Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Why perfect holidays don't involve men

‘We need fairy lights,’ said Jools firmly.
We were having a summit meeting at the Bonkers House to discuss our forthcoming camping trip to Croyde in North Devon.
‘Fairy lights?’ I said weakly, pouring out more wine and breaking into another packet of hula hoops (Adrian away so low on shopping).
‘Absolutely. And parasols and pretty bowls. I’m thinking pink and orange as our theme. Have you got a pink flowery tablecloth?’
‘As a matter of fact, yes.’
‘Good. Bring that. And that silvery tray with the tea lights on it. Don’t suppose you’ve got bunting?’
‘Er, no.’

Last time I went camping I was sixteen and madly in love with some nerd called Peter. A crowd of us went to the Yorkshire Dales and it was mighty minimal. Everything had to fit in or on or dangling from our rucksacks (including the tents). It rained the whole time and we spent the entire week trying to persuade the local landlords that we really were eighteen in order to get into the pub and get warm. I developed chilblains, flu and a taste for Theakstons Old Peculiar. I never did get off with Peter which, in retrospect, is probably a very good thing.

‘Help,’ I wailed to my friend Rachel later on the phone. ‘I think camping has changed since I last went. They said I need blow-up beds – and chairs – and fairy lights.’
‘I’ve got all that – come and get ‘em.’

So the next day James and I picked up Adrian from Tiverton Parkway (en route home from the Great British Beer Festival and surprisingly not as slaughtered as usual) and headed over to Rachel’s. I wish I could be as calm as Rachel (and she’s not even taking the happy pills). She was in the middle of supper, with three children AND guests but was she fazed? Not remotely. She plonked a glass of wine in my hand, sent James off to see the new piglets and went to rummage in the barn.
‘Do you need three mattresses?’
‘Nope, just two.’
‘What? Ron’s not going?’ She always calls Adrian Ron. Don’t ask.
‘Don’t be silly. He’s allergic to camping.’
He insists, of course, that he’s not. It’s just that, were he to camp, it would be deeply macho, halfway up a mountain, battling the elements camping. Modern camping is, he insists, too consumerist, too suburban, too middle-class, too irritatingly smug. I suggest this might be projection and he has the grace to look sheepish.

Anyhow, we left Rachel’s loaded with ‘essential’ gear – camping chairs, tables, solar powered lanterns and fairy lights, strap-on head torches, glo-sticks….
‘We seriously need all this?’

We departed Dulverton in convoy with the Killers blaring out. Four middle-aged women, two teenage girls and two ten year-old boys.
‘Rick doesn’t believe we’ll get the tents up,’ said Tracey.
‘Oh don’t be so ridiculous,’ said Jools.
It took an hour to pitch two huge tents (with a few breaks for tea and brownies) and then another hour to embellish our campsite to Jools’ satisfaction. Fairy lights festooned the wind-breaks, pink raffia parasols kept out the sun, the jugs and bowls and glasses were all perfectly colour-coordinated. And, yup, the sun was shining.

Someone handed me a glass of wine. Ah but this was fun. This wasn’t the tough hard trudge I remembered.

We wandered down to the beach and the waves were huge. We set up our pop-up tent and everyone (bar Tracey and I who felt we ought to look after base camp) plunged into the sea with body boards and surfboards.
As the sun sunk lower, the waves came in. A sense of warm satisfaction broke over me.
‘Time for sundowners,’ said Jools, dripping happily. And we cracked open another bottle.

A barbecue back at the campsite plus a huge jug of Pimms. The sun set red and rich over the sea and, as the moon rose huge and full over the hills, the fairy lights twinkled into action.

It was perfect. Just perfect. In fact, so perfect that it was worrisome. What was it? Ah yes. Nobody had moaned. Nobody had disagreed. Nobody had demanded we do things differently or ‘my way’.
‘What a fabulous day,’ said Maggie with a sigh.
‘So peaceful,’ said Tracey.
‘Why is that?’ I asked, still puzzled.
‘You really haven't figured it out?' said Jools.

'No men,’ said Maggie.

