Thursday, August 24, 2006

We've Come On Holiday By Mistake (Part The Third)

The View from the Inside of My Tent

There are two things that my first experience of camping in about a decade have taught me and they are :

1) The bath is the second most wonderful invention in human history.

2) The bed is the first.

I had always had a suspicion that camping wasn't for me. I may have grown up in the country but I've always been a city dweller at heart. My mum tells me that even as a small child I was noticeably more excitable whenever we were in cities on holiday than I was in the countryside and whilst I love the country I would not want to live there now. London is my home and I don't see anything changing that. Camping certainly hasn't.

To give it its due, the conditions were not perfect for the camping experience given that it rained for about 50% of the time. Ironically, I don't think that's what put me off, I don't mind the rain, there are times when I quite welcome it and it certainly doesn't dissuade me from going out and about. The sleeping arrangements were what bothered me. Granted I had bought cheaply but the roll-mat I got seemed to merely spread the areas of lumpy discomfort on the ground out and into my back. I picked my piece of ground on which to pitch as carefully as I could and yet once I was horizontal a whole host of previously unnoticed lumps, rocks and divots presented themselves and wriggle as I might I couldn't get comfortable.

My second bone of contention with the whole experience was the sleeping bag. Here I bought slightly better as I felt that even were I never to camp again I still stay over at friend's houses from time to time and a sleeping bag on a sofa is better than no sleeping bag on a sofa. The trouble with them, in fact the very reason they work at all, is that they encase the occupant as if they were a cross between a swaddled toddler and a resident of the angry wing of an asylum. Which is probably a fair description of many of the serious camping types I know come to think of it. I like to roam free in bed. I cannot abide tucked in sheets or small single beds. Me and my duvet require freedom to roam the plains of B'd L'nen the fantasy land of sleepy make-believe and we will not be shackled. That don't work in a tent though; the limited space and the insulated condom into which you've inserted yourself rather preclude it and here was the nub of the problem. If I can't move about I can't get comfortable. If I can't get comfortable I can't get to sleep. True, I improved my chances of Morpheus' sweet magic falling upon me by drinking fairly heavily for three days straight but even with this artificial assistance I had three of the worst night's sleep I can remember. And I got a nasty back ache out of it too.

Upon my return home I had a long bath, mostly to cleanse my body after the trip, I did not enjoy going feral much, and secondly to get some heat into my back to help sort it out. This I thought was the height of comparative luxury until at about 9.30 when I could keep my eyes open no longer I clambered into bed. I've slept in that bed for nigh on 7 years and I swear it had never been that comfortable before. It was the most civilised, exquisite experience that is imaginable for the lone bed occupant. I wallowed in my comfort. I wrapped my duvet around myself and stretched out (I'd had to sleep with my feet in the porch of my tent because I was too tall to fit all of me in the main bit). I buried my face deep into the pillows which gently cradled my head and thought beautiful thoughts. Sitting in a tent with the rain hammering on the canvas I had mostly been thinking murderous or during the darker moments suicidal thoughts. There was a plastic ring that hung down from the cross-bracing in the centre of the tent's ceiling which, in hindsight, I assume was for a mosquito net but at about 5 a.m. with the cold and the rain all around I wondered whether it was there for putting a noose through as some sort of camping final get-out clause if it did, finally, all become too much.

But we made it through, and as my mother would point out, it was probably "character building". Well that it may have been, but it sure as hell was a whole bunch of no fun and in order to prevent a recurrence I gave my tent to the Fake Frenchman on Tuesday morning. Gratis, free and for nowt. It is his albatross to wear around his neck now, and yet he seemed quite excited by it all. The poor fool, little does he realise.

This weekend I'm going to Brighton, where we shall be staying in an hotel. It has a bar, en suite bathroom and an enormous bed. Ahhh, now that's what I'm talking about...

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