The following is a small collection (two to be precise) of stories inspired by the mundane yet spectacular campsite happenings at a local music festival in Derry.
THE PASSION OF FUDGE, PART ONE
The July sun had just come up and the gentle mist that had descended around the mountain gradually began to clear. A small group was seated outside their tents, which had, upon arrival at the campsite, been carefully arranged to create a circular enclosure. A monumental pile of beer cans was stacked high in the middle of the circle and around it sat the few remaining survivors of the night before.
“Did anyone actually sleep last night?”, Jack queried as he retrieved his sunglasses.
“I think a few passed out. Faders.”, answered Marty.
“Too much to drink, sir. Couldn’t handle it and the bands haven’t even started playing!”
They were at a music festival nestled deep in the mountains of Co. Derry. The ancient rustic landscape provided a magnificent backdrop that amplified the mystical resonance of the event. It had become a pilgrimage for many, a way of life for the few. As Marty and Jack attempted in vain to remember the alcohol-fuelled antics of the previous night, there was a commotion in a nearby clump
of tents. Someone had gracelessly fallen into a tent and was mumbling something that sounded like a gurgled mixture of apology and confusion. The mumbling grew louder and a tall, rather thin man stumbled into the circular enclosure, shaking his head.
“Boys. Missed that there now. Tried to dodge the sheugh. Fell straight into someone’s tent. She wasn’t one bit happy sir.”
“Aye? The poor critter”, laughed Jack, “You’d need to watch you don’t lose one of those fancy green moon-boots you’ve got on in the sheugh”, said Jack, pointing to Fudge’s vibrant footwear.
“True enough sir. Wouldn’t fancy that at all. Might even tape my shoes on you know.”, said the tall man sternly in agreement.
“Are you sure you didn’t try to jump over that girl’s tent and you just failed?”, probed Marty, jokingly.
“Naw sir, hardly!”, protested the tall man, “That’s just stupid.”
“You sure? You probably couldn’t do it anyway, you don’t have the skill.”, quipped Marty.
“Aye he’s right. You couldn’t do it if you wanted to. You’re a wee girl, sir.”, added Jack.
At this challenge, the tall man’s confusion seemed to escalate. He screwed up his face in disagreement and vigorously shook his head in a way that almost threw him off-balance, before breaking into an odd movement. In his mind, he danced with the poise and assurance of a danseur, but in reality the jig resembled the awkward first steps of a newly-born fawn. His long crane-like limbs assumed minds of their own, each of them dragging the helpless body in a different direction. But it didn’t matter, he was psyched up. With a brain heavily soaked in cider, he could conquer the world. He was Fudge.
“I can do anything!”, he thought, but it came out rather unceremoniously as, “Aye. I don’t give a fuck! Watch.”.
As Fudge clumsily removed his outer garments, a tent shook violently and a short, but broad man with dyed-green hair emerged with a bottle of beer in his hand. He was an animated character known as ‘Snoop’.
“What’s all this racket, sir? A man’s trying to sit in peace.”, he said angrily.
“Fudge reckons he’s going to jump over a tent to prove us wrong. He thinks he’s some kind of hero”, Jack replied.
“Ha!”, Snoop cried, “That man couldn’t jump rope! I have to see this. Go on, get over it!”
The trivial and once stupid act of clearing the hurdle of a small tent had, with the relentless goading of his friends, transformed into an act of serious importance to Fudge. There was certain logic it seemed, though densely clouded by alcohol, which insisted that there was a legitimate point of principle to prove. It would become a defining moment not only in his festival pilgrimage, but more importantly, in his life. His dancing intensified as he removed his clothes and a large crowd slowly assembled, curious as to what was causing the disturbance.
“Wait ‘til you see.”, exclaimed Fudge with an air of authority, “I know. I know I’ll go over aye. You’ll see. Aye.”
“You’re some boy Fudge! COME ON! GET OVER IT!”, roared Snoop excitedly.
“Wait sir! Aye sir. One Two Three. Over. Right!”, ruminated Fudge as he meticulously prepared his path.
The vague sense of precision with which Fudge traced his intended pathway culminated in a motion similar to that which an Olympic diver might make before their final dive for the gold medal. He had it sussed. The world would acknowledge his staggering ability and marvel at his modesty.
Commenting on the diligence of Fudge’s clinical preparation for the jump, Snoop made an observation.
“Oh, just look at the technique! The technique is worked down to a tee, boy!”, he declared.
The crowd, by now beginning to resemble a bellowing horde, cheered in agreement. The stage was set. Like a gladiator fighting for his life Fudge was ready to triumph over adversity. He paused, swaying pensively, surveying the area. It was as though he was allowing the energy of the crowd to seep into his being, before embarking on his run-up. It had to be right.
Off he went. His long legs propelled him powerfully through the marshy land. He had a determined expression on his face as he ran and the crowd gasped in anticipation. The tent grew taller as he approached and with a swift push, he launched himself into the air, putting into practice the deft technique that he had prepared. A smile developed across his face as he cut through the air. He had cleared the tent with ease. Now he had to land. The ground drew nearer. He panicked. With a thunderous clap he hit the ground. “Roll”, he thought.
