My first camping disaster on a campsite. I actually have three, but for this blog I shall only tell you one though I do believe that, the Gods of this world were telling me “Dave…… Camping, my friend, is not for you!”
It was a beautiful hot summer’s day, 2 weeks off from work, still living with my parents (the year 1991) so had not a care in the world. My 3 friends and I decided to take a trip to Cornwall. We packed some clothes in any old bag and squeezed a rather large tent that none of us had ever seen before, into the back of my friends Fiesta XR2i. Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Cars’ tape was turned up full volume, the windows were down and the wind was fiercely blowing in my ‘then’ hair……..life was good…… and easy!
Travelling along the M4 Motorway, to our left in the distance was Chepstow, as we approached the old Severn Bridge taking us over the Severn Estuary. The question that always comes to mind is always……”will the tide be in or out?” I’ve heard the currents are very dangerous…. not sure about the sultanas though. Of course if the tide is out then there’s miles of mud, even now I think “Don’t want to be stuck in that when the tide comes in!” But why would I? I’ve never been down to the mud bank, so unless I fell out of the car window it wouldn’t happen. Anyway, we had just paid £1.00 to drive over the old Severn Bridge. Yep, remember the good old days when it was £1.00 each way, not like it is today, £6.80 for a car!! This price always leaves you feeling like you’ve just been stripped naked and beaten!
After leaving the M4 Motorway, we were all feeling good as we drove around the large sweeping bend on to the M5 Motorway. It was always a good feeling as a child, because the M5 was confirmation….. you knew we were really on the way to Cornwall. As I said, the sun was out so it was very hot, but we had already made our first mistake…. well, in fact we had made a few but the first one (that we found, which clearly none of us owned up to), was when we had stopped off at the services for a toilet break. My friends Mum had gone in to the sweet drawer in the kitchen before we left for the holidays and gave us a brand spanking new bag of fun size Mars bars that we placed on the parcel shelf up against the rear window (a rookie mistake, I know). Before we set off on our journey again I reached in grabbing the bag…….. the bag of squidgy, liquid, melted fun size Mars Bars (not so “fun” anymore!) I will take credit for the idea that followed, and that was to tie the bag of fun size Mars Bars on to the rear wiper of the tailgate outside of the car, in the hope that by the time we made it to Cornwall, they would have gone hard from the cold air of travelling at 70mph….. alright 80mph…….. alright maybe 85ish mph. Did they go hard you ask yourselves? I’ll tell you at the end of this blog. With no traffic to be seen, we were feeling cool taking in the miles and miles of fields either side of the M5 being flummoxed and asking each other “Why it is that no matter what long journey you take, there is always a single dead tree in the middle of a field?” Anyway, as we came to the end of the M5 we made our way on to the A and B roads. The scenery was stunning, field after field with rolling hills in between, laughing at the same joke as we gazed at the many sheep in the fields in amongst the large black plastic balls of wrapped up hay saying “WOW…..The rabbits in that field must be HUGE!!” (I’ll give you some time to think about that one).
At this point Tracy Chapman was still playing (and by the way, I still can’t get enough of the Fast Cars album), when suddenly my friend stretched out his hand to the knob on the cassette player, turning the music down. He looked at us with a smile on his face, “Boys…… the tent doesn’t have a ground sheet, but don’t worry, my Dad gave me a plastic sheet that we can put down over the grass”. I was about to turn the music back up when he spoke again “But it’s the plastic sheet that he uses when mixing up cement on the drive.” We all looked at one another and thanked him for telling us…… when we were past the point of no return!
Eventually we came to the first camp site, so in we drove and made our way to reception. The lady took one look at us “NO!” Yes, we were eighteen years old but we were a nice bunch! I hadn’t even blinked and we were back in the car to the next camp site and the next and the next and the next and… ….well we lost count of the camp sites that rejected us. Eventually, the last camp site we came to, the time now 9.30pm, we were given permission to camp but only for 1 night at the cost of…… wait for it (because it still brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it) £30…… £30!! It was 1991 not the year 2191. However, he had us by the short and curlies and there was nothing we could do, but put up our tent for the first time ever. By 10.45pm the tent was up (in some shape) with a 12 inch gap all around the bottom of the tent and an even bigger gap around the edge as the sheet of plastic looked like the map of Italy covered in lumps on cement which wasn’t exactly ideal considering the tent was square.
