A-camp-olypse Now – Part the First

“Brisbane… Shit! I’m only in Brisbane… I’ve been here one night now, looking for a holiday… Everyone gets what he wants. I wanted a holiday. And for my sins they gave me one…””  To dreadfully misquote Apocalypse now

So I haven’t been feeling quite myself lately. A little frustrated, a little scared, a little directionless, and to top it all off, a little under the weather. Not full blown flu, just an annoying tickle in my throat that is creeping into my lungs. Just not feeling terribly together is how I’d put it and desperately in need of a change scenery.

This is how I arrived in Brisneyland, with my wife and two sons (13 & 11), about to embark on a school holiday camping trip with our dear friends the Smiths.

Now It must be said that we are not a camping family. My wife’s idea of camping is an overwater villa at the St Regis, Bora Bora… and a fine idea of camping that is, believe you me! Bille Carte and a butler is one Hell of a way to rough it. The boys are apprehensive. They’re not that worried about the outdoor living (they have camped before) but being away from the PS4 and a reliable wifi signal for three days has them pretty spooked. My youngest is very concerned about his K/D stats on COD and “losing his edge”, while my eldest is seeking solace in the pages of a book about the Silk Road and the deep web. He’s not above going analogue for his digital fix is that one.

For me it’s about cleanliness; I’m not a germaphobe, I’m just not a big fan of dirt. Put it this way, when get home from a trip I unpack my bag, put all the clothes in the wash, vacuum the bag, then vacuum the house. I find nothing more therapeutic than cracking out the Dyson. In my small corner of the world, in my home, I will have mastery over the dirt.* However, in a camping scenario there is no vacuuming. The dirt runs free. It is the predator and I am its prey.

I seriously considered packing the Dyson handheld for this excursion and when I say packing, I mean like heat. If I was going to take on dirt on its turf and I was arming up for bear. Then I realised I’d have nowhere to plug it in and found myself seriously considering an investment in a rather expensive portable solar panel to charge it. Eventually, I knew I had to abandon that plan. There is no way my wife would have ever gone with and with good reason. While the Smiths are our dearest friends, my wife goes back a lot further with them than I, and as much as they have accepted me and my all my fortes and foibles there is no way on God’s green Earth that they’d understand this. I’d convinced myself I’d only use it in the tent. If there is one thing I cannot bear it is grit in my bedding. Just one particle of grit when I am trying to sleep is like a pice of blue metal road bed delicately abrading my tender flesh.

And while we’re about it, what is with the whole tent thing?! I love my wife, I really do. She is the Sun and the Moon to me and I count myself the luckiest of men to have such an intelligent and beautiful woman to travel through life with… 

But do I really want to seal myself in an oven bag with her overnight?! 

More to the point, does she want to seal herself in with me? If it is anything like the last time we went camping with the Smiths**, we would be condemning each other to death by asphyxiation***, not to mention the potential threat of rapid and catastrophic combustion. I don’t care how many vents the damn methane rebreather has. Did I mention my wife is a smoker? This just is a holiday tragedy waiting to be reported on.

The Smiths on the other hand are the antithesis of us. They are camping machines. When the Apocolypse comes, as soon as there is a sniff of Armageddon, I am packing up the family and heading to where the Smiths are. They will survive and probably quite comfortably. I would swear they must have the tents from Harry Potter! They seem to magically create stuff to eat and drink and do (coming up with things to do while camping is actually quite challenging… well it is for me). And they have two daughters – yes, around the same ages as my sons just make things even MORE interesting –  who are completely at ease with the whole great outdoors milieu.

Where are we going? I don’t know. All I know is that at 9am tomorrow morning I will make my way into Queens St in downtown Brisneyland to pick up a 4WD and most likely the last real coffee**** I’ll enjoy until the weekend. I’ll return to our Brisneyland digs (my mother-in-law’s über apartment overlooking the Brisneyland River. Very clean. A full description requires an article all of its own), load up the family, pick up the camping gear, meet up with the Smiths and head off into the wilderness off South East Queensland.

Right now I feel a little like Martin Sheen in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now, sans all the dancing and punching of mirrors. I’m like Willard desperately waiting for something he doesn’t really want, knowing that he is hopelessly unprepared for what is in store: “Every minute I stay in this room I get weaker… And every minute the dust squats in the bush, it gets stronger…”

Camping… the horror… the horror…

7 April 2015

*Of course, my family are completely the opposite. They could not care less about mess. Welcome to my own personal Hell. I have never told them that I have this fastidious streak and I’m pretty sure they don’t know the true depths it runs… or maybe they do…

**My wife and I went camping on North Stradbroke Island for New Years Eve 1999 with the Smiths just for one night. We were yet to have kids and I was just getting to know the Smiths and I really didn’t want to make a tit of myself. So I quashed my dirt aversion and just went with the flow. I recall four-wheel-driving, beer, the beach, beer, fireworks, beer, meat, beer, beans, beer, bacon, beer, eggs, beer, rum, Jägermeister, laughing my arse off, more beer and the drop toilet from Hell. I came to at 5am when I actually heard the sun rise and it proceeded to peel my eyelids open with a rusty spork. I was lying in half in a tiny tent with a mouthful of sand – Sand! It’s just dirt with ocean views – skin crusted with salt, clothes that reeked of farts and the fire and I’m pretty sure from the headache I was now suffering that I had slept face down using a tent peg for a pillow. No, camping is not my thing.

***I am typing this while my wife snores next to me and in a moment of divine synchronicity, she let rip. The prosecution rests its case.

****While the handheld Dyson was seriously considered, the single boiler Vibiemme coffe machine and my coffee grinder was, for me at least, a no-brainer. Right up until my wife caught me measuring it and our luggage did it in any way seem even vaguely beyond he realms of possibility or common sense.