The Burning Salad Guide to Camping

Hooray...
Yay…
Yay! Camping!
…Camping!

Camping is one of the best and most practical ways to have a holiday. It’s incredibly cheap, you don’t really need to rely on anyone else for the quality of your accommodation (apart from the campsite, but we’ll get to that), or the food. You don’t have to travel very far, you don’t necessarily need your passport or to change money. If it’s a good campsite, and the weather is acceptable, and you’re all genuinely wanting the holiday to succeed, then camping can be brilliant. It’s great for feeling rugged and manly (or womanly) afterwards, you can really get back to nature, and a good holiday can really forge a strong family bond. But if it sucks, there’s no need to prolong the agony. You can just pack up and leave and be home by lunchtime.

Let me make something clear before we go further. As with all things, I am not an expert in camping. I was not brought up in a camping family. I first went camping with the Cubs, aged 9. I hated it. I then went camping with the Scouts, aged 11. I hated it. As a result, the prospect of camping was not something I ever entertained before meeting Sarah. In the second year of our relationship, she suggested that on our first proper summer holiday together, we could camp to save money. The first campsite we went to was… meh, and I wasn’t totally convinced. Characteristically, Sarah did not give up trying to convince me. The second place, a few days later, was a wild campsite in a beautiful valley, overlooking a gorgeous estuary. We got a pizza and some wine from the local village, rolled some spliffs, and we sat by candlelight under the stars, watching the Perseid meteor shower, and the International Space Station pass overhead. That, my friend, is camping magic.

Camping is not for everyone. Even campsite veterans will concede there are downsides. You have to build your own home. You have to cook your own food (unless you wimp out and eat at a nearby pub). You have to perform your ablutions in a cold toilet. The weather is a bit of an issue. There will be bugs. If you’re in the Americas, Australia, or certain parts of Europe, there will be bears, boars, wolves, snakes, scorpions, spiders the size of a horse, and probably manticores and Cthulu.

The FUCK is that??
The FUCK is that??

And everywhere, there are people. People talking at 4am. People in the toilet cubicle next to you with diarrhoea. People wandering over to your tent for a neighbourly chat. People on the far side of the otherwise empty field just getting on your nerves with their “camping”.

So here’s a guide. Please be aware that my experience of camping is limited to the UK, where the weather and the people are appalling.

PRE-HOLIDAY
Decide on where to go. A bit obvious, but you need to plan this carefully. Avoid Dorset and Cornwall because far too many people go there. Dorset is sandy and full of the wrong sort of campsite (see below). Dorset seems to attract the very stupidest of people, and all the best bits are overrun throughout the Summer. Visit Dorset in Autumn or early Spring, it’s gorgeous at those times of the year and free of bloody tourist people (known in the South West of the UK as ‘Grockles’).

Cornwall is the part of Britain every Brit visits at some point in their lives. Again, lovely county with lovely people, but bear in mind that all the classic Cornwall locations have their drawbacks. Padstow is, thanks to Rick Stein, full of foodie-wanker Grockles. Newquay is full of A-Level studenty Grockles and surfer Grockles, all in the process of getting alcohol poisoning.

Devon is probably your best bet if you can avoid the major population centres, and it’s reasonably quiet. There are Grockles, and Grockly things to do, but it never feels like there are too many of either. The South of Devon is gently rolling with lots of ice-cream parlours, but full of yachters and hippies (and it’s a good idea to avoid Torbay). The North of Devon is more rugged, more remote, but seems like it is trapped somewhere in the 1950s, and has no phone signal whatsoever.

Of course, there are other places in the UK: Wales, Scotland, every other county in England that isn’t Cornwall, Dorset or Devon, but I really cannot be arsed to go through all their merits and downsides right now. Suffice to say, they’re all brilliant, and you should go there. Except for Hampshire. Fucking… Hampshire…

Preparation
Prepare everything, because you need to take everything. Have it so that on the day, all you need to do is load the car. If you are a regular camper, you might want to have a fully stocked camping box, full of all the things you don’t need in your normal life, and only use when camping (tent pegs, butane gas, mosquito repellent, footpump for airbed, folding camp chairs, head torch, etc).

