If someone invited you to go camping for a weekend, what do you think they would mean?
I’d think images of tents, air-beds, sleeping bags, camp fires and bent tent pegs would probably come to mind. They did for me when our lovely but slightly cack-handed classic and sports car club organised a “camping” weekend at Eddington last weekend.
Mrs Whacked and I loaded up the old Jag with all the requirements: the tent we’d owned for 14 years but never used, the airbed I’d bought cheap in London in 1979, the battered old Esky, sleeping bags, barbie utensils, spare water (for the Jag), some oil, a fan belt, spanners, sockets, screwdrivers … oh and a hatchet.
We turned up in the truly charming little hamlet and thought we’d made a dreadful mistake. Where were the usual suspects? The monstrous blue Triumph? The racing Datto? The usual gaggle of Porsches and MGs?
All that were there, lined up neatly, were about 15 gigantic fibreglass white boxes with windows, all attached to huge white four-wheel-drive vehicles. Turns out a lot of the club’s older members are secret “Grey Nomads”. But this wasn’t camping. These alleged caravans were like Soviet-era blocks of flats
So, we parked well away, on the other side of the ground and started unpacking the Jag to the gentle accompaniment of raucous laughter, jeering and totally unhelpful criticism from a ring of (mainly) blokes who’d formed around us.
Ever heard the theory that the number of kicks it takes to start a motorcycle is directly proportional to the number of people watching?
So, of course, it took five times as long as it should to put the tent up. Of course, the pegs bent in the rock-hard ground. Of course, I’d put it up too close to a fence and run out of “pegging” room. Of course the reason the airbed wouldn’t go up was that we hadn’t put BOTH plugs in. You get the picture.
The night rolled along with the usual ribald and generally insulting tone, eased by some so-called port which you could strip paint with, and the smell of wood smoke.
To bed. They all disappeared to the satisfying “click/thunk” of thick caravan doors and we retired to the Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz of a tent zipper, followed by a loud string of short, sharp Anglo-Saxon words when we realised the 1979 London airbed had carked it.
“You should take it back and complain,” Mrs Whacked said.
She went all reflective and then said: “Y’know, one of the things I like about this car club is that it usually takes me out of my comfort zone.”
“Yes,” I replied. “And …?”
“This damn ground is so hard, my comfort zone has now moved to an entirely different bloody post code!”
The next morning, forlornly dragging the dead LiLo to a rubbish skip, past the early morning egg-and-bacon brigade, there was a barrage of rude and rough comments, none of which can be repeated in a family newspaper.
We left early and went home, stopping off at Ray’s Tent City for a new camping mattress on the way.
It should still be good by the year 2049.