A mouse lived in a caravan ( originally written May 2016) 

Today our main job was to get the lovely Lola Caravan cleaned and packed up ready for setting off the Glastonbury music festival next week and then onto various other events…

 (Literally we are about to set off on our annual road trip of adventures and fun for 6 weeks and our caravan really is our home . She’s so loved and is super adorable! )
So Lola had been placed in storage over winter so the drive was empty while we had the build done. So when Mr O brought it back home the other day we were so pleased to see her and totally excited to get in and make her comfortable. 

So armed with a bin bag and cleaning bottles I opened the door to my second and beloved home.

Not good! 

Looks like we had a mouse enjoying the caravan life! With droppings EVERYWHERE and every packed of dried food raded from the inside out , I had a bit of a job on my hands. I also had a bit of a cry! It was a mess! And by the way!! How did it get into closed drawers and cupboard.. (Little shit) 

I’ve had to throw away all the bedding and pillows and take off all the cusion covers off the (awfully patterned) seats… We disinfected the seats and literally swilled out the entire van! 

But through it all I was forced to empty all the cupboards and it felt great to go through our ‘caravan life’ I had great fun reading through last years programs and finding all our festival clothes and treasures .. Kitty enjoyed rediscovering all her caravan toys and Grace rediscovered her caravan DVDs.. It was nice to sure and look at our last three years of festival d’art.

After 6 hours the caravan smells less of mouse and more of bleach ( sod the environment… Sometimes only bleach will do) and  I managed to whip up some new seat covers and they look lovely… Although they totally don’t match the existing curtains.. I’m trying really hard to ignore that and not embark on making new ones.. Especially as I’m running out of time rapidly before we go. But I will say this.. The struggle not to coordinate is very real!!!! 

(I bought the yellow fabric from bhs in the shape of two single quilt covers.. Let’s hope I can find some more before the company closes for good  bhs interior textile prints will be missed at Angel gardens HQ ) 

So today I have to go to a certain European shop to buy new pillows, quilts and overs for everyone.. Not the best timing financially but frankly I kind of like the idea of having all new. However time is not our friend… With the joiner coming to do the internal door and mr O needing to take bags and bags of half eaten and smelly bedding to the tip I’m not hopeful I’ll do any other jobs on my list,

Let’s hope this week is kind to me and I get good weather and time to pack, clean and sort everything out! 

Ps – I found the mouse, well fed, content and dead in a pile of goose festhers. 

The loss of an Angel

Angel Jacob
A couple of weeks ago we had some awful news. One of our young crew members was killed in a motorbike accident. 

Angel Gardens has been in business for ten years this year and over that time it has grown and developed into something very special. We’ve had our ups and downs like any business but as a business it’s success is not actually in its bank balance.. It’s in its people! 

We are a family, a group of people from all walks of life and of all ages, class and creed…and it’s that family that makes us so special.

We may only work together for a few longvweekends in each year, but when you live together 24/7 you really get to know people. 

I guess it was only a matter of time before we lost one of our people. I guess we never expected it to be someone so young and vibrant.

Jacob was 21 , he was a skater, motorbike rider, circus boy, fire performer, artist and musician.. He was creative, funny and kind. 

For a young man he was responsible and gentle while still open and honest without trying at all.

I always say to my daughters that I know I can trust a young person when they don’t watch me to see if I’m watching them. Jacob never did this,. He would look you in the eye and talk to you with truth and humility. He was one of those people that was wise beyond his years… In a very grounded way. 

He has been at his girlfriends and didn’t return home. We saw on Facebook that his mum ( also part of the crew) was asking if anyone had seen him… Over night the news broke that his body had been found.

His family are coping tremendously well, they are celebrating his life and are accepting the outpouring of love from his peers and friends. Of course they are heart broken. They are such a close and tiny unit.. I really don’t know what will happen now. 

As a crew we were badly shaken, loosing someone has a knock on effect and everyone feels it.. Some knows Jacob more than others. The younger crew members where his friends, older crew members knew him as a son and fir myself, I saw him as a skilled worker who was a vital and responsible link in our chain. 

So as we chatted together from our four corners of the country, we shared our grief, concerns and plans as the funeral came closer.  Michelle, his mum, asked us to wear our festival clothes and our crew tshirts which we did with pride. 
This is the post I put up for the  crew who couldn’t make the funeral . 

I promised many of you that i’d call and chat to you today about the funeral, but realised, i didn’t have the energy to do it over and over, so figured i’d write it down for you. I know many couldn’t attend but wanted to know how it went.. so here it is….
Just wanted to say how proud i was of the Angel gardens family yesterday, everyone looked splendid in their festival clothes, everyone one supported each other and everyone was a total credit to each other. The family had asked everyone to attend in their own festival clothes… so we wore our t-shirts and festival rags…. everyone looked lovely…
I did have a little gentle laugh to myself, the O’Briens arrived early and there was a funeral taking place, as the attendees were leaving they were very confused to find crowds of hippies, bikers and ‘weirdness’ lining the road leading unto the chapel. they must have been very confused 🙂
 I was sat on my own at the crematorium as i was speaking, and i was terrified and emotional and feeling vulnerable by myself. when the Angel gardens family came in and stood at the side, they all gave me a squeeze as they passed me, just looking over at you all face me the strength not to break… thanks guys x
Shelly and Elliot did really well and were a credit to Jacob Mogwhy Chothia , the funeral was hard bit fitting in a very beautiful way.
As we arrived we all met and gave hugs and support, the Angel gardens gardens children took sunflowers in to the chapel and they all put them on the coffin on the way out. Angel gardens gave a bunch of sunflowers all tied up with an Angel gardens bandana.. these were from us all…. I wrote the words on behalf of us all, thanking him for his time with us in Angel gardens and asking him to enjoy the great big festival in the sky.
When Jacob arrived, he was escorted by lots and lots of motorbikes, we could hear them coming and it was a very emotional and amazing site as they passed, the smell of fuel, leather and the deep rumbling sound as they passed was unforgettable. 
Jacob passed us and was in a coffin which was decorated with a magnificent tiger and the whole thing was painted in oranges and yellows, it was really beautiful;. There was a single floral tribute inside and it was from his family.
The service was strongly joyous, with laughs and lovely words about jacobs short life. The underlying theme was his ability to make people smile and his wonderful skills as well as the way he lived his life to the full. We all commented how nice it was to hear about his life outside festivals, we all know folks in our own way and we often forget its just a very small part of who they are.
The music was lovely too, with Three little birds in the middle of the service.. perfect!!!.. we sang this later too at the wake.
As we left the chapel we were all invited to take a little ‘peace’ sticker and stick it to the coffin, it was a lovely gesture and helped people say goodbye.
There was also a box of coins that Jacob had been collecting for years to make his handmade jewellery. everyone took one as a momento of the day and of Jacob’s life.
Of course it was upsetting and hard, seeing Shelly and her family struggle through such a difficult day was awful and we all found this really hard to witness. But we also saw the unity and support they had in place, so many ( and there were a LOT of people) all caring and supporting , we can all rest assured they will be guided and supported through these hard times and into the future.
After the ceremony we went to the Wake which was at a golf club near by, it was a stunning spot and with the weather so good everyone enjoyed the outdoors. Loads of people sitting around, drinking, smoking and in the end laughing and singing. There was a certain herbal smell in the air, which added to the atmosphere 🙂
The Angel gardens team supported Shelly by helping to add some music to the afternoon, Matt and Pixie Holly created music with Alison McNeil Tara Sykes Sara Rushworth Fraser Sugden Keith O’Brien and myself joining in with our voices. 
A friend of Jacobs used his fire staff and performed and Kelsie span her poi. It was perfect.
It was sad, emotional, tragic, joyful, funny, happy and more… it was a perfect send off. 
For those of you that couldn’t join us, thank you for your best wishes and messages, I have passed them all to Shelly and she sends her thanks…. 
Thanks to those that held their own little ceremonies in their part of the world. It was good to know the family and tribe were all joined together at the same time.
We are a family, we are a tribe… when we loose one of our own we feel it, even if we don’t know that person personally, we know it leaves a gap in our chain and effects us all. 
We will move on now, we have decided to name the circus/games area in Angel gardens ‘Jacob’s Green’ and we will play and have fun here with lots and lots of children and we will support lots of young people as their develop their own skills and their own walk of life . We will look at designing a nice sign for next year and create a press release in the spring to introduce it. Anyone wanting to help let us know, we will collect monies for some equipment at some point and it will be a funded and non chargeable area for Angel gardens . as I say any ideas welcome for this.
But now we need to pick ourselves up and move on with the little bit of Jacob that you have experienced. Smile at his memory and send strength to his family.
If any of you need any support or need to share your thoughts, don’t be alone.. call me , call each other… use your Angel gardens family. 
kind love and gentle hugs
Sam x

You don’t feel you have the right to feel sadness in situations like this.. You see a mother and brother crumbling in grief and you berate yourself for feeling any kind of sadness.

