HALFWAY ALONG the ridge we found the end of the camps and claimed our kingdom.
I was glad because my arms were tired and because my suitcases - yes, suitcases - elicited weird looks from the other Gatherers.
Joseph and Tim set about putting up their tents. Sam and I sat on the grass and shared a joint in the sun. It wasn't long before others arrived. First in were Darius and Kathy in his beat-up, mustard-coloured station wagon.
They roared up to the tents, handbraked, slid a few feet, and then almost before the wagon had stopped moving, as it was still sliding, even, they bounded out with that yes-we're-finally-here energy we all felt.
With his gold-and-black mane pulled into pigtails and wearing a lemon T-shirt with BMXcellent across the front, Darius rocked with his usual restless intensity; he always gave the impression of being fifteen minutes late. "Bloody hell," he declared, "how was that queue?"
"Ah, it was madness," answered Tim, practicing his poiing, chains and ribbons flying about his body. "But at least you weren't in a taxi van."
Darius snickered at this. I suspect it was the reason he'd mentioned the queue. The taxi van had been his idea.
Kathy, his girlfriend, shook her blonde dreadlocks and rolled her eyes. "Ignore him, I do," she said, coming over to give Sam and I a hug. "How did you guys get here then?"
"A family in a camper van gave us a lift," I answered.
"Jeez, that was lucky," Darius said coming over to hug us also. "Otherwise it would have been a bloody long walk." He snickered again.
We offered Darius the joint and he puffed away and unpacked. Soon he'd unloaded a two-man tent Sam and I would be sharing for the Gathering’s duration. "Here you go lads, have fun."
Having never put up a tent I eyed it dubiously, as only a man bringing suitcases to an outdoor festival could. I threw out a feeler to Sam. "What do you reckon?"
Sam however had never put up a tent either, and, unbeknownst to me, had hooked a quarter trip earlier in the day with Joseph. Still, he sounded confident. "I think we’re intelligent guys, Izz. It can’t be that difficult."
Reassured, we set to it with all the will and logical might we could muster. Half an hour, several conversations, one dirt drawn diagram, and two arguments later, we’d put up something . . . it just didn’t resemble anything our friends had erected.
While theirs were taunt and proudly rippled, ours bowed in on one side and was a sort of misshapen splat, a sort of canvas sneeze. We stood back in thoughtful silence.
"Good enough?" I finally asked casting a sideways glance at Sam.
"Good enough," he replied. "Who sleeps at a festival anyhow?"
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