Batik and BMWs

Summer School; Entertainment for the kids and time off for stressed parents: despite qualms, Emma Haughton and family loved their Campus weekend in Devon
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The Independent Online
11am: Arrive at Campus. Find our tepee in one the southern villages, where all shapes and sizes of tent huddle around the central green and marquee. Tepee offers basic accommodation, with just a ripped flysheet between us and the long wet grass. Suddenly remember how much I hate camping.

11.15am: Sip coffee from a flask and watch late-risers emerging bleary- eyed from their sleeping bags. Judging by the number of BMWs parked nearby, there are plenty who can afford pounds 1,000 a week to live under canvas and participate in this giant family summer school. How to summarise Campus? Imagine Butlins for the middle classes, a sort of Brighton Festival meets Blue Peter, where adults and children alike can try their hands at all manner of different skills and crafts.

11.45am: Study programme and urge husband to try the Men for Change workshop. "Looks great," I say. "A fun, safe space for men to come together in a supportive environment to explore, share and learn what being a man means to you. Will include movement, massage, chanting and singing ..." Husband gives me a severe look and heads for the beer tent.

12pm: In the Music Cafe we're confronted by 30 bums sashaying across the dance floor in an American line-dancing tutorial. Feeling queasy, abandon beer for circus skills workshop. Our seven-year-old shows previously undiscovered talent for spinning plates. Husband learns new trick on the diabolo. I'm too mesmerised by sight of fully-grown executives wobbling along a tightrope to try anything.

1pm: Wander around tents selling ethnic food and knick-knacks. Weather is glorious, but what if it were a Glastonbury-style sea of mud? Pop into classical performance and indulge in people-watching while husband takes kids trampolining. Some festival veterans, lots of floaty Indian skirts, batik trousers and goatee beards; the rest more well-heeled, with the women looking grateful for a break from their children, and the men looking shell-shocked at their sudden transplantation from London office to hippy heaven.

2pm: Our four-year-old son is quite taken with the Spice Moves tutorial. Tell him it's perfectly OK to join the 50 wannabe Spice Girls strutting and twirling on the outdoor platform, but he's not convinced.

3pm: Joy of joys! Discover we can legally abandon our children in the supervised play area. Husband grabs programme. Expresses interest in rock music workshop - just bring your own instrument and form your own band - until I point out that, unfortunately, we neglected to pack an electric guitar and amp. Spend an hour hanging out in the Oasis cafe, all strong coffee, eastern sweetmeats and lots of cushions. Why does everyone look so much richer, healthier and more relaxed than me?

7pm: Get boys into pyjamas and sleeping bags and place them around campfire with other village children. Story-teller spellbinds the children from twilight till darkness. Knowing they're in good hands, we sneak off to the music tent for a dose of roadhouse soul and Adnam's Broadside pale ale. Forgotten torch, so stumble back in the pitch black at midnight. Rain drips steadily through the centre of the tepee; we huddle around the edges and try to sleep.

9am: Breakfast in the village marquee. Plenty of papers to read as we eat; lots of Independents. I chat with neighbours: a businesswoman, a teacher, a counsellor, a tax inspector and an accountant. All agree that Campus, though expensive, is worth the outlay.

10.30am: So much to do, so little time. Kids don't know which way to turn, story-writing or puppet-making, field sports or simply whizzing around on their bikes. Decide on making rain sticks. Have great fun messing about with tissue paper and glue. Husband's looks a bit dodgy, but mine is peacock-bright and makes convincing rain sounds when I turn it on end.

12.30pm: Lunch in the Satay tent. Leave children and head off to the sauna and hot tubs. Can't stand more than five minutes in either, but emerge amazingly refreshed for one suffering from excess Adnam's and fitful sleep.

3pm: Husband and kids go to clown workshop, I opt for two hours of salsa. Dance until my hips ache. I'm rubbish, but who cares? Haven't had so much fun in years.

5pm: Read up on the hundreds of workshops we'll miss out on. Those I regret: bead jewellery, candle-making, glass-painting and meditation. Those I'm relieved not to endure: dream-sharing, drumming, chakra breathing and bridge for beginners.

6pm: Josh looks puzzled. "Do people usually do so many things in tents?" he asks, as we drive home.

"Only if they're very lucky," I say, making a mental promise to start saving for next year

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