We have just returned from a few days’ camping in Wales. Camping is an acquired taste, I know: some people love it, some can’t bear the idea. When I was 10 I went camping with the Guides in Knebworth. When I returned I sat with my mother at the kitchen table and said: ‘I don't care if I live to be a hundred. That is the worst weekend I will ever spend in my life.’ I also went camping with a group from school for the Duke of Edinburgh’s award some years later: that ran it a close second.
So what changed? Well, going camping with a partner is a totally different prospect. For one thing, he gets up in the morning and makes me a cup of tea before I get out of bed, which is worth its weight in gold. For another, we have learned to view camping as time out. No enforced getting up early to see the sights or climb mountains, just a relaxing few days doing not very much. And if it rains, then it’s fine to spend the day in the tent, and there is nothing like the wax and wane of pattering raindrops on taut nylon. It gives me a primal feeling of warmth and security.
We take cooking equipment with us: nowadays a two-ring burner with a little grill underneath which works off a large refillable gas cylinder. This replaced an old backpacking stove (bought by my father in the mid-seventies for use in a power cut) which used disposable cannisters; these were always great for about half an hour and then petered out into a long-drawn-out whisper of gas which lasted for ever before you could change the cannister. I remember one episode in a very wet Welsh field where it took an hour and a half to semi-scramble some eggs to the point where I was happy to eat them more or less raw. However, despite going prepared with tins of tomatoes and bags of pasta and lentils, on this trip I just didn’t feel like cooking, so I didn’t. We ate out instead. Ah, the luxury of adult choice!