The Irritations of Modern Life: 57. Serious Campers

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The Independent Culture
YOU MAY be happy making do with a two-man tent that's been sitting in the loft since you saw Hendrix at the Isle of Wight Festival, and a borrowed blow-up mattress... oops! Forgot the foot pump!

But not the Serious Camper. He resides with his family in a marquee- -cum-Barratt-home with mock Tudor plastic windows, a labyrinth of mosquito- netted bedrooms, a kitchenette with both cooker and fridge (powered by Calor gas) and a pantry that hooks on to the tent pole.

He's even rigged up a four-gallon container to supply running water to the washing-up bowl. As you wobble along with a saucepan that's only half full by the time you reach your tent, he surveys his territory (he's paying for two pitches), while toying with his Swiss Army knife.

It doesn't help that his gazebo is blocking the fine view you had before he arrived in his estate car with trailer. Then you have to duck under his badminton net to reach the shower block. And trip over his youngest's tricycle. But you manage a smile. He did, after all, lend you his electric foot pump. It's just a pity it flattened your car battery.

On the positive side, his tent is lit up like Blackpool Pier, which is a helpful navigation aid after dark. The light pollution does get a bit offensive after 11pm, though. Is Travel Scrabble really that fascinating?

At dawn the smell of fried bacon drowns out the whiff of his Portaloo. Serious Camper's wife has the mother of all fry-ups on the go. She's a strange fish. All she does is cook. Some holiday. You met her at the shower block last night. She was wearing a dressing-gown and fluffy slippers, and her wash bag matched her monogrammed towel. Applying night cream, she said: "Come over for drinks tomorrow. Maybe the kids can play croquet."

But Mr Serious Camper has other ideas. His children are under orders to peel vegetables and lay the table while he whittles a stick. Your own brood eye up the mallets and the original Seventies Space Hopper until your son can no longer resist and helps himself. "Gerald, put that thing away," barks Mr SC. "It will get stolen if you leave it lying around."

Instead of watching them scoff another three-course meal, you head to the pub for scampi. On your return Mrs SC is waiting for you. Quite shaken up, she is. Something about "whittling". Nearly cut his finger off. "I don't suppose," she says, "you have a first-aid kit?" Of course you do. "Help yourself." You'll collect it in the morning, along with a triple- stacked bacon sandwich.