Camping rant #1 (Yes there’s more to come).
I suffer from an idealistic notion of camping which stems from many a happy childhood holiday under canvas. In those heady days of the seventies I would inevitably share a tent with my brother while my parents and little sister would sleep in the caravan. This offered us a sense of freedom and responsibility; we had our own space equipped with such boyish items as pen knives, torches, air pistols and snacks aplenty. Comfort or the lack of it was of no concern to us then, getting up during the night for a pee in the pitch black was one of the many joys camping offered. As we got older and the eighties rolled in we were allowed to camp alone, my parents would drop us off with supplies and leave us there for a week! What fun, we had our own camping stove, pots, pans and tins of ravioli. We met other kids our own age and stayed up late drinking cider and smoking wafer thin cigarettes under a canopy of stars. Happy days indeed, we made friends, fell in love, shared teenage anxieties, swapped jokes and adolescent philosophies.
But alas this teenage romanticism remains firmly in the past along with the A team, Knight Rider, Chariots of Fire and Margareth Thatcher! The reality is something completely different as I will now attempt to demonstrate for you.
Several summers ago when my son was but a toddler and taking full advantage of the terrible twos, we foolishly decided that it would be nice to spend a week down on the Mediterranean. We booked a mobile home in what appeared to be a lovely, family friendly campsite; which it was. I wrote the following rant soon after my glorious return.
Camping it up
We decided to get away from the stresses and strains of everyday life, threw caution to the wind and took Leon on his first camping holiday. We plumbed for a week in Argeles, beach capital of the Mediterranean, for sun, sea and ice cream, if you hope for any more than that with a two year old in tow you’re heading for a fall!!
The French are keen campers, seasoned vets one and all, brought up on tent pegs and guide ropes, they know the intricate workings of a Swiss army-knife by the time they are four and can whittle an entire set of cutlery from a single twig.
They wouldn’t consider for a moment of depriving themselves of culinary norms, no tinned vegetables or cremated sausages, not even instant coffee, our mobile home was equipped with a coffee maker and a lettuce spinner, unheard of in the UK. No they bring ‘foie gras’, cook on electric BBQs, keep a well stocked cellar, ‘Pastis’ flows from a tap in the kitchen and they are up to their knees in oysters; pure Heaven. Or is it?
Food to one side for the moment, I ate well on holiday, but then I always do, and even though our mobile home seemed a little poky I have no gripe with the accommodation as such. Things started to bother me on the first morning; I got up with a dislocated spine after spending the night on a mattress obviously stuffed with bricks, I struggled into some clothes, a feat akin to dressing in a biscuit tin and dragged my weary body to the table for breakfast. Sylvie then placed a bowl of tea under my nose; I say a bowl because that’s what it is, a big china receptacle with a distinct lack of handles. ‘What am I supposed to do with that?’
Mental note # 1 bring mugs with handles for tea.
After breakfast on the first day, although the mobile home was equipped with toilet, shower and sink I opted to use the shower/toilet block on the campsite to execute my ablutions. Although on arriving I found to my horror that not one of the dozen or so toilets were adorned with a toilet seat! Nature demanded immediate action and so I had no choice but to hover and allow gravity to do its thing. Why no seats? Do they think someone will steal them, some mad toilet seat kleptomaniac; someone sometime must have I suppose.
Mental note # 2 (appropriately) bring my own toilet seat
I then very much needed a shower, oh the shower, very simple to operate, I’ll give it that, you press a button and the water comes out but only for half a minute or so. Cold at first then after a couple of presses scalding hot, there’s no way of directing the flow of water, it just kind of falls at a 45 degree angle. Once washed you reach for your towel to find it’s soaking wet, you then grab your clean clothes for the day to find them, yep soaking wet.
Mental note # 3 bring own shower
On the second day I woke with no back to speak of, crawled to the table, and drank tea though a straw, perfected the art of crapping in mid air, showered warily, draped myself in wet clothes and made my way back to the mobile home. I sat on the veranda (yes we had one of those) drank coffee from a glass and contemplated the finer points of family life. My son Leon then closed the glass partition doors, which separated the mobile home from the afore mentioned veranda, Sylvie then collided with the closed door, hot bowl of tea in hand, followed by third degree burns to her leg. I heroically rushed over to our elderly French neighbours and explained in my poor French that my wife had burnt her ham! This understandably caused a great deal of concern and excitement with gesticulating arms aplenty. They abandoned their snail porridge immediately and sauntered at high speed – if that’s at all possible – to our mobile home. But alas instead of being greeted with a charred ham they found to their dismay Sylvie with her trousers around her ankles! He didn’t seem to mind this development, and had Sylvie not been in so much pain we would have all laughed heartily at my linguistic mistake.
We spent the rest of the morning at the doctor’s surgery; fortunately Sylvie, among other things is a witch and has been blessed with the gift of healing burns – that’s another story for another time – she applied her magic and a block of ice to the wound.
Mental note No 4 sell son on EBay to highest bidder
Trickled out of bed like a jellyfish, slithered across the floor, looked accusingly at bowl of tea, dug a hole behind the mobile home to crap in, didn’t bother to wash, and smoked a lot.
Smoked a lot….
Delirious now and spend the whole day polishing spoons
The last day
Just to add a little extra excitement to our ‘holiday’ Leon decided to wake earlier and earlier, each day, this day being the last he got up at 5am. We had to fill his day somehow until check out at 130pm, we went for walks, played ball, bought pain au chocolat but eventually allowed him to sit in the driving seat of the car and play. So when it was finally time to leave and I eagerly turned the key in the ignition, guess what? Flat battery, Leon had drained it turning on the lights, playing music and so on.
Mental note # 5 buy some jump leads
Mental note No 6 Sell son on EBay again!
Meanwhile the French are happily playing ‘boules’ drinking aperitifs, swimming in Speedos (I haven’t even mentioned the Speedo rule) and generally carrying on as if they actually enjoy this camping game.
Glad to be home, back to whatever passes as normality and a comfortable bed.