It all started with Nashville, the TV series – if you haven’t seen it, you should! Add my addiction to The Batchelor nation series of shows, it all rounded up into making me a country music fan. I’d hear the bands on the TV shows, buy the music and play them while driving. Don’t even get me started on Dolly, she’s an iconic inspiration of Goddessness! There’s a reason “What would Dolly do?” is a slogan, the woman is wiser than an owl. I’ve often asked myself that question and the answer is always pretty much the same – dust yourself off and move on; “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails” (Dolly Parton quote). I better stop now because I could talk about my admiration for Dolly to the cows come home. What I’m meaning to tell you about is one special day with a special friend and some important things we learned.
My country music loving buddy, I call her Lou Ellen (yes, we have cowgirl names for each other), we like to go to the country festivals together over summer. We were trying out a new one in Suffolk on a bright sunny day. It was huge! We’d stayed over in a B&B the night before and got a taxi into the expanse of countryside being used as the festival location. Hiding behind a red vintage pick-up truck, we stashed mini bottles of gin down our bras before going through security. Sunbeams were gleaming across the glossed-up vintage American cars on our long walk to the entry gates. We held hands and squealed in excitement. The music was drifting over the trees and the smell of BBQ and candyfloss filled the air.
Lou Ellen was going through a heart-breaking and not so amicable separation at thirty-five. It was the astrological year when if you weren’t living an authentic life or in an authentic relationship (even if like me, you weren’t aware of it) it was all going to boil to the surface and erupt. Lou Ellen’s eruption had been on an Asian holiday with her husband. At the end of her wits on how to get his attention and affection, she’d blurted out, “Shall we separate then?!” That was the time he did listen and responded, “I think getting a divorce is a good idea.” It was in that moment her heart broke.
But, today – today, we’re in country music fan heaven and we’re here to have a good time! We’d got new outfits especially. Cowboy hats and boots naturally, a floral tea dress for Lou Ellen and a denim skirt and tie-front check shirt for me. Yeeha! Yep, we get totally carried away with this and make no apologies.
The sun was beating down hard and warming our bare arms as we took a full tour of the festival grounds, this took a good couple of hours or so being so big. The first things we saw were shopping huts with unique items like handmade cigar box guitars and a variety of Americana inspired food trucks. People were milling about eating corn-on-the-cob or queueing for cold beer at the bar. All ages were there, some families had carts for ferrying small children and dogs about. There was a special K9 agility area if any four-legged family members felt like it. Ducking behind a barrel serving as a table, we fished our mini bar out of our bras and poured them into the plastic (recyclable) pint glasses of ice and home-made lemonade we’d bought at a nearby stall. A young spaniels Mum was coaxing him through an agility tunnel, he burst through with a wildly wagging tail and they both whooped liked he’d won the Olympics. Lou Ellen and I touched glasses and giggled. The happy atmosphere was working its magic.
Further in was a beautiful lake, complete with pedalo swans and a nearby bluegrass stage surrounded by haybales for seats. Walking past the swaying audience and through a forest clearing we found the main stage. It was inside a vast marquee next to the main bar. Outside the marquee hundreds of people sat around picnicking or just drinking and chatting. Fire-pits were dotted everywhere for lighting after sundown. Hearing an excited scream at the far end we weaved our way through picnic blankets to find an axe throwing hut. “I know who’d I’d like to throw one of those at!” Lou Ellen joked.
After working off some stress with an axe we bought some cold beer and found a pretty willow tree to sit under and put the world to rights. We poured our hearts out to each other that day, it was a relief to get it all out and to speak to a friend who really understood the agony of a freshly broken heart.
As the sun was setting, we took to our feet to sway to the music, swinging each other around. I suddenly had a great idea, “Let’s take a swan ride around the lake!” I blurted. “Brilliant idea!” Lou Ellen agreed. We hurried as best we could towards the lake. Reaching where all the swans were parked by the jetty, I burst into tears to see they were all locked together for the night. No more swan rides today. “Hell JoJo Rae! You’ve got far more going on to cry about than a damn swam pedalo!” Lou Ellen chided. Doubling over, I laughed till I cried some more.
The bluegrass stage had an enthusiastic singer who was incorporating some impressive yodelling into his tale-of-woe songs. I hooked Lou Ellen’s arm for a walk around the lake and started singing all the things we’d confessed to each other earlier, ending each verse with a yodel. I sang a verse and yodelled to the sky like nobody was listening and Lou Ellen sang back the next verse ending with her own yodel. By the time we’d walked the whole lake we’d sang and yodelled all the hurt and wrongs away. We slumped to the ground, hugged each other and exclaimed, “Woah! That felt good!”
I highly recommend putting your woes to a country tune and yodelling – it may not be recognised therapy and I’m no doctor, but I can guarantee you from personal experience you’ll feel a whole lot lighter afterwards.
All that singing made us hungry so we headed to the food truck area and there she was, in all her shiny yellow glory – the mac n cheese truck. It was like the last of the sun’s rays were shining just on her, it was almost religious. We ran the last few yards and ordered a couple of ‘Nostagic’s’ – a classic mac n cheese dish in a paper pot. We’re both purists, you don’t need to mess with perfection. Honestly, it was eye-rolling good. When we finished, we went to talk to the chef to ask where they’d be appearing next. He seemed a little confused, we were deadly serious explaining we were big fans. Turned out they’d be at the next country music festival we had tickets to, we were thrilled! Walking back to the marquee we were discussing our good luck when I suddenly realised, “You know Lou Ellen, I think most people ask their favourite bands where they’re appearing next, not the mac n cheese truck”. We stopped, looked at each other in realisation and fell to the ground laughing at ourselves.