Blood, Sweat and Tears - The Rock Werchter Report - Part 3

Well folks, the gap between part two and three has been even longer than the one between parts one and two and I can only assume that by now you couldn’t give a flying fuck about the blood, sweat and tears from that eventful weekend, the memories of which are fast receding.

If this is indeed the case, I can only apologise as I demonstrate my innate stubbornness and continue with this, the third part of my sorry tale.

I’m sure there are already several papers circulating the internet, published by eminent psychologists as they analyse the mindset of the blogger and indeed that of the person who reads the blogger’s musings.

I suppose – if I was to think about it for any length of time – that there is something of an exhibitionist in the Blogger, perhaps even a kind of arrogance to even think for a moment that the experiences of one’s life would be remotely interesting for somebody out there to read, so I thank you, Dear Reader, for your perseverance.

Booker Prize material, whilst this stuff most definitely is not, I do hope you find the stories at least a little bit entertaining. Of course I enjoy writing and would continue to churn out this crap even if nobody out there were to read it but the fact that there are some of you out there that read my musings, keeps me motivated to continue with it, all be it at irregular intervals.

As a little anecdote to all of this, I am typing up this instalment, in the cool, shaded living room of a beautiful villa in the south of France, having decided to come here on vacation with several Flemish friends.

So having left the sweltering heat of the poolside, and the Belgians to their Flemish conversations, I have sought English-speaking solace here in the world of my blog, and considering that I have been here since Thursday evening, it is now Monday afternoon and we are only set to leave for Belgium at the weekend, there is every chance that I will come back and write some more.

I’m having a good time, but I’m sure you’d all be able to sympathise with the fact that it can be at times a little bit frustrating for all concerned at the language barrier that exists between us. They all speak English, of course, and whilst I have little more than a rudimentary knowledge of Flemish, it’s still difficult – we are, after all, on vacation, the heat is incredible and we are all hear to relax. Stumbling our way through conversations in ‘Flenglish’ sometimes seems to be just a little bit too much trouble for us all. But c'est la vie (just to throw in a third language into the mix).

So as I pour myself another local rosè wine, and enjoy the cool air of this villa, join me on this the third part of the Werchter Weekend tale.

I thank you for your patience…

As we all dragged our abused bodies out of our tents, we slowly set about regaining a state of consciousness capable of dealing with the day’s festivities that lay ahead. Breakfast consisted of bananas, oranges, those Grany cereal bars as well as a lot of crap - crisps, sweets, chocolate bars, and of course alcohol.

One of the participants of the weekend was a young English fella called Warren, the son of Abbie’s ex-boss and at 19 years of age, the baby in the group. This was his First Festival and he was embracing it with all the energy and innocence of youth and not to mention an unnerving ability to turn his space in the campsite into an episode of that American TV show, MacGyver, the guy who it seemed could put his hands to anything in order to get himself out of a tricky situation.

For a start, Warren’s tent was camouflaged and matched nicely with the camouflaged vest that he was wearing. Armed with a little gas cooker, we then watched in amazement as he then proceeded to make himself a pot noodle and cup of coffee. A fine breakfast that I’m sure, had it been around in bygone days of yore, would have ensured that the British Empire stretched even further throughout the four corners of this globe.

As we sat eating our breakfasts, we looked at the bands that were to be performing that day with much excitement. Closing was the dance act Faithless but before we got to that we were to be entertained by bands such as Within Temptation, The Kills, Garbage and my personal highpoint of the day’s entertainment – American punk rockers, Greenday.

PopTart continued to regale me of the previous night’s events, mainly at my expense. Apparently, during the chemical brothers and having decided to forgo the natty blue rain-mac, I had danced the night away, oblivious to the fact that I was absolutely drenched, the sweater that I was wearing turning into more of a tent as the evening had progressed.

I had absolutely no recollection of the visit to the first aid tent or the stop at the beer tent on the way ‘home’ although I was vaguely aware of wandering around the wrong campsite, like a little lost sheep, being lost in the dark surrounded by snoring Belgians sleeping in their tents seemingly having some sort of sobering affect on me.

With breakfast, along with my memory refresh, complete, we made our way to the festival site, where I immediately went to the first aid tent, this time accompanied by another friend, Matt, who needed attention to a tooth that he was having problems with. We were fast becoming extras in a low-budget version of ER.

When the resident doctor looked at my hand, his face became one of nervous horror.

“You’re going to have to go to hospital, the wound is getting infected! We’ll organise an ambulance to take you to Leuven hospital as soon as possible.”

I was absolutely gutted, and if truth be known, a little frightened at this new development.

And so it came to pass, that within a few minutes, I was saying goodbye to Matt and climbing into the back of an ambulance destined for nearby Leuven hospital, accompanied by another Werchter casualty, a young girl who had tripped over in the dark and managed to sprain her ankle.

I sighed to myself as I came to terms with the fact that my weekend was set to come to an abrupt end and cursed the decision to get my hand fixed. I was also aware of the fact that this was my first time in the back of an ambulance – an experience that I did not want to be repeating anytime again in the near future. I conceded a rueful smile as I thought of my time watching my home football team, Ballyclare Comrades, when we would sing “You’re going home in the back of an ambulance!” to players of opposing teams who were being stretchered off the field of play. It was a bit of a laugh then but there was certainly no humour to be found in my present situation.

I was admitted into the hospital and waited to be seen to for what seemed like an eternity, then a nurse came and called me into a room where she inspected my wound. Granted, it didn’t look too clever but I clung on to the slim hope that she would tell me everything was ok as she washed the wound.

“I’ll go get the doctor to have a look at this” I heard neither for the first time nor the last for that weekend.

I waited for several minutes for the doctor to arrive.

Whilst managing to keep a calming bedside manner, he looked even less impressed than the previous doctors.

“Our hand surgeon is in the operating theatre at the moment, but to be honest, you need to get this looked at by the surgeon that operated on you in the first place.”

I explained that my surgeon was only in the hospital on Tuesdays and Thursdays and after a long discussion, the doctor decided that he would consult with the hand surgeon to see what she had to say on the matter. He instructed the nurse to place a temporary bandage on my hand and sent me back out to the waiting room to await my date.

After some time passed, a time which was spent watching the limp, the lame and the damaged that proceeded past in Accident and Emergency, the nurse returned to me to inform me that the hand surgeon did not want to operate on a hand that had been operated on by another surgeon and that I should see my surgeon as soon as possible.

And that was it.

After a 45 minute wait for an ambulance and an even longer trip back to the festival site through the traffic jams (my encouragement to the driver to use the sirens and lights to speed our return being flatly refused) I arrived back at the scene of my departure two hours previous and rejoined the group with a really, really, crap bandage on my hand.

I didn’t see any reason for the weekend to finish, I mean after all, the hospital had washed their hands of me (pun intended) and sent me back to the festival. What was I supposed to do? Needless to say, I enjoyed the rest of the night and played catch up on the rest who had had by now a few drinks head start on me.

Shortly after I rejoined the group, I received a phone call from the late arrivals to our party, my Canadian friends, Chris and Janet, who had just returned from a week long trip to Yellowknife, Canada and were winging their way from Brussels airport to join us at the festival site.

It also transpired that on their journey in the train from the airport, they had fallen in with an Irish couple who were travelling from Luxembourg to join in the festivities and they had decided to tag along with the Canadians and put their tent up at our campsite.

A campsite that I, rather surprisingly, considering my lack of ability to find it the night before, managed to direct them to by phone from within the festival site and with Garbage performing in the background.

I suppose my Northern Ireland flag, brought especially for Therapy’s performance the following morning, flying proudly from the gazebos helped them find their way, but it certainly hadn’t helped me the night before.

They joined us just as Garbage finished which is a shame because that was one of the highlights of the weekend - I had no idea just how horny that Shirley Manson is and made a mental note to myself to dig out their CDs from my collection – the music definitely worth a revisit.

The rest of the night continued in the way that these things tend to do, with alcohol flowing, greasy food following greasy food but to be honest my experience that afternoon had left me feeling a little nervous as to just how bad my damaged appendage was becoming and because of that, and correctly so of course, I took things a little bit easier than the previous night.

Can I just state now for the record that Greenday were absolutely fan-fucking-tastic, every song an anthem and I really enjoyed their performance, for me the highlight of the weekend and even Faithless, who I have seen several times, put on a great show that sent us off into the night thoroughly satisfied with the evening’s experience.

As we joined the throng struggling to leave the festival site, suitably buoyed by the events of the previous few hours, with all the other thousands of people, I did what I generally do in these crowded, frustrating atmospheres – I started to sing.

And within a few lines of my song, and even though the mass of people were by and large tired, frustrated and impatient, it wasn’t long before I had managed to encourage a large proportion of the crowd to join in with me, which gave me no end of satisfaction.

The song that these Belgians and I were singing? None other than that greatest of football anthems – ‘You’ll never Walk Alone.’

Liverpool supporters around the world would have been proud.

Having been suitably encouraged by so many people’s involvement in this truly great song, I felt inspired to keep the mood going – after all we were no closer to leaving the venue and I had a captive audience.

So there was only one song to follow it up with – “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen and what a beautiful sight to behold it was! Belgians, rubbed shoulders with English, Irish, Canadian alike in one of rock music’s finest offerings.

Oh how the heart glowed with pride as I watched all these people of different nationalities united in that most of uplifting of experiences – the head banging section of the song as so once wonderfully demonstrated on the silver screen by Messers Wayne and Garth.

Having blasted out a wonderful rendition of that great song, we filed out into the night, searching for the beer tent from the previous night and the hospitality of the nice girl that had donated a couple of t-shirts to the sad and sorry-looking waifs that had stumbled into her establishment.

And upon arrival there it wasn’t long before we had the whole tent and beyond singing the same songs again. I decided I was on a role and encouraged by lots of alcohol, drunken friends and strangers alike and a delusion that I can actually sing, I stood up on a chair and gave a wonderful (at least I thought that then) rendition of ‘City of Chicago’ by Luka Bloom. A wonderfully, sad but inspiring song about the Irish potato famine and the lengths people went to, to try and survive the deadly pangs of hunger that drove so many from our land to seek survival in America.

Despite the fact that no-one there knew the words, ii was afforded a respect that you wouldn’t normally expect in such a situation and as I finished the song, I opened my eyes looked at the faces of the bemused onlookers and stepped down from the seat (but not before I got a rendition of Wonderwall going).

I went to my tent a happy man, the trouble with my hand long since dissipated in the darkness of night and the comforting embrace of drunken sleep…