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Stortford Music Festival: 'I want to live in the Splendid Saturday of Bish Bash Land – with no sign of Janet'

The Indie's Parkinality columnist Julie Walker, who writes about living with Parkinson's disease, reflects on her mixed Bish Bash experience courtesy of her constant companion Janet...

I want to live in Bish Bash Land. More specifically, I would like to live in Saturday's Bish Bash Land. I am writing about Bishop's Stortford's two-day music festival, which returned after a three-year absence.

Both days the music, food, volunteers and ambience were brilliant. Both days there was everything I would require to live happily ever after. Tents, toilets and constant eclectic entertainment. No showers but, with no sense of smell courtesy of Parkinson's disease, that wouldn't be a problem to me.

Julie Walker next to daughter Catherine with Lucky Sunday – from left, Blake Shortt, Hannah Adams and godson Matt Latter – who opened on the Bash stage in the beer tent on Saturday
Julie Walker next to daughter Catherine with Lucky Sunday – from left, Blake Shortt, Hannah Adams and godson Matt Latter – who opened on the Bash stage in the beer tent on Saturday

From cake to ice cream, pizza to potatoes, I wouldn't go hungry. There was an array of food for my delicate constitution. The dairy- and gluten-free selection was perfect. Delicious pizza bases and toppings and amazing chocolate brownies. Dave, of Solar Spuds, joined by his assistant Ryan on the Saturday, served delicious smashed potatoes with lamb tagine.

The only difference between the two days was that on the Friday I was joined by Janet. Janet has been my constant companion for over ten years. Interferingly disruptive, intent on causing mayhem. In the early days of our relationship, I would occasionally get some brief respite. However, in recent years her impact on my life has become increasingly disruptive, capable of derailing an activity in a moment.

I had been looking forward to Bish Bash for months. Despite being resigned that Janet would inevitably be by my side, I was determined to go and have a good time. However, on the Friday Janet had other ideas. The more I tried to join in, the more she dragged me down. My mind wanted to dance, my legs wouldn't. Freezing, over-moving, shuffling, staggering, Janet had a field day with the (un)lucky dip of symptoms.

From the first band I saw in the Bash tent, Janet took over. The musicians might have wondered why the middle-aged woman in the sparkly pink dress was stationary like some new wave roundabout in the middle of the dance floor. Shuffling from tents to toilets, negotiating the slalom of concert-goers, I was quickly exhausted. After hours of pain and frustration, I finally gave in, admitting defeat. I returned home at 5pm. Janet had won.

The next day I was determined to return. I would not be beaten. The organisers kindly organised chairs at each stage for the Wise-ish Man and me, and allowed us to drive into the event to avoid the long walk.

However, on the Saturday, from sunrise to sunset and beyond, Janet was nowhere to be found. Always alert, never complacent, I kept expecting her to appear and destroy my day at any moment. I still have no idea where she went for the day, but to be honest I don't really care.

I had an amazing Saturday. I danced and sang along badly. I ate, drunk and was (a little) merry. Starting the day with Lucky Sunday in the Bash tent, with my godson the lyricist, lead singer and bass player, I grooved like a proud godmother. Hours later I boogied like a middle-aged woman to The Real McKoys and Kopy Katz. The Sugarcoated Sisters were brilliantly funny and Weslie was a great way to end an amazing day.

Confused? Why don't I just unfriend, unfollow and ignore Janet? Now reread, substituting the word 'Parkinson's' for 'Janet'.

Why Janet, aka my Parkinson's disease, took a day off on the Saturday I will never know. It had never happened before and is unlikely to happen again. The 24 tablets I took over the day and the friendly, relaxed atmosphere would have played their part. Also the music, which should be available on prescription.

So, as always, Parkinson's was unreliable and unpredictable. I could never have reliably predicted a Frustrating Friday, followed by a Splendid Saturday, as it will be known. I realise this was a glorious swerve on an unpredictable degenerative road trip. To be honest, I have had enough of Parkinson's sucking the life from my life. Stubbornly digging my heels in, I am determined to remain independent. I need that operation.

Thank you to Twig and co for an amazing weekend. Dance yourself dizzy.

READ ALSO Parkinality Poet Julie Walker on postponement of brain operation using deep brain stimulation (DBS)

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