I took the kids to Twin Lakes State Park this weekend. It has been ages since I had last camped and I had vague memories of inconveniences, like that time I forgot a foam mat and almost froze to death in Scotland. How hard could I be, I thought. I picked up a tent, some sleeping bags and two air mattresses in Wal-Mart. As we say in Britain, to the complete befuddlement of people in the US. Bob's your uncle.
I won't say it went completely to plan.
10 Things I had forgotten About Camping
1 Tents don't put themselves up and the process can be stressful at midday when the temperatures are nudging 90 degrees and you don't realize a certain plug goes in a certain hole. Still only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the Midday Sun. Thank God for the useful bloke on Plot 12.
2 No matter how good or top of the line your air mattress is it always seems to deflate. On the positive side the nozzle on the battery operated pump worked. On the not so positive side you pay for what you get. These mattresses cost $19 each at Wal-Mart. The nice felt covered top was an insignificant bonus when it ended up like a pancake on the floor.
3 Camp barbecues sound like a nice idea but they need a spark. The one match the sneering park warden gave me did not a fire make. Thank God for the people with a lighter on Plot 14. Even if they were drunken rednecks.
4 The need to have a pee at 4 a.m. Yes who can forgot that sensation of tottering around in your walking boots with your feet half way in them and balancing like a woman on over high heels after two bottles of Merlot as you stagger towards the undergrowth hoping a snake doesn't jump out.
5 The need for kids to have a pee at 4 a.m. Do you accompany the kid who wants a pee to the toilet block and leave another kid alone in the tent to act as a decoy for bears or do you tell the kids to go and pee in the bushes?
6 The lack of air conditioning in a tent. But at least there's a flappy thing you can pull open to let in some breeze and vampire bats
7 The fact the shower blocks on camp sites aren't regularly filled with designer bottles of body lotion and conditioner. You had an old bar of soap and it's in the back of the car somewhere.
8 The fact there are no fridges in tents. Yes you felt like a cool, street smart American camper when you tipped the ice into the cooler earlier in the day. But now the box of burgers is saturated and they become a pulpy mass when you realize there's no knife to open the plastic covering and you are trying to break the seal with a car key.
9 Night crawler displacement. A disorientated child climbs all over you in the middle of the night and you wake blabbering about dreams involving giant spiders.
10 Evil looking flying bugs the size of rabbits with wings that turn the kids into screaming maniacs every time they see them.
It wasn't all bad. The lake had a pleasant beach that the kids liked to hang out on. It's always good to drive almost three hours for an inland beach when you have so many half an hour away.