Monday, 4 June 2007

Going Wild In the Country

We are back from camping in the rugged terrain of the Lake District, and I have finally released my matted hair from the Croydon facelift I have been sporting all week. Oh, the joy of soaking in a fragrant, hot bath! The delight of sleeping in a comfortable insect-free bed! The relief at the absence of ripe Camembert smell when I wave to someone!

I suppose the trip was a big success in that the children avoided contracting e coli, and I have only a mild case of trench foot. In fact, the weather wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be, but that could just have been the combined effects of copious wine consumption and lack of sleep. I also know that if you go on holiday in this country, then there is really no point in complaining about the weather. If the Home Office is short of questions for its ‘Britishness Test’ for citizenship, then they could do a lot worse than include the following:

Where is the best place for a picnic?

a) a shady and sheltered spot to avoid the harmful rays of the sun

b) an area where no wild animal habitats will be disturbed, or fragile eco-systems damaged

c) the car

If you answer c) then you will have captured the very essence of what it means to be British, and should instantly be issued with a passport (which means you can also go on holiday to a country with better weather).

The old-fashioned trailer tent proved to be excellent, and cut our usual tent-pitching time from over two hours to less than one, which matters a lot in the UK monsoon season. It did attract lots of interest from fellow campers, several of whom wandered over to tell H that they had ‘never seen one like that before.’ It’s a long time since anyone said that to him, and being a very friendly sort of chap, he was happy to discuss its various merits. Meanwhile I skulked around in the background, wondering when the other campers were likely to start throwing buns at us.

I had forgotten what sheer hard work camping is. People talk about the ‘slower pace of life’ that camping encourages, but I’m convinced that this is a rather skewed perception. It takes longer to do everything, so you are actually much busier. When we first took the kids camping a couple of years ago, I was surprised to see so many people on camp sites just sitting in foldaway chairs outside their tents, doing nothing. It wasn’t long before I realised that they were relishing a few precious moments of inactivity before yet another round of meal preparation or tidying up the limited floor space.

Of course, the kids loved every minute, because for them it was one long session of playing with mud and sticks, frightening the wildlife, or damaging their retinas by shining a torch directly at each other’s eyeballs.

We did do a lot of cycling, which was great fun, apart from the discovery that my waterproofs aren’t as waterproof as I thought. As with all this outdoor kit, we seem to have spent a fortune on good quality items for the kids, while H and I make do with ancient gear from the days when nylon was considered a high performance material. Being a bit of a softie, the one thing I have invested in is a gel-filled saddle cover for my bike, despite the obvious invitation for ribald commentary that my seat is already more than adequately upholstered. Frankly, neither my under-carriage nor the saddle cover proved to be well-cushioned enough, and I am still walking like a cowboy. I’m not sure how you are supposed to prevent this – it’s not as if you can apply surgical spirit to the area to toughen it up in advance.

Despite the Spartan conditions, H and I did have some quiet, relaxing evenings huddled under the awning, in the romantic glow of the citronella insect-repellant candle. As five sets of waterproofs dripped onto our heads, he would sit cradling his warming glass of Irish whisky, while I would sit cradling my warming 3 litre box of Hardy’s Stamp Shiraz-Cabernet (Sainsbury’s £14.99 down from £19.99, and definitely one of the better wine box reds).

Preparations for bed would start with me slipping (rather hurriedly) into my thermal underwear, laughably called a Superwoman set (I don’t recall Lynda Carter ever looking like this, unless she moonlighted as a mime artist on her days off from saving the world). With just the three additional layers of socks, track suit and fleece, I would be all ready for a snuggle in the double sleeping bag. However, since H was similarly dressed, the only crackle of passion we managed was the static from the bobbly brushed nylon sleeping bag. Any romantic inclinations had to be weighed up against the combustion hazard of electricity and the large quantities of methane gas issuing from the boys.

Back in the cosy confines of the kitchen, I am knocking back a couple of glasses of spicy Lindeman’s Cawarra Shiraz Cabernet (Sainsburys £4.99) in memory of our camping trip. The only problem is that a mere 750 ml wine bottle looks rather tame in comparison with a mighty 3 litre wine box. Maybe there are some benefits to camping after all.


mutterings and meanderings said...