Draw up a packing list. Having one of these means that when you do pack, you’re not left with the nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten something. You don’t want to rock up to a campsite in the heart of Exmoor only to discover you’ve forgotten your anti-depressants, or the airbed pump, do you? Trust me, you do not want to blow up the airbed using your own lungs at 9pm whilst suffering from a serious moodswing thanks to the stress of the packing, setting up the tent, and the horrors of negotiating Devon lanes in failing light with a beloved family loudly desiring food and shelter.

Kitchen stuff:
Crockery, cutlery, plastic cups (better get used to drinking Chardonnay from a plastic mug, that is, if you’re the type of twat who a) drinks Chardonnay; and b) cares what vessel you use to drink it), some sort of sieve or colander, portable cooking pots, kettle, butane gas stove etc.

PHNUT’S AMAZINGLY INSIGHTFUL TOP TIP #1 (actually three top tips in one. Bargain!)
1. Get yourself a barbecue wok. It’s like a wok with holes in it. Best way to cook veg over a fire, and it means your menu expands massively. I love meat, but after four nights of eating barbecued meat sandwiched in soggy bread rolls, and I had parts of my body actually prodding me to get some vegetables in my diet
2. Get yourself a folding griddle. It’s like two bits of mesh you can clamp together. It’s a really good way to cook meat or fish, and large pieces of veg and less fiddly than using a barbecue grill and some tongs.
3. Get yourself a “Dutch Oven”. I know it sounds like a fetish, and you’ll feel awkward talking about it in public, but it’s basically a cast iron pot that can be suspended from a tripod. It’s great for cooking stews, soups, chilli and curry; it cooks things slowly and evenly; and best of all, it looks like a cauldron, so you can pretend to be a warlock!

“Stew’s ready, folks…”

Food:
Bring essentials that are easily packable – bread, milk, beer, water, salt, pepper. Only bring meat if you have the means to keep it cool. Cool bags are all very well and good, but if you have an inefficient one (and you are miraculous enough to get warm weather in the UK), you don’t want to come back to the campsite from a day out at the local beehive museum to cook up some barbecued food poisoning for the whole family. Bring some veg, but don’t go nuts, just bring stuff that is easy to chop and cook. Only bring about one or two days’ food with you. Everywhere in the UK, even in the middle of cities, there are farm shops, and most will sell decent meat, veg, milk and bread, at hugely inflated prices.

Clothing:
You know those articles in newspapers and magazines that come out every summer showing you how to dress stylishly when camping? Festival chic? All flowing dresses and floppy hats? Well, it’s a metric ton of bullshit.

You can fuck off with this nonsense right now...
You can piss off with this nonsense right now…

The last thing you will care about on day four of your camping holiday is looking stylish, because by that point you will be unwashed, you will smell of campfire and mozzie spray, your hair could grease an axle, and your skin will be blotchy and grubby. Looking like a diaphanous Pre-Raphaelite is the least of your priorities. Your happiness depends on warm clothes, wet weather gear, warm and sturdy boots, plenty of spare socks and trousers (because you WILL get them wet), and most crucially, warm night clothes. Are you the sort of guy who wears naught but a pair of boxers in bed? Grow up and get a pair of pyjamas. Because at 3am, in Dorset, with a full bladder and a toilet 200 yards away, during a very unseasonal night of sleet to walk through, you will be a prize dick for doing it in the near nude.

Make sure you have dry clothes to hand EVERY NIGHT. Because if you do need to go out coldest part of the night, it is one of the worst experiences of your entire life to put on a pair of wet denim trousers. Trust me, I know.

Bedding:
Bring lots of it. Blankets, duvets, sheets, sleeping bags, pillows, quilts, a mattress (either a camping bed or an air mattress)… They are the bulkiest items you will take, but just stuff them into every corner of your car boot. You will need it, all of it.

