We Buttons have been doing a trial run to get ready for our camping trip next week. To the great amusement of our neighbours we have crammed our giant 'Buckingham' eight-berth tent into the garden. After an abortive first night in which we lasted until just 10.30, Elsie and I had a council of war and decided that the way forward was for me to share with Dolly, while Elsie took on a night with Betty.
I was quite nervous about this arrangement and allowed Dolly four hours to come to terms with her surroundings before I ventured in. Over in the west wing, Elsie and Betty were zedding away happily. I crept into the compartment trying not to wake her up any more than she already was and Dolly immediately demanded to be taken out so she could roam around the compartment. I tried to talk her out of it but she was insistent. I plonked her on my bed and watched as she got annoyed trying to stand up on an airbed, in her sleeping bag.
Dolly and I were having a pretty cross exchange when Elsie appeared at the door with a large purple ball that looks and, bizarrely, smells like a blackcurrant. Dolly loves this ball. She spent a few minutes happily holding it in front of her. For some reason I started tapping it. Dolly started tapping it as well. Dolly and I lay next to each other on a slowly-deflating airbed, in a tent in the garden, at 10pm, taking it in turns to tap a giant plastic blackcurrant. It did not take me more than a few minutes to realise that this wasn't getting us very far towards sleep so I put her back into the travelcot and waited to see what would happen next.
What happened next was that Dolly started yelling, and pretty soon her big sister woke up and told her to put a sock in it. Undeterred, Dolly continued to yell and I put my fingers in my ears, cursing tents.
After a short while Dolly passed out, and I fell into an exhausted and uncomfortable doze. Every half an hour after that Dolly woke up and cried for a while before going back to sleep. This carried on for several hours until 1.30am when she just would not stop yelling. I don't know if she was too cold, or if the flapping fabric of the tent was too loud, or if the freaky bird noises were freaking her out, or if the moth that was caught between the fabric of the compartment and the tent outer was irritating her, or if she knew that she had a perfectly comfortable cot not ten metres away, or if it was a combination of all these things, but finally I understood that Dolly was not prepared to spend the night in the tent. I tucked her under an arm, snuck out of the tent and delivered her back into her cot where she gratefully zonked out. In the garden, Elsie and Betty slept on.
(The trial run we did with Betty over two years ago was a very different experience)