Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth

This summer has been a summer of love, laughter and learning. 

I have had so many new experiences, met an amazing array of wonderful people, heard the most enchanting words or boomtastic and acoustic sounds that at times have totally soothed my soul.

Some of it has been through the creative outlets that flow charmingly and surprisingly from my brain.
Some has been the effort of my tribe who have danced with me and held me through the rain and the pain.
Some of it has been my inner pride and amazement at my resilience. I will not be beaten by the constant twists and turns of how challenging life can be at times. It just keeps coming...

But through it all, I have endured, survived, like a trouper, fighter, dynamiter. Watch me burn!

And in amongst all that I have been living the dream! Writing reviews. Building festivals and dance dance dancing in the rain.

My articles that i write for free (entry tickets are the bonus) can all be found here.

Festivals For All (FFA) are a wonderful online company. There isn't a festival they don't review. Well not now they have me on their team anyway! 
And I love their enthusiasm. The fact they that they (and others it would seem) enjoy my writing style...if a bit elongated and ridiculous at times.

I love their coverage. Their re-tweets, their contacts and regular requests to go to another festival – most of the time it would be ridiculous not to! Who in their right mind (or in my mind anyway) would refuse?

And best of all...I love having an editor!!

I'm pretty sure that's not how FFA see it. But I do. They never make radical changes, just remove the personal ridiculous rants and essentially they often take over 5000 word reviews of my wibbly wobbly tangent wibblings and tweak them into exactly what I meant in the first place. 

LOVE IT! 

The Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival was an absolutely long winded winding road of hilarity for me and Linzie from beginning to end. It would be ridiculous not to tell the whole story. 

So here it is:

The Truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth

I pick Linzie up at 7pm and we begin the 5 hour drive up Norf. I am the driver, Beryl is the beautiful bus (VW Campervan of wonder) and Linzie is the...the...hmmmm...co-pilot? Nah...she is the entertainment!! The bestie of the hour. The soon to be capped that weekend as "Wing Woman of the Year".

1 hour into the journey and she's popping cans of cider, eating coleslaw with her bare hands and the pair of us sing, shout, rejoice, point and laugh as we 'putt putt putt' towards Beauly, where the TarataHeart Belladrum is held.

We have press passes at the ready but need to go into Inverness to collect our campervan pass. Which has kindly been left for us, behind the bar of the Hootananny Pub!! Having looked it up online before hand I had serious concerns that once we made it into this place, we were never going to make it back out.

It looked amazing. Lots of musical instrument related fun. In their online pictures were people sitting around, each of them wielding an instrument. Linzie, having forgotten to bring her guitar, which, side note: is apparently my fault for not clearly giving permission for the guitar to come! So Linzie is already talking about accosting other peoples guitars on site. So, I'm thinking, how do i get her in and out of an award winning live music venue without losing her to the enchanting sounds of the acoustic vibes, or stealing someone's guitar?

The anticipation and contemplation amused me muchly.

We saw a huge hot air balloon shortly after picking up the beginning of the atrocity road that is the A9. Eeeeurrrrgggghhhhh the A9. Long yet scenic. Thank goodness because you would die of driving boredom without the views. Its long. 143 miles of mostly single carriage way 60mph limited hell. And thats according to Uncle Google. But what U.G. doesnt account for in its 2hr and 42 minute journey estimation, is the fact that poor old Beryl needs a half mile warning about going up a big hill, so she never stays a steady 60mph on such beautiful gradually inclining Scottish hilly roads. No. She struggles sometimes and slows to 45- 50mph. We dont care, it just proves Google wrong. We just trundle and putt putt on.

But while the hot air balloon passes I have the added driving endanger of dodging Linzies phone being waved about in front of my face. She is trying to take a picture. The balloon is very near, on our right, but very low, probably not long having taken off. But it was constantly being obscured by trees, bushes and passing vehicles. Alas she didn’t get one single shot of the hot air balloon but did get a picture of the high speed train going south bound on the carriageway of the A9!!! - see it here

We arrive eventually in Inverness after a few 'comfort stops' for the merrily ferry-me friend of mine who drinks more than her peanut bladder can hold, but its ok as she is prepared to pee anywhere! Anywhere...even residential areas. Hey – if Paula Radcliff can do it, why cant the rest of us pee in the street? 

