It was a dark and stormy night. I’ve always wanted to start a story like that, but actually it really was. I’d arrived three days before in this campsite. I say ‘campsite’ but it would be more accurate to call it a wooded field with occasional flat areas. This was the rough camping area, the farm had three separate camping areas, caravan heaven – hard standing by the river, where people over 40 with no ambition in life could turn up with their caravan and put the kettle on and do damn all (okay, okay, I was 20 and not very tolerant of men who couldn’t see their waist band for the flab and women called Edie or something who would make you vomit by taking off their tops in their deckchairs. I’m more tolerant now – except about 20-somethings who are noisy, brash and dress stupidly); ‘luxury’ camping – flat field behind the caravans, toilet block and showers (50p a shower – who has that kind of money!) and rough camping half a mile up the hill in the wooded field – toilets were two wooden shacks which might stay standing long enough for you to have a shit, but don’t rely on it. They were the other end of the field too. Initially I went for a piss in the bushes instead, but then there came a good reason to walk across the field. We’ll get to that. If you want a shower then the shower block is available down the hill, or you could stand naked in the rain.
I was camping alone. I was meant to be camping with my girlfriend in the field below but two days ago she broke up with me. To be more accurate she traded up, dropped me and went to Ibiza with the boss’s son. I was mortified for at least 5 minutes, then I was furious and called her a “fucking, low-life slag”. I rang her next day and apologised. If she had laid into me I would have felt better, but she was nice as pie and said she understood. UNDERSTOOD! I didn’t want to be understood by the girl who had just dumped me because Jack had said “hey, fancy coming to Ibiza with me?” I hung up and thought “you, bitch, you really are what I said”. Actually I repeated what I’d said, and added some even more choice words in the privacy of my own room. I even wished I had had an STD so I would have given it to her and Jack would come back with his dick falling off. That’s how angry I was, I was willing to have syphilis just so she and he would have got it too!
I was at school with Jack, he was a sly, devious, underhand, pimping, fucking, mother ... but no, you’re right, I’m getting distracted. I’m not going to let him annoy me anymore. But if a girlfriend chops his cock off then I will definitely cheer, ‘nuf said.
I decided to go camping anyway, slight change of plan, no need to spend more than was necessary in having a pitch near the showers and washrooms and laundry just because Miss Pissypants wants it. No, the rough camping will do and I’ll wash my socks by hand if I need to (three pairs should be ample for two weeks surely?). So that’s what I did. I drove up in Gertrude – my car, hand me down from my mother who called it Gertrude after her aunt. The car was difficult, stubborn to start and a dull brown colour. So was the aunt apparently. I share my mother’s sense of humour. My Dad is mister serious. If life was meant to be fun it would be bright colours (‘but darling, it IS bright colours’. Not in his head apparently).
So I drove up, paid the lower camping fee and found a nearly flat slot for the four person frame tent – another demand from the woman who at that moment was probably getting her tits out for public view on the dance floor in Ibiza. As you can see, I don’t bear grudges. I had a mansion of a tent. I sat outside and started reading. I was determined to enjoy the holiday. It would be half walking across the fells looking for buzzard, red kite, hen harrier; and half reading Lord of The Rings (again), Silmarillion, Farmer Giles of Ham, The Hobbit, Smith of Wooton Major and War and Peace (the last one was always on the top so people thought I was intellectual).
The next day an old minibus arrived, crept cautiously just into the field and disgorged 14 girls. Two were maybe my age or slightly older, the rest were 14 up to 17 or so I guessed. “Oh my fucking God!” I said quietly “Now there’ll be singsongs until midnight. GingGangGoolyGooly or whatever it is.” I didn’t know that Girl Guides didn’t sing that, they would sing ‘Campfires burning’ in trilly, melodic voices in a round later that evening. Just as annoying when you want to sleep and get up early (to catch the early morning wildlife on the tops). I wasn’t feeling well disposed to pretty young women at that moment for reasons that you have read above. In an earlier world I would probably have become a monk, or at least a novice, at this point. Not sure the celibacy part would have taken hold in me though.
