Of all the things you’d expect two experienced Baden-Powell Scout trained young men to take with them on a camping trip it would be the tent for without the tent its not camping any more, its sleeping rough.
And second to the tent would be some poles to hold it upright, for without the poles its not camping any more, its sleeping underneath a tarpaulin.
And so we set off one Friday evening, the four of us twenty-something year-olds in a Ford Escort, Charlie and his policeman mate Keith in the front, me and Burty in the back, off for a weekend’s worth of camping in the glorious Yorkshire Dales, camping in the garden of a famous pub, The George Inn at Hubberholme, three days, glorious weather, beer within reach of your tent door, after hours lock-ins, what could possibly go wrong ?
Indeed what could possibly go wrong when the two people in the front seat of the car had been camping since they could barely walk, they were both leaders of a Venture Scout troop, elite Baden-Powell scouts, senior scouts they were and they had borrowed, scrounged or stolen a huge Scout tent, an old huge Scout tent it has to be said, an old huge Scout tent that could easily be mistaken for a circus tent when fully and properly erected, this old huge Scout tent had seen decades of sterling service in the Scout Association, indeed may even have served during World War Two and Charlie and Keith had saved it in their garage labelled “this will come in useful” when their Venture Scout troop replaced their equipment with new-fangled tents.
The tent was what you would expect from the pre-nylon instant zip-up tent era of camping, a V-shaped structure with no ground sheet, two huge tent poles, one at either end held the structure upright with the aid of dozens of guy ropes made of proper rope and tent pegs whittled from proper wood that needed a proper big mallet to hammer into the ground, finishing off the short list of features were the entrance flaps, one at each end, which weren’t zipped up in the modern way but merely tied together with a series of cords and in such way the tent became a perfect self-ventilating wind tunnel.
We slept on the grass underneath this wonderful construction, its only purpose being to fend off the worst of the rain, the less worse of the rain being allowed to blow freely through the so-called tent due to the inability of any of us to tie the flaps at either end together properly when drunk, and if the rain blowing through the tent didn’t soak you to the skin then the damp rising through the grass you were lying on did, Burty and I moaned about the meagre facilities constantly, Charlie and Keith glorified in them, calling it “proper camping”, but of course they were both imbeciles.
We arrived at The George at around 6pm and instantly hurried into the public bar for a swift couple of pints which turned to several pints and sometime around 9pm we asked the landlord if we could pitch our circus tent in the garden alongside several other modern zip-up tents who’s owners had cleverly erected earlier before they got too drunk to do so.
Permission having been granted and a half acre of grass cleared to make space for our construction we set about the mammoth task of putting the tent up.
I don’t know who it was who first discovered the error but after it was discovered we then couldn’t understand how none of us had noticed the lack of tent poles in the small Ford Escort, for the tent did not use those collapsible fibre glass poles so desired of modern tents, ours used proper tent poles, 3″x3″ six foot long one solid length timber poles with a metal spike on either end, how we had missed their presence in the car none of us knew, but they now lay still in Charlie’s garage at home while we stood in the garden of a pub 40 miles away wondering what to do next.
Having extolled the virtues of camping in “proper” tents to all and sundry in the public bar of The George for several hours to all who would listen, many of whom owned the modern zip-up tents in the same garden as our pole-less tent, we sheepishly sidled back into the bar and whispered to the landlord that we’d forgotten to bring any poles for our tent and did he have any that we could borrow. it was intended that he keep this fact quiet and simply reply in the positive or negative but he thought it was hilarious and broadcast the fact to the whole pub, who in turn thought it hilarious too.
They had some spare poles but of course they were modern fibre glass zip-up poles and of absolutely no use to us whatsoever, we explained that what we really needed was two small trees to hold our huge tent up and the landlord took us around to the back of the pub where he had a timber store and by coincidence two small ex-birch trees that he was drying out for firewood, we measured off two six foot lengths and got to work with a two-man saw and after an hour of falling over, tying multiple knots, falling over again, tearing part of the tent, having all of the tent fall on us multiple times, we finally had a structure in the pub garden that would pass for accommodation for the weekend, if you enjoy sleeping beneath a V-shaped sheet of tarpaulin held up by two trees and copious quantities of rope and open to the elements at either end.
Getting drunk was the only way to even start to consider spending three nights underneath this contraption – so thats what we did next…