But it’s ok to grieve for those who pass, even if you grieve more for those left behind than you do the deceased. 

It’s always hard when it’s a young and good person that goes… Especially when it’s sudden and unexpected ! It hits everyone. 

I was honoured to speak at the funeral and wanted to say something that explained how doe use Jacob was. I ended up writing loads but cutting it down to the essentials was strangely comforting.

I managed to speak without faltering, which was amazing really! I was so nervous and so emotional.. But when it came to it I knew my words where more important than my tears.. Somehow God gave me strength to talk. 

Here is the full version.

Its such a cliche isn’t it? ‘Its such a loss’ ‘ he was such a great bloke’ ‘how tragic’
we all say these words, they roll of our tongue when someone we know passes to the other side 
We all feel sympathy and we all feel loss, but often out of duty and from a distance.
But today, with Jacob, these words are not true, i mean really not true… in fact they really don’t do this awful situation any justice at all. 
This awful unfair tragic accident, that has taken away someone that was more than just a ‘nice bloke’, its more than a ‘loss’, to us all, it is so much more than a tragedy,,,,, saying these words feels like an insult here today.
We are all kind of the same, we are born and raised with pretty much there same bits and pieces, hands, feet, toes, emotions, attributes and personality. 
Of course we all have ways in which we stand out too, skills, qualities and our own way of treating others. 
Some people aren’t very nice, others, like most of us, work really hard at been nice, we try hard to do the right thing, say the kindest words and feel the empathy we crave we should give… 
but some, and there aren’t many, well… they are the special ones, the ones that stand out, 

the enigmas, 

the exceptional

the unusual

the inspiring

the inspired

the charming

the enchanting

the calming

the mesmerising

the nurturing

the passionate

the precious

the priceless

the quirky

the reckless

the talented

the valuable

the chivalrous

the ethical

the loyal

the motivated

the opinionated

the gentle

the spirited

they are the Angels of the world.
They are the ones that don’t try to be nice or remember to say the right things, 

they don’t try to work hard at helping others or make an effort to be generous or honest…
They just are, 
they just do, 
they just be.
Jacob wasn’t just a nice bloke.. he was a specular example of who we need to be. Its not a tragedy … i don’t know what it is.. i don’t know a word that works well enough.. but i do know he’s too special to not be doing something important wherever he is now
 and as he leaves us here with our grief and memories… we all take forward his gifts… the gifts of knowing him… his energy his lovely gentle energy.
he is always part of us, and we will be honoured, honoured to know hime both in life and in death .. always, to be part of the family.

I saw grief in all shapes and sizes. My own daughters handled it differently. My eldest was great friends with him, she sobbed and was heart broken for his loss. My second eldest grieved for his mother and brother and for her sister. My husband grieved for his younger brother and I grieved for them all. 

Seeing young people attend a funeral enmass is a sad but humbling experience. But I’m glad I’ve seen it.. Again I feel honoured .

Rest in peace Jacob. You will be so very missed in and by every part of your full and glorious life! 

Finally I’m super proud of our Angel gardens family , they sang and played for him at the funeral, together they did what they do best… Be a tribe xxxxx

Are festivals the safest place to take drugs? 

I’m very blessed to have had the opportunity to bring my children up in a festival environment..they have experienced the best festivals can offer , the people, the acceptance and the creative community.
But then we don’t do
Leeds/reading, v festival, park life festival or similar, they are very different kettles of fish. My children have been around drugs. Not that me or their father partake, we are clean as a whistle,we talk to them too. 

We don’t hide it, drug taking happens, we answer their questions and tell them the truth. But there is no doubt they have seen the dealers and takers and unfortunately the negative outcomes too. 

From my experience it’s not the older drug takers that are an issue, the older folks are the more experienced they are, the more they spend on their ‘meds’ , the more likely they know and trust its source. But young festivals, where 16 to 18 year olds take leave of their parents for their first weekend of freedom are more vulnerable in their excitement to experiment. 

They don’t know the difference between good and bad ‘shit’ and they don’t know what their bodies and minds can handle. They don’t know who they are buying from and actually what to expect! 

We have seen some messes, even at the ‘tamer’ festivals, we’ve seen some very scary messes over the last ten years of travelling the circuit! It’s not pretty and if can be scary! I’ve lost count of the times I’ve smelt death in the air! 