Anyway I digress....So I park Beryl in a teeny tiny space in the town centre and I escort Linzie in and out of the Hootananny quicker than she can say Pint? We pick up our van pass, nod approvingly at the acoustic band chucking out an incredible cover version of a song we now cant recall. Poor Linzie, her wee musician deprived face, the best live music pub in Scotland (apparently) and she's in and out in under 5 minutes. 

But we are on a mission! Its 11:35pm and we have to locate and enter the festival before midnight. It is only a few miles away and as we leave the town and begin to see the odd yellow council signs for the site entrance, our excitement starts to grow. Finally we turn down a country lane and in the distance begin to see large tents, hi-vis stewards and the signs of a good time ahead. We are directed along the lanes continually by stewards, no one asking for our vehicle pass, tickets or anything. Just consinutal waving and pointing. Deeper and deeper into the country lane we go, following the pointing people in yellow jackets.

I begin to feel a little over excited, considering what the park up prospects for Beryl are going to be like.
Always a bit more difficult arriving and setting up at a festival by night, as you cant quite get the feel for the lay of the land. But as we twist and turn further into the middle of the festival we see an orderly row of campervans and caravans on our left. We are very excited to see the long organised rows, there is plenty of space left. This is going to be easy.

I am so excited by now. Ever been so excited you feel like you should panic? No? Just us then? Oh well...that's how we felt!

But then the field of campervans and caravans starts to wind away from us. We are confused. Its almost in review now. I carry out an emergency stop in front of the next hi-vis steward and winding down the window we ask him, “Should we not be in there?” pointing at the campervan field.

Long story cut short (why that's unlike you Lou!) we should not have been able to get as far as we had without being checked at some point, given wrist band passes and directed into the entrance to the field we are now pointing at.
He kindly allows us through a completely different gate. And we trundle up past the orderly rows of caravans and sleeping campers to find our perfect spot.

I want flat ground. That is my only desire. It is too late at night to start faffing about with chocks. And at first I pull up beside another VW T25 Campervan. But oh noooooo. Thats not for Linzie. She greatly objects. Not wanting us to be in some sort of VW club and me nerding out all weekend talking to people about campervans – hurrumph!

So I whizz off, laughing at the strength of her disdain, knowing full well that its still bound to happen anyway, regardless of where we park. But then we find a perfect spot. Lovely and flat, no chocks needed. Loo’s in site. Entrance to festival not too far. A mahousive red camper / horse box is a few vans down to our right, a perfect large beacon for where we are nestled behind. Wonderful.
We pop the roof of Beryl, pop some cans. Its 11:59pm and we have arrived.

We didn’t have a particularly late night as I was exhausted from the drive. I sunk a few Caffreys and watched Linzie attempt to eat us out of house and home. For such a slinky skinny person, boy can she put food away sometimes. I have never seen a big fat hungry hairy biker eat as much as she can eat at times. But hey, that's the point of food isn’t it? 
I think she is one of those people that just needs to binge eat once a month, provide her body with an overload of nutrition, fibre and vitamins. The rest of the time she lives off an apples or a banana and whatever else stick insects eat.

We partially set up camp, slump into bed under a moody cloudy dark sky. And are soon into the slumbers of Beryls comfy rock and roll bed.

We awoke at 11:30am!!! Well we must have both needed it! We are now surrounded by other VW campervans, old and new and a few caravans. Oh how I laughed! We make polite conversation with our new neighbours and begin our chores.

We frantically dart about, a bit like weebles, trying to finish setting up. Carrying out crucial type activities like putting up our bunting and fairy lights, changing Beryl’s bed into chair mode, organising the equipment to carry on site into the least bags possible, having a few Gins. Well it is a festival after all and it would have been ridiculous not to. We finally wander over to the ticket office and swap our etickets for a pair each of the most impressive wrist bands of my whole festival season. Gorgeous colour material bands, one saying Adult and the other saying PRESS in big silver letters. Thank you FFA!

You know what is important about having press identity? It helps you review! It acquires you a few freebies along the way if you are a wise turtle such as I, with a perfectly polished brass neck. But mostly it helps people understand why you are asking them so many questions, poking a camera in their face, pushing to the front of gigs, taking notes, climbing onto stages. It proves you are there doing a job and not just blagging. Those wrist bands made life so much easier for the job we had in hand. So thanks Bella and thanks FFA!
So heres how it happened:

If you like your festivals to feel safe and organised, clean and civilised, then Tartan Heart is perfect. It sits nestled in the trees on a beautiful estate in Beauly, just 20 minutes from Inverness. The whole of the site is well thought out, plenty of pink portaloos, kept immaculate at all times. There were clearly marked drinking water points, good access for disabled campers, lighting around all the entrances and bag checking areas and mostly really helpful stewards. 

