From bad to better

23rd August 1996 at 01:00
Wednesday: Arrive with some trepidation at campsite in Devon for Campus, memorably described by one of its progenitors as "Glastonbury for Guardian readers". Here for five days of arts workshops, music and theatrical performances, hippy shopping and a good wallow in the therapy corner.

First fly in the ointment comes when we discover that previous occupants of rented tent have not cleared out but cleared off, leaving all their belongings in situ. Motherly "village parents" express concern and suggest we go off to sample some of the local delights. Query: am I too set in my ways for this?

Trot off to downtown arena where, on running into long-lost friend and kids, speedily forget tent situation and immerse selves in, first, mango sorbet, second, real sausages, third, adventure playground (kids) and chat (me and her).

Thursday: Awake stiff and grumpy. Don't mind sleeping on ground with mat, do mind African drumming in hills at 3am. Complain, to discover that many others who are more of the Guardian-reader than Glastonbury-goer persuasion, have also done so. Correspondence rages in the columns of the Campus newsletter: teenagers versus boring old so-and-sos. Query: am I too old for this?

Go to dance class to discover that all the things I used to be able to do (aged 25) I can do no longer (aged 45). Decide I definitely am too old, but am cheered by news that two of the children have learned to juggle. Fall further into gloom at African drumming workshop where other participant, lovingly cradling Pounds 200 drum she has just bought, expresses view that "not sleeping here is part of the high, you go beyond sleep".

Know that never in my life have I gone beyond sleep, even in my youth being the one who, if she stayed up to see the dawn, then had to go to bed for 24 hours. Revive on having outdoor sauna with children, and dancing frantically with them to the Fab Four, a Beatles tribute band until midnight. Sleep deep sleep despite drums (continuing).

Friday: "Hurry up Emily, I've booked you in for windchimes," trills the woman in the next tent. Youngest child gets last place in T-shirt painting workshop while others watch theatre or hammer away at sculpture. I sample overtone chanting and it is not until I have been bellowing away for 15 minutes dominating the proceedings that the teacher quietly tells me that I have been doing it wrong - too loud, wrong range, wrong tones. Query: am I too egotistical for New Age activities?

Back to the sauna. You know where you are in a hot tub. Later cluster round village fire to listen to story-teller and toast marshmallows. Feel much better.

Saturday: My oldest has completed his sculpture and carries it back to our tent. The woman running the workshop compliments me on the general attractiveness and pleasant demeanour of the children. Accept the compliment, reflecting on the savagery earlier displayed by said children over possession of Sony Walkman. Query: am I too cynical?

Later, joining lantern procession to central totem pole and observing the children watching fire-jugglers and fire sculpture while tiny tots' candle boats float downstream, decide I am not.

Sunday: Final dance class leaves me feeling more arthritic than ever, butexhilarated. Decide that of all the available food, the best is waffles. Query: will I ever cook again?

Monday: Leave Campus. Within next few days, get pick-pocketed twice and have car radio stolen, having become altogether too trusting for the real world. Query: is this a bad thing?

On balance, have to answer yes, unfortunately.

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