How to break into a van with a banana and other idiotic stories from the South West.


As with all good adventure stories, there are a few components that are necessary to make the tale run smoothly. Unfortunately we drove a van head first into the old man with the long silvery beard that makes the rules somewhere just outside Avebury. I think we killed him.

Leaving the same town as your own band is hard. Add another band to that mix, and then put them fifty odd miles away just off one of the most hated roads in the country and voila. You have the makings of a shit storm in a gin bottle.

The plan was to pick up Death Rattles from Hersham and head to Cornwall for eleven in the morning. But after a late start from Brighton due to no reason other than the fact that we could have got away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky roads, meant that with an hour behind us, time was tight. When time is tight, what do you do? Pedal to the metal? Nope. Stock up.
We managed to find the busiest car park this side of suburbia and after a tense parking debacle and many middle class stares, we poured out into the sunlight and scarpered off into the bowels of a supermarket that well remain nameless. To put our location into perspective, it was a pretty golf jumper, white teeth, don’t let any foreign folk into our town kinda town, so sore thumbs we just may well have been.

           Bombay Sapphire. Captain Morgan. Emergency tinned goods and a hefty amount of Fosters; also a watermelon. Supplies loaded and off we went on down the road, scaring some old people along the way.

As you would expect on a lovely warm Saturday afternoon, there was a tailback party on the M25 and we were at a standstill before we had even left the big bastard of a circle. Did I mention there were no windows in the back of said funmachine? The heat was repugnant, and after half an hour or so, it left us no choice other than to crack into out festival supply to while away what was set to be many more hours than we had anticipated in a sweaty van full of hairy men.

Charlie high fived a child carrier full of chavs on a stag do whilst driving, complete with ‘baby on board’ sign. Oh the wonders of the uncivilized universe.

When there is only a singular opening window and nothing to look at but a line of cars going nowhere, time tends to drag, but at some point we managed to slip away and made it as far as you can down the A303 before the inevitable Stonehenge snail fest begins and we were back in that Murray like groundhog day headspace. What better way to get out of that funk though than play a loud shouty drinking game with a van full of warm larger and spirits. After a few test rounds led by mister Maud E. Licious we got the hang of it and ran poor Marks sanity to the test, yet again; though this time at least it was on the regular side of the road. But dear readers, all adventures need their calamity, their Shakespearian tragedy, and ours was there, hiding on the Illminster roundabout waiting to pounce like a mangy dog with rabies stalking a lame koala bear. The smoke poured through the footwell up from the gear box and we lost all power in the worst place possible, except maybe halfway across the roundabout. We managed to push it onto the central reservation, because that is always a good place to stop when you have too many people in a dodgy looking van, but then again, why the fuck not?

After a while we got bored of watching all the lucky people in their perfectly tuned cars driving past on their way to somewhere better than a roundabout, so we found a break in the traffic and pushed it into the road and it spluttered into the closest thing to life we could get out of it…it was like the A team on Ketamin the way we all stylishly jumped into a moving van on a three lane motorway. First gear please captain. We made it to an industrial estate a few hundred yards down the road, smoke now pouring from seemingly every orifice of this hunk’o’junk, and collectively gave up. Not one person had breakdown cover that would get us anywhere. By a stroke of luck, we had broken down not far from Maud and I’s old band manager from Bad for Lazarus, the one and only Griffstar Gurnal and after a quick game of footie that ended when big Charlie booted the ball to realms unknown, Griff turned up with his mate and their dogs and a plan was formed. By this time, Death Rattles had to go onstage in less than two hours and counting, us in five, once again, time was tight and we had all but given up the fight.

Gin soaked apathy rained down like LA smog, but this is why Griff is Griff; he is a master magician, obi wan Kenobi himself, a man that would make Bill Hicks blush. The AA were called, and in a style reminiscent of many many Bad for Lazarus tours, he managed to persuade the mechanic to bodge the clutch cable with chewing gum and old receipts in exchange for a shrapnel based whip round from us, amounting to just under the measly sum of ten English pounds. On the premise that Griff was our tour manager, he drove us across the road to the little chef where we switched drivers and said our thanks and goodbyes, heading off into the now diminishing sunlight, hoping to make it to Bude in time for our set.

By this point we had almost run out of Gin, the Fosters were almost gone and we were still a hundred or so miles from our final destination. The only thing that you can do to get by on such a dreadful journey is one that requires lubrication. Luckily enough we were fully lubricated, all except mister Devonshire who was still soldiering away in the drivers seat. The volume was cranked and the hits poured out, resulting in one of the finest sing alongs since Bohemian Rhapsody was belted out in an 1976 AMC pacer down the streets of Aurora, Illinois.

