2012 - All That Glitters... Victory at The Ashes
Bearing in mind this writer missed most of the event while pursuing a small boy in yellow wellingtons around a seemingly endless field shouting ‘Hugo!’ this account will, of necessity, reflect only those bits that he saw. Still, he can always make stuff up, and who will be any the wiser? Certainly not the people who didn’t come, so if you decided to stay at home and watch a sporting engagement, paid a fortune to watch bands in a field full of people you wouldn’t open the door to, or simply stayed in bed contemplating stuff you did thirty years ago then you will have to take my word for it when I say there was nowhere else I would rather have been over the bank holiday weekend, and no other people I would rather have been with. Could have done without the spiders though.
Blyth arrived on the Thursday afternoon after a frenetic morning of packing and sorting. Arrival at the events field revealed a bloated Mr Porter in the back of the van having stuffed himself full of German friendship cake on the way down to a point little short of vomiting. Despite this the old fool was so eager to get stuck into marking out the fire lane that Annie wisely decided to forgo his assistance setting up the über tent, and erected the thing in record time single-handed. Thus it was that by the time both fire lane and cricket pitch were marked out, the Blyth HQ hive was rippling proudly in the early evening sunshine. Neither were we alone, as by the time we headed down to the pub to feed the brats there were a dozen or so campsites setting up, including one containing a certain J. Adams ‘of that ilk’…
I gather there was some late carousel in the bar that night, but the real fun commenced next morning when people began to arrive in earnest and the fire lane came into its own – a thing of beauty to behold it was too. Lightly kinked at the upper end to swing arriving traffic in from the gateway in the corner, it cut a broad green swathe through the freshly mown grass the length of the field, eloquently marked by just the right amount of canes topped with red and white strips of tape. Perfectly calculated to inform and advise, you note, helpful but not obtrusive, yet unmistakably and irrefutably marking the border between the haphazard shambles we had been hitherto, and the peak of organized efficiency we are to become…
Friday passed for your heroes in setting up the stage and equipment in anticipation of the opening night of music, and this all proved uneventful – especially as the brats were off gallivanting with grandparents. An eye was kept on the weather, reports of which had varied, and which promised to do almost anything from balmy summer day to raging hurricane. Friday let us off with just a couple of showers, and nothing too grim befell.
So on to Saturday, which saw Mr Porter rubbing his hands in delight at the prospect of not having to put up the gazebos (or rather not having to watch Nigel the Flag Detail put them up), as someone had left an enormous spare tent on the camping field from a previous event. This was actually bigger in itself than the entire beer garden at the Ufford White Horse, where The Ashes had its Genesis, and was pressed into service for a number of purposes, first of which was the children’s mayhem and destruction centre, wherein enormous quantities of clay, glitter and paint were mixed up and thrown around by the bucket load. While the arrivals continued and the camping field filled up – apart of course from the fire lane – breakfast was served in the marquee and the management were pleased to note the conscientious job done of cleaning up done by the Events Field’s staff. The children’s tent got busier and messier, and it was while inadequately supervising this institution that Mr. Porter was asked about the possibility of Blyth playing a daytime set by a couple of parents who were unable to get to the marquee after hours due to childcare commitments. Missing a trick as usual the old fool agreed to have the band perform acoustically the following morning before acts commenced on what we shall one day come to refer to as ‘the main stage’. Anyone with have a brain would have charged them an extra tenner, and checked to see if all the babes in arms had wristbands while he was at it. That’s what you do in proper festivals.
Sporadic showers drove revelers into the various covered spaces, and music resumed at five with Tres Y El Ingles, who had forsaken the sunnier plains of their native Spain for what turned out to be an only temporarily waterlogged fen in England. It has to be said that the various downpours – including hailstones as large as Maltesers, thunder, lightning, and a gale that rocked the marquee even more than Ham Legion (I think not – Ed), who were playing at the time of the most impressive pass – seem to have done little damage, and the ground remained solid throughout the weekend, with everything drying out by mid morning on the Sunday. Even the spiders, who presumably knew what to expect, hence the relish with which they occupied our assorted tents, yurts and sundry erections.
Sunday morning and Blyth Power foregathered at the children’s tent – henceforth to be referred to as the ‘Medical Tent’, which was its former purpose according to a sign by the door. A semi-acoustic rehearsal ensued, including new song ‘Going Down with Alice’, and a couple of older numbers in the process of being reintroduced. Pandora’s People made a comeback, and the whole genteel proceedings passed off very nicely.
So Monday broke, and with it our hearts at the thought of leaving such a beautiful fire lane. Packing up went smoothly. The rain held off, and Mr Porter and the brats enjoyed themselves immensely playing dustbin men, ferrying garbage back to the skips from the Events Field, a task made easier firstly by the fact that everyone – absolutely everyone, with no exception – had bagged up their rubbish and left it by the bins provided, and secondly by the many people who willingly helped load it into the hire van. The Plough’s handyman had gone on holiday from 11.30, so we had said we’d handle it. It was just one more little happening in an amazing weekend that has made us realize what a unique thing we have here. Nothing was broken, nothing thrown, and as the Fox said, not a voice raised in anger on a campsite peopled by all walks of life.