Our final shift was at 5.45pm so we could enjoy another leisurely start but muffled roars crept into my subconscious again. I don’t have an obsessive need to wave at hot air balloonists but their presence signifies a beautiful dawn and that’s what I don’t want to miss. The campsite was waking with me as some had to prepare for an early shift. I wallowed in my absence of pressure. I had loosely ordered a copy of the Sunday papers from the shop. No payment had passed hands as he gave no assurances that he’d be able to deliver. Well, not literally. I had to collect it from the main campsite but need a cup of tea first.
I was wondering whether it would be acceptable to wander round to the shop in my PJs as our delightful neighbour appeared around the corner of her tent. I’d assumed she was still asleep, although knew she had an early shift, but she wasn’t yet late. She brandished the last copy of the Sunday Times, my order. She was setting off to work and left us her wad of newspaper to enjoy without having to go anywhere. What a star.
Sometime later, on our way to the Pleasant Valley stage, I popped into the shop to make sure that they weren’t keeping a copy aside for me, they were. I’d read most of the sections in which I’d been interested so didn’t really want another, but felt obliged as I had ordered it. Two young lads loitered without purpose behind the counter whilst the main man served another customer. He did have to point out that they were there to serve, not chat; there was a short queue behind me.
The younger brought my paper out straight away and I asked if they could sell it to someone else as I’d read my friend’s (and knew that they had no more copies.) ‘But it has your name on the top’, it did. Fortunately his colleague was slightly less clueless and said it would be no problem to sell it, even with my name on. Hurrah for the anonymity of ‘Smith’.
Opening the main stage that morning were The Mighty John Street Ska Orchestra. A big bunch of youngsters playing modified reggae, and very well too. The human audience was sparse initially, although the phantom chair-setter-up had been busy. We joined a cluster sitting in the shade of the main sound tower, half way up the hill overlooking the stage. The sun crept up on us as the set progressed and by the end we were out of the dark, into the light.
We had an hour to kill before our next priority on the Songbird stage so found another convenient piece of shade under a huge oak and waited rather than walking around, becoming increasingly soaked in sweat. I took the opportunity to have a look at the Medicine Sans Frontiere stand having completely missed that their purpose here was to gather sponsors. The fundraiser I talked to politely indulged me but as soon as someone else loitered I released him and wandered back to our chairs.
We had the decency to fold them away before Mari Wilson came on stage. These chairs seem to be the 21st century version of the German towel on a poolside sunbed! The PV hillside is crammed with empty chairs, right to the front of a demarcation line, beyond which chairs are not permitted. But, a blanket on the ground in front of them reserves a greater area for the absent audience.
The Neasden queen of soul, accompanied by The Wilsations, delivered a wonderful performance once she’d settled down. After 3 numbers she shed her red silk jacket and sunnies and seemed to relax. We were a very appreciative audience, singing along to ‘On White Horses’ and excellent covers of numbers by Dusty, Cilla and Petula before her own hit ‘Just what I’ve always wanted’.
As she waved goodbye from stage left I peeled off to go probably the nicest loos in the arena, to the left of the stage. When I emerged a queue had formed, but I looked over their heads from my elevated position. Mari and her backing singers were coming out from the tent towards their people carrier only a few yards behind these desperate ladies. I wanted to wave and shout how much I’d enjoyed her set but the lack of numerical support and my position illuminated from the chemical toilet behind me seemed to diminish the situation, so I stayed schtum.
When dashing between stages the previous day I had clocked an excellent sounding ska band on the third Riverside stage, not one we tended to frequent. I’d also overheard a conversation about them in the queue for a coffee the night before, they would be performing again, and there they were. A quick diversion into the haybaled seating area provided a front row view, particularly as off to the right was some shade, yeah! These guys weren’t a Specials tribute band but covered their numbers really well. I managed to bounce along to the familiar sounds of my college years without my feet actually leaving the ground, so neither too exhausting nor boob stretching.
A short interlude enabled us to take all our gubbins back to the tent to prepare, not for the evening performances, but our evening shift, as we didn’t want to miss the afternoon sets. Taking a little longer than expected, we said goodbye to our lovely neighbour who was packing up, ready to leave after the last set that night. We made our way back to the SB stage, only missing the first few minutes of Andy Fairweatherlow. ‘Wide Eyed and Legless’ and ‘If Paradise is half as Nice’ with some Shadows thrown in, performed by a founder member of Amen Corner, who is sought by Roger Walters and Eric Clapton. An incredibly modest and understated guy.
It was a quick trot back to the PV stage as Deacon Blue were about to start. The heat of the day was building and any inch of the minimal shade was occupied. We sat on the hill side as I draped my sarong over myself, using my head as the centre tent pole, to keep the sun off me, but to no avail. A few numbers in I succumbed reluctantly and went in search of somewhere to cool off before I collapsed. I made my way up behind the sound tower where an ice cream van had set up. A small patch at the back of his vehicle provided some respite until I realised that this was the outlet from the generator keeping the cream iced. It was blowing hot air, destroying the benefit of the shadow.
Beside me was a flight of steps up to a viewing gallery providing the best seats in the house. Not surprisingly these were not available to the hoi polloi so a fellow steward was stationed there. With my identical triple neon wrist bands I started chatting to this colleague who was rather concerned about my puce face, thinking it was sunburn. Between the side of the ice cream van, behind the sound tower and almost under the steps was a patch of shade. ‘Would you mind if I just sit there for a few minutes?’ ‘Of course not’.
Excellent result. This patch of grass was cool to sit on and a light breeze flowed right underneath the tower. I could still hear Deacon Blue clearly, even if I couldn’t see them, but in the circumstances I was delighted. From this vantage point I observed one of the less pleasant jobs for us volunteers. Our role had primarily been to welcome people, whereas her’s was to turn them away. Some completely unsuspecting people thought they could just stroll up to this viewing balcony and although most took their rejection without problem one American lady was not going to be deterred. ‘Why can’t I go up there?’ ‘Because you don’t have the correct wrist band.’ ‘I have a VIP band.’ ‘Yes, but this is only for Gold VIP bands.’ ‘He’s not wearing one.’ ‘No, but he has an Access All Areas pass.’ ‘But he’s not wearing a wrist band.’ ‘His pass is around his neck.’ ‘Hrumph.’ One person came with the correct ID in the time I was there.
Much cooler and relieved that we’d been assigned glamping, I returned to Roger to watch the end of the set. I was a little disappointed to have missed most of it but received a bit more education during my absence. A quick bite to eat was the priority before clocking in for our final shift in the main glamping site.