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Barred by their overprotective parents from attending a rock music festival, fourteen-year-olds Ronnie, Fleur, and Claude, also known as "Les Bambinos Dangereuses," decide to stage their own music festival at Blackwell School.
|1.||Life is harsh ...||1|
|2.||Banging the drum of love||21|
|3.||The thlot pickens ...||39|
|4.||The best of times ... the worst of times||73|
|5.||Give us a tune then ...||95|
|6.||An extra-special song||127|
|7.||Another bright idea||147|
|8.||A pizza bad news||170|
|9.||Hold the front page||189|
|10.||A special visit||204|
|11.||Blackwell (really) live||229|
|12.||So, in conclusion||266|
"Nope. No way. Absolutely not. Not over my dead body, matey."
Negotiations with Dad about my summer holiday plans have hit an all-time low. In fact, unless I'm much mistaken, Dad's turned his back on me and shuffled halfway across the saloon bar in the Fantastic Voyage public house.
He's fiddling with beer mats and urgently rearranging slices of lemon, almost as if my fate is decided. Now, my friends, this is NOT the air of a man "carefully mulling his daughter's future." No. It's the look of a man ignoring me. Someone hoping I'll vanish. Or at least "cease being so flippin' cheeky and squeaky" in his general direction.
I, Veronica Ripperton, am, in fact, a full fourteen years and two months old, for crying out loud. Not "squeaky" at all. More "husky" and "womanly." What does he know anyway? He can't even pick his nose privately.
So here are me and Dad, hovering around each other, in a deadlock. This must be how UN negotiators feel just before bombs begin getting lobbed. Eventually, the great fun -- stopping ogre speaks:
"Look, Ronnie. There is no way whatsoever you and your little posse of clowns..." (bit harsh, I thought) ... "Are getting tickets for Astlebury Music Festival. It's far too dangerous, what with all those hairy lads sniffing about. And different trains you'd need to catch...and drug dealers injecting you with acid or pinching your tent...and, well, trouble like that. You're just not going. No way! Nicky nacky nada way."
Dad's sandy sideburns virtually bristle at the thought of his offspring having such pure, unadulterated fun. Pah. If Dad thinks dressing up the word "no" by saying it amusingly will earn him forgiveness for being "the man who killed summer," he's soooo wrong.
"And while we're at it, Ronnie. Go and put a bigger T-shirt on! I can almost see your boobs." (Heavens forbid! I must be the only girl in England with a pair. Call the nipple police.)
"And I can see your belly button too! And your knickers! No wonder my profits on bar meals are down. All that flesh. It's just not right...." Dad gazes at the fifteen-centimeter gap between my T-shirt and jeans with utter disdain, then slumps his shoulders woefully, as if the weight of the Western World rests upon them.
Fine, so Dad isn't loving the crop-top, low-slung hipsters look, I can live with that, but by this stage, I'm so seething about the whole Astlebury thing that I'm fantasizing about strangling the furry-faced loser with a beer towel.
Dad's not a happy man either; as I begin to huff and puff around the bar, slamming chairs around rather insolently, his eyes are bulging with rage...something is going to blow.
"It's a thong, actually. Not knickers," I announce, yanking the offending lacy garment up even farther, out of the back of my trousers, proving my point nicely. Very bad idea. "It's a WHAT??!" shrieks Dad, his lips thinning into two pale lavender strips.
Ooops, time for a sharp exit, I think, hotfooting toward the pub's back doors. (Okay, hotfooting as quickly as a girl can with a knickers-up-bum-crack situation going on.) But before I can hobble out the door, making a rather undignified exit, suddenly Dad is in front of me. He places a big hand upon my shoulder, his face quite calm again.
"No. Stop, Ronnie...wait a minute...," he says, obviously wanting to make things up.
Lawrence "Loz" Ripperton (aka "Dad" or "Keeper of the Wallet") doesn't like arguing. He's all about peace and love, is my old man. It's a good job really, as in our household: 1) I quite enjoy a good row and 2) Mum positively relishes a proper bust-up. While Dad is a bit of a mellow soul, my mother, Magda Ripperton, the female face of the Fantastic Voyage, is like a Tasmanian devil with lipstick. As the Fantastic Voyage's chef, Magda's at her happiest churning out dinner for two hundred, with a flaming griddle pan in one hand, a pan of boiling salted water in the other, holding a blazing row with the sous-chef at the same time. No wonder I go to Dad with all of my far-fetched requests, such as today's "being let loose at a music festival with my best mates for the weekend." Dad is far more likely to simply mishear me, get a bit mixed up and think I'm asking to go and see a band at the local town hall. Magda, on the other hand (or "that bloody woman" as she's known to the postman, the gasman, the meat suppliers, her accountant and various family members), would have sussed my game right away. She'd have hidden my shoes and put me on round-the-clock watch for even thinking about Astlebury.
Thank God my dad is a pushover.
"I'm sorry, love, if I'm spoiling your fun," he mutters with a reproachful half smile. "I'll make it up to you, eh, chooch?" He runs a hand over my hair, which makes me feel about five again. "Why don't you ask Mum about the festival? If she says yes, I'll have another think...." Dad has obviously banged his head on a beam and forgotten ever meeting his wife, Magda; I'd have more chance asking if I could fritter the petty cash float on sparkly lip gloss and Belgian truffles.
This for Ronnie Ripperton is a D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R. In fact, it's a big, fat, flatulent sack of poo-flavored mess.
My cunning-as-a-fox plan -- get the green light for Astlebury from Dad, then get straight onto that premium-rate ticket hotline before word on the street reaches the basement kitchen -- is scuppered. By the time Empress Venger was supposed to find out about Astlebury, me, Claudette and Fleur (aka Les Bambinos Dangereuses or the LBD, as we're known universally) would be well on our way to forty-eight hours of watching all our favorite bands play live, camping out under the stars...oh, and, like, meeting up with just about a million totally lush festival-going boys. The LBD have seen and noted the sort of lads that goes to music festivals on MTV. Meow! It's like Snogfest Central, with a lot of loud music, dancing, crowd-surfing, staying up all night and eating veggie burgers chucked in. We want to go so so much, we talked about it for the whole week after seeing the ads on MTV. Astlebury Festival sounds like the natural habitation for an LBD member.
"Hang on! I've got an idea!" chirps Dad. "Why don't I take you girls to Walrus World in Penge instead!?" he says.
My heart sinks. I'd rather jam my head in the tumble dryer, then switch it on.
"You used to love those walruses, Ronnie.... Remember the one that juggles the balls!?..." Dad's voice fades to a well-meaning whisper as I trudge into the early-evening air.
In a previous life, I was obviously Vlad the Impaler.
I'm paying big time for something.