After the rigours of getting in, getting out was relatively easy. It’s not a regular holiday where people come away with more than they took, no way. Maybe you bought a T-shirt or a CD, but probably not. Most people go back with less than they took. Many even without their tents. The trend amongst the tent-leavers is to set fire to them before you go, and a small squad of security bods rush around putting out tent fires and crushing down those tents that have not been burnt to make them less attractive to would-be pyromaniacs.
Those of us who value (or are borrowing) their tents lugged them out of the field. Past the toilets (now closed); past the entrance to the performing area (now being dismantled); past the ‘supermarket’ (now almost closed, but receiving last chances for people to spend their Lowlands Muntjes (the irredeemable local festival currency (which may get its own write-up some day)). So with our coffees and teas, we met up for the last time just inside the entrance to the camping area. Minus J and N who had to go to work that day and had left at the crack of dawn.
And then the train half of us was in the queue for the bus and those travelling by car in the line of cars waiting to leave the car park. And slowly, as the bus transferred us to the train and the train transferred us to Amsterdam and there the trams, metros and bikes took us home, we began to return to normal. Our brief period as social refugees in a land where there is nothing but the pursuit of pleasure and coffee was at an end. And the only souvenirs are a little bit of extra mud on the tent, some blurry photos from my phone and the remnants of a temporary tattoo that started out as a Chinese dragon, and soon resembled a snake in a pile of rubbish and now increasingly looks like an ancient, abstract mosaic of something that could be a frog or maybe a king falling on his sword. In some lights, if you squint, it looks just like a small group of people in a cosy huddle of tents.