Fishing lines: A happy camper? Not likely

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The Independent Online

Those heading for the CLA Game Fair at Harewood House, Leeds, today will already have missed one of the show's highlights.

This country fair offers everything from falconry to dog training, casting competitions to the height of rural fashion. Last year, more than 130,000 turned up over the three days, and even more are expected this time.

Hundreds of stalls are selling rare books, shotguns, paintings, tractors, rare pheasants, safaris to Kenya, 4 x 4s, dog food and even alpacas. But none, I suspect, will have anything that will be quite as good as the sight of me trying to assemble a tent in the dark.

I'm not a camper. Five-star (four at a pinch) hotels are more my style as I get older. I know this doesn't fit well with the image of a rugged, hell-and-back fishing adventurer. However, trips to the jungle of Ecuador, the remoteness of Arunacha Pradesh and the bleakness of Outer Mongolia have taught me one good lesson: it's fine to suffer during the day, but at all costs, sleep tight at night.

At previous Game Fairs, I've stayed in nearby hotels. Unfortunately, the show entrances are manned by former concentration-camp guards. Woe betide the stallholder who oversleeps. You have no chance of driving to your stand if it's past 8am. You must park in the public car park, conveniently situated in the next county, and walk.

Staggering a couple of miles with two boxes of magazines is not an experience I care to repeat. So this year, the editor of Classic Angling will be sleeping on site, even though this means sleeping rough.

Being next to my stand has certain benefits, such as avoiding the Gestapo, being able to restock my stand in 10 seconds and having a decent chablis at hand for favoured guests. Most of all, it means I can accept invites from every party and reception that takes place after hours. No driving worries: I just have to weave my way back to K567 and fall asleep.

Assuming, that is, I can manage to assemble the tent. I've camped a couple of times in the past decade. But it's 38 years since I put up my own tent, and a right mess I made of it then. With no scoutmaster to help out, I'm hoping age has given me wisdom. Then again, if my experience with self-build Ikea kits is anything to go by, the prospects are not good.

My wife has bought a vast tent specially for the occasion (though she also laughingly believes this will persuade our two teenage daughters to get hugely excited at the prospect of camping holidays). Far from being the one-pole special I fondly remember, this one has hundreds of parts, more rooms than our house and a manual that is fatter than the latest Harry Potter book.

All might be well if I had found the time to practise its assembly. I haven't. Worse, previous commitments mean I won't get to Harewood House before it gets dark. Somehow, I get the feeling I shall be spending the next three nights sleeping in the car.