Mr. Suburbanite and I have very different approaches to nature. Mr. S is a great walker, a tree climber, and one of those people who enjoys standing on a wet Welsh beach in January regardless of the weather conditions. In other words he likes nature but, as he told me before we got married, doesn’t want it in his shoes. He likes order around him when sleeping and eating and he definitely doesn’t like mud. So camping is not something he’s in a hurry to do. I, on the other hand, am never happier than when I have leaf mould in my hair. I love to see my children covered in mud (proof that they’re having a happy childhood) and I sleep well on straw bales in the same building as farm animals, for instance.
We happen to be friends with a couple who are us in reverse. He loves camping and she hates it. So this half term we carried out a suggestion I’d made before many times as a joke – my friend’s husband and I took the kids camping and our spouses stayed at home. To be fair they both had valid excuses about needing to work, or something.
For years now I’ve camped at New Wine, a Christian summer conference held on an agricultural show ground. I love New Wine for many reasons but it doesn’t feel like proper camping, not least because fires are not allowed and you have to get your kids to meetings at 8.45am. I can now say I’ve camped properly, in a wood, with a fire, and I know it was proper camping because it rained pretty much nonstop for two of the three days we were there. (How did we light a fire, you ask, in a rainy wood? It turns out that you can light a fire anywhere, possibly even underwater, if you have an aerosol blowtorch, and my friend’s husband had two.)
It was great. My friend gamely spent some time with us on the site, going ‘Yuk. Yuk. Yuk,’ with every step whenever she had to walk between our two tents, and helpfully took a load of washing home for us all. You could see that the main feature of the campsite for her was the mud. It’s true that it got everywhere, and two days later I’m still washing it out of everything we took with us. BUT that did not nullify the magic of going to sleep with rain pattering above our heads, or of sitting in a beautiful beech wood around a roaring fire, or seeing our children do things with sharp sticks, fallen logs and burning branches that children generally aren’t allowed to do any more.
We’ll be back.