Success. Almost. In one rapid movement, Fudge attempted a transition from his roll into an upright posture, but his brain was swimming in cider and he lost all balance, plunging into a nearby tent, reducing it to a flattened canvas blob, terrifying those inside. A roar of laughter erupted around the entire campsite. Fudge had failed.
After a night of heavy rain, the hot sun shone powerfully on the hillside and the dramatic mountainous backdrop seemed to amplify the glow. The live music was scheduled to begin at any minute and there was a growing stir in the campsite as punters began to make their way towards the various stages.
“That’s some day there, now”, declared Slim Jim. His green fishing hat was perched low on his head to shield his eyes from the unremitting glare of the sun. “Are we heading to see some of these bands any time soon?”
“I dunno, sir, sure I‘ve no ticket. I‘m only here for one band anyway.” said Snoop in reply.
He had sneaked into the festival grounds the evening beforehand, but there was only one band that he wanted to see at the festival: a heavy metal band that drank bounteous amounts of alcohol on-stage. He considered them to be an inspiration and often dreamt of joining them on-stage to demonstrate his skill and, of course, to drink copiously. Since they were the only band that he wanted to see out of over fifty, he could not justify paying for his ticket and was unwilling to fork out.
“Sure, we can just sit here until they’re on”.
The campsite was well and truly woken by now. People sat in their fishing chairs outside of their tents, fighting off hangovers by chugging water, tea and in most cases, resorting to ‘The Cure’. The queues for the bathrooms began to grow.
Slim Jim was reclined lazily on the grass near his tent but Snoop was restless, wandering to and fro, happily greeting campers that passed him on their way to the festival. A neighbouring group of campers was playing with a football, gleefully kicking it to others around the site and cheering loudly when someone failed to catch the ball. There was a growing atmosphere of fun.
“Why don’t you sit down and soak up the sun?” suggested Slim
Jim from under his hat. Snoop paused from pacing to and fro to consider the suggestion. The sweat on his brow glistened in the sun and the sound of music echoed through the mountains. “That’s a great idea!”.
Snoop was excited by the prospect of sprawling out in the sun. Enthusiastically, he removed his baggy red and white Co. Derry t-shirt, exposing intimidating tattoos of skulls on the upper part ofeach arm, near his shoulders, which added somewhat to the skinhead he was fashioning.
“This is going to be great! Glorious!”, he shouted, his smile beaming around the campsite. But he was noticeably concerned about the horseplay to his right, where the neighbouring group of campers were recklessly kicking a ball and shouting very loudly.
“See if that ball hits me…I’m going to go mad.“ he grumbled.
He observed the group for a short while, before convincing himself that the ball was unlikely to come near him and meticulously began to prepare a space in which to sunbathe. The ground was soft and warm on his skin. He seemed to sink deep into its embrace as he lay down and soon fell into a peaceful rest, half smiling.
With his eyes closed and the warmth of the mid-Ulster sun caressing his body, Snoop’s mind was transfixed by the vibrant array of colours that rushed at him. Slim Jim got up and sat down on a bright pink fishing chair. He cracked open a can of cider and slurped from it while watching Snoop. He laughed to himself, shaking his head. Snoop appeared to be in pain. He was gritting his teeth and clenching his fists, but inside he was marvelling at the show of colours playing on the back of his eyelids.
“Catch!” shouted a voice suddenly. Slim Jim flinched and almost tumbled out of his seat, gripping tightly to his cider. The black and white globe spun furiously in the air as it fell. Its descent however, seemed to be in slow-motion. Members of the neighbouring group watched in anticipation as the ball dropped, their mouths open wide, and the playful shout of “Catch!” soon turned into the stern warning of “Heads!”.
The ball planted directly on Snoop’s sunburnt face with a loud pop. Slim Jim spat out his cider in amusement and began to laugh hysterically, slapping his knee. Everyone in the immediate area roared and bellowed and cheered. It was a bull’s eye hit.
Snoop sat up slowly, remnants of cud sliding from the side of his mouth, and his face, which was already somewhat reddened, had turned to a deep scarlet colour. Blue and purple veins throbbed angrily in his head, clearly visible under his short hair. Sweat sparkled on his brow and his eyes were opened wide, fixed permanently on the group that had unleashed the ball into the air.
He stood up robotically, clenching his fists and stared an unrelenting glare. The laughter soon ceased and even the faintest of smiles were veiled as a momentary hush gripped the campsite. Snoop stood firmly in position and his knuckles were white with pressure. It was as if he wanted to charge into the group of suspects and indiscriminately inflict pain on each and every one of them, but something inside was holding him back. Not an underlying sense of morality, but a euphoric buzz that danced and oscillated within his being. A comforting, tingling sensation in the back of his mind. And the thought that he would eventually see his favourite band…