The year before last, in the early spring, the two of us went to Vietnam.
And later that year, for our summer family holiday, we (two adults, those two girls), went to a resort a little way outside Marrakesh and had, frankly, a terrific bloody time.
That was the year before last.
Last year was different because and then there were five, when we two adults, those two girls, were joined by that there girl sprocker.
We discussed the options, but it was a unanimous decision to keep the family of five together for our family holiday.
So we all, yes, all five of us, went camping in Cornwall.
We crammed ourselves in to an eight-man tent and, being entirely truthful with you, we had a great time (despite the hyper-energetic sprocker putting a claw-hole in the adults airbed on the penultimate night).
But this year our family has expanded again, and the annual holiday has to accommodate two adults, those two girls and not one, but two hyper-energetic sprockers.
So throughout the winter there has been much thinking and saving: thinking about ‘how the heck are we going to do this?’, and saving for ‘whatever the heck it is we decide to do what will enable us to do this’.
When we were on holiday in Cornwall the family on a pitch diagonally opposite ours had a huge tent.
Ours was an eight-man tent. Theirs dwarfed ours and made it look like something you’d throw up in the garden for a weekend of fun.
About halfway through our stay, the family with the *huge* tent packed up and got the hell out of Dodge went back home.
The dad of the family rolled up a wall of their tent and started carrying things out.
There was the fridge. And the freezer. And the 48″ TV. And the microwave. And the oven. And the smaller fridge (which I could only think they had exclusively for beer). And the kettle. And the two gas bottles. And many other things, including items of furniture.
All of these things were stowed in the back of a 3.5t van (with tail-lift).
When the tent had been emptied one of the family swept out, mopped up and then dried the floor.
Then the tent was very carefully (but very rapidly, taken down and folded up, and then stowed in the remaining space in the back of the van.
Within less than an hour of the activity starting, the whole exercise had been completed, everything was stowed, and the family were driving out of the campsite on their way home.
Seasoned campers, obviously.
Whereas we were/are very unseasoned campers.
We had little conversations on the way home; about getting a top-box for the Insignia (which was totes crammed up), about getting a trailer.
Then we moved on to getting a caravan (and had sensible conversations about such things), while all the time I was thinking about getting a van).
I’m not sure how we’re going to combine any/all of these things with our ambitions of getting a widebeam boat…
Because you can’t compare all the many hours that I spent on survival training, or camping out in mountain ranges, or in deserts, or in the arctic circle, from the days I used to wear a uniform and carry a sidearm for a living.
And by the same token you can’t really compare the nights (sometimes days) that I slept occasionally inside a tent, sometimes outside a tent, and sometimes neither inside nor outside a tent, at various music festivals.
So when, in mid-August, we stuffed the car to its limit (four humans, one six-month Spaniel puppy, an eight-man tent, and many, many camping-related accessories – not to mention food!), and trundled down to sunny Cornwall for a week of living under canvas, it was something of a shock to the system.
A shock to my system, at least.
The campsite had everything it promised, including being delightfully dog-friendly. The well-provided dog-walking fields were terrific for Robyn to zoom around in, and the dog shower was lovely for her. Keeping her in the tent was interesting (she can wriggle through the smallest gaps). On the penultimate day she did manage to put a sharp claw through our airbed, but it was still all part of the camping-with-dog experience.
The beach was (very) nearby and equally dog-friendly. There was a large freshwater stream that ran through the beach down to the sea, which Robyn spent many happy hours running and splashing about in. The whole beach, sea, sand, freshwater stream experiences were all new to her, but she coped with it all very well.
The weather held for us through the week. There was some minor sunburn (my left leg), but overall the weather was the ‘just bearable side of very hot’.
As for trips out/away from the area we were staying, we ventured into Newquay (ugh! It was full of people on a hot day and it wasn’t a good place for either Robyn or me). We also drove up to Tintagel, crossed the bridge, walked the Castle, and took the many, many steps down into the cove.
I have many memories of the week.
One of these memories is of waking up, freezing cold but fighting a losing battle with a full bladder at 3am, struggling out of the tent (which was damp from overnight dew), while the dog did her very best to trip me up because getting up at 3am is her NEW FAVOURITE THING!
But if that’s my biggest discomfort with the week (and I think it was), then I had a cracking week camping in Cornwall. With three other humans. And a six-month old Spaniel.