It’s been a while, but I feel duty bound to report on our annual trip to Camp Bestival, which this year was brought to you by 40mph winds and lashings and lashings of pissing rain. That’s right. The weather could only have been worse if it had literally snowed knives, so pretty different to the previous four years I’ve been getting drunk in the grounds of Lulworth Castle. But a change is as good as a rest. This is how it all went down, in case you were thinking of risking a festival with your children in tow any time soon.
Things started off well enough. This year we have a newer, bigger camper van which to husband’s dismay can actually fit the entire family in, so he didn’t get to palm off the overexcited, arguing children into a separate car for the 200 mile drive it takes us to get there like normal. Thanks to the wonder which is google maps and a free-handed non-driver who can actually operate it whilst moving, we took the world’s most scenic traffic-avoiding detour through some tiny B-roads in Dorset, and before we knew it were queuing to get into the campervan field a mere 3.5 hours later. Result.
The theme for this year’s fancy dress was Popstars and Rockstars, so obviously I took this opportunity to knock up some giant conical boobs and go as Blond Ambition era Madonna because nothing says “howling British downpour attire” better than a strappy pink leotard and microphone made out of a drinking straw.
We’d also misjudged quite how much the orange hair colour spray we covered our son in to turn him into a TINY ED SHEERAN would run all over his tiny face in the torrential rain, meaning that for about ten seconds in our tent at the start of the day he looked bloody awesome, but at all times following this and for the rest of the weekend and his entire life probably he just looked like a melting oompa loompa. It’s still not all come out, and we’ve been back for days now. This is probably just the colour he’s going to be now. I do accept this.
Husband decided to go as Freddie Mercury. It’s fair to say that he doesn’t really share a physique with the late great snake-hipped rock hero, however if you imagine what Freddie perhaps might have looked like had he recovered, had more pies than was strictly necessary and discovered a love of lager and sitting down – well, you get this don’t you:
What my husband lacks in athletic build, he more than makes up for with his creative engineering skills. We’ve always taken a child-trolley with us to the festival. When the children were little this started off as being somewhere we could keep them safe, put them down for a nap, keep them comfortable with ear defenders on, out of the sun etc. etc. In recent years, it has morphed into more of a ‘somewhere to keep all the booze’, complete with re-engineered mobility scooter electric power, because whilst he is very very creative, he is also very, very lazy and Camp Bestival is as hilly as a bastard and those children aren’t getting any lighter.
I’m not lying when I say that this year’s incarnation of the trolley has a higher spec than my actual car*. It has gained a lid, rather than a fabric canopy – handy to stand the kids on as they are a bit too heavy for shoulder rides to see the headline acts now; an electric coolbox which was so horrifically efficient that most of the cans of Pimms I drank (thousands) were much too cold to even hold (first world problems), a phone charger socket, cup holder, and after the first day of gentle drizzle, it even acquired brackets on the side to accommodate a FULL SIZE PATIO UMBRELLA. It was branded to look like a Marshall Amp, and was so convincing that security stopped us on the way into one of the arenas to tell us ‘you can’t play that thing in here’. In answer, we opened the lid to demonstrate a grinning, prostrate, violently ginger-all-over tiny Ed Sheeran, and were let on our merry way. On the final night, Lee actually discovered that if he stretched himself prostrate over the top of it, he could still reach to operate the steering controls, the effect being that he could propel himself home to the campsite up the hill with the children inside on what was effectively a motorised, Marshall-branded, electric coffin-mobile. Utterly ridiculous. But that’s what festivals are for, right?
*For reference, my car has dodgy electrics and cannot be locked or opened with the key, which I have to be honest is less than convenient really. I’ve just about got used to leaving it open, but one time Lee forgot, and left it parked down the road locked using the manual locking buttons on the doors. On my return, I stood for a good few minutes staring at it, clicking the key in futile panic wondering how on earth I was going to get in when, like an answer from heaven all of a sudden all four windows spontaneously and slowly wound themselves down in unison. Cue a swift look left, right, then slow, comedy bewildered reach in through the wide open driver’s window to open the door from the inside. I’m pretty sure that my neighbours in that road still think they witnessed me nicking it.
But back to Camp Bestival, obviously this year was a pretty different beast to previous years because of the unholy British “summertime” downpours. If you do decide to go to a festival (with or without children) you do really have to make sure you take every single item of clothing and at least three pairs of shoes for each person, because you can never be sure that the worst won’t happen.
I’ve done my fair share of judging people who “went home” because their tent broke over the years, thinking that they were probably just idiots who didn’t know how to pitch it properly, but this year we very clearly must fall into that category, because, despite surviving near divorce putting the bastard thing up, after a first night of howling gale, first full day and night of biblical rain, second day of more of the same (*WHY, GOD, WHY??!*) we returned to our tent on the Saturday night to find the weight of the water on its sagging roof had snapped not one, but two of our tent poles. That’s right. Snapped. Two poles.
This is the kind of thing which could cause marital tension at the best of times, but after a full day on the Pimms, towing two soaked-through children through miles of muddy slurry, I can report that this was not our finest hour. One entire half of the awning was collapsed in on itself, with everything on that side soaking in a large pool of rainwater. One whispered row later, we managed to brace up the broken poles using Freddie Mercury’s microphone stand, gaffer tape and a hundred cable ties, further confirming my philosophy that if your problem cannot be solved by cable ties or gaffer tape then you simply have not tried hard enough at fancy dress props.
All in all though, and despite the weather we still managed to have a bloody brilliant time. Being prepared for the wet definitely helped, but it’s probably fair to say that with the rain this year it seemed like we actually did even more child-centred activities than in previous years, as when the sun is shining the temptation is just to sit around on the grass drinking it all in. And literally, drinking it all in, instead of having quality, wholesame family-type fun.
The undercover areas this year did get very busy, but if you were prepared to brave a few minutes of rain, you could always find somewhere with room to squeeze in for something to do. We enjoyed a happy hour watching the kids colouring in in the CBeebies tent, we silent-discoed in the Lego Friends area, we built and fired rockets in the Kidifornia yurt, we spent our annual salary on 5 seconds of fun at the coconut shy stall – all the usual festival stuff which is still brilliant whatever the weather really. There’s nothing quite as hilarious as watching a load of strangers literally raving in a muddy field next to a disco ball the size of your house too for comedy kicks.
I still maintain it’s the happiest place on earth for a few short days of the year, and really, really recommend that you try it with your family at least once. What’s the worst that can happen?!
OVER AND OUT.
If you’re just thinking of going camping with kids, don’t do it without reading my EXTREMELY HELPFUL TIPS here
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