Just then James and Jack came hurtling back down the hill and tumbled into camp.
‘I’m faster than you are,’
‘No you’re not. I am.’

Jools raised an eyebrow in an 'I rest my case' sort of way. We smiled indulgently, leant back in our chairs and poured another Pimms.


Stephanie said...

I have to say it. You make camping sound almost, appealing!!

Loved this post:)

Insomniac Mummy said...

I'd've never thought to take the fairy lights and tea lights etc.

Sounds like a perfrct trip.

ArtSparker said...

Wish I'd been there.

Chris Stovell said...

Right, that's it! I'm having fairy lights and bunting on the pig boat from now on! Good to have you back.

The bike shed said...

No comment!

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Ah that explains it - when I was thinking about rain and general camping misery I was thinking about the male kind, all minimalist and hard. This kind sounds perfect. I love the fairy lights and the Pimms. Can I come too? I can bring four different kinds of cake.

Chrissie said...

I agree, camping with my husband would not include provision for fairy lights :-) My one reason for refusing to camp is the lack of a socket for the hair dryer.


Sounds like my kind of camping, Jane. No men, no rain, comfy blow-up beds and a nice big jug of Pimms. I think the fairy lights are probably incidental, but I'd be prepared to pack them, just in case (what did you plug them into, by the way?)


Calico Kate said...

Oh Oh pleeease take me with you next time! B & I used to camp but with no sign of a fairy light anywhere. This sounds like sooo much fun.

bradan said...

I can't really bear the thought of camping, but think the fairy lights might swing it!

Exmoorjane said...

MM: thanks - it was, seriously it was!

IM: Nope, me neither. A revelation.

ArtSparker: Wish you had been too - you could have provided the art installations.

ChrisH: go for it - would look fab!
Mark: hmm, wondered how the men would react!!

EM: But of course dear heart - four types of cake would go down a treat.

Chris: you know, I think there were sockets for the hairdryers in the fancy shower block!

LBD: you don't plug them in - they're solar-powered. Charge up during the day and come on when it gets dark. Soooooo cool.

Kate: yup, join the crew!

Bradan: it's amazing what a difference fairy lights make....I'm a convert!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

this bears no resemblance to my last go at camping - I ended up with sunstroke and a goat ate the washing not, a tea light for miles

Laura - Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? said...

I'm coming with you next time. We have nice camping trips but nothing like the relaxed ambiance you describe.

The wife of bold said...

No men? And Pimms? You are sooo lucky, it sounds amazing glamping here i come...i just have to loose a husband ha

arosebyanyothername said...

Nope - definitely not! I've been there, done that and I'm not doing it again.
The last time we went camping - about twenty years ago on the west coast of Ireland it rained the whole time. No amount of bunting or fairy lights would have made it any betther.
Glad you had a good tome, tough.

Pondside said...

I bravely camped for 20 years with husband and children, across two contintents and many countries. Jane, where were the bugs, the splinters, the food-gone-bad, the mildewed sleeping bags, the sunstroke, the backed up washroom???
It must all be in the fairy lights......and the absence of men!

Frances said...

Oh Jane, your camping trip is so, so beyond any vintage camping memories that might still be jiggling round my memory.

At first I was thinking, as I was reading, where are the photos? And then, I just kept on reading, and all the imagery just rose in front of my eyes.

Beautifully told.

When will you all next pitch those tents and light those lights?


Maggie Christie said...

That sounds like fabulous camping to me. Camping has certainly changed since I last went. Fairy lights and Pimms? Perfect! (I wonder if I can persuade Brian to like camping? Perhaps if I just keep handing him a bottle of beer...)

Ladybird World Mother said...

!! Oh this did make me chuckle. could not agree more... hope the rest of the holiday was FAB. x

Norma Murray said...

I read this with a great big sigh, Jane, none of my many camping trips have ever included fairy lights. I don't think Mr Lampie could cope. (We do have his and hers head torches however.)

Shabby Chick said...

Hang on a minute, I am a self confessed camping hater and yet somehow this makes me want to go!!! I especially like the idea of all the drinking that goes along with it ;)

Mel xxx

Zoë said...

