The Rest of the Fest…

On our second day at Wickham Music Festival we’re aiming to spend longer in the arena but we’re still not going over there too early. There’s little shade until later and the heat is punishing. But we’ll peruse the food stalls and see what they have to offer. Festival food tends towards a wide variety of cuisines and can be delicious, although they’re a bit short on fresh items like salad, which I begin to miss after too long.

We stop by at the Magic Teapot for a cup of their excellent tea, paying what we think we should, as requested. The inside of the wooden building is cute, with benches built into the hexagonal walls but the ash from the wood fire is annoying and as you would expect, it’s hot! By the time we get up to the top of the hill inside the arena everything is, of course, in full swing.

Much of the festival music is being provided by folk bands, many of whom are Irish and while this is not necessarily a bad thing I’m yearning for something rockier and heavier. Today we’ve brought chairs- the lightest, easiest to carry chairs we have, which also happen to be beach chairs. They are very low and tricky to get up out of, especially for we mature types, but we manage- even if we look somewhat undignified lurching out on to the ground and heaving ourselves up. The chairs, awkward as they are prove to be a godsend and we can plonk down in a bit of shade outside a marquee and move when we wish. The marquees are packed inside with standing audience, although there’s a large screen outside stage 1 for close-up views.

Something about a festival seems to imbue the attendees with a desire to exploit their sartorial fantasies, which provides more entertainment of course- although the explosion of kilt wearing is excessive and while it may be cooler than shorts, kilt fabric is thick and woolly and surely sweltering?

During what I like to think of as a lull I go to browse the stalls and return with small gifts for the grandchildren. There are many, many children here at the festival in various states of excitement or boredom, both of which manifest themselves in different ways, from tearing about amongst the sea of recumbant humanity and spraying various substances picked up from stalls [eg ‘silly string’] to sitting, ear-defender clad, with small screens, to eating copious ice-cream/doughnuts/candy floss/chips, to sleeping. There are tiny babies and recalcitrant teens. The festival goers are as entertaining as the music.

Day three passes in similar fashion, except that it’s Saturday and the festival population increases to madness level as those with day passes arrive. By now the portable toilets have become a little un-fragrant in the heat, although the volunteers are doing stirling work on emptying bins and picking up litter. We’re glad of the camp-site trailer showers which are efficient, roomy and clean and save constant filling of our van’s tank. We’re also doing four days without electric hook-up and although we have constant sunlight it’s debateable whether we’ll cope. We’re turning off the internal fridge at night and using the gas fridge [outside] for anything crucial like medication. In the evening we get to see The Levellers.

The last day, Sunday is more laid back, with fewer people, though it’s as hot as ever. I’ve promised myself a visit to the Storyteller tent, where some children and their parents are gathering. The story is for the children and in truth- they are the most entertaining part as they respond to invitations to contribute.

In the late afternoon sunshine we get beers and relax. This evening is mostly about seeing The Waterboys and we’re not disappointed as they launch into their set with numbers familiar and unknown to us.

By the time we get back to the van the electric gauge is on red, but we’re off home next day. And there’s only two days until we’re due to go for a local, family camping get-together-

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

A Leap with a Leaf

On the whole, vehicles are one of my non-interests, along with football and cricket, talent shows, fast food, misery memoirs and a few other tedious topics.

In a discussion on cars I’m interested in reliability first, followed by comfort and economy in equal measure. In a blatant betrayal of gender stereotyping I have opinions on colour, preferring black over any other but accepting of anything except pink, orange, red or lurid.

My first car, like many first cars, was a humble, ancient, faded turquoise Austin A40 with steering wheel so huge that steering around a corner was akin to half an hour’s workout on a rowing machine. Subsequent vehicles became newer, though never new. My least old car was also the worst, an indigo VW Polo that exhibited some kind of electrical fault and let me down with irritating frequency-most famously by giving up at traffic lights at a busy roundabout whilst I was wearing nothing but a bikini and flimsy sarong. Let this be a lesson, readers. This was also before the days of mobile phones.

Now, however it is time for my trusty, comfortable, economical, black Peugeot to find a new owner. It is also time for Husband and me to put our money where our mouths have been for so long and leap into the unknown with an eco-friendly, electric vehicle. They are cheap to run, cost nothing to tax and, most crucially do not belch noxious fumes into the environment. What can go wrong? We’ve adhered to our rule regarding no new cars and have purchased a two year old Nissan Leaf, an alien road ghost with a mysterious array of buttons and beeps.

We’ve begun to learn the ways of this enigmatic machine. We’ve learned that it drives as an automatic, that your left foot must never stray unbidden on to the ‘hand-brake’, which nestles on the floor under your left foot in a sly, provocative challenge as the result is a screeching kind of emergency stop. We know that it will refuse point-blank to cooperate unless your right foot is on the foot-brake [a more benevolent pedal].

We’ve begun to unravel the secrets of the ‘rapid’ charger at motorway services, having spent a frustrating half an hour unravelling the cryptic instructions for insertion, another half an hour in the dispiriting cafeteria [where you are at the mercy of the provision and the prices] and a further half an hour of mild panic discovering how to remove the charging nozzle.

We now know that the extravagant claims of 100 miles per charge are somewhat exaggerated, that a degree of planning must go into any journey of length and that the prices at motorway cafés render the price of the ‘rapid’ charge a little less economical.

We don’t expect to use the car for long journeys and we no longer have regular commutes to make us dependent. The change is a leap of faith in a time when leaps of faith may seem foolish or imprudent. It isn’t possible to make radical changes in the volatile climate of this unstable world but perhaps taking a deep breath and helping to clean some air is a miniscule step towards improving our immediate environment. Who knows?