I was nervous on the drive down to the campsite. Camping with my family for a whole weekend. Forty-eight hours of living under canvas with my lively and opinionated closest ones. There seemed to be more reasons why it would be a disaster than a success. So when the rain started to fall as we neared the Chilterns, I hoped it wasn’t an omen for the weekend ahead!
I love camping. Ever since those early childhood nights spent sleeping in a play tent in the back garden, I’ve loved spending time under canvas. My sister, however, hated it as a child. Every family camping holiday was interspersed with her daily rants declaring the awfulness of sharing toilets, or queuing up for showers, or being cold and muddy. My Mum’s partner, Mark, was also a hater. The last time he’d slept in a tent, he’d abandoned it after one night and booked in to a smart hotel instead. The rural and rustic campsite I’d reserved for our weekend trip, was akin to a field with a portacabin. Wonderful for privacy and space with two noisy boys and one excitable dog… but would the basic facilities be too primitive for them? Would they abandon early and search out the nearest B&B? I wasn’t convinced that everyone would last the full forty eight hours camping!
To compound matters, the weather forecast for the weekend was lousy. Heavy rain predicted for Saturday afternoon and evening! We’d endured similar weather a fortnight earlier whilst camping with our friends. The ground got muddy, the chairs got wet, and we all spent the afternoon huddled under the gazebo trying to stop the excitable toddlers from knocking over the wine bottles! 😉 My fabulous friends are troopers who also love camping- so the weekend was a wonderful success regardless. However I wasn’t sure I could survive a similar weather experience with camping haters and bigger children!
Furthermore, I’d been poorly for three weeks prior to the trip. The last fortnight had been mostly spent lying on the sofa in my pyjamas; weak and breathless, barely able to do anything. Although I’d gained some energy in the days before, I still wasn’t functioning at full strength. Being with my wonderful family requires immense amounts of energy- the nephews are lively and tiring, and us siblings like to bicker at least once every time we get together. 😛 Would I be able to cope with the stresses and strains that inevitably surround time with my nearest and dearest, when I was feeling below par?! But it was fantastic. Brilliant. It couldn’t really have gone much better! 🙂
For forty-eight hours we all lived outside together, with two giant gazebos as our hub. Tents went up and stayed up, snacks came out and stayed out, Lottie was let off lead and stayed off. The adults chatted and gossiped and laughed, over endless cups of tea. The boys giggled and screamed and shouted, high on sweets and crisps. We sat around on rickety camp chairs playing backgammon and draughts and snap. Then ran around the campsite playing boules and rounders and frisbee (Luca joined in every game 🙂 ). Our quiet scoot alongside the river Thames, ended up with Phil stuck atop a pole he’d climbed up! Our morning communal fry ups became great epics, as everyone cooked a part of the extravagant meal. I read a complete short story to my nephews for the first time (woo lungs!), and helped the ‘soon-to-be-a- big-schooler’ with his letter formation. Phil played endless games of ball with Luca, and enchanted the Roald Dahl fans with the tale of the Minpins. We then took them off on nature walks in the surrounding fields, where they took it in turns to steer my scooter. Sally spent hours lying in the grass, surrounded by toadstools and nature. Jacob spent hours making flour, sieving and sorting the wheat from the chaff. And when darkness arrived, the boys and Lottie ran around with glow sticks, and the adults got increasingly drunk, whilst playing repeated games of Uno by torch light. So tiring… but such fun! 🙂
The excited and high spirits that everyone arrived in, continued throughout the whole weekend. There was no family argument or sibling bickering! (A miracle in our family, especially considering the number of games played! 😉 ). There were no deserters and no camping haters! (Even though Mum forgot the pump for her and Mark’s air bed!). In fact, everyone stayed at the campsite until Sunday tea time, as we didn’t want the weekend to end.
The campsite was perfect for us. Although basic with only portacabins and a small toilet block, there were so few others guests, that the facilities were clean and never busy. The enormous flat field dotted with trees, was limited to just four small groups- allowing us to be well spread apart from one another. Perfect for Lottie to run off lead, perfect for the boys to scream and shout, perfect for us to hit balls and throw darts!
Happily, the weather forecasters were wrong in their predictions. Wonderfully wrong- the weather was great! Despite raining on our drive down, the campsite had missed the downpour. The good luck continued throughout the trip, with the sun shining on us for most of the weekend. Two light showers had us running for cover at one point- but they were short lived. And thankfully no wine bottle were knocked over as we all sheltered under the gazebo! Clear skies allowed enchanting star spotting come night time- but also meant colder weather in the tents! My sister’s family huddled together under all their blankets and clothes- but we snoozed away oblivious to the temperature drop; warm and cosy with our fluffy duvet!
And I coped amazingly. Amazingly. Despite an early night both evenings, I awoke breathless and weak in the mornings. However after a couple of mid morning rests, thankfully I felt considerably better. Unbelievably, my wonderful body was then able to conjure together enough energy and strength to not only join in sedentary activities… but also active games! Games I’ve not played since being ill! It felt wonderful to whack a rounders ball. Wonderful to hit a football with Luca. At points I was so engrossed in the fun, I forget my illness and dived for a ball or Frisbee- disconnecting myself from the oxygen in the process! Running and playing and competing and messing outside is the old me.. the real me. So to be able to relive that briefly (albeit with adaptations) was like resurrecting a part of my old life, for a very short time. And happily, I was able to share some of those moments with Luca, who has only ever known me as his ill inactive aunty. I’m excited about the summer after my transplant: I’ll be able to spend a whole afternoon playing rounders, and actually run between posts!
So the rain clouds on the drive down weren’t a bad omen at all. In fact, everyone has agreed to another weekend under canvas next year! Maybe I’m slowly converting the previous camping haters to the other side!