Sunday, 18 July 2010


We got a tent yesterday. It will astonish no-one to hear I am implacably opposed to camping. This is not mere blind prejudice, for a change. I have camped plenty.

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.

"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.


c said...

I always enjoy your blog, but this one is particularly lovely... hilarious and touching by turns (as often when you talk about your sons). Your comment on the Duke of Edinburgh award is reminiscent of Adrian Mole's rant about the swimming survival awards, many years ago.

Laura said...

I'm sorry, but you were disappointed at not rolling hay bales around a field in the dark? And just think of the awkwardness Annabel must have felt at having to bring her gigantic sanitary towel collection on the camping trip in the first place.

In any event I think your boys have found exactly the right use for their tent.

Also, "cagoule" = "poncho," right?

Lisa-Marie said...

Fucking, FUCKING duke of Edinburgh.

Aside from that, The photos make me smile at their energy and laugh at the thought of the tent, complete with small children, rolling round the garden. Perhaps that's what you're really supposed to do?

frau antje said...

I hope the names were changed to protect the innocent, and not yet incarcerated. Surely Duke of Edinburgh is not his real name.

Helen Brocklebank said...

Oh God-Little Boxes (stab). Duke of Edinburgh (stabbitty stab: we had to do ours up Lakeland fells with the very butch gym mistress & her scary Hound of the Baskervilles-type dog). But garden camping I can do, particularly the stuffed animals/rolling kind. Hussah!

Imogene said...

Crikey - I was in the Woodcraft Folk! Evangelistic faux-hippie twats. Preferred horses and books, so it's no surprise that I hated every nanosecond. One of the many reasons I love reading you, although I seldom delurk, is because I spent my childhood in a city near yours and most of my memories have receded almost to nothingness, for various reasons. Your thoughts and words reconnect me, in a very good way. Ta for that (and being a cracking good read).

Madame DeFarge said...

I haven't done camping since I froze to near death in Derbyshire, about 45 mins drive from home. I couldn't quite see the point anymore. The tent props us the spare bed now. Far more use.

London City (mum) said...

I will just say that our kids are - somehow inexplicably - related.

Mine do the exact same thing.

Fabulous piece of random enjoyment.


Anonymous said...

Best every use of tent!!!! Your kids show great creative flair - must get it from you....

Xtreme English said...

The Duke of Edinburgh told me to tell you he is going to give you BEST USE OF TENT award soon.

too cool....

Mancunian Mum said...

I love the way the tent appears to be attacking the children. :-) x

GingerB said...

I say keeo the tent even if you don't fully understand it. I was allowed to "sleep out" which meant putting sleeping bags in the backyard and then sneaking around the neighborhood half the night, getting into mischief. If you can lock the zipper, I say keep the tent.


fourstar said...

Heh. We went camping a few weeks ago, with a gaggle of local parent friends, which is the ONLY way to do it once you have offspring.

The rules are:

1) All adults shall bring as much booze as you can fit into a reasonably-sized family hatchback, and happily share it around.

2) All children shall play together from dawn till dusk with only the occasional meltdown, to be dealt with by the nearest, available, sober adult.

3) The men shall be in charge of the fire, even if a fire is not required for any practical purpose.

4) One hour from home is reasonable to count as 'backwoods wilderness'.

5) Two nights is more than enough for anyone.

That's Not My Age said...

Just spent the weekend at Latitude festival and I can safely say I never want to go camping again. Two hours (and a lot of swearing) to put the tent up, it nearly ended in divorce.

From Belgium said...

There is no camping like a Chiro camp. Honestly. Who wouldn't want to wake up with an escaped sheep in their tent? And then their was that time the boys put their tent up on the slope of the hill and it started to rain during the night. Down came tent, boys and all... Ah, good times.

Anonymous said...

I may be the rare reader who actually likes camping. Sorry. I shall not evangelize; it is not for everyone.

I think your children's use of the tent is quite brilliant and now I want to roll around in a tent full of plushies.

Come to think of it, an afternoon of this activity could probably do most of us grown ups a world of good.


3limes said...

This is very funny. My husband has just bought a tent and I keep asking who he thinks is going to sleep in it? I think rolling it around the garden is a great idea. Love the photos of sleepy boys.

Mommy-To-Be said...

You have such a beautiful son!
I'm sure the tent was a big deal for him! :)


Anonymous said...

The tent photos make me think of Monty Python's attack of the blancmanges ("from the planet Skyron in the Galaxy of Andromeda....they mean to win Wimbledon")...

Husband calls camping "cramping", one thing on which I actually agree with him.

Pat (in Belgium)

Betty M said...

I've been camping at Latitude too this last weekend. 3 kids between 6 and 4 months and a tent was fine adding a music festival on top probably foolish.

D of E had dull bits of community service too I recall as well as 5 days in snow in the Lakes. I confess I enjoyed it.

Waffle said...

Ha, Betty. In York our community service was picking up nappies from a gyspy site at Clifton under the taciturn supervision of Dave the Community Police Officer. I am sure the Duke would have approved.

Imogene - Thank christ, someone else. I was beginning to think I had imagined them.

Fat Controller said...

This is the first time in about five years we haven't bought a tent right about now. When your youngsters become teenagers they take them off to rock festivals and they never make it home. The tents, that is, not the offspring. We should be so lucky.

Fat Controller, Duke of Edinburghs Bronze Award (Failed)

Invader_stu said...

It looks like the tent got court in a small tiny tornado.

Anonymous said...

They are the very loveliest tame wild animals, indeed.

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