It’s a Monday and I have two kids at home with me. Otis has the pox and Casper has had an allergic reaction to either grass or an insect bite while he was camping overnight across the road. You can’t tell quite how it came to be; my kids have mixed up heads and their stories are generally either unreliable or total fabrications. But ouch, though.
That eye looks better now. Oh the japes we had this morning, telling him what he could tell the kids at school – hilariously of the “You should have seen the other guy” variety. Because I would have sent him to school, mostly due to the fact that I have a heart of stone. But luckily Mark knows the difference between a mild ailment and a potential infection of the eye/brain, so he went to the doctor with him and he now has a plethora of drugs. Poor kid.
Things don’t look bright for Turkey – every year we go away somewhere hot and Casper and Barnaby get some sort of heat rash or insect bite reaction which blows their faces/eyes up or causes them to tear their skin off in patches and we end up in an emergency ward with glistening raw limbs and adorable but uncomfortable chipmunk faces. OH TO BE IN CHARGE OF OTHERS! What utter joy.
So, on Saturday, we had our second annual communal garden campout which is where the eye problem sprung forth. We (the esteemed organisers exhibiting marvellous event-management flair) had forgotten to tell any of our neighbours. So on Thursday night we all thought we just wouldn’t bother with the campout, and we wouldn’t mention it to the kids. Because, as much as *we* (Mark) love camping, there’s something about bothering to put up your massive tent and finding all the stretchers and bringing all your things over the road for one night only, knowing that the kids will go mental all night and you won’t sleep and the neighbours will get cranky, and you might get eaten by the garden fox, only to then wake up at the first shaft of cruel sunlight searing through the fabric walls at about 4:30am and THEN you have to put the tent away. And your actual bed is about 25 steps across the grass, tantalisingly near, all comfortable memory foam and enclosed by walls and a ceiling.
No competition, right? But word gets around amongst the youth, those smooth-skinned little stinkers, and soon my kids got very gobby about how much they wanted to sleep out in the garden for the second annual campout. They just knew. They must have smelt the truth.
So, we thought FINE THEN, you guys are pretty old now, so sleep without us, but the serious adults in the committee were very firm that there had to be an adult accompanying kids. SUCH A BORE.
Mark swiftly got in with a disclaimer, avowing he couldn’t stay out with them because of his sore back. Putting this into perspective, we have to add the sore back to his list of ever-growing ailments – shoulder, sinuses, potential skin cancers, mysterious no-pain migraines which render his vision a bit wobbly every now and then, sore hips and an arthritic thumb. Personally, I thought playing the sore back card was not really in the fatherly spirit of things. Besides, he is constantly buying better camping gear and shouldn’t he be keen to use it? I suspect his constant camping gear acquisitions are a bit like my wallet/sample sale shoe/handbag problem; buying shizzle all the time for no reason – certainly not for actual usage – but because it satisfies for a moment a deep, yawning chasm of loneliness and unworthiness. Probably.
Anyway, we asked another dad of one if he would like to use our tent – which comes with four rooms, an awning, and FOUR OF OUR KIDS! And he said yes, which mind-boggled me, because who would be so kind/mental? and they all finally went to sleep at 3am. The dad, who finally shifted his own kid onto another kindly neighbour’s couch at some unspecified hour to keep him away from the shameful display of nocturnal shenanigans of our kids, might never speak to us again – he had fled by the morning. There were various stories of neighbours coming over all night to ask them to be quiet and to stop screaming about ghosts, a midnight feast of coca cola in one of the terraced flats at midnight, and a lot of gaming. And, a bung eye.
This is summer, man. Kind of awesome, full of potential dangers, overheating, FOMO situations, bug bites and OTT gestures because we are SO EXCITED about the sun. You wait, always a bit cold, donning coats of various thicknesses, dressed in jean and boots, jeans and boots, and you remember about summer. It seems to come really fast – so fast that you forget to go to all the things you were planning to go to all year round, mostly because they are all on the same four weekends of probable nice weather. And your arms are white and bigger than they were last year and your toenails are a little bit fungus-y and everything summery that comes out of the suitcases in the wardrobe smells a bit like a dog. Your sandals give you blisters and you sneeze all the time.
We did manage to remember to go to the polo (best bit was when I found £20 on the ground which I quickly spent on two rhubarb gin cocktails), the Soho Food Feast where you buy really excellent food from stylish central London restaurants and pop ups for £2, strawberry picking and the Westbourne Summer Festival where you could get a snake to climb around your neck for free.
A tree we found in Hyde Park – a source of many an afternoon’s leaping and falling:
Christo at The Serpentine:
Soho Food Feast delights:
Lastly, my get-out-of-camping card: