Friday 26th August
I’m sitting cross legged in the middle of a wet field with nothing but my pyjama bottoms and a sheet of polyester between my bottom and the earth. The early morning dampness hangs in the air and the sun sits low in the sky. Across the field there are others like me; some sitting, some gently stretching their arms to the sky, some slowly walking over to the other side. I haven’t taken up yoga or eloped to join a cult, I’ve joined the millions who holiday under canvas or polyester every year; I’ve gone camping.
We arrived late on Wednesday evening, car packed to the brim – tent; gas lights; kettle; towels; pillows; blow-up bed; dog towels; travel crate; leads; dog bowls; dog food. The addition of Poppy, our 8 month old Springer Spaniel, was a last minute one, and one I still had reservations about as we drove off to the New Forest (Rob, me and a high-energy puppy, wet from running through the forest, all squashed into a tent was not a good thought). In fact, the whole trip was last minute and it showed in our disorganised packing and omission of essentials, forgotten or not thought of in our hurry. We have no sharp knife (cutting an onion with a plastic knife is a painfully slow business), no first aid kit, no compass. But we do have a box of paints, an electric toothbrush with no charger and anyway no means of charging it (let’s hope it lasts), and a corkscrew. Actually, you could argue that the last one is an essential, certainly for a thirty-something first-time camper like me, who’s more used to perfume and heels than insect repellent and wellies. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of being at one with nature in the great outdoors, sleeping under the stars, cooking on an open flame, hiking through woodland. I just like my creature comforts – and they are very different to the comforts the creatures in this field enjoy. Hence the addition of a fluffy hot water bottle and bed socks in our luggage.
I look up from writing just now and realise I don’t know what the time is. I think it must be around lunchtime but is it before midday or after, and how far before or past? I haven’t a clue. I think to look for my watch to check and then stop myself – why do I need to know? I have no need to do anything, to be anywhere, no appointments to keep, no tasks to check off. I feel a little agitated for a minute; if I were at home right now or at work it would all be there needing to be done, to be worried about. But here, there’s nothing to be concerned with but keeping the tent leak-free and the insects out.
Saturday 27th August
The early mornings on camp are among the most peaceful I’ve ever known. Just sitting – being – outside in the open air, listening to a chorus of bird song and watching the sun slowly rise higher in the sky, is soul cleansing. Everything is still – most people still sleeping soundly in their tents – aside from the odd person here and there sitting reading in the morning light or lighting a stove for a brew, and the occasional swift flutter of a flock of birds, flying low and carefree in the morning sky. The sun shines on the grass, lighting up the dew, making the grass shimmer and sparkle like a field of diamonds.
This morning I was woken by a cow mooing proudly somewhere close by. Other campers told us on our first day that the herd of deer in the next field wander over to this one in the still of the night and often come so close to the tents that you can hear them graze. I haven’t heard them yet but when we unzipped our tent yesterday morning there they were at the end of the field, standing majestically with their tails swishing and their antlers held high, completely uninterested in the surprised and delighted campers looking on.
Look out for part two shortly…