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2018 was our second visit to Latitude. We went in 2016 because the National were headlining and we love them so much it hurts.  We came back two years later, not because we didn’t have a great time, but because we had to pay for house renovation stuff and we couldn’t afford it.
This year we paid using the ‘pay over four months’ option which was awesome. By the time the date came we’d saved money for food (essential) and bought loads of quite good camping gear from Decathlon (also essential).

Latitude is set in Henham Park in Suffolk. A trek for us from Brighton, but the setting is worth it. Think forests where the sun peeks through fir trees, a glistening lake, miles of fields and some truly special sunsets. A couple were far more impressive than the bands they were the backdrop to actually, but more on that later.

The signage was good. The car park was as far away from the campsite as any would be at a festival with 30,00+ people. You can hire trailers to take your stuff down to the camp site on, but you have to leave £100 deposit and if you are not back within an hour and a half you get fined. Yes, the money goes to charity though. A lot of the services they offer do. For example, Green Peace pay out £5 per bin bag of plastic bottles collected.

We got a great pitch, near but not too near the toilets and the entrance to the main arena. We arrived in good time but were still entertainment for the middle-class people who’d arrived earlier and set up their palatial canvas extravaganzas (think bunting and Fortnum and Mason hampers).
They sipped Prosecco as the husband and I rowed over how to erect the inflatable tent we’d bought but never put up before. ‘Tinkle tinkle’ went their laughs as we couldn’t work out the pump.

As soon as we set up we went to get our bearings and were delighted to see it was laid out the same as it had been two-years previously. Family camping includes ‘the enchanted garden’ where kids can make all sorts of arts and crafts, learn disco dancing, print t-shirts and learn about nature. A lot of the kids stuff is sponsored by the Fairyland Trust, so as the kids make some butterfly wings, they learn a bit about butterflies.

There is a larger kids area in the main arena where they can whittle, paint spoons, weave, collect litter from the ocean,  cook in a mud garden, get face-paint, join in with theatres, star-gaze, pond dip, climb scramble nets, record their own songs, make-films, learn archery, circus skills, and do family yoga. This year Oatly had a bar inside the enchanted garden and gave away chocolate milk, granola and various other drinks, all made with Oatly milk. I was originally suspicious but free is free and I’d genuinely buy some of their stuff at home. The kids got free t-shirts for answering a question like ‘what is your name’ and more free chocolate milk.

Me and the husband didn’t get to see as much stuff as we’d have liked as we were so worn out from all the kids activities.

We did get to eat an awful lot of nice food. I won’t lie, eating at Latitude, as with any other festival, is expensive. On a good note, everything we ate was delicious and we ate a lot. Greek, Indian, Italian, Turkish. Wood fired pizza, scotch eggs, fish and chips, waffles and ice-cream, Mac and cheese, steak sandwiches, fruit lollies, milkshakes, cakes, beer, gin, wine, burgers, bangers, the lot.

You’d think we’d be fat, but you walk miles at Latitude, without really knowing it so I’m sure I’ve actually lost weight.

There were loads of awesome traders. Shout out to Retro Bambi who kitted us all out in glittery clothes for the Killers, and Joe Shmo who sells beautiful leather jewellery and let us use his loo.

Massive thanks to the people who ran the Swimming lake area, it was the only time we washed. Kudos to all the people constantly collecting litter or asking if everyone was okay. I was amazed at how clean the site was (apart from the adult camping area where kids in shorts that showed perfect bottoms applied too much make-up among a sea of their own litter before heading to the disco tent to dance all night. Do I sound jealous and bitter? I am).

My middle daughter has a bladder the size of a pea, so we are officials on the loos of Latitude. We could write a book about them. I won’t. All I’ll say is the ones nearest the family camping were clean and stocked the whole four days we were there.

The ones in the village next to the adult camping were the worst and all the others were middling to good. There were lots of places to fill up water, wash hands and soak dusty feet. We didn’t use the showers as I believe washing were 300 people have recently washed before will only make you dirtier. I laid out wet wipes in the shape of my family and we rolled round on them. Glitter covered the worst of the stains.

I saw a wonderful piece of theatre by a company called ‘The Lost Dog’ about Romeo and Juliet. The show reveals the real story of Romeo and Juliet. It turns out they didn’t die in a tragic misunderstanding, they grew up and lived happily ever after. Well they lived at least. Now they’re 40ish, at least one of them is in the grips of a mid-life crisis, they feel constantly mocked by their teenage selves and haunted by the pressures of being the poster couple for romantic love. They have decided to confront their current struggles by putting on a performance – about themselves. Their therapist told them it was a terrible idea.

With Lost Dog’s blend of dance, theatre and comedy this duet takes on our cultural obsession with youth and our inevitable issues with longevity. It was so much better than that blurb which I nicked off their website. I could not praise it enough.

