But firstly, a confession.
The first time our kitchen ceiling had to be replaced was all my fault.
Just before we moved to ‘Delapre’, we were taken on a tour of the place. Our voices echoed around the empty rooms as Nigel and I stampeded across floorboards that were over a hundred years old. Ghosts lingered behind flocked wallpaper and heavy wooden doors. The one bathroom upstairs had a large enamel bath with clawed feet standing on patterned lino that curled up at the edges. Next to it was a tap that didn’t do anything. I knew that because I tried turning it on.
With four year old logic, because nothing came out of the tap I didn’t turn it off, but when we moved into the house and the mains water supply was switched on, there was such a flood in the bathroom that the kitchen ceiling below had to be replaced. That was the first of the three disasters.
Now that’s off my chest, on to holidays!
Every summer we had a family camping holiday. For several weeks beforehand Mum started packing enough tinned food to sustain us, should there be no shops in the places we were going to. The solid grey ‘Vanguard’ car was crammed to capacity, with us children sitting in the back seat perched high on top of pillows and blankets. Nobody had seatbelts in those days. Dad usually slowed the car right down as we climbed one of the long hills out of Bridport. He joked that one of us would have to get out and walk because the car was too heavy. It was an anxious moment.
When we arrived at our destination, the large tent was eventually pitched with much giggling and little assistance from the children. The heavy canvas was hauled over the frame only to discover the opening faced directly into a thick bramble hedge. So the four most senior of us ducked under the canvas and took a corner pole, rotating slowly in a clockwise direction, as instructed by the most junior one (Adrian) until we thought we faced the other way. Except that we’d walked the full 360 degrees and found ourselves in the same place we started off. And Adrian had run away, laughing.
Dad was a man of many mottos and his saying for camping was ‘Get the beds down first’, advice I have followed ever since. In our earlier years we didn’t have airbeds, but the amount of blankets both under and over the sleeping bags were sufficient to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep. As we lay in our sleeping bags listening to the rain pattering on the canvas, we dared each other to touch to tent to see if it leaked. It did.
Although all our main holidays were spent at reputable campsites with ablution blocks not far away, we did attempt some ‘bush camping’, at a nearby farm. The field we camped in was situated a short cliff-walk from the sea and about three or four miles out of Bridport. My father bundled us all in the car after work on the Saturday, and drove as close to the allotted site as he could without a four-wheel drive.
We pitched the tent and got the beds down, then we children raced down to inspect the sea while mum organised some supper. We spent the weekend all together, before Dad went back to work on Monday morning, presumably via the house, as there were no washing facilities at the camp. We walked up to the farmhouse to collect drinking water and milk, but everything else Mum had pre-packed. There was no camp shop, and it was long before the first cell phone, so we were glad to hear the sound of Dad returning on Thursday afternoon armed with fresh supplies.
We were all alone in that field, but nevertheless I found toileting in the hedge with a spade a difficult task. Those bush holidays were probably the only times in my life I ever suffered from penis envy.