Once every year, the small village where the canoe club is gets transformed from a quiet, idyllic community into a loud, hippy-infested venue for the Fairport Convention. This is a three day festival celebrating all kinds of folksy music which people from all over the world come to see (albeit people living 20 minutes away have never heard of it). Despite all the disruption it causes in the village, all the local traders earn most of their yearly income from those few days, and the canoe club is no exception. To help us pay for rent and other things, the canoe club serves breakfasts by the canal for all the campers and all of the members help cook the food, serve the customers and clear the tables. It’s actually great fun and a real laugh to do, but this year I was asked by the vegetarian food stall that I worked at for the Olympics (I should probably clear up the fact that I wasn’t volunteering, I got paid to do it!) if I could work for them in the field holding the main stage.
It was much less stressful than working at the Olympics as it wasn’t nearly as busy so there were fewer people in the unit. This meant you could move from the till to the coffee machine and back without tripping over five other people and scolding yourself with the peppermint tea you’re trying to serve. However, the days were MUCH longer – we would meet at 8am to go to the depot and load up any food that we needed before getting to the site at about 9. We would then prepare the salads and anything else that needed to be done so we could open the stall as people arrived on the field at about midday. After that it’s just a mixture of serving customers, wiping all the surfaces and stocking up the drinks fridge until the music finishes at about midnight, at which point everything has to be cleaned and put away ready for the next day. I ended up getting home at about quarter to one in the morning the first two nights and half past two on the last night as everything had to be packed up.
There were definitely perks to the job though. As the vegetarian food company travels around doing lots of other festivals and events, they knew some of the other food stalls that were at Fairport so we could do food swaps with them. Generally, you’re allowed to help yourself to any of the food from the unit when you’re on a break, but after a while it gets really boring having the same food over and over so they make deals with the other stalls so they can eat for free at your unit and you can eat for free at theirs. I took full advantage of this and had one of the best curries EVER – after eight or so hours of work that day, it was so welcomed!
I also had some nachos but the salsa was a bit too tomatoey for me and I’m not such a fan of sour cream. The guacamole was amazing though.
After I got back on the last night at 2:30 in the morning, I collapsed into bed for three hours before I was woken at 5:30 to go and help at the canoe club with breakfast serving. I’ve helped every year for 12 years now and I didn’t want to break the tradition just because I was tired, so I got up, got dressed and got ready to stack some bread and butter (which is my official Fairport breakfast job). I’m not sure whether I should take offence at the amount of people who assumed I was hungover or not?! I made sure I had a chair to sit down on when I wasn’t so busy so I could rest my poor, aching feet but it kept getting used by everyone else! I’m not sure they understood that my feet felt like they’d been squashed to about a centimetre in height.
I’m glad I worked so many hours (about 45 in total!) over the three days as I did want to make some money over the summer, but I’m even more glad that they’re over now and I can catch up on all that lost sleep! I’m looking forward to just helping with the breakfasts next year, and if anyone asks me for a falafel pitta bread with an extra topping of hummus any time soon, they might regret it!