Diary - Mel (without Sue)

We were excited about taking part in a proper festival. True, our tent did have something slightly M

Is it just me, or is there an absolute glut of rock festivals these days? Now, back in the days when I was a gadabout festie-masher, you had your basic four festivals to choose from. For the all-encompassing brain-fry, there was Glastonbury. If you wanted folk, you could follow the flute-loving flapjackers to Cropredy. The grungers and grinders had Reading, and the fourth? The fourth was a dance/trance-type affair and I simply can't remember its name. I know I attended it for two days because my mum fed my guinea pigs for me and wrote about it in her diary. My only memories of this lost weekend, however, are fleeting - I remember that I wore a bandana, I embraced a lot of people on the dance floor, and I told them I loved them.

When you hit your mid-thirties and have a couple of children in tow, it's no longer easy to cut it as a festival-chick. Of course there are the genuine crusty families who roll up at these events, park their camper vans in a circle, build a fire and let their five-year-olds headbang along to the White Stripes. But if you live near the suburbs, drive a hatchback car, and have drummed the most boring of bedtime routines into your toddlers, the idea of a festival is simply hell served in an overpriced wholemeal bap with falafel and bean shoots.

So what a joy it was to be asked to a big camping party in a friend's field near Guildford! We could have the festival experience but know that there would be soft toilet paper close to hand, and (much more vital) to bottom. There would be music, but not so loud as to prevent us from listening to the omnibus edition of The Archers. There might even be the odd mind-altering substance on offer, but in a bottle with a woodpecker clearly marked on the label. Perfect. I held my head up high and told one of my wilder acquaintances that we were going to a festival, but not one they would have seen advertised. Ours was ad hoc, last-minute, very underground.

Raw excitement flowed in my veins as we bowled down the A3 with our tent, cool bags, deckchairs, 50 chicken wings, potty, seven rolls of kitchen towel, duvets, fleeces, pillows, story books, Calpol, thermometer, battery-powered lantern, radio, wet-weather gear, cold-weather gear, swimsuits, sunhats, sun creams, Kendal mint cake, barometer and 14 plastic storage boxes. I even donned a bandana for old time's sake. When our tent was erected, I felt as cool as Jarvis Cocker must feel every time he wakes up, looks in the mirror and sees who it is staring back at him.

True, the tent did have something slightly Margot Leadbetter about it. Maybe the working porch was a bit de trop. Or the little potted geranium that I'd placed next to the biscuit barrel.

All went swimmingly at first. We looked like the perfect festival parents - tousled hair, wellies, beer can in one hand and small child in the other. Come nightfall, however, we entered the very portals of Hades itself. I am never, I repeat, never going to spend a night under canvas with my family again. I felt like I was in a nest of gerbils - interminable sleepless hours of wriggling, snuffling, shuffling, coughing and whimpering. And no blackout curtains. We all woke up at 5am because of the sun's odious rays, blasting us through the useless thin plastic of our piffling tent.

Safely back in town, with the bandana crushed at the bottom of a cool bag, I lay down on the little path leading up to our front door and kissed the ground like the Pope used to do.

The night after the festival, and thankfully within the confines of bricks and mortar again, was the evening of my book launch. I had visions of myself crashing a bottle of champagne against a copy of it and shouting: "God bless all who read her!" Yet apparently book launches don't actually happen much, because publishers don't want to waste the marketing budget on booze. I'm half Lithuanian, for goodness sake. If someone's or something's head needs wetting, it's in my genes to make sure that it gets thoroughly doused.

The guests were all family and friends. Let's be honest, it was mainly family. There was a table at one end of the room with a pile of copies of the book on it, so that people could buy one if they wished. I did feel rather ashamed as a queue of all the members of my extended clan loyally trooped up to the table to be fleeced.

At the end of the evening a lady came up to me whom I didn't recognise as one of my blood. She was the organiser of a book festival, and very kindly asked me if I'd like to attend as a guest speaker. Finally - a festival suited to my age and to my wardrobe. I accepted graciously, imagining myself with a bob haircut and linen trouser suit signing books in a wainscotted room. I begged her to tell me more about the festival.

"Oh, it's very relaxed."

How charming.

"You'll be speaking in the smaller marquee."

I felt like a goat had just butted me in the gut.

"You mean I'll be speaking in a . . . in a . . . tent?"


I mumbled something about tents making me tense and walked away. Never more shall my diary feature the dreaded word "festival".

From Here to Maternity by Mel Giedroyc was published by Ebury Press (£10.99) on 5 August

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