Thought I would tell you a funny(?) story about our recent experience of the thing that a lot of us do at this time of year. In a country that produces an average annual rainfall of 29.7 inches, thousands of brits pay to stand in the mud and watch some of the best bands on the planet, having paid again to eat and drink while they do it. Part of the appeal of the local music festival amongst us “grown-ups” I’m sure is an excuse to embrace our inner toddler by getting a sparkly face paint, teaming fairy wings and wellies with a party dress, going to the toilet without wiping or washing our hands and generally getting over excited before falling over in the mud.
SA and I have been to a local music festival for several years and despite having learned a few lessons from the experience each time, this year in true Wheelie fashion, we still managed to get ourselves in bit of a pickle.
We decided not to take our children as the last two times neither of them were interested in listening to or watching the bands – kid 1 had spent the entire time complaining with his fingers in his ears and kid 2 wanted constant (and expensive) entertainment of an inflatable/trampoline-based nature. And kids need the toilet 5 times an hour which is a lot of queuing for portaloo’s, a lot of anti-bac hand gel and a hell of a lot of inhaling other festival goers’ gases.
With the assistance of his handbike, SA was prepared for the uneven ground and despite the chance of rain being forecast for later on in the evening, like a couple of thrill-seeking nutters we went equipped with minimal contingency equipment in the form of a massive umbrella, a pac-a-mac and a well-concealed bottle of Tanqueray.
Heavy rain and any resulting wet ground can be problematic in a wheelchair. SA obviously can’t hold an umbrella and push at the same time without going round in a circle and he refuses to wear the umbrella hat I bought him. Furthermore, when the push rims on his wheels are wet, his hands slip. But, like I said, this particular problem is solved with the hand bike and an accompanying wife holding a massive umbrella.
We had arranged to meet up with some friends, who were giving us a lift home at the end (great friends eh?!) and although a light drizzle started up early evening, we were determined to stick it out.
The crowd was very accommodating of Nev and his handbike, (unlike a previous year when someone accused Nev of taking advantage of being in a wheelchair to get closer to The Happy Mondays). We comfortably took up a spot near to the stage with our friends and reminisced about the same festival two years previously when our friend had tripped and in an attempt to save her hotdog, face planted in the grass. None of us would do anything that stupid this year.
We watched Primal Scream in the pouring rain and even though I could barely see through the rain battering my eyeballs and had possibly never been wetter, reliving my late teens with wild abandon, with a tribe of like-minded adults without being told off or made to feel irresponsible, was great. This euphoria was helped along with a nice Rioja and the knowledge that we had a warm dry car for the journey home.
At the end, by the time we were heading for the car, SA’s progress in his bike was of a more side to side sliding affair and as he wheel-spun his way along, anyone with the misfortune to be behind him got a face spatter of mud to compliment their drowned festival fairy look.
SA and I had the bonus of being parked nearer to the entrance, owing to our trusty blue badge but our friends, being normal people had parked in a different car park further away. In theory this shouldn’t be too much of a big deal, I would load SA’s bike into his car where it would stay overnight, while they fetched their car and came back for us. Perhaps I should have been more alarmed sooner by the driving rain, but it wasn’t until SA slipped out of his chair, into the mud, while dismounting from his hand bike that the fun, along with my mascara, really started to fully drain out of the experience.
Once reunited with his seat, covered in mud, SA received a call from our friends to say that there was a one-way system in operation leaving the car park. This was taking all traffic in one direction away from us at a snail’s pace out of the one road that ran through the village. So they had no choice other than crawl in a loop around the bucks countryside to get back to us. Progress out of the village was further hindered by the rain and the fact that almost everyone on foot was off their nut, soaked and only really interested in getting where they needed to. They weren’t a tiny bit interested in the urgent mission our friends were on.
The usual bruising and swearing accompanied the process of me putting SA’s bike into the boot . Then we decided that SA should get his sorry muddy, wet backside into the car because he was getting seriously cold. That’s the other annoying thing about being wet as a wheelchair user – a wet backside in wet trousers doesn’t slide well on a wet sliding board. Trying to get SA into that car by myself was, I imagine just what it would be like to try and push/drag/shove a soggy round sack of spuds through a square hole. We got there in the end though and all I needed before I could get inside the car myself was to get the muddy wheelchair in the boot, with a little more bruising, swearing and sliding around in the mud thrown in.
Once in the car I figured that while we waited I would switch the engine on and get some heat going. I just needed the car keys . . . Which were nowhere to be found.
I walked around and round the car, over and over, bent double, squinting at the bright spot on the grass I managed to create with my itorch. No keys to be found. I searched and searched, under the car, in the boot, on the backseat but they had just DISAPPEARED!! I mean, wtf! I was on the verge of tearing down the nearest branch so that in Basil Fawlty style I could beat the crap out of the stupid car for losing its keys, when in between teeth chattering SA managed to beg me to forget the keys and just come and sit on him to keep him warm.
Another half an hour passes and our friends phoned again and said they were doing their best, poor things – they would’ve been home and dry at that point if it wasn’t for doing their idiot mates a favour. I’ve got my arms awkwardly around SA still thinking about where the effing eff the effing car keys are.
I imagined that SA was silently regretting slagging me off for always having loads of crap in the backseat of my car, because if we were in my car instead of his, to keep us happy we would have had a selection of gender neutral travel blankets, Happy Meal toys and lip gloss. But instead he is getting desperate and between convulsions says something about an ambulance.
Before I can consider this, fortunately and not a moment too soon our friends, The Qashquai cavalry, arrive and the end is in sight. We resign ourselves to buying a replacement set of keys and SA gets out of the car into his wheelchair, revealing in the damp spot in the passenger seat where his arse was, a set of shiny, wet, but very warm car keys.
Well at least Primal Scream were great.