006 – In The Swamp – IOW Festival 2012

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Christian Security Guy. Drying mud. Penalty shoot-out.
Fourth Day

Every morning here you wake in the sunken mud print of your own body. Usually a slight headache. Lack of sleep and heat combine with the damp in the tent to make you feel like shit. For some reason the porch section of the tent was covered with tiny spiders. We had to keep picking up the webs and transporting them outside.As the day started to settle, we rolled a joint and moved into the gazebo. It seemed odd now. All of the veterans had dropped off. They were victims of intense journeys in altered states. Victims of mud and theft and a crappy line up. The CUNT! had fallen to us. We were the sole survivors.

Sat under the gazebo, Frank Zappa playing on the boombox, a few guys came up to us. It was Sunday, anyone that was going to get laid had already gotten laid. All but the most middle class of festival revellers hadn’t showered for dayand I had a disdain for those that did line up for showers, in suits and dresses with towels over their forearms and little bags of toiletries. Our clothes were caped in mud, style choices were no longer a consideration. Most of us looked like refugees. White refugees. Maybe the result of a cruise ship full of Google employees running aground somewhere.

The guys stood in front of us for a few seconds. The awkwardness of pre-introduction eye contact. ‘Alright?’ we said.


‘What’s up?’

They said they’d chased away kids who‘d been going through our tents the day before. We thanked them but the tents they’d saved weren’t ours. They were Lucy and her friend’s. One was full of discarded bottles and slabs of drying mud, the other with an inflated airbed and general crap. Probably whatever kids had raided Eddie and Ryan’s tents were the same ones snooping around Lucy and her friend’s.

Some people were here for Pearl jam, some people were here for the blowout, some people were here because they wanted your stuff. We’d been lucky. The zipper of our tent was secured with a small padlock. Like a ‘Valuables inside’ sign for anyone who spotted it. Apparently no one did. Each journey back we half expected to be a boombox and some clothes short.

Those guys, their visit wasn’t selfless. They wanted camp chairs. And probably thanks. It’s one thing to save someone’s stuff, it’s another to do it without thanks. The modern human wants glory. The chairs weren’t really ours to lend but neither were they ours to hoard. The owners were long gone. Somewhere hung over with bags under eyes and flaky memories.

We donated some chairs to the cause, then headed to the mainstage for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. This would bring our tally of attendance for decent and half decent artists up to about four. The Stranglers, Primal Scream, Pearl Jam and Noel. I’m taking a point off for Elbow. I didn’t see them. I didn’t hear them. Even years later, my sole memory of their performance consists of coming over the hill and hearing the brass stabs of Stirlings, then quickly falling into a surreal and slightly disturbing scene. Exhibitionism, fetishism and live music combine. That’s common in some places, but none of the ones I’d been to.

We had two joints hidden in the rolled up rim of Yuri’s woolly hat. He went through ahead of me, as I stepped to pass the cordon someone stopped me.

‘Hey, you. Hey. Yes. Yes.’ A security guard was motioning me toward him. ‘Have you been drinking?’

I was confused. Out of everyone here I was probably one of the few that wasn’t drunk and hadn’t been drinking. For a while I just looked at him, trying to figure out what question he was really asking. I knew this wasn’t really about whether I was drunk or not. At least, I suspected. Eventually I came to the idea that he was possibly just bored and maybe a brief interaction with someone was more about forcing time to pass slightly faster. ‘I don’t really drink,’ I said.

He seemed surprised. He asked if I was sure. I told him I was. He complimented my lifestyle choice and waved me on through. I didn’t mention that I’d been high for the past 72 hours. He seemed kind of puritanical. Possibly religious. In hindsight, maybe he stopped me because I didn’t look drunk.

There were no sniffer dogs on the Sunday. The police presence seemed diminished. I guess the logic was, after three nights of otherwise unfettered drug taking, even the most determined party child would be taking pause.

Gallagher’s music suited a sunny afternoon. He played with characteristic swagger and deadpan sarcasm. After a few songs, we sparked up a spliff. A few tokes in and I felt heavy. It was a small joint that took us half a set to smoke. The result was an extremely relaxed and comfortable musical experience.

‘I heard you’re all covered in shit,’ Noel said.

The downpours had been built to legendary status in the news. It was not altogether unwarranted. Mud sluice and torrential rain are both phrases commonly associated with the British festival scene. The weekend had lived up to the stereotypes. Today the mud was drying. The High Flying Birds ended with Don’t Look Back In Anger, almost a hymn now in Britain.

That night we got back to the tent and found that the damp had finally soaked through to our sleeping bags. We were thankful, in a way. It could have been worse. It could have been yesterday. Or the day before.

The sound of England losing a penalty shoot-out to Italy, came to us while we sat under the gazebo and smoked our final joint. After that, festival over and England defeated, the dejected masses began queuing at the campsite entrance. Slowly, they made their way through, here and there small groups split from the herd and started to pick their way through guy lines.

One man came past us and stumbled to his tent. He lowered himself onto his haunches and wobbled thereWith a hesitant hand, he jerked the zip upwards, stopping every few seconds to regain his balance. Eventually it was open and he stood up. He lurched dangerously. One foot went back. It found the ground but not solidly enough. He tumbled forwards, almost head first into the roof of his tent, and lay there, the structure caved around him.

The next morning the man and his tent were gone.

About Luke Smith

I travel around and write about it. When I'm not travelling around, I write about whatever seems meaningful to me at the time; these are usually meditations on current events, finding ways to survive the crushing existential grind of modern civilisation or vaguely philosophical musings.
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1 Response to 006 – In The Swamp – IOW Festival 2012

  1. Pingback: In The Swamp – Isle of Wight festival 2012 – Complete | Journeys Through Pre-World War 3 Britain

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