Hi-de-Hi Campers!

English: Modern 'dome' tent

English: Modern ‘dome’ tent (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have just returned from my first ever family camping trip in Devon.  Frankly, camping is a blogger’s paradise for material but I am going to cut to the chase and just give you the nitty gritty…

Camping is all very well until…

– You have to put up the tent. The tents of my youth have all but disappeared from British camp sites, to be replaced by superstructures.  The result of this?  Putting up a superstructure is a full-blown architectural, building and interior design project.  No half-hour of japes and ‘hysterical’ jokes about ‘erections’ – this is a very serious job taking 2 hours and requiring elite teamwork.   My husband and I were just rank and file and we listened closely to our leaders who have years of experience in this highly technical exercise.

– You start participating in “competitive camping” – by which, I mean constantly prowling around the campsite, nosing at others’ tents and accoutrements and then scurrying back to look online at how much they cost and how quickly you can get the same. Camping 2013-style is highly competitive.  Size is important – I shall admit to a small twinge of jealousy at my neighbours’ superstructure (we were sleeping in their “cast off” as virgin campers).  However, the devil is in the detail: spotted on our campsite – bunting, fairy lights (everywhere), blow-up sofas and chaise-longues and garden gnomes.

– You want to sleep. In my experience, camping and sleep are mutually exclusive.  However, I accept that I appear to be alone in this as the rest of my family seemed to sleep soundly.  I have to admit to moments at about 3am when I did wonder why I had chosen to “sleep” on a blow-up mattress in a confined space with my whole family, wearing an eye mask and ear plugs at the age of 40.

– You need the loo in the middle of the night.  Forget the adverts about bladder incontinence and retraining your bladder on the back of the doors of public conveniences in motorway service stations.  There is nothing better for improving bladder control than camping a 5 minute walk from the nearest loos.  In every tent, there is a woman, in the wee hours (sorry, pathetic pun), wondering if she can possibly hold on until morning and cursing the men who can liberally water the foliage outside the tent.

– You leave a rubbish bag out overnight. Elementary error, dear Watson. What followed can only be described as making Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” seem mild in comparison.  Gull attack.  Gulls are big, gulls are noisy and frankly no-on in our tent had the courage to face up to them at 5.30 am when we were under siege, gulls tramping all over the top of our tent.  We lay there, frozen in fear, hoping that the Gull army would finally march on elsewhere to some other amateur who had left out a bag of rubbish.  It will, I think, take years of therapy for us to come to terms with the trauma of the night when the gulls attacked.

– It rains. Camping is a fair weather sport. The solution to rain, however, is simple.  Make sure you are friends with people who own a larger tent than your own, with blow-up furniture, rugs, pretty lighting and a fully-stocked larder and then settle down with a glass of wine and laugh.

– Your child starts to suffer from repetitive showering syndrome.  At home, my requests for my eldest to shower fall on deaf ears – he looks at me as if I have suggested something deeply unpleasant.  Not so when camping. My eldest proudly informed me that he had showered 14 times in 4 days.  When questioned about this, he told me that he liked showering at the campsite because he had his own cubicle and no-one disturbed him.  Very disturbing indeed.

So what did we really think about camping?  We loved it and despite all my reservations, we have booked to go again next year.  I shall admit that a large part of this is due to the fabulous friends we camped with (whom I think were as surprised as we were that we survived the trip).  I shall leave the last word to my daughter, just turned 4, who in a late night tent conversation, was asked by her brother where good people go to when they die…”Devon” she said – not far off I suppose (give or take the first letter).

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It’s not cricket…

google cricket bat & ball

google cricket bat & ball (Photo credit: osde8info)

Yesterday was a revelation.  I sat and watched 8 hours of cricket. No, not the Ashes but an under 9s local cricket tournament.  Now admittedly 80 degrees and wall-to-wall sunshine definitely enhanced my viewing experience but I can actually say I enjoyed it and by “it” I do mean the cricket itself.  I still can’t believe what I am saying as until yesterday I found the prospect of watching a game of cricket less appealing even than being forced to watch 24 hours solid of Peppa Pig.  I would even go as far as to say that the cricket was exciting which is an adjective I am unlikely to ever use in respect of Peppa, George, Daddy Pig and Mummy Pig.

However, before you fear that the summer heatwave we are currently experiencing (Day 17 apparently – no wonder we are the laughing stock of the rest of the world when we count the days when the temperature rises above what many other countries would consider an average day), there are certain things I find bizarre about cricket.

Firstly, a sartorial point.  Why do they wear ‘cricket whites’?  It seems remarkably stupid to me to wear totally white clothing when you are playing a sport which inevitably involves skidding and leaping around on grass.  Yes, earth-shattering news – grass is green, grass stains and it is a complete nightmare to get out (although I grant you this is a point that may have escaped most men as it is women who on the whole have to scrub the whites clean swearing profusely).

Secondly, yesterday I realised that actually cricket is a fairly simple game and it is dressed up to be remarkably complicated in order for men to think they are playing some incredibly sophisticated game.  It’s basically rounders with two bases instead of four.  Baffling language such as slip, gully and silly mid-off are thrown in to confuse the non-cricketer and to ensure they feel excluded from the cricket in-crowd (sorry, bad pun..in??).  Cut through all the nonsense language and there’s not much to it as far as I can see – bowl, bat, run, catch.

Incidentally, this deliberate over-complication is not confined to cricket.  Football suffers from the same condition.  Nothing illustrates this better than the off-side rule which men always challenge women to explain as a way of demonstrating their inability to understand the game.  Well, ladies, the off-side rule is not remotely complicated and indeed nor is football – kick, run, pass and score. Easy.

The only game which seems truly baffling to me and perhaps defies my complaint that male-dominated sports are over-complicated for no good reason is rugby.  Rugby seems to me to be genuinely complicated and unnecessarily so.  It seems so complicated that for a large part of the game, no-one appears to have a clear understanding of the rules – players, referees or those watching. I know I am going to be accused of totally missing the point but take the scrum for example.  Why?  To the layman it looks like a group of men with overdeveloped physiques, bundling in and achieving very little – a sort of acceptable group man hug – the ball gets put in and then pushed out again often where it came in.  I know that all men (and probably quite a few women) will be shouting at my idiocy at this point but I’m just saying it how I see it.

Back to cricket.  It seems to me that cricket suffers from a bit of a PR problem.  To my mind, this boils down to one simple point – the game goes on too b*****  long.   That is not to say that test series are not exciting but to compare international cricket with village cricket is lunacy.  There is nothing interesting about watching an entire day of village cricket which is often “village” in standard.  Cricket is quite possibly the least family-friendly game and I speak from experience as one who could in the past have fairly called herself a “cricket widow”. I know much has been done to make cricket more exciting – T20 etc – but it is still too long and unpredictable in length.  At least with football, much as I loathe it, I know that after 90 minutes it’s all done and dusted.

When all is said and done, I really enjoyed yesterday’s cricket but let’s face it, in this country with our reliably unreliable weather, it would not have been the same if I had been forced to sit wrapped in jumpers and blankets for 8 hours, shivering in the usual British summer temperatures, bathing in the glorious light of yet another overcast day.

Finally, a note to my husband who I am sure will vehemently disagree with me…spending two days at Lords watching cricket is not a justification for the length the game takes to play – I know and you know that you are not just watching the cricket and that there is more than a small element of socialising involved too…