I’m at a festival called Pigs in the Park. Or something similar. It’s one of those faux festivals, where there’s no sex or drugs or rock ‘n’ roll. It’s as close to the real thing as a tour of Madame Tussaud’s. The scent of marijuana has been replaced by the smell of BBQ pulled pork.
The only achievement of Pigs in the Park is to violate an elegant historic building and its gardens by turning it into a souk of concessionary food stys, where people stuff their faces with mini-burgers or fish goujons served in baps. The aesthetic impact on the historic house is ghastly. Imagine Colonel Sanders had redecorated Blenheim Palace like a KFC franchise and you’d be close. The impact on the cholesterol levels of the punters at Pigs in the Park is equally ugly.
Why does all the food have to be served in baps? What happened to the bun and the baguette? Did they do something wrong? Are they’re locked away in a mouldy dungeon for badly behaved bread waiting to be torn up and fed to the ducks?
Whatever. The British bap is now the uncontested king of the foodie festival. Even the trendy ciabatta takes the knee to the bap now. We’ve finally taken back control of our Bread Bins. Baps are snacking click bait. They imply so much artisanal skill and wholesome provenance that you could serve sheep shit in them and they would sell like, er, hot cakes. In fact, someone should try selling hotcakes in a bap. They’d make a killing.
Has climate change killed the ciabatta?
I’m anxious. And not just about the decline in buns and baguettes. I’ve been shuffling around like a pig in the park for an hour and I’m getting more and more irritated by the DJ who keeps asking everyone if we’re feeling ‘alright’. Is ‘alright’ the best he aspires to inspire in us? Perhaps he doesn’t really care? I suspect his question is a limp piece of crowd fluffing, a stale bap of bonhomie tossed together at the Subway bar of his own insincerity.
If he really wants to know if I’m feeling alright, the answer is no. It’s baking hot and my temperature’s rising. I’ve only had one pint of lager and a hake bap and I’ve got a headache brewing behind my eyes.
My mood isn’t being helped by the fact that I’m as ill equipped for this hot sunny afternoon as Captain Scott was for the last leg of his assault on the North Pole. Everyone else is sensibly dressed in summer shorts and flip flops. But I’ve forgotten my sun hat, shades, and suntan lotion.
Worse, I’m broiling in black jeans and Blundstone ankle high boots. The Blundstone boots would be bearable if it were mid-winter or I was trekking to the North Pole. But, in this heat, they’re a sweaty breeding ground for foot rot and something which my father used to call ‘toe jam’, that fluff that mysteriously forms between your toes when damp wool socks make love with fungal spores.
My feet are rotting beneath me
Frankly, I’m as inappropriately dressed as a man in denim dungarees at the State Opening of Parliament and my feet may be Ground Zero for the next outbreak of Foot & Mouth disease.
I sit cross legged on the picnic rug and try to stay calm. But there are three men standing less than three feet behind my back talking loudly over the DJ’s tunes and swilling beer. I feel like a zebra at a waterhole surrounded by strange and dangerous animals.
A man in tight white shorts comes onto the stage. He too is concerned about our wellbeing and asks ‘how we’re feeling’.
‘Pissed’ shouts a man behind me. ‘Bring on the band.’
Aside from British baps, the other essential ingredient of a faux festival is musical nostalgia. A chance to sway down memory lane or revisit the mosh pit of your past. Pop baps served up by retiring rock stars paying down the last instalment of the mortgage on their Tuscan villa or by bands called ‘Bored Again’ or the ‘Rolling Drones’, who do replica music in replica costumes.
They move toward the band. I move away
The sound from the main stage sounds like the opening to ‘Waterloo’ by Abba. Much of the audience waddle down the slope towards the stage, like geese hearing the food pellets rattling in a farmer’s pail.
Behind me the queues at the food stys are growing longer. The first rubbish is beginning to sneak out of the rubbish bins. The drunk are getting drunker and louder.
I hear a friend next to me say the thing she enjoyed most on her recent sabbatical was the chance to do what she wanted every day and not to have to do things which she didn’t.
A small boy walks in front of us with his fingers in his ears.
I get up and head home.
At the exit, a human sized bap-man is handing out free BBQ pulled pork. In a bap. I take one and walk on, wondering if I have let myself down by doing so.