Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: the circle of life

Photo Jeff Dawson

Photo Jeff Dawson

Nothing makes you feel older than going to a music festival. Earlier this week I immersed myself in a sea of side boob, front boob and under boob at Byron’s Falls Festival. In fact I think they should consider rebranding it The Byron Side-Boob Festival. There’s just so much of it.

It was an interesting exercise for a woman in the last year before she hits 50. I have never felt more like Stifler’s Mum. Perhaps slightly less predatory, but only slightly. I think it was the first time I’ve actually felt my age. In fact, if you wanted an experience to make you feel like some sort of decaying artefact, then this is the one.

It was like being an Avatar. A really, really old one. I also attained magical powers of invisibility. I tested it by exposing not just side boob but whole boob. Nothing. I swear they could have walked right through me. Some did.

Chubby-faced little darlings. It hardly seems possible that they would be allowed out on their own. They’re still babies. It wasn’t that long ago they were in their little walkers, or sitting up in high chairs being fed. I could imagine them with their spray-tanned little legs hanging down, faces smeared in avocado.

I looked at their sweet young-people faces. It’s like they haven’t grown their adult faces yet. They are ripening fruit on the adult tree, the faces not quite assembled into the look that they will carry through in life. It’s like when you open the oven for muffins and they’ve all puffed up to the top. Pull ’em out of the oven, let ’em drop and they’re ready to eat. I on the other hand am one of those muffins that’s been on display since Monday. Still available for purchase, but dry.

Not these little muffins. These happy muffin faces are full of optimism. They’re not worrying about putting their tax in. Or mortgage payments. Their biggest outlay would be paying the plan on the latest iPhone 7. They won’t be facing the pension assets tests for decades, and when they do, thanks to an over-inflated housing market, the poor little fuckers won’t have any assets. They can’t even afford to move out of home now.

I can tell they all still live at home. It’s why they’re so excited about being ‘OUT’. They’re not being told to unpack the dishwasher. Their tiny shorts are all ironed. Some still have that overly nurtured look you get when Mum licks your hair down. Some of them have mums and dads waiting for them in the carpark. They’re bouncing around the site. And they also appear to be heat resistant. Even the ginger ones. Although some are striped so vividly red and white they look like the uneaten side of a tub of neapolitan ice-cream.

I want to pinch their cheeks. Now that I am ageing and my cheeks have sag instead of puff I understand why old ladies pinch the chubby cheeks of children. It’s impossible not to. They still have all their own collagen. Lots of it. Little fat faces all swollen with youth, and hope and promise. That will go soon enough. Nothing like a few years of disappointment to get the puff out of your face and into your arse.

Some still have acne. I don’t want to tell them the sad truth. When the acne goes the wrinkles come. Their livers still function at peak levels. And they can stay in tents. Without complaining. They think it’s fun! Shitty sun-exposed tents randomly pitched around a field near a road. Unbelievable!

Old women like me can’t stay in that kind of accommodation. We need 1,000-thread sheets and king-size beds. Air-conditioning, room service and quiet. I dream of a day when the promoters hold a music festival at a five-star resort. Chairs. Sit-down gigs. A selection of fine wines. And no more than 200 people at each concert. And all of them freshly washed.

I never used to be like this. I used to be like them. The old lady in me feels a strange maternal fondness for them. It all lies ahead for them. Life hasn’t happened yet. These are like soldiers before they are sent to battle. They haven’t witnessed the horror. Or the wonder. They’re about to enter the frontline, and I’m about to leave it.

Ironically I’m meditating on this as I trip on uneven ground. It hurts. I don’t bounce. I thud. The next festival I’ll be going to won’t be Falls Music; it will be Falls Prevention. Ah, the circle of life. Happy New Year.

7 responses to “Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: the circle of life”

  1. Len Heggarty says:

    Nothing makes you feel older than having grey hair when it used to be fair.
    Earlier this week I immersed myself into a sea of cider just to see if I was just a little bit wiser than before I had grey hair and just as a dare I sat down beside her as I thought I was on her right side and I fell for her where a lot of guys fall at the Falls Festival and I hoped she would come around to my side, eventually. Her name was Clare.

  2. Tony Brown says:

    What a great little article. So true had me laughing the whole time.

  3. Kathie Boller says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article Mandy, you put my own thoughts into words magnificently! I was at Falls very briefly to watch my daughter perform and couldn’t wait to get out of there! I was easy to spot as a fully clothed 50 something!!!!

  4. Kimberley says:

    You had me in stitches, being 54 and 163 days, so get what you’re saying it’s a strange transition to go through! Love your writing!

  5. Sure, feeling old shakes us up! But Mandy, just think about Buffy Saint-Marie – Cree Native American, 74
    years young letting fly with her ‘Standing Up for Standing Rock’ [Dakota pipeline] song “Power in the
    Blood” at The Woodford Folk Festival only days ago. Age, on occasion, can be a blessing! Recall ‘Up
    Where We Belong’ [Written by Buffy], or ‘Universal Soldier’ [Buffy again] in the mid 1960’s… life does
    us good if we tough it through. (Love your articles).
    Stefanie Bennett

  6. Susie G says:

    fabulous Mandy, see you at Blues, with our deck chairs !

  7. Lesley says:

    Loved this Mandy, especially your comment…and all of them freshly washed…..YES PLEASE – and preferably before many of them enter that large supermarket in Byron in the early evening……..the stench of all manner of body odours, along with sweat soaked clothing was staggeringly offensive…….I left it in a hurry gasping for fresh air……Lesley

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