I’ve always had an antipathy towards camping. Sleeping beneath the stars has never really appealed to me. In my head it always translates as ‘leave your warm comfy bed and go and sleep on a hard uneven surface with an indeterminate number of bugs’. On that basis, I can see no attraction.
Despite this, I have been on two camping trips in my time, both with the scouts. The first of these was a weekend spent in a field somewhere. I remember very little of this, other than that we built a high wire between two trees and whilst I was walking across it a couple of the older scouts thought that it would be very funny to shake it, causing me to fall off and be badly winded.
The second trip was for a week, to somewhere near Barmouth in West Wales. This was a week shared with a scout troop from Birmingham called St Mary’s. I got an early lesson in leadership on that trip. On one of the nights all buy two of our troop went off to sleep in a bivouac they had built in a wood next to the camp. I was left in charge of the tent, having been in the scouts slightly longer than the one other scout who stayed behind, Nigel Calcutt (and even though he was slightly older than me). One of the things that you had to do each evening was to slacken the guy ropes on the tent, so that if it rained they wouldn’t become over-tight and cause the tent to leak. Needless to say, I didn’t slacken them enough, it absolutely poured with rain that night and everyone’s kit got soaked. Being a completely responsible individual, I ran and hid. It was a good job it was the last day, really.
On that particular trip I palled up with a couple of the St Mary’s scouts, Keith Fox and Karl Tonks. I remember going to a small cafe in Barmouth with them and some of their troop simply because it was called St Mary’s as well. I don’t know what became of Keith, but Karl is now a very successful personal injury lawyer and in line to become the next president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers*.
The only other thing about that trip I remember well was that I was one of the few to receive a letter from home. It was from my mother, telling me that the baby they had been fostering had found a home and would be leaving whilst I was away. I caused utter confusion among the other scouts by announcing that my baby brother was going to a new home!
From the thinness of these memories you can tell just how little impression camping made upon me. I’ve never been since. Give me a hotel any time.
*On three occasions I’ve applied unsuccessfully for jobs at Karl’s firm. Scouting has been no use whatsoever to me in my adult life.