Last week, my sister went camping. In Ireland. Took a gamble despite grey, cloudy skies breezing overhead (= Irish summer) because I encouraged her to do so. Me and my endless enthusiasm for life. ‘Give it a go’, said I, ‘what’s there to lose?’ I oozed through the Skype screen.
She may never forgive me.
The thing is… She’s not a camper. Never was, never will be. But because I’ve camped (en famille) with quite some success these past years, I encouraged her to give it a go. Forgetting (uh oh) that by now I’m ‘dutchified’ to the extent that our family’s summer camping trips resemble complete house relocations when compared to the Irish equivalent, i.e. buy a (bit of a) tent, a sleeping bag that maybe fits, a little stove and gas cylinder and Bob is your uncle.
Holy Jaysus. Well all I can say is it sounds like Uncle Bob stayed well and truly hidden on this trip. In fact, I suspect he took one glance at the setup and did a runner, and damn right he was too.
Apparently it started out reasonably well. She, and the rest of the clan, cheerily set up their individual little pop-up tents, defying the rising wind with gusto. They bravely fried up some sausages and bacon on the tiny stove – a feat in itself – before taking a walk on the nearby beach, their woolly cardies wrapped tightly around them. I’m sure at that point they felt like true campers.
It’s the sleeping part that burnt the most. Her daughters, having nipped to the local store to secure bags on ‘special offer’, unfortunately paid most attention to the pretty shades they came in (opting for pink, of course) only to discover when the time came to snuggle in that the glitzy, padded items were in fact, child-sized. Squeezing their legs in nevertheless, they covered their upper bodies with towels, good sports that they are (but oh, to have been a fly on those little walls!).
My sister, smiling as she pulled her adult-sized bag all the way up to her chin, felt proud of their endeavours. This camping lark aint half as bad as I imagined she may even have murmured as she drifted off to sleep.
Two hours later, the rain began to fall.
Now when I say ‘rain’, I’m talking torrential rain. This was no small spattering of drops, but a full fledged Irish downpour, as can only happen when you’re stuck on the side of a hill in a tiny tent, pretending to be a girl scout. Within minutes the roof of her tent began to leak, not in one place – several. Reaching up to test the wetness, she stuck her finger into the fabric, which immediately released a new, flowing stream onto her forehead. Spluttering to sit up, she realised to her horror that the floor had turned soggy and water was seeping quietly in via the side seams.
It was time to abandon ship. Scrambling out of her (now sodden) sleeping bag, she reached for her socks, to find them floating around the end of the blow up bed. Her bra was snagged on the canvas shoe she’d brought in an effort to look the part and her mobile phone was lying face down in a tiny puddle. Shit!! She shrieked, yanking at the tent’s zip on hands and knees.
Her eldest daughter’s voice from the next tent sounded equally frantic, ‘Mam!! Let’s run for the car!’. Hands over their heads, they slid and slithered towards it in the dark, tumbling into the front seats with rain running down their legs, slamming the doors shut as damp fumes began to form. It was 2.30am.
Yes, well… not quite the story I’d sold her on fresh air, total relaxation and peace of mind (based on French experiences). Something tells me her local recycle store is about to receive a mega donation of camping materials. And my next, helpful piece of advice might, just might, be taken with less than half a pinch of salt.