Leeds Festival while sober is an entirely different experience.
In the past, I have always gone all out. Invested in the wellies and the tent, a portable barbecue in a bucket, lots of cider and dry shampoo.
But this year, with a baby to think about, was a totally new experience.
Firstly there was the getting of the tickets. Picture me, at 7pm on Friday: a madwoman running at full pelt (while still wearing my work clothes) across a muddy field. With a pushchair.
I draw the line at actually taking my daughter to a festival so I had a limited time to get signed in, tagged and ticketed before heading home to hand her over to a responsible adult.
And with my one-year-old looking on in wonder at the strange sights surrounding us, I see it all with fresh eyes.
There are lots of people stumbling around. They are all very drunk, most smell a bit funky. Nobody is wearing much of anything, apart from the really strange ones who are dressed as say a tiger or wrapped in leather strips (yes, he really was).
In years gone by I would have been one of them. Wearing more clothes, admittedly, but I would have been there on the Thursday night, eagerly bagging the best spot for my cheap and easily replaceable two-man tent. Shopping for weeks in advance, picking out my ‘festival outfit’.
This time, there is no such luxury. I arrive, I am sober, and I am staying sober, because I am driving home.
This fact seems to set me apart from the other festival goers by quite a wide strip. I can high-five strangers with the best of them, but I’m a bit uncomfortable dancing with a beardy stranger to music only he can hear. When he keeps shouting at me that he’s from “MACCLESFIELD, MACC MACC MACCLESFIELD,” I decide it’s time to leave.
Apart from that, I quite enjoyed the music. The Vaccines were a pleasant surprise. There was a great atmosphere, everyone was very happy, and they were really rather good.
Despite heavy rain, it was relatively dry underfoot. Festival organisers had made an effort to put out some kind of wood chip and it appeared to be working, soaking up the worst of the showers.
The smell though, was quite something. I don’t know how I managed to ignore it in previous years. It was kind of earthy, musty. Grassy. Not the kind that some people smoke, but of the kind that was clinging to people’s wellington boots. It was washed away occasionally with the smell of something more potent, or the disturbing waft from a burger van.
It was really quite overwhelming.
I must admit I left a little bit early. I was worried about traffic jams and the person I was talking to found it difficult to finish his sentence.
Driving home, with Tracy Chapman on the CD player, and enjoying the beautifully dusky sunset over Collingham, it began to dawn on me that it wasn’t the Festival’s fault.
It wasn’t any smaller, or smellier, than I remembered. The people were wearing the same amount of clothes they always had. It’s just that, at 27, I’m old before my time.
Far too sober, and clearly overdressed.