Man in the Middle is the fictional diary of a Boomer coping with the demands of an ageing mother with dementia, his millennial children and his own impending obsolesce. Bowed down by Brexit, Covid and self-pity, all he wants is more ‘me time’. Will he succeed? Or is he destined to be stuck forever in No Man’s Land in the war between the generations?
If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here
No 74: Pig in the Park
I’m at a festival called Pig in the Park. Or something similar. It’s one of those faux festivals, where there’s no sex or drugs or rock ‘n’ roll, just an impression of it. It’s as close to the real thing as a tour of the wax works at Madame Tussaud’s.
The main achievement of Pig in the Park and its ilk is to turn elegant historic buildings and their gardens into a souk of concessionary food stys, where the middle class can stuff their faces with mini-burgers or fish goujons served (inevitably) in baps. Imagine Colonel Sanders redecorating Blenheim Palace as a KFC franchise and you’re close to the aesthetic.
Why the food has to be served in baps, I’m unsure. But, it seems de rigeur here. I wish I knew what happened to the humble bun and the sandwich? Did they say something wrong? Are they locked away in a mouldy dungeon for badly behaved bread somewhere waiting to be torn up and fed to the ducks?
Whatever. The bap is now king of the bakery. Even the once trendy ciabatta now takes the knee to the bap. We’ve taken back control of our Bread Bins. Boris would be delighted.
Baps are the new foodie click bait. The word bap is so rooted in tasty provenance and implied artisanal skill that you could serve sheep dip in them and they would sell like, er, hot cakes. In fact, someone should sell hotcakes in a bap. They’d make a killing.
I’m anxious. And not just about the decline in buns and baguettes. I’ve been here an hour and am getting more and more irritated by the DJ who keeps asking everyone if we’re feeling ‘alright’. Is ‘alright’ the most he aspires to inspire in us? Or does he really, really care? I suspect this crowd fluffing, a stale bap of bonhomie tossed together at the giant Subway bar of his own insincerity.
If he really wants to know if I’m feeling alright, the answer is no. It’s baking hot and my temperature’s rising. I’ve only had one pint of gassy lager and a solitary hake bap, but I’ve got a headache brewing behind my eyes a bun in a baker’s oven and am feeling queasy.
My bad mood isn’t helped by the fact that I’m as ill equipped for this hot sunny afternoon as Captain Scott was for the last leg of his assault on the North Pole. Everyone else is sensibly dressed in summer shorts and flip flops. But I’ve left behind my sun hat, shades, and suntan lotion and am broiling in black jeans and Blundstone ankle high boots.
The Blundstone boots would be bearable if it were mid-winter. But, in this heat, they’re a breeding ground for foot rot and something which my father used to call ‘toe jam’, the fluff that mysteriously forms between your toes when damp wool socks make love with fungal spores.
Frankly, I’m as inappropriately dressed as a man in denim dungarees at the State Opening of Parliament and my feet may be Ground Zero for the next outbreak of Foot & Mouth disease.
I sit cross legged on the picnic rug and try to stay calm. But there are three men standing less than three feet behind my back talking loudly over the music and swilling beer. I feel like a zebra at a waterhole surrounded by strange and dangerous animals.
A man in tight white shorts comes onto the stage. He’s also concerned about our wellbeing and wants to know ‘how we’re feeling’.
‘Pissed’ shouts a man behind me to roars of laughter. ‘Bring on the band.’
Aside from British baps, the other essential ingredient of a festival is musical nostalgia. Not music. That’s a different thing. This sort of festival is a chance to stroll down memory lane or to revisit the mosh pit of your past.
Anyway, the music is just another bap in my view. Only this bap is served up by retiring rock stars paying down the last instalment of the mortgage on their Tuscan villa or by bands called ‘Bored Again’ or the ‘Rolling Drones’, who do replica music in replica costumes. Not real rock and rollers.
The sound from the main stage sounds like the opening to ‘Waterloo’ by Abba. Suddenly, several members of the audience move down the slope towards the stage, like geese hearing the food pellets rattling in a farmer’s pail.
Behind me the queues at the food stys are growing longer. The first rubbish is beginning to spill from the rubbish bins. The drunk are getting drunker and louder.
I hear a friend next to me say the thing she enjoyed most on her recent sabbatical was the chance to do what she wanted every day.
A small boy walks in front of us with his fingers in his ears.
I get up and head home.
Just before the exit, a person dressed as a bap is handing out free BBQ pulled pork. In a bap. I take one and walk on, wondering if I have let myself down by doing so.
Read more blogs by James Thellusson
Read the next in the series – Who do you think you are?
Read the previous one – Man in the Middle 73: Don’t leave me hanging on the telephone
See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here
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