Thursday, 19 August 2010

Camping it Up.

First week of summer leave and it’s good to know that some things never change. There arepeople in this world who are so reliable that one can almost second guess what they are going to say next. It was no surprise therefore when Hubby walked through the door fairly early last Friday afternoon. If I’d expected him to be beaming, with a little jaunty step in his walk, I’d have been most disconcerted but year in, year out, it is exactly the same scenario. He walks through the door, flings himself onto the nearest sofa and sleeps for a couple of hours, before waking and informing me that “We need to talk”.
My heart sank this year as it does every year, not because the phrase, “We need to talk” was, as is often the case in melodramas, a pre-cursor for disclosing an affair, but because I know the discussion we are about to have will not be about his mistress but about his money.
“So, Alice”, he said, delving into his briefcase, “I’ve looked at our bank account. It’s far from healthy which, it being leave and all that, is a bit of a bummer but, there it is” and he handed me a printout from the computer which did indeed indicate a certain brutal deficit.
“But we’re going camping tomorrow for a few days”, I protested.
“Only to Whitsand Bay. I took the liberty of buying a couple of disposable barbeques on the way home; we’ll chuck a few snorkers on the fire and we’re good to go”. Are we indeed? I couldn’t wait.
The next day in relative sunshine, I remembered why it had been, from the gold, felt-tipped pen graffiti in one of the tents, precisely three years since we’d last been camping. It took a list as long as my arm to remind myself of all the necessary equipment required for a couple of days under canvas. Basically, as much as one needs for a fortnight. So a few hours later we arrived at our destination about 15 minutes from our own front door. By the time we had unpacked, pitched the tent, laid it out, and put things “where they should be Alice, let’s start as we mean to go on, i.e ship-shape” and inflated beds, I was all ready for lying down on one. But there was little time for relaxation. The dog, delighted to be in an open, unexplored field with his glorious family, was wildly excited and it took all of our tenacity to retrieve him from our neighbour’s caravan and tether him to a special spike I’d bought, when I thought, oh so foolishly, I would take him with me to my ignominious days as allotment owner. The youngest girls too were irrepressibly thrilled being of an age to relish the adventure of sleeping on a blow-up bed, inside a sleeping bag, under canvas and have no qualms whatsoever regarding the sanitary conditions. Even our 14 year old joined us.
“It makes me nostalgic”. I’m eternally grateful that she didn’t follow that up with, “For better times”.
Finally, as the evening sun began to fade, the familiar tones of “Co-ee”, were heard and Mags and Sue appeared, gesticulating madly. Mags it must be said looked a dead ringer, apart from the beard and ruddy complexion, for Sherpa Tensing what with her Uggs and enormous haversack on her back.
“I knew it would be terribly basic”, she said, before adding, “Step aside Commander Band.” Hubby looked aghast as with one flick of her arm, which would have intimidated any Moroccan salesman, she unfurled a Kelim rug.
“There”, she said, “Take that look off your face”, she directed at Hubby, “There is no need for my friend and God-children to camp as though they are naval trainees” and she continued to decorate our humble pitch. A table cloth was flung with the same aplomb as the rug, bunting was draped and tea-lights and fairy-lights were lit.” From her bag she also removed an I-pod and speakers, a jug and some wild-meadow flowers. Plaid cushion pads were applied to nasty plastic seats. Whilst Mags styled us fit for a ‘Cool Camping’ editorial in Country Living, Sue emptied her bag. Out of it she withdrew, olives with feta, a live basil plant, rustique bread, runny Camembert and several bottles of red wine. Whilst the 14 year old was beside herself to be in the company of the Trinny and Susanna of the great outdoors, Hubby looked genuinely crest-fallen.
“But what about my sausages? I bought beans and corned beef as a surprise. We could have had pot-mess”. His eyes suddenly glazed and I realised that it wasn’t just my daughter who was feeling nostalgic. An ex-ped on Dartmoor, bivouacs, a camp fire and the camaraderie of other sailors were all visible on Hubby’s expression. Camping a la Royal Navy had not only provided him with a pot-mess but his salad days too.

1 comment:

DL said...

I remember all too well Dartmoor/bivouacs/potmess. But not with nostalgia. Camping Mags-style seems a much better plan!