When my son Matt told me that he was missing Latitude this year, since none of his usual crew were up for it, I put my hand up. Even after all the disasters such posturing has led me into in the past, I still like to shock. But there was something pushing from the back of mind, something unique, odd, not to be missed, German.... Only later did I notice the clash with the Lords’ Test and the enormity of the folly.
Matt has fixed views on these matters, so we were packed and away to join the front of the queue. I had a late panic as we passed the Southwold turn (“Just drop me off at The Crown, Matt”) but held my nerve. My personal Maconie had us set up base camp under his usual tree, shaded from the blazing sun, in acres of space, with just a few neighbours in the near distance to wave to. This is for me!
A lot of the stories proved true. No-one snarled at me all weekend. The only two drunks encountered propped each other up and staggered politely away. And, joy, the shopkeepers all said “please” and “thank you”, rather than advising me that there I went. Shops in profusion, too. Rather surprisingly, no Waitrose, but the Mini Mart used their pricing policy and added a rather Mornington Crescent twist by enforcing queues on the way in, rather than the way out.
Almost anything could be had, including a replacement for the tent you left at Glasto. Those pop-up ones you know they will recycle next year were marginally less than a Rochdale semi. You could fill the fridge, buy a new wardrobe, get a tattoo, recharge the dog, see a Gypsy fortune teller and so much more even before the shake-down at the arena gate. And get the latest test score!
I never did discover what my bag was being searched for. The rather matronly lady I favoured confided in me that “she could tell”, but I could have had a kilo of best Afghani I suspect, all priced up and ready to go. Not that it would have sold: only around one’s own tent did one even discretely puff a little local-grown ganjha. Nobody inhaled.
Only once into the arena does the enormity of the event strike home, an impression quickly reinforced by the scope of the performances going on, the variety and imagination shown in the venues, the catering offer, the price of the food and beer, the dust, the dust, oh the dust.... The cognoscenti wore the Barbours they had bought anyway and had clean, if sweaty, feet and a smug aura. So much was going on that I let M do the scheduling, only marking down the Bunker Boys as a must-see.
The weekend flew by. Most of the music I found dull, repetitive, derivative, juvenile, but bloody good fun. Calexico caught my ear as something a little different, but easy to overdose on: Bloc Party as over- amplified vacuity. But what’s my opinion worth? I’m still in mourning for Lennon. British Sea Power dubbing a semi-silent elegy to our maritime history, a chaotic recreation of Peter Cook’s Establishment Club and an intimate soiree on Boozers, Beer and all things civilised with Pete Brown stood out amongst the non-musical stuff
Kraftwerk have long captured my attention for their sheer polish. Rather like the the Beetle (a 1306, if you give a toss) which featured heavily on the 3-D backdrop during Autobahn, they too have a flat-four engine, but have achieved an economy of effort, a seamless relentless drive that Herr Professor Ing. Doctor F. A. Porsche could only dream about. And the unstoppability of one of his Panzers, too! Truly wonderful stuff. They closed an all-too-short set with their seminal piece on the enduring powers of music, leaving the stage one by one with just a curt bow, the music little changed when the stage was empty. You start to wonder. Were they really ever there? Was it all a hologram? Were they back in Dusseldorf polishing up the next model all along?
Would I do it again? Guarantee the weather and give me a week’s programme planning and I’m up for it. I did discover that one or two more moved onto the camp site with us (everybody shares guy ropes), but the facilities, traffic management, determination to share fun and be nice should be bottled and available on the National Health.
Gripes? Only one really. My trusty pump-up cushions perished after only 15 years or so of gentle use. These were the one item no trader on site offered, so bum still numb.
And we won the Test, just to put the cherry on a great weekend. Thank you, Matt.
David (Aged 66 3/4)