When did it become uncool to go camping and instead long for a hotel room ?
The Queens Silver Jubilee weekend, May 1977, thats when.
Thats the weekend that a big crowd of us took off to the Lake District to pitch up in a farmers field next to a mountain stream at the foot of The Langdales and get rat-arsed for three days, the Queen having blessed the whole country with an extra days holiday that year so that fools like us could get rat-arsed and forget that it was really her weekend, a weekend to celebrate her 25 years worth of reigning o’er us and not get rat-arsed and forget that it was all about her.
Anyway, it didn’t start well, I went to pick up John The Sparky in my company van, he having a tent I’d offered him a lift in return for a space on the floor of his tent, thats how it works, I have transport, you have accommodation, we both enjoy getting pissed = perfect weekend.
Except that when I picked up The Sparky from his house he’d already been on the ale since lunchtime and was starting to come down from his alcohol induced state of merriment, descending into that phase of “Oh why did I do that, oh I don’t feel very well…” and then he puked all over my van, while we were doing 50mph through the village of Addingham, while the villagers of Addingham were hanging out bunting on the roadside to celebrate HM Queens Silver Jubilee weekend, The Sparky wound down the window and vomited five pints of part digested Tetleys Bitter all over those villagers at 50mph, we didn’t stop to apologise.
Arriving in the farmers field in Langdale I realised why everyone in every village that we had passed through had been pointing at my van for the last two hours, it should have been a white van, instead it was white with lots of brown streaks of vomit all the way down it, and carrots, there are always carrots, The Sparky was still puking as I drove the van into the stream and made him wash it.
Then we went to the pub to get pissed.
Saturday dawned bright and early, a sunny day in the Lake District, will wonders never cease, just how amazing is this camping lark when its a sunny day in The Lakes and breakfast is sizzling on the Camping Gaz stove ?
Saturday night it pissed it down, lashed it down, the skies opened in fury and hammered our little two man tent into the ground while a small tsunami washed down the field where our tent sat in the way of it and the stream, I was soaked, soaked right through my sleeping bag and out the other side, sometime at around 4am I found myself awake listening to the mother of all storms on the other side of a thin sheet of soaked canvas and I wondered what the hell I had ever found attractive about camping, I asked The Sparky if his fooking tent had ever been waterproofed, “I thought it had” was all he could say, he thought it had but you see it wasn’t really his tent, it was his older brothers tent and he thought that his older brother had had it waterproofed, his older brother was even more stupid than he was, I’ll tell you how stupid his older brother was, he owned a three wheeled car, thats how stupid his older brother was, and so I seriously doubted that he’d ever even noticed that is tent wasn’t at all waterproof, indeed we’d have been less wet just laying down to sleep in the stream which by now was a raging torrent and threatening our very survival.
Sunday dawned grey and miserable and still raining.
“Maybe we can dry our stuff out ?” The Sparky suggested, I just stared back at him, “And how the fook do you think we’re going to manage that then ?” I replied, pointing outside at the stair rods of rain.
Stupidly I had placed all of my weekends clothing inside the tent instead of leaving my bag inside the van so now every item of clothing I had brought was soaked through, there was nothing more for it, I dressed in wet clothes and went to the pub to find a seat next to the fireplace where I spent the whole day getting pissed again but this time sitting inside a huge cloud of steam, turning slightly every half hour or so to dry out from a different angle, and finally dried and a little more comfortable I headed back for the tent at some god-knows-what time of the night, money spent, well pissed.
And then the monsoon returned again.
For the second night running the heavens opened as they can only open in The Lakes, if you’ve never camped in The Lake District when it rained, and I can’t believe anyone who says that they’ve never camped in The Lake District and NOT have it rain all over them, then you will just not fully appreciate what it is like to lay down in a field while you slowly submerge under mud and water.
Sometime before dawn I’d had enough – this was the point at which camping became not cool for me anymore, camping was now unpleasant, distinctly uncool, horribly wet, terribly uncomfortable, and cold, cold like the arctic, cold, wet and miserable, I crouched as high as I could crouch inside that pathetic excuse for a tent and addressed The Sparky, “I’m off home” I told him, “If you still want a lift home you’d better be ready in three minutes flat or I’ll leave you here in this lake – your choice”
My clothes were scooped up and I retreated to the van, started the engine and was about to drive off into the night leaving The Sparky behind when the van door opened and quickly closed behind his wet and bedraggled figure, he threw his bundle of clothes in the back and gestured for me to leave.
“What about your brothers tent ?” I asked
“Fuck it” was all I needed to hear
Camping had suddenly become very uncool to The Sparky too.