The Green Man Festival, Abergavenny Y Fenni
“Is this sky for real, treacle?” Ham asked no one in particular, gazing up towards what looked like a gigantic black yurt, with thousands of sparkling stars dotted all over the canvas, but she knew to be the night-time sky.
She was reclining on the wet, muddy grass – in a field in Wales. Lying flat on her back, with her head resting in the bowl created by her friend Simone’s crossed-legs, she felt cocooned and safe. Simone felt neither of these things. Her back ached from sitting up, supporting Ham’s head, whilst she’d lolled about – questioning whether the sky was caving in or the galaxy expanding – for the best part of three hours.
The finale festival after a summer of frolics and mayhem – Ham was suffering the effects of too many hallucinogens. Though it wasn’t really Ham who was suffering – she was having a wonderful time – it was her friends, who had generously taken it upon themselves to look after her.
Ham didn’t like to miss an opportunity to party; she was in her prime at festivals – where there were no rules and no restrictions. At home, however, she was a different person. Ham suffered the effects of mild obsessive compulsive disorder. This had been diagnosed by friends – who were flummoxed by her colour-coded clothes rail, the manic daily-dusting routine she adhered to, and her tendency to get up and leave a coffee shop if the person she was meeting was anything over three and a half minutes late.
But at least Ham still knew how to have fun. Her friend Clare had once remarked that one of the things she liked best about Ham was that she would do anything to ensure she was having the best time possible; that she was a party-chaser. Ham had been pleased that Clare considered her to be a party-animal – but had later reflected on this and concluded that Clare was actually being a little spiteful. What she was really saying was that Ham would neglect everyone and everything – if that meant increasing her chances of having a good time. Guiltily, Ham admitted to herself that it was probably true.
As she lay with her head between Simone’s legs – Ham started to come round from her trip. She realised that she was actually warm because although they were sitting in a cold, damp field – they were perched on the edge a huge pit of fire, with roaring flames dancing in the middle.
Dreadlocked hippies were tapping on bongos and strumming guitars, with fat spliffs dangling from between their crusty lips. She noticed that one such hippie, stationed about a metre away, had a problem with his joint – it was only burning on one side.
“Excuse me?” Ham called out. “Hello? You – with the glitter all over your face, playing those tabla like a rhythmless baboon?”
The hippie realised he was being spoken to and turned slowly, nodding his head slowly as if they were ‘connecting’ – paying no heed to the insults.
“Yeah…?” He drawled, barely able to intonate at the end of the monosyllable to differentiate his question from a phatic utterance.
“Your spliff is canoodling, petal.” Ham told him – with the kind, motherly tone she sometimes adopted to help people out in tricky situations.
There was suddenly a roar of laughter around the fire – it was like a Mexican wave of piss-take. Ham grew slightly anxious – not knowing why that was so funny.
“I think you mean ‘canoeing’, love” the hippie replied, his peaced-out face becoming distinctly more aggressive and his accent more Cockney-geezer than New Age traveller.
Ham’s head was bouncing around as Simone’s legs jiggled up and down, whilst her friend tried to suppress hysterical laughter. The hippie went back to his minimalist percussion-playing and Ham returned her attention to the sky that was now vast and vacuous, a lot less sparkling than it had been just ten minutes earlier.
She lay still for a minute, thinking, then sat up straight and turned towards the hippie again.
“Excuse me, sorry – you again – stoner-boy?” Ham yelled over the cacophony of hippie-harmonies and beatless drums.
Again, the dreadlocked hippie turned slowly to face Ham. But this time he was clearly suspicious and ready to attack.
“Who the fuck are you? And why d’you keep breaking my flow?”
“Well, my name’s Ham, you haven’t got a ‘flow’ and I wanted to let you know that you have a polo around your nostril.”
The hippie’s eyebrows furrowed, his eyes squinted to slits, and he stared at Ham like she was talking in Latin.
“A polo,” Ham replied.
The hippie pulled his hemp sleeve down over the back of his hand and wiped away the remnants of whatever white powder he’d been snorting from underneath his nostrils.
“Why the fuck are you called Ham, anyway?” He asked, then returned his focus to the fire before she could answer.