Think I'd like girly camping too, room for a little one? Promise not to snore!

Annette Piper said...

That sounds totally civilised! I could do camping like that :)

Rob-bear said...

This sounds suspiciously NOT like camping at all. A veteran camper, who has camped with Boy Scouts and family, it seems a bit strange.

Must be the Pimms. Yes, that's it.

And as for Chris and the concern: "My one reason for refusing to camp is the lack of a socket for the hair dryer" -- just plug into a "current" bush. When you're camping, there is usually one about, somewhere close.

Edward said...

Fab! Though as a man who goes on an annual all-male camping trip I have to say that, absent the pink tablecloth and the fairy lights, ours is much the same. No moaning, just good fun. And not stuck halfway up a mountain either - O no, we need comfort too (plumbing, for one thing).

DD's Diary said...

It does sound gorgeous, but I'm not going. The girls had tea lights etc when they were taken camping and adored it. I'm saving up for Feather Down Farm

Kimberly said...

I think the gear makes all the difference, don't you? Funny now to think back on times when it rained so hard, the tarps collapsed and soaked us. Wasn't so funny at the time, but you understand. Just love the idea of fairy lights too!! It does sound like a perfect time. :)

claire p said...

I ink they call it 'glamping' don't they? Glam camping. Mind you I think I might be allergic to xx But I could do it your way.

Kitty said...

You know I'm just not a camping kind of gal, but who knows, with fairy lights and matching bowls and air mattresses and Pimms and sun, I suppose, at a push I might think about it (sounds like heaven but don't tell anyone, I have my high maintenance image to consider!).

Snowbrush said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Snowbrush said...

Oop, speling error in that last post. Here it is corrected:

Hey, what's this!? You say you're a desperate woman, but you pack and gun a you like NOT having men around. Jeez, I thought maybe you were desperate FOR men.

Snowbrush said...

Ha, I give up. I guess the lesson here is to slow down when writing responses to perfectly reasonable blog entries.

patsy said...

Jane you've succeeded where many have failed.! I loathe the very thought of camping but.. fairy lights and Pimms...ineffably fabulous, darling. Sign me up for the next trip...xx

Fennie said...

Wonderful piece of writing - so funny and so true in what it says.

Pipany said...

Oh god Jane, camping and I do not go together either. Used to love it, but now I prefer my own bed and a roaring fire indoors. Glad yours turned out well though. Much impressed x

Rob-bear said...

Besides all this, what man in his right mind would want to go camping with a woman who is packing a revolver?

Snowbrush said...

"what man in his right mind would want to go camping with a woman who is packing a revolver?"

Rob-bear, my Canuck friend, I would need more information to decide on the advisability of going camping with a gun-toting woman. For example, does she drink heavily and have a violent temper? Is she a paranoid schizophrenic? This is to say that, if I trust her, I would greatly PREFER to go camping with an armed female. Here in Oregon, a couple of campers and their dog were murdered two years ago, and no clues were ever found as to who did it. Too bad that these people didn't have a gun or two. I'm damned fond of them myself, and would never go camping without one.

Snowbrush said...

If you have a truly obnoxious dog (I'm suspicious about your claim since the dog can't speak for itself--or tell what it thinks about you), you will no doubt enjoy this news report about a dog that has barked continually for six years.

Rob-bear said...

Well, since, you asked, the truth will out, Snowbrush.

"For example, does she drink
heavily and have a violent temper?

Yes, she drinks heavily; always into either Gin or Pimms. Not sure about the temper, but I think potentially violent. (And she does have red hair!)

"Is she a paranoid schizophrenic?

Well, she went on junket to Disney World earlier this year, and has been suffering disney spells ever since, it seems. Close to p/s.

Plus she lives in a little backwater place called Dullverton. It's in Exmoor National Park, and (I think) techically in County of Devon. Liz Jones, columnist with YOU Magazine, can explain how dull and backwater Dullverton is.

Besides, the British, being quite proper about things, have this aversion to hand guns; an aversion which we Canadians have acquired in the process.

Trust me; you don't want to go camping with this woman, if you're a sane male.

Snowbrush said...

