I'm terrible at camping - but a weekend under canvas left me curiously refreshed | Blaise Tapp
Ever since the world was turned on its head last year, even more of us have become obsessed with the great outdoors.
Maybe it was the rationing of exercise in the fresh air during the first lockdown that did it, but whatever the reason, it seems more of us are determined to make the most of the Great British Countryside.
Venture anywhere with a decent pub and anything resembling a charming view and you’ll struggle to move for lean, wiry folk, wearing hiking books that cost more than a week’s stay in Blackpool and with a dead-eyed determination to tick off new routes.
Although I greatly appreciate the natural attractions of our stunning nation, I don’t consider myself to be the least bit ‘outdoorsy’.
Maybe, it’s a hangover from my youth when I would’ve been firmly in contention for the ‘worst scout’, had such an award existed.
Despite spending nearly four years under the watchful eye of red-faced men with woggles, I learned very little in the way of traditional scouting and struggled as much with a compass as I might with understanding advanced nuclear physics.
Much to my late dad’s chagrin, I left the scouts struggling to tie my own shoelaces, never mind being able to accomplish anything as complex as a reef knot.
In my defence, the scout pack that I belonged to in the late 1980s was a far cry from what Lord Baden-Powell would have envisioned the best part of a century before.
The group of lads who I came to know as my Friday night brothers might not have been able to make a shelter out of a couple of branches and a KwikSave bag but we did know where to buy the best chips in South Manchester, due to our now legendary chip shop surveys.
These were my favourite of all scout nights and involved us visiting a variety of chippies with the intention of crowning our champion.
It’s fair to say that there wasn’t a badge for that particular task, although I’m told that the tradition is being upheld more than three decades later.
It’s this lack of practical experience which meant that, once again, I showed myself up when I embarked upon the now traditional camping trip with a group of dads and our respective children last weekend.
Despite packing the car with enough stuff for a fortnight away, I’m pretty much always the worst prepared on such trips, and my tent erecting skills are so lacking that watching me trying to work out which end to start at has become a spectator sport for my fellow campers.
I always pack far too many clothes for the three of us and what I do bring along is never quite appropriate for the weather.
Without fail, I always lose something, although I haven’t yet managed to permanently misplace the children.
I am fortunate enough to go away with blokes who do know how to follow a map and also how to light a campfire without singeing their nasal hairs.
When you consider the facts for too long, camping shouldn’t be any fun at all: not being able to get more than three hours of sleep and coming home with a bag full of damp clothes that smell of burnt marshmallows are not the key components of a successful marketing campaign.
But there is something incredibly liberating about waking up to the sound of the countryside and mucking in with a gang of people who don’t care whether their hair has been combed.
Despite the fact that I know it will take me weeks to catch up on the sleep I’ve lost, the experience of being out in the open for a weekend has left me strangely refreshed.
It may well be that the best way for the nation to get over the last year and a half is to dig out its tents and go camping.