Saturday, 7 February 2009


I work with people all week and being the introvert that I am, one of the main aims of a weekend away is to get as far away from people as possible. Staying in motels and/or hotels is too expensive and we are not crib or holiday home owners. Also, we resist the baby boomer trend of owning a camper van; too pricey and too cumbersome. So we have decided to put a theory to the test: whenever we go on a weekend jaunt, we will point the bonnet of our car to whatever point of the compass indicates good weather, travel no more than an hour and a half, spend the day exploring, picnicking ...
and the night in a standard cabin at a camping ground. This seems to us to be by far the most interesting, comfortable and affordable getaway deal.

The only flaw in this plan is that camping grounds are very public places. They bring me, the incurable introvert, within the close proximity of strangers. When you’re frying your eggs and bacon or brushing your teeth, alarming things can occur. For example, when my husband went to have his morning shower, because of the stable-door arrangement it didn't take him long to work out that a whole family (mother included - and remember this was in the Male showers) was in one cubicle, showering together. Nothing at all wrong with that per se, but in a public place? I guess it is nice for that couple to be so liberated, but please! All my husband wanted was a little Male-Female separation. I wonder what the reaction would have been if the family-with-father-included had decided to use the Female showers? Are we being unreasonable? All we want is to carry out our (necessarily public when camping) ablutions in as private and straight forward a manner as possible.

With camping grounds there is the instant community factor where, like it or not (and I am misanthropically inclined enough not to) you are thrust into a nest of strangers and expected to exude goodwill and smile at whoever you meet, even when you happen to be half-dressed, without your contact lenses in and fumbling your way blindly towards the toilet block. You could give off vibes that you are from another country and don’t speak English or know Kiwi customs; however, more often than not it turns out that it’s a German tourist that is wanting you to be sociable.

In the kitchen, strangers smile their hail-fellow-well-met smiles at your frying pan and then pass inane comments like, "Golly, that smells nice. Oh, look it’s only butter.” Or feel compelled to explain to you that they had to take a bottle of Coke away from their site because it was attracting wasps. Do I care? No. Does that make me a bad person? Yes, in a camping ground situation, apparently it does.
We have figured out some strategies, and will continue to hone these as we carry on with our experiment. For example, arriving at seven p.m. and leaving at seven a.m. may be a good idea. That way, we can cut down on the rubbing shoulders factor; by arriving later, we will miss the teatime rush and necessary stranger-proximity, and by leaving early, ditto for the corresponding morning shower time.

There may be some advantages to residing among the masses in a camping ground. For example, seeing kids on bikes and hearing their uncomplicated laughter as they kick a ball, and having it dawn on you that the ordinary, grass-root pleasures in life are still to be found, triumphantly flying in the face of any general pessimism about the state of the world. I heard a six-year old informing another kid, “My Mum and Dad are going to buy a Harley Davidson”. Clearly, if kids are still boasting, kicking balls and riding bikes, all is not yet lost.

Tonight we are staying in a camp with the name 'Camp-Run-A-Muck' with other cheesy names for areas in the camp, such as 'Gerry Attrick Korner'. Hmmm. Well, at least it was a clean, pleasant, well-run camp with strong, hot showers, plenty of chattels in our cosy, clean cabin, a comfortable bed and all noise ceasing on the dot of 10.00 p.m. Well ... apart from some extraverts who insisted on having loud conversations outside their caravans, saying things like, “Hello and who is that young lady there with you?” in an annoyingly jovial uncle’s voice - the kind of uncle that kisses you at Christmas with beery breath and you really wish that they wouldn’t, especially on the mouth. Their sentences tend to start with,”Tell you what,” and end with a sarky, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” followed by great guffaws. They know full well their voices are filling the camping ground, and it delights them, giving them great joy and a sense of power because they're laying claim to ownership of the night and all sleeping patterns within a mile radius.
“No worries. Not a problem,” the jovial uncle says, “We actually got a photo.” More belly laughs.

The camp is five minutes walk away from the beach where the waves are long and low, turning navy before exploding into white lines of foam. There the sky at our back was wide and high, the sunset colours, apricot and grey and the moon a shiny, baby-face peeking out from under a knitted bonnet of cloud. We walked where the air was still and heavy with the heat from a day of sun. I felt a strip of sunburn stinging my neck from when earlier in the day we drank coffee in the mid-day sun down by the harbour. I felt the sand under my feet, velvet-soft and cool. As we headed back towards the camp, a couple in a ute towing a small horse float pulled up alongside to ask if we knew the way to Paul Harris’s place. No, sorry, we explained, we are staying at the camping-ground. We are not local.

