Saturday, September 3 – Portmeirion
The rain was supposed to start at midnight but it didn’t start until dawn. Without any cell service I was ignorant as to how long it would last. It started gently but by 10am was pouring. I enjoyed laying in the tent and listening to it (we don’t get any rain in the summer in San Francisco), but when they started the sound check at the huge stage behind us–playing 30 seconds of a random techno song–and the tent began to vibrate, I had to get out of there.
Few people were out and about. Those in the village with the same idea I had–to hide out in a cafe. The indoor cafe was packed, as was the covered champagne bar. I ended up under a big umbrella at a pizza place and got a crappy pizza and worked on this blog. The rain got harder and the steps near me turned into miniature waterfalls. At this point the festival officially closed The Woods, shutting down three venues and cancelling all the musicians that were supposed to play out there.
Fortunately, sitting under a giant umbrella at a table with dry seats meant I got to meet many people. The first of my new friends was a 40-something couple from south of London. Him with a dry sense of humor and her friendly and literal. They were camping and their air mattress had a leak. They spent the night on the ground. He said there was a “mild hurricane” warning and I couldn’t figure out if he was joking. He referenced a famously disgraced U.K. weatherman who’d said not to pay attention to the hurricane warnings, then a hurricane happened and several historical gardens were destroyed. Next, a young couple from 20 miles north of Portmeirion joined me. He said the weather is always like this and it was actually good because it wasn’t windy. (Cue the wind in an hour).
Finally, a family from Manchester sat down, all blonde and wind blown and happy to chat. Everyone said something to the effect of “Where you from, then?” The young daughters showed me the flowery hippy headdresses they’d made in a workshop there (which I couldn’t get into thanks to a long line).
Eventually it got so rainy the water was blowing in under the umbrella and I had to put away my iPad – not that I was getting any writing done with all my chatting.
When the rain lessened I made my way back to the tent, stopping on the way to get R some macaroni since I was quite sure he hadn’t been out. He hadn’t. I crawled into bed for a moment to warm up. I’d planned for weather in the high 50’s at worst but not the damp and chill wind. After I’d warmed and dried we both went out.
As did everyone else. In droves. I forgot to mention this. While the festival advertised itself as “intimate,” the place (when it wasn’t raining) was jammed. On Friday I watched endless streams of campers dragging piles of gear up the hill. I watched bus after bus deliver…people with day passes maybe? I couldn’t figure that out, other than we weren’t allowed to walk on the only clean, paved and safe surface because the huge buses filled the roads width and ran continuously.
The ground was saturated. Our tent was on a slope (as were most of the campsites) but a small pond managed to form outside the front door. A leak somewhere in the floor of the otherwise waterproof structure soaked the mat by the front, however the water didn’t travel beyond that thankfully.
The paths were soggy and slippery and extremely muddy in some places but still passable if you stuck to the edges, where the last of the grass still lived. Some of the bare-floored venues (under tents) had been transformed into covered lakes and were unusable. A worker futilely tried to sweep 6-inch deep water from the music tent near the beer tent with a push broom.
I ran into D. and J. and went to check out their campsite. That path was an oozing river of mud inches deep. I can’t imagine how they got up there in the dark.
The camping area was extremely crowded, tents only a couple feet apart. D. and J. were kept up the night before by a “party tent” next to them that went all night and mysteriously disappeared in morning, leaving only a suspicious pile of trash.
The rain started again so we hid out in the red beer tent with D. and J. and their friends and managed to get a barrel and chairs and consequently, too many drinks (because we didn’t want to leave). There was almost nowhere to sit in the whole damn festival. Even when it was not raining, the ground was too damp to sit on without a waterproof blanket, there were almost no chairs or tables in the food truck areas, none in the stage areas, and very limited seating in the village. I’m not saying this is unusual for festivals but this one went for days…and it sucks trying to eat a meal with a crappy, biodegradable spork while standing, and having to stand in the middle of a windy field to watch a band has zero appeal. I realize this is an over-40 type of complaint and I’ll own that. However, I wasn’t the only one yearning to relax given every single damn chair and low wall in the whole place was permanently occupied.
I made friends with a globe-trotting piano player and his animal-loving fiancée and chatted with a woman I met in Welsh class, but I was still a little bummed. I’d come too far and spent too much to end up in a bar. D. went out to see a band playing in the biggest tent and came back an hour later proclaiming a river ran through the center of it.
The rain did not let up. Once I was “warm” (cough) I was willing to go out there and see what was happening but R’s shoes didn’t have much of a tread and he literally could not stand in one place (nothing was level) without slowly slipping down the hill. I helped him back to our tent then went back out to find everyone and everyone was gone! For the best it turns out…