All entries have been anonymised to protect the innocent!
(Sadly the signal is so bad here that photos will have to be uploaded another time.)
We had agreed, at the more sober of the planning meetings, to congregate at our organiser’s house some time after 10am. That arrangement gave us plenty of time, after breakfast, to finalise our packing. Despite ensuring I had already put everything I needed into my bag the night before, I soon realised I hadn’t packed any clothes to sleep in or, as my fifteen year-old daughter gleefully pointed out, a pillow.
Overnight omissions having been rectified, the car boot began to fill-up and I began to wonder if we would get everything in. It was only three and a half days after all. Thankfully we weren’t going to my in-laws for the same period otherwise we would have needed a trailer!
Having duly gathered at ‘Camp Planning HQ’ and having had our picture taken by the Mums, it became blindingly obvious that our ‘better halves’ we’re looking forward to this camping trip more than we were. They had two evenings planned one local and one in town. As they wiped a tear from their eyes as we departed I’m sure I heard the sound of champagne corks popping!
I had three children in my car one ‘I’m not sure why I’m coming on this trip’ teenager and two 12 year-old boys. I revealed the music I had brought for the journey (CDs with hits of the 60s and 70s) and suddenly all three, in a synchronised movement that a team of Olympic swimmers would be proud of, got out their mobile phones and put in their headphones. I tried Radio 2 in the hope that might persuade them into the musical ambience of my car but that failed too. Eventually I gave in and the iPod came into its own (not that I was allowed to choose what we listened to!)
The musical tastes having been settled, the trip to the camp site was relatively unremarkable. We arrived in plenty of time for the pub lunch we had booked (Does anyone book a camping trip where there isn’t an onsite pub?) and decided to erect our tents (Cue the 12 year-old boys giggling at the use of the word ‘erect’) after our meal.
My lunch was good and judging by the majority of plates that were cleared most enjoyed their meal too. The men that chose to drink showed remarkable self-control and only had two beers possibly because they knew they still had tents to put up. There was great relief when we found out that the pub had wi-fi even though it took several attempts to log-in and dropped out regularly. That excitement was tarnished with disappointment however when we found out that the pub had no television for us to watch the football later.
So how did the tent erecting go? Well considering it was the first time ours had come out of its bag it went well. I have to say that the successful construction of our home for the next three days was largely due to the expertise of my daughter. On the way down I had reminded her how Douglas Adams had so succinctly wrote that: “Nobody likes a smart arse” but I have to admit that her knowledge from previous Guides and Police Cadets camping proved invaluable in getting our tent up. Some, it should be said, brought a pop-up tent with them (see photograph) and were roundly condemned as cheats.
Nobody was getting a signal on their phones now and the pub wi-fi was far too far away to have effect so I volunteered to go to reception to see if the camp site had wi-fi. I actually just wanted a yes or no but I had to endure a lecture on how the Government had failed to support those that dwell in the countryside by not laying fibre optic cables. That would be a ‘No’ then!
As the afternoon progressed the sun came out. There were games of cricket and hand hockey punctuated with cans of beers for the dads that were drinking and soft drinks for the kids. Suddenly it was nearing dinner time so the BBQ was lit. Food preparation duties stopped the team games but it didn’t stop smaller groups hitting or throwing a ball to each other.
In order to ensure that we had hot food before it got dark, a bottle of BBQ lighting fluid had to be purchased from the on-site shop. Finally the charcoal was considered ‘ready’ and we all ate excellent burgers and sausages. A local guard dog, safely behind a locked gate, had been drawn to us by the smell of cooking food and waited expectantly behind his gate to see if there were any leftovers.
I had brought a digital radio with me so having established at lunchtime that the pub had no television it went on in time for those interested to listen to England v Portugal. I say ‘those interested’ because by then I don’t think anybody really was! The beer drinkers had much more important things to talk about (important to them any way!) and the kids were still hitting or throwing balls to each other.
So when the food ran out, the dog lost interest and clearly decided that Winalot was going to be his only meal for the day. Final rounds of beers were consumed and someone came up with the idea of going for a walk. That idea was soon quashed when the majority decided it was time for bed (it was nine o’clock!)
There was a flurry of excitement just before bedtime for when one of the dads mislaid his mobile phone. Nothing to do with the amount of beer consumed of course but shortly after the pub had been searched and we’d done a fingertip search of the surrounding grass and bushes, it was found in his vehicle!
So I settled in to spend my first night under canvas for over 40 years. I snuggled down into my sleeping bag only to find it was rather more uncomfortable and colder than I’d remembered sleeping bags to be. The issue was resolved when my children pointed out that I’d managed to squeeze myself into the part of the sleeping bag that used to contain an air bed. Nothing to do with the amount of beer consumed of course!