything I know about catering from two longhairs called Mike and Edd. Free-range organic kinds of guys with filthy hands. Or at least burned and tired hands. All kinds of cuts and burns. The only people who ran a 3×3 gazebo like a 3-section kitchen. A piss-take of the men in white. No whites, but many ‘yes chefs.’
That said, my first job was with the Kiwi boys of HomeSlice. They’d cater anything. I had my head in their oven for nearly a year. That’s where I learned about driving shit vans in London, and began the decline of my hands. I completed the ruin of my hands with Mike, rolling thousands of flatbreads in all conditions on Brockley Market or around the city. Blasting around in battered white vans, selling food, being rowdy and making a mess. It’s a liberating freedom granted to a caterer, because everyone’s always hungry.
The enthusiasm and knowledge gained from these early experiences led to all kinds of catering, to the point that at Wilderness I was in and out of various vans, just to have a little taste (and, in some cases, for cash.) Two hours of mild push-push with Luardos was perhaps the highlight, as banging out burritos with that gang is always a joy. There were also a couple of ice teas at Good & Proper Tea, a few burgers (plus tutorial from Nick Brown-Warr) at Bleecker and shift in the middle of the day for the Bell and Brisket. I found so many ways to feed the crowd of upper-middle-class breeders that I barely found anytime at all to check out any of the bands on offer. I did, however, attend a talk by George Monbiot, one of the finest minds our country has to offer. He talked mainly of Rewilding England, letting trees grow on open hunting grounds like the one we were stood on, of bringing back wolves and lynx and restoring our natural eco-system. This man should be in charge, because, unlike politicians, he has knowledge and answers.
Let’s attack this fucking model, this government, they’re going to sink us into the sea. Put the royals on the dole. Install George Monbiot as leader and Jon Ronson as culture secretary. Russell Brand as 007. David Icke as Peace Envoy to the Middle East. ‘We’re giving up guys, we’re going to stop being cunts. Play nice.’
The Sunday evening was rainy as I went in for the graveyard shift. I passed a lone girl dancing a pissed ballet to solo piano on the Misguided Stage whilst hundreds raged to Bonnie Tyler in a bar tent. I was fuzzy around the edges, tired and dirty but it was time for a final slog, to drink through it and get back to involved in the final stretch of goodtimes. Things weren’t too bad down the Home Ranch. I’d basically gotten so addicted to charging about feeding the narrative that I just couldn’t take a slow service.
Catering is a meditative, beautiful thing if there’s work to do, but if it’s slow and you’ve not got much drink it can be almost as grinding as staring at a spreadsheet. I was heartened by a small episode I saw through a fence when I was entering the fridge van. A white family passed by with little girl, around 5 or 6, who was being pulled along in a trailer yet still screaming incessantly, despite the luxury of her travel. The young boy of the family is probably about 8 and shows great maturity when he tells the girl ‘you’re embarrassing us all.’ Very white.
‘I can’t work with these nutjobs.’ Shift changeover was always smooth. We were well stocked and there was fuck all to do. I served a few entitled teens and some pissed dads but the only highlight was closing down, mainly to watch the man in charge (not Jez) stood in the rain KPing. This wasn’t out of vindictive spite – Keith is a fine man. I was entertained by how much he really fucking loved catering. To the point that he’s washing dishes in the dark behind a gazebo, pissed. He knew his prep for tomorrow was neat and tidy and that by breakfast we’d be busy again. Keith was ready for a lovely pissed pass-out. I had to take to the fields to find some life.
I found it with the Luardos gang, in a wonderful yurt bar, alive and writhing with movement and musicians. There was a sense of freedom and relaxation, but with a shoes-off policy. There was an open fire and indoor chills for all yet it was all very well managed by a man that was constantly looking for comfort solutions.