The next mistake we all made was that the 4 of us forgot to bring pillows, so we improvised by rolling up our jeans, you’ll be surprised how comfortable Levi 501’s can be. As we laid in our sleeping bags, the owner of the camp site turned up to see us, he was wearing an Australian bush hat, waist coat and jeans (we figured he thought he was Crocodile Dundee) on a Harley Davidson! Of course, there was no need to unzip the tent door due to the large gap around the bottom of the tent, so we stuck our heads out through the gap. “Lads, keep it quiet tonight and be gone in the morning!” he then straddled his beautiful Harley Davidson and rode off………it would have made no difference if we had a rave that night and bought the loudest stereo in the world with the biggest speakers….it was never going to be as loud as his Motorcycle.
The next day we packed up to make our way home thinking we were never going to be accepted on any camp site being a group of 4 boys, when another friend mentioned a camp site in Devon, in the little seaside town of Woolacombe. We reached the town mid afternoon and by the power of the camping Gods they let us in straight away and for a week. As it was daylight, we took our time putting up the tent, but it made no difference, the tent and the poles didn’t match. Either the tent was too small or the poles were too long and the ground sheet….. well, we did spend time picking off as many of the lumps of cement but could do nothing about the size or shape. We did have a master plan….and that was to use our bags along the bottom of the tent to save us from the wind but in reality it made no difference. Then one of my friends (I can’t give you a name as he now has a very important job now, but he did like to wear big buckles on his belt, and yes his ‘jeans pillow’ wasn’t as comfy as ours) one night decided to sleep half in the tent and half out because he felt sick, which in fact he was, this was the scene we all woke up to in the morning
So the easiest option was to cover the sick with grass (I know…..lovely, Dave) than move the tent, whilst using one of the many gaps at the bottom of the tent as our new doorway.
Now, not having a correctly fitting tent and ground sheet can cause problems…..they don’t stop bugs and insects from joining you, this I know from firsthand experience. As the 4 of us lay on our backs in our sleeping bags chatting and laughing before going to sleep, something landed in my mouth at the precise moment I laughed.
“Alright then boys……Who threw something?”
All together it was a resounding “Nope, not me!”
Luckily I was on torch duty that night, so I sat up and spat on to the grass and there it was……Was it a bit of rolled paper? Was it a bottle top? Was it a blueberry muffin? Was it an Earwig……………..? Why YES! YES it was! So for the rest of the week before going to bed it was “Hit off the Earwigs from inside the tent duty” and once that task was done we would all place pieces of toilet roll in our ears because…. well……. isn’t it obvious they’re Earwigs ‘DUUUHH!’ The last thing we needed was for the Earwigs to take a stroll in to our ears and eat our brains…… just how stupid do you think we were?
Halfway through the holiday I even woke up with the 3 of them staring at me with a look of horror of their faces. I first thought I was covered in earwigs with my brain sticking out of my ears…..but NO! Up until this point in my life only my Mum and Dad knew my sleeping habits, and the one thing I feared happened. Sometimes….and by the way, I’ve not done it for years, but I used to make a droning noise. This woke them all up as they were amazed by how long I could drone for without taking a breath. The only way I can describe it is…… picture yourselves on a sunny warm sunny afternoon having a cup of tea when everything near you is quiet, but far away in the distance you can hear a droning sound of a motorcycle in the distance……well that’s what I sound like…… apparently….
Oh, and just to give you some serious information on the fun size Mars Bars that melted in the back of the car……once melted it doesn’t matter how long your journey is or how fast your travelling if it’s HOT…. they will forever stay melted.
As usual on the Easy Blend I’m listening to some great music, today it has to be Tracy Chapman, Fast Cars
You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)
Until the next Easy Blend blog………..
Stay warm and fuzzy……..