TOPSY TIP #2
Before leaving for a camping holiday, tidy the house thoroughly. This is essential. You will regret it if you don’t.

PACKING THE CAR
You’ve played Tetris, right?
packing-car

GETTING THERE
Your car is now packed and you have no rear visibility. You are now a lorry! You suspect you need a sign on the back of your car saying “If you can’t see my mirrors, I will accidentally kill you”.

TOP CLEVER STUFF #3
Fill the car with fuel, check water, tyres, and route the day before you leave, otherwise it could take you an hour to leave town and exacerbate the “arewenearlythereyet?” factor on the journey.

Aim to leave before lunch, but not at lunchtime itself, otherwise you spend the first 30 minutes of the trip looking for somewhere to eat, and the next 45 herding your herd through lunch and more pre-journey toilet stops.

Decide on your route before leaving the house. Motorway driving is horrible and full of other people with the exact same vacation intention as you. Get off it as soon as you can. Heading out into the wilderness on a winding country road is part of the appeal of camping, but that means coming to terms with the countryside traffic, which is different from your aggressively somnambulant city traffic. The countryside is full of people who live there, know the roads well, and are not sympathetic to Grockles with stupidly full cars clogging up the road. Also watch out for farm animals, tractors, farm animals in trucks being pulled by tractors, farm animals driving the tractors, and people walking in the middle of the road.

If planning to go somewhere in the UK with lots of hills (Exmoor, Dartmoor, Wales, Scotland, anywhere not Norfolk), there is the added bonus of driving up and down really steep hills. In a fully-packed car, with children demanding to know the proximity to destination, a partner saying “we really need to find somewhere to eat now”, a 1-in-4 hill is a lively and thrilling experience. Especially if you’re struggling up the hill, and your car is groaning with the effort, and you’re right behind a knackered VW Camper Van that stalls at the steepest part and rolls backwards towards you. Poo will come out.

THE CAMPSITE
All you need for a decent campsite is a field with washing facilities for utensils, clothes and body, and a decent toilet. A dodgy rope swing suspended from a tree branch is an added bonus. Small stone circles to denote fireplaces. Anything more is unnecessary and ostentatious frippery.

Frippery
Frippery

If you’re going to one of those campsites with manicured lawns, a swimming pool, play equipment for the kids, a bar, and “live entertainment”, then you’re not camping, you’re just going to a hotel with extra grass.

Setting up the tent and providing a shelter is the first priority, whether you are stranded after a plane crash in the jungle, or camping just by the coast in Devon. Get the tent out of the car. It will be buried at the bottom, underneath everything else, so you will have to unpack the entire car in order to reach it. If it is raining, too bad. Once the tent is retrieved, then the holiday can begin (once you’ve built the tent and sorted out the bedding…).

VITALLY IMPORTANT!
Decide who is in charge of putting up the tent before attempting to make camp.

You cannot hope to put up a tent on your own, so you need to enlist the help of your spouse. Send the kids away. Either lock them in the car, or pack them off to bother your new neighbours and see if they can make new friends. This is one of the few times in their childhood they can talk to strangers, so they’re probably keen to give it a go.

Putting up a tent brings out the worst in the very sweetest of couples. In the pouring rain, with complaining children, in a howling gale, in some godforsaken field, in the middle of nowhere, it is very tempting to call your partner a “stupid fucking idiot” for not tightening a guy-rope properly at the exact right moment. But don’t do it, because that will result in a shouting, a storming-off, the collapse of the tent, some resentful seething, some marriage counselling, some negotiations, some very angry family members, an eventual truce, some half-arsed and knackered putting up of the tent in the dark, some cooking cold beans over a tiny gas burner, and some very awkward sleeping arrangements. And after all that, you then have to enjoy the rest of the holiday all together.

Now last night, when we were putting up the tent, you might have heard Mummy calling Daddy a rude name…
“For fuck’s sake, you useless bellend?”
Yes, that’s the one…

TOP KNOWLEDGES #4
If you are the kind of couple where both of you like to feel in control, then putting up the tent is the time for COMPROMISE! Decide who is in charge, and stick to it, even if they turn out to be wrong.

