Thursday, in case you missed the blanket news coverage, was ‘National Burger Day’ and snappy social media campaigns and puns ran riot through the web (Fair play to Burger King for the outstanding McWhopper campaign). However, some brands decided to take a slightly different approach.
Step forward those nice peeps at Asda and their overflowing grocery bags full all things BBQ related. They pulled out all the stops and invited us round for a cook-up extraordinaire.
Thursday night as the rain stopped, I was persuaded to join them for a surprise soiree via a pick up at Brighton station (Excellent shout on hiring the Brighton Big Lemon btw, nice to see big business supporting local ventures close to many of our hearts). When I arrived with some of my blogger buddies we hadn’t a clue where we were off to. For all we knew they were going to kidnap us all, drive us into the woods and make us disappear for ever. The truth was slightly less dangerous and infinitely more fun.
What in fact happened was that they had hired a party house, drove thirty eight of us over to Rottingdean and proceeded to stuffed us full of gin, Pimms and jazz and gave us a menu to drool over.
Cook up time..
Generally speaking I hate the idea of ‘networking;’ standing around, feeling awkward and making small talk with strangers. This was anything but. It genuinely felt like a really great house party with a group of new friends.
Between scoffing down plates full of delicious grub cooked by expert chefs (and ruining my holiday diet in the process) the conversations flowed. It also gave me a chance to show off my swanky new business card design (thank you Stress Free printing!)
Most importantly it gave me the opportunity to ‘meat’ a whole array of new people and catch up with those I hadn’t seen in a long time. (Lucy, one of our lovely waitresses was someone I used to knock around with as a teenager 25 years ago yet I still recognised her!).
I got to hear some fascinating stories from the faces behind the tweets, posts and photos I have been following. In a world full of ‘social’ media it was really nice to be sociable without being glued to my iPhone.
At the end of the evening I actually realised that I had been having such a good time, I had forgotten to do what us bloggers do at events; i.e. tweeting and taking loads of photos, because I’d been caught up chatting with so many people.
I was asked what the key ingredients are to a perfect BBQ and for me its quality. Quality venue, quality meat (you can always taste the difference), enough booze and most important to me, the quality company.
Here’s a little montage of what the others folks that attended thought and saw.
Big shout out to the lovely peeps at @TalentedTalkers for coming down from the big smoke and looking after us all so well.
Why? Simply because we are all always ‘on the go’ and we’ve run out of time.
Did you know the average person spends 100,000 hours of their life at work? As a fact of life it’s a pretty bloody sobering one isn’t it?
When I was growing up, my dad was a single parent with four kids to bring up and a thriving business to build. He worked incredibly hard to provide for us. This meant that the little things often had to be understandably sidetracked.
But now as a father myself what I would have given for more of his time showing me things like how to draw and build the Lego houses that I made to try and emulate him as an ‘Artitet‘ as I called him. This was the 70’s, and that’s what blokes did. The concept of a SAHD (Stay at home dad ) was something that was as foreign as not buying your round in the pub. It simply didn’t happen. Any bloke that was a SAHD wasn’t doing his duty providing for his family. By not grafting his nuts off he was somehow less of a man. But this isn’t the 70’s; I want to provide, but just in a different way.
My Dad. Designer of Buildings, Dreams & Amazing Chip Butties.
I realised that like many of us working dads I don’t really see my child during the week. If I am lucky, I maybe get 30 minutes of the ‘not going to bed’ time routine.
For the last couple of years, I’ve been out the door at 7 am and if I am lucky I am home 7.00 pm – so on average I am out of the house 240 hours a month. In the life of a busy three-year-old, that’s pretty much the majority of time awake.
When I am around more, say during the holidays, our relationship is so much stronger. He likes me being around and I like being there to help teach him and answer the incessant WHY? questions in a way that he understands and makes him think.
Normally I get to hear second-hand about the games he got up to, the things he learned, the laughter he made. I am a secondary spectator until the weekend when I try and cram everything in, without having the time to stop and think was this the best thing do be doing?
That can’t be right. I know maybe people don’t have the choice. I know I am very lucky to have a good job with perks working for an international media agency creating campaigns for household names. But that can’t be the whole game can it? Something I readby Peter Fleming, author of ‘The Mythology of Work‘ the other day really resonated with me.
“To keep a society fixated and obsessed with work, especially when the problem of collective material wellbeing has long been solved, it is redelivered to the public in strict, black-and-white terms. The rationale goes like this: if you are not willing to put up with your job the alternative is complete penury; say, spending the rest of our days in Stoke Newington cemetery drinking super-strength White Ace cider wondering what went wrong.
Here is another one: you don’t like your job?! Compared to what some have to do around the world – such as the rat catchers of Mumbai, deemed one of the worse jobs ever – you really don’t have anything to complain about. Stop your bourgeois griping.
This forces us into a false double-bind. You either do the “right thing” and put up with your own private nightmare or, by default, consider yourself a privileged whining snob who is just one step away from social oblivion. The choice is yours.
In the end, no one can tell you “how” to quit your job. It might seem like a mere technical problem, but it is really an ethical one. However, it is worthwhile being aware of the ideological traps that lie in wait, carefully designed to preserve a world of work that is slowly spinning out of control.”
I’m going to start a revolution from my (sick) bed.
I hadn’t been happy for months. Deep down I knew things had to change, but how? I wanted to change the things that weren’t right, and that’s when it struck me or struck me down to be more precise. I got a severe case of Chickenpox which meant I was pretty much laid up in bed for over a week. There is only so much Netflix you can watch, so after two days I got incredibly bored, and my mind in its fevered state started to wander.
I knew I wanted to dream more, get up in the morning ready to make a difference. Was I making a difference in my job? Well yes, if you count increasing search traffic, rankings, coverage, views, and social media engagement levels. But what I knew deep down was that I wasn’t changing what was important to me. A quote I heard somewhere a few months ago has been haunting me ever since. The little voice in my head was screaming: you know this is right.
I had a choice in what I want to do and worked out that maybe, trying to climb the greasy corporate ladder isn’t as important as being around my family more. I had to ask myself ‘what do I want?’ – More spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, endless meetings and emails or did I want more conversations, imagination and more adventures? No contest is there. So I thought f”ck it, I handed in my notice and as of the end of this month I am on sabbatical.
I wish I could have “quit like a boss” in some grand statement, but that really isn’t me. So instead I talked it through with EI, who did what she always does and backed me and my crazy schemes.
Of course, it wasn’t that straightforward; real life doesn’t work like that. I worked out how much money I would need to cover all the bills in that time. I looked at our bank balance and took some of the money that I had been left after my dad sadly passed away last year and used it to give us a buffer.
That money was sat in an account for a rainy day. Well, this is that rainy day and what better way to invest the money than buying a big chunk of time.
Time that can be spent giving my family experiences that will help shape the future and bring us closer together. I can do something that my dad sadly never had the chance do; allow me to be there for more of the little things like this
Go Wild On New Adventures.
So this is my new mantra.
In the next few months, I am going to not worry about keeping 9-5 hours. I am claiming back the time spent on commuting in a little project I am calling #360withtheduke (more of that later).
I am going to have more time to do what is important.
I am going to stop looking at spreadsheets and start looking at what’s around me.
I am going to have more adventures with my son. I am going to build secret dens, go treasure hunting and understand more how the world looks like when you are three years old again. I want to explore and expand my world by doing things like learning how to play the piano and dance like a Northern Soulie, sing loudly at gigs and write my life stories.
What I really really want
I want more conversations with random strangers and old friends that I have lost touch with, except for fleeting ‘Likes’ on their Facebook posts about their children, most of whom I have never met.
I want to be able to ask more questions, hear and tell more stories, make and be there for more family meals, kick down more doors, do more favours, pay more forward and disrupt the dull. Something I had always promised myself I would do before I got caught up and sold out.
I am going to stop worrying about the small stuff and instead spend my energy doing the things that I have always wanted to.
For my wife and son I am going to give them the most precious gift I have, which is more of my time. I want them to explore and learn what it’s like to have me around more, so I can support and encourage them to be as happy as they deserve to be as we have our adventure together.
Changing The World
The next six months is going to take me places that I haven’t figured out yet. But what I do know is wherever they may be, I’m going start a revolution. I got a new job fitting my status of ‘World Changer’. The world I am changing is mine.
I’d been wanting to take Duke to a proper festival for a while now. We’d enjoyed all-dayers like the Breakin Convention and Funk the Family, but I really wanted us to experience a weekend away.
I was a bit cautious as my only other experience with festivals and kids involved me setting myself alight on a dodgy camping stove, a thunderstorm that tore down my then 8 year old god daughters tent that meant 4 of us in a 2 man tent playing cards, waiting for the rain to stop and the family-friendly events to start – which they never did…
When I saw Love Supreme advertised I thought it would be the perfect event to try it out at. The line up was pretty special, it was only the other side of Brighton and I heard from friends who had gone on previous years that it was extremely relaxed.
There was two schools of thought on this, the one that I wanted ‘selfishly’ for it just to be EI and me to have time on our own, to go dancing in fields and not have to go back to the tent at 8 o’clock for bedtime. And the one that wanted to show Duke what it was like to be sat on my shoulders in a large crowd all singing along together to classic tunes.
So I thought why not try and have the best of both worlds. But how could we manage it? – Simple, break the festival in two so that’s what we did.
Thank Funk For Friends & Family.
Havingnot been to a festival in years, when I was looking for for our camping gear I realised that it all but disappeared.
Thankfully I am fortunate to have a lovely mate called Nina who kindly let us have full reign of everything we needed out of her garage. Cookers, sleeping bags, tables, the works all for the price of a cuddle and a bottle of gin. (We all need friends like that)
Next, we roped in the ever reliable Auntie Kerry who came and collected Duke to whisk him away for two days of mischief, leaving mummy and daddy with the time of their hands to get sorted.
Our plan on Saturday was to get up very early and get to the festival first thing. Well, that went right out of the window when we realised that we could both have a lie-in.
After a leisurely breakfast at 11 ish and a last minute panic about if we had packed everything, we took a drive across the stunning South Down’s. The sun was shining and the stereo was blasting out the best in Northern Soul. What was really noticeable apart from being able to play what I wanted in the car instead of nursery rhymes, was just how relaxed it felt.
Now I love my son to the moon and back but I did admit not having to deal with an excitable 3-year-old, get him out of the house, into the car and entertain him made for a world of difference.
We arrived and parked up in a field and started the unenviable job of unpacking and having to transport all the gear to the campsite. (This is where having a pushchair and no child came in very handy #protip.) Around us where people that having huge and I mean huge picnics in the car park, some had brought tables and chairs just to pitch up surrounded by their cars – WTF?.
It wasn’t too much of a walk to the entrance and the ticket queues were basically non-existence which was a blessed relief as the last thing you want it having to stand in a line for hours in the mid-day sun.
This is where we hit our first snag, we went looking for the family campsite, but after asking a number of stewards no one seem to know where it was, which was strange as there were loads of families around… So EI in her wisdom made us walk to the furthest part of campsite up a hill away from any groups of what we assumed would be of noisy young people. (Darn you fun loving kids !!) it stuck me how stunning the setting was when we found the perfect spot.
A perfect view
We set about pitching up the tent just as the wind started up. Now this would have usually been stressful and caused an argument, but because it was just the two of us we just took the p”ss out of each others inability to get anything done.
I heard Nina Cherry on in the background doing a really unusual version of Buffalo Stance; I was gutted as she was one of the main acts I had been wanted to see. But instead as we laid down together and just chilled, I realised I didn’t need to be anywhere else.
I felt guilty and selfish knowing that this wouldn’t have happened if Duke had been with us, but then I received a message from his big cousin Lucy who had taken him to Legoland as part of his adventure. Knowing that he was having a better time made for it for a peaceful deal with my guilty conscience.
Ha-ha suckers, sod putting up tents, I’m on big boy rides!
The view was stunning, I could hear some great music, I had a cold beer and there was just the two of us and I felt more relaxed that I had done in I don’t know how long. It really was an amazing piece of paradise. This was being at a festival was really about.
Just the two of us
We finally got our act together and wandering down to the festival site to grab something to eat. What I noticed was it didn’t feel chaotic, I was expecting thousands of people and a crush, but it really wasn’t like that at all. There was space to breathe and enough on offer so the queues for most things were non-existence. It felt so relaxed, so what to do? Do what you are supposed to do when you are at a festival grab a beer and go dance.
After plotting up in an ideal space, i.e. near the bar, not too far from the loo’s and near something like a big post so if you get p”ssed you can always find your way back in the dark later. (A lesson sorely learnt after losing mates in large crowds over the years)
EI spotted some familiar faces, so we ended spending the rest of the evening in the company of some very drunk, daft and thoroughly deserving of a decent night out ladies. Gossiping how we had just seen the actress Sophie Okonedo queuing up for a pee and exchanging dance battles with our new young friends.
Sisters are doing it for themselves.
Me being the only fella this was horrible and I hated every moment of it.
It felt so weird to be for want of a better word, ‘off duty’ knowing that the Duke was being looked after and was safe; we could just forget and funk the hell out.
