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Tim Chipping

Ranting & Reeling

Tim Chipping’s monthly column

This summer I didn’t go to enough festivals. In a list of first world problems, this ranks just below having the killer in Twin Peaks spoilered for me and just above seeing the Northern Lights but thinking it must be the glow from a nearby town. I don’t ask for sympathy.

All the same, the unfulfillment that hung about me like Pig-Pen’s dust cloud when my festival season ended, brought home how much I need these unnatural gatherings of friends, strangers, accordeon players and stonebaked pizzas.

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, sang Joni. But you also don’t know what you’re missing until you leave halfway through a five-day bash in a field. I thought two days at Towersey Village Festival would be enough this year. I’d intended to split the long August weekend between Oxfordshire and Shrewsbury. But railway engineering work scuppered the second half of those plans, so all too soon I was back in my flat with two days left of Towersey’s 50th year.

And absurdly, the knowledge that I had to make the most of my short time on that earth put me in such an anxious state of mind that much of Friday and Saturday was spent worrying it wouldn’t live up to expectations. And so it didn’t. We are dicks to ourselves sometimes.

Annoyingly there’s no word for a fear of not enjoying a holiday, which is surprising given there is a word for the fear of having peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth (arachibutyrophobia).

Of course it isn’t really a phobia, it’s greed. I want as much pleasure as I can cram into my synapses. I don’t have a long history with Towersey festival but I have enough good memories to know how happy it can make me. I return in search of that.

The danger is that I do the same things every year in order to guarantee that hit. The same tents, the same pints and the same bands. Others might think it excessive to watch The Mischa MacPherson Trio twice in two hours. But as I watched them spin Gaelic into gold on both the Bar Stage and The Big Club (formerly known as the Concert Tent) I was nagged by my own obsessional tendency for not arriving early enough to catch their first set in the Village Hall.

At least my repeat viewings of Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker were 24 hours apart. I’m not remotely weary of the elegant misery of their music, but I did find myself laughing louder at the same between song jokes in an attempt to encourage others to break the reverent silence in St Catherine’s Church, like a self-appointed cheerleader or the floor manager on a comedy panel show.

Next year Towersey is moving to a new field of dreams. The benefits are clear. With all venues encompassed in the same place I’ll no longer need to stumble up and down the road convinced everyone’s having a better time in the other marquee. But change brings with it fresh anxieties. Will my memories move with it? Or will they be left to pace the patches of grass where the Showground once was? Centophobia – the fear of new things (not multi-legged arthropods). I will try to enjoy myself despite myself.

Tim Chipping


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