So, Latitude hot tubs. Oh, it was lovely. We were given towels! To shower! With warm water! And then we were pointed in the direction of the hot tub, which was large enough to hold all five of us, and was wood-fired. The hot tub was just that – a large wooden tub of hot water, with a fire-box opposite the steps by which you got in. The fire-box had a chimney which reached up above us and puffed out clouds of sweet-smelling woodsmoke. The box itself was situated opposite the steps and was built into the side of the tub, boxed-off with slats so that the water could get through to be heated but the humans couldn’t get through to be burnt. You could lift the wooden lid on top of the slatted boxed-off area and glimpse the fire roaring away as you sat there gently stewing. All we needed was a few onions and a bouquet garni and we’d have made a lovely soup, although perhaps a little on the gamey side.
The stewing metaphor was almost too accurate, as I swiftly got too hot and had to sit on the edge of the tub to try to cool down. Fortunately there was a better solution, a plunge tub filled with cold water which you could climb into and sit in up to your neck to cool off. It was bliss. Sitting in the cold dark water, feeling your body relaxing and loosening, gazing up at the green leaves of the trees overhead against the dark blue of the sky. And then, when the cold water started to feel a bit too fresh, going back to sit in the hot tub, chatting and laughing, enjoying the heat of the water and the contrast with the cool of the night air. Bliss. An instant festival highlight.
And that’s the thing about festivals, and for me, Latitude in particular. You never know precisely what you’re going to get. I’m not going to quote that hokey saying from Forrest Gump because it makes me a little bit sick in my mouth, but that’s what keeps me coming back year after year. The craic, the chance to hang out with friends, the pleasures of camping, even in a featureless field with 35,000 other people, the possibility that you might happen across a British Sea Power, a Mark Thomas, a Luke Wright, a hot tub. Oh, the pleasures of serendipity!
I ran into my friend Lucy on the Saturday – she was there to talk about her new book Playing for Time, and an excellent talk it was too. We met up by chance later on that day and were staring out over the site, bright with flags, tents, marquees and stalls, and thronged with tens of thousands of people. It was, we mused, similar to a medieval scene, or one from much earlier in our history, since humans have been coming together in great temporary gatherings for thousands of years to trade, to celebrate, to worship. It feels good to connect with that human tradition, since in many respects modern festivals aren’t so different from all those other gatherings back to the dawn of humanity. Except for the hot tubs, obviously. And the Outwell Event Shelter. I bet they never had those in medieval times. Nice to know that three thousand years of human progress hasn’t gone to waste 😊