It takes an unfeasibly large quantity of man-made materials to get back to nature, not including the stuff you really need that you’ll have left behind. Time to smell a rat when your holiday packing list is the answer to, ‘Will I freeze to death?’ and, ‘How to make the family feel less extremely uncomfortable?’
The food shopping is hard to get right. You can’t keep the cold stuff cold but you’ve got nothing to heat it up with and no energy left after the meticulous planning of the alcohol provision.
When you arrive, fresh from being wedged against the car window by a double duvet and a pack of croissants, your tent isn’t as good as everyone else’s. Theirs are symmetrical. They have bunting and swimsuits on pegs drying in the front porch area. They have front porch areas. They look like they’ve been erected by a millennial from Millets after an almond milk smoothie.
Yours looks like it was put up by one and a half late twentieth century burnouts who sacrificed a slice of their marriage they couldn’t afford- because it was and you did. The ground sheet belongs on a small table, holding bread. There are loose toggles and spare flaps. It smells like failure. The sleeping pods will drape down to graze your comatosed face in the terrifying light of dawn, suffocating you with nylon condensation. The mattress, whose air sucked the life out of the car battery, is preparing itself to show you it wasn’t built for something very heavy to lie on it, putting pressure on the tiny undiscoverable hole.
The kids get flatbed roller filthy, meaning they’ll never be the same colour again. When they eat sausages with their fingers, they may as well be using chopsticks fashioned from impacted faeces. They get splinters and make up cruel, excluding games in the woods, where no adult can stop them. They go swimming without towels. They steal each other’s glow sticks, then fall into bed 3 hours beyond being bearable, with their teeth welded together by ketchup and burnt marshmallows. They replace the tent failure smell with something worse, then wake you up an hour into working off your campfire hangover to say they’re cold and hungry and need to poo. At which point you give them an extra pair of shorts, a warm coke and advice to hold it in.
Everyone is better than you. They’ve made sharing dishes with pulses and have spare gas canisters for their 6-ring stoves. They play ball games with all the children. They enjoy one chilled Pimms out of a re-usable cup, harmonise a song with their partner, then say they’ve had a lovely day and it’s time to get some shut-eye. Which they won’t get, because you’ll still be talking too loudly in the freezing darkness around the fire outside their perfect pitch at 2 in the morning, sunburnt and jazzed up on rum.
On pack-up day, you feel like Godzilla. There’s no water or hope left. Just scared people wandering around with bowls of dirty dishwater, asking who’s got their bottle opener.
When you fold the tent that has now grown to circus marquee proportions and won’t fit in its bag, the ghetto left on the grass makes you feel like the first person on the scene after a plane crash. It’s the contents of your whole house, minus the walls and drawers, plus an escaped demon ferret. Jumpers with houmous on the sleeves. Empty crisp packets in shoes that don’t match and aren’t yours. Tennis rackets no-one used, wrapped in toilet roll and toothpaste. Everything infested by countless unclassified bugs and reeking of wood smoke.
Ok, the bits inbetween are a riot.
Next year, we’re gonna cruise into Mellow Farm in one of these: