I've come to festivals late in life. My husband and kids are seasoned players, but I'd always been wary of the commitment: three days in a field with limited washing facilities and sleep scared me. And in the Irish summer…unbeatable when it's good, but, oh dear, that wet cold that gets into your bones, and your tent!
FOMO got the better of me eventually. I took the plunge a few years ago; taking part in a twisting competition - Chubby Checker style at 3 in the afternoon - trying to match the moves of a 12 year old beside me, I realised what it was that brought thousands flocking to fields all over the world.
There are magical moments which stay with you, and while there's lots of interesting stuff going on, it all comes back to the music. Over the years there have been many highlights, and it's often not the big, bright, shiny names, but dancing in the woods, midsummer sun dappling through the trees, and feeling part of a rhythm that's Irish, international and ageless.
Photo by Thady Tra
Add to that some great food and wine, and the only surprise is that anyone ever comes home. Some of our best food trucks are rocking up at festivals all over the country. If you want curry chips, they're available, but next door you'll get the best tacos outside of Oaxaca. I started and finished every day with affogato at the Happy Valley coffee and gelato truck- what an inspired combination. Nothing like a shot of ice cream and espresso when the energy levels are flagging.
Now, my friends were a bit shocked to see me with my wine box, channelling long-expunged memories of cheap Aussie plonk during their travels. It's a bit like trying to get those of us traumatised by Blue Nun to trust a long, thin bottle with a German name. But trust it we do, and are rewarded with wonderful, dry Riesling for our efforts. Likewise with the bag in box. Many small vineyards do their wine in this format, usually just for the local market. Improvements in the packaging over the years have led to an increase in the longevity of the wine in the package, ensuring they can travel to us in good shape.
My 'wine in books
' as Derrick Neleman calls it, is very clever and very pretty. If you wanted to be surreptitious about it you could pretend you were such a nerd you brought your wine books with you to the festival. I was proudly showing mine off, though, and any doubters were quickly brought 'round by one juicy sip.
No glass is allowed into most festivals, so that problem is happily solved. Neleman
wines are certified 'Carbon Proof', planting a tree for every 123 bottles of wine made. Farming is organic and grapes are grown amid the biodiversity of the national park in Valencia.
Perfect completion of that circle, therefore, is enjoying Derrick's wine in a beautiful Irish park, surrounded by the smell of grass crushed underfoot. A dish of patatas bravas with chorizo was my favourite food pairing of the weekend, and the music pairing - smooth, chill sounds lazily drifting from a cabin deep in the woods.