Beautiful Days has inadvertently become a time marker in my life in recent years. For each of the five years I have visited this wonderous festival I've found myself in a slightly different position in life, from going as a single mum, to going with a partner and a bump, to going with two children single again, this festival always reminds me how much can change in a year.
Beautiful Days 2017 was the year I said I never wanted to share a tent again with my kids, and so last year I returned with my small campervan, which we enjoyed so many adventures in I ended up upgrading to my much larger campervan called George (brother of my car Peppa), along with many background plans for European travel in it, all of which wouldn't have come about if it wasn't for that slightly damp tent and punctured air bed back in 2017. Beautiful Days if I ever find myself stranded by the roadside in France with a broken down camper and moaning kids I'm holding you at least partly responsible.
This is the weekend of the year that the kids and me look forward to most, but with a new camper van facing its first proper test and a line up promising some of my favourite bands from my teens, we were even more excited than previous yearsF and when the weekend finally came it did not dissappoint, infact it exceeded all expectations.
This year we set off earlier than we have in previous years, leaving at lunchtime on the Thursday. We stopped for a pitstop at McDonalds on the way where I managed to break the home button on my phone, rather impressive I think to break something before even arriving at the festival. Fuelled and filled up we made our way to the site where we were swiftly waved in and lead to our pitch. This year one of the things we'd looked forward to was being able to arrive in our new van and only have to pull out the awning and put up a windbreak, rather than set up beds and tents and whatnot. It shouldn't have been hard had I unpacked my brand new windbreak prior to leaving but instead I'd left that to do at camp, attempting to open it with a stanley knife promptly slicing through my finger in a perfect demonstration of what not to do. While I went dizzy and stood around with blood squirting out of my finger, my trusty friend Dawn put her first aid training to good use and fixed me up. We then enlisted the help of the lovely guys camped next door to us to get up the awning and we were sorted. Thats the nice thing here, you can always ask a neighbour for help as everyone is so lovely, which for me as a single mum is especially good to know.
Thursday nights atmosphere was great. You can sense the excitement in the air and its all round good vibes. We chilled, strolled, cooked pizza and got a programme to plan who we wanted to see over the weekend.
Friday we'd earmarked a couple of things for the kids in the day. First up was Mr Bloom and his Band. Yep this festival has everything from Cbeebies favourites to punk rock. As the rain was coming down I suddenly realised I'd forgotten to pack Brody, my eldests wellington boots and the wave of guilt and terrible feelings washed over me. Naturally being a boy he wasn't bothered by the prospect of wet soggy feet so we carried on down to the theatre tent where we were seated for mums favouorite Mr Bloom. Predictably the kids loved it, I sat and enjoyed my coffee which I'd taken down from the van in a thermos. Outside of the tent I found a wonderful little vintage and preloved stall where I managed to pick up some wellies for Brody for the bargain price of £5. We then did some food and went on to one of my favourite things that BDs has to offer, the Big Fish Little Fish family rave. I managed to get the kids up dancing to favourites like Bingo Bango but soon saw that tiredness had kicked in early so we decided to slowly head back to our van for chills before coming out again in the evening. We passed the main stage on the way where Beans on Toast was giving us one of his inspiring musical lectures about "taking your shit home with you", a positive message to campers to not leave their waste behind. I'd really have liked to have stayed for the rest of his set but tired moany kids aren't fun so we headed back to George the camper to chill, which is such a luxury especially in less than favourable weather.
We napped back at the van through some of the main stage acts, then headed back re-energised for The Stranglers, who took Dawn back to her youth and who I had a bit of a singalong to. They're good live, but having seen them before I have to say I'm not that into them.
Skunk Anansie however blew me away. Skins performance was full of all the power and amazing vocals I'd got so use to singing my heart out to back in my teenage bedroom and I absolutely loved hearing my old favourites. Serious highlight of the weekend for me. The fact it was raining didn't dampen any spirits at all.
Saturday had a line up that for the most part didn't excite us so we deemed it a day of chill and mostly pottered around, as best you can in thick mud, letting the kids do their thing in the childrens area and filling ourselves with the vegan nachos and vida bowls we love from the Mexican stand. There was one band however that I'd waited quite a while to see, approximately 23 years in fact. Ash were the band constantly playing through my walkman headphones who earned me the title of "weird" because they simply weren't the Spice Girls. Tim Wheeler the lead singer was high up my list of future husbands but somehow I guess he forgot to come find me, FYI Tim I'm still single if you see this! I spent the morning repeating how excited I was to finally see them live and looking forward to belting out all of the words to Girl From Mars, which I dutifully did when they came on. I'm not sure though if its just the growing up of myself and my muscial tastes or if Ash have somehow lost it along the way slightly but I have to say I was dissappointed. It wasn't a bad performance, but it was all together for me just a bit meh, and not really worth the 23 year wait.
After Ash we decided to head back to George and enjoy some quiet time, dinner and prosecco. We knew Sunday had a big line up and wanted to save ourselves for that. Had it been sunny we'd have probably stayed around to see more but dealing with muddy conditions and a pram just makes everything slightly more hard work so we liked just being able to sit out under the awning, while the kids played, in Romeos case mostly naked. No one seemed to mind.
Sunday was brilliant. We ate food, let the kids play games in the children’s area, where apparently no matter how weak and feeble you are you win a toy on the hammer game, thank you nice people, and we watched a couple more bands that were definitely highlights, Less Than Jake, NOFX and of course The Levellers. Less than Jake were full of energy and humour, and songs that take me back to good times. We liked them so much we actually fangirled a couple of the band members after the show who were lovely and happy to pose for pictures with us while my kids looked on rather unimpressed. Dawn by this point was tired after a sleepless night caused by noisy neighbours and decided to take Romeo back for an early night at the van. This left me and Brody to have some very special time together. As Brody is homeschooled I like to find education in everything so I asked one of the security very nicely if he’d mind us going behind the main stage briefly so I could show Brody a bit of what goes on and what kind of jobs people do. He kindly let us and we stood in his view (Incase he thought we were going to run on stage or do anything wild) and I was able to give a mini lesson into how things are done, which resulted in a passer by saying how cool it was my son was going to know everything about festivals. Always nice to feel like a cool parent!
We then watched a bit of the Levellers and went and saw one of the tents being put away so Brody could see more of the work going on behind the scenes. It was a super special bit of time with my big boy, finished by the end of festival fireworks which were magical.
Monday morning was time to pack up. We enlisted help from neighbouring campers to put our awning away and made sure our spot was left spotless, as did all the other campers we saw.
The whole weekend was just perfect, brilliant music, company and fun and the only rubbish thing is that it had to end. I absolutely cannot wait to do it all again next year. Thank you Beautiful Days for being just magic.