Where I live, in the state of Victoria, the weather is a fickle dominatrix – you know never when she’ll deliver the seductive stroke and when you’ll get the slap. Last Saturday’s weather for Leonard Cohen at Hanging Rock was a perfect 24 degrees. This weekend we got the slap – torrential rain – for the inaugural Shine On festival about two and half hours’ drive north-west of Melbourne. Guess which one I attended? I have a personality tic that I would gladly trade. It involves procrastinating about going to an event until the last-minute and then obsessively chasing tickets. Sold out? All the better. The more rational part of my character looks on, eyebrow cocked, arms crossed, knowing that facts hold no sway over this tic of mine, which is as persistent and crazy as a kelpie with a ball.
Ironically, the last time the tic appeared was when Leonard Cohen played Rochford Winery last year. The gig was sold out, so at the eleventh hour, I decided to go. That ended well, with me singing along to So Long Marianne in beautiful surroundings, drinking a fine red and eating cheese. Perfect. This time, not so much. I refused to believe the Bureau of Meteorology’s forecast of ‘rain and possible thunderstorms’. I found a cheap ticket online (surprise!) and picked it up from a police officer just before she started work on the booze bus. (This tic of mine enjoys complex ticket gathering arrangements and meeting strangers in strange places). I was undeterred by the fact that the transaction occurred under an umbrella. Even when a friend called the next morning to deliver her mate’s report from the Shine On festival that it was a quagmire best avoided, I pushed on, still certain that hope would prevail over truth. So after the usual protracted preparations for leaving the house for one night (enough provisions for three weeks and several outfit possibilities) and stopping off to buy some gumboots, my friend K. and I headed to the Pyrenees Ranges, all the while thinking the rain would miraculously cease and that somehow our journey along the sloshing road would end in a bright rainbow and sunshine would welcome us to the soundtrack of a happy pumping bass line from Fat Freddy’s Drop. Along the way, I read K. items from the newspaper, including one about the freefall of the Irish economy. ‘This is very Irish weather,’ my friend noted, as we peered through the foggy windscreen and the sweeping windscreen wipers at the blurred edge of the range ahead. I reminisced about travelling with my boyfriend of the time on the west coast of Ireland, where it rained constantly and we saw the country from the inside of a pub, playing pool, drinking Guinness and chatting to the locals. A wise voice inside said ‘That’s how you do Irish weather’. I ignored it.
To cut a long story short…we arrived and were advised by the bedraggled volunteers in wet-weather gear to keep a steady pace through the boggy paddock. We put on our rain jackets and gumboots, opened our brollies and sloshed our way to the festival site. We found a crowd doing a fine job of enjoying Mista Savona in the mud and incessant rain, spurred on by youthful enthusiasm and chemical aids. Travelling au naturale and being not-so-youthful, faced with the prospect of putting up a tent and spending a cold, damp night picking our way through muddy ponds, I was not arguing when K. made an executive decision to bail and head back to Melbourne. People were getting bogged on the way in and K. did not fancy the idea of being trapped at a washed-out festival with a bunch of crazy diamonds. She took that carpark road like a rally driver and I feared for the life of one man standing unknowingly in the middle of her path, gazing in wonderment at the tractor that was pulling his car from the quagmire. ‘Get out of the way!’ she yelled, sweeping him from the path with one hand while steering with the other. It was impressive.
On the way back, we stopped off at one of those sheltered barbecue areas to eat the delicious food that K. had prepared for our dinner and were swooped by vicious birds. Ah, the country. After stopping off at my place to drop off the supplies for our overnight adventure, we went to meet friends at a new soul night – Ready, Steady, Go! at Collingwood’s Grace Darling Hotel – safely within my usual six kilometre travel zone. While dancing in the cosy warmth, I told my friend M. that we’d just driven for five hours through the rain to drink a chai at a festival and be attacked by birds. He punched me on the arm. ‘Welcome back. That’ll teach you to leave your comfort zone.’ Until the tic returns…