How many pegs does it take to make a tent secure? A lot more than four, as M J Carter and his wife found out to their cost while on holiday in France
t was our practice each year when returning from the Alps to spend a few days in a part of France we'd never had the chance to visit before. This particular year it was the Cap d'Antifer area, where the artist Claude Monet had painted the crumbling cliffs and the shadowy ladies on the beaches.

We camped on the edge of a site that overlooked the sea. It was so still and peaceful that a peg at each corner of the tent would surely suffice, we thought. After all, it was only for one night.

Soon we were joined by a young French punk and his girl-friend in a retro black and chrome Citroen. They disappeared into the confines of their tent before it was barely up to play loud music and pay even louder attention to each other.

We strolled into the still, humid evening to find some fruits de mer. After examining Yport's options, we settled on a pretty pink restaurant presided over by none other than Madame Fawlty! She could have understudied for Basil any day. At the end of the evening a rowdy party of 12 ended up receiving our meagre bill for two, while we were handed theirs. It was just as well that their surprisingly quiet departure had made me more than a little suspicious.

We returned to camp through a night so still and thick you could have sliced it. The young French punks and their car were absent, so at least we would get to sleep. Because of the heat we slept naked on, rather than in, the sleeping bags and were soon unconscious.

We woke soon to the sound of thunder, rain and flapping canvas. My wife had barely uttered the words: "Is the tent pegged down properly?" when it disappeared from over our heads with a very loud roaring sound. We lay there stunned for a few moments. I mean, what do you do in a storm when it's dark and raining and you're naked? Panic, that's what you do.

What followed must have resembled the wildest witches' sabbath imaginable. Lit by rapid flashes of lightning we pranced in the rain, hurling clothes and bedding aside in a desperate search for the car keys. We were vaguely aware that other people were caught up in similar kinds of rescue acts.

At least the keys turned up and we collapsed in hysterics in the safety of our car. With the help of a few spare pieces of clothing we dried off and managed to pass a reasonable night as the storm blew itself out.

Dawn revealed our once cosy tent upside down a few metres away, poles broken and askew like the legs of a large crushed insect. The soggy muddy pile on the floor really was our food, clothes and bedding. Others had suffered but not as badly as we had. We soon became embarrassed by the knowing looks of the occupants of the large cosy well-tethered caravans close by, who must have seen our small hours floor-show.

As we began to retrieve our holiday, our camping companions arrived back, gave our wreckage a cursory glance and dived into their small tent, which needless to say was unscathed. Music and close attention followed - at 7am!

When all was sorted we left for Dieppe and soon realised we had got off lightly. Many trees were down and buildings had been damaged.

We have camped in France again, many times, but nowadays we always use all 36 pegs - even for a one-night stay.