The band I’m in is to play the main stage at the last-ever Cornbury festival, and my wife is being difficult about it, but refusing to accept she is being difficult. In my frustration I have begun to address my side of the conversation to the youngest one, who is ignoring me and staring at his laptop.
“The thing is,” I say to him, “she doesn’t really want to come.”
“I do want to come, just not the whole time,” my wife says.
“She’s pretending she wants to come,” I say.
“I don’t want to be there while you’re setting up, then hang around for hours after,” she says. “I can come with Virginia later, in her car.” Virginia, her sister, lives near the festival site.
“That would be fine,” I tell the youngest one, “but she’s refusing to provide me with Virginia’s registration number for the parking pass.”
“She’s on holiday!” my wife shouts.
“The problem is I must liaise with the manager,” I say, “and the manager must liaise with the festival people, and I have no information.”
“Wait,” the youngest one says. “Your band has a manager?”
“Of course we do,” I say.
“What is your band manager called?” he says.
“Mrs Norris,” I say. He stares at me.
“If you don’t want me to come, fine,” my wife says.
Two days later my wife furnishes me with her sister’s car registration. I tell Mrs Norris, Mrs Norris tells the festival people, and an extra parking pass is secured. The next morning my wife and I set off for Oxfordshire, while I repeat the arrival instructions.
“So I need to go through the orange gate to get the passes,” my wife says. “But then we have to drive back out to the green gate to park.”
“Exactly backwards,” I say. “Go to the green gate first.”
“Just text it to me,” she says.
I drop her off at her sister’s, reiterate some parking instructions and drive the few miles to the green gate.
The band assemble and we unload our stuff behind the main stage. This isn’t the first time we’ve played the last-ever Cornbury. We played the first last-ever Cornbury in 2017, a finale so successful they decided to do it again the next year. We played that one too. This last last-ever Cornbury was postponed twice due to Covid, but now its time has come.
As with the first last-ever Cornbury, the headliner is Bryan Adams, and again the backstage area is dominated by large equipment cases with his name spray-painted on them. It all seems very familiar. As we’re setting up the accordion player taps me and points toward the front of the stage with his thumb.
“Someone’s looking for you,” he says.
Between bands the field in front of the stage empties out as people seek shade on this scorching afternoon, but there at the barrier I see my wife, alone. I wave. She waves back, and mouths the words: I’m bored.
After the gig we do a signing in the record tent, which is surprisingly full. When the crowd finally thins I find my wife at the back.
“That was good,” she says. “Even I liked it.”
“Thanks,” I say.
“So presumably you’ve now got to pack up, get the car, load the car,” she says.
“The car is behind this tent,” I say. “All loaded. We can go whenever …”
“I’m ready,” she says.
“Oh, OK,” I say. “Well, I need to get my bag from the dressing room, but you can just …”
“I’ll be waiting here,” she says.
Back at the artist’s area the rest of the band are sitting under a tree, laughing and drinking beer. I join them for a few minutes, but then start thinking about my wife, just waiting.
“OK, I’m off,” I say, standing up.
I find my wife sitting on the grass exactly where I left her.
“I’ll drive,” she says.
The satnav takes us a weird way home, along winding, unfamiliar country lanes.
“You must be knackered,” my wife says.
“Yeah,” I say. My phone pings.
“Are they all staying?” she says.
“I think so,” I say. “For a while, at least.” I look down at my phone: a selfie just taken by our drummer, with Bryan Adams.
“I didn’t want to stay,” she says. “Did you want to stay?”
“Me? No,” I say. My phone pings again: Bryan and the drummer, from a slightly different angle.