I write this, hoping it will be read in the spirit I mean it to be read in – i.e. tolerance, understanding and a bit of a laugh.
The Rose loves her music and festivals, thereby instantly debunking the myth that isolation and quiet are all an autistic kid seeks. And what’s not to love about loud music, seeing celebrity pop stars and dancing – when you’re 17 years old? Simples!
The Rose would dearly love to go to concerts and festivals with mates instead of her sad old parents but, we organise the seemingly insurmountable logistics, don’t compete in any way with her stunning good looks and cool clothes and we pay! She’s not stupid
Anyway, The Rose found a festival which was only taking place over one day (she’s not a keen camper). It was reasonably priced and with bands and people she liked (Connor Maynard, Union J, Katy B…. No? Nor me! ). We could drive up and back relatively easily in a day and she really wanted to go.
She did try to find someone to go with her, but she only asked one person and I don’t think they really understood what she was going on about. Perhaps the fact that she said “Mum is coming with us” put them off? Anyway as she wanted to go so much and I knew how much pleasure it gave her so I agreed and bought the tickets.
I didn’t really think anything more about it – apart from saving the date, but The Rose was planning for weeks – trying on outfits, practicing make up, styling her hair in different ways, checking every movement of the artist lined up, on Twitter.
I was so pleased I’d agreed to take her – she was thrilled.
The day before the festival I checked out the opening times on the festival website and discovered it was one of the biggest gay festivals in Europe.
I was pretty sure The Rose hadn’t realised this and while there was no problem at all with going in principle, I figured that the Transvestite Tent sponsored by madam JoJo and the Naked Stage and Games Area may deliver some unexpected side shows which The Rose needed to be aware of.
When I explained about the festival she was cool but said that she felt a ‘bit awkward’. So we talked through everything. I reminded her of our good friends x and y who were gay and b an c who had a civil partnership and she was soon fine and seemed more comfortable. Her Facebook posting of Totz Awks, was qualified with how she respected gays as much as normal people.
But at least her heart was in the right place.
So next day, quite early we drove all the way into town. I’d written down the time table of leaving, driving, arriving, lunch etc and she was ecstatic. No signs of anxiety at all apart from half an hour away from the destination – when the rumble began.
“So we’ll pick up a programme right? They’ll have a programme right? Don’t tell me the programmes are too much money right? Will there be a programme? What time is Connor Maynard on? We need a programme to find out. We’ll get a programme won’t we? What if they don’t have any programms” – You get the picture. Not stressed but adrenaline levels getting higher. She was so excited. She was animated and talkative. She was so HAPPY. But eek! what if there really weren’t any programmes!!!
It was an open air festival and we got inside with little effort. The Rose was a bit anxious that I hadn’t picked the right turnstile to pass through (fair enough, a straight line of gate choices labelled ‘A-M’ with no queue but infinite options, could have been an issue) but I made up that we needed D and she was placated.
Once inside The Rose was a cloud of joy. She hardly glanced at the dungareed ladies with shaven heads or the groups of leather clad men all embracing closely; she didn’t bat an eye at the abundant snogging and 6ft tall Lady Boys in impossible high heels and no bottoms in their jeans. She smiled at the groping drama queens and the hysterical hissy fitters and wonderful camp followers; but she only had eyes for the bands and the music.
It was fantastic day, full of colour and life and just about as relaxed and peaceful as being in a big crowd can get. Twice The Rose nudged me hard. I held my breath at what she may be about to say, but both times it was because either a heterosexual couple has walked by (odd!) or that she considered a certain female combo to be Mum and Daughter – “just like us”
And the bands played on. We danced, I was as happy as she was. I had no idea who was playing what but it didn’t matter. We made friends with a couple close by who offered us their blanket to sit on between bands and we spilt a pack of hot donuts. I marvelled at The Rose’s knowledge of every track played and virtually every word sung. She madly photographed every singer and every band. She even let me sit down when I had to.
She likes to stick close does The Rose but her newly found confidence allowed me to look at her ‘long distance’ without being accused of STARING. It was so good – watching her dancing and singing and in that heightened state, talking freely and ‘normally’ with other excited and happy people.
So eventually it got dark and the penultimate band came on which was Holly Johnson. Now I recognised this one and even I knew the words. The Rose wasn’t much interested in Relax or Two Tribes or even The Power of Love (“well it’s not Gabriele Aplin is it?”) and sat down, almost in a sulk.
After Holly’s set had finished, we had half an hour before the last act, Rita Ora. I knew The Rose would cheer up for that, as Rita is one of her current favourites, but I was concerned. I went over to her and sat beside her, trying to judge the mood change. I asked her if she was ok, she seemed distracted…
“Mum? If girls fancy girls surely they have to be nice looking girls?”
I started to reply along the lines of ‘beauty is more than just looks’ – when she continued over the top of my reply with…
“Because Holly Johnson is really ugly, who would fancy HER?”
Still – luckily we did get a programme.