As a none drug taker it’s easy to get frustrated when your friends are having a ‘great time’ with the help of their chosen compound , not realising that they are boring as shit when their buzz sets in and they are staring into middle space, not keeping up with conversation, slurring their words and actually only partying in their own heads! But we are lucky enough to never see them get in such a state we had to get them help or keep them safe. To be honest we tend to have left them to it long before this could happen and settle for some good conversation and laughs on our own, where we are high on life and the moment. 

All this aside I don’t think parents should stop their kids going to the ‘rites of passage’ events. You see their kids have their own minds and they are more educated about drugs than we ever were. Frankly if they are going to use they will find a way to use wether it’s in a field with 25,000 others or at home on a park bench with their closest pals. 

Parents should rest at ease..a festival environment is actually the safest place to experiment with drugs, With trained welfare teams on hand, security, stewards and medics all watching armed with radios and festival awareness , having a bad experience both mentally and physically doesn’t leave you as vulnerable as it would elsewhere.

Outside of the fields finding and requesting help ( if you can physically talk) is less likely when you are in a club or a private party. Not only do you need to find courage to phone 999 or come clean to a family member or friend, you are at risk of prosecution , something festivals tend to avoid. They are more interested the dealers, not the takers. 

Also you are among groups of others when you’re at a festival. Festivals are great for bringing people together and it’s not like been in the street.. Folks don’t just walk past you if your in trouble. Different genres at events and different music and crowds tend to bring similar ages and accepting groups together. This allows great community spirit and peer support should you find your self in drug fueled trouble. Our experience shows that folks in trouble are brough to the attention of staff very quickly. 

This is less likely in the ‘outside world’ with such mixed groups of people and fear of prosecution as well as the stigma of drug and alcohol users, it comes as no surprise that folks will just walk on by leaving you lay in the gutter needing help. 

Many festivals are now offering testing facilities, where substances can be checked to ensure they are safe to take. At a recent event we attended I chatted to (a very busy ) welfare team. It had been a super messy night, folks were littered around puking, crying, shaking, passed out. It looked like a war zone! Welfare told me a bad batch of Ketamine was the cause , they didn’t know what it had been mixed with but it was having a rotten effect. We were guarding our pitch from serial urination and general aggressors while they told us how the team were frustrated. Welfare had the kit to test substances but the production team didn’t want to spend the extra money on the service…. not many do. It’s a shame and I think it’s something that will come in the future. 

Festivals need to take responsibility to do what they can to ensure their guests are safe, if there is drug taking at their event and vulnerable young adults as their customers, then they need to consider it their duty to ensure they minimise the negative effects. 

So as news came in that another young person lost their life to drugs at Leeds festival, and I read about how parents are terrified about their children’s safety, I think of the professionals who had to deal with that awful situation and hope the organisers across the uk  take heed and think about what they can do to stop this or at least do everything they can to minimise the risk! . Another lesson learned we hope. If festival producers and councils spent as much time worrying about the welfare of their clients as they did about sound levels and car parking, festivals would have a much better reputation. 

My girls are both at Leeds this weekend and I’m pretty sure they are been safe, but what do I know? I was young once and remember how invincible  I felt! The only thing to do is to hope that if they need it, they get support and gentle care.  We can then rest assured there are plenty of qualified and able folks on site to look after them… If, of course.. The purse strings were opened for them! 

Y not catch up on the last few weeks?

I know I know… I am totally late with this again and I’m sorry but it’s been a bit chaotic..


We set off to Derbyshire to produce the kids area on the Wednesday, after a coup of hours we arrived on site with a very poorly looking caravan! We literally dragged her onto site.

Poor old Lola had come off her chassis and it was obvious she was very unwell! 

We had very little signal on site so had the excuciating task of having to wait until the Monday to contact the insurance to see if we were covered!

The festival was an odd one.. It isn’t really a family festival and is a messy one too. Thousands ( 25k to be exact) of 25-19 year olds all drinking and taking loads of crap drugs , peeing and puking everywhere! 

There were families and we created a wonderful area, in fact we did one of the best we’d produced all season!  

Crew had a magical time in our back stage area socialising away from the crowds and also out front during the day entertaining the kids and working together in that special way they always do.

In one way I think the weirdness and aggression of the vibe actually made the festival for the crew , as they were forced to socialise together in our safe area back stage.

The 16 year old daughter brought her friend and they camped together in a little tent and the 17 year old also camped with her boyfriend so the caravan spent her last weekend with us with just the four of us.  We did spend a lot of time in her, it was cold in Derbyshire! The heater was on most days! 

