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Bonzer Words!: Only The English

...The proprietor greeted us in a friendly, if not astounded manner. To our enquiry as to whether there were any other campers booked in, he answered bluntly: 'Nobody else is that crazy!'...

Peter King recalls a stormy Christmas under canvas in the Lake District.

My wife and I have always been keen campers. When we were still living in the UK we decided one year to get away from all the stress of Christmas, the excessive shopping, the over-eating etc., and to spend the festive days under canvas.

One of our favourite destinations was the Lake District and so it was that we found ourselves pulling into a site at Buttermere, late afternoon on Christmas Eve. The proprietor greeted us in a friendly, if not astounded manner. To our enquiry as to whether there were any other campers booked in, he answered bluntly: 'Nobody else is that crazy!' It had to be admitted that the steady drizzle and menacing clouds did not bode well for a comfortable night.

Undaunted, we found ourselves a good spot under the only tree available and pitched the tent. It wasn’t too far to the ablutions and, thanks to the distinct absence of any other tents, we had a 360 degree view. Our sole Christmas decoration. a red and gold bauble, was ceremoniously suspended from the tent roof.

In keeping with our minimalist aims, dinner was corned beef hash followed by Christmas cake, washed down with ample wine followed by port.

It was not, therefore, surprising that the gathering storm outside mainly escaped our notice. It was only when the tent was suddenly flattened by a particularly strong gust, that we realized an excursion to put up the storm guys would be necessary. Mercifully, there were no witnesses as we slid around in the pelting rain and storm, semi-clothed, trying to stabilise the tent.

Next morning, Christmas day, things had improved dramatically. It was only pouring, the wind had abated. A serious walk was called for and my wife had the perfect idea. We would hike around Ullswater.

Some hours into this excursion, I had a nagging doubt involving distance remaining and hours left before dark. We repaired to a hay shed to escape the incessant rain, have the last dregs of our hot chocolate and consult our Ordinance Survey map. This revealed a fundamental error in my wife’s calculations, the distance around the lake shore was 30 miles not 12! An about-turn was the only option.

Back at the campsite, we rushed to the shower block in gleeful anticipation. A hot shower would soothe our waterlogged and chilled bodies. Well, it would have, but the barely warm trickle that issued forth in response to our stream of ten-pence pieces was a bitter disappointment. However, by this stage we had begun to see the funny side and so, when we both slipped over on the waterlogged ground as we headed for our tent, covering ourselves in mud, we could only look at each other and laugh until we cried. Yes, it was a truly memorable Christmas!


© Peter King

** Peter writes for Bonzer! magazine. Please visit www.bonzer.org.au

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