Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Doorstep festival

I am at Ealing Global Summer Festival, kicking around dust in my flip flops. My feet have turned black. The festival is in sight of Ealing Studios and, crucially, within easy reach of my flat, toilet, fridge, kettle and bed. The entrance fee is only £1, so apparently my inflated council tax has been spent on Portaloos, hand sanitisers and tree lights this month.

Global festivals are a way for middle-class mums and dads or anyone over 45 to get smashed and still feel smart. All around me, parents are sitting on posh picnic rugs wearing silly hats thinking they are being edgy, when really they are just wearing silly hats. Boys wearing hemp t-shirts keep kicking a ball at my head and a man is dancing furiously by the disabled tent to ‘Benoit Vilejohn and his Musette Trio’ with his t-shirt off, not realising it is not that type of festival.

I am here for a friend’s colleague’s 48th birthday.

‘I’ve never been to a 48-year-old’s birthday before,’ she whispers. ‘It is good to know they still involve lots of wine.’

Yes, lots of wine, drumming workshops and cous cous.

‘If this is meant to be global, what have we got to represent Britain?’ I ask, scrolling down the line-up. There is African Cultural Development, the Yiddish Twist Orchestra and Ensemble Parvaz: music from Iran. No N-Dubz or Chipmunk in sight.

‘I think I saw a Morris Dancer over there,’ she says, pointing at a stall selling tin elephants and cheap rings that make my fingers itch just looking at them.

It is all a bit strange, and my head has just been hit by the ball again, but that is fine because I am within easy reach of my home and I can relax in the knowledge that an hour-long trek and an airless tube trip will not be necessary later on.

Defenders of London say: ‘Oh it’s the best city because everything is right on your doorstep.’ But they are fibbing. Or they have very big doorsteps.

I loved going to parties on Oliver’s boat, moored near Canary Wharf, right outside my old flat. I could drink red wine on the deck with my back to the towers, eating chocolate pancakes and talking rubbish until, inevitably, someone was sick in a bin. Then I could stumble 150 steps and be in my bed.

With the pain of travelling in mind, when considering moving to Ealing 18 months ago I placed a chocolate chip cookie on a map with its centre on Ealing Broadway station and drew around it. The flat I rented had to lie within the circumference of the cookie – about ten minutes walk from the station. It is a good system. But still, by the time I get to the station from a trip to a restaurant/theatre/museum/gallery in central London I am normally so stressed by the tube journey I have forgotten where I was in the first place.

The man with his top off is sick in the plastic recycling bin. I hope he is close to his doorstep.

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