From camp fires to bush fire’s there are a few laughs and surprises in response to this week’s Bite Size Memoir prompt of “Camping” as well as lovely and quietly intimate glimpses into shared experiences. Thank you too for sharing so many photos. I have my Mum rummaging in the attic and hope to throw up some from my own distant past soon.
We have dyed-in-the-wool campers through to those who tried it once and didn’t like it, along with the many of us who maintain romantic views of it until we’re arguing over groundsheets in the rain and who’s fault it is the mosquito repellent is back home on the kitchen table. I’m sorry to those who were deprived of any camping experience and had to dip out this week – Doing my best to be ‘all inclusive’ with tomorrow’s new prompt – but perhaps you’ll add “Camping” to your bucket lists and resolve to get to grips with how much pleasure and pain can come from something as simple as setting up a temporary home under canvas.
Meanwhile a huge big thank you too, to Tui Snider (couldn’t resist all those tos in there..) for ‘pitching’ me on her first Memoir Monday’s Blog Hop for non-fiction and travel writers. If your non-fiction writing extends beyond my little bites and you want to find other non-fiction projects to join in with or promote, please read more of her post and sign up to her blog Mental Mosaic!
Four 14 year old girls dropped off on their own with an old green canvas tent at a campground thirty miles from home for the weekend. What could possibly go wrong?
Apparently many things. According to my parents who absolutely forbade this camping excursion to happen unless they were to accompany us. My parents agreed they would park their RV several hundred feet away well out of sight.
Dropping us off, we excitedly set up the tent, threw our sleeping bags inside, and opened our cooler to have a wiener roast supper over the campfire. How cool were we?
Not as cool as at four a.m. when we woke in the pouring rain to discover we had set up the tent downhill from an incline, sleeping bag, and pyjamas soaked through.
To their credit my parents never came to rescue us. Forty years have passed; I never tented again, ever.
I remember camping as a child in England and in California with my own children.
Happy memories of waking up freezing cold with condensation dripping on my face.
In California, we camped by the lake which is just as well as it was so hot in the day that the only place we could keep cool was in the water. At night, when the stars lit up the black expanse of mountain sky, we enjoyed sitting around an open camp fire, roasting hot dogs and telling ghost stories.
At some point, I decided that sleeping on an air mattress was no longer an option and many years later, living back in the UK, hubby and I gave caravanning a go.
We sold it and now we shoot for the dream – a motor home. Then a camping/road trip across America.
I am thinking an Airstream. Too much to ask? I dream on.
Simon – UK
I remember having the only tent in the summer sailing school that hadn’t been flooded
I remember Mum gutting 150 Mackerel in a caravan in Cornwall
I remember discovering that for 3 weeks on a campsite in France, Dad had been washing in the ladies
I remember that clogs don’t get soggy with dew when you pop out of your tent for a pee in the night
I remember Alison from Sheffield
I remember playing monopoly for hours in the awning as the rain lashed down
I remember freezing in a tent in Llangorse – with Mark Edbrook who is no longer with us.
I remember flying to Southampton and turning up to a pitched tent – thanks love
I remember trying to remember how the tent went up last year (and how on earth it goes back into that little bag!)
I remember sleeping in all my clothes and my hat – in the summer!
My family didn’t camp. Despite growing up in the shadow of the glorious San Bernardino Mountains, we only ventured on day trips to the snow, maybe an overnight in a cabin, possibly a drive around a lake, but we never pitched a tent. My dad’s from Brooklyn, my mom Jersey. They didn’t camp.
I did. I was a Girl Scout. Every summer for enough summers that I can recall, I spent ten days on a cot in the woods sleeping under the stars. I cringed inside my sleeping bag at bear sounds. I shook my shoes mightily each morning for spiders. I reveled in earning the Burnt Nose badge for starting the best campfires.
I loved camping, and I give my non-camping parents credit for instilling in me a love for nature. Funny, though; I don’t take my kids camping. Once we stayed in a tree-house. But that’s another story.
Charli Mills – USA – Camping at Birch Lake
The year K. turned 16 we pitched our rain impervious tents among white pines in Wisconsin. We had Birch Lake to ourselves so we set the dogs loose until they ran so hard that one began to pant like a wheezy old tractor.
Over an open flame, we grilled steaks marinated in Tabasco and tequila, and baked a cherry dump cake for K. in the Dutch oven. Camping is remembered for the food, and that year was the best menu if you ask the kids. It was the best fishing if you ask T.
Smelling of campfire, we drove from Birch Lake to Northland College where we dropped off A. for her first year. If you ask me, it was the best camping trip because it was the last year we camped with all three kids while they were yet kids.
I can still see them posing on the felled tree like it was yesterday.
A., B. and K. on Camping Trip to Birch Lake, 2007
My mind turns to sex when camping is mentioned. My earliest memories are as a Boy Scout (bear with me). I was ten; the talk in the tent was all about boy’s trains going into girl’s tunnels and wet dreams. I laughed a beat behind everyone else.
