Friday, 11th August 2017.
For a night spent shivering like I was north of the wall, I slept rather well.
The alarm was set for 7 am, but I woke up around 6.30. Didn’t want the showers to get too busy, so picked up my stuff and walked over there. I wasn’t wearing my lenses, and I hadn’t bothered to check the place out beforehand, bounced around a few doors before finally finding the room I was supposed to be. There were a few people inside, but I was early enough.
As I entered the bathroom, I saw a man walk towards the showers. He was completely naked. Without my contact lenses my eyesight is about as good as a bat’s, but he was naked, and had a nice bum. I thought I had entered a nudist-only bathroom, but a quick look around told me that wasn’t the case. I’m from a country where some people still bathe in their undies, this was new, but I got used to it rather quickly. I thought about walking around naked myself, it must feel kinda liberating, but nobody needs to start their day with the view of a skinny, hairy ass.
Keeping my hands clean enough to put on the lenses in the tent required some long-term planning, but it got done. Got some breakfast and chatted to some people for a change. One of guy’s entire family was attending, he told me about the bikes his dad owns, and what he plans to ride in the future. Must be fun to be him.
I spent some more time by the tennis court, but now it was filled with kids who had no idea what they were doing. There were a few giant bean bags in front of the main school building, and it was sunny, so I spent the next few hours reading Sam Manicom’s Into Africa there, waiting for the morning volunteer meet. It was peaceful.
The meeting began, we were given a tour of the venue, and a basic idea of everything. Once done I went through the schedule, my tasks started in the afternoon, it was time for another few hours of reading. I was hungry again though, so raided the volunteer kitchen for some heavenly cupcakes and coffee. I think I enjoyed the cupcakes a bit too much, one of the kitchen staff told me “Boy you love those cupcakes don’t you?”. I think that’s their polite way of saying get off our food you greedy bastard.
While sneaking out of the cafe I met Jane again, we went and sat on the giant bean bag. We talked about our trips, experiences, and the festival. It’s hard to describe how interesting and attractive a women she is, you feel young just being with her. She left when it was time for her duties to begin, and I carried on Into Africa.
It was time to move to the Patrick Troughton theater, where it was my job to handle the projector room. Lucy, the owner of the giant tent, was outside as the meet and greet person, and she told me to go upstairs to see Richard. I tiptoed inside, a movie was playing on the screen, and shook hands with Richard. As I looked at all the dials and buttons, I realized I hadn’t attended the training to learn what they all did.
“I didn’t see you at the training session in the morning.”
“I didn’t know there was one.”
“No worries, it’s really simple.”
A short crash-course later I was ready. By this time Portia, who I was partnered with at the theater, arrived as well. A young college student, she was supposed to replace Lucy outside the door. It was time for the movie to begin, so we got on with our jobs, but not before I stashed a few cupcakes in the projector room. In my defense, there was a shortcut from the theater to the kitchen.
My job was to play the movie, dim the lights, adjust the volume, turns the lights back up once the movie was done, open the doors, and take out the trash. I thought about introducing the movies before they started, something that Richard was doing during his shift, but then decided against it. The movies we were about to watch didn’t need introductions, and public speaking isn’t my speciality.
I think I had the best job a volunteer could ask for, press a few buttons and then watch the movies from the best seat in the theater. I watched Man with a pram, Trabants to the end of the world, Surviving the fundy footpath, and so many other films that are difficult, if not impossible to watch outside such a film festival. Apart from the movies in the theater, there were a few short films running on loop at a different location, I saw them too once I was done with my shift.
After dinner it was time for a special movie. We all shoved ourselves into a giant aircraft hangar of a sports hall, and watched DugOut. The level of cinematic beauty in that movie is fascinating, especially considering the fact that the whole thing has been shot and created by 2 dudes. After the film was done, I went straight to my tent for some sleep, while for others the party had just begun.
Saturday, 12th August 2017
The day started at 6.30 again, I missed the naked man with the cute butt though.
Got ready, breakfast done, and it was time for some more Sam Manicom. My wife was going to sleep with me tonight, I mean in the tent, I mean real sleep rather than “sleep” sleep. She is an even bigger adventurer than I am, and had never slept in a tent, so that ought to be fun. I had booked her train tickets, she took more or less the same route that I did, and I walked over to Mill Hill East station to pick her up. We walked back to the school, it was easy to carry her tiny bag.
Back at the venue, picked up her tickets, and then gave her a tour of the location. My shift was about to start, I told her to come to the theater with me. She being who she is decided it would be better to roam around the place for no good reason. While we were roaming towards the theater, I noticed the Honda riding academy setup, there were a few young girls riding around on little scooties, and I thought this would be a great place for wifey to learn a bit more about two-wheelers.
She knows how to ride a gearless scooter, but doesn’t have the confidence to take it to the road. Once we had rented an Activa in Goa, I gave it to her to ride for a bit and sat behind, she did well but got very nervous for some reason. Being comfortable on the road is a matter of experience, self-confidence, and luck. If you have bad experiences at the start of your riding life, chances are you won’t do too well down the years.