They carried the stuff along past me, and picked various flattish places for the ridge tents. They put up lines between trees. I should say, we were the only occupants of the rough camping field. One of the young leaders spoke to me “Hello, I hope we won’t disturb you too much”
Now, I may have, at that moment, hated the entire Monstrous Regiment of Women, but I was usually polite, and she was pretty and I was English and well... “No, no, I’m sure it will be fine. It’s a lovely view isn’t it?”
“Yes, we were going to camp at Dungerly but that campsite was washed away last week, it’s been a very wet summer”
“You should be alright here, if the water comes up this high we’ll need an Ark”
She laughed and I laughed and no longer hated women. I watched her walk away; I watched her slim hips swivel and the shorts rise and fall; she was shouting “No, Emily, not that way round. Put the tent the other way, no, no the other, other way” She was laughing and smiling. I suspected Emily was a challenge but this leader was good at what she did.
I went back to my book and started noticing the girls in shorts walking back and forth with equipment. Little breasts rose and fell, round buttocks swivelled, and lithe legs walked one way and happily ran the next. When the leader came back I spoke to her “Where are you from?” She named a town not known for its working class, deprived areas; as I had already surmised, these were middle class girls released from school and respectability.
“They always enjoy it. Some get a little home sick, but they don’t have to wash every day, they don’t feel the need to look their best” I nearly said ‘they look pretty good as they are’ and just stopped myself in time. It would be taken wrongly I knew – I had learnt enough about women from the bitch in Ibiza and my Mum that what men say and mean is not what women hear and understand. Mum didn’t speak to me for two days when she asked if the dress suited her and I said no. “I just hope the weather improves”
“It’s been okay today. Maybe we’ll get summer after all”
The next day (after bloody ‘campfires burning’, ‘row, row, row your boat’ and other delights until 11pm) was also good. I was up at 5am, drove to Point Tusk and set off for a 22 mile round hike across Tenny’s Top, Bass Bottom and round the reservoir. Then back along the old tramline they had built to ferry materials for the dam at the reservoir. I ticked off some birds, watched a pair of foxes play fighting for an hour and then watched them kill a rabbit and play with that. I was back at 5pm, very tired, and very pleased with the day.
The girls and two leaders were busy cooking and, I noticed, a line of clothes was hanging up. It included underclothes as well as top clothes. So it was curiosity as much as politeness that made me head across the field to the ablutions (actually they were just toilets, one sink in the gents for washing hands, that was it) instead of into the bushes for a wiz.
“Hello, how was your day?”
“Oh, hello, we went for a walk, only three of us fell into the water off the stepping stones, that’s quite good really” The girls and leaders were all laughing. So the clothes were from three of them. “I was one of them, that’s why they are laughing so much!” I had thought the bras were two sizes, two smaller, and one more full size. I had tried not to stare at the bras and panties hanging up.
“Oh, still it stayed dry ... out of the river I mean. I was up on the top bird watching.” I walked on and they went back to making their meal, and joyfully singing fuckin’ ‘Campfires burning’!. The toilets really weren’t that enticing, I heard a female voice from the other shed, “Hello? Anyone? There’s no toilet paper” On the way back I told the other leader (who was even less the archetype for Girl Guide leader – hourglass figure in shorts with legs I could dream about) that one of her charges needed some help. She smiled shyly, I had the impression she wasn’t entirely comfortable with a man knowing one of the girls needed to wipe her bum. But heh! We all do it.
The pub beckoned. Fish and chips and two pints of ‘Fingles Cave’ (a brewery with a range of classic beers – so they used classic music to name them. 1812 Stout, Perfect Day Brown Ale. Fingles Cave had a hint of the sea about it) later I walked back up the river valley and then up the track to the campsite. The clouds were starting back I noticed. I double pegged the tent. I was always careful when camping. It seemed to me that being careful meant you kept your tent, taking a chance could mean you lost it. I’d prefer to pull out extra pegs in daylight than run around in the wind at night in my pyjamas, especially since I don’t wear pyjamas. That’s just me though, feel free to live dangerously.
.... There is more of this story ...