There is a general feel of order to the whole affair, which as used to the more chaotic sprawling festivals as I have now become, I found I was quite pleased me with the entire efficiency of it all. Even if I didn’t notice the IN / OUT signs for bar queues and went straight down the empty one anyway. Or strolled right up to the merchandise stand, sidled into a gap and purchased my programme before realising to my right was an orderly queue of roughly 50 people…patiently waiting…oh well!! I did have to laugh at my own required effort of not being out of order at such an orderly festival.

The festival its self is set out as a range of different areas, all cleverly fenced in and corralling you around. It was like wandering through a large village fete yet constantly coming across more delights to feast your eyes on or turn your ear to or park your bum near. There were walled gardens, tree lined avenues, parapets and a sunken main stage. Bandstands, hay stacks, hammock circles, cycle tracks, a  traditional horse merry- go- round, giant mushrooms, tartan hearts in trees, bothys and much much more.

Apart from the kid’s field at Glastonbury, which is pretty impossible to compete with, I have never seen so many activities for young people to take part in.

I must at this point put in general big thank you to all of the activity workers who kindly, allowed us as press officers to take part, entirely for free, so we could capture some images, experience the essence of their engagement and pop them into this review. As many of the activities were technically for children, but how can one review if one hasn’t had a go? 
So thank you to you all.

This festival I had a new wing woman. The incredible and ridiculous Linzie. As I am both the reporter and camera person I require support, a wing person to either hold everything while I have a go or preferably them  have a go so I can write, snap and interview people at the same time. 
She turned out to be the best wing woman yet.
Linzie rose to every challenge that I set and replied to everything I asked her to have a go on with the smiley reply of “it would be ridiculous not to”. 
And in she would dive with her enthusiasm and skills, determined to be Wing Woman of the year I think.

She also kept me right at times with her simple logic and seeing festivals through new eyes. Us hardened festival veterans can often become quite oblivious to the smaller things other people really notice. Or the simple solutions. For instance, when I noticed the large gorilla seated upon a small square building in the distance my intrigue got the better of me shouting to Linzie:
“There! There! That Gorilla on the top of that little building, see it? I want to go there! There…how do we get there???” 
To which she replied “well...er... we just walk towards it Lou!” Of course. 

When we reached said building it turned out to be a small square turret style building at the end of a long parapet overlooking the main stage ‘Garden Stage’ as it was called. And inside the building were a small group of people under a recycled bottle chandelier. We leant over their tartan heart decorated fence, introduced ourselves as their new neighbours and complimented them on their fantastic spot for their view of the Garden Stage. We then began to discuss the luscious kitsch ladies adorning either side of the stage.
Which in fact these lovely people had painted. We were in fact talking to the creative production crew from the weekend. The creators of the John Lennon installation outside of the Bella Bar, the white winged horses in the wedding woods: all Felicity Nightingale (with her happy helpers) from Flick of Paint

Also the beautiful Elephant thoughtful in pose upon a small building was by Allison Weightman to raise awareness of the pointless killing of one of Kenyas most legendary elephants,called Satao. Legendary for his tusks which reached the ground, which is the reason he was killed by poachers. The Ivory trade must be stopped.

So first things first. Our first adventure was into the HSPC Walled Garden, where, unbelievably you could find Hot Tubs, a Vintage Flea market, a beautiful seating area placed around a dug out fire pit and a huge carved celtic totem pole.

There was a Folk stage in one corner, many environmental or campaign type stall holders and the Burk and Hair Real Ale Theatre Pub. Completely enclosed with its own mini courtyard, one end stage, the opposite end decorated in all things of steam punk musical instruments and influence.

The bar sold ale only and the open air centre was filled with hay bales for seating. We were initially shocked to be told beer tokens were required and equally disappointed to learn the beer token kiosk was the other side of the main arena. 

Still the incredibly happy to help barman swapped back some of his own beer token for our cash, enough to enable us to purchase one pint each for the continuation of our wander further into the thrum of the Belladrum. 
We had a quick listen to the solo artist on the stage called Far who was very mellow acoustic, very good and after a few whistles, and whoop whoops accompanied by much clapping, we walked on.

Immediately distracted from our mission to acquire beer tokens by a rather adverse camber circular bike track. Empty. No one playing on it. 
“Linzie!” I demand, “go get on a bike so I can talk to this company and take pictures.” “Well,” she replied “it would be ridiculous not to.” And off she went.

