To camp or not to camp

Camping is like marmite. You either love it or you hate it. But even if you love it, at some point you’re going to end up hating it.

Despite having dropped plastic boxes caked in grass in the garage, loaded a pile of damp clothes into the washing machine and kicked sleeping bags and airmats into odd corners of the house because I haven’t the energy to put them where they belong, I’m still feeling fairly positive about camping. The last load of washing is drying outside and when we packed up the tent it was bright sunshine, so we don’t have to wait for a windy day to air it on the lawn to stop it growing mold… such is the lot of a seasoned camper.

Last week we headed off for our umpteenth camping trip beside the sea in Devon. What could be more wonderful? Two days before ‘D’ day we decided we couldn’t fit everything in the car plus an extra passenger and would need to order roof bars so that we could take a top box. This wonderful invention allows tall people to store beach things and anything sandy high up out of reach where they will never be seen again, until you come to unpack at the end of the holiday and discover that’s where the badminton rackets, beach ball, windbreak and umbrella were after all. The roof bars arrived and were carefully assembled, but unfortunately didn’t fit the connection with the roof box. Problem one. No time to order new bars, so alternative bars had to be purchased locally, which also didn’t fit. Problem two. Third time lucky the bars were exchanged, fitted and the box was on top and the car was ready to be packed. Another problem was the fridge. Problem three. Tents don’t have fridges unlike their superior caravan cousins. So cool boxes/bags had to be bought (and returned due to unsuitability)… We began to wonder – is it really worth it? Why are we going camping? What about air B&B?

 

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7 reasons I love camping:

  1. No housework
  2. Minimal cooking – due to limited pans and burners
  3. Waking up to blue skies
  4. Sitting out under the stars drinking… wine mostly
  5. The perfect view from the tent of a curving sandy bay and rolling waves, with an island in the distance
  6. Smelling fresh grass and BBQs 24/7
  7. Not feeling guilty about fried egg and bacon for breakfast

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5 reasons not to go camping:

  1. The possibility it may rain
  2. The long walk to the toilets in the middle of the night – or stinging yourself on nettles seeking alternative loo point by the hedge
  3. The beds – there aren’t any
  4. The cool box, that isn’t, and smells of cheese after 24 hours
  5. Filling the water bottle, carrying it up the hill back to the tent and then realizing you needed to go to the toilet
    Oh and also… leaving the Fairy Liquid beside the communal sink – returning half an hour later to find a half used Co-op bottle in its place!

On balance, I think camping is a good thing. Our children love it. We endure it and I expect we’ll be back again next year… after all there are 7 good reasons to go. And I forgot to mention the sunsets!

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Letting yourself go

Do you ever let yourself go? I don’t mean not washing your hair and wearing old clothes, but really ‘letting go’. I’m not precisely sure what this kind of ‘letting go’ looks like, but I know I’ve been on the edge of it and I’ve certainly had dreams about it…

I did a parachute jump quite a few years ago. It was BC*. I’d spent a whole weekend sitting in a classroom, then practising jumping, landing and rolling off a little platform a few feet up. We were all ready to go by mid afternoon on the Saturday… but the weather wasn’t. Apparently it was too windy. There was a chance it would be too windy the next day too and as our ‘training’ only lasted a few days, if we didn’t make the jump soon we’d have to train all over again. It does actually make sense. Practising to jump from a great height is a good idea, so that when it comes to taking that leap of faith you do it almost automatically. There’s a drill you know and the drill will make you safe.

During the early hours of Sunday morning the person I still share a bed with was woken with me shouting, “One thousand, two thousand… check parachute!” with most of the duvet pulled over my head. I thought I was ready!

The wind was still a touch too strong the next morning and us would-be parachutists lazed around in the sunshine, looking up at a blue, blue sky and intermittently watching a wind sock. This isn’t a sock hanging in the wind on the edge of the runway– it’s more of a traffic cone made from kite material that fills with wind and flutters or flops. We were hoping for more of a flop as the day progressed. The wind was a problem for parachutists because it could easily blow us off course and we could end up in the river Trent or a up a tree or in a silage tank… yuk! ..rather than the intended cornfield.

Eventually we were called to order and told we were going up in a plane that we wouldn’t be landing in. The little practise jumps and rolls were repeated and hugging our black parachute packs to our chest we walked towards the runway. I remember glancing back and waving and hoping everything was going to work out OK. There were a number of possible scenarios.
1. The parachute didn’t open
2. The parachute tangled
3. I broke my leg on landing or worse
4. The emergency chute failed or I forgot where the pull thing was (where is it again?)

Hopefully the person who had packed my parachute had done a good job and all would be well. But I said a little prayer anyway. A parachutist had died a week earlier at the same airfield when both his parachutes had failed, but statistically didn’t this make my chances of survival better?

It was amazing looking out of the door of the plane and inching myself along with my feet dangling over the edge of the sky. A guy in goggles gave me the thumbs up and I really had nowhere else to go except out. I let go of the handle I was gripping with one hand and leapt. A few seconds later I was looking up at a perfectly circular canopy above me and had that beautiful experience of floating to earth like a spaceman/woman. The landing was a little bumpier than expected… but all in all it had worked. I lived to tell the tale and write up the story in the local newspaper.

Somehow jumping out of a plane was easier than some of the other leaps I’ve been called on to take in life. But experience is telling me taking a risk, doing something that doesn’t make complete sense, is more fulfilling than watching from the safety of the ground. So… what leaps are you taking today?

*Before Children

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