If your partner makes a right royal fucksplosion of the whole affair, you can quietly gain moral superiority, and it would then be easier to gently say “Do you want me to take over?”. Chances are, give or take some grumbling, there may well be immediate and grateful acquiescence.

There is nothing worse (or funnier) than watching a bickering couple in a campsite, both refusing to concede control, pulling at the opposite ends of tent poles like some sort of weird, egotistical, village fete challenge, while their kids are howling out of boredom and hunger.

Once you have made your tent, the next most essential thing (while your partner sorts out bedding) is that you need to be able to make a fire. A barbecue will do in a pinch if you’re a sissy, but a real fire – with wood and smoke and ash, and the risk of accidents, serious injury, and lifelong disfigurement – is best.

Most campsites won’t allow fires. Those campsites are cunts, and they’re not worth your patronage. Choose a campsite which does allow fires. For one thing, you will feel completely awesome if you get a fire going.

You will feel a bit like this...
You will feel a bit like this…
...and it's perfectly understandable if you feel like this...
…and it’s perfectly understandable if you feel like this…
...and for a while you'll feel you're rather mighty, a bit like he must feel...
…and for a while you’ll feel you’re rather mighty, a bit like he must feel all the time…
...and even a bit like this. If you're lucky.
…you might even feel a bit like this…
Wickerman
…but don’t get too carried away.

The Power-and-Manliness XP points gained from laying out the kindling and logs, and making them burn with your own bare hands is worth all the effort. If you can light a fire without the aid of firelighters, it’s +15 XP points. If you can light a fire using matches it’s a further +10 XP points (+30 XP if you can light it with only one match). DO NOT use a cigarette lighter; not only is it cheating, but you WILL burn your thumb in the process. If you can light a fire without the aid of paper to “get it going”, it’s +100 XP points. If you can light a fire using a knife blade and flint (or even better, rubbing sticks together), you get +1000 XP points and my eternal respect. Congratulations, you have won at camping, and therefore life itself.

For another, food (especially meat) tastes a bazillion times better when it is cooked over a fire.

TOP GEAR #5
Camping is made 400x better (or at least it is made bearable) if you learn how to toast marshmallows on a barbecue fork (or if you’re up for more XP points, on a stick with a sharpened point). However, exercise caution when taking the ‘shmallow off a fork or stick. Marshmallow burns are the most painful burns known to man.

YOU WILL NEED:
Wood. It’s best if you get wood beforehand. If you can source your own wood by harvesting a tree with your own axe, chopping it into logs, seasoning and drying it out for a year, and bringing it with you, then well done, have another +3000 XP points and the use of my car*. There’s no shame in buying pre-cut, pre-seasoned wood. Most farm shops, DIY stores, garage forecourts, and hardware shops will sell logs, although you should possibly avoid the garage forecourt logs because they’re usually damp as fuck.

(*I will not honour this arrangement)

Campsites that allow fires usually supply logs. They’re worth getting, because they’ll be cheap, although the quality of the wood can range from beautifully dry and seasoned, to damp, spongy masses of organic material.

Bring plenty of wood. Think of the amount of wood you might need, and then double it. If you can’t fill the boot of your already-laden car with wood, then plan to obtain lots of wood once you’ve got to the campsite. Wood is now your friend. You need wood. Get wood now!

YOU CANNOT just pick up twigs from around the campsite and expect to build a fire with it. By all means tell your offspring this, and send them off on a wood-gathering mission. This will once again get them away from you, and allow you to get on with lighting the fire without distraction or “help”.

Once settled, with the fire going, the tent set up, the inside of the tent now a luxurious bedouin chamber of cushions, throws, rugs, quilts and comfort, and your children making friends with fellow campsite children, and your partner admiring you for your leadership skills, firemaking and meat-cooking ability, then you can set up a folding chair and relax in the evening sunshine. It is one of the best feelings of your life. Ah, camping.

