Looking at me now no one would mistake me for the outdoorsy, gung-ho camping type. Peel off the Alice Temperley dress and Michael Kors clogs, however, and you might just find a long buried Girl Scout (that’s Girl Guide to you) complete with mess kit. You might also find, should you dig deep enough, that every single vacation until the age of twenty took place in a tent. In my cups I might even admit that I was a Girl Scout camp counselor – and loved it. But that was long ago, and as my friend remarked when I contemplated camping (after being coerced by The Pater): “For me, three star is camping.”
Growing up, camping was not my favorite, but, as family activities went, it wasn’t the worst. It beat being locked in the basement in lieu of hiring a babysitter, for example. For summer vacation we either camped at the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia or in some avocado groves while visiting my grandparents in North Miami Beach. Highlights include tailgate picnics on St. Augustine beach in Florida, despite Mom serving us spoiled chocolate milk - chocolate because it better disguised the rancid curds. Another highlight was the breathtaking beauty of a scenic overlook of the vast Smoky Mountains, all the more appreciated having survived a bear the night before.
My mother didn’t want to stop at that mountain campground but the car radiator was overheating. Nevertheless, we had the air conditioner blasting and the windows rolled up tight. “Bears can pull down windows with their claws if you leave the tiniest crack,” my father warned. It was late afternoon when we arrived and the campground was nearly full. “An uncouth bunch,” my mother sniffed, noting the predominance of motorcycles and mullets among the campground’s occupants. My brother and sister went exploring and reported that a group of campers were following a bear around the campground, poking its back with sticks. My father took the precaution of tying up the extra food in a tree but he thought the cooler was sturdy enough to stay put on the picnic table.
As the youngest I had the dubious honor of sleeping on the floor of my parent’s tent beneath their cots while my brother and sister got the back of the station wagon. As the baby, I was also first in bed. What woke me was the top being ripped off the cooler quickly followed by gulps of chocolate milk glugging down the bear’s throat. I unzipped a corner of the tent window to witness massive claws scooping up peanut butter, Hershey’s chocolate and marshmallows for s’mores before lumbering into the night. Only then did I notice the four faces of my family gaping behind the car’s tightly rolled up windows.
At the scenic overlook the next morning, we were giddy with relief and I felt grateful to that bear for wrecking the cooler: no more sour milk!. I was also a touch resentful at having been left with a mere piece of moldy canvas between me and those claws. I announced to my brother and sister “After Mom and Dad got back to the tent, Mom was so scared that she pooped in one of Dad’s hankies and threw it out the tent door.” Slap went my mother’s hand across my mouth.
So comparatively speaking, The Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons was a civilized affair. The weather cooperated and after a couple of mugs of wine I forgot the four, arm-lengthening trips from car to campsite. I recommend a few choice essentials to ease any potential discomforts:
Hot water bottle (fuzzy cover inclusive)
Aeropress coffee maker
Blow up mattress
Ear plugs (worn religiously since Mister Baby was born)
Festival dress (black and white polka dot maxi as high res garment for Mister Baby to spot)
Vintage fur capelet
Box of wine (the equivalent of three bottles!)
Merchant Gourmet ready-to-eat Mixed Grains and Black Beluga Lentils
I do think it is high time to cut off the festival bracelet. At age 44 it’s probably not necessary to wear it until it drops off. After all I can get another one next summer.