It's official – camping can drive you potty
In 1996 I retired from camping for good after enduring a final, sleepless, uncomfortable night under canvas. This is a decision I've never come close to regretting.
More enlightened times will outlaw the activity as a breach of human dignity and common sense. After all, why spend hard-earned leisure time in the middle of a field, stuck inside a cramped, damp, cold, smelly cloth cocoon with no privacy, only feet away from the grunts, squeaks and snores of other campers that make relaxation difficult and sleep impossible, and half a mile from the luxury of toilets and running hot water? The single way this purgatory can be made worse is when allied to a music festival. Give me a homely B&B any day.
So only the depth of my devotion to Matchgirl can explain why, in April, I am to become reacquainted with the world of sleeping bags and camping stoves when we embark upon our belated honeymoon.
The silver lining is that our outdoor adventure will not be centred on a windswept caravan and camping park in a desolate corner of the British Isles, but on the exotic, heat-baked plains of Namibia where we are to experience the delights of a self-drive safari. The golden lining is that camping will be interspersed with nights in guest houses and lodges.
My introduction to the c-word was a hideous night in a communal tent at the back of a Scout hut in the company of a few dozen fellow Cubs. The enlightened times to come will class this as child cruelty. My teenage camping career featured trips to the Knebworth festival and a couple of weekends away with car-owning friends, neither of which increased my appetite for the outdoor life. Subsequent camping involved motorcycles and bike club events which the other participants enjoyed because of canvas and mud rather than despite them. The drink helped, too, of course.
Namibia, Matchgirl assures me, will not be like this. Al fresco sleeping will take place either upstairs in the Land Rover (which has an extendable roof) or in a walk-in-sized two-room tent, with real beds, made ready for our pre-planned arrival by cheerful and attentive campsite staff. Meals will be available too. For someone whose past camping comfort had been limited by the amount of gear that could be tied to the back of a bike, that this may be fun is a difficult concept to grasp.
However, there's no going back – the trip has been paid for, flights booked, camera gear upgraded in anticipation of a plethora of photographic opportunities, my Roger Moore safari jacket has been ordered and the pith helmets are in the post along with half-a-hundredweight of insect repellent and heavy duty sunscreen.
Repellent is vital, for despite her extensive pre-planning there were a couple of points that Matchgirl had overlooked. One was the number of creepy-crawlies with which the arachnophobic recent bride will be faced. The second is that it doesn't matter how close the tent or Land Rover are to the toilet facilities if we can't guarantee to reach them quicker than any prowling lions can reach us.
This, it seems, can be a problem. The solution has many names but we'll dispense with euphemism. We'll need a potty.
Camping? I rest my case.