Last week we bought a ‘new to us’ tent. It’s a behemoth, a sprawling octagon of whatever tents are made of these days and guy ropes and tent poles. It won’t fit in our garden so we’ve never put it up – we tried and managed to splinter a tent pole. Still, it was useful practice in seeing whether we could fold it up and ever make it fit in what suddenly looked like a quite pathetically small bag again.
I don’t know why we own a tent – actually we own two tents, the other is on the growing pile of ‘stuff I’m going to put on ebay/flog at a car boot sale/put in Friday Ad’ – I can’t stand camping. Ever since a formative pre-teen experience when camping with my parents I’ve loathed it. So I’ve watched the rise of glamping with the deep scepticism reserved for those who have pumped up an airbed in a thunderstorm.
But I reckoned without E, one of my school run mums, whose personal mantra “it’ll be a good laugh” has gradually wheedled its way through my natural suspicion of anything outdoorsy. E claims she only does glamping – her tent has a carpet FFS – and so I’m part owner of not one but two tents and am about to go camping for the May Bank Holiday.
To be fair, my first experience of adult camping wasn’t half bad owing to E and her husband supplying everything and the kitchen sink. It was freezing, yes, and our tent was draughty – first rule of buying a tent GET A SEWN IN GROUNDSHEET – and taking a table lamp for lighting was a trifle camp (not to mention the unwitting burlesque display I gave the neighbours getting ready for bed) – but our son absolutely adored it. He was running around with a headtorch on shouting “this is the best night of my life – EVER!!!”. Faced with the choice of being good, nice parents and letting him repeat the experience or being miserable bastards only concerned with our own creature comforts, we’ve reluctantly chosen the former.
So we’ll be spending our bank holiday weekend in a field at Knockhatch – predicted temperatures: high of 11, low of 8 (I’m packing thermals and insulated walking boots). We don’t know how to put up the tent and we haven’t fixed the splintered pole because we don’t know how. We do have an electric pump for the airbeds – second rule of buying camping equipment GET AN ELECTRIC PUMP BECAUSE FOOTPUMPS ARE USELESS – and 2 gas stoves on the rationale that we can cook bacon and eggs on one and brew coffee on the other (I’m checking the nearest takeaways). We now have LED camping lights. Everything for our 2 night stay will just fit in the car – just. But only if we don’t take any clothes.
Actually this is a trial run for a little idea I have of slinging the tent in the car come the summer holidays and meandering down through France to take a look at Montmorillon and surrounds. In my dream, the weather is balmy and the tent is a breeze to pitch, we find nice, cheap restaurants and picnic on baguettes and rilletes and wine, the air is fresh and we wake with the lark. Of course we don’t need to book into a hotel because the rain has been widdling down for 3 days straight and we’re cold and dirty and miserable. Of course we find our dream property at the end of it. Well, there’s a first time for everything.
This has never, ever been my experience of camping. I know that everything – let alone clothes – will not fit in the car. I know we’ll be blowing up airbeds in a thunderstorm and trying in vain to secure the flysheet in hurricane force winds. I know there’ll be arguments and sulks and storming offs (and that’s just the adults).
But there’ll also be a 7 year old who has the “best holiday of my life – EVER!!!”