Thursday, August 24, 2006

Lowlands 2006 - pt1 Thursday

Once again it’s that time of year when some of us get the urge to leave this refinement behind us and live like pigs for a weekend. It’s festival time. This year was my third time at Lowlands and last-year’s group of fresh-faced newbies is expanded by even more newbies and a few oldbies who we didn’t know last year.

As ever, arrival at Lowlands is discouraged as much as possible. The logistics of getting 55,000 people into a few fields with all their cars/tents/bikes/caravans/rucksacks produces every year horrendous blockages that last for hours and hours. Getting people into Lowlands is like flushing stones down the toilet. Sure it’s easy to throw a handful down and flush them away, but you try pouring a few buckets in. You soon end up with a flooded bathroom and an angry mother. Not to mention hours of endless flushing hoping to unblock the system. This year was unusual in that it sold out. Normally it doesn’t quite. In fact 5000 more tickets were sold than last year. That’s another 5 whole buckets of stones.

After last year’s Joycean epic of a wait before the gate, there was a definite inclination to go by car this year and several groups did. Our car arrived early to sit for a few hours in the queue of other cars that arrived early. However, waiting in the afternoon in or around a car on a nice day beats hands-down standing in the dark in a huge throng of people. Humour was kept to a good level. Most of us in the dispersed convoy had been in the terrible wait of ’06 and no complaints were permitted from either the newbies or those who had come late last year and not experienced the Ulyssean queuing.

Eventually, having blocked the road for a few hours, there was movement and the cars crawled and lurched forward and after another few hours we were in the car park.

Of course Lowlands wouldn’t be Lowlands without this queuing. It’s the initiation ceremony that brings you closer to everyone. It’s like Glastonbury without the mud. After a queue to be processed - a thousand times quicker than last time, but still not quick - there was the long trudge to the far camping area where we had arranged to meet and assemble our camp.

It was so nice to arrive on a sunny afternoon with hours of light with which to pitch your tent, rather than arriving tired, pissed off and hungry in the dark as happened last year.

Arriving early also made you realise that we were only borrowing this home for the weekend. Our arrival caused the mass exodus of the field’s usual inhabitants. Several
Fleeing toads were helped to the fence and many perplexed insects had to be shown that the tent was not their domain. One lucky girl (Lidwien) was even blessed with a visit from a field mouse. It rushed into her tent to escape the construction, but soon fled to avoid the screaming. It made the safety of Dave’s tent and was not seen again.

This year, given the larger group it was decided that the centrepiece of our encampment would be a gazebo. And thanks to Blokker, The Netherlands’ fledgling Walmart, a 17 Euro gazebo was procured by Dave, the group’s chief purchaser. It proved a winning buy and kept many an early morning gathering dry as we waited for coffee to be brewed.

Sleeping is always tough the first night. Especially for those of us who haven’t camped for a year - since the last Lowlands in fact; for those whose back and shoulders have been aggravated by rucksacks filled with tents, food and rain gear; for those who try to sleep before the rest of the field stops partying and passing round the “Lowlands Wave¹.” But eventually sleep rested it’s leaden balloon on us all and we all managed a few hours downtime before the sun started heating the tents up.

¹ = Where one part of the field cheers and this cheer is passed around the fields in the manner of a vocal Mexican Wave.

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