The company were called For the Love of Bikes and their purpose was to promote bike riding as a family activity, to promote cycling confidence and get people having a go. This enthusiastic and energetic crew are part of a Café and Bike workshop enterprise on Stevens Bray in Inverness and they also do outreach projects and work closely with local primary schools. 
Speaking to the project manager Penny Phillips she explained “our Café is fantastic, all organic locally sourced products and we just want people to become more confident on using bikes so it is safer for them as road users and easy to have fun as both a mode of transport and as a family activity.” 

Linzie managed the track, without incident and bagged herself a lollipop for her troubles and a small round of applause. We left having formed a small queue of interested people for ‘The Love of Bikes’ to continue with their day.

We moved on further into the site, passing a beautiful tree lined avenue and a large hand made mushroom. Under which we found solo artist Leanne Smith just beginning her set. Her voice was soft and beautiful. Her support band melodic and rhythmic. 
We tried not to talk over her as our excited eyes scanned the interesting looming horizon, not least because of the white Pegasus horses floating in the woods behind her hiding a discrete octagonal building with a small wedding party going on. Congratulations! Or the tartan hearts high up in large pine trees in the distance. We stayed for a couple of Leanne’s songs, applauded and made our away towards the belly of Bella and hopefully the beer token kiosk.

Our next distraction was the stunning horse merry-go-round. It was beautiful. And even more beautiful when lit up at night. However it was downright scary when closed down and turned off in the evening. Something very spooky about that fairground ride at night.

We then bumped into a lady promoting the Fire Walking workshop run by Oona Mcfarlane for charity at the TirNaNog arena. Linzie was filled with excitement to learn she could take part in this if she attended a preparatory workshop to be held later that afternoon. We put it on our list of to-do’s and then promptly lost all track off time, missing the workshop.

But until then we trotted on, finally spotting the beer token kiosk and exchanging our cash for tiny pieces of paper worth four pounds each. This gets you one drink, which strangely you cannot take outside of the arena back to your camp site. It is down to their licensing regulations apparently. But is seems quite odd to me considering you can purchase your own alcohol to bring into the campsites. So surely once you have purchased it on the festival site, I is yours? But never mind, it was a small issue, not insurmountable.

With beer tokens in hand we rushed to the nearest bar – the Bellabar, with a square bandstand outside and a huge hay stack for sitting on. I loved the way people grabbed their own bales and made their own temporary group corral. Like being in a country and western, without the horses and spurred heel show downs.

Enjoying our Crabbies fruity ginger ale we wandered on and came across a highly energetic and colourful character by the name of Ron Bird. He was conducting a large group of drummers, including adults and children, while prancing around in the centre of the circle instructing the drumming with clear enjoyment, drum sticks and a whistle. Linzie was quick to throw herself into the action (well it would have been ridiculous not to) and drummed along, twirling and stomping along when told to with the rest of the engaged audience.

The Guarana Street drummers run workshops at all sorts of events and even have a free drumming session in the Ashgrove Childrens Centre in Gillespie Place in Aberdeen every Wednesday. So if you live nearby and you like drums, I would highly recommend swinging by and having a go one Wednesday at 5:30 if you are a kid or 7:30 for adults. It was great fun and the enigmatic thrumming vibe the large group of drummers produced was fun and impressive. 
You can find out more about them here

Speaking to Ron after the workshop I asked him why people should come along and take part: he said “Because we’ve got the drums, we’ve got the enthusiasm and we’ve got the smiles”. Now that’s impressive for a completely volunteer led free activity in Aberdeen.

Next exploration was into an area that was based around the GoNorth Seedlings Stage. A venue for young unsigned acts. By Jove they were good! We listened to Searching for Donkeys, who were loud, proud and clearly enjoying themselves, as we spoke to the projects based around this area. 

Most impressive was the Young Scot crew who were engaging with adults and young people. They had tags that tied onto simple piece of fencing. And each tag had something written on it. Upon enquiry June, the project outreach director and engagement officer explained that they were promoting the Youth Climate Challenge fund which is available across Scotland for anyone under the age of 26 who wants to get involved in sustainable, environmental projects that will influence the government into more sustainable living brought about by young people.

The Young Scot crew were all volunteers, all knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Ross , with a pink beard, who was about to go walking around site with their tags, explained they were asking people to write on them what advice would you give to todays young people for them to focus on?

