This may be my last entry…
Download is over and the real world beckons. I’ve never been overly fond of the real world, it’s a menacing, overwhelming place that spends far too much time being sensible to laugh at the silly.
We were packed, fed and at the coach park before noon which was pretty good going considering how knackered we were and how much stuff we were carrying. An hour and a half later we were back in Birmingham and looking forward to being home again. We elected to get a taxi back to the house so that we could avoid all the inconvenience of a further train ride and a slog from the station. It was during the taxi journey home that things became really deep.
Our taxi driver was a lovely Muslim chap who was genuinely interested that we had just returned from a music festival. He told us that it’s important to do it because it gives you a sense, however basic, that while you can leave the squalor, the broken toilets, the trek for water and the sundry other inconveniences behind, there are millions out there that survive like that day-to-day. He went on to tell us that he and his family had recently been on his Hajj and it had changed their lives forever. His sons were picky eaters and have completely changed now – they realised that they couldn’t just turn their nose at the dishes presented to them, they were the only things to eat and were, in some cases, hard fought or saved for. They now eat whatever they are given and they are thankful that they have any kind of choice.
He went on to tell us about the Hajj. He told us that there are millions of people in a tiny area; that you have to walk miles to get anywhere; there is no food or water so if you didn’t take any, you go hungry. He told us that the queue for the toilets was 4 hours and when you finally got to use them they were simple and communal affairs. His point was pretty clear – he saw what we do on a yearly basis as a kind of Heavy Metal Hajj. We make a pilgrimage to a site that we seems in some way sacred to us and we join the throng of people that have come for the same reason. Food and drink are hard fought for or saved but the generosity of your fellow Downloaders is such that you will never starve or go without. We queue for squalid toilets not because that’s all that’s available but because of the sheer number of us and we walk; we walk miles and miles everyday and we’re surrounded by people who essentially dress the same and consume the same food and drink as us because they want to be there and they want to throw praise at the bands they worship.
We had a wonderful conversation and he made us feel like we had just returned from something hugely important, not just an annual folly filled with mild debauchery, raucous music and dodgy camping. For me it helped to further light the candle that was perhaps dying – despite how much people can grind me down, I want to be with like-minded people worshipping our temporary gods and feeling like we are all part of something bigger than the sum of its parts.
Of course, I know Download is not as spiritually important as Hajj but the analogy still stands.
Finally at home, we jumped in the shower and used our fresh clean toilet. There is certainly a place for luxury but I still love camping and the outdoors – even if it tries to freeze you, drown you and burn you all in the same 24 hours!
Thanks for reading, now let’s hear it for those that couldn’t make it and rejoice in the idea that there will always be a next time!