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.

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Put yourself out there

As the half-term holiday approached, I started to notice a pain in my right hand at the base of my thumb. Scrolling and clicking the trackpad seemed to be making it worse. Could it be RSI? If so, it wouldn’t be surprising. As a self-published author, I spend a lot of time on my laptop, much of it online, ‘putting myself out there’.

Aching thumb aside, I was starting to feel burnt out with writing, editing, proofreading, tweeting, blogging, monitoring sales figures, etc. My eyes needed a screen break, my fingers and thumbs needed a trackpad break, and my brain needed to stop thinking about how best to promote my books. I needed to put myself out there all right – but outside, in the elements.

Cue camping trip. Forecast: high winds and showers likely. Hmm…

As I packed and packed and packed, I thought that this wasn’t the most relaxing trip I could’ve chosen. Packing pretty much took the entire day before departure. On arrival, unpacking, putting up the tent and sorting out the bedding took time, too. It was a good while before we could sit down, relax and join our friends with a well-earned beer and admire their far simpler tents.

However, the simple activity of packing and unpacking, putting up a tent and preparing food for the BBQ in 40mph gusts of wind, all required 100% concentration. And while my focus was on these activities, it wasn’t on writing, editing and marketing – a good thing.

The rest of the time was spent having fun in the open air. The kids turned feral, building dens in the muddy woods, while the adults huddled closer to the fire and cracked open more Cava.

A highlight was taking a walk through the woods to the ‘cave of poo’. The cave of poo was not for the fainthearted – it’s dark enough to need a torch, muddy enough to need wellies, and smelly enough to hold your nose. So naturally I sent my eldest daughter in with a far braver adult.

Meanwhile, my youngest daughter had got herself stuck in a muddy bog. ‘Mummy! I can’t move!’ she screamed hysterically while I caught up with her and immediately found myself in the same predicament. We stood there, knee-deep in mud (it was only the top 5mm of our boots that were not submerged). As I debated whether it was easier to go forward or backward, we wobbled precariously from side to side, watched by the others with baited breath. Miraculously, we eventually managed to get out with our wellies still on our feet and without falling flat on our backsides. My daughter’s tears turned to giggles and she was soon racing with the other kids towards the next disaster zone: a muddy stream with a rope swing above it.

Our camping trip was over too quickly, but one weekend of being outdoors in the fresh air connecting with the elements was enough to clear my brain, restore blood flow to my thumb and replenish my creative tank. As Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘In order to write about life, first you must live it.’