“Let’s go and learn how to make cut glass coasters!” “Yoga is at 12.” “Anyone want a swim in the lake?” That’s the morning here. Children running around everywhere, parents about my age covered in glitter. Wholesome activities executed wholesomely. Meanwhile the likes of Yotam Ottolenghi prepare banquets in a marquee for a selection of organised people who book months in advance. There’s a spa that books out early too, in seven years I’ve never been. But even as Tarquin goes for his gong bath in the healing fields there’s another festival gradually groaning into wakefulness back in the campsites.
Somehow the weather is usually good for these three days. The long nights have mostly been dry. As the day reaches its height, an army of colourful zombies stumbles into the site. They wear the heads of lions, or antlers, or pirate hats, or devil horns or shocking wigs. The zombies come seeking sustenance, their steps heavy, their eyes wide. They descend on the meat trucks and juicily devour all they can afford. They are waiting for the dark.
Tarquin and the zombies gather together before the few small stages and vocally appreciate shining noisy people. “Yayyy” says Tarquin. “Uuuuurgh” say the zombies. “Bang crash wallop” says the band. Everybody cheers. Tarquin is confused by the zombies. “Mother, why is that man trying to eat his own arm?” The zombies are concerned by Tarquin: “Not here, look, there’s a kid. Put it away.” But the dark is coming. It’s time for Tarquin to go to bed. He goes, his parents occasionally glancing over their shoulders as they head to the campsite. And then a miraculous transformation begins.
The zombies, sensing the lack of Tarquin, know that their time has come. They begin to consume magical drinks, pills and mushrooms. They lick bits of paper and each other and maybe even toads. They put things up their nose or even their bottom. They inhale smokes and vapours and spirits. And they transform. First they switch on little lights on their hats and coats, to shine through the darkness, to not get lost. And then as the night draws in, the zombies become Tarquin. They run and play and dance, immune to consequence, pulling cross eyed faces, laughing at nothing, repeating the same jokes, repeating the same laughs, wide eyed idiot children seeing the world anew. Selfish and obvious and strange and trapped in freedom. Joyful and desperate, like the end of the world. Fueled by light and music in this beautiful woodland until dawn is close, and “Come on Tarquin, we’re going for a swim in the lake” heralds the changing of the guard and the Tarquinzombies fly back to their canvas chrysalis, and pupate in their sleeping bags to become just zombies once more for the morning.
My “work” is fun, but because we are obvious and silly we get mobbed by Tarquins whose parents are glad to have a focus for their random energy for a bit. “You can have them,” they smile. It means I am rising relatively early and doing wholesome things as well as trying to join the night time rollercoaster.