‘We’re all going on a Summer Holiday,’ we all sang, as we happily left our home for a much belated break. Even the dog appeared to join in with the jubilation as we sped in the general direction of our holiday.
We had chosen to go camping this year – our first time! A friend of ours had persuaded us that there is nothing quite like being out under canvas. He had also given us all of his gear, tent, ground sheet, pegs, kettle etc. You name it we had it. I for one could not wait to get out in the fresh air, smelling the wonderful aroma of freshly fried bacon wafting through the green lush of the fields. It sounded like Heaven.
We had also been offered a site on a friend’s farm that was about 20 miles away, together with the use of his outdoor swimming pool, so it all sounded idyllic.
‘Do you know how to put a tent up?’ my wife asked, as we drove along.
‘Do I know how to put a tent up?’ I replied, astonished. ‘I was in the Army you know. Do I know how to put a tent up indeed. I’ve put up more tents than I’ve had hot dinners.’
My wife gave me one of her famous, ‘We’ll see,’ looks. I hate it when she does that. It is like she does not have any faith in me, which I must be honest, is quite understandable as I have messed up so very often. However I was adamant, I knew what I was doing. My tent erecting skills were spoken about all over the world, well, Catterick Camp any way.
We drove on into the countryside, it was a lovely day and the weather forecast looked quite promising. Within 30 minutes we were bumping up an old farm track that led to our friend’s farm. He was out working but he had given us good directions and we easily found the field that he allocated for camping. We parked in a corner of the field that was adjacent to a wood. It offered more privacy we felt and would be great for spotting wildlife.
There was a tent up already and a man, proudly sat outside drinking his mug of tea as we began to unload the car. He nodded his pleasantries and offered to help us erect the tent. However, I declined his kind offer as I felt I did not need to be helped. It was a project I had been looking forward to and I would attack it with relish! My wife obviously did not agree as she flashed her fangs, sorry, teeth at me in distaste.
I plodded on with the work in hand and laid the canvas out on the floor and made sure that the framework was intact and that there were sufficient guy ropes and pegs. It was a very old tent; nothing like you get today with the floor stitched to the main canvas. No this was vintage tent. The canvas had to be thrown over the framework, once you had fitted it all together. It was then strapped to the same framework and guyed to various pegs around the exterior. One then fitted a ground sheet and slept in very thick sleeping bags in order to keep warm. Great stuff!
Satisfied that I had all the necessary equipment, I began my work, observed by the man drinking his tea, who obviously felt that this was going to be something interesting to watch. I fitted the bottom part of the frame together with precision skill but I began to run into trouble as soon as I began to erect the uprights. As soon as I fitted the two at one end and went across to the opposite side to fit the others, the original two fell over. My arms were not long enough to reach all 4 corners. The man looked at me to see if I would ask for help.
‘Not on your life,’ I thought to myself, ‘I won’t give him the satisfaction.’
He settled down to watch me again, joined by his daughter, who wanted to know what was going on. I struggled with the uprights, but, alas, I had to be assisted by my wife and daughter in the end. They held the two at their end, whilst I inserted the upper cross poles which would hopefully keep it altogether. Within a few minutes the frame was standing proud. I gave a little proud glance at my audience who smiled encouragingly.
With elation, I threw the canvas over the frame and began the pulling and tugging of getting it level. Everything appeared to be going well and there was just one stubborn corner where the canvas was snagged. My wife could not reach it so I gave it an extra tug. With rather a slow motion affect like in the movies, the tent collapsed on top of me and I was left in a wilting heap whilst my wife and daughter rolled on the floor in hysterics.
My audience had now been extended, with the mother joining them and they all sat there being thoroughly entertained. Still I refused his help and I managed to reassemble the frame, throw the canvas over and secure it within about 30 minutes. I gloated in the glory of it all as I walked into my newly assembled temporary home for the next week. However this was short lived. In my desperation to erect my mobile abode, I had neglected to check the ground it was being planted on. When I entered the interior I was greeted by an enormous bunch of nettles.
‘This is not a problem,’ I whispered to my wife and daughter, desperate to not let my onlookers know the latest news. ‘I’ll sort this in no time.’
I went outside and released the guys. I figured that the tent needed to be moved about 4 feet. I also figured that I could pull it by one end into a better position. WRONG! No sooner had I tried it, that it all came down on top of me for the second time, leaving me in a crushed pile on the ground and a filthy mood too.
‘I think you need some help my friend,’ said the man who had been watching my efforts for the last 2 hours.
‘I think you’re right,’ I replied in a begging, no pleading type of style, ‘please help me. I’m desperate.’
With joint efforts from this wonderful family and from my own, the whole tent was erected in no time at all and we all sat having a refreshing cup of tea.
Where had I gone wrong? Well, looking back with hindsight, my downfall was in assuming that I knew it all. Such was my pride that I refused the help of someone who just wanted to be friendly, choosing to go it alone and get into the state that I did. Yes I had erected tents before, but they were army ones, nothing like this type of thing I had been introduced to but I was too stubborn to admit it.
Furthermore, one of the joys of this type of holiday, is the community spirit. These types of holidays are the ideal way in which to make new friends and you can learn a lot from other people too, especially when they have been camping for years and you are a novice.
My advice is, if it is your first time, admit it. Receive any help that is offered and do not be too proud to ask for the help either. Camping is a great way to get out into the wonderful outdoors, make friends and have fun but it can be a very different story if you do not know what you are doing and think you do, refusing all help offered. It is far better to admit your inadequacies, get help, thus hopefully making friends and then get on with what you intended to do, relax and enjoy!
© 2009 Grahame Howard