Monday, 27 August 2012

Camping's not for me...

Andy's Blast and yours truly on Westerham Green.
First, don't say I haven't tried. In 2009 I spent over £200 on a tent. Alright, it was an eight-man tent and we didn't need it to be so big, but there you have it: a Eurohike Buckingham from Millets. It's so heavy when packed up that I can barely lift it to the car. But lifting it is nothing compared to putting it up. The first time was in the New Forest and I managed to get help from friends; the second time, the same (help from friends) but for me one of the big daunting things about going camping is erecting the tent. I should have bought something smaller. A four-man tent would have sufficed, but no, I had to go and buy a huge tent instead – and, of course, I'm paying for it. Big time!

The Eurohike Buckingham – it's going on Ebay.
But that's not all that's wrong with camping. My view is this: I'm happy to go camping if, say, I'm walking the Pennines with a tent on my back and some de-hydrated food in the rucksack. I'm happy to pitch a smallish, one- or two-man tent in a field, miles from civilization and camp under the stars en route to my end destination if there's no B&Bs or small hotels in the vicinity. That's fine, but why make camping a recreational activity beyond that? Where is the holiday in pitching a huge tent in a field alongside loads of other huge tents and then, when you need a leak in the middle of the night you have to unzip the tent door and stand around in misty, dewey, damp night air taking a wazz. Fortunately, I'm a bloke. A woman would have a little more aggravation. Perhaps that's why you rarely hear of women going outside the tent at night for a wee. I can't think of any occasions.

Equestrian sports at the Edenbridge & Oxted Show
Then, there's having a wash and a shower: you can't just stay put, you have to walk 100 yards or more to the washrooms, which, invariably, are full of unflushed toilets, used bandages and horrible smells. And now I've noticed a new thing: people emptying out what can only be described as 'toilet buckets' somewhere – presumably down the toilets in the washrooms. Yes, you can see people, in their dressing gowns, holding a plastic bucket full of shit, en route to the same washroom where you're planning to have a wash and shave. They look at you knowingly as they pass and might even say something like, 'I'm not relishing this job'. No, I bet you're not, so why make a holiday out of it?
Motorcycle stunt riders in action

I just don't get it, but I try until the other big stumbling block, that particularly affects me, hits hard: disorganisation. I wish I was like my pal. He's so organised it hurts! Always has been and it's a great quality. I envy him. Me? I'm just not like that.

When I realised that camping was game on I just got the tent out of the attic, shoved it and a few sleeping bags into the back of the car and drove to Corfe Castle. I only packed a double airbed - for my wife and daughter – I forgot that my daughter might have out-grown her child-size sleeping bag and I just hadn't counted on the fact that they both hate camping.

Classic cars – there were quite a few Triumphs
Night one: no way was I getting any sleep and neither was my daughter. She was cold and uncomfortable and decided it best just not to talk for the entire time we were away – which was not for long. A rain-drenched day walking around Swanage followed. My daughter wore a long face and didn't smile or talk. She didn't eat anything either. She wanted out and so did my wife. Admittedly I did too and had said as much the night before, but I figured that an airbed would solve my issues and that a full-sized bag for my daughter would solve her's. But no, they both wanted out and so we had to leave after just one night.

I drove home through driving rain, reached the house by around 10pm and then spent Saturday doing mundane things like shopping and drying out the tent on the back lawn (it's now in the garage awaiting another session of drying, hopefully today, although rain is promised). Generally, I feel bad about coming away when all I needed to do was buy a sleeping bag and an airbed, but my wife and daughter were not prepared to make that the solution and besides, I'm well in the red financially and couldn't cope with even a smallish purchase like a sleeping bag and air bed. Even if I had bought them, the pressure was on to just come home and I've spent the weekend occasionally wimpering about the whole thing. Still, you live and learn and we all made a decision: no more camping.

Birds of prey aplenty – I think it's an eagle, not sure
To add to our woes, while we were away, some nob cheese climbed over the side gate, broke into the garage and stole one of our mountain bikes. Unfortunately for whoever it was, the bike in question was not in good nick and was virtually useless (as I'm sure he or she discovered). The police were called and, of course, we can get money off the insurance for the stolen bike. Amazingly, my top-of-the-range Kona was still there – because it was padlocked (thank the Lord!). My daughter's bike, which was unpadlocked, was still there too. Perhaps they didn't want a girl's bike.
Alpacas too!

Being home, meant that I could re-instate my planned ride with Andy. We met early (at 7am on Warlingham Green) and headed for Westerham where we did what we always do: drink tea and munch on cereal bars before heading back home.

Cycling is good as it often gives you ideas for things to do over the weekend. In my case, the Edenbridge and Oxted Show, which was frequently advertised along the roadside, seemed like a good idea so I set off with the mother-in-law, wife and daughter to Lingfield for what proved to be an amazing day out. We got there around 3pm and entered the showground where there was a load of stuff to do: classic cars, motorcycle stunt teams, equestrian stuff involving stuffy-looking toffs riding around in seemingly period costume, hoping for a place in the Horse of the Year Show, which I'm assuming is later in the year. There was a flower show, prize vegetables, plenty of exhibition stands, a fairground, prize cows, rabbits and chickens, cake competitions, you name it, the Edenbridge & Oxted Show had it. We had a tremendous day and the whole thing was rounded off with a takeaway curry. In other words, all's well that ends well.

1 comment:

  1. try Aus tent..i takes 30seconds to put up for real, and ou can get a separate ablusions tent. it makes camping really easy mate