31 Jul 2014

Brits Abroad: My Benicassim Memoir.

It’s a Tuesday night, I’m hungover (because a rodeo bull at Fifth Avenue is far too difficult to resist), I’m tired from moving out of my Manchester flat and travelling back to Cleethorpes, where I’ll stay for less than five hours until I’m travelling back into Mancunian soil. But this level of fatigue is nothing in comparison to what we are about to face. It’s 1AM and we’re ignoring the fact that one hours sleep simply is not enough to function, but that doesn’t matter because we are absolutely buzzing to be back on the road to Manchester, but this time, we gotta’ plane to catch!

   We arrive at the terminal with plenty of time to spare and wait around, a full English ordered and a pint is in hand and we’re more than ready for our flight to Alicante at 6:30AM. The waiting around and the consumption of Peroni is making us lethargic. We want nothing more than to just be at our hotel in Benicassim already. This is where our British traits come into play, the idea that I’m about to see some of my favourite bands and artists in a quaint part of mainland Spain leaves me, and all I can do is, yes you’ve guessed it, moan. It is probably the loudest plane I’ve ever been on, and I’ve been on a plane to Malia, so that’s saying a lot. Just as I begin to drift off and into a nap, the kicking begins. Yes, typically clichĂ© I know, but if it was going to happen to any one of the 200+ on board the aircraft, of course it would be me. I attempt to ignore it, yet quickly give in to my short-fused temperament and politely ask the delightful child’s father if he would “mind getting him to stop kicking”. Embarassed and apologetic, he does. Yet this only lasts for a short ten minutes or so. Instead I decided to just do as us Britons do best, complain very loudly about it for the entire three hour journey. It sounded a little like this: “I NEVER did that as a child, my parents would NEVER let me behave that way” and “I’m NEVER having kids, ugh!”

   Finally! We arrive in Alicante and the heat is amazingly welcoming. Once our belongings are gathered from the luggage conveyer belt we head straight into a taxi and to Alicante train station. And what comes next? Just a five hour wait for the next train to Benicassim, the host town of Festival Internationale Benicassim 2014 (FIB). We spend it having short intervals with the sun outside while the other sits with the luggage (I should probably mention at this point that there’s only the two of us, myself and my life-long friend, Jade). We find a cafĂ© with wifi and surprisingly the time passes relatively quickly considering. After a slight confusion with the language barrier and the working out of which terminal we were supposed to be at, and the airport-like conveyer belt for our suitcases, we could not be any more relieved to finally board our train. The last leg of our sixteen hour journey, so you can imagine how we were more than ecstatic to discover that for the three hour trip to our destination the seats were much comfier than Ryanair, we are provided with complimentary headphones for the movie being screened above us and to top it all off, there’s only a bloody bar in the next carriage! What more could you want? I’ll tell you. Sleep. Jade and I dip in and out of consciousness for about an hour or so, this is when I decide we're on holiday and we should be making the most of it, and so I sneak off to use the toilet and accidentally fall into the bar and find two beers in my grasp. I wake Jade up with the words “fu$% it, we’re on holiday!”.

   Much to our content we arrive to familiar scenes (we had visited the festival in 2013 also), we were back in Benicassim! It doesn’t seem two minutes since we were last here. Our hotel is nothing like the 5* luxury we had stayed in the year previous, but it’s nice, clean and metres away from the beach and the bars. Unfortunately my luck runs thin when I receive a horrible meal out, and so I kick-start the night feeling so ill that it’s making getting royally intoxicated difficult not to just retire to our room, especially taking in the fact that we at this point have barely slept for almost 48 hours straight. But of course, Jade insists on a bucket of Amstel beer each, but for €5.00 how could you possibly refuse? I soon man up and get over it and the next thing I remember is being extremely drunk, spilling out our girly secrets over a further eight Heinekens. All I can think about is how excited I am at the thought of seeing Ellie Goulding perform the next day for the opening of FIB 2014.
   I have little memory of the following days happenings, the litre of Spanish vodka for €4.30 MAY have something to do with that fact although I’m not entirely sure. I also may have gone a little more  wild than I had first anticipated as I have very vivid memories of absolutely loving life on the front row whilst my top is no longer on my body but instead in my hand being swung around like I was in a Western film to Ellie Goulding’s performance. I definitely have no shame at all. Moshing, however, to the likes of Tinie Tempah is rather shameful and I probably shouldn’t have ever shared that fact but hey ho.

