We all know what camping is about, don’t we – getting out in the fresh air and back to basics, just you and your little tent, roughing it without the clutter of modern life between you and nature. Etc. Often this involves torrential rain, mud, and wishing you’d bought a better sleeping bag, admittedly. But it makes you appreciate those mod cons all the more as you dump your mud-encrusted clothing in the washer and retreat into a hot bath and a glass of wine.
Now, I appreciate that this sort of deliberate discomfort isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I always had a lot of sympathy with those people who went for the pre-erected tents and proper furniture experience offered by commercial camping tour ops. And not only because I got a job out of the arrangement either. Let’s face, it proper camping with three kids and an unruly dog is hardly a restful experience. After getting lost halfway through France, having a blazing row about which way you should have gone, arriving at the site after dark and having to wrestle with a huge tent in the pouring rain only to find that someone forgot to pack the tentpegs, the torch and the teabags, you’re not exactly in the holiday mood.
How much better then, to arrive to a fully equipped tent which someone else has put up, cleaned, and arranged nicely with a little welcome pack and everything. It doesn’t stop you getting lost and almost diovorced on the way down, obviously, but it does make the aftermath that bit more comfortable.
These days though, I feel we may have taken the home comforts thing just that bit too far. Mobile homes were always an option, but the rest of us were inclined to look at them rather sniffily and regard them as ‘not real camping’. Even the people booking them tended to be a bit apologetic and offer excuses about being that much older these days and needing a bit more comfort, and of course we used to do tents when we had the kids etc etc. Yeah, right.
But these days people of all ages shamelessly book huge palatial mansions complete with full sized freezers (Why? WHY? You’re only here for a week, what are you planning to freeze, for God’s sake?), dishwashers and those humungous American style fridges which take up 90% of your kitchen space and go wrong all the time. By the time you’ve added the decking, the garden furniture and the fancy gas-fired grill (no, it isn’t a barbecue – barbecues involve charcoal and blackened sausages, not gas bottles) you might as well have rented a gite. At least you’d get a bit of privacy instead of being rammed in cheek by jowl with everyone else in a field which is beginning to look more like a trailer park than a campsite.
And what’s more, these people have the temerity to refer to their excursions as ‘camping’ holidays. I have news for you all here – not only is this most emphatically not ‘real camping’, it’s not even camping at all. Be honest, what’s the difference between this fancy caravan and your house? All right, the walls are thinner, but that’s about it. I swear the bloody things are actually bigger than my house. The fridges are certainly bigger than mine, that’s for sure.
While I could just about live with the 30-year tent veteran deciding that he fancied his own loo rather than the trek to the toilet block (and having the grace to look a bit sheepish about it), I am frankly disgusted by the lack of backbone displayed by the younger camping generation. Really people, think of the harm you are doing to your children. What sort of huge girls blouses will they turn into if they grow up never having had to brave the middle of the night trip to the washblock with a torch? Never woken in terror convinced they were about to be eaten alive because there was a hedgehog clattering round the groundsheet sounding like a herd of woolly mammoths? Never experienced the joys of wading out of the tent in pyjamas and wellies, dragging sodden sleeping bags, then spending the rest of the night shivering in the car? These pantywaists will not be there for you in your old age, I warn you, and it will be your own fault for not taking them on proper character-building family holidays.