Our Travel blog
We left the tranquillity of the Peaks with the mix of excitement and trepidation that always marks the start of another festival; new people, new surroundings and new jobs to do. The journey wasn't that long and we soon pulled into the car park at what appeared to be a village hall sandwiched between a canal, a road and fields. The hall’s sports field, complete with broken goal post, was littered with tents and vans of the sort favoured by a certain type of festival goer and a burger van sat in the car park, so we had a good idea this was the right place for the Sonic Rock Solstice Festival.
We made ourselves known to a group sitting around a gazebo at the entrance to the field and were directed to our contact who bade us welcome, introduced us formally to the good folk at the gazebo and then promptly departed on an errand of his own.
Feeling slightly uncomfortable and at a loose end we got to know our companions for the weekend who hailed from all around the North West and Midlands and together make up the Salutation Motorcycle Club (MCC). Here's what they say about themselves on their website.
"Salutation MCC was formed in February 1991, by a dozen or so likeminded bikers, who more often than not drank in, you've guessed it, the 'Salutation Inn' in Ambleside, Cumbria. Although the club name comes largely from that drinking hole, part of it derives from the Latin 'salutare'.
Salutation. n. an act, phrase, gesture, etc., that serves as a greeting C14:latin salutatio from salutare to greet
The ethos of the club is simple....To enjoy good company and to live the lifestyle without any attitudes."
If we'd been told in advance we'd be with a motorcycle club all weekend we would have felt nervous, but parachuted blind into their company as we were, we didn't have time for worries and they couldn't have been more welcoming and hospitable.
Friday afternoon was odd because we really felt we should be doing something other than sitting around drinking beer. We found a few odd tasks and generally made ourselves useful but by evening we succumbed to the charms of food, beer and a couple of bands before a relatively early night.
Saturday morning found Ray cleaning toilets (someone has too and it was small payment for the free entry and seemingly endless supply of beer) and Alison helping on the gate. We took a walk to the village shop and then generally bummed about watching bands, doing odd jobs and generally feeling like we should be busy. Come the evening though we felt really settled and spent a raucous time around the camp fire with the Salutations members and a few others. I'm not quite sure how but at one point we had a 5 piece kazoo orchestra going, three bikers, Alison and me. Frankly I'm surprised and a little hurt that we weren’t booked for a stage slot on the Sunday, but such is life.
Sunday saw many of the MCC heading off to prepare for their day jobs leaving the club president Naz and us in sole charge. He was great company and, joined by a chap we called Orkney Pete (because he's from Orkney and his name was Pete) we sat around chatting, answering occasional queries from punters and generally shooting the breeze until the rain started mid-afternoon. We packed the gazebo away and, after dinner, headed into the venue to watch the last two bands.
As per our other festival entries we are not reviewing bands and we saw few for any sufficient length of time to comment but a few mentions in dispatches go to:
Monday morning brought with it a healthy dose of reality. The rain had ben non-stop overnight, the field boggy and half empty. We trudged around occupying ourselves with small tasks but really it was all done, people with heavy eyes and drooping shoulders were packing away wet tents and preparing to return to normality. The entrance to the camping field oozed with thick mud squelching its way through the remains of the straw we'd put down. Nik Turner wandered through in an army tunic, immaculate white jeans and polished brogues; somehow I don't think the real world applies to him.
Finally we must mention Hope, the world’s worst guide dog, who while leading her owner to his taxi caught a whiff of the burger van and led him off at a brisk pace towards it, hoping to catch a stray burger no doubt. A quick intervention by a bystander set her back on course where she promptly made another 45 degree turn to greet Alison like a long lost friend. Our last view of her was sitting on her owners lap licking the taxi driver’s face.
Farewells exchanged, we left for a brief jaunt down the M5 to Cheltenham and our campsite at the racecourse. It was actually in one of the enclosures, so we pitched under the shadow of the Desert Orchid Stand on the kind of slope that, even with levelling blocks, would make half your dinner roll off the plate and into your lap. It's why we now choose mushy peas over the garden variety.
The slope formed the south west side of a broad valley, the expanse of the racecourse below us, and in the distance gentle wooded hills, softened over millennia but still with patches of exposed rock peeking through; reminders of the forces that created this tranquil spot. Through the trees we could see the sandstone village Southam poking through, the stone glowing in the evening sun.
We spent the afternoon catching up on laundry and ‘housework’, installed a stereo system so that we can play records properly and generally spruced things up a bit. I managed to negotiate the showers without calling for assistance (always a bonus) and we went to bed tired but pleased with the day.
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