Thursday, 17 March 2011

Never mind Glamping, we went 'Gramping'

‘It’s grand to find a comfortable chair when you’re getting on a bit or you’ve got arthritis’.  My son in law got this from Millets you know!’

One of the many pleasures of camping is that it’s a truly family affair.  No matter where we pitch up, within minutes of erecting the tent, our daughter Ruby will be bounding by with her new best friend.  Wilf will have wandered off and found a new cowboy to play with, and all before Mum & Dad can tease the cork from a bottle of wine.  What better way for a family to relax for a long weekend in the summer holidays?  Well as far as the kids are concerned it’s easy, let’s bring Grandma next time! We like a challenge, so that’s what we did.

The last time Grandma went camping was in France at a place called La Baule back in 1977.  A ready erected Eurocamp site, where the only thing to worry about was the welfare of two teenage daughters, a sunburned ten year old and a husband with a penchant for Le Piat D’or.  I assured Eileen that Mason’s campsite in Appletreewick would be a totally different kettle of poissons, and besides, Ruby and Wilf really want you to come. 

My wife, Anne-Marie, is blessed with a weather phenomenon, in that it never seems to rain on her birthday, and so a family and friends camping weekend in June is a regular feature in the Sutton camping diary.  Convincing Grandma to join in wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined. The promise of a ready erected tent, breakfast in bed, and an endless supply of Guyrope Gourmet culinary treats clinched the deal. 

Grandma kipped in a Eurohike three man tent, bedecked with bunting, balloons, sheepskin rugs and all those other camping essentials required to tempt a septuagenarian out into a field in the Yorkshire Dales.  The vase of brightly coloured Stocks, and scented candle next to the double inflatable mattress and feather duvet was the icing on the cake.  Grandma had found her ‘camping feet’. 

“Ooh I could get used to this” were the watchwords of the weekend. The kids couldn’t believe it, Grandma in a tent!  The aching limbs and dodgy ankles took a back seat and surrendered to the lap of luxury as the errant son in law strove to deliver a plethora of sweetmeats and culinary craftwork worthy of a queen.

Simple lamb stew and wilted garlic spinach saw off the hunger pangs on the first evening, followed by a range of French cheese and quality English crackers.  The second evening was wiled away at the barbeque, with Grandma leaning heavily on the chef to deliver the mussels in beer and coriander, which always goes down a treat.  I explained to Grandma that there’s no ‘r’ in the month of June, so we’d be having Gambas an ajillo instead, but she really didn’t seem to mind.

Grandma had a bit of an Epiphany on this trip.  She’d always berated us and claimed that we must be totally mad on account of our love of camping.  But we managed to win her over with surprising ease.  For a start, the hot showers and toilet block came as a welcome surprise.  Eileen’s imagination had placed us in a windswept field in the middle of nowhere without so much as a running tap.  The recycling point and the white van from the local ‘Shop on the green’ selling daily papers and Danish pastries all played a part in the Damascene conversion.

In actual fact it was the pleasure of seeing the grandchildren running amok between the guyropes and flysheets, rather than the food and balloons, that drew Grandma to our camp.  Realising the sheer pleasure our kids get from being outdoors, spending time with mum & dad, meeting new friends and staying up a little bit later than usual, Grandma became a convert there and then.  Holding court in the pre bedtime hour, with Ruby and Wilf on her lap, she spun embellished yarns about the French camping trip in the seventies.  We heard tales of amorous French boys and Grandad on midnight patrol, mis-pronounced attempts to buy a hundred croissants from the local boulangerie and a hilarious but painful tale of mum as a ten year old being allowed to fall asleep in the sun without any sun cream.  Ruby and Wilf lapped it all up and retired to bed.

Grandma thoroughly enjoyed her two nights under canvas.  Apart from struggling with the tent flap zip in the morning (no small thing when you're pressed to answer the morning call of nature!), the only real difficulty was associated with having a bed at ground level.  This meant that getting into and getting out of bed took a bit of negotiating.  The creaking joints pale into insignificance on reflection.  Eileen’s sense of her own achievement, the children seeing their Grandma camping all made for the best truly family camping weekend of the year.  It worked so well that despite being a year older we’re all booked to do it again this year, only this time Grandma is going to bring her slippers and her knitting. 

The few luxurious extras, the feather duvet, the sheepskin rug, fresh cut flowers, good food and scented candles all added to the experience and made it possible.  Never mind ‘glamping’ we went ‘Gramping!’