First the CFO picks me up at the office. I walk down to the corner where we have arranged to meet so he can give me my motorbike gear. After much agonising about festival appropriate outfits, I'm wearing Paul & Joe dark indigo jeans and a sort of floaty cotton kaftan top with giant Japanese fish on it (Gharani Strok). Checking my look in the ladies loos, I am moderately pleased with myself. This is never a good sign.
"I have some bad news" he says.
"First, the hotel is in a industrial estate. Second -brace yourself - they only serve beer at this festival"
Neither of us likes beer. We are really, really bad Belgians. Beer for me means my evil first boyfriend who used to make me hold pint glasses in my teeny tiny seventeen year old hands and get me drunk on horrible old man's bitter.
"I'll never get through the night sober! What will we do?"
"Don't worry, I've made contingency plans. Oh, and I've forgotten your flat shoes".
"NOOOOO!" I send a silent apology to Rupert Sanderson for what is about to befall his lovely red patent cut out side heels.
"You need to wear this" He hands me a blue nylon windcheater, much like the kind of garment lower division football club managers favour when gesticulating from the touchline.
I put it on and get on the motorbike. I look like Brian Clough. We zoom off. I am not very good at the motorbike because I treat it like a horse - heels down, grip with calves, sit up nice and straight. After five minutes I am usually whimpering and today is no exception. My head can't find a good place to go and small stones keep whipping up from the road and hitting me on the feet. Sorry Rupert.
After about an hour when I am fantasising about just letting go, the CFO gesticulates in the direction of an collection of factories. I assume he is trying to communicate with some other road user and ignore it, but he turns off at the next exit and we drive into the industrial estate. This is indeed where our hotel is; in a wasteland full of light industrial units. Ah well.
The hotel reception is full of conference delegates from the nearest factory discussing injection moulded plastic in Flemish. They stare at us like something in a scene from Straw Dogs. We scuffle quickly to our room, my face completely numb from the too-tight helmet chin strap and the CFO, like a conjuror producing a rabbit pulls out a pouch of Dove shower gel from his pocket.
"Why on earth are you showing me that? Do I smell?"
"No! This contains our SECRET DRINK RESERVE. I thought, if they ask us why we've brought it, we could say 'swine flu'. Try it!"
"No. You try it. Doesn't it taste of soap?"
He tries it and frowns in concentration.
"Nooooo... I don't think so.. Not much. There's just the slightest aftertaste. Maybe".
He pours me a glass. It looks like urine.
"What on earth is IN there?"
"Gin. And Red Bull".
I take a small sip and spit it out.
"BLEUUURGH! It tastes like my granny's Palmolive soap!"
"No, that's the taste of Red Bull! It tastes like that - like cherries. Honestly" .
"I didn't say it tasted of cherries! It tastes. Of. Soap".
"You are so demanding. Alright, I'LL drink it. You can have the hip flask"
"And how do you propose getting the hipflask on site?"
"In my slip. They won't feel my balls, will they?"
"I have no idea. I suppose we will just have to wait and see. We ought to drink now while we still can though".
We have two restorative gins at the hotel bar [ndlr: it's about four in the afternoon. Noone turns a hair] and head off again, me in my Brian Clough jacket and Rupert Sandersons, the CFO in an all-in-one motorcycle suit. Following the trail of fourteen year olds in shorts and Birkenstocks (for this is a sensible, Flemish festival), we eventually find the entrance. Noone tries to feel the CFO's balls.
We can count people older than us on the fingers of one hand and after a full survey, I conclude I am the only person wearing heels. Everyone is tanned and blonde and amazonian and approximately fourteen years old. They are all Dutch and thus at a major genetic advantage compared with the pair of us swarthy goblins. It is quite depressing without alcohol. The hipflask is soon out of its hiding place and empty. Gin and Fanta, the only soft drink apparently available on site, is an acquired taste.
We see Glasvegas (mouais, bof, French for "alright, I suppose"), The Ting Tings (disappointing - I expected great things and they were very functionally competent but nothing more. "We love you Belgium" Katie White tries to shout, unconvincingly, but her voice sags with festival fatigue, and it sounds more like she's saying "I would like a nice cup of tea and a lie down now". I have some sympathy), and Vampire Weekend (great. the new album tracks sound very very good and they were far better live than I'd been led to believe) but then it all goes a bit aimless. The tweenagers are just getting into their stride with jolly Flemish drinking songs, but I'm flagging and when the CFO accidentally pours a whole bottle of Fanta directly into my crotch, I am seriously wondering what on earth possessed us.
After a couple of hours wandering around the techno field sobering up and listening to repetitive clanking noises that sound like they could have come from the buildings near our hotel, I am wearing my best cat's arse face. In addition, damp denim plus Fanta friction is causing me some painful thigh chafing. A youth with white dreads (of COURSE) nearly pees on me and I am collecting beer spillages more or less everywhere. We catch each other's eye and start laughing hysterically.
"Ok, come on" says the CFO "I'm more or less fit to drive the bike".
"Thank fuck for that, I was beginning to think we would be stuck here for ever".
He even lets me wear the full waterproof suit on the long, slow journey back. It's so long in the leg that it trails down on the road right over my dusty, scuffed spike heels. On arrival I collapse on the bed like a capsized beetle still wearing the suit and can't right myself. The CFO has to pull it off for me as my gin sodden, motorbike wobbled limbs are leaden. Before he does, he takes a picture on his phone.
"I had fun tonight" he says.