We are on a family holiday only we are not all together.
Families are made up of individuals and as such, each has their own idea what a holiday should consist of. Harmony cannot possibly be achieved if any one personality is not catered for. So where as a family do we choose to go for a holiday; Roadford Lake! We brought so much equipment that it required two cars. Towing the mirror dinghy full of sailing gear, the smaller topper upside down on roof bars, inside crammed full with camping equipment and kids the car meanders through the lanes to the main road. A second car follows behind; stuffed with clothes and overnight basics or food and drink, we travel down through the West Country to the border between Devon and Cornwall.
It takes so long to put up a tent, particularly a frame tent; with its three bedrooms and kitchen area; room to house the portaloo (Sexy Sporty Dad was adamant he was not bringing that as well) another separate room for the wardrobe, which again was left at home. The windows have twee little curtains to close at night, which all have to be threaded correctly and laboriously. Extra bits mean extra effort. Trying to remember which poles go where and what bit of the canvas tightens at which corner. Where are the tent pegs?
The whole process is a recipe for an argument and I don’t remember a time when it has been done without cross words. Teenage boys having grown up helping, now; either sure they know best or otherwise can’t be bovered to help. There is something to be said for these throw up tents although they are not that practical for a rainy week anywhere in England during the summer. At least once the frame tent is up it provides some protection if not comfort from the rain.
Overnight even without rain everything becomes cold or damp and having nowhere to put anything means dirty clothes and clean get blended in a heap of grass flecked damp pungent material. The towels hang anywhere they can, outside for a shadow of sun or whisper of wind, inside dangling from door frames or roof poles. It is not often I have to queue to use the shower at home but at the campsite it is a common complaint, having traipsed all the way over to the shower block clutching my damp clothes and wash bag, I stand in a queue while everyone else who got there before me, takes their time. The lukewarm piddle of water trickling slowly down the body in an effort to clean the night-time grime away.
There is sociability about camping which I intuitively flourish at; chatting aimlessly to the neighbour, discussing deepest secrets as you wash pots together. Apologising for strained words or fighting, they hardly seem to have noticed although you hear everything going on in their tent. Lending tent pegs, mallets, husbands to help, borrowing a can opener and bottle opener or sharing a long awaited glass of wine; all come in the unspoken rules of camping. Children all play and muck in with other children finding any area to kick a football wrestle a rugby tackle or bowl a maiden over at cricket.
I have done my fair share of camping over the years; reaching a stage where it really is no longer pleasurable. The children enjoy the experience; not fussed by damp clothes, mud, grass or any other inconvenience, happy to forgo the shower altogether. Middle Son, getting in the spirit of things, took me shopping for breakfast; ginger cake, biscuits, mini croissants, multipack cereals, chocolate milk, Jaffa cakes and a whole hoard of things I didn’t know existed and certainly do not come under “5 a day”; crates of coke (thankfully; another year or two and it will be beer) to keep the thirst quenched.
The venue for this holiday was to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the lake and the sailing; Sexy Sporty Dad needed a break from his female orientated office and to get back to the basics. No 1 Son and Middle Son needed some physical He-Man sailing, with many opportunities for capsizing or racing across the windswept open lake to impress some of the girls who are on sailing courses at the centre, thrown in for good measure. Mini Son just wants to kayak for hours or days; appearing for food and drink when the need takes him, then to join in playing with any shaped ball with anybody willing to let him.
I; on the other hand, need warmth, dry, comfy bed, electrical sockets and a touch of pampering. None of which is available even at the top or the range, fully equipped pre-erected Eurocamp tent. I chose once again not to be part of this camping experience, instead booking myself into a bed and breakfast just 4 miles down the road from the campsite. Cathy and Paul from The Old Cottage have only one aim in their lives this week, and it all centres around me! Definitely not a feeling I have very often!
Dream about a light pink and lilac room larger than the whole tent, a super king bed with net curtains draped round the head, bigger than Middle Son’s two man tent. This is my reality and my room; all the extras you would expect, tea and coffee. I can take the weight off my feet and luxuriate, lay even sit on the deep cosy sofa or snug relaxing arm-chair as I watch TV on the freeview set. When I feel it is all too much the bathroom is as big as most tents, with a bath to rest my weary limbs or a power shower to massage them awake after a long nights sleep. It is warm, it is dry and I am reassuringly comfortable.
And then there is breakfast. Breakfast is; I am ashamed to say, a ritualistic and leisurely feast of historical proportions. I mistakenly assumed when reading the menu there was a choice, but early on have come to realise the menu is an explanation of what you will be eating.
I sit quietly watching over the other dinners, “Jenny-No-Mates”; not a bit of it. I chat to others at their tables, in the small beamed breakfast room. Cathy and Paul both come in asking of my day yesterday, what are my plans for today, am I alright? Do I need more toast, coffee or anything else? Is there anything I need for my room? I am called “sweetheart” and “darling”; I feel like the most important person in the world.
Afterwards, I wander reluctantly little by little back to my room and then to the campsite where, with the sudden abruptness of a bomb, normality breaks through my haze of magic.
“Hold this!” as I am given a rope with a sail attached.
“Launch me” as I balance precariously one footed, on the jetty pushing a vessel into the water with the other.
“What’s for lunch, I’m hungry” as I rummage through the remaining food stores, now housed all over the tent.
Can I go on the wow balls? Can I have a burger? Where are my clean boxers?”