Of course, if you’ve ignored my advice thus far, your spouse will be seething at you, your children will hate you, your home for the next however-long will be cold and miserable and very uncomfortable, your food will be inedible, and you will be unable to keep yourself warm and dry. Ah, camping.

BLOP BLIP #6
Bring a headtorch. How else are you going to read Touching The Void whilst holding a bottle of beer by the light of a flickering campfire at 11pm?

TIP TAP #7
Take your boots off outside the main part of the tent. If you are lucky to have one of those tents with a sort of entrance porch, that’s supposed to be where you keep your boots. Trust me, you do not want the sleeping area of your tent to be sullied with muddy footprints. It causes more hassle than it is ever worth and will result in you having to clean the inside of the tent when you get home, which is such a momentous faff of a job, it’s just better all round if you just stop whining and take your fucking shoes off when I say so.

FACILITIES
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The toilet and washroom facility needs to be clean, but you are camping now, and there should be limits to your expectations. As already mentioned, you will have to share your holiday with wildlife, and even the most antiseptic of rural campsites will have a few mini-beasts in the loos. What you absolutely must have is a decent lock on the toilet door. Not just for those moments when the cheery mum from two-tents-over walks in on you whilst you suffer from explosive food-poisoning, but also for those late-night incidents you cannot prepare for.

One of the most terrifying moments in my life was during a camping holiday near Dartmoor when, at 4am in the morning, I was sitting on a freezing toilet in a block where all the lights didn’t work. The coldly primeval ur-light of pre-dawn, in a spider-infested shed, is no time to have a poo interrupted. Especially not by the farm sheepdog nosing the door open in order to play with a new human friend.

In the gloom, without my glasses, in the middle of a very private moment, the vague outline of a curious hound might as well be the silhouette of an enraged and slathering werewolf. Too scared to shoo it away, too frightened to reach past his jaws to close the door, I sat there paralysed and mute with fear at his shaggy grey outline. Eventually he got bored of a fat, shitting human who wouldn’t play, yawned and padded off, loping into the dark to nuzzle open a tent or two. I still sat there, a bit scared, for at least another ten minutes, in case it was a trick to ambush me, and even then I was reluctant to move because of all the spiders that were waiting to pounce on my face.

In your average campsite washroom facility, the showers are cold and lacking any water pressure. The basins are tiny and completely impractical when it comes to brushing your teeth or washing your hands. You can forget having a decent hot bath, and that’s not good when you have lower back pain and have been sleeping on an airbed for six nights. Above all, you have to do all your most private toilety things in close proximity to other people. It is then, and only then, you discover that you take sitting on the loo, plopping noisily, reading a magazine, and picking your nose (in the knowledge that no one can see or hear you) for granted. Massively.

SLEEP
It is impossible to get a perfect nights’ sleep from camping. The first night will be the worst. Nobody ever sleeps well in unfamiliar surroundings, especially when those surroundings make… weird, Hammer-horror rustling noises, and you are occasionally woken by a strange doppler-effect buzzing above your head, or the sensation of many chitinous legs scurrying across you. Kids will get up as soon as the sky begins to lighten. Your neighbours will cheerfully get up at the crack of dawn and not keep their voices down. Airbeds slowly deflate overnight, leaving you with the steadily growing feeling of your shoulderblades touching the earth underneath the tent, and every time your spouse turns over, you will be jerked into consciousness due to the airmattress wobbling. Camp-beds are angular and weird and not very conducive to bed-sharing. And at about 5am, the fucking birds kick off with their incessant squawking. Your body will adjust to a more diurnal existence, but you’re not going to help matters by staying up past 10:30pm reading by torchlight.

“We had a really good night’s sleep and weren’t bothered by any ‘What the fuck was that…?’ noises!” said no family on a camping holiday ever.

