I’ve been at a festival this weekend where I coordinate some talks. Daughter three and my mum came along. Normally the whole team come with me, but daughter one is on GCSE duty, daughter two spends the entire time complaining that she is absolutely bored solid and only son hates long journeys in the car and still has his sights set on a summer holiday in the local Travelodge. So the core team set off on Friday morning, abandoning my partner to a couple of nights of sleepovers with only son.
We got slightly held up in traffic and took six hours to get to the festival, just in time for one of the talks I had organised.
There then followed the ritual of trying to locate the airbnb place we had booked. Daughter three had been in charge of selecting the booking, which was possibly not the best idea because she went for a place with an indoor swimming pool, which was great, but it was around an hour and a half’s drive from the festival with a good following wind. It was a chance for her to debut her mermaid’s costume, complete with super fast flipper. I have to confess that I had a go and it was pretty speedy. The only problem is that daughter three felt slightly sick the next morning from too much mermaid exertion and spent the whole journey to the festival complaining that she was ill. As soon as she got to the festival and had some brunch she perked up. I left her with my mum to attend a work talk and when I returned she was feeling much better, but hobbling because her shoes had caused blisters. I suggested we swap shoes. She is one size smaller than me. I managed to wedge on her shoes and trod down the heel, but she said my shoes were too big for her.
She limped into town and we found some flip flops in a charity shop. Daughter three had an ice cream and things were looking up. She decided to commission a poet for hire. “What do you want me to write about?” he asked. “When I’m Prime Minister” came the reply. Daughter three had been watching Gordon Brown on a tv screen in the festival cafe earlier in the day. She explained a few of her policies, which centred around equality and justice. The poet dully wrote a poem for her, which was more a free verse rant against Rupert Murdoch. It turned out he was a journalist. We had an in-depth chat about the future of journalism and agreed we were not optimistic. He had worked for a website that charged according to what was produced. This encouraged journalists to produce more words by essentially Googling them and pasting them together. “It’s really copywriting,” said the poet for hire. I gave daughter three a rather generous donation for his rant as a mark of journalistic solidarity.
We went back to the festival and daughter three noticed that some Youtuber type was speaking. In fact there were screams akin to those that greet the average boy band coming from the tent. We managed to squeeze our way in. Around 700 teens and preteens were listening in rapt attention to a person who makes prank videos in his bedroom. I felt very old and in need of an ironic comment from daughter one. We headed for a talk on the genetics of obesity, possibly the polar opposite of the Youtuber talk. It was a passionate tour de force about why some people find it harder to lose weight than others. Daughter three then climbed a tree and fell into some nettles and we retired back to the airbnb cottage.
The following day was packed with three more talks and a mermaid session. The weather was tremendous. The last few years have been all mud and rain. What’s more, the wi-fi worked in the cottage which meant I didn’t have to return to a deluge of emails. All in all a great success.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.