The Bare Truth About Camping

I haven’t been camping for a few years, so when the girl nagged and nagged I gave in. Yes, I thought – I can do this,Other people can do it, then so can I! Hubby decided that  we could use the Old Tents (Old Tents = tents the older boys took to festivals), but the girl and I had other ideas involving internets and Ebay. So, we duly waited for him to go abroad on business and started our internet shopping. The tents…ohhh the tents! We soon skipped over the small £50 jobs and went straight for the 10 man tents. Because the older kids were busy working and one was writing a thesis, there were only 4 of us going but I reckoned we’d get the big one and one day, when everyone came there’d be loads of room. We also bought a lovely aluminium table, a dustpan and broom, double airbed, portable gas stove, grill thing to toast bread and the most important thing in the world – a lovely, hunter green whistling kettle! Woo-hoo, West Wales, here we come!

So, when Stephen came back home from his business trip we had it all jam-packed and ready in the boot so he wouldn’t see what we’d bought until we arrived and hopefully by then he’d be so tired, and looking forward to his holiday that he’d forgive us all the things we bought – well, that was how it was supposed to go, anyway, until I caved in and blabbed about the tent. I couldn’t help it as he’d started asking what tents we were sleeping in etc, and I started smiling involuntarily, (imagining his face when we prodcued the circus tent and asked him to help us put it up), so he was becoming suspicious anyway. I’d been telling a friend about the tent and I said, oh well, what can he do about it? Seriously what can he do? Plus he’ll love it. Well, once he found out about it (after I blabbed, careful not to mention the cost), he said, ‘Oh well, it’ll be entertaining watching you put it up while I watch.’ Uh-oh…that didn’t go as planned. But once we arrived it was all too much for him watching – he just had to be a part of it as his boy scout days came to the fore and we eventually got the thing up and secure. The boy discovered delightedly that our car radio kept picking up RTE 2FM as the closest radio station and we spent several happy moments trying to say, RTE like the Irish do (or-tee-ee).

Our view from the campsite was breath-taking and very much like the cliffs of Cornwall, and there was a large island across from the headlands. There was a mixture of people – English, Welsh, Australians (us), Dutch, Germans and French. One morning the kids were bickering amicably about whose turn it was to wash the dishes and a man wandered past and nodded at us. ‘D’ya want one?’ I asked him earnestly. His eyes became huge and he stammered, ‘Err…I beck your p.pardon?’ Oh great, he was German and probably wouldn’t understand my humour, though I felt perversely inclined to explain myself, ignoring my daughter’s crimson flush and her hissing,

‘Mum stop it he doesn’t understand you!’

‘I said, do you want one,’ and smiled.

‘Oh…er no sank you. I am too young,’ he replied and scurried away to his tent.

‘Oh well,’ I said, lamely to my daughter to cover my embarrassment. ‘He was a bit old for you anyway.’ Her eyes narrowed in annoyance though she relished and embellished the story come nightfall over dinner with our friends  in the next door caravan. ‘She tried to give me away to some German bloke! Ho Hum it was just a joke. Nobody can take a joke anymore I tell you.

The toilet/shower block was about a hundred yards down the road and the logistics of this in the dead of night at 2.30am was alarming. I tried to convince the kids we could have a wee-bucket but they acted like I was suggesting we pass around a live grenade for fun.

‘We always had one in our caravan when we were kids!‘ said I, ignoring the horrified faces. ‘Everyone used it; Nanna, Pop, Uncles, Aunts and our parents, (though us older kids politely refrained, preferring to risk a solitary trek up to the toilet block during the dark hours. My sister’s boyfriend once got the lucky camp bed which was placed strategically behind where Nanna put the wee bucket and in the morning we relished his awful stories of the night voiders right behind his head. In the mornings some unlucky relative got to walk up to the toilet block in front of everyone else (who also had their family’s full wee buckets) to empty it. I remember making a 6am trip to the toilets one morning and seeing my beloved aunty chatting to several other mothers ALL with their full wee buckets present. Cack! ‘I know, Helen, they went up to the beach fishing last night and now we’ve got to clean the fish today. Yes, Mary, we saw the specials in at the butchers shop up town, yes, they’re lovely sausages, aren’t they? We’re having the fish with some boiled cabbage and potatoes for dinner…, yes, well, Sharon’s daughter married that English fellow after all and heven knows where they’ll live. Yes, okay, bye.

My kids listened to that story with a mixture of horror and delight but remained firm. No wee bucket, then so I was reduced to sneaking behind the tent. Men have it easy in this department, so they do; no squatting, no pyjamas getting in the way, no stretched knee ligaments and no worrying about what creatures are lurking in the grass beneath or behind, (trust me, having lived much of my life in Australia, this is difficult to shake). There was a howling gale and torrential rain one night and even though I tried not to drink much so I wouldn’t have to get up, I had to get up twice because you see, the more you concentrate on not doing something, you are actually talking yourself into it. I now regret wearing those long, flappy, fashionable PJ bottoms to bed on that windy night. On that first night, the entire camp site was lit up like a stage with a big, happy full moon and I was sure everyone would see my backside lit up like a big white beacon (I would not have been surprised to discover shipwrecks on the beach in the morning…), and so perhaps I went a little too close to the tent, but someone would have seen me otherwise. I will never again say aught against having to walk ten steps to our WC in the night time. Never ever, ever.

I’ll tell you what else was hard – the noise of the wind flapping and flailing the tent about during the nights. It sounded like the tent was going to just lift off and flap away into the night sky leaving us in our beds underneath the open sky.

‘Mum, how could the tent lift off with all of us and our stuff in it?’

‘Er, well it might rip off, or something. Maybe?’


‘Oh.’ But it still felt like it and sounded like it, and one night the wind and rain lashing down broke one of our poles. See? It could blow us away! I thought, careful not to voice my opinion out loud for fear of further scoffing. Have you ever seen one of those funny blow-up men (ha!) out the front of shops over the weekends when they’re having special, the Wacky Waving Arm Flailing Inflatable Tube Man. (Try saying that quickly, over and over and over) Well, anyway that’s what our tent felt like and looked like when the wind was blowing.

My loving daughter helped to pack a lot of our stuff for the trip and I was ever so grateful, but she packed a single duvet for her father and I and this became tricky during the night when he was turning over, taking the duvet with him. Oh well, you could say we became very, very close during that week.

How  wonderful thesedays that there’s AirBNB!


Tracey Hoy

Previously unpublished