As I write this, it is Friday morning. I am at home, as has been the case for the last five weeks, because school is officially ‘out for summer’ and I work in a school. Not that I haven’t had a fair amount of paperwork to do in the ‘off season’ because I have. I haven’t done any of said paperwork because it’s far too easy to ignore it when I’m not actually in my office. And also I have a small child and I tend to do the lion’s share of the childcare during the school holidays so that my wife can get on with her doctoral studies.
Little Proclaims is currently at nursery though, which she attends (and seems to thoroughly enjoy) for two mornings a week, so I am enjoying a brief period of respite. It will be over soon. Truthfully I do enjoy spending time with my daughter, but it could never really be described as ‘restful’. When I go back to work next week, colleagues will ask me what I did during the summer. They don’t care, it’s small talk at best, but nonetheless I always find it quite hard to answer because days with a three-year-old do tend to be quite repetitive. The potty training that we started last week has certainly spiced things up and I’m pleased to say that Little Proclaims absolutely smashed the 3-day method and it now pretty good at using the potty. There is still a way to go before I can formally sign her off as ‘potty competent’ but she’s made better progress than she led us to believe she would make on day 1 and the carpet has remained relatively unscathed for the most part since then. I think it’s mainly been down to the bribery and it’s going to be quite an emotional day when Little Proclaims realises that she won’t always get a dinosaur sticker and a chocolate button for evacuating her bladder. But we’ll cross that bridge another day.
Some of my colleagues will joke that they’ve gone back to work to have a rest from the childcare. I will not be one of those people. Looking after a three-year-old is hard work, but it’s eminently more fun than actual work. Give me potty training over back-to-back meetings any day of the week.
Today is my last Friday off work, I’ll be back in my office on Wednesday, most likely enduring some kind of virtual training session via my desktop, or possibly we’ll have completely dispensed with the Covid safety protocols and my colleagues and I will all be packed in the school hall being trained in things we already know for two full days prior to the return of the students next Friday. It certainly seems likely that this year’s return will be a touch less stressful than last year when schools all reopened on the same day without any kind of coherent government strategy with regards the pandemic and then all closed again at various stages throughout the year, because who could possibly have predicted that a contagious virus would spread in a school.
Covid has not gone away of course, but the government’s policy is very clearly now to pretend that it has while occasionally paying lip service to the fact that it hasn’t. I am one of the double-jabbed so theoretically should be safe, but I’ve never been too worried about getting it because I’m a relatively antisocial soul by nature and avoiding other people is something I’m normally pretty good at.
My last few days of being off work are being slightly ruined by the influx of attendees at the Reading Festival. To the uninitiated, this is not, as it might seem in print, a literary festival. It is rather a rock festival that takes place in the town of Reading (pronounced Redding) which is where I live. Indeed I live not ten minutes walk from the festival site, which has, alas rendered most of my local amenities inaccesible as they are now swamped with festival goers and I’m forced to travel further afield for my household essentials. Fortunately I’m used to this annual invasion of my town and my cupboards have been well stocked since Tuesday morning. But should I need anything additional, then Aldi, Tesco and amazingly even Waitrose are off-limits until next Tuesday and I’ll have to make do with the Co-op, which is smaller but conveniently located in the opposite direction to the festival.
I’m not against the festival per se, indeed I have attended it no less than three times myself. Once, in 2000, when I was a fresh-faced 21 year old, who regularly attended music events, although back then I lived in Cardiff and actually chose to camp in Reading for the weekend. I realised then that while I do like live music, I don’t like camping and rock festival camping is the worst kind of camping both in terms of the sanitation and the capacity to get any sleep, and it turns out that both things are quite important to me. I moved to Reading in 2013, on the weekend of that year’s festival and if moving house is stressful at the best of times, it is not helped by the traffic that a rock festival generates.
Despite it being on my doorstep, I eschewed the festival for the first few years that I lived here on the grounds that I was ‘too old for that kind of thing’ and certainly when, each year, I saw the arriving crowds of festival goers (they’re pretty hard to avoid when you live as close as I do to the event) then my feelings on that score were confirmed, because they all generally do seem to be teenagers.
However, on the advice of a friend who is of a similar age to me and who has been a few times over the years, Mrs Proclaims and I bought tickets in 2017. And I loved it. Mrs Proclaims was fairly nonplussed. She likes music but is a good deal shorter than me and finds it problematic to see the stage at events such as these. Also, she was offended by the sanitation. She looks back on the weekend with fondness now, as we are often prone to do with these things, memory having the ability to filter out all but the highlights of such events, but I remember being there with her and I know she mainly hated it.
For me it was a revelation – being able to go home every night to sleep in my own bed rendered the festival far more enjoyable than it had been in my youth. I didn’t know as many of the bands in the 2017 iteration as I did back in 2000, but live music is still live music and bands usually have to demonstrate a degree of competence to be permitted to perform at the Reading Festival.
I missed 2018, because Little Proclaims arrived on the scene and it didn’t seem to be the best of ideas to attend a rock festival with a three week old baby. I also doubted that Mrs Proclaims would be too keen if I went on my own and left her holding the baby. Instead we stayed at home and enjoyed a 36 hour power cut. Oh the memories of that happy weekend. You can read about them here. Although I didn’t go in 2018, I did subsequnely buy a souvenir T-Shirt. I intend to present it to Little Proclaims on her 18th birthday when it will be suitably retro and I will be labelled as the coolest dad ever.
I hadn’t intended to go in 2019 either, but Mrs Proclaims presented me with a ticket for my 40th birthday, reasoning that I needed something to offset my impending mid-life crisis. My other festival-going friend was, alas unavailable, enjoying a similar induction to parenting to the one I had experienced a year earlier. (without the power cut) so I went alone.
Despite going alone, I really enjoyed the 2019 festival. I’ve always enjoyed my own company and there isn’t much room for conversation when you’re listening to loud music. Indeed I had such a good time that I fully intended to go in 2020. But for some reason they cancelled the 2020 festival…
It’s back this year though and with enough Covid protocols to tick all the boxes without meaningfully preventing the inevitable spread of infection that will occur as a result of several thousand people congregating for an entire weekend in a field. I’m not going this year. I’d like to claim it’s because I’m being ‘Covid safe’ but in all honesty I wasn’t overwhelmed with the line-up and the cash isn’t flowing as freely as I’d like at the moment. I didn’t really get much chance to think about it anyway – no sooner had Boris announced a return to normality on the 19th June (a deadline that wasn’t even met as it turned out) than the festival sold out. It doesn’t normally sell out so quickly, even with better line-ups than this year’s offering, but it does appear to be the first major event of its kind to take place in the UK since the world broke in March 2020, and it does seem like young people are quite desperate for a good time. I don’t begrudge the kids their day in the sun in all honesty. The ship on Covid protocols has already sailed in the UK and one rock festival isn’t going to change too much in that regard.
Nonetheless, what puzzles me every year and continues to puzzle me this year is why, when the festival starts on Friday afternoon, were so many kids arriving to the campsite on Wednesday morning. Honestly, Reading is a perfectly nice place, but there really isn’t that much to do here, certainly nothing that could possibly justify two additional nights of sleeping rough and using portaloos.
And that isn’t just me getting old. I know for certain that 21-year-old James fully agreed with me on this point.