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).