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by Charlie Britten

The Reading Festival gate stood at the end of a long, straight road. A ‘long, winding road’ would be more fitting, I thought, but these music-lovers in ripped jeans, with body jewellery dangling from ear lobes and navels, wouldn't know about the Beatles.  

Jamie and Darren pressed their faces against the windows as my little car edged between the criss-crossing crowds. “Dadrockers!” Darren said, pointing at two older men in black-studded leathers.

Jamie rolled his eyes. “Get a life.”

But even these geriatrics wouldn't have been around in the sixties, I realised when I saw them myself. 

“You can’t park here, lady,” said the steward in a yellow PVC jacket, as I drew up in front of the main entrance. “And I hope your young people have got tickets? There’re none for sale on site."

“Yep,” said Jamie, jumping out and reaching into his jeans pockets, somewhere around his knee. 

Darren slid along the back seat after him, sending several items clattering on to the pavement. “Sorry.”

“Only Mum’s CDs,” said Jamie, tossing them back. “Golden oldies from 1962.”

“Get back in!” I said. 

“Chill, Mum!” Jamie wrenched open the boot. Out came the tent, two backpacks with sleeping bags, a camping stove and two supermarket carrier bags containing everything else. 

The yellow steward was still there. “I've got to go, Jamie. Er... have a good time!”

“Bye Mum.”

“Goodbye Mrs Granger.”

“Will you be OK by yourself, Mum?” Jamie shoved his hand through the window and squeezed mine. “You can listen to all your old stuff all weekend if you want.”

“Thanks, Jamie.”

I joined the queue of returning parents’ cars, which now stretched all the way down the Long and Winding Road. We were in for a long wait and from my CD player Dido urged me not to think of her. I wouldn’t. I switched her off.

Twisting round in the driving seat, I reached for a plastic case on the back seat, teasing it towards me with the tips of my fingers: Genesis - old Genesis, real Genesis. For a moment it whirred and clunked in front of me, then Peter Gabriel’s raw tone cut through the air.

The traffic started moving again. Instantly. 

I glided through the streets of Reading, without even glancing at the street-map I had bought that morning. Now I could relax. A weekend alone – bliss! And Peter Gabriel was telling my life was about to begin, that I was a hero. 

A lorry driver tried to cut me up on the slip-road to the M4, but, swinging into the outside lane, I roared past him. He might have made a two-fingered gesture but I didn’t bother to look. Now I was behind a sports car, the sort where petrol consumption was calculated in gallons-per-mile. But it dawdled at 60mph. I flashed my headlights.

Two hours later, I swept into the office car park – full as usual. Like the Rolling Stones, I couldn't always get what I wanted.

No, wait! There was one unoccupied space, just by the front entrance - the chairman’s. I reversed into it. The Stones may get no satisfaction, but I did.