Festival Fun

Jan was excited about taking her drinks van to her first ever solo festival – so would Matt being there too ruin it all?

As soon as she saw the flags in the distance, Jen knew she had arrived.

It didn’t matter that the SatNav was telling her there was still a mile to go, the butterflies in her stomach were telling her differently.

Little Clayton was now on the map as one of the highlights of the cultural festival circuit. Three days and nights of music, poetry, books, dance and art were ahead of her.

Not that she’d see any of them.

She carried on past the main entrance ignoring the SatNav which was now imploring her to do a U-turn.

Although she had never been to this festival before, Jen knew from the map of the site she’d downloaded that her turning was further along the road.

Sure enough, a yellow sign pointed to the entrance for concessions. A man in a high-vis vest stood with a clipboard.

Jen eased her van to a stop and lowered the window.

“Hi. I’m a bit late.”

“Trouble on the motorway, yeah I know. You’re not the only one.”

“Jen Warriner.”

The man checked his list. “Prosecco and Pimms?”

Jen nodded.

“Don’t mind if I do,” he grinned. “It’ll be a busy few days. You’re in 24G. Been here before?”

“First time,” Jen said.

“Carry on up this road, turn left and count yourself down to row G.”

“Road” was perhaps a euphemistic description for the trackway that presented itself, Jen thought.

Her nose twitched at the sight of the long grass that bordered the field that would be her home for the next three days. She made a mental note to take another antihistamine once she’d set up.

As she started down the track for row G, she could see her space. Everyone was in a frenzy of setting up.

She was next to a Fish and Chip van – Oh My Cod! Could be handy, Jen thought; people will want a drink with their salty chips.

Then her heart stuttered. No! It couldn’t be!

Of all the pitches at all the festivals in the whole country. There was no mistaking the white van with the colourful art work, the hand-painted sign Feeling Peckish. Jen would know it anywhere.

She had been the one to paint it, weekend after weekend, while Matt had worked on the engine and interior.

Her heart sank. Why here? Why now?

She had thought she was safe. She and Matt hadn’t done the lower ranking festivals for years and certainly never any that might be considered to be on the Cultural Circuit. Matt had always proclaimed they would be full of veggies who wouldn’t want a chicken shack even if it was free range and humanely sourced.

Had he fallen on hard times without her?

She felt a spike of concern, swiftly followed by the thought, would he be alone?

Jen was all for turning round and heading back to the friendly guy on the gate and asking for another pitch but there was a Jeep behind her whose driver was already impatient at her pedestrian pace.

Steeling herself, Jen indicated, slowed further and manoeuvred into position so the van was parked sideways on the pitch. Relieved that she’d judged the space right first time, she turned off the engine and watched the Jeep pass.

Feeling Peckish had its serving flaps pinned up and back. A mixture of scents assailed Jen’s nostrils through the open driver’s window.

Matt was busy cooking. For a moment she wondered if it would be possible to spend the whole weekend side by side without him even knowing.

The thought was quickly dispelled when Matt appeared in the doorway at the back of the van directly in front of her.

He looked good, she had to admit.

He wore his trusty red and white bandana around his head, and a matching apron over a Festival t-shirt.

It had been eighteen months, and yet he looked just as he had when they’d parted at a car festival at the end of that season.

With nowhere to hide, Jen jumped down from her van.

“Oh My Cod!” he said.

She grinned at the lame joke. “Who’d have thought it?”

“Van looks good.” He walked to the front. “Prosecco and Pimms? Nice. I thought you’d have gone for a veggie van. You always wanted one.”

She had, but after working with Matt, she’d needed a clean break. No food.

“I didn’t expect to see you here. Thought you didn’t like the cultural circuit.”

He pulled a face. “Sign of the times, Jen. Although I’ll probably sell more salads than chickens. Don’t suppose you fancy giving me a hand? No one makes rainbow salads like you do.”

“I think I’ll have my hands full, sorry. No one to help you then?”

She couldn’t stop the words from forming, much less coming out of her mouth.

“No. Been on my own since you left.” He said it matter-of-factly. No rancour or accusation. “You look good, Jen.”

“You too, Matt.”

“Better get back. No one wants burnt chicken. Punters’ll be here in less than an hour. You need to get your skates on.”

The first punters were there in less than an hour, and they made a beeline for her van. Her first customers.

She knew the van looked good. She had taken the chance to stand back and appraise it earlier, head to one side, eyes narrowed trying to see any faults.

The colourful chalkboard signs were pretty and informative, the sage green of the van set off by the flowers she had hand-painted on the inside of the flaps to form a frame around the serving hatch when they were pinned open.

