…the festival-goers

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16.
For many years your sister works as a nurse at Glastonbury Festival. She and her family camp in their yurt in the field reserved for medical staff, which is clean and spacious with an abundance of toilets and showers.

In the hot years she treats sunstroke and dehydration. In the rainy years she treats hypothermia and alcohol poisoning.

In the year she isn’t able to go she holds a festival in her garden, constructing a gazebo and hanging a bed sheet at one end where live TV coverage of the Pilton fields is projected. There is a makeshift bar for cocktail-making, and a pizza station in the kitchen where you stretch your own dough and top it with piquant tomato sauce, creamy white mozzerello or goat’s cheese, mushrooms, peppers, anchovies, pepperoni, red onions, olives, whatever you desire in that moment. When you have built your pizza you begin the tricky business of sliding it onto the paddle to carry through the mingling festival-goers, down to the pizza oven at the bottom of the garden, its fiery mouth open wide and waiting for your offering. In two or three minutes it is cooked, the crispy crusts mildly singed, the cheese melted and gooey.

You remember the festival in the garden as endless food, laughter, music, dancing, a mood of togetherness and celebration.

And now, years later and six weeks into lockdown, you think of that day with longing, wondering if your sister does too.

She works as a school matron, but soon after the pandemic began the school was closed and the children sent home, so she signed up as a bank nurse with the NHS. So far your town seems to be evading the virus with little news of reported cases, but your sister says it’s only a matter of time.

The hospital is near your home, and when you walk past you see an elderly woman at the Respiratory Assessment bay outside, trying to adjust her face mask while a masked medic looks on. Another day you see a car ambulance with a mother and child in the back, both anonymous in their own masks.

Your sister waits to be called in. Her husband waits. Her children wait. You and your younger sister wait. Your mother and step-father wait.

You all fear the call that says the hospital is no longer coping. Your sister is needed.
In this waiting time you do not think about what will happen when the call comes.

Instead you imagine a new festival.

An afternoon of summer heat. There are homemade pizzas and a table for cakes and puddings topped with cream and summer berries and shaved chocolate, there is ice-cold wine and cider, there is a live band playing folk music, the female lead a soulful singer whose voice sweeps between the festival-goers like a ghostly soul. All your family is there. Every single one. And as the afternoon moves into evening you light candles, switch on fairy lights, keep warm around a fire-pit.

The unwatched clock moves towards midnight and the grand finale. You don’t know what this magnificent ending is going to be, but you are happy in your waiting. You are sitting with your family and you drink and eat and talk and laugh. You wait in this moment, and you are happy to wait forever.

The grand finale will come in its own time, in its own way.

But right now you are together.

And nothing else exists.

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