Friday, 12 March 2010


Spring is upon us and thoughts turn to booking summer holidays and where to opt for the best chance of recharging your batteries and tanning your white bits. Now there's a salary landing in my bank account each month, there's a good chance I'll be able to get away for a week or two in the sun. A couple of years ago, through poverty and a moment of madness, I was persuaded to go camping with two mates in the Derbyshire Peak District. Bearing in mind it was August, we set off with a couple of borrowed tents, shorts and tee-shirts and singing camp fire songs. Driving over the Cat and Fiddle road, the omens were not good as the sky went black and torrential rain moved in. That set the scene for the next two days as it never stopped raining apart from a twenty two minute dry spell on the first day. We get to a campsite outside Longnoor and are given our £5 a night pitches (photo above). Other caravans and the shower blocks are sat tantalizingly on the horizon. After 4 hours sat in the car waiting for the rain to stop, we then had to pitch two tents in the 22 minutes dry spell. After about 34 seconds, I got thoroughly choked with the idea of camping and shamefully threw my hammer and tent pegs on the ground in a hissy fit. The tent also got a good kicking with colourful language to match. My mate D, who as an experienced camper and has boundless, unflappable patience with that Peggy Mount-esque gusto and enthusiasm, put both tents up. This was completed with panache, skill and good humour whilst I'm skulking around in sunglasses with arms folded, cursing and squelching in my wellies like the spoilt brat that surfaces from time to time. She's also very clever and a great artist and musician - I hate her. First night and the girls hit the local town's night spots. Couldn't find any so made do with a chippy and tried to spin out haddock, chips, mushy peas and a mug of tea into 3 and half hours.
Back in darkness to Stalag 9 campsite and a late night ramble to the shower blocks and toilets for our nightly ablutions in the freezing cold. We whipped ourselves up into a frenzy of hysteria when some clown (I think it was me) mentioned the shower block murder scene from the film Friday the 13th. Scared witless, crying, grasping hold of our toilet bags and suitably attired in face creams and wellies we run back to the tents. I managed about 14 minutes sleep all night as it's difficult to sleep through howling wind, torrential rain and sub-zero temperatures when all you're thinking about is why the bloody hell didn't I book into the local B&B. Just to add to the camping experience, there was one other tent about 250 yards away. This tent was the 5 star condo of tents. It had a porch, velux windows, three bedrooms all en-suite and a double garage. The inhabitants got fruity about 5am and starting having very loud and prolonged sex. I just remember lying there cursing myself for not bringing my iPod. Then I remember thinking how some people are very strange. In a million-zillion years, camping on a rain-soaked, freezing field, wrapped in smelly and thin canvas and being bent double in a confined and lumpy space would NEVER induce me into feeling even remotely in the mood for bonking. Self-harm and suicide yes, but bonking? - Nooooo...Not a chance. But then my mind started playing tricks. Call it lack of sleep and the constant rain dripping onto the canvas 2 feet above my head, but I begin thinking that boredom and hopelessness could induce you into strange behaviour.. like cooking beans for 3 hours on a camping stove or having sex in smelly, wet tent. Perhaps even at the same time.
6.30am and another trip to the shower blocks across a muddy field. The shower blocks have been styled on those last seen at Auschwitz but with fewer soap dishes.
We head off in the car for blessed relief of leaving the camp and we nearly made it until a man jumped out from his sniper tower position and waved us down to stop. After hushed warnings to stay calm, we got out our papers and decided that I'd be the one to do the talking as I knew the most German having once owned a VW Beetle and once ordered wiener schnitzel in a restaurant outside Munich. With caution, I wound down the window and with my best innocent face, asked 'Yes, can we help you ossifer?'. What followed was being subjected to a telling off of supreme proportions for unwittingly breaking most of the campsite rules. The charge list was breaking the on-site 10mph speed limits. Destroying a gravelled entrance way to a field by getting our wheels stuck. Laughing and talking loudly after 9pm. Swearing whilst in the shower blocks (before 7am). Seen smoking in the top field (after 3pm). Disposing of a whisky bottle in the wrong bin. Swearing at the cows mooing loudly in the next field (before 6am). We all looked suitably ashamed until we drove past the camp barriers at 25 mph, flicked a lit fag towards the ammunitions shed whilst humming the theme tune to the Great Escape. We then hit the road in search of adventure and jaw-dropping excitement within Derbyshire's caves. Due to bad weather, all peak district caves were closed due to flooding. That just about summed up our holiday. Derbyshire - closed due to rain. We lasted one more night then head off home in straitjackets, with double pneumonia and a passing reference on Crimewatch UK.

Camping? No thanks. Show me the beaches of the Med, a gorgeous villa with pool, eating out in little square at midnight, sun and cold beer. But knowing my luck, they'd be a couple of amorous Germans in the next villa and I've forgotten my iPod.....

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