It was wet and cold in the middle of July, when the rest of the country seems to have had a lovely weekend, but the Latitude Festival, in a gorgeous, leafy park with oak trees centuries-old and a silvery lake, was the perfect end to two weeks of birthday celebrations. I think the sheep, dyed pink, and the punts on the aforementioned lake, were there just for the weekend, but apparently the rest of it is there all the time.
Since turning forty I'm convinced that my knees are going and I've started getting heartburn and my back aches, and I really like sitting down much, much more than I used to, but for four days it was splendid to meet friends I don't see often enough and behave like a bunch of teenage lads. The ailments, if I'm honest, are probably due to too much beer for too long.
Latitude is the perfect destination for anyone who thinks Glastonbury has lost its spirit. Great bands and brilliant comedy were punctuated by strolls to the literature and poetry tents. You could even go and see Sadlers Wells doing a bit of ballet if the mood took you (it didn't take me).
One of the nicest surprises was at the drinks tent. Alongside Tuborg lager (hey, it's better than Glasto's Budweiser) and Aspall's cider were two ales I'd never heard of before, and both were mighty fine.
It turns out that Hektor's Brewery is actually on site, in Henham Park, the location of the festival. They supplied two beers: Pure, a clean 3.8% golden ale with a lovely crisp, citrussy hop finish, and Scarecrow, a darker, richer beer at 5%, full-bodied and maltier but still with a delightful hop edge to it that suggests American hops have been involved somewhere along the line, though their website says it's just full of English hops.
It was with mixed feelings that I took the news that every one of the festival's five bars had run out of Scarecrow by Saturday afternoon - only half way through the festival. No more lovely 5% beer for me, but you've got a love that kind of emphatic endorsement from the youngest festival crowd I've ever seen. Up to that point, each time I was at the bar every single order included at least one pint of it, among the ciders and the lagers. I've no idea what the product mix was, but ale must have had a higher share than it enjoys in most of the high street pubs in whihc these guys usually drink.
By Sunday it was getting difficult to find Pure as well - they had some left at two of the bars buy Sunday evening. My mates started off drinking cider. After they tried the Pure, they never went back.
A couple of damn fine beers, enjoyed so much more outside, in front of the best bands currently strutting their stuff.
Thanks Latitude - see you next year.