In the summer of 2007 I was at a music festival in France with a bunch of friends.
I had been working in a new job in Austria for a couple of years and I felt that my “career” was sort of taking off. The work was stressful, the hours often long but it was my choice and I felt I was genuinely part of something that was growing.
The Eurockéennes de Belfort festival was a chance to wind down, meet my best mates from the UK and introduce them to a new group of friends. It was a great time. We listened to some amazing music. We got hammered. We woke up and repeated the process.
One afternoon, before the music got going, we were lounging around in the grass slurping on an ice cream, bellies full of tartiflette. The sky was a sort of lifeless grey and the weather, which had been fairly clement up until then, was on the turn. But it didn’t matter. In the way that things don’t when you feel you have no cares in the world.
"I don’t remember most drunken nights with friends"
As we lay there a diminutive woman approached us and over my shoulder I heard a rough, slightly throaty voice “excuse me mate, where did you get that ice cream?”
I was stunned to see the almost incredible hair and blackened eyes of Amy Winehouse. “I heard you speaking English. I really want an ice cream”.
I was mildly obsessed with her music at that time and had been looking forward to her set that evening more than anything. We detained her, of course; trying to chat for as long as possible with such a “star”.
Amy was delightful. Actually surprisingly chatty. She explained how she wanted to walk around and "get a feeling for the festival”. She seemed so utterly relaxed and spoke about how she enjoyed wandering around and observing the people who had come to this giant celebration of music and how she enjoyed this time, before she was due on stage; the calm before the storm. “I'm making the most of it, this is the stuff you remember”. I thought nothing of her words at the time but with hindsight it was probably a moment of extreme normality in an otherwise turbulent life.
Her concert was of course amazing. Perhaps one of her best. Her voice just seemed to melt as the the night went on. Unforgettable.
Years later I reflect on this episode with a huge amount of nostalgia - I was younger, fitter and hangovers were more manageable - but also with a degree of regret. I embarked on a period in my life in which I worked really hard and a good deal of my downtime was spent in excess. I wasn’t the first and won’t be the last, but I feel I missed a few opportunities that might have given me more lasting memories.
I don’t remember most drunken nights with friends, although I am sure I had a great time. I do remember the time my friend Pat and I snowboarded down from the Kühtai Dam. I do remember camping in the mountains with my partner; two cans of lager and a bag of peanuts in the October chill. Or “sledging” in survival bags down the spring snow.
Now, having changed the way I live, by chance as much as by design I recognise the value of experiences that excite me in the present but will also retain their value in the future. This is the stuff you remember.