Reading the tags was enlightening and amusing. You could tell those written by young people and adults apart fairly easily. Especially those who wished for unicorns and more ice cream shops, compared to better facilities and after school homework clubs.

Linzie wrote on hers: Aim high and hold the aim.
I wrote: Be a good person and everyfing will be well.

We then watched some of Spaced. An impressive three piece band, the lead singers voice quirky yet powerful. An interesting mix of the sound of the Sundays and a Jack Black kind of erratic rocking thrash. Their song entitled ‘Fire Extinguisher’ was brilliant and after the small crowd roared in applaud the lead singer amusingly accused them of being loud.

While still listening to Spaced we ventured outside of the GoNorth tent and came across a beautifully decorated gazebo with guitars and a drum kit, unmanned with two large cameras and a film rig set up pointing in. Like a red rag to a bull, Linzie was in reaching for a guitar, ready to get her jam on as a group of young men came to enquire who we were. 
It turns out they were from a project called the Boat Shed, working with the Belladrum festival catching artists from across the site who were willing to be filmed doing a live session in the Gazebo. The director of the project, Alex told us they were about to launch a record label with none other than Willie J Healey a young rock and stroll artist from Oxford.  
The whole purpose of the Boat Shed project was to engage with new up and coming artists given them a platform to perform from and record in. They were a great bunch of lads and we managed to get some pictures of them filming and recording Catfish and the Bottle men, who after we chatted with them, invited Linzie to come and jam with them the following day. It went on the to-do list but was missed due to ever ebbing and flowing timelines!

Next we strolled off, refilled our hands with another Crabbie can, correctly utilising the IN / OUT signs this time. We regrouped at the main bar and sat on the hay bales enjoying the unusual alternative rock and pop sounds of a band called Lionel.
We really enjoyed them, the main singer Josh had a certain The Kooks kind of way of throwing his vocals around which he did not approve of when I told him this. We also thought they sounded a little like the Jam, which Josh did approve of and was happy to be compared with. 
And then again we were on our way.

We bumped into a very dapper young man who turned out to be the lead singer of a band called Ballin Jacks. They played later at the BellaBar bandstand and we wrote them up as very rock and blues, enjoying the strong throng of their sound and the cool seductive nature of Rudys voice. But I suspect we may not actually have been there and used some of our creative licence there.

Unusually for me I was then drawn to the banging Scottish sounds drifting up from the Garden Stage, (I am English and can only take so much Ceilidh) The band were called the Big Fat Ceilidh band, and they were not wrong. Their bass line and electrobe sound was big and fat. Woven among the traditional Scottish sounds of the fiddle and the pipes. They introduced each song and simply said if you know this one, get into a line (or group of two/three/four) and off you go. No 10 minute interlude of instructions, no long winded run through to endure. Just get stuck in and listen to our incredible band. They were incredible, like a cross between techno and Scottish. Thoroughly impressive and enjoyable.

On our next jaunt across the site, finally realising it was fire walking time, we passed a guy with a huge penis drawn on the back of his leg. This entertained us for a while as we considered it more polite than names such as dick head or such like. So we followed him, shouting Knob Leg! Knob leg!  It took a while for him to realise we were talking to him (strangely) but eventually he stopped. He had no reasonable, funny or worthwhile explanation for this lazy piece of doodling on his leg other than, his friends had found a marker pen and that’s what he ended up with. Ahhhh the constant cycle of the same old jokes through the pathway of youth.

However Knob Leg Liam had been coming to the festival for 12 years, pretty much since in the womb going by his youthful face, and sense of humour. So putting the bad doodling aside, we gave Liam credit where credit was due. A very young Belladrum veteran from Invergordon. We all wandered together for a bit, him being called Old Knobby and everyone else by their usual name.

As they disappeared we immediately bumped into an interesting looking young man with an incredibly dapper outfit and wonderful twisted moustache.
He was having a break from working on his Photobooth down in the vintage flea market. Bygone Photobooth, based in Glasgow, worth checking out for an event.

Our final distraction on the way towards the Temple for some hot coal action was EQ Sport who were running a zorb style activity. Not those huge zorbs you climb inside and run in like a hamster on a wheel. No, a smaller zorb you climb half your body into, with handles inside in front of you to hold onto. So you look a bit like a transparent tomato with legs. The idea being you run around into things and bounce about falling over. Well... It was the funniest and most amusing thing I had seen all day. I gasped!