As it happens rather than go raging all night, by 12 we’d had enough so wandered back to the tent arm in arm. That night I got to see the girl I fell in love with, not just the doting mum, harassed, devoted wife and partner or kick-ass social worker that manages to juggle so many roles that it makes my heads spin. No, just a very pretty girl with a huge grin, stood in a field, eye shining as she got lost in music like it was the most important thing in the world. I fell in love with her all over again.
So what would tomorrow bring?
We awoke from a loving embrace to find one of the guide ropes of the tent had come up during the night letting in a horrible cold draught and that there was a leak in the porch as the heavy rain over night had discovered. – it was miserable, I couldn’t believe the difference.
As festival comedown’s come it was a pretty hard one. (Although not as hard as the one I had after watching the Prodigy play an amazing set at the V festival in the pouring rain on my stag-do five years ago…)
There wasn’t time to get depressed as we had a four-hour round trip to pick up the Duke from Kent where he had been thoroughly spoilt rotten.
We arrived back at the festival site to be greeted by blistering sunshine, proving yet again God is definitely a soul boy.
Showing the boy the tent, he was in hog heaven and ran around happily looking for monsters. Because, as every three-year-old knows, tents aren’t tents at all but they are secret camps set up for monster hunting. In fact he was having so much fun it was quite difficult to persuade him to come down to the festival site for something to eat and an investigate.
We spent the afternoon hanging out on the bouncy castles, practicing the Charleston in the kid’s tent and swinging off the fairground rides.
What was really lovely was the amount of space around us, it gave us the option to wander without feeling hemmed in.
Ice Ice baby..
Before that event, there were several acts that I couldn’t wait to see and give Duke his first experience of being on my shoulders in the mosh pit while we rocked out.
Mosh pit here we don’t come..
Unfortunately, he had very different ideas; he couldn’t give a monkeys if Daddy’s 80’s crush Lisa Stansfield was giving an amazing belting performance
So for me “Been around the world and I, I, can’t find my baby” became yes actually I can find him, he is right in front of me wanting to play football. But if you are going to play football then having the lovely Lisa provide the soundtrack so I could drop some classic dad dance moves in whilst I ran around giving sympathetic smiles to the people whose picnic’s we kept kicking the ball into was the way to do it.
One moment I will never forget, was having Candi Stanton playing one of my most favourite songs “You got the love” a song that I spent many a year raving to.
Normally speaking I would have wanted to be right in the middle of the crowd ‘experiencing’ the song for all it was worth. But instead I looked at the happy, sweaty faces of my lovely wife and son running around, dancing, playing catch and I got a wave of overwhelming love, thinking yes I really did have the love of two very special people and I am incredibly lucky for that. It was a feeling that had the hairs on the back my neck standing up.
We spent the rest of the day pretty much doing that until our small person who was granted an extension on normal bedtime could take no more. We headed back to the tent for stories and wrap up cuddles.
As I drifted off, I could hear the crowd going mad and singing along to Van the Man Morrison the closing headline act. I thought to myself where would I rather be? In the middle of a drunken chorus of ‘Brown-eyed girl’ or here in a cramped leaky tent listening to the two people I love most in the world snore their exhausted heads off. No contest, I wasn’t missing anything that I could get again listening to Van, genius though he might be. But that time in the tent, their snoring reminded me of the lyrics of one of his classics.
When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch
Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this
When you don’t need to worry there’ll be days like this
When no one’s in a hurry there’ll be days like this
When all the parts of the puzzle start to look like they fit
Then I must remember there’ll be days like this
All too soon it was early Monday morning and time for small people to be up and want to run around loudly playing, much I imagine to the annoyance of the tents nearby. But why wasn’t there a family camping section so all the kids could cause chaos together – Next year please Love Supreme!!!
Thinking back now as I write this week’s later I am finding hard to find fault. Yes, of course, the family campaign situation could have been better, there could have been showers in the camping section, there could have been somewhere to charge your phone that didn’t cost a fiver. (Actually this was a blessing in disgust as it meant my phone was dead so I concentrated on having fun and taking part rather than having my head buried in my phone tweeting about it).
All in all as the first experience of weekend festivals for my son, the chance for EI and me to spend some quality time together it really was the perfect setting, I couldn’t have asked for more. Next time and there will be a next time, next year as we plan to make this an annual family we will be doing exactly the same again and I for one can’t wait.
So what are your memories of your first festival with your kids, any tips?