Carry on camp­ing – but don’t in­vite me

With camp­ing hol­i­days as much a part of the Bri­tish national iden­tity as talk­ing about the weather, Kate Birch de­cides she needs to gear up, grit her teeth and give it a go… if only for the kids

Friday - - Leisure -

It’s the mid­dle of the night in the mid­dle of a field in the mid­dle of Eng­land and I’m sit­ting in­side a tent – sore, shiv­er­ing and sur­rounded by snores. Awo­ken at midnight by my fit-to-burst blad­der, I spend the next ag­o­nis­ingly painful 90 min­utes con­tem­plat­ing whether to pee in a bucket or trek half a mile in the dark and driv­ing rain to the loos. I de­cide on nei­ther. In­stead, I cry.

Wel­come to my UK stay­ca­tion sum­mer hol­i­day: six days and seven long nights with hubby and kids, stay­ing in a 10-foot-by-8-foot tent in a field. In ret­ro­spect, I’d like to be­lieve I was talked into this. I wasn’t. I was in­spired by child­hood camp­ing mem­o­ries – glo­ri­ous weather, fab­u­lous food and lots of laughs. The thing about child­hood is that you see ev­ery­thing through a child’s eyes… rosy, happy, fun.

So, weighed down by nos­tal­gia and blown away by the beau­ti­ful im­ages of happy fam­i­lies rolling around in long grass in the Cool Camp­ing Bri­tain book, it was with rel­ish, rather than re­luc­tance, that I piled our car high with camp­ing kit. Camp­ing myth num­ber one busted: camp­ing is not cheap.

Our ar­rival at the very ba­sic camp­site (think loos, one shower) was pretty smooth, marred only by the ‘miss­ing mal­let’… my fault, ap­par­ently. “Some­one al­ways for­gets some­thing,” joked our rather-too-close-for-com­fort perma-smil­ing neigh­bour, who laughed just a lit­tle too loudly and eyed her hus­band with what seemed like deep re­sent­ment. Or was I imag­in­ing it?

By the time our tent was up – three hours later – my own hus­band and I were not on speak­ing terms, a sit­u­a­tion that in a decade of to­geth­er­ness had never arisen. Things did not im­prove.

To cut a long and ag­o­nis­ing story short, it rained for three con­sec­u­tive days and nights, leav­ing ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­one soaked, in­clud­ing the in­side of the tent. And it was here among the car­nage – creepy crawlies in my knicker bag, mud in my sleep­ing bag – we hol­i­dayed… eat­ing, sleep­ing, dress­ing and driv­ing each other up the can­vas. It’s not like you can es­cape to an­other room for peace.

But sadly, lack of space was the least of my camp­ing com­plaints. Not since hav­ing a col­icky baby have I ex­pe­ri­enced such sleep de­pri­va­tion, what with the never-end­ing noise (loud snores and an­i­mal sounds), the in­ter­minable dis­com­fort (itchy syn­thetic sleep­ing bag and frozen feet) and the paralysing fear that some knife-wield­ing ma­niac might kill us in our blow-up beds.

This was fol­lowed by dreary days in the same dirty dwelling play­ing end­less games of ‘mo­not­o­nous Monopoly’, bro­ken only by spo­radic sprints to the equally dirty bath­rooms. And all this is made 20 times worse by the sin­cerely smil­ing faces of the ‘glamp­ing’ (five-star camp­ing in cab­ins with all mod cons) fam­i­lies in the next field.

“That’s not real camp­ing,” as­serts our neigh­bour Pitcher Pete (so-called be­cause of his ex­per­tise with tent erec­tion) when – wrapped in my sleep­ing bag and drink­ing from a cracked plas­tic cup – he catches me look­ing long­ingly at the glam­pers’ glow­ing faces (com­bined ef­fect of the TV and fire).

But this is all child’s play com­pared to camp­ing’s do­mes­tic drudgery: cook­ing three meals a day for five on a burner with all the power of a can­dle or at­tempt­ing to eat burnt-yet-raw burg­ers with a shared-be­tween-five plas­tic fork… be­cause you also for­got the forks, ap­par­ently. Two days in and I wanted to bail. I had vi­sions of es­cape… leg­ging it to the clos­est cof­fee shop, car­a­van, cave. Even a prison would have been prefer­able.

Was I the only one who felt such de­spair? Were all the other par­ents re­ally hav­ing a ‘glo­ri­ous time’ as they kept loudly ex­claim­ing or were they, like me, just fak­ing the fun?

By day three, I swear I could see the sup­pressed agony on the perma-smil­ing neigh­bours’ faces: dad wrig­gling un­com­fort­ably in his soggy socks as he opened his tenth tin of baked beans; while mum, mud on face, feigned far-too-much-to-be-cred­i­ble en­joy­ment at at­tempt­ing to light the stove with wet matches.

I wasn’t alone… they hated it too. A fact I dis­cov­ered upon my re­turn home when I read a sur­vey by Hol­i­day Ex­tras, re­veal­ing that 90 per cent of Brits con­sider camp­ing the least en­joy­able type of break. Yes!

But if that’s so, why are 17 mil­lion of them (2011 Great Bri­tain Tourism Sur­vey) do­ing it? Well, apart from the fact they think it’s cheap (it’s not), camp­ing is hav­ing a retro resur­gence, es­pe­cially among the mid­dle classes.

I reckon they do it to pu­n­ish them­selves… a week of mis­ery to make up for the other 51 weeks of lux­ury they live. It’s masochis­tic, mo­not­o­nous mar­tyr­dom. Why else would any­one en­dure such a mis­er­able un­civilised prac­tice that pro­vides much less con­ve­nience and com­fort than be­ing at home… and then pay for the priv­i­lege?

“We do it for the kids,” ex­plains perma-smil­ing mum, who on the last day I dis­cover hid­ing out in the woods, clearly try­ing to avoid said kids.

But I’m no mar­tyr mom. So next year, I’m putting up the tent in my gar­den just ‘for the kids’… while I sit in the warmth on my comfy sofa, con­duct­ing my Campers Sur­vivors Sup­port Group.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.