Almost exactly 21 years previously, my parents had piled me, my sister, our cat Slartibartfast and themselves into our big VW camper van and set off from the UK with an old second-hand caravan in tow, to go and live in France. And here I was doing the same thing, only with 2 cats, no kids, a slightly smaller VW Passat estate and a considerably mankier caravan. And we were taking the tunnel rather than the ferry, which is always exciting. A car, on a train, in a tunnel that goes UNDER THE SEA FFS!
Having done the big move before, I had learned a few things: for a start, I had a job lined up and a house to move into. And more importantly I hadn’t forgotten to take plenty of stuff with us to keep us entertained until we got our TV back from the movers. 6 weeks of having nothing to watch but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang because of a box-labelling incident had made damn sure I got that bit right this time.
One thing I had somehow managed to forget, however, was what it was like to live on a campsite in France in the middle of the summer holidays. Maybe my brain blocked it out from sheer trauma. Maybe it didn’t seem that bad to me at the time. Or I just didn’t notice because I was too busy sulking, being a teenager and all that. Whatever.
To be completely honest, and accurate, I actually quite like campsites. The one we stopped off at for the night, just outside Calais on day 2 of our big migration, was well equipped, modern, clean and quite pretty as campsites go. No, the thing I don’t like is the kind of people who go on holiday to campsites. And the fact that there is only a fabric or tin wall between you and them at the best of times.
For a start, when you arrive, they stare at you. Of course, the spot we had been given was right at the back of the campsite so we had to wind our way along the narrow road to get to it, passing almost every other plot on the way. It was like walking up to the front of the room in school assembly. And with our tacky old caravan held together with duct tape and prayer, it was like doing that in the worst Christmas jumper ever and with a suspicious-looking wet patch on your bottom.
We parked the caravan and the car, and set about pitching our tent. We had learned a very valuable lesson the night before: cheap single-layer tents don’t have very good ventilation. In fact, if you forget to pull the small side vents open, the condensation on the inside will eventually create an airtight bubble and you’ll be breathing carbon dioxide. It’s not pleasant. Especially in the middle of the night when you wake up gasping for air and wondering what the hell is wrong with you… So we opened the vents nice and wide. Then we fed and walked the cats (yes, WALKED the cats), and went for a bite to eat.
The small snack bar was next to the small and overcrowded swimming pool where half a billion children were running, dive-bombing, dunking each other and generally disobeying every poster you have ever seen at a public swimming pool. We ordered our food and sat down, only to be trampled by a continuous flow of shouting parents and screaming kids running toward the pool or being dragged away from it. Husband’s beef burger turned out ok, mine on the other hand resembled a small microwaved piece of carboard placed between 2 pieces of microwaved sponge and dollopped with orange-coloured sauce. It wasn’t good.
As the evening went on, the screaming at and of kids continued, pretty much unimpeded by the impressive soundproofing qualities of a thin sheet of plastic tent, and we finally fell asleep late, hoping we wouldn’t “get a thrashing for staying up past our bedtime” or any of the other delightful threats we had heard the evening.
I already confessed in the previous post: I’m a complete snob. I expect people to live by the same standards as me and I am disappointed when they invariably don’t. I also like my privacy at the end of the day. I like being able to snuggle up in a comfortable bed and talk to my Husband about whatever the hell I like without everyone in a 50m radius being able to hear my whispers. And I don’t like getting drenched when I have to get up in the night to go to the loo.
I’m just not cut out for camping.