"the British, being quite proper about things, have this aversion to hand guns; an aversion which we Canadians have acquired in the process."

Which points to why America is a better place to live. You guys have to kill one another with chain saws and butcher knives. WE, here in the greatest country on earth, can use GUNS, and this enables us to stand far enough back that our clothes don't get splattered.

prashant said...

I have to say it. You make camping sound almost, appealing!!

Work From Home

Jude said...

Wow, can I come next time? I love camping and you made it sound even betterer!!!

Milla said...

maybe (thinking of edward's comment) it's not a no-men thing but a no-spouse thing. Camped one night 2 years ago - 4 mothers, 7 or 8 children - and it was sort of enjoyable apart from teh car took about a week to unpack the next day. It's got to be said, too, that good weather is a biggy. good to see you back.

Exmoorjane said...

SBS: moral of the story - never EVER camp near goats.

Laura: yay! Disney reunion in tents at Croyde with fairy lights.

Wife of Bold: Yup, get rid of the husband, pile up the booze and come on down.

Rosie: that's what I said, never ever EVER again. Wouldn't do it if it were raining though - fair weather campers, us!

Pondside: Yeah, it's all different now....born-again!

Frances: had hoped to post some pics but only just got them... Hoping to pitch again next time we get a nice weekend.

PM: No, forget Brian - just take the girls and some mates.....

LWM: It was brilliant - didn't want to come back....

LWB: LOL to you and Mr Lampie with your his and hers head torches....

Shabby CHick: Weird, innit?

Zoe: yup, of course! Snoring strictly prohibited - or we might have a snorers' tent!

Annette: Soooo civilised....anyone could do this kind of camping (though a real bed would be even better!)

Rob-Bear: groan...... Yup, I used to camp with the guides and it was VERY different!

Edward: aha, so men manage OK without women? Curious isn't it - how we get on so much better without the opposite sex!

DD: We know a blogger who has a Feather Down Farm....sounds great. You would have loved the camp though!

Seashell: all camping trips are fine in retrospect w hich was why I was nervous about this one....but it was absolutely perfect.

Claire: not quite glamping as we didn't have proper beds and fancy lights and so on....but not for off....

Kitty: I really did think of you when the matching dishes came out.... You would LOVE all the gadgets - perfect excuse for a little bit of shopping...

Snowbrush: oh heck no, never desperate FOR men!! Never slow down - it makes comments all the more amusing...thanks for dropping by.

Patsy: Absolutely, darling - you're on! But you have to bring ATM.

Fennie: thank you, m' much.

Pip: now I'd have had you down as a camping girl....we needed your bunting!

Rob-Bear: oh, get over the revolver!

Snowbrush: quite so. But I'll pass on the questions, until I consult my lawyer!

And, nooooooo, barking for SIX years continuously? I'd shoot the dog.

Rob: Oi, who said men (sane or otherwise) were invited?

Snowbrush: heck, you two, quit arguing on my comment page! Well, actually, carry on, it's pretty funny.

Prashant: Yup, it is appealing..... especially for one who works from home! Thanks for dropping by.

Jude: Yup! Of course!

Milla: Missed you too, darling..... you vanished into the ether. Mwah.

Anonymous said...

That was funny, excellent and too true.

PippaD said...

And I thought that Daddy and Top Ender went camping to rough it for a few nights!Might have to go with them next time!

JOHN SHORTLAND, Cotswold Hills, England. said...

Absolutely brilliant (I have to say reluctantly being male)!

Especially liked the list, too, in Leave Dulverton Alone - you can exchange the word Dulverton for Cotswolds too...

As an ex Exmoorite (almost) shall be visiting you often. Johnson

Tattieweasle said...

It's the fairy lights that swing it - and the pimms and perhaps the brownies...and well no men - sometimes that IS bliss!

CAMILLA said...

Sorry I have come here late Jane, just catching up..... sounds like a fun trip, so pleased you had a great time.

Last time I went camping was girl guide days, heck that was ages ago, but one thing I do remember it was fab, great outdoors thing, cooking on open fires, sadly no fairy-lights then though.


Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Fairy lights?