As Monday arrived, Mr O started calling the insurers and the papertrail started. After many calls and negotiation we had an assessor named Joe come out to take a look. 

A rotund jolly man toddled across a messy and smelly field to our highly decorated canaravan and happily told us she was a right off! Not unexpected but very saddening. We had to arrange collection and get it delivered to our yard back in Yorkshire. Not easy logistics when you are in a field in the middle of nowhere.

We stayed an extra night on site while we sorted it all out and then sadly left Lola in the field on her own as we made our way to Oxfordshire for the next festival!

We had to take as much kit as we could in the van including the cusions to sleep on  and lots of blankets. We decided enroute to stop off at a hotel so we could get clean, rest and make use of the wifi to sort out all the admin.

Heaven! We found a very lovely 4* hotel in Warwick with a swimming pool and all mod cons! As the children swam and we enjoyed the steam room and and heated sun beds I finally relaxed for the night! 

We arrived on site late Wednesday and set up our camp, we were sleeping in a bell tent and by the time it was up and cosy I remembered how much I loved camping! 

I love crawling about, love the cosy beds and love sitting outside !!!! I totally love the adventure of cooking meals from dried and tinned foods as well as organising systems form washing up and keeping clean! Why don’t we do more of this?

It’s day two of the wilderness festival and I’m enjoying running my own workshop.. It’s great doing the teaching myself and not looking after a big crew. 

Tara is here with the kids and we are jokingly calling her the ‘nanny’ as she looks after kitty with such love and attention…she’s the only adult outside our own (not so) little family that kitty will goto so it’s a real joy for me to be able to fully concentrate and focus on my work.

Although I do miss her! Tara is brilliant and knows how hard it is to stay focuses when the kids are around, so she doesn’t bring kitty to visit me during the day. So by the time I get back from work and get in the tent, kitty and I are both thrilled to be together again. 

Our playtime and cuddle time is so special and at home we do it just before everyone gets home, but here is is as soon I get back and we enjoyed a few songs and games together while Mr O brought me some tea! 

 The children  are having a lovely time and I can relax at work knowing this! Even William has his best ‘girl’ friend ( apparently Poppy is  a ‘G-ate’.. A girl that’s a mate!)

They play so well together and it so lovely seeing them together, both are clever kids and don’t have friends on their wavelength at home.. It’s a pleasure to watch them spend ever hour together.

However there has been trouble at the mill! As life as an 11 year old boy is not all it is cracked upto be when all the girls want a part of you! On the whole he’s been enjoying playing with his girl friends and they are all totally in love with him, but there has been some competition between the girls and William frankly can’t be bothered. I found him and poppy hiding from the other girls in our tent a number of times. Such a heartbreaker and so loyal too! #proud

Tara and the children (bear and poppy) are enjoying their festival, spending their evenings together eating dinner and doing lovely things. They are a lovely family and I feel blessed to have them in my life. 

The 16 year old and friend are happy and enjoying ‘hanging out’ after working all day. Raven( friend) has never done a festival and she is from a tiny family, living just with her mum. So spending two weeks on the road with the O’Brien clan must have been a real culture shock. But she’s fit in nicely and I’ve been happy to have her part of the family. Grace certainly has enjoyed having a friend with her.

They both worked doing face paint (grace) and glitter art (raven) they were busy and worked hard. So good to see grace refind her confidence again!!! (Shed lost it a bit this summer) So as they both earned a daily wage they enjoyed going off and spending it.

Grace finally fulfilled her dream of getting dreads at Ynot festival and it’s like she’s found herself.. She’s more confident and said herself how she feels like she has found the girl she always knew was! Made me think about the power a ‘style’ can have… A blog for another day maybe?! 

Everyone is happy!

Lola is back in Pontefract and we will deal with her on Tuesday.. Poor thing! We are gutted to loose her, but trying to be positive. I’m wondering if we can strip her insides and rebuild her in my potting shed? Could be good winter project?! And thinking of ideas to replace her.. Maybe it’s time for a change? The girl are starting to want their own tents do we could get something smaller and more unique?! Maybe a roll top waggon? We’ve been looking this weekend! 

So it’s Sunday night and the family are all sleeping.. I’m lay listening to far off music and frivolity. It our last day of our 2016 festival season.. Home tomorrow before packing for our Parisian trip and preparing for daughter number 1’s 18th! 

All exciting and positive but sad to say goodbye to the fields for a while! 

Wish us luck!