Article: Very InTent

Camping with the family

by Roger Green

What outside? My wife has finally agreed to spend a night under canvas. In fact she might even spend two nights if it doesn’t rain, get too cold or we all die of food poisoning.

My camping experiences started when I was very young. One Christmas Santa brought me a tent and being too cold outside we pushed all the furniture in the dining room to one side and the tent was erected by tying the guide ropes to various chairs and tables and it was here that I spent my first night under canvas. Not exactly out in the wilds but never the less I was hooked. As winter turned into spring and the days got warmer I moved out into the back garden where it was necessary to rotate the tent regularly to give the grass beneath a chance. On rare occasions my brother would join me but he invariably went back to his own bed after finishing off the biscuits and crisps that are a required part of the camping experience.

Moving slightly further afield my father found a boys brigade site with an on-site ranger near Earlswood lakes and one summer’s day he deposited me together with three classmates, John McElligott, Simon Harris and Rob Perry. We spent several happy days turning a corner of this field into a slum. We chopped up pallets to make fires, explored the woods, climbed the trees and got into scraps with the other boys on the site.

In 1975 I visited Israel and camped with my uncle at the edge of Galilee. My uncle, being a Physics professor, is not one of life’s practical men and his idea of a carefully selected site was a rocky slope leading down to the waters edge. After a lumpy night with my brother rolling on top of me, we breakfasted on hard-boiled eggs and watermelon before spending the day swimming in the lake.

In 1979 I hitchhiked around France with Andrew Reeve. Two lads, one tent and a pocket full of Francs. We tried to get to Saint Tropez because we had heard the girls bathed topless there, but we never got further than Marseilles. By now well skilled in the art of tent pitching we spend a peaceful night and waking in the morning looked out onto a sight of utter devastation. A storm has apparently blown up in the night and destroyed everything in its wake. Tents and caravans were strewn across the site and boats had been wrecked in the harbour, regrettably with the loss of life. We headed inland and spent the next few weeks in a campsite on the outskirts of Paris. This was where my education really started!

In the early 80’s I dragged my old school friends, Steve Tedstone, Chris Fallon and Alan Parkes on a ‘Banks’ pub-crawl through Shropshire and into Wales. We couldn’t find a site so we set up in a suitable field. Having erected the first tent realisation dawned that I had left the poles to the second at home. It was thus that I slept under the stars wrapped only in a ground sheet. You would think they would learn, but the following Easter I dragged them off to the Lake District and after a bitterly cold night we arose to find a bright layer of snow covering us and the car stuck in a snow drift. Steve Tedstone and I spent two weeks the following year touring Scotland. It rained nearly every day and our tent got so wet we eventually abandoned it on a site at the foot of Ben Nevis and went to the nearest camping shop to purchase a new, and more importantly, a dry one. Perhaps the old one is still standing today.

My camping days came to an abrupt end when I met the future Mrs Green. Tents have no place in her life because they don’t have electricity and so you can’t plug in your hair drier. Our friends go camping and I have been known to sleep out in the garden with the kids but my wife is adamant. We have a house, a very nice house. It has electricity, running water, a warm bath, soft beds and carpet. Tents… my arse!

A group of our friends go camping fairly regularly and always invite us. We always say no. Last year they got us to a youth hostel and now my wife has agreed to join them on a camping expedition to Evesham. Why that’s nearly 20 miles away! I wonder if dragons live there? How ever did they manage to persuade her? Apparently they have told her that all the pitches now have Mr Edison elec-trickery. I’ll believe that one when I see it. Anyone know of a good B&B near Evesham?