How Camp Bestival made me confront the reality of the empty nest

Now don’t get me wrong, I rate Camp Bestival massively as a festival in of itself for families. It’s ace.

But when you go with teenagers and they don’t want to hang out with you and you’re forced to strike up creepy sounding conversations with seven year olds in toilet queues about their Max and Harvey VIP lanyards, well, let’s just say it’s a different kind of experience from when I first went over ten years ago.

I’ve never been ‘maternal’ in the traditional sense. I’ve never longed for children and not had them. I’ve always joked about how annoying children are generally and how they cramp your style when you want to do fun things like go to pubs/sit in silence/not hang out with children.

And then they grow up and you think ‘oh right. Only hang on a minute because actually you were pretty cute.’

I walked around Camp Bestival by myself for two days and all I saw were happy families. And yes I know that that wasn’t actually what I saw but that’s what it felt like. I saw wives looking chilly and husbands fetching them fleeces. I saw dads pushing babies in wagons and mums dancing with toddlers. I don’t know what was the matter with me to be honest. When I got the chance on Friday night to hang out with a friend with a one year old I offered to carry her and danced with her and sneakily kissed her on the head when no one was looking.

I was like a 37 year old single women with no children and a ticking biological clock.

Camp Bestival

Image courtesy of Camp Bestival – I wasn’t being weird and taking pictures of babies

By Saturday night I was nearly crying every time I looked at a family.


I didn’t know where it had come from.

I WhatsApped our family group and my sister assured me that her husband has never fetched her a fleece.

Where have my babies gone though?

By about 10pm on Saturday night I was starting to think I might need some kind of intervention. I’d sat down underneath a parasol outside one of the bars to contemplate the meaning of life/drink a glass of wine. That’s where I am when I start to write this post on my phone and notice a gaggle of small children next to me.

The smallest of them is crying. She throws off her wellies because she wants her nails painted.

I discuss it with her. I show her my unpainted toenails. I’m unsure how her mother feels about me taking my socks off for her.

I tell her that in my experience the morning is definitely the best time to have your nails painted. I always paint my nails in the daylight I tell her.

I feel sad.


‘I’m five!’ says her friend.

‘I have blue nail varnish!’ says another.

‘This is my sister!’ says a third. ‘She’s only 2! She’s called Evie.’

‘I’m three!’ says a girl who reveals herself to be called Honey. Honey has the same blue nail varnish.

They dance in the dark, swinging around a pole.

I am overcome.


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