With a promise of high temperatures and sunshine throughout an afternoon of food, drink and a swaying singalong with Will Young, I had chosen my outfit carefully. I wanted to be cool, comfortable, chic - but with a little exposed flesh to show off my Sicily-acquired tan and encourage it along. So it was with an Italian influence in my mind that I selected a sleeveless, red gingham cotton shirtdress, with a circular fully-lined skirt and strappy red leather slip-on sandals (bought yonks ago in Siena – naturally), and a matching pink and white striped baseball-style sunhat so that my ponytail could hang out the back. Perfect: I thought I looked like a 1950s Italian starlet. To everyone else I probably looked like an oldie dressed as a 1950s English schoolgirl -wearing her school uniform on a Sunday.
I made my way to the festival by taxi with two (VIP ticketed) friends. However, descending the stone steps into the park, I complained that I appeared to have something stuck to the heel of my left sandal. I scuffed the heel on the edge of the step to release what was stuck there and held up my foot to inspect the result. I didn’t have something STUCK TO my heel. The whole heel had exploded and doubled in size and was dropping off! I took off the shoe to inspect it and it broke in half. The half that was the sole was split into 3 garish stripes that resembled the yellow honeycomb interior of a Crunchie bar, from which dry chunks dropped through my fingers. The right shoe was exactly the same. My classy Italian red strappy sandals had completely disintegrated. I picked my way painfully across the uneven surface of the pebble strewn pathway to deposit them in the bin.
But hang on – one of my VIP friends was heading off to the sales office for the river paddle-boats, to see if they had any size 4 footwear in a Lost Property box. Good idea but sadly not. I reassured my VIP friends that I’d be OK once I got off the pathways and onto the grass, and indeed this was the case. The grass was cool and springy beneath my feet. I’d worry about getting back out onto the street when it was time to leave. We separated and headed off to our respective ticket areas.
I wasn’t expecting to encounter another obstacle when I presented myself, and my ticket, to the gatekeeper of the Sunday Times tent. But he wouldn’t let me through for health and safety reasons, as apparently I could injure myself on a shard of plastic from a discarded Prosecco flute or a smouldering cigarette end. What to do? After a few seconds thought, the gatekeeper suggested that I walk round to the St John’s Ambulance Station to see if they could help me out with something to cover my dainty feet.
Dreading the thought of potentially being heavily bandaged from toes to knees, I rocked up and explained my predicament to the St John’s crew. They thought it was hilarious – but having no-one else to administer to so early in the day’s proceedings, they resolved to fix me up. “We’ve never been defeated!” they declared. And they set about making me a pair of shoes.
They placed thick cardboard under my feet, drew around each of them and cut out the two shoe bottoms. We all admired how they fitted under my feet perfectly, but couldn’t come up with the next stage. But then Sarah, the only female crew member, offered me her yesterday pair of socks to pull on over my feet, and hold the cardboard in place under my feet. We all sniffed the socks and they weren’t at all whiffy actually. So, I pulled on the socks and suddenly I was no longer barefoot.
It wasn’t a great look, but I wore my makepiece sock-shoes all day. The Sunday Times tent gatekeeper was satisfied and allowed me inside. Apart from a few trips to get food and to watch ‘celebrity chef’ Tom Kerridge make a pizza omelette with his adorable little boy, I set up camp on the outside terrace area in the sunshine. I bagged a front row deckchair, my free drinks and snacks and a Sunday Times newspaper. I could have been waiting for a gig to start in my back garden, as I was in a great position when Will Young took to the stage! He did a fantastic set, which I may not have seen and heard so well had St John not come to my aid! Well, it was a Sunday.
Christine Ingall 15 July 2019