Glad to have you back.

I think that, secretly, you did enjoy it ...

dulwichmum said...

Darling friend,

thank God you have returned... It is a jungle out there. We are already onto our second bottle of Saint Veran, 2005, white Burgundy from Threshers. Fabulouse or what?I think it was about £9.


jenny said...

About time!! I was starting to despair that you had run off to live in the mountains after finding out you adapted rather well to camping, too well!

It sounds like the trip was prety good, after all, and am glad you are back in one piece! Welcome back to Blogworld!

Cybil Libyc said...

Despite laughing my but off at the sounds of things, I can imagine moments of good pure old fasion fun. Glad you survived it . . . you deserve a little get away to the Ritz now.

rilly super said...

drunkmummy, I fear that if the cumbrian tourist board sponsored this article they may soon be asking for a refund. I think however a book deal for 'Cumbria: what wainwright didn't tell you' is in the post. Next holidays you really must visit our side of the pennines though dear, not only do we get 50% of the rainfall that Cumbria gets but the all over thermal underwear suit is considered the height of 'come hither' nightwear, this being the reason why agent provocateur have never opened a franchise in the dales

Rob said...

Glad to hear you made it back safe and sound, DM. Re your messagfe earlier about church signs (oh the fun we have!) - saw this on Slate this morning...

Akelamalu said...

That all sounds like 'fun?'. I chose answer (c) by the way! At least the kids enjoyed it. :)
PS Give me a box over a bottle every time, too much hassle keep opening bottles. ((wink))

Natural Blonde said...

You’re sounding pretty sanguine about it Drunk Mummy; it does in fact sound like you enjoyed just a bit! Take care, Drunk Mummy, it’s a false consciousness!

I have in my past voluntarily put myself through SAS survival course and even sailed across an ocean in boat where 13 crew members slept in effectively a sail locker so I know what I’m talking about. In order to make sure I never put myself through such utter hell again, I made a rule never to get myself into a situation where I am required to sleep in a sleeping bag. I reckon that’s a good as civilisation test as any!! I’ve so far managed to keep it for 4 years.

I did sleep out in the desert last summer (by the sea, so still very hot at night) on a rug thingy, but there were extenuating circumstances…and no sleeping bag!!!

Elsie Button said...

this made me laugh so much, and also desperate to go camping again! could relate to all of it - the box of wine, the camembert armpits, cosying up in a sleeping bag (not)... the great outdoors. i love it!

debio said...

Oh thank goodness you're back in one piece, drunk mummy. Thought you might have been captured by the tree huggers; should have known better really...

Omega Mum said...

Surely the answers to your survey are all c) since by being inside the car you are saving yourself from the harmful rays of the sun and not actively damaging any fragile part of nature (unless you managed to park on a dormouse nest, that is).

Drunk Mummy said...

M&M - aargh, you've rumbled me! Yes, it was a good laugh really.

Dulwich Mum - Thanks for the recommendation - I love Saint Veran. It's on my shopping list!

Jenny - no danger of that, I like my creature comforts too much. Thanks for the welcome back.

Cybil - you are so right - I think I need to be a bit higher-maintenance.

Rilly - great idea - 'Wainwright - the Dark Side' or 'When Campers Go Bad.'
Would you like me to post you my Superwoman thermals? They are so whiffy, they could probably walk up to you on their own.

Rob - that is fantastic! How did you find it? And you answered my question about 'Who writes this stuff?' There is even a handbook - priceless!

akelamalu - you are truly British. I am in total agreement about the 'user-friendly' nature of the wine box.

Hello natural blonde!
Wow - your life sounds pretty exciting. I thought I was 'living life on the edge' by having a double sleeping bag!

elsie - go for it - Betty will love it too!

debio - as if? I couldn't be doing with all that strange tea drinking they do. Mind you, a little home brewed wine might be worth a try.

omega mum - bonus points and an eco-friendly passport for you!

Motheratlarge said...

Yes, answer c), definitely. Hankies on head, tea in thermos and a windbreak for our beaches can also come in handy, even in this day and age. I'll remember this when planning our camping foray into the wilds of the Scottish Highlands.