I can’t sit still and see another man slaving and working. I want to get up and superintend, and walk around with my hands in my pockets, and tell him what to do. It is my energetic nature. I can’t help it.
Jerome K. Jerome – Three men in a Boat.
I’ve been camping with two under 6-year old boys for a few days and I’m shattered, like I’ve been sleeping in the bass bin at a Leftfield gig. It’s a unique type of tiredness that suggests you missed an entire night’s sleep and have been covered in a layer of sweaty glue and smell of a bonfire.
Any self-respecting idler should listen attentively for suggestions of camping, and be ready with excuses at the drop of a bent-tent-peg that’s impossible to hammer into even the softest ground yet remains in the equipment bag. Nothing has ever looked better on paper than camping.
Even packing for it is a nightmare, as you desperately play out what you might need over two days, and packing each item as it occurs to you, which on arrival has somehow included a magazine rack and a multipack of toothpaste. The journey there is exciting because the car is so full you can’t see out of any windows, and you’re distracted by realizing you can’t recall the last time you saw a mallet.
Of course, many people enjoy it, such as 6 year-olds, who basically enjoy the high-end called glamping. I.e. they turn up, the tent is already established, their bed is made and the fire is lit. Yet behind the scenes, there’s been nothing but indecipherable instructions, moldy sleeping bags, and shaking out the remnants of a spliff from 2004’s Glastonbury. The idea is to swap stories over a roaring campfire but ends up with parents doing all they can to not collapse into bed before the kids do, who are crying over charred marshmallows beside the damp excuse for a fire.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, there’s often a tendency to bring out an acoustic guitar to strum Bob Dylan, like it’s still the 60s, underlining the particularly frustrating thing about camping being the inability to plug in a Yamaha DX7 digital synthesizer. That and a TV, toaster, and a phone charger.
It is great being outside people say, hovering in the porch of their tent, as rainfall rattles down like tiny, fun-shattering meteorites. It is great being outside, but not when the outside is inside, in the shape of rising groundwater and a poorly secured zip through which an incomprehensible amount of rain pours through the tiniest of gaps. You go to bed shivering under seven jumpers, only to wake up at 6 am with the sun beating through the canvas like its a left-on oven.
Somehow you have 30 bags all containing some muddy socks and a chocolate bar wrapper everyone denies eating, and you’ve not seen your wallet or car keys for two days. It is only once these are found that even the mindless enthusiasm of the brave has to concede defeat. The thought of a bath and a dry sofa is too appealing. The car is reversed so the tent can be coerced into the boot because it’s now three times the size of the bag it came in and which dries off as you drive, misting up the windows until you’re transporting a bilious cloud at 20mph, with sleeping kids and a hunger last seen when you last camped and swore never again.
Originally published on Idle blogs of an idle fellow
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