Later that night, after loud, jovial uncle had finally fallen quiet, I lay awake for a while listening to the sounds a small coastal town makes in the night. I heard what I thought was a long train going by, only to realise after fifteen minutes that no train can be that long and that it was in fact simply the unbroken sigh of the wind in the trees. In that disconcerting way that sounds play on your mind in the dead of the night, I started to fret that it could be the sea. I imagined a wave massing up to a terrifying point (much like those you see in Japanese woodcuts of a tsunami) ready to swamp us all, whether nosy, liberated or loud ... and I did for a moment worry for my fellow campers. But then I convinced myself again that it was indeed just the wind soughing in the trees. Soughing. What a lovely word, I thought ... and drifted off to sleep.
It did surprise me all the same, how even though I am a grumpy, old cow, when faced by a disaster (imagined or not) of gigantic proportions, there can be found in my cold heart a sudden rush of concern and compassion for my fellow humanbeings. When put to the test, it would appear that not only am I an old softy at heart, but also, in the end camper solidarity will out.


McDinzie said...

Well of course you should do camping grounds because a camping van would give you the chance to avoid the maddening crowd :-)

When you said that you deal with people all week and the weekends are yours....that is exactly what I say as yet people don't seem to understand that part of me that is the introvert and doesn't want to play nice at the weekend.

Sounds like you had a very relaxing weekend!!!! :-)

dinzie said...

Me too - Much prefer to being on my own when away from work ...At work I have a constant stream of people at my desk ...Never mind that i'm working and tapping away at the keyboard in manic two finger typing (and a thumb for the space bar only ....)..

Come the weekends they can all merrily sod off :O)

I'm far grumpier than you could ever be :O)


apprentice said...

I don't think I could be as brave as you facing all those merry souls -unless I went off season when it was quieter.

But the heading for the sun and the hour and half rule sounds grand -I have one of those husbands who likes to press the metal and getting him to stop and simply look is hell, so this rule would be grand for us.

Mama Llama said...

Oh, this post had me rolling, Kay.

Gerry Attrick Corner. Now, really...!

I agree. Perhaps that is one reason I am not such a huge fan of camping. If I can go and be on my own with no other contact that with those I have chosen to be my company, then fine. Otherwise, not for me.

Glad to see Blogger has amended its ways with you...for now! I will stay tuned to this blog-hosting soap opera!

Be well, Kay.

Becky Willis Motew said...

You have outdone yourself here, Kay. I howled at the loud "uncles." God, how true. They're everywhere too. I hope the 7am/7pm strategy will work. I too am very private and would NOT like to shower with ANYONE else, thank you. Glad your hub survived.

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Loved this, tho' I, myself, am not much of a camper. That said, I like camping in a CABIN much better than in a TENT.

Welcome back to Blogger!

rel said...

Sounds like a superb get-a-way.
I love interacting with with people. But it takes energy and energy needs to be replenished. That's what alone time is for. Without it I become crotchity.

Unknown said...

I laughed with recognition at some of your observations on the campsite. I must be a grumpy old cow too :))))

I think that's why we go to the same holiday house every year - that and the fact that if we brought all six of our kids to a campsite, everyone would be running away within twenty minutes. Nothing like six loud opinionated, fighting children to clear a campsite!

Avus said...

I am with you, Kay on hating all that false bonhomie, especially early morning (leave that to the boy scouts).
Thus, when we toured NZ, we eschewed any stop over that included communal washing or dining (that took camping, per se and bed and breakfast out of the equation.
We always stopped over at the "Top Ten" or "Kiwi" holiday parks, booking the cheapest cabins that had self contained en suites and cooking facilities.
We had a great time, apart from one night in Rotorua when the cabin next door (common party wall) had their TV on ALL NIGHT!

kj said...

this is quite a comical read, chief! grumpf until compassion wins out, huh?


Tammy Brierly said...

I grew up, most summers, doing the same. I really related to your pro's and con's. lol XXOO

Kay Cooke said...

McD - Now enough of your sarcasm! (Boy do I know what you mean about not wanting to play nice!)

dinzie - beg to differ - you haven't seen me in full flight- a sight to behold!

apprentice - Yes I feel far from merry at times, and don't like to be forced to be so!
It is nice to drive with the aim of pottering and stopping off at interesting places.

mama llama - You and I are in agrrement then!

becky - We survived (just) and have set strategies in place for next time! :)

joyce - Hear, hear! Cabins rock, tents collapse!

rel - I hear ya!

barbara - Ha! Yes six kids in tow puts another slant on things! A holiday home is the ideal for that situation.

avus - Yes, our remedy is the deluxe cabins. And the Top Ten Camping Grounds are great. When are you going to do it again?

kj - You got it in one!

Tammy - I have some fond memories of summer camping as a kid too.

Clocking Out

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