Sunday, 17 August 2008
We've come on holiday by mistake
Oh I knew that wonderful line from Withnail & I would come in useful one day. I don't do camping, have reached this age without experiencing the joys of spending a night under canvas and until last week I would have happily bet against me doing it now. It's not that I don't love the great outdoors,
I am indeed perhaps at my happiest when I am out rambling around the countryside, it's just at night when all the wildlife comes out to play I prefer to be safe in the knowledge that bricks and mortar lie between me and them. Sharing a sleeping bag with the moon and stars is one thing, creepy crawlies and spiders another. So it was the utmost trepidation and sheer madness that led us to book our pitches last week in the middle of nowhere during severe weather warnings and gusts of winds blowing at 60mph!
We went with our best friends who actually live on the seafront and could see the storms coming in from the sea and battering against their windows. I think they thought it wasn't going to happen, that we would ring to cancel, but having spent three years discussing this trip and building up our children's hopes, gales force winds and rain were not, it seemed, going to stop us. Fortunately (or rather recklessly for us novice campers) we had booked a secluded spot in the woods for our adventure. Just us, the trees, the wind and the rain and a pile of damp firewood!
I wish I could say that I was of much help to Mr Ragged Roses as he struggled with the tent but I have to say that up until the moment the tent was erected I did very little, I had of course made some new cushions for the tent so that I would have something pretty to gaze upon whilst my children grew steadily more and more feral, the rain lashed down, our noses ran and I stood on constant lookout for uninvited insects.
Our friends arrived with a car as laden as ours with food, wine, disenfectant and wet wipes. A strange thing happened, dusk fell, the rain lightened and M and his friend were able to indulge in their latent pyromania. As the wood smoked in our campfire and the wine poured from the bottles, the laughter followed.
Marshmallows were toasted, songs were sung and chocolate was devoured. Our children were in their element, it was too dark to worry about the spiders and the moon, well the moon was just absolutely beautiful.
Within a space of a couple of hours I felt transformed. Relaxed, smiling and happy, I even volunteered to take the children with my friend on a moon walk to the loos (I'm afraid the lure of the compost loos was not that attractive, and so we braved the longer walk to the toilet facilities). Across a moonlit field with bats circling over our heads, children leading the way with their torches, our arms linked, it was fun, exciting and strangely liberating.
I could say that my first night under canvas was equally as beautiful but that would be a lie. What I can say that it was the longest, loudest night I think I have ever experienced. Having secured the tent against any unwelcome intrusion and sealed off any possible access we tumbled into our sleeping bags (I say tumbled, but really mean I threw myself onto the airbed, completely missed it - ending up wedged in the side of the tent completely trapped in a sleeping bag with my legs stuck up in the air). What followed was 8 hours of animal karaoke - owls hooting, pheasants shrieking, sheep bleating, interminable snuffling outside our tent and a noise that we couldn't identify that managed to wake both Little Sister and Big Sister and convinced me that a wild boar was outside the tent. Mr RR poked outside to take a peek and reassure me, he thought it was badgers, in the morning we realised it was the sound of friends snoring! Imagine our despair when we found out that it was only 2.30am and that another 5 or 6 hours would have to be spent like this. And so it was, 5 hours of near hysteria from me and the relief of hearing the dawn chorus and knowing that we could get up.
I could go on, there were tales of exploding gas cylinders, the joy of finding a bottle of perfume, our non stop intake of carbohydrates, me sticking my leg through my sleeping bag in a desperate attempt to get some fresh air amongst all that nylon, achling legs and dirty faces.
However what I really really want to do is tell you that it was pure magic. The rain stopped and the sun shone
We slept amongst a canopy of beautiful trees,
a babbling brook on one side, open fields on the other.
The children paddled in the stream,
played on the hanging ropes, ran off and made camps and we sat and talked secure in the knowledge that they were safe and having fun.
They discovered fairy houses and tree spirits. We awoke to shafts of sunlight greeting us through the trees and stood amongst them wondering at the beauty of it all.
We walked in the woods, amongst handsome, majestic trees,
strolled past corn fields and sat late in the night around fires talking and laughing.
And what's more we finally slept - slept safely, deeply and undisturbed as the moon shone over us. We returned more Rugged Roses than Ragged and I hate to admit it, but we will be returning ... and not just to return all the spiders that came home with us in the car.