As we drove through the mountains in a torrential downpour on the way to our camping destination, Tom solemnly said 'suddenly camping in Wales doesn't seem like such a great idea'. Betty sang: 'We're going camping, we're going camping, way up high, pitter patter raindrops, pitter patter raindrops, we're wet through, so are you' pretty much all the way. I was fully prepared for us to arrive, then turn around and come straight home.
Tom and I had the obligatory 'how to pitch a tent' argument as we battled with the giant thing flapping furiously in the wind and rain. Meanwhile the girls were locked in the car, out of our way, yelling and fighting over the bag of crisps I had thrown at them to shut them up. In fact the stationary car became a prominent feature during our trip and the kids would insist on spending much of their time in there - I suspect because it was warm and dry, and they could listen to Lily Allen, and eat stale chocolate buttons and crisps found between the seats.
Having survived the first evening, by going to the pub up the road for supper, drinking lots of cider, and getting Betty and Dolly togged up in their waterproofs and making them play football til 10pm on the campsite, we all passed out til morning. The next day the rain continued so we jumped in the car and headed for the cinema in Swansea. While Tom roamed the city's art galleries with a sleeping Dolly on his back, I took Betty to see Toy Story 3 (her first cinema experience). Unfortunately, despite a wonderful time playing in the foyer, the 'scary baby on the big telly' was all too much for Betty, and half an hour before the end (much to my disappointment, as I was pretty hooked by the film) we had to vacate in a furore of tears and sobs and her saying 'I just want to build sandcastles mummy'.
Later that afternoon the rain stopped, the clouds and haze lifted and sunshine and blue skies came through. We were ecstatic. We dashed to Tesco to buy some sausages and charcoal and alcohol (which is pretty much a must when camping with small children). Tom took the girls for a walk along the beach, whilst I lit the bbq, put the sausages on and then sat back with a large glass of wine and a tube of Pringles and gazed at the sand-dunes. I was in camping heaven.
We ended up staying for nine days, and while it certainly wasn't always plain sailing (mainly because our darling sweet children seem to like brawling and making each other cry), I think it was the best holiday I have ever had. We played in the sand-dunes, swam in the sea, had bbqs on the beach with new-found friends, and old friends joined us for the weekend. We collected snails and shells, had lazy pub lunches, made life-size sand boats, went on long beach walks, found hidden rock pools, and sometimes Tom and I actually managed to read or have a proper conversation.
The camping trip had the added bonus of expunging the final traces of neurosis and Gina Ford-ness out of my approach to parenting. Normally the queen of clean and routine, I really let things slide. The girls didn't get a proper wash for days, and when they did wash I even let them into the campsite showers, and didn't go too mental when they sat down on the cubicle floor with all the dirty hairbands and other people's matted hair and dirt. I resigned myself to letting them eat fruit and veg that had perhaps seen better days, and I let Dolly eat sand on the beach, and encouraged Betty to do a wee on a sandcastle she had made. And I am not sure Dolly's bedtime bottle ever got a proper wash. Speaking of bedtime, what's that? Get me.