A hen party at a music festival?
PUBLISHED: 09:33 01 October 2013 | UPDATED: 09:33 01 October 2013
The invitation of nightmares drops through Clare's letterbox.
Give me a funeral over a hen party any day. The food is generally far better, the wine as plentiful (although lacking such niceties as Jägerbombs and Tequila slammers), and no-one expects you to dress up in ridiculous clothes. So when the invite to a hen weekend arrived from a good friend, I have to confess that my heart sank a little.
I loathe hen parties. Between you and me, I didn’t even enjoy my own very much. There were elements that were fun (wine-tasting, paint-balling, bumping into the entire Bath rugby team on a night out) but there were quite a few that weren’t. Staying in a YHA dormitory was not quite the luxury I had envisaged when I passed control of my pre-marital festivities to a group of friends. But the worst part was undoubtedly the dressing-up. The obligatory ‘L’ plates, the veil, the fluffy wings... It still makes me shudder, nearly 10 years on. The problem with fancy-dress is that however jolly you look en masse, there will come a point at which you have to leave your friends and strike out alone. There is nothing more pathetic than a slightly drunk angel with a lop-sided halo, trying to order a Bacardi and Coke.
Even if you stick resolutely to your fellow hens, wearing a ‘fun’ costume means you have to plaster a suitably happy smile on your face AT ALL TIMES. Because you can bet your bottom dollar that the one time you yawn, roll your eyes or look at your watch, you’ll be snapped by the irritatingly omnipresent hen-photographer.
Unless you’re the hen herself, in which case you presumably like everyone there, it is likely that at least half of the women will be strangers to you, and there’s absolutely no guarantee you will like each other.
It was therefore with some trepidation that I accepted Sarah’s hen party invitation. In fact, the only reason I said yes was because she had written at the bottom of the invite: “I’ll understand if it’s not your thing.” The implication being, “Look, I know you’re at least a decade older than me and my fun-loving chums, so if you’d rather stay at home with a mug of Bovril and Gardeners’ Question Time, that’s okay by me.” Well, obviously I couldn’t let that one go. “Count me in!” I replied, and paid up quickly before I could change my mind. My reluctance had been less to do with my usual horror of hen parties, and more to do with the chosen location. Sarah was to celebrate the end of her single days at a music festival. A nice, middle-class sort of festival, but never-the-less a festival. I don’t do festivals. Even when I was 18 the thought of queuing in thigh-high mud to use an over-flowing loo, whilst some band I had never heard of played on a stage I could barely see, simply wasn’t appealing. At 37, the prospect is no more attractive. So it was with a heavy heart that I packed the car with festival essentials (ear plugs, a goose-down pillow and a good book) and set off to collect three other hens I had never met before.
Within the first half hour of the journey, we had covered sex lives, birth stories, job woes and personal tragedies, and were chatting nineteen to the dozen. Even the heavy traffic didn’t dent our spirits, and as we arrived at the festival site I felt a flash of something vaguely familiar. Was I actually looking forward to the weekend?
We passed through security and I heaved my bag onto the table. The security officer paused at a zipped pocket. “Do you have anything in there you shouldn’t have?” he asked. I felt that sudden clutch of fear one always experiences when faced with authority. “It’s my husband’s sports bag,” I said, “I don’t know what’s in that pocket.” “I can smell something,” the security man said. What on earth was in there? Had someone set me up? Was I a… was I a MULE?
I swallowed hard as the man unzipped the pocket and pulled out an ancient tube of Deep Heat. I think we were both relieved. Safely inside the festival ground I began to relax. Sarah’s friends were warm, funny and welcoming, just like her, and before I knew it I had donned a novelty chicken mask, and was simulating sex with a blow-up doll decorated with the face of her future husband. I’m so very sorry, James.
The weekend passed in a haze of sunshine, gin-in-a-tin, music and laughter, and although I confess to sneaking off early at bedtime, I had the most fun I’ve had in ages. Far from blocked Portaloos and burnt burgers, my first festival experience included hot showers, and picnics of lentil salad and home-made guacamole.
On the last night we were approached by a smart young chap in a straw hat. He asked if we were enjoying ourselves (we were), whether we’d been here before (we hadn’t), and whether we needed any pills. We looked at each other. “I think we’re alright, actually,” I said. He chatted for a while about the various illicit products on offer, prompting the women next to me to remark upon what a good salesman he was. “I used to work at Waitrose,” he explained, before bidding us a pleasant evening and wandering off.
There was a pause before one of the girls spoke. “They do train their staff awfully well,” she said. There was a murmur of agreement. What a jolly nice weekend.
Clare Mackintosh is a regular contributor for Cotswold Life.
Visit her website here: www.claremackintosh.com
Follow her on Twitter: @claremackint0sh