Wild camping/stealth camping! Call it what you will!
It is indented into my genes as it is into my children and grandchildren.
And IT was born out of necessity due to the love my parents had for camping and the lack of campsites in Ireland when they were young and full of energy even with eight children in tow.
Indeed lack of campsites not only did NOT deter them but actually encouraged them to head off summer after summer in search of that perfect wild spot preferably beside the sea where we could throw off our shoes and not put them back on again till the day we had to head, weeping and wailing back, back to civilisation.
But as children grew up and marriages occurred and partners who had no wild camping upbringing, became embroiled in this tradition, something had to give.
and something eventually did.
And from it ‘By the wind camping’ was born.
Each spring, as early as February the conversation begins.
‘Everybody going down this summer?’
But this year my younger daughter (the one with husband and three children) replied.
‘We are! but we’re thinking of renting a house!’
She glared at us defiantly.
‘A house? how could you? ‘
That came from my older daughter.
But then She frowned.
‘Oh my god’ ! She put her hand over her mouth and opening her eyes wide looked at her sister in sympathy.
‘I had forgotten! oh remember what happened Tom (not his real name but the husband of my younger daughter) last year?’
A vision of the normally calm Tom appearing at the door of my tent, hair on end, eyes wild and staring, shouting ‘where is she’? came to mind.
And we, who were sitting chatting and drinking wine in the above mentioned tent turned to look at him in surprise.
‘Whats wrong’ we asked in unison
‘I can’t do this anymore’ was his frenzied reply.
All eye’s were on him now, some of us glancing at his hand which was clutching a food laden knife.
‘Tom!’ My youngest daughter said sharply.
‘Pull yourself together’ her tone was one of admonishment but she was also embarrassed.
At that stage Tom has started to babble incoherently.
‘Excuse me’ she turned apologetically away from us and standing up, removed the knife from his hand and tossing it to one side, put her arm around her husband and gently steered him away.
‘Its OK, everything is OK’ she spoke gently as though to a frightened child, and soothingly led him back to the tent where their children were sleeping and where, outside was strewn a huge jumble of dishes.
Greasy but scrubbed clean with sand, they lay waiting to be rinsed in the pot of water which was heating on the fire.
I understood what had happened.
Not being born into wild camping, Tom (whilst down at the shore scrubbing the pile of above mentioned dishes with sand and then hauling the basin of ware back up from the beach to the waiting pot of hot water) had allowed his mind to drift back to a time when a holiday meant relaxing by a pool in some sunny clime with a beer in his hand.
That memory was his big mistake.
The undoing of him.
I have seen it happen to other in laws of our family and it is not a pretty sight.
Most get into the swing of it within a year or two.
Some even stop pretending to and actually begin to enjoy it.
But some, like Tom, were a lost cause and though he had tried over the years he was only getting worse.
After much discussion we agreed that a house for Tom would be a good idea.
And so ‘By the wind camping’ was born.
How does it work?
Well those of us who could, would wild camp, while others, like Tom, who couldn’t face it, would rent a house as near as possible. Then they would ‘day’ camp with us and at the end of the day, under cover of darkness, retreat to the house only to reappear clean and refreshed at their tent the next morning giving all the appearance of being a wild camper which in fairness they would be for 60% of the time.
But some of us fell between two camping stools.
And on nights when the wind rose and the rain fell and white horses appeared in the bay and our tents groaned and flapped and bent and leaned away from the prevailing wind, I found myself, under the excuse of needing some implement from the house, sneaking up to it.
And as I was there, I reasoned, I might as well snuggle into one of those soft mattress duvet covered beds.
Just for a while anyway.
‘I’ll head back down around midnight’ I promised myself.
But mostly morning would find me still in the warm bed.
Sure as I’m there why not avail of a warm shower (as opposed to a splash in the cold sea) and it would be a pity not to make a quick coffee on the electric hob (instead of lighting a fire).
And that done I would sneak back down to my tent at the crack of dawn and pretend I had slept there all night.
And so what ensued was the best summer ever.
To be continued ……