Monday, July 18, 2011

Camping stories Pt 1

I’m going Camping on Friday. In Scotland. In the middle of nowhere.Wwith no facilities other than some grass and a beach. For 7 days.


Let me set the scene. My childhood is filled with memories of going camping on Scotland with my sisters and parents, sometimes with sisters friends coming along too. We used to go two or three times a year. In all weathers.

We used to pack the car (which was a stress in itself as my dad is a stickler for packing the car in a certain way) and pile ourselves into the car for the 4 hour drive up. I always remember being in the middle as I’m the little sister. Sometimes sat on sleeping bags….! We never had a massive car either, normally a hatchback so it was always cosy. With the dog too, mustn’t forget the dog.

So we’d drive up, we’d always stop at Tebay services on the way, let the dog out for a wee in the foresty bit there. In the lobby of the services there was a big flat, polished rock, I’m fairly sure it was from an underground cave and I think it was a big crystal that had been halved and polished. It’s not there anymore but I remember it vividly as a child. Partly because I thought it was from War of the Worlds…!

The rest of the drive up would be fairly uneventful, ‘cept for asking Dad if we were nearly there yet. Although because we went so often we all knew the proximity of our location, I think we just did it to wind him up. We’d generally have Abba, Leo Sayer or War of the Worlds on as music. There’s a family anecdote of Dad asking us kids what music we wanted on, and my response being ‘Dooper Dooper Dad’, indicating I wanted Super Trouper…! Oh and there was the eating of travel sweets, always travel sweets. Old school travel sweets, in the round tins with the icing sugar.

On the way up we’d sometimes stop at a place in Annan for fried chicken and chips from the same chip stop. I remember this being the best thing ever, and am sure it’s a contributor to my love of chicken!

Arriving at our location (Newton Farm, just outside Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries & Galloway) we’d go straight to the farmhouse to say hi to the Hamilton Family who live there. Now you have to bear in mind that my dad has been going to this place and camping here since about 1973, so he knows the family who own the land very well. So we always used to nip in and say hi. They’ve known all 3 of us girls since we were young. Me since I was born. Elsie used to make us tea, we’d put our freezer blocks in her freezer and I used to go and have an explore in the barn and the bales of straw. Sometimes there’d be kittens in the barn, but not often. Used to say hi to the cows in the shed too if they were in.

Hello’s and updates done, we’d drive down the track through the farmland to the camping field. Past the old combine harvester that was rusting away in the corner of one field, that had been there as long as I could remember, then down the hill to our camping spot. As we turned down the hill we’d have a look to see who else was there camping. Having been coming here for years we got to know families who’d come the same time as us. Sometimes we’d be alone, sometimes there’d be others we knew, sometimes there’d be other people we didn’t know, but it’d be guaranteed we’d know them by the time we left.

Then there was the putting up of the tent. We had a big 6 berth tent so it took some effort to put up. I remember helping put the poles together and helping out a bit, but being the smallest I’m not sure how much help I was! I think I helped tighten the guy ropes and peg those in. Always making sure the pegs were angled into the ground right to ensure they weren’t pulled out by the wind tugging on the ropes.

We always camped in the field rather than on the beach, not really sure why, we just did. The grassy bit at the top of the beach was generally busy with caravans though, so that maybe why we stayed in the field. I remember being in awe of caravans as I thought they were so much cooler than tents!

Tents up, and stuff sorted out we could go wandering, least that’s the way I remember it. Through the gate and onto the beach. The beach I haven’t seen in 15 years, but the beach I have very very vivid memories of. I remember the placement of all the rocks, how it looks when the tide is out, where the quicksand bits are in the bay, the best places to go crabbing and just how quick the tide comes in once it’s past the rocky outcrop about 200yards out.

We used to fill our days mucking about on the beach, walking out to the salmon nets if the tide was out, walking as far as we could sometimes. Spending what seemed like hours crabbing on the rocks, but always being very very watchful of the tide. I have a great respect for the sea and the tides and I’m fairly sure it’s down to my childhood holidays in Scotland. Dad always had a tidetable so we knew when to go crabbing and how high or low the tide would be. We never got caught out in the bay by the tide and knew our limits. I don’t ever remember being bored on these holidays. I used to walk up the mountains with Dad and the dog too. Ben John and Cairnharrow, Cairnharow being the biggest of the two. I have no idea of the scale of these now, they seemed huge to me back then.

The dog used to have a whale of a time too, clambering over the rocks with us as we went to go crabbing. The only time I ever saw her swim was in the sea. She used to attack the seaweed too, shaking the sand off it before attempting to eat it.

I have vivid memories of playing pool in the pub in the local town too, the Masonic. Or playing in the park across the road from it.

There were BBQ’s on the beach, a free for all re invites, getting to know people we’d not met before. Dad running the cooking of the food, as is his forte..! Listening to the tide coming in and seeing it glisten in the moonlight as we sat there eating chocolate banana’s

Helping dad empty the portaloo..not a nice job! Getting washed in the little toilet tent with a bowl of water and some soap. Really back to basics.

Now I’m 29, and haven’t been to this place since I was about 14. My sisters have been back individually with their families and Dad’s been on his own, but I’ve not.

So earlier this year, an idea was hatched that we’d all go back together. Me, Dad, two sisters, their husbands..and the 5 kids (Ages 10, 6, 4, 4 and 2). We’re heading up without my Stepmum as she’s not a camping fan, wouldn’t enjoy it and so has opted out! I like to think of it as taking the next generation up there. Three of the kids have been, not sure about the other two. I don’t think they have been. But, they’ve definitely not all been together.

I’m excited for a number of reasons.

1: I’ve not been in 15 years and it will be massive nostalgia trip.

2: It’ll be a great family bonding session

3: It’ll be great to have all the kids together and do all the things we used to do together as kids.

4: As weird as it’ll be to be totally back to basics for a week, no tv, no facebook, probably no phone reception, no electricity….I’m oddly looking forward to getting away from it all. It might break my facebook addiction!

5: Although the original childhood dog is no longer with us, my parents have a new dog, and he’s very puppyish so will hopefully love it as much as Jenny did.

There are bits I’m slightly apprehensive about, mainly because I’m terrified of the dark, and my sisters may well be a nightmare with their teasing of me! But I’m kind of looking forward to that too. I’m incredibly close to my sisters and I love it when we’re all together, we revert back to being kids and have a right laugh. There will be some merciless teasing of me and my phobia of trees and rabbits and night…..but hey, what are sisters for?!

So I have an idea of how we’ll all get on and what we’ll do….lets see how that pans out. I’ll do a ‘post camping’ blog too, for anyone who’s remotely interested in what I have to say! It’s been very therapeutic writing this though!

Much love!

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