On the counter was a vase of fresh flowers, and pieces of fruit to add to the ambience as well as a couple of bottles and her licence clearly displayed in a frame.

“Does it pass quality control?” Matt had asked from his window.

“It does,” she’d grinned, and he’d grinned back and even given her the thumbs up.

“Fancy grabbing a bite to eat later after we close?”

Caught up in the thrill and fear of her first solo festival, Jen nodded.

By the time Jen had wiped down her kitchen and put everything away, it was gone two in the morning. Matt had set up a small table beside his van, chairs either side.

“You bring the Prosecco, I’ll handle the rest.”

Two plates were laid with fried chicken, spicy by the pungent and tantalising aroma that was rising from it – and a rainbow salad.

“Good day?” he asked as he opened and poured the Prosecco.

“Yes. You?”

“Better than I thought. Turns out there are plenty of meat eaters out there.”

She accepted her glass from him with a smile.

“To Prosecco and Pimms, may it be a great success,” he said.

Moved by the unexpected toast, she clinked her glass against his.

“Thank you, Matt.”

“And how have you been since… we saw each other last?” Matt asked.

“Busy. You?”

“The same. Tuck in. Enjoy.”

The food tasted delicious. Matt’s special spice mix. She smiled and said, “My compliments to the chef.”

He nodded in thanks.

Apart from two packets of crisps and a handful of grapes, Jen hadn’t had time to stop for anything to eat, so she was absolutely ravenous.

“The one good thing about running a drinks wagon is that no one is going to want Prosecco or Pimms for breakfast. I’ll get to have a lie in. Unlike you, doing breakfast baps,” she teased.

He laughed.

“True. Although there may be some who want the hair of the dog tomorrow morning… this morning.

“Can’t see a tent, Jen – are you sleeping in the wagon?”

She nodded. “Budget didn’t run to a tent and camping equipment. Maybe next time.”

“You’ll probably be better off there. Damn mozzies!”

“Don’t tell me you forgot your Skin So Soft spray?’ Jen said.

Matt shook his head. “I’ve been trying for the life of me to remember what that stuff was called. Who’d have thought a spray the British Army rate would have a name like that?”

Jen laughed. “They didn’t choose the name,” she pointed out. “I have a spare. You can have it.”


Matt cleared the plates. A few drops remained in each of their glasses, the bottle now empty.



They stopped and smiled.

“I never meant for you to go,” Matt said suddenly.

Jen stroked her glass, weighing her words.

“I didn’t feel I had a choice. I couldn’t see a future for us.”

“Because I didn’t want to buy a house?” Matt said.

She nodded.

“I was scared,” he admitted quietly, gaze to the table. “A house was just so… so grown up. We’re two kids who spend our summers driving all over the country and going to festivals.”

“We’re not kids any more. We spent our winters on our market pitch,” Jen pointed out. “What were you afraid of?”

“The financial burden. Ours isn’t the most stable of incomes and everything that comes with it – the mortgage, bills, mowing the lawn every week, when we’re never there…”

Jen giggled. “You were worried about mowing a lawn we didn’t have?”

Matt couldn’t help but laugh at his own absurdity.

“I admit I got in my head about it. I thought we’d lose what made us… us.” He shrugged.

“You should have talked to me.”

“I tried. You were already window shopping for soft furnishings.”

He reached for her hand across the table.

“Losing you was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I was an idiot. Can you forgive me? Can we try again? Please, Jen?”

Losing him had been the worst for her too. She had read his negativity about the house as being negativity about their relationship. She’d got it all wrong.
With tear-filled eyes, she nodded.

“I’d like to try again. I’m not sure how we’re going to make it work, though,” Jen said. “Two wagons?”

“Double pitches,” Matt said, happiness spreading across his face. “It’ll be fine. The organisers can be very accommodating if you ask them nicely.”

Jen raised her eyebrows. “And did you ask nicely?”

He grinned. “Don’t underestimate just how much I wanted to see you again, Jen.”

So, it hadn’t been the universe that had delivered her to the pitch next door to his. Matt had arranged it that way.

“Do you mind that I did that?” he asked, a hint of anxiety in his voice.

Did she? Would they have got back together without his intervention?

She decided she didn’t mind Matt giving the universe a helping hand. Sometimes the universe needed a nudge.

“It’s fine,” she said.

“To new beginnings,” Matt declared, raising his glass.

“To us,” Jen said.

They toasted their reunion with the few drops of Prosecco they had left.

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