August 1, 2012 by benmblackman
Me: ‘I don’t get it.’
Me: ‘Camping. I just don’t get it.’
Apparently, 18 hours in to our first camping trip (in 10 years) this was not a hugely constructive thing to say. It didn’t help that I couldn’t quite outline yet what I didn’t ‘get’. I think I can now:
-1. Packing up numerous belongings from your house (you know, the one with 4 walls; roof; central heating; electricity; private bathroom; beds; duvets; refrigeration solutions; running water – hot if required; sofas; doors; heating; space; need I go on?) so that you can use them in an accommodation made entirely from canvas and held up by extendable stick things on a facility where bathrooms are not private and electricity does not exist.
-2. Portable, ill-sized, uncomfortable furniture (tables; chairs; air beds; need I go on)?
-3. Simple tasks in life taking 3 times longer due to a lack of required equipment or substandard (portable) equipment.
-4. Why anybody would take pleasure in these elements of camping.
In effect, I have realised that the bit ‘I don’t get’ about camping is camping itself.
Obviously this didn’t go down well. Luckily by the time we got home I could qualify this with some positives about what I do get (or even better – actively appreciate and like about the ritual):
+1. Weekend away.
+2. No technology.
+3. No news.
+5. Fresh air.
+6. Family Time.
+9. Laughing (ok, I admit it, I did not laugh at all on this trip but I do plan to on future expeditions).
The fact that there are 9 points on the positives compared to 4 on the negatives must be good. Obviously there is huge opportunity cost for the +9 though. The -4 aforementioned points notwithstanding, added to these points I would like to bring up two additional major ‘I don’t get it’ issues encountered early on in proceedings:
-5. Shared Toileting & Washing Facilities.
-6. People in dressing Gowns.
With regards to the shared toileting & washing facilities apparently this is not as much of an issue for females (this came as somewhat of a surprise to me as I would have assumed it would be but I think I understand why – because you share with other females who I guess must be clean, tidy, hygienic and considerate when it comes to such things).
The male equivalent didn’t seem to exist in our area of the campsite I’m sorry to say. I could recount great detail about this point (and humorous it would be too) but it would also involve gory details I would not wish to relive myself, let alone inflict on you. Suffice to say this – there is no way I will ever ‘get’ the shared facilities element of camping. It doesn’t help when on some trips to said facilities you have a 3 year old girl in your company – I hope the mental scars will heal for her over time and the physical maladies disappear.
The dressing gowns situation stems from the shared facilities. Campers – just because you go to the bathroom at home in your dressing gown does not mean it is acceptable to do so (via a 50 yard stroll) across a campsite. The fact that these campers are willing to leave their house and all other creature comforts at home in exchange for a weekend in a field surely means the dressing gown is not an essential item?
On the upside, there were some other additional surprising features I gained enjoyment from in addition to the 9 already mentioned:
+10. Putting the tent up.
+11. Washing Up.
+12. Taking the Tent Down.
We arrived on Friday evening, got out of the car, took out the tent and erected it (with no argument) within 35 minutes. There are not many activities I enjoy participating in for 35 minutes that do not involve sitting on a sofa so this was a surprise, the lack of argument an astonishment. I think I must have released some sort of male achievement endorphins from the situation. That and the fact that we hadn’t had to sit, eat, sleep or live in it yet.
During our stay we feasted on a number of camping classics: fish & chips; biscuits, cereal, bread, bacon & egg, pasta & pesto. One night I had crisps for tea (as in – just crisps).
Now once upon a time this would have been a luxury for me but these days, I tend to crave a little bit more than a large packet of Aldi Crisps for my Saturday evening meal (ok ok, maybe I should mention the moules marinières & frites I had happened upon for lunch at a particularly posh pub earlier in the day – it wasn’t all Aldi Crisps).
Following these meals I would volunteer to wash up (I don’t know why – it meant I wasn’t camping I suppose and also there’s not a great hardship to washing up following a banquet of crisps, biscuits and bread). But guess what? I really like washing up on a campsite. I remember this from the other times I have camped (as a teen a few times – this usually involved lots of crisps again, even more alcohol, and if really lucky maybe some girls. To be honest there were a lot more crisps than girls. And then the 13 night expedition in a 2 man tent in Spain during the summer of 2002. There was a girl on that trip – now my wife – and I vowed never to camp again following those 13 nights…but then again I also vowed to stay married to my wife forever so something had to give after avoiding the inevitable follow up camping trip for the last 10 years).
On Sunday morning we took the tent down and again, within 35 minutes we were done (no arguments once more). Those male achievement endorphins must have returned because I really enjoyed taking it down and packing it away (I say away – we couldn’t get it back in the bag so we just stuffed it in the car – that still counts doesn’t it?) – that and the fact that we now wouldn’t have to sit, eat, sleep or live in it any more.
I will leave you with some soundbites and highlights from the expedition:
The intrepid explorer returns having hunted and gathered Fish & Chips for the family (following 45 minutes of driving around villages of rural North Wales).
Me: ‘Where’s the Kid?’
Her: ‘Over there playing with Hannah.’
Me: ‘Who’s Hannah?’
Childcare = tick!
The intrepid explorer returns from his travels to source fresh water (from a tap some 25 feet from our den).
Her: ‘I’ve got Gin & Tonic.’
Me: ‘Really? No? How on earth did you manage to bring everything we would need for…’
Her: ‘Look, it’s in a can.’
Alcohol = tick!
The intrepid explorer attempts to debrief in the car on the journey home.
Me: ‘I’ll tell you what I do like though.’
Her: ‘Being a grumpy sh*t?’
Laughs = tick!
To be fair – that even makes me laugh now so it wasn’t all grumps was it?
Following a more positive debrief later that evening we have vowed to camp again. I’m fine with the fact that there are some elements of the experience I just ‘don’t get’. I don’t think I ever will and as long as nobody expects me to get them I am happy to be a part of ‘it’ (and will endeavor to keep my grumps regarding these factors to myself – not withstanding dressing gowns – I will always have to mention the dressing gowns ok)?
To sum up – the idea was to be able to get away for weekends at short notice and have a break. I love this element of camping – space; freedom; lack of technology; the great outdoors; quality family time.
And what more could you really want out of life I ask?
Don’t get it’s = 6
Get it’s = 12
Camping is the real winner.