I also caught a glimpse of Suffrageddon, a hip hop musical about the life of Emmeline Pankhurst and the fight for votes for women. Think Lauren Hill with fat better lyrics. It was insanely good. I didn’t get to see the whole show and it filled up too quickly. I did think Latitude should have held a second performance. Instead, some of the crew did a couple of songs on the Lake Stage which was a teaser of what I missed and will go and see elsewhere.

The Speakeasy area is always full of amazing poets and writers talking about everything and nothing. It’s attached to a Waterstones bookshop where you can see all the writers who are at the festival. There are other bookshops and lots of places give away kids books for free.

The kids watched a talk with Kevin Fong who trained with Tim Peake and enjoyed his tales of cold water shock and experiencing zero gravity conditions. Kevin is like, mega famous in his industry, which I didn’t really understand till I googled him.

The worst bit about the festival was probably the bands. I’m sad to say that as I love music and would always be the primary reason I go to a festival, but I wasn’t impressed by much. The first band we saw was James, who kicked off with ‘All out to get you’ and made me all emotional and excited for the set.

Then he played six new songs about Trump after claiming he’d only written two. We were all shouting ‘play one we know’ and ‘Sit down’ but he ignored us and tortured us with indulgent political songs that are never going to be hits. We gave up and left. Just as we got back to the campsite, we heard the first lines of ‘Laid’. His dancing was awesome, and I admired his commitment to the baggy jean look of 1990 but wouldn’t go and see him again.

The Charlatans were even worse. I’ve seen them play many times and enjoyed it, but this year Tim sang slowed down versions of classics like ‘Spronston Green’ and ‘The Only One I Know’ whilst doing dodgy hip thrusts. I remember my feet not touching the floor at their previous gigs. This time my feet were firmly planted on someone else’s Boden picnic blanket which they’d set out very near the front and refused to move.

So, we are out the World Cup. I think we started losing the second I truly believed we might win. Outside my window, I heard all the hearts on the street break as one when Croatia scored the second goal. The country groaned in unison.

The next morning had a post Brexit feel to it, with people wandering round saying ‘I can’t believe we’re out.’ Unlike Brexit though, we can’t hang around pretending we never really meant it and hope the whole thing will be brushed under the carpet. The boys will be coming home to a nation who will (hopefully) be proud of how far we got and not cross we didn’t make it all the way. A bit like a sixteen-year-old boy on a date.

The dog will be relieved it’s all over. He was up and down like a Bride’s nightie each time the husband watched a match. Being a dog, he thought all the husband’s commentary was aimed at him. He didn’t know whether to wag his tail or hide in his basket. The cat watched the scene with disdain. She had her money on Croatia anyway.

I’m sad the journey is over and the ‘it’s coming home’ gags will stop. For a while the people were connected again. Men hugged one-another, and people whistled songs together in the street. You could randomly high-five strangers. There was even talk of a street party at one point. I felt like I was living in the 70’s. Now everyone will be miserable again and it will soon start raining.

I hope it doesn’t, because we are off to Latitude festival. The husband has bought a tent that inflates itself. He’s confident it will be easy to set up. Having camped with him before, I know this to be untrue. I guarantee a row. It will start with ‘No no. Let me, you’re doing it wrong’ and end with me sleeping in the car.

That’s if he even remembers to pack the tent.

The children are very excited, but I’m confident they will demand to come home as soon as we get there. That’s one of their classic moves. I hope they don’t demand to go back to the tent the second The Killers come on stage. The husband is still upset with them not being able to win anything in sports day. It started with Bliss saying ‘I can’t do sports day, because my trainers have cake all over them.’ I was upset too, but only about cake being wasted.

It’s Rheumatoid Arthritis awareness week, and in celebration my body is having a flare-up. Maybe it’s the weather, or something like that. Maybe it’s the love bird I’m up with all night, who now cheeps for food, simply because he wants to play, or maybe it’s just because life ain’t a box of chocolates.

When I tell people, I have to sleep in the day they say “Oooh, you are so lucky. I’d love to have time to sleep in the day.” Note the inference I’m lazy. Sleeping the day is rubbish. It’s dead time, that’s all it is. It’s two hours I have to filch back out the remaining 24-hours. It’s waking up hot, woozy and guilty. It’s time that could have been spent writing, or cleaning, seeing friends or prepping dinner.

I went to the RA nurse and asked for a steroid jab. She refused me because she says I’ll just overdo it while the drugs mask the inflammation. What a killjoy. Worse thing is she’s right. I’ve not accepted I have a chronic disease. You know when your mum tells you to take a coat with you because you’ll be cold, and you sort of know she's right, but it’s so annoying, you ignore her, go out, freeze and end up begging to put your hands in someone’s pockets to keep warm? That’s how I am with RA.

The children have been quite helpful. The eldest one can make tea now but doesn’t wait for the kettle to boil. I’m too grateful to tell her. The youngest one offers to carry me upstairs. She can’t, but she can tackle me to the floor which hurts. The middle one kicks me out the bed, so she can make it. Turns out overly-tidy people are annoying.

