I have a few friends who are into camping, for some strange reason. My former lodger loved nothing more than packing his rucksack, taking his tent, his mini burner and a tin of beans and heading off up the Lakes to spend days freezing his nuts off in the wilderness.
Oddly, I didn’t fancy joining him. I also have friends who are into ‘podding’ which, although it may sound as though it’s some wife swap game, is in fact a cross between camping and staying in a hotel – you stay in a purpose built wooden structure, one that is still too much like a tent for my liking.
Now it’s not like I haven’t tried camping, because I have. I have tried it once, and hated it. My loathing for this most British of tradition wasn’t down to the loathsome British weather either, as I tried my camping experience in Cannes, in the South of France, where the weather is decidedly more ‘un-British’.
The problem was that I was completely unprepared for the whole ordeal, having borrowed a tent from my Aunty (who, at the time, ran a caravan and camping shop, so you would expect success). Despite being asked, nay, ordered, by my friend to ‘check’ the tent before we set off, I presumed that, because it came from my Aunty, that it would be ok. I presumed wrong. Firstly, the tent didn’t have any poles. For some reason my aunty had forgotten these most vital of camping paraphernalia. Secondly, even if the tent did have poles, it would have been uninhabitable anyway because the last person to use it hadn’t let it dry before packing it away, which apparently you’re supposed to do before storing a tent. It stank. It stank so bad it spelled as though a rat had died in there, and had been rotting for years.
We slept in the car.
The next day I, under orders, found a camping shop where I, using my best French, managed to purchase what I believed to be a tent. The keyword there is ‘believed’. Once again my lack of care and attention at what should have been a straightforward task was set to bit me on the ass, as I delayed putting up the ‘tent’ until after we had returned from ‘le pub’. It was now dark and, in some ironic twist as though Cannes knew we were from the UK, it was raining.
As we attempted to erect this tent under nightfall, and in largely unpleasant conditions, it became apparent that it wasn’t particularly ‘big’. In fact, it was very small indeed, almost as though it were half a tent, with no roof.
It was. It was a windbreaker.
My failure at ensuring the first tent was complete and didn’t smell of ‘merde’ was compounded by my failure to actually buy a tent the second time.
We slept in the car.
So you see, camping isn’t for me. Unless you can buy tents that are inflatable buildings, where you erect them simply by pulling a chord and then sleep on a cushion of air, rather than on a sheet resting on a rock hard floor that hasn’t seen rain until the very night I attempt to erect a windbreaker, then I’m not interested in camping.
I’ll settle for hotels, with king-size beds and room service. Camping is for other people.