“Linzie! You HAVE to have a go at that!” “Well Lou… it would be ridiculous not to.” And so she did. 
We bypassed the long queue of politely waiting children and in she went. Running round the cordoned off area falling over like a huge transparent tomato on legs. 

Linzie has a nick name, the FF Stick insect. Coz she is Fun yet Feeble (openly admits) and yet stealth and steady, slightly quirky and dead skinny like a stick insect. She doesn’t have much weight, in fact hardly any weight at all, to throw around. I can pick her up with my pinky finger. So poor her, inside this zorb, getting ping ponged all over the place. By children! 
It was so amusing and I was laughing so heartily and loudly that spectators were turning to look at me! 
Thankfully my camera gave me all the explanation I needed to be standing around a bunch of clear sphere covered children in near hysteria.

EQ Sports aim is to bring fun and activity to the Highlands. And boy have they got that right. The two workers run off their feet trying to keep control of this organised chaos. I grabbed a quick chat with Fin, a lovely lass full of enthusiasm who informed me they can take these activities to any event or even birthday parties, stag/hen do’s and weddings. Now that’s got to be fun.

When we eventually realised the time and rushed back round to where the walking on hot coals was about to take part, we were refused entry as we had missed the workshop. And then sadly for everyone else who had attended the ‘how not to burn your feet off’ workshop, they were turned away too. For the heavens opened, the event was stopped, rain cancelled play and the torrential down pour put out the hot coals.

We found refuge back in the Burk and Hair Pub theatre, where the hay bale seats had been removed under cover and the internal space was being splattered by huge rain drops. 
However the two piece acoustic band that were playing entertained the crowd and after a couple of pints of Skye Red ale we also entertained the crowd with our own duet dancing in the rain to Doc Livingston and Brendan Martin. An Americana blue grass sound of fiddly diddly rock.
As soon as they did their cover of Paint in Black, Linzie and I hit the rain splashed space and danced until the grand finale. Soaked to the skin but happy within, we took our praise from the band and the supportive audience and bumbled down to our next adventure.
Doc was from the Isle of Skye and you can find out more details about him here.

As the rain stopped and our beers replenished, we left the snug of the Burk and Hair and immediately came across a chap called Ray who was inviting people to have a go on his 80% accurate Wheel of Fate. 
Talking to Ray I felt I had found my cosmic brother. The only other person in the world to call themselves a “Conduit for the Truth.” I shook his hand with gusto until he then pointed out (a fact that until then had evaded me) that really that just made us a pair of tubes…

Anyway it was fun listening to his banter, getting people into the zone of thinking about your one life learning question before spinning his wheel and waiting for you to say stop! Linzie and I were both impressed with the answers we received. But my favourite on the whole of his wheel was:
“Don’t believe everything you think.”

He called to me as we left, “Rules are for fools Lou, but guidance is for wise men.” I could have spent all day talking meaningful nonsense with him but alas, the thrum of Belladrum was calling. And there was a huge line of impatient children waiting to have their go. Bah!

We took a quick spin at this point back to our campervan to gather evening attire, jackets and hats and then came straight back in to sit and listen to the old school and awesome Grand Master Flash.

Sitting beneath the nose of John Lennon we were discussing how to review the GM Flash when a group of youngsters came by. Average age of 14 I would say. We asked them if they had enjoyed the gig. They had. We asked them if they could describe it in one word, what would that word be? We were very surprised at the words they gave: Mosh, Sex, Horny and Sore. Deciding that was enough said we ventured forward, leaving them to be so young silly and disturbing!

Next up was I am Kloot inside the Black Isle Brewery Grassroots stage. Originating from the Manchester Acoustic Movement we reviewed them as very lyrical and story telling in their songs. Their mostly acoustic sound with gentle drums. According to my notes we found the lead vocalist had quite a nice gritty but also soft tone to his voice. But we are not sure we were there either.  

We stumbled on over to the Garden Stage again to hang from the parapet watchingy very briefly the legend that is Tom Jones. What can you say about Tom Jones that hasn’t been said already? Quite the performer, pleased the crowd with hit after hit. And in the spirit of things we only wished we had knickers to throw at him alongside the squeals of delight from the ladies and the pouting impersonations from the gents. We think. Possibly. Maybe. All in all a great first day at the festival with two names.

