Under normal circumstances we wouldn't travel so far but lured by friends with whom we knew we could pass time without killing each other we went for it and at first it was lovely. Beautiful sunshine for two days - an actual camping holiday that involved a trip to the beach without wellies - marvellous!
But then the weather remembered that we were on holiday and so sent 48 hours of rain and sea mist which caused one set of friends to go home because their tent decided to have a complete seam failure and us to have to use our fog lights in August. In fecking August!
Here's the weird thing though. Despite the shitty weather that made us complete and utter martyrs for the remaining two days of the holiday and caused my husband to have to buy Tesco Trainers because he had done the manly thing of packing 'light' and his one pair of shoes got too wet to wear (that'll learn him...), we had a brilliant time and will do it again. This is because....
1. We are friends with people who have a van. And an awning.
Our tent has an awning. Oh yes. But it is not attached to a beautiful watertight vehicle that has optics and a dvd player in it. I don't care if you think this is cheating because when your children have trenchfoot and you need peace and quiet, you will wish that you too had friends like these. The children watched Wimpy Kid twice as we drank wine and played cards, which leads me on to....
2. We rediscovered the joy of Gin Rummy
I thought I didn't know this game. Turns out I did - it has the same rules as every other card game: you must forget whose turn it is because you're too busy talking rubbish to keep track, you must accuse one another of cheating and the person who says that "they're no good at this game" will be a complete liar who wins every round. We also rediscovered the joy of shops that cater for people who are trapped in one place and so need things to spend their money on. Things like books about cross-eyed cats and multi-purpose bottle openers with the names of men from the '70s and '80s on.
|This is a real book.|
3. We (ok I) completely lost the plot
I blame the fact that one of the cards was a Joker used to replace a missing 9 of Clubs which meant that someone had drawn a Club on top of the Joker's head which would have been fine except that the 'Club' looked like a cock and balls. That pretty much set the bar for the conversation which then turned into ways in which to create enormous confusion and chaos when living in a shared house that Vic & Bob would have been proud of involving UV paint, security lights and menacing gnomes. It's been a while since I pulled a 'crying and laughing at the same time' face. It reminded me that I need more nights like that.
4. We had the absolute best of British entertainment
You know when you're in a barn with a bar and soft play area, and a Britain's Got Talent semi-finalist walks in, juggles knives, balances a pub table on his chin and then risks drowning by having a diver's helmet put on his head and filled with water while he tries to escape from chains. All whilst stood in an Angry Birds paddling pool so he doesn't get the floor wet? YES THAT!! We saw Merlin. He's a bloody legend. He's so much of a legend that we saw him twice.
|Just your average morning in a barn..|
5. We had the absolute best of British entertainment (again)
We were planning on taking the kids to Disney at some point and have since changed our mind because we have had all the theme park fun we every need at The Milky Way. Why fly for 10 hours to then spend a week of queuing for hours for high tech rides when you can have an 'alien experience' where you are led through the dark by a teenager from Bideford who knows they can't kid you that you're on an 'abandoned alien spacecraft' because everyone knows that you're really in some kind of blacked-out shipping container but your children will still freak out because confined dark spaces are scary.
And why bother with virtual reality rides and Lucas Film / Disney approved 'experiences' when you can see someone's personal collection of Star Wars memorabilia which includes a spooky Luke Skywalker model and Ewok toys still in their packets!
Our son went on a roller coaster that he has waited five years to go on (yep, we go every year!) and as we watched through the sea mist we could just about see his beaming face as he passed the "are you taller than the red line" test to ride at the very front with his sister. It didn't matter to him where we were - he had made it!
We watched a falconer who will not let you touch his birds because he is not into pissing off owls but is into getting them to swoop low over your head. We sat right next to one of the perches to get the best view and recited his set with him, enjoying the familiarity of his spiel.
We saw Merlin (again!) and wondered how much a good sword-juggling escapologist gets paid these days. Whatever it is we suspect it's not enough....
And so, despite the fact that every time we go camping we all end up moaning at the weather / our complete inability to pack properly / the incredible noise and lack of sleep that combine to make you feel like you're hallucinating in the mornings / the fact you have to put the bloody tent up when you get home in order to dry it out because Britain is not the South of France.....we're going to go again. If you're teetering on the brink of giving up too, give it just one more try - let's Carry on Camping!