Went over to the Honda stand, but they said it’s all booked for the day, come back tomorrow 11 am. They had on and off-roading sessions for people like me as well, but I didn’t want to go. I was in rehab from motorcycles, I didn’t need this temptation.
We booked our slot, I went over the the theater to get on with my job, and she quickly got lost somewhere in the building. I went to Portia and asked her if she wanted to do the button pressing thingy, and I would do the hello bye bye thingy. She said sure, so I gave her a crash course, and then headed down to the door. It felt weird that I was getting to watch all the movies while she stood outside. It was easier for me to infiltrate the kitchen from my new location as well, more cupcakes were scored.
Although I had to keep running to the door every few minutes, I did get to watch another movie called Liemba. The two sisters who made the movie were there as well, and gave a talk about their experience. Afterwards Georgia from Man with a Pram came and gave a talk about the trip after the movie. I had a starry-eyed encounter with her, I mean once you watch the movie you feel sort of a bond with her, and I had seen the movie twice. She arrived and I gave her an overview of our plan, asked her to sit in the front row, and then went to arrange the other stuff. Once the movie was done she gave her talk, and then moved out.
“Was it all OK?”
“Yes it was perfect, you were brilliant in there Georgia.”
That is what I think I said, but I might have just stared blankly at her face and imagined the words in my head.
After my shift was done me and wifey roamed around aimlessly through the fields. The last 2 days had almost been like a vacation for me, I hadn’t looked at my phone much, had spent a lot of time reading, had watched interesting movies, and had extremely high quality sleep at night. We walked and talked until sunset, after which it was time for an outdoor film screening.
Even though the weather had been extraordinarily good since the start, we were still in England, and the nights were cold. I picked up both our mattresses and sleeping bags from our tent and picked a place on a hill some distance from the screen to watch the movies. As we settled down, I noticed the two creators of Liemba walk towards the screen, and then sit down on bare grass. I was wrapped in a sleeping big, sitting on an air mattress, hugging wifey for extra warmth, looking at them plonk their asses on damp earth gave me a shiver.
“Hi, aren’t you feeling cold?”
“Hello, um, no it’s alright.”
“Are you sure? I’ve got an extra mattress over there, why don’t you come on up?”
“Wow you must pick up a lot of girls with your extra mattress”
I am not a witty guy, I don’t do comebacks. If you say something to me I’ll probably just smile. Then a few days later I’ll think of a comeback in the shower, and crack up imagining how hilarious it would have been if I had said it then. When she said that to me, I just smiled. I still haven’t thought of a comeback, it’s work in progress.
They must’ve been feeling cold, since they decided to walk on up and use the mattress.
First up we watched a popular Youtube video about a trainhopper, with a surprise at the end, the dude was at the venue to give a talk after the playing. Then we watched Losing sight of shore, that’s one hell of a film about a few women who rowed a boat across the fucking Pacific. I don’t know how to swim, so this movie was a big deal for me.
Then it was time to sleep, and we realized that our so-called 2 man tent was really more like a 2 rat tent. There was no way we both could have slept inside without looking like blocks in a game of Tetris. The only solution we could find was to put all our stuff outside the tent and hope it didn’t rain.
It was another cold night, especially for her. My bed-warming skills were contained inside the force field of the sleeping bag, I couldn’t help her.
Sunday, 13th August 2017.
The last day began the same way. I asked wifey to lookout for nice bums in the ladies showers. She didn’t see any, neither did I.
I remember thinking while having breakfast, I could get used to this routine. I have struggled with getting up early all my life, and now all of a sudden I had done it 3 times in a row. Spent some time reading, and then we went over to the Honda place to see if wifey still knew how to ride.
She did, but at the same screamy-nervous level from 4 years ago. The trainer was really patient, and by the end of the session wifey had definitely improved. Time for a few cupcakes to celebrate.
Back at the theater we watched a very special movie about Ben Carlin. He did a round the world trip in the 50s, and remains the only person to do so in an amphibious vehicle even after 60 odd years. You have to watch the film to believe it, that man traveled the world like we travel to the grocery store. The film was followed by a talk with Gordon Bass, who has written a book about Ben Carlin.
After lunch it was time for a final sweep of the main field. The volunteers formed a line and combed the field like a bunch of policemen trying to find a murder weapon. The vacation ended after that, we walked back to the tent and saw Portia on the way. I liked her a lot, she always had a book with her. An awkward hug goodbye later we moved onto disassembling our home and packing it all up.
Walked back to the station and the trains took us away.
Travelers are usually good people, experiences change you for the better. ATFF for me was a collection of the best of travelers, it doesn’t get much better than that.
This was a unique experience, to say that I enjoyed it would be an understatement. I would watch a movie, think this is the best goddamn adventure movie ever made, and then watch something better a few minutes later. I got free food from the lunch lady, and binged on cupcakes at the kitchen. I slept like a baby, spent time reading, and walked miles. It was like one of those expensive art of living camps, for free., and without all of the God bullshit
Let’s do it again sometime.