Just outside Crabbies Hot House we found a beautiful display of burning tree trunks. Sounds sad doesn’t it? 
But it is actually an ingenious and beautiful way of creating warmth and satisfying crowd fascination with flame, without chopping trunks into logs, logs into kindlers and burning a fire in the traditional fashion.  
The free standing trunks were around 6 feet tall, which had been cut vertically by chainsaw, like a star, so you were left with a trunk with 4 long cuts to about half way down. A small ignition using fuel and then they are left to burn down. A totem of fire to watch and warm your face off. 
Cordoned off of course, with hazard tape, and men in high-vis jackets and a witty and safety conscious Fire Warden on watch at all times. He was the go to man for fire safety and clearly loved this festival job, including the ridiculous Fire related, Prodigy referenced names we kept making up for him and his crew. In a fire retardant suit, and huge fire retardant gloves, he was the Fire Master. Twister Fire starter. But actually his job was to guard the festival fires and to put fires out. Unofficial fires. Unapproved fires and definitely fires in any camping areas.  

He kept us amused with his stories of foam spraying unapproved fires earlier on site that had been located by security. And we kept him amused by calling him a human Fire Guard and then accidentally a Fire Retard. It was not meant to come out like it did. But it did. And I apologised. Profusely. Continuously. With my head hung in shame. Thankfully he found it amusing too, accepted my apologies and belly laughed as Linzie politically correctly removed me and my over drive gob from the blazing situation.

We wandered the site randomly a little longer, accosting people for laughs, listening to the drifting sounds while falling on our arse. We sat here, there and everywhere, enjoying the friendly company of strangers. Finally whiling away the last hours of darkness beside the fire pit in the HSPC Walled Garden, enjoying the unofficial jamming between the crowd of eight of us still awake. The eight awake states.

At one point the Fire warden returned after a rather officious security guard had been over and demanded to know who had started the fire, who was in control of the fire, who had dug the fire pit and who had put the wood in it? Not one of us could answer these questions as we were not the culprits but we were able to respond as capable adults, quite adamant that we could cope with the two logs smouldering down on their last embers. 
We were unable to satisfy the security guards rules (for fools) so along came the official Fire Warden. He was bemused to see Linzie and I back in the middle of the banter and the fire and quickly assessed the situation and reassured the security guard, that in his opinion the fire was under control. The security guard stropped off, clearly undermined and overridden. 
Fire Warden then pulled up a seat, got the fire stoked up and the flames burning higher and stayed with us another hour or so. Telling his stories, keeping our fire burning bright. Eventually being called away to another suspicious incident identified by a security guard. Probably someone lighting a cigarette.

Finally then there were just two. So Linzie and I trundled back to our campervan area. Well we tried to.
At first being refused exit by another over zealous jobs worth security guard who insisted that the site had shut at 3am and where had we been? 
He did not seem to understand that people were just hanging out, playing guitars, singing songs round a camp fire. He kept acclaiming that the site was shut! It was not on his programme of activities. 
Linzie, rather tired and bufuddled by this time, gave up and laid down in the dirt in front of him and his ‘locked gate’.  Saying “Fine then, I’ll just sleep here then shall I?” While I just said “FFS!” and opened the barriers and walked through. 

The Stick Insect shot up off her stoney dodgy ground and slinked through, leaving behind us the confused face of the security guard unsure how to secure us from going to bed behind us.

In contrast, on arrival at the final gate from the site into the campervan field, we received a round of applause from the three security guards, for being the last men standing and official last two punters to leave the main arena. 
Linzie kept saying to me “I’ve not seen any drunk people staggering about?” 
And I would stop, point at myself Ian Brown style and say “Er...Hello?”

So you can imagine, Saturday took us a little longer than planned to get going and get back into the arena to do it all again. But once we were in, it was again, beautiful and full of surprises. 

We still found more unvisited areas, the hammock circle in particular was memorable. Mark Stevens saw his circular hammock installation as a decorative contribution to the festival. And again, although it was an activity for children, as soon as we showed him our glittery shiney Press wrist bands and note book, he was happy to let Linzie have a go. 
We wrapped her right up in one and spun the thing over and over to her squeals of delight. I asked Mark if he had been having fun as an unofficial minder of all the children inside the hammocks, “They come in as maggots and hatch as beautiful little butterflies!”

We found our way back to the Burk and Hair at one point and came across a gentleman totally dressed in yellow tartan, playing music from the first half of the 20th century using Vinyl on two Gramaphones. What a find! The sound was wonderful, scratched, dated but brilliant. His name was Lord HolyRude – vintage disk jockey and he was much fun. 
You can find him here on facebook.