I was sobbing on the kitchen stool the other day. It was all very ‘poor me’. I hoped someone in the family would come and ask what was wrong. When the husband finally came in after a few minutes, he took one look at me, did the biggest sigh of his life, said ‘haven’t you bloody stopped yet’ then made himself a coffee.

 I think he’s still cross about the bird thing, or maybe it was the cat boot sale we did for Father’s Day, or ‘Fart-hers Day’ as my kids spelled it in their cards.  There was no breakfast in bed for him. I had us up and out the house by 7am to get the best spot. We could have chosen to do a car boot sale any day, but me, being me, decided Father’s Day, in the rain was the perfect time. “It’s going to be quiet.” Denny on the door told me. I ignored him. He was right.

The sun is shining. How wonderful. I used to think pale hairy legs were unattractive on men, but this year I’m desperate to see some, instead of sweaty feet stuffed into suede tasselled loafers with inches of ankles proudly on display, atop which the wearer sports sprayed on denim jeans that can only be described as ‘budgie smugglers’. I’m at that bawdy stage of my 30’s where I make tawdry comments like a 14-year old boy. I once laughed at someone for calling Roger Daltry ‘Sex on Legs’, now I say it about Gary Oldman.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great men accessorize more. Equality is equality. I just hoped it would mean women being paid the same as men, not men going through the equivalent of our micro-mini skirts from 1990. Looking back at photos I’m so pleased there was no Facebook to document it. They don’t have this get out of jail free card. Marilyn Monroe once said, “Your clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman, but loose enough too show you’re a lady.” Men in skinny jeans often just look like women themselves.

I always wonder where these trends start. Who was the first boy to shimmy into his sister’s jeans and have the balls to front them out (literally), and who was the first person to follow suit? My husband says I’m an idiot and what we wear and think has already been decided for us by advertising agencies who have meetings at the beginning of the year and pick the trainers, clothes and abbreviations the whole world will soon be wearing/saying. It’s hard to believe him though, when he also thinks snails have meetings about eating his plants and stays up late to watch them at it.

Inspired by the World Cup, he’s obsessed with our lawn looking like a football pitch. It will never happen because we have a dog who poos on one side of the lawn, then digs up the other, and all my plants have died through lack of water. Yesterday, he trundled up and down the lawn naked, with a roller full of grass seed, whistling. A confident man or a nervous breakdown?

My hey-fever is so bad my summer accessories include entire toilet rolls stuffed up my vest to tackle my steaming eyes and catch the next sneeze, which is never far away. The husband also thinks hay fever was invented by advertising companies so offers no support, telling me not to be such a sheep.
The middle one hopes pretending to have hay fever might get her a day off school so splats her cheeks with water from a ‘Tiny Tears’ bottle and wanders round clutching her stomach every morning. It doesn’t work, but it does make us late.

My middle daughter is eight. She wanted a butterfly cake – it was a beautiful thing, all green and yellow and glittery. I didn’t bake it (more on that later).I got a professional to craft it and proudly presented it to the kids, candles glowing, tears of nostalgia in my eyes as we sang to our beautiful Daisy-girl.

The husband got out his camera to take a photo, at the exact moment our youngest daughter picked the pink wormy icing-caterpillar off the middle of it
and bit it in half.

“Mum!” Daisy shouted, outraged and horrified, “Bliss has bitten the willy off.”

There was no willy on the cake I made. I found a recipe on Twitter for an 'easy' chocolate-banana loaf. I followed the recipe to the letter and ended up with a heavy burnt brick, which I took along to lunch at a friend’s house.

After the delicious lunch she made, I gamely hacked into the ‘loaf’ and dropped a slab on her plate. I need to say at this point, I did only use a pinch of salt, but I only had pink Himalayan crystals to hand. Forget chocolate and banana. All you could taste was sodium and chloride.

My lovely friend Pam gamely tried to solider on through a second bite, but I stopped her. “Don’t do it” I gasped as the salt crystal soaked up the last of my mouth’s moisture. “It’s lovely” she croaked back “I just need……. water.” She went to the sink and downed two pints before girding her loins for another go.

Salty tears of shame filled my eyes as I watched my darling friend determined to be polite.

I grabbed the plate away at the last minute and marched it over to the bin. She flapped her hands in protest, still unable to do more then croak. I decided then and there I’m never baking a cake for anyone again, unless I don’t like them.

I’m still recovering from my book launch on Saturday night. How sad is that, when I don’t even drink. All I did was some barefoot dancing and I’m still hobbling five days later. The worst thing about having a party is the fear no-one will turn up. The best thing about having a party is you get to pick the music and dance like no-one’s watching, which they aren’t, because no one turned up.

Ok, that’s not entirely true, people did turn up but there was a moment when me and Billy Idol were both dancing with ourselves uh-uh-oh.

As the evening wore on and people oiled themselves with gin, the dance floor began to fill up. At one time, three people were on there with me, throwing shapes, wiping their feet on the rhythm rug – then my phone rang, which I was using to stream my music through and the whole party came crashing to a halt.

Why do these things happen to me? There’s no need to watch soaps on the TV, I’m living one daily.