THINGS TO DO
Just face it. You have become your parents and nowadays, your idea of a good day out is to visit a large country house, or a picturesque village, and consume cream teas. Sometimes all you want to do is look at a landscape. You have forgotten how boring those things can be, although your kids will be audibly resentful about it. Don’t worry, thirty years from now they’ll remember these things with fond nostalgia, and visit some pretty little rose-covered vicarage for a cream tea because they will remember how nice it is. The circle of life goes on.

Try and break it up with visits to loud, offensive, noisy theme parks and zoos, but be prepared to absorb just how wallet-shittingly expensive they can be.

Bear in mind you will come into contact with other people, who will ruin your holiday. Their stupidity will astonish you.

Examples:
1. The prick we encountered at Longleat House who went on the tour to look round the wing of the mansion designed by the profoundly loopy current Marquess – day-glo colours, mirrors, and his appalling oil-on-chipboard paintings, including the porny room full of infantile scribbles of hippies getting blowjobs – and said loudly (in the tones of an outraged middle-Englander) “How can he be allowed to do this??”. It’s his own house, you fucking dimwit.
2. The perma-smoking harridan leading a tribe of moaning children around the excellent Monkey World in Dorset. Prominent on her wrinkled forearm was a ghastly blue tattoo of a baby’s face with the word “Lewey” in italic script. One suspects the rat-faced early-teen with a permanent scowl-and-whine combo in his breaking voice would be Lewey, especially as said matriarch’s constant leitmotif of “Shut the fuck up and stop complainin’, Lewey” was a bit of a pointer.
Matriarch was then observed scrutinising a cage containing a spider monkey, and then screeching “’ey! ‘EY! C’mere and look at the Gorilla!”. No madam, it’s a spider monkey. A SPIDER MONKEY. It’s written by the cage. It doesn’t say ‘Gorilla’, it says ‘Spider Monkey’. Are you that stupid not to use your eyes? Or are you determined to not make the effort to shift your gaze sideways to understand what you’re looking at?? What’s wrong with you, apart from your stupid tattoo of your stupid offspring?
3. The person at the National Aquarium in Plymouth who shouted loudly to her family “’Ey! Look at the lobster” whilst pointing at a sea-urchin. Lewey was not in attendance.
4. The man in the country house garden throwing a Frisbee to his son, and loudly complaining (in a crestfallen Brummie accent) about his son’s technique whenever his son attempted to throw the Frisbee back. Another happy memory for that family’s holidays, I’m sure.

The UK is full of things to do. It is wise to do some prior research into what is or isn’t available in your chosen camping area. Obviously, if you want to take kids to the north-west coast of Scotland, you’re not likely to encounter much in the way of theme parks.

You are never more than about 10 miles from the nearest castle in the UK. Castles are what the UK excels at, particularly in Wales, where there are over 600 of the bloody things. The UK is also a world-leader when it comes to posh houses to wander round and gawp at the spoils of a life of unimaginable privilege and wealth.

Hey Americans, this is how everyone in England used to live, back in the old days. No, really!
Hey Americans, this is how everyone in England used to live, back in the old days.

And also, it may be a pile of rocks, but it’s a pile of rocks from 3000 BC and nobody knows how they were built (Celts, druids, aliens, etc), and nobody knows what they’re for (probably astrological, probably a site of worship/blood sacrifice, probably for communing with aliens) and there’s an entire local community (and a targetted-at-spiritually-minded-Grockles micro-industry) devoted to its mysteries, complete with the inevitable shop selling books of aerial photos of the site, crystals, joss sticks, dream-catchers, and self-published books on alien sightings in the area.

The UK also has a fair share of baffling tourist attractions and museums. It is almost a cliche to snark at the likes of Garden Gnome Rescue Centres, Hedgehog Hospitals, Museums of Tinkly Music Boxes, and Trout Farms, but they’re usually brilliant. And don’t discount the power (the “Coo!-Factor”) of a spectacularly charming village, with bonus points if you cannot reach it or enter it by car (e.g. Clovelly in Devon), and instead have to ride a special bus (or donkey) to get there.

