Sunday, May 2, 2010

The call of the wild

I feel as though a writer's blog should be all about writing, but this weekend I didn't do any at all, because I was (horrors!) outdoors and (even more horrors!) without my laptop. And not just without my laptop, but without a shower or a mirror or a flushing loo.
A few months ago the girl guide unit my daughter belongs to were planning a camping trip, and asked whether any parents would be prepared to come along and help. With the trip a safe distance in the future I volunteered to go, but of course, as with all Faustian pacts, payback time came around much more quickly than expected. Friday afternoon saw me packing like a fiend, and then driving through the rush-hour traffic to get to the campsite at the intriguingly-named Grobbendonk. (There used to be a character called Grobbendonk in the strip cartoon "Nemesis the Warlock" in 2000A.D. - but I don't think he was any relation.) In order to get to Grobbendonk we also passed through or by Lint, Lisp, Duffel and Bouwel. (That last one caused a bit of amusement as we debated whether the town had Upper and Lower parts.)
Way back in about 1977 I used to be a girl guide myself, and if I am truly honest I had had a sneaky suspicion that things had got softer since then. I mean, we had cotton uniforms which needed ironing, not hoodies and polo shirts... Well, I take back every unworthy thought. This was the real deal. In our particular field I calculated there must have been over 150 people, all sharing 1 standpipe and 5 portaloos. There were no showers at all, and no washbasins. Camp was set up on Friday and on Saturday all the guides and scouts went on an expedition requiring them to carry mountainous quantities of gear whilst completing various Sisyphean tasks, then build their own overnight shelter out of a tarp and pieces of string, and cook their dinner outdoors.
On Saturday night it began to rain and this morning it poured down solidly. One of my former hobbies was scuba diving and I don't think even that was as wet as this was. Amazingly, I didn't hear anyone complaining as they took down the overnight shelters, cooked breakfast, cleaned up and struck camp. If anyone's got softer since 1977 it's me...
We drove home with a wet tent, wet tarp and huge pile of wet kit steaming in the back of the car, dreaming of hot baths and cups of tea. When we arrived home it was to discover that the gerbils (whom a neighbour had fed for us) had, in an SAS-like maneouvre, leaped from their sleeping house onto the top of their water bottle, and gnawed a hole in the cover of their tank, through which one of them had escaped. So we spent rather a long time trying to catch him as he nimbly dodged from one hiding place to another, eventually falling for the old "Tupperware" trick (put a large Tupperware box at one end of his hiding place and then make a noise at the other end, at which the rodent will take fright and run into the Tupperware).
It was a much more eventful weekend than I was expecting (and a very much wetter one!) and I'm absolutely exhausted now. I mean, my normal working day involves sitting at the PC writing, with occasional forays to the kitchen for tea and chocolate biscuits. I can feel tiredness in muscles I'd forgotten I even have. The garden has a wet tent in it, the washing machine is close to a nervous breakdown, and the hallway smells of damp socks. But would I do it again? Definitely.

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