My camp-mates were my cousin Jane, and her baby Mitchell, and we had arranged to meet at a campsite in Northamptonshire. We figured that if we could cope on our own for a weekend, then we would be able to go camping more extensively throughout the summer months.
Once at the campsite, we checked in and were allocated a pitch. When I say pitch, I mean a square piece of grass.
I looked at it in dismay; "we are spending the weekend on that grass, like rabbits?"
"Yep," replied Jane, before adding cheerfully, "let's put up the tent!"
"Have you put it up before?" I asked her suspiciously.
"No, not exactly, but I am sure we'll be fine," Jane assured me, "anyway you're an engineer, you are supposed to be good at these things."
I grimaced, "I might be an engineer but the closest I have come to erecting a tent is booking into a four star, instead of a five star hotel."
Jane ploughed on like a trooper, unfurling the tent and assembling a lot of stick-type things which I was told were poles to hold the tent up.
"What shape is the tent?" I said, looking at what appeared to be a deflated hot air balloon.
"I think it is shaped a bit like a hedgehog, big in the centre and smaller at the ends," Jane replied.
Pic.No.1 This is the tent once we had laid it out ready for assembly
"Ok, let's put it up," I grinned with a new sense of optimism.
Suffice to say that we wrestled with the bastard for over an hour, whilst the wind was blowing a gale. We managed to get the poles in, but every time we tried to erect it, we found sections of the tent snarled by a myriad of internal restraining straps. It wasn't helped by the fact that the tent was considerably larger than we first anticipated. A Rubiks cube seemed like a doddle in comparison ...... and I have never managed to complete a Rubiks cube. It wasn't looking good.
"Jane, maybe we should give up and go and stay in a hotel instead," I suggested, "we have been at it for over an hour and it still resembles a squashed spider with a thousand legs. Plus those people over there are laughing at us," I said gesturing at a group of chaps and chapesses playing softball.
"Laughing at us?" Jane queried, before adding, "right I am going to have a word," and she headed over to them.
I have no idea what she said, but within minutes we had five softball players erecting our tent. Jane is like that - she will chat to anybody, whereas I view all strangers as potential murderers.
Pic.No.2 A group of strangers erecting our tent. They really seemed like they knew what they were doing, but even then it took them an hour. Which made me feel a bit less of a joey
When they had finished, we tried giving them some money, but they wouldn't have any of it. So we offered to buy them a drink later that evening, but they told us that they were leaving that day, and made their excuses.
Once they had left, I stood back and regarded our new residence. It was in three sections; one large pod with two smaller sleeping pods branching off it.
"It doesn't look anything like a hedgehog," I pointed out, "more like a bit of DNA strand."
Pic.No.3 This was the inside of the tent. Jane's bedroom was on the left and mine was on the right. I was immediately struck by the fact that there was no en-suite bathroom or heating system
Pic.No.4 Naughty George viewed the baby hungrily
Pic.No.5 This is me doing camping. As you can see, I have blended into my environment like a chameleon
Pic.No.6 This was Mitchell's face after I told him that we were going to be living under a weird blue sheet. That's my nephew - he obviously already appreciates the finer things in life
Jane and I sat in the tent for a while and looked around.
"What are we supposed to do now?" I asked her. "Do we have to make like Steve Irwin, capturing and killing our dinner?"
"No, I think there is a restaurant on site," Jane mused, "how about we have a wonder around and explore?"
So that's exactly what we bally well did, and here is what we found ..........
Pic.No.7 A lake. You can see how dull the English weather is, and Naughty George was sniffing at that tree with a view to pissing on it - that's my mutt
Pic.No.8 Another lake. In fact lakes and rivers abounded. But it was hardly what I would call the wilderness
Pic.No.9 A miniature steam train. I tried to book a ticket back to Oxford but the man said they only go round the lake. Shame really, I fancied arriving back home in comedy style
Pic.No.10 We had forgotten to bring any food with us, so we ended up buying a hot-dog from a catering van. This is a picture of the Jane after she had quaffed hers
After wondering around, we returned to the tent to get ready to go out for the evening. I wanted to perform various ablutions, so I asked where my bathroom was.
"Over there," Jane motioned, and it soon became abundantly clear that I didn't have my own bathroom at all. They were communal ones. For the sake of all things holy! How much can a girl endure? Why would one leave a perfectly serviceable home to scrub around on the land?
Pic.No.11 Gag. A communal toilet. Jane told me that it was a normal state of affairs on a campsite. Looking on the bright side - it was going to help my immune system
Eventually we were ready to head out for the evening ........................
Pic.No.12 We walked past one of the lakes which looked quite atmospheric in the darkening evening light. Even better, the darkness hid the horrors of camping
Pic.No.13 We spent the evening in a small local bar on the campsite. This is a picture of Jane with a tenner stuck to her forehead. It's her superhero skill, much to the perplexedness of the old boy in the background
Pic.No.14 Once the night was over, we headed back to the tent. It took us bloody ages because there were no lights on the campsite, meaning that we were wondering around in the pitch dark. After trying to accidentally enter the tents of various strangers, we finally located ours, and I noticed that Naughty George had gone missing
Yep, my mutt had found a small opening in the bedroom section of the tent, and had squeezed himself out. What a git.
I spent an hour walking around the campsite in the dark calling his name, but to no avail. Occasionally I would pass people who said they had seen a small black dog earlier in the evening, but each lead turned out to be fruitless. Eventually I decided to go to bed, but kept waking up every few hours to see if he had returned. Each time the answer was negative.
Finally morning dawned, and I was greeted by the following sight ...............................
Pic.No.15 The wonderer had returned and was fast asleep on Jane's bed. Bloody knob. He had obviously had a long night out because he slept solidly for almost two days afterwards
Pic.No.16 I made a cup of tea to celebrate, because I realised that it would look dodgy on my blog if Naughty George suddenly 'disappeared'. I had to make the tea using what's called a 'camping stove' and it had froth on it. That's not right
Pic.No.17 Whilst Jane and Mitchell were asleep, I took a picture of the inside of the tent. The reason being that Jane's second superhero skill (after sticking tenners to her forehead) is covering surfaces. Give her a surface, any surface, and she can fill it up within minutes ........... it's bloody amazing
As I was sipping my
The sound of the rain awoke Jane and she emerged from her bedroom, greeting me with, "shit it's raining."
"How about we go and get a full English breakfast?" I suggested, "we haven't got any food."
"PLAN," Jane shouted, and we jumped into the car and headed for a local restaurant.
Pic.No.18 This was our English breakfast. After sleeping under a sheet, sharing communal toilets and scrabbling around in the dark, it was just what the doctor ordered. But they served the tea in polystyrene cups - how weird is that?
Pic.No.19 Once breakfast was over, we commenced taking down the tent. I told my gorgeous nephew, Mitchell about it, and he seemed chuffed to be going home
Have you every tried taking a tent down in the rain? Well I can tell you now that it is totally manky. We were soaked through and covered in mud by the time we eventually shoe-horned the bloody thing into the back of Jane's car.
It was time for home.
I surveyed the scene, "I think that went rather well for a first attempt at camping," I said.
Jane nodded, "we are like Bear Grylls."
And so we said our goodbyes and jumped into our cars and headed home.
I reflected on the whole camping thing on the way home and concluded that it is weird. You give up all the comforts of home to forage off the land like a guinea pig. It's the reason that hotels were invented.
P.S. What do you think of camping dahlink?
Tell me what you think by leaving me a comment otherwise your house will turn into a tent