Flaming Extreme

Take lashings and lashings of dark Friday morning rain, a lush green mountain-filled Welsh valley, 13,000 people, deep rich red mud oozing underfoot and some incredible music and you have a version of Greenman 2010.
Festivals are an experience in great extremes; extreme hedonism founded in narcotics, buckets of sweet cider, dark rich rum, cans, boxes, bottles; as much alcohol as you can possibly carry from your car across several mud filled fields. Tent completion, extraction and ruination from rain, mud, drunk people and your own children.
Sheer ecstasy fills your head and heart as you hold your hands to the heavens and sing along with thousands of others to the Flaming Lips whilst batting off a myriad of gigantic balloons, which pop and rain down on you all, millions of ticker tapes. Your heart soars in unison and solidarity as you stand side by side and sing along with the great peoples poet; Billy Bragg – “I have faith”.
Yet as you queue patiently to use the festival loos and the acrid smell silently fills your nostrils with every step you take towards them, you fidget with loathing. And your hair screams for some warm water to bathe her and soothe her after three days sleeping in a damp mud-filled tent…you wonder why you spent £120 on the ticket.
But the food: hot spicy Indian Thali’s, thin crispy Italian pizzas, deep cinnamon notes drift through a perfectly cooked Caribbean chicken with rice and peas, trolley dolly’s waft through the crowds with boxes of moist chocolate brownies for sale, shots of tequilla or hot tea and home-made lemon cake.
A warm afternoon is spent learning to knit; sitting with the girls on a hilltop, needle sticks clacking, smaller hands furiously finger knitting, live music drifting over our heads as we sit in harmony and contentment – such is this moment of gentle quietness and uplifting satisfaction – that we never want it to end.
The children swarm in and out of the drumming workshops, the puppet-making tent and bounce on the air-filled balloons all in awe of their great good luck in this huge playground of colour, noise and mud.
Then at night as the rain pours over your canvas and your tiredness begins to seep into the weak emotional corners of your mind and the children screech in their exhaustion and excitement and you wonder why – as you make the grey journey back to the car, across the boggy mud-filled fields, the dark Monday rain beating you as you go back and forth, the tent damp and moldy, every sock, pair of pants and trouser caked in mud, damp and beginning to smell – you came….and then you remember the knitting, the balloons, the solidarity, the rice and peas and you smile with deep felt pleasure.

The tablecloth


After suffering four days of excruciating pain, tension and frustration, he finally let go and accepted his fate. Day five saw him arise, tablecloth around his waist, tea-cup in hand, “any cake left?” he enquires.

In the strength of his manhood – my boy – last week severely damaged his back whilst dragging a water jet up and out of a sunken pool. Spraining, straining, tearing call it what you will – the medical profession don’t care – the agony is the same. As is the remedy; drugs and rest.
At the height of this pain, his disabled movement and helpless presence stirred great fears in our bellies. Was this what we had to contend with in old age? My once fit and agile man suddenly aging before me bent over, shuffling, incapable of getting dressed, hugging our children.
Stubborness and foolishness stopped him getting help until the day loomed when his screams and angst for recovery finally propelled him into action.
The French A&E staff, amused by this most common of accidents, pumped him with pain-killers, and, with a serene smile on his face, he began to walk with more agility. The drugs do work.
Pain, discomfort and illness are desperate states which the human body will naturally contend with. Accepting them and allowing yourself that moment to stop and recover, to let go of the world around you and force yourself to look after yourself is incredibly important.
This 24/7 world we inhabit does not tolerate excuses, accidents or problems, yet recuperation and rehabilitation are essential to maintain a physical and emotional recovery and equanimity.
Wear your tablecloth with pride and eat your cake in peace. Time out is time well spent.