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“Top Dog” revisited

This is a brief interlude between two adventures! I’ve been madly trying to catch up with stuff this week. There have been a few times this week when I’ve doubted my faith in myself and my new path in life. There have been a few moments where the “top dog” or “shitty committee” has reappeared and told me that everything that I’ve done so far is a failure; that I’ve not got the abilities I’ve claimed to have. The “top dog” is the voice that lives in everyone’s heads that tells them they are worthless and rubbish. It’s all our collected fears and insecurities. Yesterday, part of me started dwelling on past failures again.

Then I remembered the good advice and encouragement that people have given me over the past few months; the moments when I’ve felt fulfilled and needed. There were a lot of times when I was picked last for the team as a kid; something went wrong in a job;  I sabotaged my efforts through insecurity. So? That doesn’t mean that I have to keep making those mistakes.

The most important thing is to keep going: to remember that my insecurities are pasted across my face; to have faith in my own abilities. I’m definitely getting somewhere. Since the end of April, I’ve run a successful memoir course; gained loads of experience in working with children and in schools; done lots of work on two freelance writing projects, and had enormous amounts of fun volunteering for Oxfam. There’s more that I want to do, but I can’t do absolutely everything at once, unless I had a “time-turner” like Hermione Granger in Harry Potter!

My only regret is that I haven’t had a lot of time for my own fiction writing. I seem to have lost faith in my novel. I’ve let some criticism get to me, rather than making the time to work out if it was valid and spending time on my fiction. So often, my own writing ends up at the bottom of my “to do” list, under cleaning the bathroom or sorting out the laundry. That’s just wrong. When I return from Glastonbury, I’ll set some time aside per day. An hour a day on my own novel would make a massive difference.

The Download Dog

The Download Dog is a very different beast. He’s the mascot of Download festival, the biggest rock festival in the UK. He’s usually a bright pink colour, with fearsome teeth, sharp claws and mad staring eyes. He might look fierce, but he’s a big softy really (in fact I saw a cuddly Download Dog at the festival accompanied by a little girl) and all he wants to do is ROCK! In fact, he’s similar to the punters at Download. They have big piercings and lots of tattoos, but are some of the nicest people who Oxfam encounter in festival-land. I’ve now done three Downloads in a row, despite some terrible weather! Download takes place at Donington Park, the legendary motor racing venue, and is just a few miles away from East Midlands airport. So it’s a very different festival experience for Oxfam, with our campsite next to the racetrack, planes roaring overhead and our “Oxbox” in one of the pit-lane garages.

I was lucky enough to have the registration shift at Download, making sure that the other Oxfam stewards arrived safely. When I collected my shifts, I realised that I would have the whole festival free to enjoy myself! Happy days! It was lovely to greet people I hadn’t seen since last year – as well as some people I’d been working with at Trailtrekker, and it was good to be working as part of the Oxfam team again.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I enjoyed hanging around and relaxing with my friends – apart from the bits where we got caught in some horrendous rain-storms. The shifts went quickly: checking tickets and putting wristbands on people, who were always excited to be arriving at the festival, whatever the weather. The security staff were checking people’s bags for glass bottles, but then being very helpful – pouring the drinks into plastic bottles, and even advising ticket-holders on where to buy a decent bottle of wine. It was all rather civilised. Some Danish people tried to bring a bottle of a liqueur called “Fisk” though with them. It was a dark brown colour, with a picture of a fisherman on it. The Danish lad explained that the drink tasted like Fisherman’s Friends. These are a really horrible cough sweet and not anything that you’d want to have in a drink. But apparently, it’s very big in Denmark!

On Friday morning, it was time to rock! At Download, you aren’t actually let into the arena until the music starts, which helps to keep the ground fresh. I had lots of red wine with me, but I had to try to pace myself, because one of my favourite bands of all time, Gogol Bordello, were on at 8pm. We had to ride out a few more heavy showers, though, which always seems to encourage me to drink! We saw a random variety of music, escaping into the covered venues at times to get out of the rain. I was underwhelmed by Korn and Bullet for my Valentine, but only one band were going to really do it for me! We had great fun attaching pegs with messages onto passersby, and I made a pocketful of Gogol Bordello related pegs. Shortly before 8pm, I joined a crowd that seems much more colourful than the usual Download black. Gogol Bordello were brilliant and definitely managed to “kick the arse” out of Download! I’d been worried about how they were going to go down, as they’re a unique genre of gypsy punk. Everything was turned up to 11 and their set was over far too soon! I should have stopped when the going was good, but I decided to go to the Dog House late night “rock disco” and didn’t hear a single song I recognised, staggering back a distance of two miles at least, in the rain! Not a good move.

So on Saturday, I was feeling a little fragile. This was a big day though, Iron Maiden day! My other half’s favourite band, so I’ve been indoctrinated over the years, and now I’m genuinely keen on them. I took it easy, making sure I ate enough and slowly sipped my cider. It was also brilliant to see Motorhead, who didn’t disappoint me one bit. I made the effort to get closer to the front, with an Oxfam friend who was celebrating his 40th birthday. A few swigs of Jack Daniels helped to feel suitably rock ‘n’ roll! Queens of the Stone Age slowed things down a bit again – maybe they’re a band I need to get into a bit more.

Iron Maiden were also everything I’d hoped for. I hung back with the bit group of Oxfam stewards at our traditional meeting point in front of the disabled viewing platform. The sound wasn’t quite loud enough from this position, but there was a great view of the crowd, and it was good to be with lots of friends having a great time. There were countless backdrop and prop changes, and singer Bruce Dickinson had several changes of outfit. Despite being more senior in years, there was lots of running around on stage and the band played a lot of their classic songs, ending in ‘Running Free’, with lots of Oxfam friends singing along, with surprisingly tuneful voices. This time I was sensible, and returned with everyone for a party in the “Oxbox”, before we were forced to go to bed, due to Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit being asleep in the tour bus next door. Download is so rock!

Sunday was a lovely warm day, and the main reason I returned from Download with a big orange face. We enjoyed a good variety of bands, including Huntress, and Amon Amarth, who had a viking ship as their drum riser! I enjoyed The Gaslight Anthem, who are definitely a band I’ll be checking out in the future – a bit more thoughtful, reminding me of Frank Turner. I enjoyed the Teutonic stomping of Rammstein, but I escaped in the middle to see Sonic Book Six, a band I’d really enjoyed at Bearded Theory a couple of years ago. They were great, and it was brilliant to be in a much smaller, intimate venue, bouncing up and down to punky ska. When I returned to the main stage, Rammstein were still going strong, but unfortunately, I’d missed some action with a giant dildo with sparks coming off it. That would have been worth watching, but I’m glad I went to support a smaller (and more fun) band! After another party in the Oxbox, Download was over for another year.

And now there are only “two more sleeps” until I set off to Glastonbury, ridiculously early!

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