We had a good wander around the traders quarter, finding some beautiful stalls and amazing food outlets. I introduced Linzie to her first Falafel which we completely devoured with every extra topping and hot sauces we could add. Scrumptious.

The sun was shining, we found a perfect spot under the parapet, sitting on a wall to rest our weary feet and my aching back while kicking our heels and singing along to Ex-Simple Minds. Absolutely brilliant trip down memory lane, you forget how many you know. And sitting on that comfy wall, we tapped our toes and sung out everything so loud (or at least I did as Linzie claimed to be too young for some of them – pah!)

Next up was two awesome occasions at the Garden Stage. 

First was the performance from Reef. Reeeeeeeeeeeeeef!!  Gary Stringer still as hot as ever. Plenty of bowler hat waving as we crept closer and closer to the front. 
Second occasion was the Holi Fest, where all the coloured paint dust came out. Wherever there was colour, we ran, we found and we put not just our hands up but our faces too. Reef were fantastic but so were we, dancing in the dusty dusk of colourful madness.

We had to head away from the main stage for a while as Reef finished and Razorlight came on as we needed fluids. Boy does that paint dust affect the vocal chords!! So it was a quick dash round the food area for some yummy noodles, the main bar for more Crabbies, and then back to Razorlight. Hardly any voice left between us we absent mindedly paid a little attention to some of their set, but with our feet, backs and throats hurting by now we decided to take make a move back to our campervan and enjoy the finale fireworks from there. 

As strange as it may seem I also had an ulterior motive in that the ISS (international space station) was passing over at 11:10pm, it was an incredibly clear night and as with many things in life – a must see. 

I was also hoping we might see a meteor or two as it was Persoids  season. We were not disappointed.

The ISS was shining bright and zoomed across the sky. Obvious and wonderful in the beautiful dark highland sky. And as I barely convinced Linzie that was what it was the finale fire works began. 

They were great, loud and impressive. One particular rocket I hadn’t seen before, which I am going to call MEGA BLASTER TWIZZLE, because it went up really high with a clear twizzling white continuous tail. And when it popped, oh lordy did it boom. It was huge. It was loud. And they only used two of them. God only knows how much each one of those cost. But we loved it. 

And then, as the smell of sulphur past over the eerily quiet camper fields, we noticed a huge comet in the sky. Absolutely orange burning flickering hugely fast travelling comet right across the sky until it bounced off our atmosphere and was no more. 

If you want to know more about the Perseid showers, which happen every year as we pass through comet dust left behind by the comet I like to call Swift Turtle but is actually called Swift-Tuttle, look it up here. Although we have past through that particular comet dust now, it happens every year and it is always worth going outside to watch shooting stars.

Utterly impressive outer galactic show to end the Thrum of Fun that was the Tartan Heart Belladrum. Where there is so much to do, just don’t forget to see bands too!

Sunday morning we were feeling quite good. Our heads and our mouths reliving and retelling all the ridiculous things that had happened that had made the weekend so much fun. 
We waited while the queues from our field exit began to move before we hurriedly finished packing up Beryl. Dropped her roof and trundled to the end of the country lane. 
A kind policeman directing traffic advised us of a quieter route to take us back towards the A9, kindly saving us a couple of hours of sitting in traffic on the main route back to Inverness. We enjoyed the scenic alternative and were soon back on that god damn awful road heading south. Shame we couldn’t pick up that train from Thursday night?

What we did pick up was the worlds most inconsiderate lorry driver. 
Big signs at the side of the road reminding lorries to pull in when queues form behind them. Did he? No. 
Reminder signs that queues cause accidents. Did he pull in? No. 
At least a 3 mile long queue of traffic behind him doing 50mph. Did he pull in? No.

Over an hour we followed that idiot. Stuck about seven cars behind. With hundreds behind us. Watching frustrated drivers, mostly in BMWs and Mercedes carry out some risky manoeuvres, desperately trying to get past him and get on their way.

When we finally reached the first dual carriageway, I demanded Linzie put her head out the window as we passed and give the guy an evil point and then a clear hands signal manoeuvre, demonstrating exactly what we thought of him. But she was on it before I got half way through my request. 
Made all the more amusing as five of the other drivers ahead of us (well those with passengers) wound down their windows and did exactly the same thing.

Once passed that lorry the road opened up again and we felt much more on the move. The journey passing fairly quickly really as we recalled the many many stories of hilarity, self praise and love for the fun of the Belladrum.

You can see my pictures from the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival Here.

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