It’s ages since I last went camping but this weekend brought it all back. First there was the joy of putting up my tent in the rain. And wind. And cold. The forecast said it would be blue skies and heat – this was June! But no, the gusts made everything flap manically and I wouldn’t have managed if there hadn’t been a friend there to help.
So eventually the tent went up and I crawled inside with my bags of already-squashed things. I’d forgotten that you can’t stand up in my tent: three days of lurching around in a hunch like Quasimodo or crawling like a toddler and spilling drinks or kicking over the light. Then someone, some genius tent designer, decided that the guy ropes should be blue. Dark blue. So no matter how often you remind yourself that they’re there, you still trip over them at least four times an hour. And in the dark they’re completely invisible so I probably peed on them as well…
Ah, the dark. In houses we don’t care about the dark – we nonchalantly flick our light switches and know that we can see things at all hours. But in a tent you reside in a gloomy world of half-light, of shadows and murk. I bought a feeble little battery lamp to hang up but it possessed all the luminosity of a smouldering fag-end. Reading was hopeless and I found myself relying on touch and, after a couple of days, smell.
Of course there’s sound too and as I lay down in a paper thin oversmall sleeping bag (on the airbed with the slow leak) there was no shortage: the howling wind bashing against the tent was probably the loudest, followed closely by the rain beating tom-tom like on the nylon above, with the traffic from the nearby busy road in third. And when the next night the weather did improve there was the jolly revelry of my fellow campers, discussing beer and having a farting contest.
But back to the first night. I slept for about 8 minutes and then dawn arrived about 4.30 am. Birds tweeted and soon people got up and bashed metal things. They shouted to their mates. They moved around. I fell back into semi-consciousness but then emerged, crusty and blinded into the day. The zip stuck. My back ached. I tripped over the guy rope. Some of the tent pegs had come out so I put those back in and headed for the showers. There was a queue. I found an empty toilet but there was no loo paper.
Breakfast was a banana (brown, having been trodden on frequently) but lunch demanded that the stove be lit. It was raining again so it had to be inside the teeny awning. I found some pasta. Now where was the water? Where was the pan? A spoon? A bowl? I looked across at a burger van and was tempted but no, I had to do this properly.
The pasta was actually very good and I recalled that food always tastes better at camp. And then the rain stopped. We had a day of wind and cloud before the predicted sun arrived. The temperature inside the tent went from 9 degrees to about 40 in a few minutes. The margarine and cheese didn’t like it. Nor did I – it was too hot. Ah, camping… (and no, I wasn’t at Glastonbury!).