Monday, July 21, 2008

Tolpuddle and home again

On Friday we set off for the Tolpuddle Festival and we got back yesterday (Sunday) evening. The kids and Dani were up early this morning to go to a nature event out in mid-Sussex and I’m contemplating the laundry heap, which is out-of-hand, and planning to unpack and check all the camping gear. This is probably why I’m blogging!

The Tolpuddle event was quite a journey for us. The camping field was on a slope, which meant we didn’t get very good sleep. On the second night I woke to find every muscle in my back screaming – probably trying to stop me falling, which we did each night, into a grumpy heap at the bottom of the tent. Speaking of the tent, I am in love with our Vango Force Ten. It is true that it is rather snug, and I suspect that in a year or two the kids may start to spill out into pop-up tents, but the sheer quality and orangeness of our family tent is so comforting. Every bit of it is well stitched, thick and soft. Most modern tents seem to be made of super-light material which, though it obviously has its advantages, never looks very reliable. Peg it too tight or slide a pole a bit wonky and stitching splits. Our Force Ten was certainly expensive (though we did get a good deal - more than a hundred off the price quoted on the vango site) but it feels like the tents of my childhood, the sort you bought once and kept for a generation.

It was good to see family at Tolpuddle. We travelled with my brother J and his son D, who were snug in their little two person tent. It certainly helped to travel together, especially yesterday when we ended up on a very over-crowded train. This was ok, as we had managed to get everyone seated, but then they announced that only the front five carriages would open at Clapham Junction, so we had to walk through packed train with kids and hefty backpacks. I must say that the kids were brilliant. Pearlie carried all her own stuff – sleeping bag and mat included. Leo carried his sleeping back and pjs etc. Little cousin D remained stoical – even when feeling sick – and we held it all together.

It was also great to see K and N with cousins S and G, from Leicestershire. They’ve been to Tolpuddle for ever and so were able to give us tips, like getting up early enough for cooked breakfasts provided by the local WI, who stand in a row with camping cookers and dole out fried eggs.

Sadly, Pearlie cut her foot on the Sunday morning. This was the most bizarre accident really. She was walking along, carrying toast, with her sandals undone. There was a pencil lying on the grass which she somehow flipped up under her foot and then stood down on. The tip was quite blunt but the pressure enough to split the sole of her foot. She was very brave and is determined that it will not stop her. She’s gone off today hobbling and declaring,

“it only hurts when I stand on it.”

It is quite clean and covered but I hope it heals ok. Injuries on feet are always a bit worrying, aren’t they?

When we got in last night, P eager to get her sore foot sorted with clean plaster, Leo suddenly had one of the sudden, nauseous (migraine like) headaches he’s had before. This seemed to resolve with throwing up, as it has before. But after four hours on hot trains and two nights with little sleep, we were all struggling to cope. I can’t really believe they were still keen to get up early for this event today. I hope they’re all ok and don’t just dissolve into a little heap somewhere.

On the Saturday evening, at Tolpuddle, Mark Steel performed. He was very funny. Leo took the opportunity to veg out on my lap during the performance but Pearlie listened avidly and seemed to really enjoy it. He was tormented by kids with whistles, which I found very amusing.

On the Sunday there was a short procession, with banners, down to the Methodist chapel in the village. This included lots of conversation with P, who was surrounded by plenty of information about a range of isms. She is very interested in this stuff at the moment and was able to quiz a young man wrapped in a Communist Party flag. I only got a bit irritated at one point when the kids were picking up free stickers from Class War. I didn’t mind the swearing but insisted they put back the ‘mug a yuppie’ stickers, complete with man covered in blood. They did this with some “yes, er, YUK” type comments when it was pointed out to them. The sheer volume of freebie stuff available meant that they got a bit crazed with acquisition. I found this very hard to deal with. It seems to me that the mass of plastic tat has no place in the legacy of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. I can’t help but feel that Trade Unions with so much money to burn on rubbish should just lower their subs, or donate their bounty to organisations in parts of the world where people are still labouring for poverty wages. At demos and such when I was a kid you just got leaflets, by the hundred, not free Frisbees and sunglasses...

Leo wasn’t that interested in the Tolpuddle Martyrs themselves, but P came to the museum with me and Dani and we all enjoyed that. I was also quite happy to enjoy so many free apples from the NUT stall (a rather useful freebie if you must have them) and smirk a little to myself ;-)

I have to say that I struggled with portaloos. They are the most vile things, aren’t they? I can’t help but wonder if screened holes in the ground wouldn’t be less unpleasant to use. Living with them for a weekend made me appreciate the luxury of the decent toilets and showers at Hesfes. I was very glad of a little bottle of hand sanitiser that we had with us, as it wasn’t always possible to wash hands after using the portaloos.

Right, washing machine has stopped and I have procrastinated enough. To work!


Em said...

We are camping not too far from there in August in a field that has just that - tent covered trenches with sawdust at the side. Although since they got a good guardian review I think tents have been upgraded to sheds! (plus pitch price doubled :( )

dawny said...

sounds a lovely time :-)

alison said...

Saw Mark Steel at Latitude on Friday, lecturing about Marx :)

Sounds like a good weekend :)

Lucy said...

Yuk at portaloo, think I'd rather mug a yuppie.

Thanks for the link, I've just noticed it.