I haven’t performed at a single festival this year, partly because no one invited me to any, partly because I was afraid. I still to a great extent believe that my kinda work does not go down as well in festival. Because I work with scattered rhyme, I think it is hard to for the ear to latch on to if one is in a field or forest and there is so much else to distract, so much sound pollution, so I find those settings unsettling. Either way, Scroobious Pip invited me do to read some poem for 30 minutes in Bestival and I accepted. The journey took three hours. Had to catch a train, a bus, a hovercraft and another bus to get there. I jumped on at Waterloo Station having rolled outta bed, into the shower and onto the train station, sans breakfast, water, money, starving my way through the city whipping past, blending into suburbs, fields and finally the country side. At Portsmouth Station - the final train destination, I grabbed some cash from a machine just as the bus arrived to take us to the hovercraft. Waiting for the hovercraft to arrive, I couldn’t help but eaves drop on a conversation, they were sitting beside me failing to whisper. A lady - lets call her Mel - was talking to a man - lets call him Bill - about his dress sense. The man wore dark RayBan sunglasses and Mel was complementing his looks, his demeanour, his clothing, saying repeatedly how gorgeous a pair of eyes he had, how amazing a personality he owned, that he dressed well enough, to not bother comparing herself to anyone else, that he should feel secure. She compared herself to him, “Look at me” says she, “I’m not the best dressed woman I know, me boobs are drooping, but I think I have a nice smile, I don’t take myself too seriously and I don’t judge people like that, none of us do, so you shouldn’t be like this, you are a fucking great guy... why isn’t that enough” “It is not enough for me” he says slouching into himself on the chair.
We got off when the ferry had crossed to Ryde Esplandale. I proceeded to walk about a little baffled in the way tourists do, asking for directions to Bestival when Bill called out “you going Bestival mate?” I turned to catch the rich sunlight bounce of his sunglasses and smiled towards him. “Yep, you going?” “Yeah” says he “But we don’t have any tickets. Yet.” He introduced me to his friends: the lady I saw him talking to earlier, two more guys and another lady, lets call her Louise. Louise thrust her had forward and vigorously shook mine. “Inua?, that’s a nice name, but I’ll forget, I’m crap with names.” “Me too Louise, you have no idea...” The gang began to stop people who got out of taxis, on their way from Bestival back to their various homes. They asked, begged, pleaded for the festival wrist bands they would get them on site. It worked! They got some for free, paid £20 for a couple, but they were all successful. We waited for a big enough taxi to take us to Bestival and the chit chat flowed freely.
Louise buzzed with excitement. She was loud, blonde, pink lipstick and flirtatious. She asked my name a few more times before finally mastering it - I told the slightly cheeky joke: “Think if it in a sexual context, IN - OOH - AAH” she cackled like three witches, got it and called out to her mate, “come hear this.” When they’d stopped laughing an odd silence settled. Bill had grown momentarily quite in his RayBans and noticing the light awkwardness, Mel piped up “they are married...” and I apologised for what now seemed and inappropriate joke. Mel walked off with one of the guys - lets call him Colin - as Louise and Bill showed off their diamond studded wedding rings, offering me a drink of something dark and strong. The taxi came and we climbed in to wait for Mel and Colin’s return, but they failed to answer their phones. “They are having a domestic” Louise explained, “they are married as well, they weren’t talking on the ferry you know” she laughed. Bill was getting angrier by the minute, swearing loudly how he wanted to get to Bestival and see Bjork. He tried Mel and Colin over and over again, his language getting worse and worse, every other word an expletive. I had the growing sense of sitting in a cage with a lion. The last friend - lets call him Steve - sat between Bill and Louise, Louise kept reaching across to calm her husband, slapping him sharply on his arm “don’t be such a dick head, don’t be such a mug” she kept on saying, varying the similes a little. Eventually, Bill erupted and asked the taxi driver to go. We pulled out of the parking lot and sped up hill, it never once crossed my mind to get outta the taxi and get a bus.
As we drove, we talked of work. Louise was a dog breeder - this I was fascinated by. Steve was between jobs and when I asked Bill’s work, the other laughed and said ‘he makes the tea’. Bill smiled sheepishly and leant back as though he’d given up on something, but I prodded. He told me he worked a managerial position as a railway inspector, leading a team of 15 guys. “I don’t walk as much as I used to these days. When I first started, I walk about 6 miles of railway a day.” Is it hard? I asked “Not if you know what you are doing, is fine. There are some tough times though.. suicides..” He took of his RayBans here and leant forward. He had a round longish face. He was balding, as I am, but further down the line. His bottom row of teeth were crooked and layered on top of one another. Mel was right, his eyes were clear-tropical-beach-water coloured, childlike and something frail about the way they scanned my face flicking to the window and back. As he spoke, they shook ever so gently from side to side, “It is hard sometimes when you have to deal with the suicides, I have to liaise with police, organise for forensics people to come and do the scene, gather up the body... it’s not right seeing a human being in so many pieces like that... cut to bits on the tracks... I have to switch of... you know, sometimes?” “You have to I said” suddenly shuddering in the taxi, “there is no other way...”