Which side of me will win?

Metalcamp 2011: See you, English people…

Fuck’s sake, no. People are talking in loud voices nearby and they’ve woken me up. I’m really cross about this until I find my phone and check the time – it’s gone half past nine! And it’s not like a sauna in my tent! The shade must have worked!

If you don’t want to camp on the uneven stony ground in the confines of the woods, which we don’t, finding a camping spot with shade at Metalcamp is tricky. By the time we’d arrived on Monday, all the good spots that would be shaded in the morning were taken, but we eventually settled on an area along the side of the campsite behind a tree that was sort of leaning out of the woods, in the hope that it would provide some shade. I didn’t really expect it to work, but the fact that I’ve been woken up by voices at 9:30 rather than suffocating heat at 7:30 (like every single morning at last year’s festival) tells me it did.

I’m just thinking about how I’m not that annoyed at these voices after all when one of them does a very excited sounding metal scream. Or it might have been a roar. Or a wail perhaps. I hear Ash respond by quietly mumbling, “Thanks mate…” and one of the voices then gets very apologetic, saying he didn’t realise we were sleeping.

I unzip my tent and poke my head out. There’s a group of five people setting up three tents in the gap between ours and the steep sloping patch of woodland at the edge of the campsite. After a short while, the apologetic guy comes over and introduces himself and his friends. They’re all Croatian and I can’t remember any of their names, although I do remember the apologetic guy, who’s the one we get to know best, telling me his name at one point. It sounded like it had about nine syllables and four letter js in it and I asked him to repeat it. He said, “Ah, it’s a difficult one. Just call me B.” We mostly just called him Croatian Guy though.

He’s the oldest and most confident of the group and speaks the best English. Throughout the week, he’ll always stop for a chat whenever he sees us back at camp.

Three Croatian guys sandwiched between me and Ash on going home day. Not Croatian Guy himself though – he’d already gone to his car in an effort to get his friends to hurry the hell up.

At one point, Croatian Guy points at my arms and asks, “What happened? Was it the sun? Or do you have AIDS or something?”

The skin on my arms is all patchy because I have psoriasis and, before coming to Slovenia, I had got very sunburned. The psoriasis plaques stay white, but the skin immediately surrounding them goes very dark red for some reason. It’s not burned any worse, it’s just a darker colour. Anyway, it looks kind of weird. I tell Croatian Guy that it’s psoriasis and he immediately gets apologetic again. Even more so this time. I’m not really that bothered. I’ve heard much worse, believe me, and I know he didn’t mean anything by it. He wanders off to his tent for a bit then a bit later, as he passes us on his way to the main festival area, he apologises all over again.

I’m detailing all this apologising because I think it’s important to establish that Croatian Guy is a genuinely nice dude who really wants to get along with us, has the humility to know when he’s in the wrong, and is decent enough to apologise without making excuses. Not that he really needed to apologise as much as he did at all. I get people apologising to me for nothing all the time in my home country. I guess it’s the British way to default to being needlessly, but insincerely, polite in times of even slight awkwardness. People here will apologise for sitting next to you on a bus and stuff like that.

Croatian Guy isn’t like that though. I think he really is sorry because he’s a genuinely nice guy. Why am I making such a drawn out point of what a nice guy Croatian Guy is? Because it turns out Croatian guy is terrifying. The more we get to know him, the gladder we are that he’s our friend.

I’ll relay more of his stories in later episodes. I can’t wait to tell you the one that starts, “Oh, and I got shot at once…”


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