Also, there are always the slightly shabby attractions – almost half-arsed and partially broken, poorly attended places, usually run as an off-season moneyspinner by circus families, or set up by eccentric Victorians. These places usually have a three-star rating on TripAdvisor, are vaguely terrible, are staffed by local teenagers, and have a smattering of exotic animals (peacocks and llamas, mostly), some dreadful rides, a bizarre museum (a cellar full of Edwardian bicycles! A collection of grandfather clocks! Wax mannequins! A dotty old lady’s creepy doll army!), and it is all usually in the grounds of a dilapidated Victorian manor house/folly/castle. If they have crappy animatronic wax figures to go with it, you, my friend, have hit the fucking jackpot.

“We want to see something that will tire the kids out and make them sleep through the night…”

At this point, I must ask you to face facts. In such parts of the country you will have poor mobile phone reception, and very little Wi-Fi. Here’s the thing: If you are the type of unspeakable arsehole who brings their tablets and laptops on holiday – any holiday, not just camping – then you deserve the contempt of the civilised world. You are on HOLIDAY. That means getting away from all that bullshit. And if your kids whine that they’re bored without their PEW-PEW machines, then it behooves you and them to learn to live without them for a bit. Nobody has ever died of boredom on a camping holiday. YOU ARE CAMPING NOW. Fuck electricity. The only thing you need it for is a) batteries for the headtorch; and b) keeping the phone charged in case of emergency (and c) starting the car and using it for headlights and such).

OK, I get the point about Kindles, and other similar reading devices. It’s not a bad idea to have one of those. They take up a smaller space and weigh much less than the equivalent in books. But everything else… well, it’s time to go analogue. Ball games, chess, making new friends, rope swings, running around. Your kids need to know how to do those things. They’re important life skills (not unlike constructing a shelter, cooking food over a fire, and learning to co-operate together for a week whilst facing certain privations). I know it’s becoming a clichéd whinge, but having them not stare at an LCD screen for one week or two per year, and forcing them to find entertainment in a book, a game, or their own imagination, is not going to cause them irreparable harm. They’ll say it will, but kids are liars.

THE END OF THE HOLIDAY
By the end of the holiday, you will most likely be tired, sunburned, filthy, smelly, covered in mosquito bites, fed up of local shopkeepers muttering “bloody Grockles” under their breath at you, suffering from a lack of a good nights’ sleep, without any clean clothes (probably with some very damp clothes), itchy, fed up of having to take your boots off in a damp tent porch, and suffering PTSD from all the fucking chickens squawking at dawn. You will have tired of trying to bully everyone into a “nice, countryside walk”, only to find you are leading a family of grumbling, unfit naysayers up a steep hill, all loudly demanding to turn around and go back to the tent.

You will have rediscovered your hatred of airbeds, gotten really bored of cooking over a fire, sick and tired of all your cutlery and crockery having flies and grass stems all over it; really, really, REALLY hating all the other campers in the campsite (particularly the way all the children just walk in and out of your tent, with no sense of boundary or privacy, having been invited to by your offspring). You will have had enough of reading by torchlight, and drinking petrol station-bought bottles of Chardonnay out of plastic mugs. You will be cold, wet, sexually frustrated, depressed, not relaxed, aching, with sore and blistered feet, with chafed thighs, missing all your home comforts, missing the internet, missing sofas, missing kettles, missing a proper hob to cook on, missing DVDs, missing the music you didn’t bring with you and instead having to listen to the same 4 CDs over and over again (particularly the child-friendly ones), missing proper cutlery and seating, missing news bulletins, and even possibly missing your job. It is time to end living like a savage in a dystopian future, and return to civilisation. Congratulations, you have had a camping holiday!

HappyCamperNot.jpg

TOP TRUMP #8
It is very tempting, on the morning of your departure, to just bung everything in the back of your car in a rush and get home by lunchtime. NO. Do not be tempted by your own sloth. If you do that, you will lose the will to live when it comes to unpacking the car at the other end and it just adds to the post-holiday comedown. It is also tempting to just pack the crockery and cutlery away without washing it first. Take it from me, you need to wash the dishes first.

