Carry on middle class camping

After spending 24 hours in a field in Kent this weekend, I present to you my Camping Weekend Breakdown. Breakdown as in stats, not as in mental. (That came later.) I felt the need to work out how many hours were spent actually having fun vs how many hours were spent working towards having fun. So here goes…

• 30mins thinking of and typing up Camping Checklist Google Doc.

• 4hrs spent sourcing camping gear from every crevice of the house, lining it up by front door and packing.

• 1hr wondering where the fuck our 4th camp bed is.

• 30mins spent loading up car.

• 30mins spent repacking the car because husband says the way I did it was totally illogical.

• 10mins spent bickering with husband.

• 1hr spent driving to campsite with my feet on dashboard due to giant cooler box taking up all foot space. Kids buried under extra bedding in the back.

Weather: decent.

• 45mins and 4 people to erect our bastard tent. Discovery of lantern and a pair of knickers inside.

• 1hr spent setting up beds and preparing food. (Husband to sleep on a yoga mat due to missing 4th bed.)

• 2hrs spent chilling around campfire with friends, glugging fizz and being interrupted every 15 minutes by a child who needed the loo/needed more food/couldn’t find pyjamas/wanted their sibling’s torch. Sudden fizz-induced epiphany: we don’t actually own a 4th camp bed.

• One family abandons camp with vomiting child.

• 6hrs spent sleeping with child’s elbow in my face.

• Upon hideously early awakening due to other child needing loo, 30mins spent trying to unfold my face and re-inflate it.

Weather: rain.

• 1hr spent in tent sheltering from rain.

• 1hr spent outside tent discussing rain (in the rain).

• Another family abandons camp with poorly child. This time liquid poo is involved. A LOT of liquid poo. They have run out of clean clothes and the will to live.

• 20mins spent in tent privately discussing rain and possible bubonic plague outbreak in hushed tones.

• 1hr spent outside tent discussing rain and possible bubonic plague outbreak in hearty, cheerful tones.

• 1hr spent in small campsite café with a hundred other urban masochists.

• 1hr spent in Pizza Express in Tunbridge Wells hoping not to be spotted and shamed by the rest of our group.

• Another hour spent in Pizza Express in Tunbridge Wells, joined by the rest of our group. Shame dispersed by arrival of Tiramisu.

• 15mins spent strolling along high street receiving odd looks from well turned-out locals. We look like filth because we’re camping! Grrr!

• 2hrs spent in woods with kids trying to stay upright in the mud and being forced to ride a ‘see-saw’ which isn’t really a see-saw but an ill-placed log above a mud pit.

• 30mins spent discussing weather with less optimism. Rain has stopped but it is grey, chilly, and morale is sinking by the minute. Weather app says more rain likely.

Unanimous decision to abandon camp and return to civilization. Unanimous disappointed expressions masking sheer relief and ecstasy at the thought of being reunited with central heating and one’s own bed.

• 1hr spent rolling up camp beds, sleeping bags, hunting down their sacks, squeezing the bastard things into their bastard sacks and then dismantling bastard tent and vowing to sell it on eBay.

• 1hr spent driving back to Brighton with my feet sticking out window. Dashboard says it’s 12 degrees.

• 2hrs spent unpacking car, putting everything back in every crevice. Laundry basket overflowing. Child tramples mud upstairs. Husband unimpressed by my complaints of a stiff back.

• 12hrs spent sleeping. Wake up to a groaning stomach.

I’ll read that if you read this


The other day, Chris (my husband) did something he hasn’t done for a long time: he threw a book at me. Not in anger, but in wild enthusiasm: ‘You’ve GOT to read this. It’s amazing. It won’t take you long. Promise me you’ll read it.’

How nice, you might think, that my partner and I share a love of reading, that we recommend books to each other and get all excited about discussing something we’ve both read and loved or loathed. Like our own little private book club.

IF ONLY! Our lack of book-compatibility has led to some right old ding-dongs, to put it politely.

You see, the books Chris chucks at me (never passes or places nearby but frisbees towards my head whilst I’m reading in bed) are always non-fiction, sometimes autobiographies, but often business books. And in the past I’d often dutifully wade through whatever snore-worthy business tome he’d begged me to read, because I could tell he was dying to discuss it with someone. But not anymore, amigo. Not. Any. More.

Why? Because whenever I asked him to read something I wholeheartedly recommended, he would agree but NEVER complete his side of the deal. Ok, so I’m a fiction reader, he’s a non-fiction reader. But if I can suffer a bit of non-fiction occasionally, why can’t he accommodate some fiction?

Novel after novel I passed his way, telling him he’d love it if he could just apply some concentration, gain some momentum and then, after chapter 3 or 4, he wouldn’t be able to put it down. But night after night, he’d open the book and be asleep five minutes later, or he’d pick up a magazine, OR, he’d blatantly pick up something from his non-fiction pile, prompting me to lower my book and glare at him. ‘I swear I’ll start reading your book tomorrow,’ he’d say. ‘I’m too tired to concentrate tonight.’ Yeah, rrright.

Things reached a head one day when a novel I’d passed onto him (and let’s just remind ourselves of the score at this point – Tash: non-fiction books 10, Chris: novels, nil) turned up mysteriously BACK on the shelf (unread, obviously). I’d warned him that this particular novel was his last chance to read something I’d recommended or I would never read one of his beloved business books ever again. He’d sworn on his life that he would keep his promise this time.

‘Did you read this?’ I demanded, holding the book up.

‘Um, not yet,’ came the nonchalant reply from behind the Sunday papers.

I gripped the book tighter. ‘It’s been three months since I gave it you.’

‘I’m sorry, it’s just not my thing,’ he said, all memory of our contractual agreement seemingly wiped from his brain. I would’ve thrown the book at him, but I liked it too much to damage it. (John Boyne’s The House of Special Purpose – great stuff.)

‘That’s fine,’ I said calmly, swallowing my disappointment. ‘But know this, I shall never read one of your piss-boring business books ever again, for as long as I live.’

‘Ok, fair enough,’ he chirped quite merrily.

So when that large lump of non-fiction landed on my stomach the other day – almost winding me – there were a number of acerbic remarks I could’ve made in response to his gushing plea that I read it. But having just finished reading Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother at the time, I spotted an opportunity for some hardball negotiation.

‘I’ll read that if you read this,’ I said. ‘But I won’t start yours until you finish mine. And that means every last bastard page.’ Fortunately, the subject matter of Big Brother (the story of a woman’s relationship with her morbidly obese older brother) piqued Chris’s interest and, lo and behold, a miracle took place: he read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. And then another miracle took place – he bought two more novels and read them both!

As for his “amazing” business book, I seem to have misplaced it… Sting! Backatcha! And kerpow!