For some five years almost without exception I've made my way to Catton Hall on the second weekend of August for the Bloodstock Open Air heavy metal festival. I went along last year still undiagnosed and for the purposes of brevity let's just say it was an unmitigated disaster as far as health goes. Armed with lessons learned, a diagnosis and a new approach I've been waiting for this year's festival seemingly all year for a chance to unwind and spend time with friends I only usually have that once-a-year chance to see.
So, what were my precautions?
To start I don't think I've ever packed so many clothes for one weekend in my life, and as a typically low maintenance sort of person this did leave me somewhat boggled. However the key for me is to never allow myself to get cold, so layers and many of them are the order of the day. I'd also packed for every extreme of our wonderful British weather - sun scream, after sun and sunglasses wrapped up in a waterproof certainly seemed typically British enough to raise something of a chuckle from me. I packed the heat gloves, painkillers, a heat pain relief gel and a few other things in an attempt to cover all my bases.
The strange thing was I never needed them.
(The aviator twins.)
Now I don't want to give the impression that I spent three days bouncing about like the Duracell bunny and somehow came away unscathed. I was in fact exceptionally well behaved and spent a good deal of time sitting down relaxing and taking things at a very leisurely pace. I also cannot express the kind of difference being in a hotel makes. A hot bath and a comfy bed really did solve most of the problems of the previous year, and there's nothing like sitting up until 2am with tea, biscuits and girly chatter to put you in a very relaxed and glowing sort of mood for the next day's festivities.
I have to stress another large bonus was knowledge of a brilliant food stall to go and eat at, thereby avoiding stereotypically questionable festival food. Given how funny my insides can be on a day to day basis, the existence of the Deli Kate stand is and has always been nothing short of a god-send.
More than anything though, I was conserving my energy for the next to last set on the Saturday - the one and only Avantasia. I confess I became very silly indeed for that hour and a half and I'm definitely starting to feel the aches and twinges which precede a flare up as I write. I've said before some things are always going to be important enough to be worth it, and their first UK appearance certainly counted amongst those rare occasions. Their set was only topped later in the night by the announcement of Emperor for next year - yet another band I was convinced I would never be able to see.
I make quite a big thing on this blog of psychological welfare and the crucial role it plays in the battle with long term ill health. Nothing could have proved this to be true more than my festival experience this past weekend. Not only did it mean spending time with a very close friend I don't see as often as I'd like since moving, but more important still it meant reuniting with what I've increasingly begun to see as my second family. I'm fortunate in that I know a lot of truly lovely people who attend the festival and wiling away hours on talk, laughter and general shenanigans is an incredibly large part of the whole experience for me.
There's no getting away from it, I'll have a flare later this week which will probably be quite a spectacular one, but the fact Petunia held off the spite for three days so I could enjoy myself means it will all be completely worth it. I don't think I've ever been grateful to her before, but there's a first time for everything. Common sense dictates attendance is a silly idea, but I was pleasantly surprised at how relatively healthy I remained throughout the weekend. Even had that not been the case, I adore this festival and it's something I am just not prepared to give up unless it becomes absolutely impossible. As regular readers will no doubt have realised, I am not one to quietly admit defeat, and whether it be fluke, happy accident or in fact a result of all the changes and planning I think I've been proved somewhat right on this occasion.
In conclusion I can say only that planning, caution and common sense will get you so far, but friendship and doing the things you love (and hang the consequences!) can sometimes take you even further.
(Roll on Bloodstock 2014...)
Wishing you all many spoons xxx