Simply Carry on Camping (and Screaming)

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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Nobody enjoys the first night of a camping holiday (assuming, of course, the reader does not abide year-round under canvas – and for all I know you’re Bedouin – in which case you’ll be kicking back soon as that last peg is pounded home); the culture shock is simply too vast.

Yes, trading secure brick or stone-built quarters for what is, at essence, a stiffened bag in a field, will always prove jarring. Happily, steps can be taken to minimise this jolt, starting at the end (of Day 1) with the sleeping arrangements.

Put simply, get off the ground. That sod is not your friend. Go aloft with a folding camp bed. Sleeping pads, blow-up mattresses, any more easily toted system which leaves you at the mercy of Terra Firma, is to be shunned (lest ye learn in short order just how firm that Firma is, and the Terror which then ensues).

Trust me, that springy pad upon which you retire will offer all the comfort of a fag paper when one surfaces around 2am with partially submerged boulders grinding your skeleton. Less so with an airbed, but other issues, not least their
tendency to squeak at every flicker of movement – imagine trying to drop off with a balloon-knotter in the tent – are inimical to zzzz.

Not that the wise camper – duly equipped with industrial earplugs – would be troubled by this. No, and nor by any of the downright cacophony which is the lot of the unwise, unplugged camper.

Campsites ring to all manner of human din during the hours of darkness, only a few – snoring, coughing – suitable for discussion in a family newspaper such as this purports to be. Soundproofed by fabric the depth of a cagoule you hear all, loud and clear.

And then there are the birds. So cute as they flit and cheep amid the branches of that nearby tree, less so at dawn, as the thousand or so who roosted there greet the Sun with unbridled shrieking hysteria.

Thus aurally kicked awake, the camper opens their flap upon Day 2, which will begin, at best, with a cup of warm tea and tepid beans. Towel and roll in hand they then set forth for communal ablutions and a world of grunting, pumping horror for which their spotless bathroom at home has left them ill-prepared.

But stick with it. Things get better. By Day 3, hope of restful sleep extinguished, tent a vortex of clothes, towels, socks and bits, crumpled, with dirty teeth and a haunted expression, one marvels that one ever lived otherwise.