Last Shift

With just a few minutes to spare and Roger carrying the rest of his unfinished meal we headed over to the main glampsite. Our fellow stewards for this shift were the couple we had worked with on our first day, who were also pitched close enough to us for them to walk past our tent to reach the track. There were only 2 hi-vis jackets between the four of us, and we seemed to be rather surplus to requirements again. The supervisor suggested that we man the information tent whilst the other two stood guard on the gate with the security detail. He then disappeared to locate 2 stewards who hadn’t shown up for duty, before going on a much needed break.

We wandered across the 10 yard gap to chat to the other 2 who were very chilled, their previous experience endorsing the relative ease of this final shift. The only task was to ensure that everyone entering this compound was wearing a sparkly pink glamping bracelet. There weren’t even any significant questions after ‘what time is check-out?’ ‘What time will the showers be available until?’ and ‘Will the on-site restaurant be serving breakfast tomorrow?’ 12, 12 and yes was all we needed to know.

6 o’clock came and went. Caro Emerald was on the main stage at 6.30. She was the only act I was disappointed to miss during our one shift covering performance times. I had gone as far as looking up the price of her tour tickets but felt £75 to be rather steep for someone I was uncertain about. This would have been an ideal opportunity to see whether I liked her live act.

With an apparent over-staffing and an entitlement to a break, which we had missed on the previous 2 shifts, I asked if they minded if I took my break early, very early i.e. half an hour after we started. They had no problem and insisted that Roger join me, even though he wasn’t too bothered about seeing Caro and might have preferred to see Squeeze later, but we had seen them previously.

So, having barely settled in we set off to the main stage and enjoyed a very polished act although I’m relieved that I didn’t spend £150 on it. An hour later we were back at our posts and a brief changeover released the other two to go for their chosen meal. The petite Bulgarian security guard showed us where to help ourselves to very welcome tea and coffee plus a few biscuits which might have been appealing earlier in the day. When her two colleagues went off to patrol the tents we learnt that they did regular 12 hour shifts all weekend. We sympathised but she just shrugged her narrow shoulders, looking distinctly delicate for her role but perhaps that was part of the deception. Later when an emergency call about gate crashers came over their radio we saw that one of the big blokes couldn’t run for toffees and without the pot belly excuse of the guy at the bottom glampsite.

Glampers drifted back during the next few hours, some packing their cars, others walking past us with sleeves down, but we were now dab hands at spotting wrist bands. Some stopped for a chat about the last few acts, previous performers, tents and facilities. Delightfully the toilets next to the gate were emptied during this period and whilst it is a closed system, the aroma escaped from somewhere. Then 2 girls not sporting the correct wrist band parked nearby and walked in with an air of confidence, turning left and going behind the toilet block. We looked at each other with the quizzical look conveyed by one raised eyebrow, which neither of us could execute. It soon became apparent that they were the cleaners so we left them alone.

Our partners returned from their meal and engaged us in detailed conversation about our change of lifestyle. They were seriously considering leaving the rat race but were undecided what to do precisely. People often ask us about our new lives but usually in a remote curiosity-type manner. These guys were different. Whenever we digressed onto a related but tangential topic they brought us back to the details of making the transition. I don’t think anyone inappropriate sneaked in whilst we were less than vigilant, but we did have security backup.

Fortunately, after all our breaks had been completed successfully, a call came to ask for 2 of us to help in the main arena. None of us were bothered either way so the other two went off to assist after she had shown me where to take the radios at the end of the shift as there would only be security over night. By the darkening light of dusk she guided me through the trees of the glampsite, pointing out landmarks of particular coloured tents and shaped trees before turning right down an aisle of white ridge tents to one tucked behind a low spreading tree. This still had quite a lot of the owners belongings outside even though they were in the arena. They were also volunteer stewards but had opted to pay the extra to glamp, rather than slum-it with the riff-raff. She would take responsibility for getting the radios back to the supervisor in the morning.

We resumed our patter with the returning glampers, wishing them good-night, enquiring if they’d enjoyed themselves. Some returned our comments briefly, others stopped and chatted. Everything was good-natured and high-spirited. With another coffee in hand, to keep me awake and warm me a little, I bent my head to eaves-drop on the radio exchanges. As this was our first ever experience of anything like this role and with limited activity on all of our shifts it was interesting and enlightening to hear what else was going on. Not much of any significance at this safest and most comfortable of festivals, just redeployments, preparations to clear the main arena after the last act, tracing of lost belongings left in less-than-suitable places and general information.

I was so busy listening I didn’t immediately register that one of the calls was for glamping. Oh, oh, wait a minute, that’s us. I handed the set to Roger, yes, we could stand down. I set off into the dark forest to find the correct tent to leave the radios. Luckily our colleagues had left me a small pocket torch which, whilst preventing me from falling over, did not provide sufficient beam for me to recognise landmarks from the previous reconnoitre. I turned right at what I thought was the correct tree but realised I was wrong when I found tents on both sides of the avenue. A decent suspended light showed me that I should have been on the next row. I turned left at the end and then left again, coming up from the opposite end.

The first tent tucked behind the tree would now be the last one tucked behind the tree. They’d cleared up all their stuff now and I was a little surprised they hadn’t spoken to us on the way back through the gate. But, heyho. I was supposed to just tuck the radios inside the entrance to the tent but didn’t want to start unzipping the front in case they were still awake so said “knock, knock” What else could I do? I couldn’t exactly ring the doorbell. There was no response so I began lifting the zip.
‘Who’s that?” came gruff voice, definitely not female, even after a few drinks and packet of fags.
“Sorry. Wrong tent.” I scuttled off into the night before anyone could spot my hi-vis staff jacket indicating that I should know what I’m doing and not try to unzip unsuspecting strangers tents after curfew. Immediately past the next tree I came across a tent in a familiar juxtaposition with an assortment of paraphernalia outside illuminated by a string of green fairy lights to match the woodland glade. No-one responded to this ‘knock-knock’ either but I opened the tent with significantly more confidence and popped the radios on the groundsheet.

We bade farewell to our security colleagues and headed back towards the main arena, quietly offering our services to other hi-vis jackets en route. Fortunately all seemed to be under control, geven the people, who had left their folding chairs and a bag containing make-up and a mobile phone in the main arena to catch the last act on the 2nd stage, had been reunited with their abandoned belongings.

Frivolities and the usual excesses disturbed our final night’s sleep. Perhaps a 4am turn-in was a little late on a campsite but I thought it was just me being grumpy. However, during the packing-up process the next morning a car’s handbrake was left off. It inched forward, gathering a little momentum before it completely flattened an adjacent tent. “That’s for keeping us awake until 4am” shouted a voice with only a touch of good humour. Not just me then!

We packed all our stuff into the micra and headed over to the stewards’ tent. It didn’t feel quite right to just drive away but there was no signing out process. Behind the tent we found the lovely lady of perhaps a few more years than ourselves. She had been the face of the company providing the stewards; her son was the voice, over the radio. She was delightful, always a smile, a cheery wave and time for a few words whenever we saw her covering the whole area on her motorised bike. She was saying goodbye to two other stewards and I couldn’t help overhear her say that they’d be welcome back anytime. We thanked her for giving us this opportunity and told her how much we’d enjoyed it. All the usual platitudes came out from all three of us and then she said it. We’d be welcome back any time!!

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.