I’m lusting after camping.
I realised this fully a few moments ago when I pulled down the zip of my hoodie (I wear hoodies obsessively, but for interest it was my black one because I was cold) and was instantly transported to that moment in a tent when you’re lying in the silence and you hear someone start fiddling with the zip.
There is something quite enjoyable about zipping a tent. It is somewhat reminiscent of opening or closing one’s front door, but with a more mystical charm. When I close my front door, it will stay closed, especially as I’ve normally forgotten my keys. But when I zip my tent up, it feels so much more temporary, and fleeting. In a sense, it is an excitement – your tent will welcome you back at any time of the day, but your house will let you out in the morning, and you will only come back when you’ve finished your work for the day.
If I’m honest, it’s been dawning on me for a while. Recently, coming back from an open day, I found myself walking through the park in a very fine drizzle, and suddenly found myself yearning for a campsite. I don’t think many people would sing the praises of communal toilets, but there’s a feeling, as you trek slowly across the field, of something so much deeper. I suddenly missed that moment when you climb into your warm sleeping bag, and you feel it snuggle around you in a way that no duvet could ever attempt. I wanted to be sitting, safe and dry, while the rain lashed at the tent from outside, the echoes of each drop resounding to make even the humblest of showers sound like a ferocious storm.
Recently I was forced to go to a Scout AGM. The kind people of the AGM had partly funded my Jamboree to Sweden last summer, and I did need to thank them, but there’s nothing quite so wearing as a Scout AGM. Anyway, the meeting was opened by someone reading a passage from a scout newsletter from before I was born, telling of the great pleasures of going camping. If I’m honest, and I always am, the article did go on for far too long about the excitement of going to the toilet, but some people do get extremely excited about the bowel and bladder issues of others. But again, I just felt a yearning in my heart for some proper canvas (or whatever artificial polymer we use on our Khayyam) out in an open field (preferably not too muddy and fairly close to the toilet block) with people.
I think the people thing also has a lot to do with it. Very often my family go camping with a group of friends, and seeing all of them again is always brilliant. But even when you’re not camping with people you know, it’s great to talk to the people around you. I’ll always remember the Frenchman we met on a trip to France who taught me how to play proper Boules. (Apparently the trick is to throw high, and to let it land where you want it to stop. This is because Boules is played on sand, in direct contrast to lawn bowls, which is played on the freshly skinned hides of genuine wild Indian elephants.) I’ll also remember the Dutch family who weren’t very happy after I crashed into their car on my bike, but that’s another story.
Thinking about my fondest memories of camping, they do almost all include the rain. The path into town from one campsite which became a river. The knee-deep puddle that completely blocked all access to the toilets from our tent. Every time I’ve come back into the tent dripping wet, and just stood there, with the droplets evaporating off my coat. I’m clearly mad. But nonetheless, I’d just like it said that camping is cool. That’s a nice little soundbite, isn’t it?
Incidentally, a plug. The NationStates IPO prank, which was admittedly as brilliant as Max Barry‘s pranks always are, has inadvertently introduced me to a new musical artist from the NS community. So this is a quick plug for Grim Dog. If you want a sample, I’d recommend downloading this track here, which is a masterclass in minimalist discordance.