1. 5 years of natural history field trips in the midst of my adolescence. Actually, the camping part was only a backdrop to the week-long carnival of teen angst. Each year, it seemed, the humiliation did not lessen, but just mutated slightly (did not have vital Reebok black hi-tops, sharing tent with Annabel and her gigantic sanitary towel collection, ambivalence towards kissing Nick Moran and his terrifying brace, not being invited on midnight trip to roll hay bales around the neighbouring field). With wearying inevitability, my tent would flood at least once every year.
2. Duke of Edinburgh award. Can we just take a moment? Why the fuck is the Duke of Edinburgh giving out prizes for what is essentially CAMPING? I bet he's never tried to rehydrate Super Noodles with lukewarm water from an extinguished camping stove. Or forgotten his cagoule and had to wear a bin bag with holes cut out.
3. Woodcraft Folk Camp
"Who are these folk who dress in green
We hear the people say
They ask if we're some foreign scouts come here on holiday".
Nope. We're a bunch of hyperviolent and unbiddable spawn of hippies, led, ineffectually, by other hippies, into disaster in a misty field somewhere on the North York Moors. Run! Run for your lives! BEFORE MARK GETS HIS GUITAR OUT. Uh oh, too late. Time for "Little Boxes". And a co-operative game about warring villagers who learn to share, whilst behind the shower block, Ruben and Joshua are learning to disembowel a squirrel.
4. Le Camping Sauvage
During our second summer together, the CFO took me to his ancestral campsite, a scrubby patch of ground on the Normandy coast entirely bereft of amenities, where each year, his grandparents drove their caravan the 20 minutes up the road from their home to sit in the drizzle for a month. His grandmother cried with rage when she lost at dominoes, and the nearest washing facilities were at the 1 star campsite three miles away. Best not to dwell on the shower block. With hindsight, I am astonished our relationship survived.
So we got a tent, the cheapest tent in the history of all tents ever, but I have absolutely no intention of going in it. We took it out of its bag and it shuddered itself into a vague tent shape. When the rain eventually stopped, I bundled it out of the back door along with the boys in the general direction of the garden, and went to make a cup of tea.
A few minutes later something made me look outside; I think it must have been the sound of cheap nylon screaming for mercy. I was greeted with the sight of the tent briskly triple salto-ing around the garden, its gaudy blue casing stretched to breaking point:
I'm not sure this is what you're supposed to do with a tent - stuff it to the gills with soft toys, then roll it around the garden until it explodes - but what do I know? It looked a lot more fun than anything I've ever done in one.
It tired them out, anyway. I like them tired. They are like charming small animals.
And now they've gone again and the house is very, very quiet.