I never really thought of myself a complete moron before, but when I think of how last week I skipped into a stationary shop to buy a scrapbook in which to preserve this year’s holiday memories, I have to consider it might be the case.
My husband was in the camping shop purchasing the airbeds for our planned (planned and paid for) holiday in France and we had decided to give all the equipment a test run in a little site in Wicklow that night.
Why not? It was only an hour away; we had a tent, sleeping bags, the airbeds and a pump. The kids were excited and my husband set about packing the car. I was looking forward to it and hoping to put an end to his concern that I hadn’t “really thought the whole thing through.” Having spear-headed the whole idea of a family camping holiday, I was eager to prove him wrong.
It took about two hours to get everything we thought we needed into the car, another ten minutes to take out half of it to make room for the sleeping bags and the children and about thirty seconds for me to realise that this might not be as easy as I thought. Closing one of the rear doors I noticed one of my middle boys had a sticky case of conjunctivitis and knew that, as is tradition in our house, the first stop on this family outing would be the chemist.
As we left a little later than planned, we strapped our toddler into his seat without his dinner and just at the time he normally goes to bed. He was vocally very unhappy about this but was placated with half a bar of Dairy Milk and a lollipop. So, when we arrived at the site he was sticky and hyperactive. He ran around for an hour and a half with me in tow, careering past campfires, climbing rocks beside the river, peeking into caravans and racing across the car park. On our travels we found the showers, the kitchen sinks and the toilets. As we entered I heard someone in a cubicle begin to clear their throat loudly and the whole shared toilet aspect of camping holidays occurred to me. (I thought about it again when, the next morning, whey-faced strangers wandered past our tent in pyjamas and sweatshirts, clutching hairbrushes and shower gel.)
Anyway, while I ran around the site, my husband erected the tent alone, which took two long hours. It was 11pm when we finally sat down on the groundsheet of the “living area” with bags of chips from the take-away in the nearby village. The eldest was upset “the one time we get takeaway food, and I’m too tired to eat it!” he said sadly. The youngest who was beside himself with exhaustion wailed deafeningly, his brother spilt his can of 7up on said groundsheet, (which proved water tight, there was a sizeable puddle) and our six year old quietly, with his wind up torch, examined the sore, red marks between his toes from the new flip flops, purchased that afternoon in the camping shop.
While I mopped up the 7up with a paper bag, my husband began (began, at 11pm) to pump up the airbeds. Neither task was an easy one in the darkness, a lamp being one of the things we had forgotten to buy. All the pyjamas were in the car and as no one had the energy to get them, we piled onto the mattresses and slept in our clothes.
The next morning, as I cleaned up another little pool (breakfast cereal milk this time) with the skirt of the dress I had slept in, moral was low. I admitted that yes, I hadn’t really thought it through and my husband generously allowed that really, neither of us had. We just needed to decide whether to start making a list “lamp, spare shoes, tea towels, chairs, table…” or go home, get into bed, put the covers over our heads and wait for someone else to plan our holiday. We decided, for the moment, to do the latter and loaded up the car.