Camping is something I haven’t really revisited since I was really tiny and we used to pitch a tent in the garden and wake up to the eery, utter stillness of dawn and sneak back to the dark safety of our beds. Other early memories of camping have involved torrential downpours and one epic exodus to the car from a rapidly rising river, with Dad as Moses. I think it’s fair to say camping has always left me feeling a little uneasy and exposed.
This weekend was different though. An almost, but not quite, spontaneous trip away – heading west towards the North Devon coast and the tiny haven of Mortehoe.
This whole coastline from Ilfracombe to Barnstaple seems to be a Mecca for campers, caravans and Winnebagos of all descriptions and it seems that any old field with a portaloo can be turned into a lucrative campsite.
We turned up in the middle of the annual camping Hajj, after an eternity on winding roads staring at the rear net curtains of ill-driven tourers. Something that can apparently turn some of us (me) into unreasonably grumpy sufferers of road-rage tourettes.
Despite this inauspicious start it all turned out to be really fun. We weren’t in opportunistic field with a chemical loo, but a clean, spacious and really well thought out site with the most amazing view out over the headland and sea. The novelty of extracting an entire house from a mathematically-packed boot and that being all you need for the weekend is proper astounding. It’s like making a grown-up den. Nothing is without a vital use and everything has a neat pack-away place to live. And even then there’s no stinting on luxury meals. Breakfast is a steaming cup of sweet brown tea and drippingly-good bacon butties with stolen brown sauce. All made before my eyes on the best outdoor terrace in North Devon. Put this breakfast in London and it’d be £17.95 each.
Our whole DIY B&B experience was £30 a night for our pitch and supplies. Half a real B&B and filled with an adventurousness and buzz that is lacking from most guest houses we’ve stayed in. Out of season I imagine it’d be even better. Right. Where next?
The art of small talk explored in and another thing….
There’s really no point me going on about how brilliant Robin Hood’s Bay is – the little snickets, the squawking gulls, the cliff top walks and the intimate local folk sessions… That’s not even to mention the fairytale garret with bay views where we stayed (which will remain un-named and secret because it’s ours now).
But one thing that really came to the fore was getting enormous enjoyment from really basic things. Forget gourmet (for a moment) … thanks to the limited (but wholly adequate) 1950s local shop for local people, we were reminded just how amazing Cornflakes are (even without sugar which we were too tight to buy), and that Golden Shred on white toast is an absolute joy, and that soft boiled eggs and soldiers are the power breakfast of the future (and past – I realise that..)
As far as entertainment goes it is remarkable how a sing-along to a sea shanty can make you lose all inhibitions and want to belt out Settle-Carlisle for a bunch of strangers. And I think you’ll find that the continued and close up observation of seagull chicks wins hands down overWimbledon(for a little while at least). And shopping…? three woollen blankets and some parkin is some kind of retail bliss.
It all sounds a bit Famous Five and it was – right down to the (alcoholic) Ginger Beer.
A new post on ‘And another thing’..! The neurological consequences of leaving Ramsey Street for Coronation Street.
Cumbrian Fells (M. Day)
I think we were all a little misled at primary school. Sky and sea are blue. Fields are green, sheep are white. There is a sun. None of these elements seemed to match up with our northern surroundings. Our clouds were not fluffy and white but a powerful, illuminated slate. The fields were rough coppers, oatmeals and mosses. The rivers didn’t sparkle like diamonds but frothed like freshly pulled Black Sheep Bitter. And our sheep were never white but a graffiti-ed mix of fluorescent pinks and blues and reds depending on whether they have been tupped or not. And they lied about the sun.
But it makes for a much softer palate of colours. No jarring of primary against primary but a soft merging of the elements that sit naturally one next to the other. It’s rough and moody but powerful and magnetic.
And yours is in Row 8,728
Purple Parking is not Quality Parking. The difference there is that Quality Parking is defined by the adjective ‘quality’, and Purple Parking could only come up with a colour because any other descriptor would have put them in jail under the trade descriptions act. Unless that descriptor was ‘shit’. I should have just got the bus to Heathrow. It goes faster than my own car and I could have had a Bloody Mary on the plane. But Quality Parking worked pretty well last time, it was not too far out of my way or from Heathrow; it was slick – they’d got my car out ready for me when I came home; the bus set off as soon as I arrived. No panic. Seamless. A pleasant customer experience.
Purple Parking is miles out down some residential backstreet, under a railway bridge, turn right by the gas tower and avoid the potholes and keep going until you lose all hope in the back of industrial wastelands. Three buses were there ready. Ready. Ready to go. They didnt seem to understand the urgency of plane travel and bus-stops. After 15 minutes, two smokes (mine not theirs) and no further customers we ambled off for a twenty minute cruise back to Heathrow. I obviously didn’t miss my flight – but these eventualities are why I leave three hours leeway.
Coming back I think we detoured via three employees’ homes to drop them off and then we were pushed out in the middle of an enormous carpark and made to queue up for our keys and row numbers. Like dogs waiting for a ball to be thrown.
‘Where is row 27?’
‘Row 27 – very close. Back there and round corner’.
So not very close. In fact, row 27 was a good 7 mins slog away all the way back through the rows we’d just driven by to be arbitrarily dropped at row 14. I’m not old and disabled but if I were, I’d be mightily pissed off. Truth be known i was mightily pissed off. I think he sensed that. I think me banging my car door hard (twice – as the first time my belt got caught..) and revving up Radio 2 proved that point. That showed them.