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Carry on camping…

on April 13, 2012

Having just got back from a week spent in a caravan in Devon (courtesy of the Sun promotion) with my husband and three children, I feel ready for a fortnight in bed just to recover. After a nightmare three hours on the road with associated arguments from the backseats – she keeps humming, well, he said ‘go away!’, they’re ignoring me etc etc – we were just about ready to admit defeat and head for the nearest pub. Cream teas and beaches be damned; we needed something not just to numb the pain but to anaesthetize the arse out of this utter awfulness!

Were family holidays always destined to be this way? Why was I even bothering to take them away for a week when they were clearly having no fun whatsoever and obviously hated being away from home? I called my Mum to tell her we’d arrived safely and she laughed when I told her how fraught the journey down had been. She told me to take a deep breath and reminded me that all family holidays came with their own baggage (pun intended!), to pour myself a glass of wine (she knows me so well!) and just try to enjoy myself.  Her complete empathy caused me to reflect on our own family holidays way back in the dim and distant when I was a child myself and I wondered if maybe, just maybe, I had become a little spoilt somewhere along the way…

Whilst the biggest irritation for me was dealing with three bored children in the back of the car and a lack of central heating in the caravan, we did at least have an indoor pool, restaurant, cafes, amusement arcades, an onsite playground & shop, a launderette, a clubhouse with nightly entertainment, a kids club, an open top bus to the (nearby sandy) beach and most importantly, a bar!!

My Mum and Dad, God bless them, took me and my three sisters camping in a tent (and not the pop-up-and-peg-down-in-ten-minutes variety); oh no, where was the hardship to be had in that? What they had, was an honest-to-goodness canvas sheet that had to be moulded and sewn into place on-site and then held in place from the battering winds by about a million tent pegs and two parents taking turns to sleep. We holidayed in fields with a cold water tap in the centre and took our toilet with us. My parents would fill an enormous plastic water tank from the central tap every morning and boil and cool it every time we wanted a drink. They cooked our meals using a tiny one ring burner and entertained us with books and board games (over which we constantly argued and were ungracious in our losses). They washed and dried the feather sleeping bags we manage to piss in every single night for 2 weeks and it rained the entire time we were there. They made picnics, filled a 10 litre bottle of squash for us all (duly boiled and cooled) and carried the whole lot plus wind breakers, towels, beach balls, buckets and spades to the beach and back every single day.

We would argue and shout for the entire journey to and from our destination, forcing our parents to distract us with games of eye-spy and guess the animal, whilst simultaneously trying to manhandle a fold out map of our destination into position (no luxury of a satnav for them), locate potential toilet stops along the way with adequate space for exercising the dog and doling out sucky sweets, slaps and comforting words in equal measure. By the time we all arrived, Mum was a nervous wreck and Dad had almost dislocated his back in his haste to get the hip flask out. On arrival back home at the end of the holidays, Mum would have a heap of clothes to wash, dry and iron and Dad would be checking his watch to see when he could get back to work, desperate to escape to some realm of sanity.

I had all but forgotten this until I spoke to Mum to tell her we were back home safely and moaned about the lack of sunshine and cold mornings. She told me I didn’t know how lucky I had it compared to the family holidays they took when we were young and I had to admit, I was somewhat astonished when she explained. I racked my brain for memories of these alleged trips to hell but all I can recall are singing happy melodies with my sisters in the car, giggling madly during copious games of snap, unending beaches, 24-hour sunshine and the ubiquitous pot noodle. The only argument I ever remember having was about who had the pickled onion monster munch on our glorious sun-drenched picnics.

When, expecting the worst, I asked my own kids if they’d had a nice time inDevon, they told me they’d had the best time EVER and that I was so cool for taking them there and begged me to take them back to the exact same place as soon as possible as it was so amazing.

I have to admit I’m a little gobsmacked. I feel as though I’ve been in some alternate universe for the past week while my family has been holidaying somewhere else without me. And following on from the phone calls to my Mum, I’m pretty sure my poor old parents must have felt similarly bewildered when they got us home all those years ago…

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