   As much as Jade and I like one another’s company we’re always happy to meet new people. And sure enough, we did. We met three ‘smoggies’ and seemed to have latched onto them, and arranged to meet up with them every day that we were at the festival. They also introduced us to a couple from Portsmouth, who were equally as nice. Feeling worse for wear after the previous night’s events, we ventured out of the hotel early in the afternoon and wandered over to the beach just metres away and stayed there for a few hours. I then realised that I am always going to be British and I am just bloody terrible in temperatures over 17˚C. I am now painted with extreme sunburn, and walking like an ironing board, surprise surprise.

   Tycho, set to play a DJ set at the festival, had posted tweets about Benicassim just days before he was set to perform himself describing the town as “a sleepy beach town”.

                                                                                   July 19th, 2014 via Twitter & Facebook.              
And it is so true! During the day time all of the unfortunate campers head down onto the shaded areas surrounding the beach and sleep. With the majority of their belongings carried on their persons to avoid living valuables in their tents for the taking, their bags imitate pillows underneath their heavy heads. Bodies are scattered everywhere and you are literally playing stepping stones climbing over people to get to the beach. We suddenly felt so grateful to have booked a hotel.

   After very blurry and alcohol-fuelled four days of the festival we find ourselves in a once busy Spanish town, to a quiet and very alien place. Our even more northern friends, the ‘smoggies’ had taught us another world to northern England. Their legendary “Parmo” and creating our mottos and memories of our holiday, such as: “we’re in Latvia” and we also managed to get a huge crowd chanting “We piss on your fish” at one point, in fantastic Grimbarian pride. This also became a motto of ours through-out the entirety of the festival.

   The first night after the festival, we have a very chilled night, sat in the hotel garden with a litre of Spanish beer each and are uneasily surrounded by lizards. The town has turned into its normality once the “crazy” Britons have scarpered and the place feels strictly Spanish. The tourist-friendly restaurants we once knew had removed their English menus and the heaving-with-festival-goers bars weren’t even open. We hear that some of the guests in our hotel, of course Welsh, had been kicked out for setting off the fire extinguishers and throwing furniture from their balconies once retuning from the final night of the festival. Who could blame the Spaniards for wanting rid of us Brits? We even find ourselves being stared at when we talk in the streets or enter the once overflowing supermarket, Consum. We were now the only ‘foreigners’ in there. The patience from the staff to just try and understand our language is lacking and it seems to me like the nationals want their quiet beach town back to themselves.
   We take our ‘usual’ spot next to the sand along the beach for some final sunbathing hours and we spot some dodgy-looking guys. There’s a ‘gang’ of hippie looking Spanish who have put up a Rastafarian flag upon one tree by the side of them and a Pirate flag upon the other. We soon realise that they are the people we were hearing stories about of swiping bags from the visitor’s whilst they napped outdoors through-out the whole week of the festival. The once amazing and warm-welcoming town, no longer feels so comforting.

   It’s a long journey back to Alicante, and to Manchester but we make it sure enough! Once we arrive in England, the streets appear all lit up in the night-time darkness, like the outlines of veins to the heart of our home. The same heart which had moved its beating to occupy my right-ear and replace any hearing with a vicious and painful throbbing. Thanks Rynair, for your smooth landing,

   Benicassim 2014 is done with, and my God it was bloody amazing!!

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