'I curse these trees and lands from the bottom of my heart and from the heart of my bottom!'
And to make her views touch the ground Lilah pulled down her jeans and pants and weed. The volume of was disappointing. Lilah, a Festival volunteer steward, had drunk lots of coffee to keep awake. After her shift, Caz had bought her a pint of cider. Where was it?
Now what? Lost, well lost was she. If she wandered around the Festival Arena area near the tents Security might stop her again. 'Excuse me, could you tell me what you have in your bag?'. The guard had been mild, Lilah compliant, tipping her empty flask, mac, pink sunhat ,her pen and her travel scrawl out of her rucksack.
Sleeping would be best. Where was her tent? It was 3.40 am.
Lilah drew strength from her trusty brown hiking clodhoppers bought last week from Caz' indie charity shop. They shone back memories of her first fortnight away from home.
(How big the marquees had seemed! The huge tubs of strawberry jam they all shared; shooing the wasps away. The final night campfire party.called 'Binges'. because of all the chewy, crunchy, home-bakes. He plate piled high until she chomped her way down to the tin. She had been quiet then, absorbing her adventure.)
And now, as we say in Devon 'where to?'
. Lilah clumped forward.
'I shall be OK she told herself 'I know without fail that dawn follows night'
Forward she went lightwise sometimes darkways, down the dimly dappled path.Widening then narrowing it led back and forth to the Festival grounds.
Lost well lost was she....
In fact Lilah hadn't a clue where she was.
She came to the Big House of the family that owned the land. Weary of her clumping trudge that had got her no nearer to her tent in the Oxfam stewards camping area and aware that she was now in a direction about 180 degrees away from her dwelling and across the fields she sat on a stone wall.She used the light from the House to study her watch. It was 4.15. Dawn would arrive by 6 if the sky was unclouded.
A white Security car with two yellow tabarded men drove sleepily round and circuited away. Sitting was safe. She did not look like a prowling thief. After half an hour of car-spotting her bum got cold.
Lilahs' small, blue, orange trimmed, one person, two crossover pole, very cheap and easy to erect nylon tent was a big disappointment.
Jojo, her shift partner, a shy young man who wore his pale chestnut hair in a bun and who planned to attend workshops in outdoor survival in Bristol, had helped. The ground became so sodden that the weight of her backpack had caused puddles of water to ooze through her single built-in groundsheet. His ready work with his spare tarp and his tent pegs made of steel not collapsible bendy aluminium had saved the day.
She had needed to quarantine her wet belongings away from the dry otherwise the whole caboodle would suffer the Plague of Sog.Sweaty heat had been a more recent tribulation. Entering her tent that afternoon to change her clothes had been unbearable.Instead of that much longed-for pre-shift sleep she had made do with mindfulness exercises under a tree.
But right now, Lilah cared for one thing only. Her tent. It was home!
She tramped down a path to a road bridge over a busy dual carriageway. Lost, well lost.. 'Oh blow this for a lark! I thought I'd find the road to Feniton Station and wait for the Co-op to open.'
'Lilah, Lilah' a bass mechanical voice emerged from the cars and lorries rumbling below 'It's alright. You know you will get out. You see you get out what you put in.'
'Now I've had a gutfull and some!' she roared back 'Think you're it 'because you know where you're going, you Satnavous scum. At least I work things out for myself and tell the truth as I find it. Yes I'm lost.I admit it. But it's the end of the Festival and soon I shall be at home in my bed getting some kip. Yes, you lot, I have a bed to sleep in and not a garage. So there!'
(Talking back often made our heroine feel better.)
'Ooh aargh and don't forget me,' the huge heavy treaded motor carrying a wooden cart rumbled back with rustic authority from the depths of his engine. 'I be an agricultural vehicle. And I be telling ye,true maid, you get out what you put in.'
'For goodness sake' said Lilah ' I know a Tractor when I see one.' And then, with the withering scorn appropriate to putting uppity vehicles of his ilk in their place 'So go bollock a turnip!'
It was now near on 5am and Lilah noticed a shift in the light. She walked back to the Festival arena. The massed tents and vans arranged in a square were now starting to take shape. In front lay a cluster of sculptures; a dolphin with red off and on lighting and two silvery trees. Gentle serenade was now the right way to proceed and she praised the bonnie scene and attempted to keep a tune. And she reassured the trees and lands of the Festival ground that they were all alright and she then took back the curse she had given them. And light came early this clear Monday.
Ahead lay familiar land. Lilah now knew her way across the muddy bridge and over the small stream back up the hill to the enclosed Stewards camping ground. She had watched the Firework Finale from here, rockets cascading from the sky like white-hot weeping willows and stars exploding in fiery rains of light.
Whilst our traveller sat seated, singing to herself and her environment a dreadlocked girl approached and said in Yorkshire tones. 'Hiya, I know you're alright but I've got nothing to do and I can give you a cup of tea'
Yes! The kind offer would while away the hour till sunup.
'I need to give you a blanket.' dreadlock Hattie continued. For this was the way in the none too busy pink/purpled striped hospital tent displaying its 'Tea and Empathy' carboard notice. A lone blanket-clad sweat-haired reveller snored on the grass.
Hattie and her shiftpartner Tim followed their Welfare safety training, checking every 15 minutes that the body remained asleep and showed no sins of distress.. Tea was great. Lilah knew for next time to pack a box of Value teabags and stick to T. All the free coffee given to the stewards had proved a bit too much.
'Did you get to see any of the bands? I liked Skamania the best and Selector. Can't beat ska for feelgood sound. I was lucky to work on the viewing platform for the disabled folks and get the best sight of the stage. All I needed to do was help some of them on and off with their macs earlier and hold the toilet door open. There were a couple on my first shift who had not been able to pick up their passes because they arrived after 6 so I followed that through the next morning. And I liked that Leviticus tent, the people from Luton with the display of their community story. Good stuff! If I was younger I would almost move to Luton to be part of it.'
'I liked some of the smaller bands and the folk-rock' said Tim 'A lot of good surprises.'
Dawn started to burn. 'How good it is' Lilah told the two rescue Nightingales 'that after that dismal time before 4 in the morning a bright day like this can come. Bye then and thanks a lot for having me, you're worth your weight in gold.'
One last trip remained to knit up the loose threads of her life.She walked back to the road bridge.There she encountered her tractor again, carting bales of hay.
'Well that's me out of the woods. But what did you mean when you said that I get out what I put in?'
'Just as I told you, maid. You tell the truth and say what is on your mind. And that is what gets you out of pain.'
'Blimey, Ned.You be a deep one! And I want us all to know' she continued, addressing the long, bright ,lively, moving caravanserai of traffic ' that I take back my words. None of us are scum. We all get along as best we can. And I love the lot of you. Each and every one. I swear that on my life. So keep on trucking!'
A beautiful day was dawning. It was the the Beautiful Days Festival. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Two days later Caz came into her work. 'Hi Lilah, are you all right? I looked for you at the Crew Party. You were here one minute and gone the next. I tried your mobile no reply.
'Well Caz I was a knackered Lilah and I got a bit lost. I'm OK now. Hey thanks, she said (her friends' practical kindness often surprised her.) 'Sorry about my mobile. l left it at home' 'By the way Lorraine called round mine yesterday. She said you were back at work first thing Tuesday. I was still in my dressing gown 5 pm the following day. Blimey girl,you must be as strong as an ox!'