It came as some surprise to me that the Lovely Wife was under the impression that I did not like sleeping under canvas, that I objected to the concept and practice of camping. This is not true; it is just we have not done very much of it in the time we have been together. In fact, other than camping in a friend’s back garden – there not being enough crash space in the house at the time – at parties is pretty much the only time I recall that we have spent under canvas together. That will change next year when we go to my first proper festival – Wilderness – and I am quite looking forward to the challenges of that and hoping the weather behaves for a festival that includes plenty of outdoor activities. But camping is something that occupies a small but memorable part of my history, mainly regarding when I was young.
The problem with camping for me is that it is a case of opposites; it is either a massive amount of fun or an utterly awful experience. More than perhaps anything else it is weather dependant. I can enjoy a week trudging around the countryside in waterproofs or running in driving rain, providing there is somewhere warm and dry to change into new warm and dry clothes. If you are in a tent this becomes much harder as the even if your tent is up already when the heavens open – and I shudder at the memory of one holiday when a bunch of us lads were trying to get our tents up as the rain torrents fell, which resulted only in everything being soaked and an entire change of plan where the tents were spurned in favour of hastily arranged B&B and hostels for the rest of the holiday – even when they are up in time the water just seems to get in somehow leaving things just a little on the damp side. Then again, as I say, if the sun is shining and glorious, it can be quite idyllic. Until the tent gets too hot.
But I have very fond memories of camping, especially with the scouts as a child. Yes, we were shoved in a tent like sardines (and the tents were very, very old as I remember, the type with separate groundsheets so inevitably everything that could find its way into the tent would. Yes, there was the inevitable dodgy food, and you cannot throw several pre-teen boys together without them trying to humiliate each other by playing strip pontoon (or some other equally pathetic game when everyone was supposed to be asleep). But there was a good atmosphere and you were away from home just long enough for it be exciting and not too long that you got homesick. Our scout leader even had a repertoire of stories around the inevitable bonfire as we waited for the half cooked ‘baked’ potatoes to be vaguely edible. He told with relish, for example, of the Mad Shepherd, who bit the ankles of unwary boys causing them to bleed to death, a story on the so utterly ludicrous to not be frightening at all, but told in such a deadpan and convincing manner that – I kid you not – everyone was very careful to keep their ankles inside the tent for the remainder of the camp.
Ah. Happy days. Enjoy your camping, but watch out for the Mad Shepherd. He is still out there somewhere… And he is still hungry…