Tom and I are avid campers and we have been desperate to take Betty camping. However I do have genuine concerns about this. Campsites are generally lovely, but their shower-blocks generally are not – they are pretty grim - with other people’s hair and bodily fluids caked all over the floors and walls. I have been having all sorts of unsavory visions of taking Betty for a shower after a lovely sunny sandy day on the beach. I have been worrying about whether or not she would stand still for me whilst I wash her, or whether she would scream and yell and demand that she sit down in the ‘dirt’ and start playing with other people’s dirty hair-bands and grimy cracked bars of old soap.
In addition to this, I have agonized over the sleeping arrangements. Do we put her in the same compartment as us? This would be a real squeeze, and if she sees us, or more to the point, if she hears Tom snoring, she will refuse to sleep. I have tried to imagine what I would do with an angry and loud Betty, in the middle of the night, in the confines of a busy campsite. Or do we put her in a separate compartment (which would be a good 10 metres away from our compartment)? In this case I would lie awake all night worrying that someone might come and snatch her.
When my dad suggested us doing a trial-run and pitching our tent in the garden of his holiday cottage in the welsh mountains, I was thrilled and totally up for it. The cottage does not have any creature comforts such as running water or electricity, and so it was almost like proper camping. In fact, our tent is probably bigger, with more mod cons, than the cottage. This ridiculous-sized tent was purchased to accommodate Queen Betty and all her luggage – and is exactly the type I used to sneer at in campsites, pre-Betty. In fact, I am ashamed to admit that in the past, I may even have referred to big tent owners as ‘chavs’.
Tom did a grand job of pitching the tent, with the help of our darling girl, who sat in the middle of the un-erected tent, refusing to let go of all the pegs, and doing a mighty job of tangling up the guy ropes. All the while, I watched on, basking in the sun, sipping cider and telling Tom how I might do it better. It has to be said, the usually unfazed Tom was a little bit prickly and short-tempered by the time the tent was finally up.
Unfortunately, at this point, it had already gone way past Betty’s bedtime. In an attempt to try to keep some sense of normal routine, I boiled a kettle of stream water and poured it into a saucepan, dipped Betty’s hands and feet into it, and explained to her that this was her bath-time. She humoured me, and went along with it, but I could tell that she wasn’t impressed.
We then put her to bed in the west-wing of the tent, where she giggled raucously for about 20 minutes, whilst punching the sides of the tent, and then went off to sleep, and stayed asleep for the next 12 hours. As did Tom.
I, however, lay awake all night, freezing cold (as I had selflessly given Betty all the available blankets), and was terrified that our daughter might wake at any moment. I wondered what I would do with her in the pitch black, with no torch, and only oil lamps in the cottage which I didn’t know how to ignite. I also had grave concerns that a wolf or a bear might come along, if I did dare to drop-off, and savage us all.