Our Travel blog
Thursday 2 June
An added bonus of staying with our friends in Shallowford is that they possess a space-age shower. Its a cylinder shaped white cubicle with glass doors and an array of hoses, water jets and shiny chrome attachments inside. It looks like something Professor Frink from The Simpsons would invent, or Jeff Goldblum would step out of as half fly, half man. It even has twin seats for the steam setting, maybe so that you can get saucy. If you do I'd advise being wary of leaning against any buttons while in the throws of passion lest you unleash a jet of water somewhere surprising. Perhaps there's a button that makes a mirror ball appear and a cocktail cabinet pop up. I'll leave it to you to experiment. It was all I could do today in my hungover state to switch it on and stand under the stream of hot water. I did press a button on the bewildering control panel thinking FM might be a foot massage but it turned out to be Radio 4.
I exited the shower after a brief tussle with the magnetically sealed doors and was relieved to find myself still in Shallowford and not beamed up to the Starship Enterprise. To celebrate surviving the shower we fixed a security door handle to Mavis before heading an hour up the road to Uttoxeter for The Acoustic Festival of Great Britain.
The Acoustic Festival is the one that really started me on the road we are now on. Many moons ago I took my eldest to a small festival near where we lived and a chap called Guy Maile came on. He's a singer, songwriter and guitarist of extraordinary ability, so afterwards I found him online. As is the way of these things I surfed and found the Acoustic Festival website which was run by the people Guy was signed to. They were looking for volunteers so later that year - 2008 I believe - I found myself on the M6 at 7am nervously heading towards the festival.
I was made extraordinarily welcome, saw lots of great bands, might have been responsible (in a non litigatious way you understand) for accidentally tripping up Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull fame's mum, and generally had a great time. I left on the Sunday afternoon to get back for work, leaving behind a certain amount of chaos as the wind swept over the site and took the back of the stage off.
I've returned every year since and consider the regular crew and stewards as friends. In my second year there I fell into litter picking and generally keeping the site tidy. I'm not sure why but I think it might have been that as an early riser I could be relied upon to get up and clear last nights litter before the punters came onto site. Once I'd got it clean of course I'd want to keep it that way and so discovered the mindless joy of picking up other people's rubbish. Really. I do take great pride in the site and the reviews that mention how clean it is. I should add that the Acoustic Festival crowd are adorably tidy anyway and so long as we regularly empty the bins its quite painless. It's long hours though and for the site set up and in general throughout the festival, it's also about turning your hand to any job that needs doing, from erecting fencing to putting up signs, car parking and helping the public, traders and bands to enjoy their time at the festival.
We've made friends with brilliant musicians too, like Adrian Nation who I first saw at the festival and who has since gone on to be a finalist on Sky Arts 'Guitar Star', touring the UK and Canada, as well as playing at our wedding. We've also met travellers and others who do exactly what we are doing now and have given us help, invaluable advice and encouragement. Working at this festival really has lead us to the path we're now on and we are eternally grateful to our extended Acoustic Festival family for showing us just what is possible.
This year is Alison's third time at the festival and her duties this time were in the box office, where her administrative and customer service skills were welcomed and well used. I turned my hand to doing lots of different things with varying degrees of success, but did put up the flags along the entrance road in such a way that even with a good wind they stayed upright and fluttery. So successful was my flagging that on Monday when I came to take them down I privately swore about each one as I risked life and limb to cut away my expertly applied cable ties.
After doing all we could on Thursday afternoon we traipsed into Uttoxeter in the evening to meet up with some friends who manage the main stage and their friends for a meal and some light pre-festival drinking at the Uttoxeter Wetherspoons. In his book 'The Road to Little Dribbling' Bill Bryson points out that Wetherspoons could be put in charge of running the country as they seem to manage their pubs well. Which appears to be a fair point, they restore and re-purpose old buildings sensitively, serve an impressive range of ales at keen prices and although the food may be unremarkable its cheap and plentiful. Tonight however the Old Swan was having an off day. Quite a few dishes were sold out by 8pm and one of our party had a side salad consisting of precisely one small wilted lettuce leaf.
Still, we ate with gusto and enjoyed ourselves immensely. A couple of pints and whiskey's later we wobbled merrily back to Mavis and fell into a blissful deep sleep. For 15 minutes. Then my bladder decided that the 10 minutes I had spent propped up ladder-like, forehead against the wall in the toilet draining every last millilitre of fluid wasn't sufficient, and now apparently I was holding back the North Sea. A further 10 minutes later when I had all but wrung myself out and was again horizontal, I lay listening to the sound of Doom Bar ale being turned into 14 more gallons of wee. Why does this happen? How can I drink 2 pints and manufacture so much more, so quickly?
Eventually I fell into a fitful sleep and awoke in a mercifully dry bed ready for the first full day of The Acoustic Festival 2016.
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