Naturally, we decided that the most sensible choice was to go straight to Swindon. There would be no traffic after all.
I should have realised how this leg of the trip would go when our car started drifting towards the steep bank at the side of the road and I had to shout “Niki!” loudly to wake up the driver!
Disaster averted but there was more fun and games to come.
We eventually arrived in Swindon at about 3.30am and, of course, the car park at the County Ground was pretty desolate.
Sure, there were vans and lorries there in preparation for the Bryan Adams gig fifteen hours later but there was no sign of anyone. They were probably all sensibly asleep.
We got out of the car and started to unload the tent. It was at this point that we noticed the menacing presence of a security guard accompanied by a huge German Shepherd dog. You could see spot its salivating jaws from a long way off and he was heading in our direction.
Trying to smooth the situation, Ally took a step towards him, only to be greeted with a cold and fierce “Don’t approach the dog.” OK, then.
The security guard went for our throats with his questions – Who are you? Why are you here? What do you want? What are you doing? – and none of our answers were acceptable. The friendliest advice we got out of him was to find a local truck stop because we definitely couldn’t stay there.
Bundling the tent back into the boot, we were off again and we did locate the truck stop. But we weren’t a truck. So of course they didn’t let us park up there.
Eventually, we found a local park and, with the sun beginning to rise steadily, we got the tent out of the car again and put it down on the floor. After ten minutes of messing around trying to get it to stand, Ally ruefully remarked, “These aren’t the right poles. Our tent poles are in Coventry.”
The canvas tarpaulin lay in a sorry heap on the park floor as we considered our options. Shattered, in daylight, and the clock ticking towards 5am, the comment of “Should we just get in it?” warranted some serious consideration.
Finally, we made a decision and chose not to sleep in our collapsed tent. Instead, we found an empty retail car park and put our heads down. It was better than nothing…
9am…Tap Tap Tap. Oh hurray, another security guard. This one was female but she wasn’t happy to see three twenty-year olds sleeping in her car park.
“Oi, you can’t sleep here,” she said commandingly through the window. “Shops are about to open and you’re taking up space.”
Bearing in mind this car park had capacity for about 700 cars and it was currently empty bar one (us), that was probably stretching the truth somewhat.
Nevertheless, we had to go so the next point of call was a Little Chef for breakfast and then a pub for an admittedly glorious pint of coke to rejuvenate us.
What a night. And we still had a day’s work ahead of us.