So. I’ve had a few weeks off from the old blog, spending time with the family and enjoying a couple of weeks on holiday in France. We had our first experience of AirBnB (really good, some amazing properties in rural France) and a week at a refurbished gîte farm complex in Brittany. Lovely, but quite expensive by the time we’d got back home.
We had thought that perhaps hiring a motor home (aka camper van, Winnebago-style thing) would be nice economic way of exploring more of Europe next year, pootling around the lakes and mountains of Switzerland, for example. And then we realised that it would actually be cheaper to stay in a hotel and a LOT cheaper if you pick some delightful AirBnB properties. Why would you pay more to live in a cramped plastic box with dubious self-catering facilities?
Which is why we ended up looking at tents.
To be honest, this was quite a bit of surprise because the last time we went camping was in 1988 when, after a glorious day travelling down to Torquay in Devon and pitching our tent, we suffered four days of rain before deciding to give in and go home. My wife vowed that she’d never go camping again. And yet here she was, keen to buy a tent and head off into the damp, green yonder.
We eventually settled on what seems a rather mahoosive tent for the two of us, an apparently six-berth Outwell tent (although you’d have to have half a dozen pretty skinny campers who like a lot of physical contact to take the sleeping capacity to the max). It’s unlikely our two daughters would join us under canvas as they’ve just turned 18 and 21 and they aren’t known for their ability to rough it. Not that we intend much roughing; we’re aiming for a ‘glamping’ standard of comfort and so spent a long time looking at sleeping options, as well as comfy chairs and, because our bladders tend to suffer from a bit of insomnia, a portable flushing toilet.
It was only when we wheeled all of our purchases out of the store that I began to wonder whether we’d got enough space in the car. Luxury, apparently, is quite bulky. Luckily, I’m a black belt in packing and we got everything home without incident.
The following weekend we decided to erect the tent in our back garden and try it out, like a couple of twelve year olds on a sleep-over. Eldest daughter found this hilarious and reckoned we wouldn’t last ten minutes. We vowed that we’d show her and strode bravely off to the tent just before 11 pm on Sunday evening.
It was quite a blowy night. The trees were rustling more than a hungry snacker in a cinema and the cover on our patio table sounded like it had ambitions to fly away. All of which meant that it was fairly hard to drop off. Added to this was the challenge of sleeping on the bed we’d bought, a rather fancy queen-sized air bed. It had felt fine earlier, quite firm and supportive, but as the temperature dropped so did the pressure and we noticed more movement. If I happened to turn over then my wife felt the effects. I wasn’t exactly jumping on the bed and thereby launching her into the side wall of the tent, but the principle was the same. Somehow we generally got through all of this and nodded off and dozed until, just before 2 am, my bladder woke up.
I hadn’t set up the portable loo but luckily our downstairs toilet was just the other side of our back door. So I hauled myself out of bed and went about my business. Ten seconds after snuggling back under the duvet, Sue informed me that now she needed to go too, but couldn’t face getting out of bed because she was too cold. So we lay there, listening to the wind blowing the leaves in the branches around us. And then we heard a faint scraping of paw on canvas.
Cookie, our cat, was looking for the way in. He’d been in the tent earlier in the day and was now baffled by the zips being closed. I sighed, got out of bed, unzipped the main door and called him. With a happy “prrreoww” he came bounding around the corner, big eyed and perky tailed. Being quite versed in cat body language I could tell he was basically saying, “Hey, wow, it’s you guys, out here in the dark, this is awesome! Can I come in and play too?”
At which point we decided that we should just give up and go and sleep in our proper bed. It probably wasn’t the best night to try camping for the first time in almost 30 years, but we’ve got to ease ourselves in to it. We just need to find the right sleeping equipment and make sure we’ve got sufficient woollies to keep the chills away. And pick a nice weekend of warm, quiet weather.