Other than that, you just need to clear out the tent interior (again, send the kids off to amuse themselves – although deflating an airbed is one of life’s underrated pleasures that the whole family should experience), take down the tent (the need to apportion leadership is important again at this stage, somebody has to maintain the momentum otherwise this is the point where you give up and become catatonic), and pack everything accordingly. Be sure to empty all bedding of any stowaways, unless you want a large rural centipede to run across your face in the middle of the night three days after getting home.

Weirdly, despite having consumed food, water, wood (and possibly having dumped some muddy-beyond-salvation clothes), you will find the car to be more tightly packed on the return from camping, than at the start of the holiday. Nobody can explain why this happens.

Driving home from camping is often a quiet and sombre affair, filled with the expectant promise of home. It can sometimes take hours longer than the journey out, due to horrible traffic, tiredness, and everyone being fed up with one another. Getting home is a weird mixture of relief and culture shock, as you drive normally-familiar streets back to your house through the filter of exhaustion. And then you have to unpack the car (this is where the “just dump everything in one room. Fuck it.” temptation is burningly strong, and I urge you to resist, even though I never have managed to fight it off, and I’ve ALWAYS ended up paying the price).

If you did not tidy the house before you left, you will come home from a week of discomfort, privations, and complete lack of hygiene to a filthy shitpit. It is the most depressing and demoralising experience ever. This completely negates the point of going on holiday. See? I TOLD YOU it was vitally important to tidy the house before going on holiday, and you DIDN’T LISTEN.

How nice to get back home...
Home again, jiggedy-jig…

When you get home, and the car is unpacked, and you’ve caught up on a weeks’ worth of Facebook, don’t bother cooking. Get the most guilty takeaway ever, pack the kids off to their beds (I’m pretty sure they will be grateful for once), run a really, skin-burningly hot bath, and immerse yourself. Not only will the water turn black, not only will your skin fizz and sizzle like a soluble aspirin, but on the edge of your hearing, you could almost swear you can hear thousands of tiny screams.

MYTHS ABOUT CAMPING

It’s just like Carry on Camping!
It’s not.

You can have sex while camping!
Yes, providing you do it with minimal noise, effort, and movement. You know how since having kids, you have sex in your own bed as quietly as possible, for fear of waking and traumatising your offspring? Now apply that to canvas walls, a countryside where the slightest noise doth carry for miles. You hear that rooster crowing at 4am from two miles away? Now apply that to your sexy “unnnnnh!” noises. You are loudly announcing to everyone outdoors in the local district that you are having sex, and I can assure you, you are being marked out of ten for technique, duration, and evidence of mutual pleasure.

You can play an acoustic guitar and sing songs around the campfire!
Do that in my presence, and the campsite will become the opening round of The Hunger Games, with me as the fucker with the machete. Nobody deserves to hear you wobble your way through ‘With Or Without You’.

Here is a picture of some absolute wankers.
Here is a picture of some absolute wankers.

Camping is fun!
It’s not ever fun. It’s wild, it’s unpredictable, it is immensely rewarding, it is inspiring, it is peaceful, it is lively, you get in touch with nature, you really feel at one with the countryside you can have a good time… yes. But it’s never anything as frivolous as “fun”.

“Oh, I’ll just fuckin’ do it myself then, shall I Daddy?!”

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2 thoughts on “The Burning Salad Guide to Camping

  1. Terrific post! I love your style and outlook on this. I am a huge fan of camping. I was in scouts as a kid and learned a lot that way.

    The worst is when you are trying to get away and find yourself surrounded by fools frolicking to the forest and millennial twits who have never learned how to spend one day without Instagraming their face in front of a lake. #mellissalovesnature. Shut up, Melissa! Put the phone away before I make your next post #melissalivesunderatreenow #findthebody.

    Ya….but over all a holiday is nice.

    Like

  2. That was epic! We are building up to our first camping trip by cooking outdoors last few weekends. I would prefer wild camping rather than a camping site.

    Like

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