The King and I are in Hyde Park. It’s mid June so naturally it’s raining.
We are drinking cheap wine out of plastic cups. We’ve smuggled it in right under securities noses – a feat we are remarkably proud of.
We are both wearing hooded waterproofs and are thus looking suitably uncool.
Blur are about to play. There is an ice-cream van on stage reminiscent of that in the Parklife video, The King tells me.
Anticipation lingers in the air. A few eager members of the crowd are already in a state of ecstasy fuelled elation. Others are more disoriented. Everybody – drunk, drug addled or otherwise is essentially happy.
British Summer Time at Hyde Park is the most middle class festival I’ve had the pleasure of attending (trying to make myself sound like a seasoned festival-goer when in truth I have been to approximately 3 in my lifetime.)
Nevertheless, never in my life have I met such polite festival-goers. Where usually, when I run off for a wee (as sods law always states I must, just before a band are about to play) I must push my way through the swathes of people as they curse me and pour warm beer/piss? over my head, at Hyde it goes more along the lines of ‘no please, after you‘ and just as the Red Sea did for Moses, the crowd graciously parts for me.
In an overly optimistic act of generosity Damon Albarn attempts to distribute Mr Whippys to the front row, who are pushed up against the fence like wild eyed animals trying to escape. “Well that was a bloody disaster” he says, as he makes his way back up to the stage.
I love festivals. I love that even when things go wrong they still somehow work. I love the way in which we all come together in appreciation, rather than animosity. I love that when the wind blows it’s still warm. I love having a legitimate reason to jump up and down and throw my arms around in a manner which, in any other situation, would see me promptly carted to a secure unit. I love the eccentric fashions commonly sported by transexuals which office workers are suddenly prepared to don for one day only. I love that nobody really cares that it’s raining. I love any situation where the more bizarre one’s behaviour the better. I love the music, even if I don’t really love it that much. I love buying big portions of carbs in takeaway containers and eating them with as little decorum and decency as possible.
Most of all I love seeing everybody else so in love. Everywhere I turn there are people in love. Couples kissing. Friends embracing. Strangers singing to one another. It would be sickening were I not one of them.
I’ve seen Blur once before. 2009, Glastonbury. I was sixteen and a jewel eyed idealist. Stood at the top of the hill overlooking the masses that stretched out in front of the Pyramid stage.
That same year, I started college at Taunton’s finest educational establishment – Richard Huish. In his opening spiel about the values and virtues we must uphold whilst undertaking our education, my geography teacher Nick told us all that we ought to act as if we were at Glastonbury all the time.
Fantastic, I thought. I’m being actively encouraged to wear sparkly hotpants, a little denim waistcoat and a trilby hat. I LOVE COLLEGE!
I’m not really sure that’s what he meant though.
When we’re at festivals, our capacity for love is somehow increased, we become more tolerant, a little more adventurous, perhaps even a little braver (if you’ve ever dared enter a portaloo at Glastonbury you’ll know what I’m talking about). We become nicer, more liberal people with ideals about art and music. We become more interesting, more exciting versions of ourselves and, as a general rule, we become more interested and excited about other people. At festivals we are galvanised in sheer appreciation. We are filled with a sort of uninhibited optimism, a feeling that all the love and vibrancy and music in the world might just overpower all those other terrible things.
Damon et al told us that night that love is the greatest thing that we have. As I stood there swaying and singing, I completely agreed. I think we all did.
Then we return to our monotonous routines. Monday morning moods and midweek slumps.
We can’t spend everyday frolicking around in fields donning tie-dye and pretending to be hippies.
But what if we could take that festival feeling and apply it to ordinary existence?
That passionate, yet peaceful solidarity. Full of love and appreciation, jubilation and anticipation.
As I sway to Blur and the sun goes down, I think it really really really could happen.