‘Can I take that cushion? I’ll bring you something to replace it.’ It must’ve been perfect for another scene elsewhere. As Simon played a tiny guitar our fantasy land disintegrated gradually. The neighbours were spreading into our area in the weirdest way they could manage. When we arrived we were sat next to some posh teenage girls. They were ok and we talked for a bit but my patience wears thin with people who barely understand a thing and pause every now and then to declare a ‘SALFIE!’ These people can’t even talk proper. The trouble began when their friends arrived. I was sat on the corner of a covered mattress, which pulled up next to the short, circular table we were gathered around. The new additions had ‘taken loads of shrooms’ and needed some tobacco. There seemed to be very little spirit of trade coming from this new batch of entitled young pricks so I stayed out of it whilst Nick tried to barter some shrooms. No luck.
The girls left, leaving a guy and girl who’d recently arrived. They lay down on the mattress, encroaching slighty behind me. I shuffled uncomfortably until I was fully on the corner, my vibes harshed considerably. Soon they were under the cover having what I can only assume were some fidgety fingerbangs. I shook my head and looked across the table at Simon’s grin and raised eyebrows. It was a festival after all. Digital penetration happens.
Missing from the mix at this point was Max, a 24-year-old Swiss-born artist living in London and making her cash in food vans. Max fucking loves catering having been with Luardos for years. I’ve learned much from Max (Maxi/Maggs) and would have her in my team on any job, mainly because she knows how to drink.
‘Basically you can survive any festival, no matter how many you’ve done back-to-back, by selectively drinking essentially uppers and downers accordingly throughout the day. A typical day will start with one bottle of water, one black coffee, another bottle of water, another black coffee, a can of diet coke and then a beer to curb the caffeine jitters. Beer can then get you through until about 4pm, but 4pm is the most diabolical hour because you’re essentially halfway through your catering day but non-the-less exhausted. What is particularly effective now is coffee with either whisky or rum. This fixes everything until 6 when I continue on a course of beer dotted with a few cocktails; hammered just in time to wipe down the surfaces.’
As I know she’s often very thirsty, I took Max along some Buckfast which we’d picked up from the Abbey itself on the ride back from Glastonbury (or Port Eliot). Amongst the prep and pot-washing we put away a small bottle of the syrupy stuff between the gathered caterers. I left Max with a can (YES) of Buckfast and took one for myself out into the fields. Max would later describe the caffeinated tonic wine as ‘wildly effective’ for use in that post-4pm lull.
The scene in the yurt passed as the Luardos gang disbanded to piss all over the festival. I found Charlie and headed to Smokestak to see Josh, the young chef that never sleeps, but runs a fucking huge smoker and makes the best smoked brisket I’ve ever come across. We’re lit and take over tea from Master Chai. We wanted rum but our cash had run dry. We give the guys tea and receive fat brisket sandwiches in return. This is the true spirit of catering: a 3am sandwich-tea exchange. Josh is a great character, full of lively stories of learning his trade with Chefs and Men. We talk and talk and get entirely smoked.
A group of people passed, young and pissed, on the look-out for something to do. They wanted to know where the action was. And this is who goes to festivals these days -people with no idea how to have a good time. They need to be told. They wandered off into the darkness to bother more caterers.
We slipped back stage with the tents and transits, to find some rest behind the fridge van. After a quick piss behind the genny, I slept in Charlie’s spare tent, as mine was already packed and on its way back to London in Oli’s van. It was either this spare tent or the front seat of the Luard family Transit. I’m not sure if I regret this decision, as it was unquestionably poor but also allowed for the degradation factor of living and working at a festival to be turned up. The spare tent contained Charlie’s dirty washing (festival grade) and a half-inflated mattress that looked like the saddest life-raft. It was exactly that, as it turned out to be the only escape from what was otherwise a VERY wet tent. I used my hat as a cushion, my hoodie as a blanket and my powerful high as a sleeping pill.
Our final lend was a pair of jump-leads to get the Bell and Brisket fridge van off-site. Charlie was driving back and we had Nick of the Luardos crew for company. As the twist had really set in days ago and my moral, physical and ethical boundaries had shifted slightly, it seemed legit to just continue drinking for the ride home. Charlie was challenged with the driving whilst Nick and I regressed on service station booze. We’d become truly filthy caterers, pawing a copy of the Sunday Sport in the van, pissing in bottles and counting cash in carparks.