How to survive a family festival

You know how Nature has a way of making a woman forget the pain of childbirth – until her next labour starts. (“Silly me, how could I forget? THIS IS HELL”) Well, it’s the same with family festivals.

Every year, you stagger home – eardrums ringing, spouse catatonic and kids bleeding face-paint – and swear NEVER to do it again. Yet a year later, there you are – stuck in a tussocky field, battering other knackered parents for a hire trolley and a pitch near the loos

Well, take comfort from the fact you’re not the only mid-life nutter.  Family-friendly festivals are increasingly popular. Quarter of a million sleeping bags were sold last year – and many probably ended up being widdled in by a four year-old near you.

Having with my husband and kids done every festival from Glastonbury to Guilfest, Latitude to Cropredy, and Camp Bestival to…Camp Bestival, here are my top survival tips:

  1. Bring a book
  2. Bring another book for when you finish the first one (generally ten minutes into your first Portaloo queue and/or anything involving Mr Tumble)
  3. Bring drugs. Whether you’re packing Nurofen, Anusol or MDMA, self-medication is key
  4. Start drinking at 11am. In festival terms, this is officially lunchtime. Here’s how –
  5. Having taken care, last night, to drug your own kids with Calpol, you will find yourself woken at 0430am by someone else’s baby. (Tents are not known for their soundproof qualities. Festival nights are the equivalent of 10,000 people separated by a tissue).

0530: You and your party will be up and breakfasting. (By breakfasting, I mean “shivering in a fleece, while chewing on a nose of dry croissant”).

As your kids gambol whimsically/ cry in wet grass, you will consult today’s festival guide, wondering how you’re ever going make it through to Chic at 4.30pm on the Main Stage. (It doesn’t matter what festival you go to, Chic will always be playing at 4.30pm on the Main Stage).

Having started early, your kids will demand lunch at 11am.  And again at 1pm and 3pm.  By the time it gets to supper time (at 4.30pm) you will have spent approximately £150 on shit food that slid off the paper plate anyway.  So, to re-cap…

  1. Start drinking at 11am
  2. Do not let your kids anywhere near any ‘child-friendly activity’ that involves the words Wilderness, Fairy Glen, Magic Burrow or National Trust 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾ . It just means ‘mud’. You’ll find yourself squatting in a ditch, while your apocalyptic kids slip in sewage and make brown soup and mud-cakes. Think Mad Max meets Caffe Nero meets the faint, far-distant strains “Le Freak, C’est Chic”
  3. Pack Wet Wipes
  4. When packing the Wet Wipes, make sure to CHECK INSIDE THE PACKET. Otherwise, faced by 3 mud-splattered kids, you’ll go to pull out a wet cloth – and realise it’s the last one. Alternatively, you find the packet is full, only to discover your husband failed to replace the re-sealable strip, and the wipes are no longer wet.  A wipe that is no longer wet is simply loo paper that is laughing at you.

Women reading this: Do not have a period during a festival.  Just don’t.  You’ll spend the weekend trying to fashion ad hoc sanitary pads from napkins that just held a burrito.  If they don’t hold, you may find yourself – like a friend of mine – emerging from a Portaloo having had to use a sock.
And on the subject of the dreaded Portaloos…

  1. Master your bowels. Tame that poo, COMPACT it. To quote Daniel Day Lewis’ in Last of the Mohicans: “You stay inside, no matter what occurs. I will find you.” There will be plenty of time to tickle those tigers out once you’re home.  For now, you want the Big Cat to sleep. So don’t feed it fruit, bran or coffee with a cigarette
  2. By the same token, do NOT drink lager, cider or any liquid in volume. Every time you visit a Portaloo, a small part of you dies. Which you then leave behind for the next poor punter to smell
  3. Don’t even TRY to listen to the bands. It’ll just mean standing up. Family festivals are not about music.  They’re about kids making dinosaurs out of old cardboard and packing tape, while their parents stand around pretending they’re NOT bored, this IS cool, and they DON’T need a poo.  If you want good music, wait till the drive home, when you can put Radio 2 back on, and sing along to ‘Black Magic’ by Little Mix
  4. Take a long, loving look at your partner before you set off. Stroke their soft hair – kiss their sweet face – because in 24 hrs time, they’ll be a bog-eyed, booze-soaked cretin
  5. Bring a book.

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