But my kids want to go camping! So I turned for advice to my friend and fellow Spiker Cindy V – who is verily the soi distant deputy editor, spirit, raison d’être and pain au chocolat of what I’m trying to do here.
Because Cindy goes camping. WITH HER CHILDREN! FOR FUN! Jesus.
I asked her to explain herself.
I was at a wedding recently with a group of friends and we were arranging the next get together, when someone mentioned the c-word.
“Camping?! But how do you bath the children? No. No. NO.”
We all stood there in our nice new dresses, talking about how camping requires you to tip everything that makes life smooth, and clean, and bearable, out of the (plastic zippy) window, and I could see her calculating the ratio of fun to hard work involved and deciding to cut her losses and make some new friends instead.
I don’t blame her. I hate the whole idea of camping too. I hate the cramped quarters, the shared facilities, the constant fight against the cold, the creeping dirt and discomfort, the way my hair looks like it’s been blow-dried in an oven by the end – not to mention the spiders so wicked looking you should probably drop a house on them before they send their flying monkeys after you.
Then the packing, oh god, the PACKING, of absolutely everything and yet, nothing really, when you actually get there and look at it all.
And then when you get there, is it all worthwhile? Well no, because you’ve got nowhere to sleep until you’ve built it, have you?
Your kids cry with hunger while your husband drives circuit after circuit of the field in search of the perfect pitch, finally depositing you next to Bongs, Bongos, and Bunting, with their suspicious-smelling campfire, and you want to cry as well. And sometimes do.
Anyway, I’m going again next week, for half term, like I do every year.
In fact I am the one who insists on it. Yes, even after that time a deflated airbed triggered a migraine SO hellish that my husband had to drive me around Lyme Regis like a newborn baby in order to get me to sleep. It’s hard to explain why I go.
All I can say is it makes me think of this homework my son had once, that asked him to make a list of good and bad reasons for having a cup made out of chocolate. He came up with a ton of reasons for it being a grand idea, and only one against.
When he finished it he said he thought it didn’t really matter how many reasons you could think of, because one reason might just be more important than the rest.
That’s how it is for me with camping. I can come up with a list as long as my arm, and yours too, as to why it’s a terrible idea, but in the end, there is one compelling reason for going and it’s this: time spent with your children on a campsite is the slowest moving time there is, in the best way.
There’s time for long walks milking the hedgerows for berries, for conversations about butterflies, and The Beano, and all the things you can’t fit in on the school run, when time shrinks and pinches and you have to say to them “later, later, later”.
There’s time for barbecues and marshmallows and silliness, and still time, after all that, for you to sit and look at the stars, and think you realise why Van Gogh painted them the way he did, all big and swirly – when you go camping you can really see them.
CINDY’S LISTS FOR CAMPING “SUCCESS”:
1. Torches and led lanterns – head-torches are fun and useful for kids
3. Something to put shoes in so they don’t take over your life
4. First Aid kit – take Piriton! There will be stings and unexplained rashes.
5. Tin foil and bin bags. Don’t cook your jacket potato in the wrong one.
1. Self-inflating mats are better than airbeds. They take less space in the car, and less time to put up. Better still is booking a hotel.
2. Take more warm clothes than you think you might need. It’s hard to get warm again once you’ve got cold, even using a small child as a hot water bottle.
3. Remember to take proper pillows
4. Some sort of mat at the door to stop the outside coming too far in.
5. Box of Lego and colouring books for children. It will rain.
I have heard people suggest cat litter and a bucket is useful at night if you’re a long way from the toilet block and have young children. I’ll leave that up to your discretion. Camping is awful isn’t it?
I am hugely grateful to Cindy for sharing this with us.