Saturday, 6 August 2011

Story telling Sunday - August. Ilfracombe and The new Tent

In 2003 Mr M and I decided that we were getting a little too rotund for crawling in and out of a three man tent and we should look at a new one that we could stand up inside. I also quite like the idea od being able to stand up to put my knickers on in the morning instead of lying on a saggy airbed and having to extract handfuls of sleeping bag from the back of my knickers before struggling with the jeans or shorts and crawling out of the tent exhausted before breakfast.
I have searched my computer but now realise that I haven't scanned the pages of my early scrap books so I don't have a picture of our little brown and orange tent to show you. I do have a picture of the tent we bought to replace it
We wanted something that was easy to put up, big enough to stand up in with a bedroom we could zip up during the day to keep the insects away from the sleeping bags. This tent seemed to answer all these requirements so we bought it. We were then desperate to try it out so we took it to my in-laws and put it up on their lawn.
This has the dual purpose of giving us a run through of the procedure and getting all the swearing at each other done before we go public on a campsite. There were only a couple of occasions when Mr M snapped at me and I stood with my hands on my hips and gave him "the look". Then he would apologise for snapping and I would apologise for snapping back, he would tuck his hands into his armpits and huff like a sulky kid and make me laugh and the tent would be up and it was time for a cuppa. We now knew the tricks of getting it up and down as though we had done it a hundred times so we wanted to go some where and play with it. After all there's no point having it if you don't use it, is there?
We looked at a map, looked at the date and realised that the august bank holiday was coming the very next weekend but Mr M's shifts meant he was off for the weekend after that.
Different place but still a man and his Jeep
On the Friday morning we packed everything into the Jeep - did I say we had a Jeep then, a proper Jeep. A Cherokee Sport, not one of those japanese imitations a proper Jeep. I digress (but we did love her) Even with the back seat folded down there is not a lot of space in a Jeep but we got the tent and the chairs and the red box (this contains all the camping essentials like the gas bottle and the pots and pans and kettle and the tin plates and mugs and cutlery. OH did I tell you that I used to be a guide leader with my Campers Licence and QM's Licence and Mr M was a Sea Scout Leader so camping was a given for us really wasn't it? Where was I?
Oh yes, we packed the Jeep and set off for North Devon We had decided that Ilfracombe (pronounced in our family as Ill frack ommm beee, although I don't know how that started.) was our destination of choice. We found a campsite on a hill that had level terraces for tents and caravans, a swimming pool a shop and the promise of bacon rolls at breakfast time. We found our marker and set up the tent in record time. We arranged it so that we could rollup the flap at the end of the tent and sit inside looking out across the Bristol Channel. Fabulous. And then it started to rain. This is where we discovered that tents that have sloping sides and roll up doors are useless in the rain because you have to roll the door down or the rain comes right into the tent. We rolled down the door and realised that our tent had one window. This was part mesh, part clear plastic and was behind where we had put the stove. We had to roll the flap down on that because the mesh let the rain in. So it is 4pm on a September afternoon and we are sitting on our chairs in the green gloom of our tent not able to read because it is too dark and too early to put a light on so we went and sat in the jeepfor an hour and then went into the town for a meal. We came back and got ready for bed, read for a while, all the time listening to the rain beating on the tent. We watched the pool form on the roof even though the tent is curved. Then I needed the loo. This is when a campsite on a hill stops being fun. We put on boots and waterproof coats grabbed the torch and Mr M escorted me to the loo. We struggled back up the north face of the Eiger to the tent and realised that during our brief stroll the wind had picked up a little too. We went to bed. We woke about three am because I needed to go to the loo. same procedure as before but the wind had died down and the rain had stopped so we could see the lights of Wales across the water - calling us home. We went back to bed and when we next woke up it was light and we could here the people around us washing dishes. We got up, got dressed. I could stand up to put my knickers on which was lovely we unzipped our door and stepped, blinking in the white light, out to a scene of complete chaos.
The people around us weren't washing dishes they were bailing out their tents. The wind had picked up again and two tents had blown apart during the night. the people behind us had an inch of water in their sewn in groundsheet and were wrestling with sodden sleepingbags and soggy clothes. We helped where we could before going down to the cafe for breakfast. It rained again while we were there so when we climbed back up to the tent we sat in the Jeep for a while, Mr M reading his book while I wrote the holiday journal. It stopped raining for a while and suddenly Mr M looked up from his book and said "I could be doing this in the comfort of my own home, in my own chair, shall we go home?"
"The tent is dry let's get it down before it starts raining again" said I. So we did. 45 minutes later - see how that trial run helped us - we had everything packed into the Jeep and we were on our way home. We got home Six hours later! because what should have been a two hour run was hampered by Barnstaple and the M5. We had forgotten about holiday traffic on the motorway on a Saturday.

This story has been brought to you through Storytelling Sunday, invented by Sian at High-in-the-sky why not take a look


Sian said...

Brilliant! And it's serendipity: the caravanners in my story today were on their way to Ilfracombe when it happened!!

The boy grew up, married me and before we could afford a caravan we had a little brown and orange tent which we took round England. One of these days we will get it out again. Then I'll be looking out for you..

Thank you for the story today. You have put me in a holiday mood

debs14 said...

Oh dear - although this made me smile, it doesn't make me want to rush out and buy a tent! Gotta love our weather eh?!

Anonymous said...

I do hope that subsequent camping trips were drier and more relaxing!

Becky said...

Oh I did laugh reading this! I have memories of putting knickers on lying down on an airbed and know exactly what you mean! My parents had a tent which we used for about three years - the best one being in France - after that it was sold on and we reverted back to staying in static caravans, although 8 years ago DH and I bought our own tourer which we finally sold this year. Thank you for sharing such a brilliant story.

JO SOWERBY said...

oh dear ilfracombe is coming in for a bad wrap. my friends are all camping this week for soul survivor so i hope it is good weather,
jo xxx

Abi said...

your story made me smile so much! I love the reason for buying it and can totally sympathise with the knicker debacle when you are in a little tent! great story.

Mary B said...

Oh I remember that well. don't think we were ever completely washed out but certainly very very damp on some occasions.
BTW you are not the only folk who call Ilfracombe Ill-Fracka-bee

Ginger said...

Your story had me waiting to see what was next! So well told :) I did not really care for camping as a kid, but that is what we did as a family, can't say that I'll ever do it again though as an adult :) Loved your story!

Anonymous said...

Loved your story. You had me chuckling away remembering a camping trip I took with my sister & BIL - 3 of us in a teeny little tent. Sounds like your new tent was the only one that stayed dry.

Jimjams said...

Ha - the joys of British summers! Loved hearing about the pre-erection be a way of avoiding the bad tempers in public - I can identify with that!!! Beautifully told tale!

Melissa said...

What a great story! I remember camping in a tent during a rainstorm once, we were on a slight incline and had to get up and dig a trench around the tent so the water coming down the incline would go around it and not puddle up on the high side!

Ifa said...

he, he. When does it not rain when you are in a tent ?