Ah camping! The fresh air, the closeness to nature, the simple life. Hmm. After a few freezing nights, on very hard ground, I’m not convinced. How about a bit of reality? That it will be cold, that the quiet darkness will be interrupted not by owls but by the snoring of your fellow campers as well as the unmistakable 1am squeaks of an airbed being blown up (at least, I hope that’s what it was) and that by the end of a couple of days you will feel like something that has been bashing around at the bottom of a handbag, covered in bits of random filth and unrecognisable.
Having said that, if you have to camp anywhere, the Port Eliot festival isn’t a bad place to do it. The house and grounds are glorious, even if the mudslides can be a tad dangerous in the rain, sharing the weather, work and events with like-minded bookish/foodie/Pimms-downing friends is lovely and, unlike my image of many festivals, the food stalls are something to look forward to, not reel away from. Over the space of four days, amongst other things, I enjoyed a huge halloumi and portabello burger from Sporeboys, a cone of delicious calamari and frites from Chris Sherville’s Seafood Cafe and pear bellinis by the river as the sun went down.
The foodie treats are not limited to the stalls. Some of the most over-subscribed events at the festival are the food events in the Big Kitchen and, having worked there on my shifts as a volunteer last year, I offered my services out of working hours this year. It meant spending most of Saturday inside (which wasn’t a great loss since the weather was appalling) but I had some of my favourite moments in that huge blue-painted room. Highlights included learning how to make cocktails with Ben Reed, baking saffron buns with Rose Prince and eating Gioconda Scott’s delicious almond gazpacho. Oh and large quantities of homemade coffee and walnut cake magically appeared, and disappeared, every afternoon. I’ll be trying to recreate some of these recipes over the next few weeks.
By the time I got home I felt like I needed to scour myself inside and out. I couldn’t face cooking so I had a shower, a massive green salad and went to bed. Springy watercress, comfy mattress: heaven.