After stopping in the middle of a slip road onto the motorway for a piss, we checked the time and had missed both of our respective sets. Thankfully the lovely Jak Stringer, stage manager and promoter extraordinaire, was on the case and managed to wangle us onto the penultimate slot, which we decided to share.

From out of nowhere, a row of beacons appeared on the brow of a hill, the sat nav was ready for the end game. Signs began popping up all over hedgerows with arrows and hippie marks. After almost eleven hours of driving, we had beaten the gods and made it to Leopalooza. Bude has never looked so lovely in the dark.

We drove the van straight into the loading area and dragged everything out and into the tent as the last band before the Sussex contingent hit the stage. We had managed to not leave anything behind and were apparently ready to go. Two fifteen minute sets later and our mission was complete. A girl even dived over the barrier to dance on stage with us, not that I or anyone else really remembers, that gin really takes it out of you. Mothers’ ruin, and then some.

I could go into great detail about the rest of the evening due to the fact that we had run out of booze and the cold set in, but in brief. We got split up, one half with the van keys, the other needing them. Those of us in need, spent a good few hours wandering the campsite and surrounding areas looking for three hairy stooges before heading back to the van to attempt a Sellers style break in with anything to hand, which ended up being a bag of fruit and a hammer offered by a security guard who appeared bored out of his tiny Cornish mind. We begrudgingly declined the hammer as it was a hire van of sorts, but the fruit provided some much needed relief. In sober hindsight, there are thoughts of those in need, but alcohol turns you into a self righteous, deviant, all encompassing shit talker of a man. And when that boorish demon is tired and cold, then no amount of compassion will stir within his poison infested breast, not even for that of his fellow human. Thought saying that, we felt bad about throwing Charlies tent over a fence so we brought it back and put it on the van instead; we don’t got to sleep, no one gets to sleep.

We woke to the sound of hammering rain and what I can only assume to be someone sleeping in the tent on the roof, I forgot to ask if this actually happened.

Apparently those of us who had opted for sleep had missed Thom Yorke DJing to eight or so people in a tiny tent, but who cares when you managed to get to sleep with your face against a montage of Jeff Goldblum whilst kicking the good Doctor Foster in the chin.

The scene of carnage that unfolded as we emerged like blind musk rats into the desert sun was all the more glorious in the daylight, needless to say certain people weren’t happy, then again come down’s do that to you. Our first port of call after the freshly emptied festival grade toilets was the VIP bar and pints of Gin and tonic for breakfast, you just can’t go wrong. After a chinwag with the Dingus Khan boys who were all prepared enough to have brought their wash bags, we went our separate ways, us to the food stall and them to the toilets.

Oh what delights festival catering offers, oh what sumptuous morsels one can fill hungry bellies with…when you are of the vegan persuasion, the answer is very little or chips in a bread roll with a selection of grilled mushrooms and tomatoes; an interesting adventure for the morning afters stomach. Though to be fair, the roast plate that they did later in the evening was everything you could ever dream of at a festival.

There was a faux blues band, a poor excuse for a reggae band, two girls that sounded like step children of Mark Lanegan without the song writing skills and other such Sunday morning atrocities to enjoy. The sun was out, the field full of surprisingly chirpy people and our default ‘guide’ to the festival, Ben, a tall oddity of a man with bright blonde curly locks kept bringing us beer from god knows where, but it was cold, and who cares when you have that. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it was probably one of the nicest Sunday mornings I’ve ever had at a festival, a feeling that is always helped by the never-ending loveliness of the Cornish.

Ben had arranged for Death Rattles to do an acoustic set at the O’neil bus at one, but Tommy was nowhere to be seen and our fragile bodies began creaking under the strain of the sun and warming piston head. Plans were made to move and we began the arduous process of readying the van for our departure back to real life in a van made of mashed potato and broken dreams.

Reverse was broken. The van was facing down hill into a copse of trees. The only option being – Push. It. Out. With grunts, heaves and a lot of sweat, we got the bastard facing the only direction it could move and started the engine, much to the dismay of said engine who’s only thoughts were on a quiet peaceful death in the hills surrounding Bude. No luck today old boy, the show must go on and other such positive quips.

Once again there is little to say of a long drive, other than the fact that it takes too long, marred by the fact that you all feel like drivel and the van refuses to go into fifth full stop. Half way through the journey, everyone had a slight mental break down, but we kept on going, hoping to make it back in time to take our aggressions out onto the Hollyoaks omnibus, emotionally retarded shambles that it is.

I think we made it back in one piece. Who knows if the van survived another day? It wasn’t ours. Walter Melon who may or may not have been mentioned in the previous collection of paragraphs met his end on the 5th August, 2014. It was most un triumphant


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