We camped in Wales, near Lampeter. I was twelve. The older boys did a night hike and were still asleep at noon even though the tents were baking. One boy, seventeen I guess, lay asleep by the tent door, naked. My first sight of pubic hair and an erection. I was still staring, fascinated when Gerry dropped the lit match. How quickly the fire took hold; how visceral the scream; how fast we scattered. Even now, I can’t help but smile if someone says ‘bush fire’.
And the first female nipple I saw on the movie screen was Barbara Windsor’s in Carry on Camping.
Sex education has come a long way since the sixties.
I’ve camped all my life, not regularly, just throughout. We camped in our cowboy tent in the back yard and before long my Dad, who loved camping, had us on a road trip with a big tent and a hessian strung stretcher each.
My Mum hated that trip so the only camping in my youth was with girl guides in huge bell tents copied from Boer war days. Lots of fun and midnight feasts were had on these occasions. Then, as I rode my motor bike around Australia my orange tent was home.
In 2006 camping in a tent from Australia we went round Europe. Our old bones insisting we buy a luxury each day; airbeds, chairs and barbecue.
I intended to spend the week reading books, swimming, stargazing, and sailing our little 12 foot boat. My sister had a tan to perfect, and fish to catch. My parents, I’m sure, simply wanted to relax.
The August sun held out until we reached the lakeside campground. First came the splats of big fat drops. This crescendoed to a steady downpour as we frantically pitched our tent.
No swimming, fishing, sailing, or tanning. Instead, we told stories and read books. We played card games and Scrabble. Mom won the card games, and Dad won Scrabble every single time. Upon our return, I raced to the dictionary, convinced Dad invented several words. I still flashback to this scenario every time I see the word “fez” (with which he earned a well-deserved triple word score!)
One of the best camping trips, ever!
The frame tent was bright yellow, plastic-windowed, curtained, compartmentalised. In Devon Mum and I held the tent up in a storm while the rest of the family slept. In the Lakes I was sick. I lay in my sleeping bag, looking out at the sweep of green leading down to water. We travelled to Scotland, the Yorkshire Dales, Cornwall and Devon in a red Transit van called Betsy that had Magic Roundabout characters on the sides, seven children bouncing around in the back.
Camp with my own children is in a forest, ten days repeated, fading in and out year-by-year. Always the sound of a guitar. Cooking over the fire, tie-dying and crafts. The handmade light-sabre years: carefully orchestrated battles on the green. Garden fetes and sports days, death-slide stretched through the middle of camp. My children have grown up now, but we still stitch our memories into these woodland camp summers.
Olwen M Hughes – UK – No Sleep ‘Till Glasto.
When sleep would be the ideal bridge between discomfort and being able to do something about it, it never comes. Loosely attached, the fabric overhead flapped in sympathy with our presence; here and now, insubstantial but clear as the night air. Oh for this acuity months ago when the accusing exam papers merely elicited dozy resentment as years of building through acronyms for our Futures culminating in a crescendo of As. The “Level” bit always seemed more aspiration than solid state. In truth, We were as badly-perfect pitched as our tent.
Liz and I were ignoring life for a last summer at our first festival. Best mates, feeling our instincts and intellects meld, we gave in to innocence trusting its authenticity.
We got up.
Dressed for days, we had always been ready for shabbiness. We expected beauty.
The tent collapsed behind us. We fell over laughing.
Perhaps it was for want of showers and hot water that there were only two occupied pitches in a field with space for twenty. Nestled between the mountains: me, my dad and brother in the orange ridge tent; a lone woman in the blue igloo. A sole woman camper: we’d never seen the like.
Grown-up to grown-up, my dad managed the initial chitchat at the water tap, such as it was. But in the whitewashed toilet block, I had to confront this strange creature by myself. Bare-breasted, splashing cold water under her arms; she seemed at ease with her odd predicament, as if there were nothing untoward.
Looking back, it’s hard to find my teenage role models, any heroines other than in books. That woman extended my sense of what was possible and, although I’ve only done it once, it’s thanks to her I’ve dared go camping alone.
Lisa Reiter – UK
I remember roof racks, a homemade trailer and stuff packed in around us in the backseat.
I remember damp bedding, cold clothes and books that curled and stuck together.
I remember Mum being annoyed we woke when it was light and hissing if we fidgeted at night.
I remember eating fried breakfasts cooked at a back-breaking angle while someone else held the umbrella.
I remember occasional boules and frequent board games and cards.
I remember wearing wellies and macs and hiding bad hair under hats.
I remember buckets for catching drips and saving nighttime ‘trips’.
I remember pegs and mallets and tripping over ropes.
I remember the nighttime cacophony of snoring, farting and mid-night divorcing.
I remember now to decide last minute, check the weather and only go with friends who have a good sense of humour.
Thank you to all contributors for a delightful read! You are what makes this work.
The next prompt is out tomorrow at 2pm BST.
Will you have a go?!