The Great Outdoors

My husband and I used to camp a lot when we were first an item – indeed the first time I met a large group of his friends was in a field full of tents, and they had thoughtfully strewn soft porn inside his tent for me to find.

In those days camping was a cheap (often free) source of accommodation when we wanted to go gadding about round the country, and our equipment was extremely basic. Nutrition was mainly found in pubs or in the off-licence, so the presence or absence of suitable sleeping bags was largely unnoticed.

Fast-forward a decade. I am writing this on my smartphone in the dark in a tent with two children snoring and one, well, not quite asleep yet. It is three-quarters dark and we had fish & chips for tea. We are also less than five miles from home.

This is a trial run before our Great Adventure in the summer holidays. We have forgotten (at least) bin bags and ketchup. We had practised putting the tent up before we came – and it only nearly ended in divorce – so today it was a smooth operation. All the anchors and guys are pegged and I have even hung up the fairy lights.

Oh, the fairy lights. These were recommended to me by the seasoned campers of Mumsnet. Camp it up, they said. Nothing could possibly be too naff, they said.

Incredibly, they were right. Admittedly the man of the house (man of the tent?) vetoed the gnomes I wanted, and left behind the mini Victoriana lanterns. But oh, the fairy lights. The tiny green LEDs, like Christmas tree lights, turn out in context to be very subtle and understated even though they are strung on the outside of the tent. The little red ladybirds on the other hand are just right, and I love them. They go with the flickering of candlelight and the funny little metal mug and the VERY NOISY GEESE and the way the flysheet shivers in the breeze.

It’s ten past nine, and feels like midnight. Google told me you can’t take too many fleece blankets, and oh yes that’s true too. I’m cosy and content.

I’m too old to rough it, especially now that I can’t mitigate the cold, hard ground with six rum and Cokes and a cheeseburger. My chair supports my back, I can stand up straight in the tent, and I’ve brought the teabags I like best.

Hints and hacks? Well, solar-powered fairy lights FTW, obviously. But what’s really amazing is how long we have been here with not much to do (and no telly) and how utterly engrossed the children have been. They are CAMPING and there are tents and caravans and other children. There are trees and even a railway line within sight. We planned to bring lots of stuff for them to do but ran out of car space. And it hasn’t mattered (yet) because CAMPING.

Ask me again in the morning, obviously, when the airbed’s gone down and the children wake with the morning chorus… but this is lovely. Just lovely.

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