The other weekend, my partner and I, along with my brother, hit the road down to London for the British Summer Time Festival to watch Phil Collins in Hyde Park. As we were travelling in cars, we opted to stay in High Wycombe due to its offerings of cheap hotels and multiple car parking opportunities. The availability of frequent trains heading into London had an impact on the location too.
I had never visited High Wycombe before. The place seemed pleasant enough complete with a market, old churches and an active night life. It also had an abundance of shopping malls and double mini-roundabouts. We were staying in a budget-chain hotel complete with great rooms and great beds – the place had it all; apart from staff. However, where the employee headcount lacked, the numbers were made up by some homeless people sleeping in the fire exit.
When we checked in, the lone member of staff greeted us and handed us our room keys. He told us that the bar was open until 5am and then disappeared into the kitchen. I felt sorry for him; he looked overworked and underpaid. It had been a long day, so we skipped the bar and went straight to bed.
The next morning I called in on my brother and asked the usual hotel morning questions – ‘how did you sleep?’ ‘did you have a good shower?’ and ‘are you ready for some breakfast?’ It turned out that he had slept better than us because he had found the duvet which was hidden away in a blue fabric bag in the corner of the room that I had mistaken for a bean bag. Why go to all the effort of putting a sheet on a bed and not the duvet? I mean, who keeps their duvet at home in a bag? To me, it wasn’t very logical.
We decided against eating in the hotel as eight pounds for a buffet continental breakfast seemed like a lot of money for a croissant and some toast. We found a Greggs instead (a chain bakery for anyone not in the UK) and caught the train.
Getting to Hyde Park was easy and seeing as we had a few hours to kill before the festival opened, we decided to eat at the Hard Rock Café. I love the HRC and have visited many around the world. The one in London is where it all began and they still have Eric Clapton’s red guitar hanging over the bar. Pete Townshend’s is below it (the two guitars that started it all). However, because it is the original, it is also one of the busiest and getting a seat requires a lot of patience. We eyed up the queue. The people at the front were being told there was at least a forty-five minute wait for a seat and there must have been another fifty people in front of us. It was time to cash in on a reward. My brother, being a bit bolder than me, popped inside and did some investigating. After a minute he came out and waved us over. I didn’t realise that my priority seating reward also allowed us to skip the queue completely – I can see why their loyalty scheme uses the tag-line ‘feel like a rock star’. We ate like kings!
After food, we headed over to the festival which was set in the massive Hyde Park. I had never been to the BST festival before and it was a bit different to what I was used to. For a start, a pint of beer cost more than a fiver! The toilets were the best I’ve ever seen at a festival, that being they were proper porcelain toilets complete with a flushing mechanism and not the usual porta-loos that are common to building sites. The clientele were a bit more up-market too wearing shirts and drinking prosecco. I had never been to a festival before where wine was sold, let alone by the bottle. I felt a little out of place but at the end of the day, we were all there to watch some music, and that we did.
There were some great bands on that day, from Cats in Space, KC and the Sunshine Band and Chas and Dave who were playing on a band stand that was far too small for the crowd they pulled in. Phil Collins was fantastic too and he threw in some Genesis numbers to our delight. We had a very good day and couldn’t wait for our next day in the capital…